"Keep a lookout for whales,” Captain Joe called from the boat’s wheelhouse. “You might spot one right in here.”
“Really?” Marly Deaver squealed. She and her friends, Isla Thomson and Sai Gupta, rushed to the railing. All around them, evergreen--covered islands rose from the water like giant tortoises. Wind whipped through their hair.
Marly squinted, but as usual everything looked blurry. She had one pretty good eye, but she wore a patch over it to try to train her bad eye to work better. It was so frustrating to not be able to see as well as everyone else.
“See any whales?” Marly asked Isla and Sai.
“Not yet.” Sai curled his fingers like they were binoculars and peered through them.
Isla grabbed her cat ear headband before it blew off her head. “Me neither.”
“The captain says to look for a fin or a spray of water or even something that looks like a giant rock floating on the surface,” Ms. Lovelace said, joining them on deck.
Marly slid her patch onto the rim of her glasses and scanned the water. She wanted so badly to see a whale.
Ms. Lovelace touched Marly’s shoulder. “I promised your mom I wouldn’t let you take that patch off,” she said.
Marly sighed. “I know,” she grumbled, sliding the patch back into place. She’d promised her mom the same thing.
This trip was Marly’s first time away from home without her family. Isla and Sai’s, too. It was weird to think about how they had hardly known each other at the beginning of the summer, and now they were the best of friends.
It was all thanks to Marly’s next--door neighbor, Mr. Summerling. Isla and Sai had both known him, too. Unfortunately, he had passed away at the beginning of the summer.
“I wonder if Mr. Summerling ever saw a whale,” Isla said.
“Probably,” Sai said.
“He probably saw lots of things we’ve never seen,” Marly said. Mr. Summerling used to travel all over searching for buried treasure. In fact, that was how he’d died. Marly gulped as she realized that what happened to Mr. Summerling had probably happened somewhere around here.
He’d been exploring some Pacific Northwest islands when a storm came up. The coast guard found his boat drifting upside down, but Mr. Summerling himself was nowhere to be found. The coast guard said he probably drowned.
Marly shaded her eye and gazed up at the sky. She was relieved there were no storm clouds today.
Marly, Isla, and Sai had found out about Mr. Summerling’s death a few weeks ago when Ms. Lovelace called them to her office to read his will. Ms. Lovelace was Mr. Summerling’s attorney. In his will, Mr. Summerling had left a treasure hunt for his eight--year--old friends. They ran all over town solving puzzles until they finally found the treasure, which turned out to be a tree house in the woods behind his and Marly’s houses.
Then, just last week, they’d uncovered a secret message hidden beneath a floorboard in the tree house. That message was the beginning of a second treasure hunt, which led them through hidden doors and secret passageways inside Mr. Summerling’s house, finally ending with an invitation to a place called Summer Island.
Marly still couldn’t believe their parents had let them come. Summer Island was two thousand miles from home. But Ms. Lovelace had been very persuasive, and she’d promised to look after the kids as though they were her own.
Marly felt both excited and nervous about this trip. Mostly excited. There was obviously going to be one more treasure hunt, and Marly couldn’t wait to see the first clue.
“That’s Summer Island straight ahead.” Captain Joe pointed. He wore a white hat and had a toothpick sticking out of the side of his mouth.
The kids moved to the front of the boat. Funny, when Marly first heard about this place, she’d pictured an island with flat sandy beaches, palm trees, and lots of sun. But like most of the other islands they’d passed, the shore ahead looked rocky rather than sandy. The island was blanketed in tall evergreens rather than palm trees. And though the sun was out, there was enough of a chill in the air that everyone was wearing jackets.
“How big is that island, anyway?” Marly turned toward Captain Joe. The railing vibrated beneath her hands.
Captain Joe cupped a hand to his ear. It was hard to hear over the sound of the boat. So Marly repeated her question. Louder this time.
“’Bout eight square miles,” Captain Joe said.
“What does that mean?” Sai shouted. “Could you walk around the whole island?”
Captain Joe shrugged. “You could. But it would take a while.” He moved the toothpick to the other side of his mouth. “Better to bike around it.”
“We don’t have bikes,” Isla said. They’d each brought a suitcase and Marly had her metal detector. But they didn’t have anything else. Ms. Lovelace had told them they’d be staying in a large cabin and everything they needed, including food, would be there.
“How many people live on this island?” Ms. Lovelace asked.
“None,” Captain Joe said as he slowed the boat.
“None?” Marly, Isla, and Sai said at the same time.
“I’m sure there are people who have cabins and spend time there during the summer,” Ms. Lovelace said.
“Not anymore,” Captain Joe said. “Far as I know, Harry Summerling is the only one who has a place here now.”
“You mean we’re going to be the only people on the whole island?” Marly asked. She wasn’t sure how she felt about that.
But Sai seemed excited. “Cool!” he said, rubbing his hands together. Isla bit her lip and fiddled with her bee sting allergy bracelet. Ms. Lovelace’s expression gave nothing away.
“Did you know Mr. Summerling?” Isla asked Captain Joe.
“Of course,” he replied. “Harry and I go way back. I’m the one who first showed him these islands.” He slowed the boat even more and steered toward a large dock. There was a tiny bump as the boat came to rest along a line of old tires that were fastened to the side of the dock.
“Here we are!” Captain Joe left the motor running while he tied the boat to a metal cleat. Everyone else gathered up their things.
Captain Joe set out a small stool, and one by one, Sai, Marly, Isla, and Ms. Lovelace climbed up onto the dock.
“I hope you all enjoy your time here as much as Harry did,” Captain Joe said, tipping his hat.
“I’m sure we will,” Ms. Lovelace replied. “Now, where’s the cabin?” She turned toward shore and shaded her eyes. “I thought it would be right at the end of the dock.” There were no buildings in sight. Only trees.
Captain Joe gestured toward a narrow dirt path that led uphill into the trees. “Just follow the path. You’ll come to a driveway,” he said.
“And you’ll be back for us Monday morning?” Ms. Lovelace said.
Captain Joe nodded once. “Eight a.m. sharp.”
Monday was four days from now.
“Let’s go!” Sai grabbed his suitcase and charged toward shore.
Ms. Lovelace, Isla, and Marly followed at a slower pace, the dock swaying a little beneath them.
“Wait! I almost forgot,” Captain Joe called. Marly hung back while he ducked inside the wheelhouse and returned with a strange stick. It was about three feet long, maybe an inch thick, and it looked like someone had whittled it smooth. “You’ll need this.” He handed it to Marly.
“For what?” she asked, turning it all around.
Captain Joe didn’t answer. He just smiled mysteriously as he untied the boat. Then he returned to the wheel and motored away. Chapter 2
"What is that?” Isla walked back toward Marly.
“Some kind of stick,” Marly said, still wondering about it herself.
“Yeah, but what’s it for?” Isla asked.
Marly shrugged. “The captain didn’t say. He just said we’d need it.”
“Come on, girls!” Ms. Lovelace waved to them from shore. Sai was already halfway up the hill. The wheels on his suitcase kicked up clouds of dust behind him.
Marly tucked the stick into the front pocket of her suitcase, grabbed her metal detector, and clomped up the dock with Isla. Even when they set foot on land, Marly felt like she was still rocking on a boat.
She followed Isla and Ms. Lovelace up the steep dirt path, her chest heaving with the effort. Tall moss--covered trees towered over them, blocking out the sun.
“Uh . . . there’s no house or cabin up here,” Sai called down from the top of the hill.
“There must be,” Ms. Lovelace called back. “Look around.”
But when Ms. Lovelace, Isla, and Marly reached Sai, they discovered he was right. There was nothing up here but trees. And another dirt path. This one was wider than the one that led down to the dock. They could all stand side by side on it.
“Maybe this is the path we’re supposed to follow,” Marly said.
“Okay, but which way?” Isla asked.
Ms. Lovelace looked equally confused. “Let’s try this way.” She made a wide turn with her suitcase toward the right. “If we don’t come to the cabin, we’ll turn around and go the other way.”
They walked in silence, their suitcases bumping behind them. Birds chirped, and the group heard water lapping at the shore, but they couldn’t see it through the thick trees.
Marly switched her suitcase and metal detector between her hands. Man, she was tired. Not just tired of walking and carrying her stuff, but tired in general. It had been a long day. They’d had an early flight to Seattle. Then a long boat ride. Plus a two--hour time change. And now it was so dark beneath all these trees that it just made Marly feel even more tired.
“Okay,” Ms. Lovelace said, after several minutes. “Let’s try the other way.”
The view was the same in this direction. Trees, trees, and more trees. The path got a little brighter as they passed the hill that led down to the boat dock. They kept going.
“Hey, there’s a driveway,” Sai said, hurrying ahead.
“Slow down,” Ms. Lovelace called to him. But “slow down” was not in Sai’s vocabulary. He didn’t slow down until he reached the driveway. There he waited for everyone else to catch up.
“Do you see the cabin?” Isla asked.
“No.” Sai peered through the gap in the trees. “But it’s a looong driveway.”
“Are you sure that’s a driveway?” Marly asked, stopping beside Sai. If it was, no one had driven on it in a long time. Tall weeds sprouted up in the middle of it.
“Looks like a driveway to me,” Ms. Lovelace said. “Come on.” She tromped right through the weeds, and the kids followed close behind, winding through more forest until they finally came to an old rundown garage. There had clearly been a house beside the garage at one time, but all that was left of it now was part of a broken concrete foundation. They all stared at it in dismay.
“I hope this isn’t where we were supposed to stay,” Isla said.
“No,” Ms. Lovelace said. “I’ve seen pictures of Harry’s cabin. It’s beautiful. It’s nestled in the woods and it’s got a nice big porch.”
There was nothing like that anywhere around.
“We don’t have a car, so it’s got to be within walking distance of the dock,” Ms. Lovelace went on. “I’ll call Captain Joe back and get more specific directions.” She reached into her purse and pulled out her phone.
Sai went over to the broken foundation, climbed up on it, and started walking along it like it was a balance beam.
“Careful, Sai,” Isla warned him.
Marly wandered over to the garage. She tried the handle on a side door. She was surprised to find it unlocked!
“Oh no!” Ms. Lovelace stared at her phone. “I don’t have any cell service.”
Isla’s eyes grew wide with worry. “What? We’re alone on this island. We don’t know where the cabin is. There’s no transportation. And we can’t even call anyone? What are we going to do?”
Marly pushed the door to the garage all the way open and poked her head inside. “Well, there’s some kind of vehicle in here,” she told the others.
Sai jumped down and hurried over. “It’s like an army car,” he said, crowding in next to Marly. The vehicle was completely open on the sides and the top.
Marly flipped a switch beside the door and a dim bulb on the ceiling came on as they all stepped inside the garage. It was full of cobwebs and rusty old tools.
“It’s an ATV,” Ms. Lovelace said, checking it out.
“Maybe it’s for us!” Sai exclaimed.
Isla brushed a cobweb from her shoulder. “We can’t drive,” she said.
“Ms. Lovelace can,” Sai said.
“I don’t know.” Ms. Lovelace scratched her head. “We can’t just take a vehicle we found in some abandoned garage.”
“Why not? It’s probably Mr. Summerling’s,” Sai said. “Captain Joe said no one else has a place on this island.” He leaned into the vehicle through the open passenger--side window.
Marly walked around behind it. “It is Mr. Summerling’s,” she said. “The license plate says ‘HARRY5.’ ”
Isla twirled her hair around her finger. “We still don’t know where the cabin is,” she pointed out. “So where would we drive to?”
“Captain Joe told us to follow the path,” Marly said. “Maybe we’re supposed to follow it in this.” She patted the side of the vehicle.
Ms. Lovelace tried the driver’s door. It opened! “We need a key if we’re going to go anywhere,” she said. “I’ve got one for the cabin, but not for this.”
Sai climbed into the front passenger seat. “There’s a glove box.” He opened it and pulled out a map, an extremely long, narrow strip of paper . . . and a key. “Aha!” he cried, raising the key in his fist.
“What’s all that other stuff?” Marly asked.
“Hang on,” Sai said, stuffing everything but the key back inside the glove box. “Let’s see if this thing starts before we look at anything else.” He leaned over and handed the key to Ms. Lovelace.
She went to open the big garage door, then got into the driver’s seat. She tried to wiggle the key into the ignition, then gave up. “Unfortunately, this isn’t the right key,” she said, holding it up. “It doesn’t fit the ignition.”
Copyright © 2021 by Dori Hillestad Butler; Illustrated by Tim Budgen. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.