Chapter 1 – The Brass Obelisk
The soles of my shoes squeak on the grass as I chase Robbie through Pine Grove Cemetery. Our strange Uncle Charlie died a few weeks ago, and we're finally getting around to buried him at our family plot in Three Oaks, Michigan.
But everywhere I look, I can't find Robbie ... but I was the one they told to look after him! Drats, where the heck is he? One more time, he's running off, and being mischievous as my Grandma Anne calls "getting into trouble." Why is he being mischievous now? In the middle of a funeral?! I'm fumin’ mad! I stop and breathe. I can hear his Oscar Mayer Wiener Whistle blaring a secret code, but he never let me in on how to decipher it.
No answer, just Thweeee.
He's up to something, and I'm getting mad and cold. The tombstones look like a parking lot of mini-Stonehenge slabs. I stop when I spot my great-great-grandfather Thomas McCarten’s grave marker. It looks like a miniature version of George’s Washington’s Monument.
Thweeee, thwe, thwe …
I race toward the sound.
“Boo!” Robbie shouts, jumping out from behind it.
“Stop!” I say, panting. “Come on, Robbie. Let’s go back. Everyone’s planting flowers. They’re wondering where you’re at.”
Patting his pockets, he's pacing the edge of the grave. “I need my wrench.”
“A wrench? For what?” I ask, catching my breath. “I know you like taking things apart and putting ‘em back together, but in a cemetery? That’s just plain weird.”
Robbie whips a wrench out of his jacket, plops down at the base of the obelisk, and begins tapping a metal plate. “Something’s inside here, and we’re gonna bust it out.” He begins unscrewing a rusty bolt.
I peer around the obelisk. “Do you know the kind of trouble we’re gonna be in if someone catches us? This is called desecration, and I’ll probably get a year’s worth of grounding for it. Shucks—I don’t want that!”
He groans as he turns the wrench, and the rusty bolt grinds on the metal. “Or maybe you’re just scared of ghosts — oo, oo —”
I jump off the grave. “No, but I’m the one who’s gonna get punished because they say I know better than you. So retighten that bolt and let’s get outta here.” I slap the wrench out of his hand.
“No,” he scowls, scoops up the wrench, and continues unscrewing the bolt.
It pops off!
“Something’s inside this metal plate and I’m not gonna stop until I get it out.”
I know Robbie. When he's that determined, nothing can stop him. “Okay, I give up. But you’re the one who’s gonna take the heat for this, you hear? I’m gonna tell them I tried to stop you.”
Another nut ejects into the grass.
Shrugging, he says, “Okay, nothing’ll happen to me anyhow.”
That irks me. “Yeah, that’s right. Your parents never punish you for anything. Lucky,” I huff.
My dad’s side of the family always says that Robbie’s parents let him run wild, that they never discipline him for not minding. I just always thought Robbie’s brain workes differently from those of other folks, that’s all. Kneeling down, I ask, “Why is this metal plate so important to ya?”
Suddenly, we hear the sound of someone crying. Stopping everything, we peer around the obelisk and I crawl up beside him. “My mom,” I whisper. She's sobbing on a tombstone. “What’s she doing there? That’s not Uncle Charlie’s grave!”
“Sure isn’t,” Robbie says. We crane our necks to get a better look. “It’s a few rows away from Charlie’s. Whoever’s buried there died awhile back.”
We're too far away to read any names or dates. “I’ve never seen my mom cry that way,” I tell him. Sunshine is pouring through the trees as a ball of gnats roll into my face. I swat them, but I can’t do the same for my worry. “Who could be buried there?”
“I dunno,” he says.
My mother falls to her knees, covers her face, and moans. “Wow,” I whisper, falling back a bit and feeling sick.
“No McCartens are buried there,” Robbie whispers back to me and then twirls the wrench. “But whoever’s restin' six feet down there musta been someone real important to her.”
My grandma runs up to her and begins patting her back in a comforting gesture. “I wonder what happened between the person in that grave and my mom?” We scoot back, making sure they can't see us, and Robbie continues loosening nuts and bolts on the obelisk. “I dunno. But something bad, and sad I bet.”
My grandma lifts my mom off the ground, and they walk toward the cemetery chapel. Robbie lives in Lakeside, so he comes to the cemetery more often than we do to plant flowers and pull weeds. This place is also a gossip site on holy ground. “Do you remember your parents saying anything?” I ask.
He unfastens another bolt and takes a deep breath. “Nope.” Then excitement flares in his eyes. “But I did hear my parents talkin’ about something once. That’s why I’m doin’ this.”
“What did they say?” My heart races when another b0lt on the obelisk falls on the grass.
“My dad said big money is in the family somewhere. I’ve checked everywhere, but no luck. So money, or treasure, has to be inside this monument.” He taps the metal plate. “I’ve been casing this old section of the cemetery for months.”
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