Sammy checked into Maryville Inn and Suites late Sunday morning. When he made the reservation the day before, he requested a room that faced Monks Hill and—Ruby’s current residence—Vrolok manor house. That was not too difficult to manage since most vacationers wanted a room that overlooked one of the largest of the five Great Lakes.
He had reserved the room for a week; it was cheaper that way. But he was not hurting for money, in fact, he was a miser and managed to save most of what he earned. And with his unemployment check—soon to be direct-deposited into his checking account—he would be set financially while he helped Ruby find her brother.
The only reason he moved to the island so quickly was because his gut told him that Ruby should not be there. He felt uneasy about her living locked behind a high stone wall with perfect strangers. Of course, it did not help since the abandoned monastery looked like Dracula’s castle in Transylvania—at least in Sammy’s imagination. His mission was to help Ruby find Alan so that when her nursing contract was over, she could leave the island.
But that was not the only reason he was helping her, it was because he loved her and would do anything for her. Maybe—and he knew it was only wishful thinking—she would be so grateful for his help that she would fall in love with him, and they would live happily ever after. A dream, yes, but a person never knows what the future has in store.
It was approaching eleven-thirty in the morning, and he planned to spend the day familiarizing himself with the little town. Since the library would be closed, he would visit it tomorrow. Until then, he would walk down the village streets and ask the locals questions about the Vroloks, Monks Hill, and the circumstances by which people were coming up missing. Sammy was a bit shy when it came to approaching people he did not know, but since he was doing this for Ruby, he would muster the courage needed to speak with them.
Sammy had done research on the six people currently reported missing on Fish Island. The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, also known as NamUs, gave him the information he needed to get started. Five of the missing were in their twenty’s, with three being female and two being male. Ruby’s brother, Alan, however, fell outside the pattern he was putting together. Alan was forty-nine years old, not young like the others. But what all six did have in common was the fact that they were around people before walking away, separating themselves from their companions. They were never seen again. Whatever happened to them, occurred quickly because when the people they were with went looking for them, they could not believe how someone they saw only moments earlier, could just seemingly vanish in midair.
The other thing they all had in common was that they were last seen in Maryville or around Monks Hill. The Michigan State Police Black Water Post No. 55 was the investigating agency, but just like Ruby, Sammy was conducting his own investigation.
After quickly unpacking, Sammy decided it was time to explore Maryville. He put the last of his underclothes in the drawer and glimpsed at his reflection in the dresser mirror—a glimpse was all he wanted. He sucked in his gut and decided walking from the hotel to the heart of town would do him good. Relaxing his stomach muscles, he walked into the kitchenette and opened the refrigerator. It was cold, but not cold enough. Sammy turned the knob to a deep chill and closed the door so that the water he planned to put inside later would be near a slush consistency. The extra weight he carried always made him sweat and drinking a slurry of ice water was the perfect antidote.
He walked out the door, making sure the keycard was in his pocket, and took the stairs—rather than the elevator as usual—down to the first floor. He had texted Ruby earlier that morning, letting her know what room he was in, and that when she had a chance, to please stop by and visit. As yet, he had not received a response. Ruby was probably working and did not have her cell phone with her.
A family was carrying luggage out the main entrance, probably ending their island vacation, he thought as he walked to the rental car. In his room, he had considered walking to downtown. But when he saw the busy road he would need to cross, he changed his mind. It would be too much of a hassle and probably too dangerous, he reasoned to himself. Better to take the car and park in a lot that was in the center of Maryville and then do his exploring.
As he drove through the downtown, he saw a sign indicating public parking. The arrow pointed to an alleyway between City Bank and an odd little store called, The Feathered Peacock. He did not have to think too hard to realize it was a store for ghost hunters and fortune tellers. A red and white striped awning over the large storefront window had brightly colored peacock feathers on one side and a devil on the other, nicely bookending the store’s name. One window pane had a picture of a crystal ball, a ghost-hunting kit, and a cartoon image of a boy holding a cross in front of a terrified vampire; while another had eye-catching crystals casting sparkling rainbows along the glass. Putting aside the spooky images, it reminded him of an ice cream shop displaying a nut-coated chocolate cone and a strawberry milkshake topped with whipped cream and a cherry. Were they allowed on a low-carb diet, he wondered.
As he slowed to turn into the alley, he was able to read the A-frame sidewalk sign in front of The Feathered Peacock. Written in white and pink chalk, the sign said:
Supernatural Class 1
Sunday, June 8
7 – 8 pm
Speaker: Ethel Dory
Sammy made a mental note of the time as he turned and drove down the narrow passageway. Not that he wanted to attend, but Ruby might be interested in it. Especially since she had mentioned the research her brother was doing when he disappeared. The class was probably pointless, he thought, but there was a possibility that there may be some information presented that would help them find Alan.