“How deep do you think it is here?” she says.

“Pretty deep in parts.”

“A hundred feet?”


Sasha’s eyes widen behind her glasses as her free hand unconsciously clasps her life vest. “You’re a good swimmer, though, right?”

“I am,” I say. “Although not as good as some people I know.”

It takes us a half hour to cross the lake. We slow when the water’s surface is darkened by tall pines along the shoreline, their reflections jagged and unwelcoming. Just beneath the surface are the remnants of trees submerged when the valley was flooded. Stripped of leaves and whitewashed by time, their branches seem to be grasping for fresh air that’s just beyond their reach. It’s a discomfiting sight. All those blanched limbs tangled together as mud-brown fish slip between them. Because the lake’s been lowered by drought, the farthest-reaching branches scrape the bottoms of the canoes, sounding like fingernails trying to scratch their way out of a coffin.

More trees jut out of the lake in front of us. Although to call them trees isn’t entirely accurate. They’re more like ghosts of trees. Bare and sun-bleached. Trapped in a limbo between water and land. Gone are their bark, their leaves, their limbs. They’ve been reduced to sad, brittle sticks.

After passing through the graveyard of trees, we come to the shore itself. Instead of the welcoming flatness Camp Nightingale was built upon, the landscape rises sharply—an ascent that eventually leads to the rounded peaks in the distance. The trees here tower over the water. Pines, mostly, their limbs connecting to form a pale green wall that undulates in the slight breeze coming off the lake.

To our right, a heap of boulders sits partway out of the water. They look out of place, like they had rolled down the mountain one by one, eventually accumulating there. Beyond them is a cliff where the land has been chipped away by the elements. Small, tenacious vines cling to the cliff wall, and mineral deposits stripe the exposed rock. Trees line the ridge atop the cliff, some leaning forward, as if they’re about to jump.

“I see something,” Miranda says, pointing to a ragged-looking structure sitting farther down the shore.

I see it, too. It’s a gazebo. Rather, it used to be. Now it’s a leaning structure of splintered wood slowly being overtaken by weeds. Its floorboards sag. Its roof sits slightly askew. While I’m not certain, I think it might be the cabin-like structure marked on Vivian’s map.

I start to row toward it. Miranda follows suit. On shore, we step out of the canoes, paddles clattering, life vests discarded. Then we drag the boats farther onto land to reduce the potential of them drifting away without us. I grab my backpack and pull out the map.

“What’s that?” Sasha asks.

“A map.”

“What does it lead to?”

“I don’t know yet.”

I frown at the woods before us. It’s dense, dark, all silence and shadows. Now that we’re on the other side of the lake, I have no idea how to proceed. Vivian’s map is short on details, and the accuracy of what she did draw is questionable at best.

I run my finger from the spot that probably-is-but-might-not-be the gazebo to the ragged triangles nearby. I assume those are rocks. Which means we need to make our way northeast until we reach them. After that, it looks to be a short walk north until I find the X.

Our route now set, I open the compass app downloaded to my phone the morning I left for camp, rotating until it points northeast. Then I snag a handful of wildflowers and, with Miranda, Sasha, and Krystal in tow, march into the forest.


“Let’s go,” Vivian said.

“Go where?”

I was curled up in my bunk, reading the dog-eared copy of The Lovely Bones I had brought with me to camp. Looking up from the book, I saw Vivian standing by the cabin door. She had tied a red handkerchief around her neck. Allison’s floppy straw hat sat atop her head.

“On an adventure,” she said. “To search for buried treasure.”

I closed my book and crawled out of bed. As if there was any doubt I wouldn’t. In the short time that I’d been there, it was already clear that what Vivian wanted, she got.

“Allison’s going to need her hat, though,” I told her. “You know how she is about UV rays.”

“Allison’s not coming. Neither is Natalie. It’s just you and me, kid.”

She didn’t bother to tell me where, exactly, we were going. I simply let her lead the way. First to the canoes near the dock, then across Lake Midnight itself, me struggling with my oar the entire way.

“I’m going to take a wild guess and say you’ve never been in a canoe before,” Vivian said.

“I’ve been in a rowboat,” I told her. “Does that count?”

“Depends. Was it on a lake?”

“The pond in Central Park. I went there once with Heather and Marissa.”

I almost told her how we jostled the boat so much that Heather fell in, but then I remembered about Vivian’s sister and how she had drowned. Vivian never told me where it happened. Or how. Or even when. But I didn’t want to bring it up, even in an innocent, roundabout way. I stayed quiet until we came ashore alongside a grassy area aflame with tiger lilies.

Vivian picked enough lilies to make a bouquet. When we entered the woods, she began to pluck their petals and drop them to the ground.