That night Lisa went to bed thinking about all the rooms in the Rinaldi home. Lucinda had given her a schedule of when different rooms needed to be cleaned. Mostly the guest rooms were cleaned once a year and again when the Rinaldis expected guests. The kitchen had to be cleaned everyday and scoured once a month. Closets were deep cleaned once a year, but they might need reorganization more often. The main rooms downstairs needed to be dusted and swept daily.
It’s so much work, but Lisa wanted to do it. She reviewed in her mind where all the cleaning supplies were kept. Then she fell asleep. There were no nightmares. She felt safe and woke up smiling.
“You have a visitor,“ said the jailer.
“I don’t want to see anyone,” answered Jack. If the orphanage was bad, the Mountain Ridge jail was worse. While he had a cell to himself, it had not been cleaned. He smelled the waste products of the prisoners who had been here before him. Fresh air didn’t find its way inside.
In the picture shows, jail houses had barred windows, but he didn’t have a window. Instead he just had cement walls.
A shadow fell between the bars. He thought his visitor might be his sister, Yvonne who he had asked the jailers to keep out. Instead it was his former employer, Enrico Rinaldi. Jack jumped off the cot and to his feet. “Sir,” he said. “I didn’t do it.”
“I know you didn’t, Jack.”
“Is Yvonne okay?”
Rinaldi nodded. “Your sisters are both okay. They’re staying at my house and working.”
“Lisa? Why isn’t she at the orphanage?”
“It seems Hollander kicked her out.”
“The bastard. She needs someone to look after her.”
“Vonnie assures me Lisa can do the work.”
“Lisa,” Jack paused. He didn’t know how to tell his employer or rather former employer about his sister’s spells.
Rinaldi guessed Jack’s concern. “She’ll be fine; you’re the one in trouble.”
“I was set up. I think you know that.”
“You think the sheriff set you up?”
“The sheriff’s son. Miles Olson thinks I’m trash. Maybe he’s right.”
“Olson isn’t my concern. I know he railroaded you, and I talked to the judge. There’s no real evidence of armed robbery or even of breaking and entering.”
“I wasn’t carrying a gun. I don’t even own one.”
“But you had a pocket knife.”
“I’m your gardener. I use the knife doing chores and most men in this town carry knives.”
“I know. Look I’m getting you a year in prison.”
“I didn’t do anything,” Jack almost shouted.
“You courted my daughter.’ Rinaldi lowered his voice and spoke through clenched teeth.
The accusation surprised Jack. He and Lucinda had been discreet. How could anyone have found out?
“Sir, we were just friends, and I was leaving town. I swear. I was going to leave. I just had to figure out what to do with my sisters. I was afraid to leave them.”
“Here’s a the deal. The judge is a friend of mine, and he could give you 20 years. I already talked to him about making it one year, and then you leave the area. You never come back.”
“I have two sisters here.”
“They have guaranteed jobs with me as long as they want, and as long as you stay away from Lucinda. You do a year and when you come out, there’s a hundred thousand dollars waiting for you. The condition is that you never step foot in the Upper Peninsula again or live in any town where Lucinda lives.”
“I don’t want your hundred thousand dollars.”
“Son, you’ll be an ex con. Unemployable, and there are thousands of others looking for jobs.”
Jack didn’t answer. “I’ll do what I have to do to keep you away from Lucinda. Take the money, son.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll leave the U.P. when I’m released. I know I can’t have Lucinda.”
The men each knew they had an agreement.
Leo Olson called in Miles, “There’s more talk than ever about a treasure.”
“What? In old Rose’s tunnels? Pa, I don’t think one exists.” He poured himself a cup of black coffee as he talked to his dad. “Those tunnels were used for transferring liquor not for hiding treasure.”
“Tell that to the damn fools who we’re going to have to rescue. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets killed or goes missing for good.”
Miles had his own reasons for being interested in the tunnels; he had explored more of them than he wanted to admit to his dad. He didn’t like the treasure hunters that got in his way. He also didn’t like having Emil Mynter, the mining engineer, in the tunnels. And that stupid priest was probably going down in the tunnels.
Last month Mynter had rescued two brothers who had gone into the tunnels and gotten lost. They had come out with wild tales of ghosts and a secret burial ground.
“We blocked off the entrance of the tunnel that starts near highway US-2,” Miles said. Of course, his dad already knew that.
“There’re other openings. Talk to Mynter. See if you can find out exactly where they are. He’ll know where they are if anyone does.” The sheriff paused. “And find a way to permanently seal the one near US-2. Anyone with half a brain can figure out how to get around your signs and boulders.”
“Dad, we may need that tunnel available the next tine we need to get someone out.”
“I’ll talk to the priest. Now that he owns Almasy House, maybe he’ll let us go through the door in the basement that leads into the tunnels.”
“Yeah” Miles grinned. “That ole boy priest should be very cooperative.”
His dad looked up and shook his head. Both men were thinking the same thing. If there was a treasure, it would be close to the house and Hollander would want all of that for himself.
The Olsons distrusted Hollander as did many of the townspeople. Rose had always wanted to leave her money to the church. Then that priest got friendlier and friendlier, and she ended up leaving her money to him. Most people wondered if he would stay in the priesthood or marry that pretty little Elaine Dabb. She hung around him enough.
Anyway Hollander was now a very rich man and determined to get every cent he could out of Almasy House.
If you ever want to perk up some kid’s interest in local history, just mention hidden treasure. Their eyes light up; they’re ready to grab shovels and start digging. Chances of finding buried treasure are about zero. It would take more gold than Fort Knox ever held to get me into any of those tunnels that snake beneath Mountain Ridge. I could never understand miners who went into the earth every day. Neither did I understand the rum runners who reportedly ran the booze through Rose’s tunnels. I’m far from brave enough to ever become a treasure hunter.
My idea of treasure is a tidbit of forbidden information included in a letter or legal document like a birth or marriage certificate.
Note to reader: Emil Mynter’s daughter, Mary Mynter Smith is now the head of the historical society where I volunteer. I have seen Emil’s maps, but they are not at the museum. Mrs. Smith keeps them locked up in her home. They are hers, not the museum’s. After all they belonged to her dad. I doubt she will ever give them up.)
Emil Mynter knew the mine tunnels like he knew the rooms in his own home. He had mapped out most of the routes and kept the maps in a safe in his home. Other maps existed; the country kept records of the tunnels; the county records also detailed who owned them and where they went. These were mostly accurate as far as the mining tunnels were concerned. Enrico Rinaldi, Emil’s employer, and the other mine owners were especially good at providing detailed information on their activities.
But Rose’s tunnels were different. She had been secretive. Many believed she kept maps. Maybe she kept them in her head. County executives in Rose’s time were more interested in her booze than in her tunnels.
Emil considered asking Jeff Hollander for permission to exam any maps Rose may have left behind. But Hollander would refuse. He would look for the treasure himself if indeed there was a treasure to find. Hollander would be suspicious of anyone else interested in those tunnels.
Emil himself had attempted over the years to map Rose’s tunnels. He did it on his own time, knowing he was sometimes trespassing. But most of the tunnels wound through state, county or mining property. Rose owned only a few acres that surrounded her home. She and her crews had themselves been trespassing.
Emil could find his way in and out of the tunnels without too much trouble. He looked at the maps he had drawn over the years. He had a system of always turning right or always turning left. Sometimes he left subtle clues in the sand or dirt. He might pile rocks a certain way or use a stick to point in the direction he took. He didn’t want anyone to know when he was in the tunnels or where he went. Not that anyone else should be inside these tunnels. But he had to be careful.
Rose Almasy, that crazy old lady, had tunnels that were elaborate mazes. Her tunnels had a purpose - transporting and hiding illegal liquor during Prohibition. One tunnel started near the old Quincy mine and dead ended. Others intersected with the mine tunnels in places that had not been mined in years. Rose used some mine tunnels that were no longer used by the mines. Talk about trespassing. Emil was sure the owners of the Quincy mine had no idea their abandoned tunnels had been hijacked.
Some tunnels purposely led nowhere.
Were the maps only in Rose’s mind? Did she share any written maps with Hollander? The priest had been crawling around her like a pet snake. If anyone could have gotten information from Rose, it would have been Hollander.
But Rose would not give up her secrets easily.
If the maps were kept only in her mind, then there was no reason for Mynter to contact the priest. If she explained her routes to him, most likely, Hollander would not understand. But Emil would. He could help the priest if there was anything buried in there. If Hollander had drawn maps based on Rose’s recollections, they might be dangerously incomplete. If Hollander was smart, he would ask a mining engineer like Emil to accompany him inside the maze.
Emil respected Rose’s property, but the tunnels were a safety hazard. A child or hiker or more likely a fortune hunter would wander into them and never find his way out. What if a mine employee took a wrong turn into one of those tunnels?
The sheriff and his deputies would be little help. Those treasure hunters who had been rescued had all needed Emil’s help. Sometimes Emil thought Miles Olson and that state trooper friend of his, Sonny Cain, knew more about the mines than they let on. But he would not have trusted either one to lead him out blindfolded.
Emil shrugged. He really did not believe the tales about hidden treasure. If anything had ever been hidden in the tunnels, he was sure Rose had removed it years before. There was a possibility of a still being down there. There could also have been hidden bottles of smuggled booze.
Emil strongly suspected that the priest had been taking advantage of Rose in getting her to leave her fortune to him instead of to the church. Emil didn’t care about the rumors about the the priest and that little Elaine, the pretty girl who had grown up on the same street where he had raised his own children. He knew Elaine’s parents. He knew how concerned they were about Elaine. He had three daughters of his own.
Emil turned a corner; the light from his helmet illuminated the dark cave walls inside the tunnels.
Emil wasn’t doing any harm in Rose’s tunnels. He was just looking. Hollander should be happy a qualified engineer was looking into those tunnels. The county should hire Emil to explore them. That would be much smarter than sending in that dumb deputy, the sheriff’s son. Emil usually managed to avoid Miles in the tunnels.
Rinaldi and the other mine owners had warned Miles to stay out of their tunnels. But Miles had still turned up once or twice claiming that he was lost or looking for someone who was lost. Emil wondered why Miles went into Rose’s tunnels so often. There weren’t that many lost souls to rescue.
Emil also knew about the North entrance. He didn’t think anyone else knew.
He remembered when he discovered this entrance. He had found this tunnel entrance one time when he was looking over one of Rinaldi’s abandoned tunnels.
When he walked inside, he discovered that this section had spokes. It was shaped like a wheel. Spokes led to other tunnels and to dead ends. One spoke led to the basement at Almasy House where Emil had found the cellar cellar door unlocked; he had actually stood there in the basement of Almasy House. He had quickly exited. He had not intended to trespass in someone’s home.
He thought he knew all the tunnels now, but in Rose’s tunnels, there could always be surprises.
Father Jeffrey Hollander had not been inside the tunnels yet. He had emptied Rose’s bank account, and he had searched the house, but found little of value. The bank accounts themselves held much less than he had expected.
Was anything in the tunnels? Rose had often changed the subject whenever he asked her about them. Sometimes she hinted about something in the tunnels, but she was never specific.
She would sigh. “I brought some things down there. Never trusted banks.”
“What did you bring down there, Rose? Is it still there?”
She would smile and shake her head. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
Was she just trying to hold his interest? Had any treasure been removed years ago? Did a treasure ever exist?
He had no idea how to explore a tunnel or how extensive her tunnels were, but he had a plan. He purchased candles, a notebook, a pick, shovel, and a miners cap, so he would be able to see inside the tunnels; he bought red paint, so he could mark his way. The paint was the same kind that loggers used to mark trees.
Carefully he opened the cellar door. He walked into the dark tunnel and lit a half dozen candles. Rose had electricity in the cellar, but the tunnels had never been wired. He carried more candles and lots of matches with him. These were for emergencies.
He put on his miner’s light. He started his journey at almost the precise moment that Emil Mynter entered the tunnels from another place. Neither man knew the other was inside the tunnels. Nor did they know that a third man was in the tunnels. That third man would kill to keep his secrets.
Jeff Hollander wished there was someone else he cold trust. But a hired explorer might steal any treasure he found. Emil Mynter seemed like an honest sort, but Emil was a friend of Elaine’s parents, and he didn’t like Jeff Hollander. The priest decided he couldn’t trust anyone.
On his first exploration, he went east for about a mile. He noticed where the tunnel intersected with a mining tunnel. Where did this tunnel exit? Was the tunnel still used by the mines?
Rose would not have ventured this far from the house. Would she?
The next day Hollander went west. He exited this tunnel in a wooded area. He saw forest paths and heard the swish of cars on a near-by highway, but decided to go back inside the earth. Upper Peninsula forests could be as easy to get lost in as an underground tunnel. At least his tunnel was marked. The mouth of this tunnel looked like a natural cave. He didn’t know who owned this property, so he could not put up a “no trespassing" sign.
He could get the sheriff to block the entry. But then that deputy would want to explore.
He had inherited no more than a half dozen acres from Rose. Her tunnels crisscrossed private and state property. Any treasure found down here would have to remain a secret. If he did discover a treasure and if anyone found out, he would have to say he found it inside the house or on the grounds. Otherwise ownership could be contested. Best to keep any finds a secret, he decided.
He followed the tunnel back. This tunnel did not seem to intersect with the mines. But it did branch off. This was Rose’s maze, and he knew he had to be careful. There were dozens of places where the tunnel branched off. Where did these branches go? Should he explore them now or wait?
Then he saw the footprint in the soft earth. Someone else had been in this tunnel recently. Who? The footprint went left. Did he dare follow it? Instead of using his red paint he took out his picket knife and put a small notch in the wood to the side. Then he followed the footprints, taking care to step carefully in each one, so he himself was not leaving a trail.
He didn’t know why, but he sensed it was important that no one knew he had entered here. This tunnel was dark even with his miner’s light. He took out a candle and lit it. The light from his miners cap danced on the walls. The tunnel curved. He found himself saying a silent prayer for his own safety. Jeff Hollander was not a man who spooked easily, yet he had to admit he was scared.
Of What? What could possibly harm him down here? There might be bats or a rattlesnake. Neither of these things scared him. He had a club and he had a pistol. He wasn’t sure if he would dare use the pistol, but the club would discourage most creatures.
He smelled something, rotten decaying. It made him want to vomit. He swallowed hard to keep his breakfast from coming up and betraying his presence to whomever or whatever might be using this tunnel.
He turned the corner and screamed.
He had never screamed before, at least not that he remembered. But then he had never seen hell before. He backed away.
Elaine had cleaned Rose’s apartment many times. Still she could not get the old lady smell from the rooms.
Soon Elaine would have a maid cleaning for her in a fancy new home. Surely Jeff didn’t expect them to keep living here.
She hated this old boarding house with its musty smell, ancient furniture and silent rooms. She knew the house had once been fashionable, but after Rose’s husband killed himself, the old lady had slowly shut down everything until she lived like a recluse here. It didn’t matter how often Elaine cleaned. The house still smelled like mice droppings and rotten cheese.
The furniture looked like junk yard rejects.
It had taken too long for the old lady to die, but now she was gone, and the house was hers - well it was Jeff’s, but she and Jeff would soon be married. They just had to get out of here soon.
Jeff had searched the house and he had not found anything of value. When Rose seemed less lucid in the last years of her life, she said she had hidden something in the tunnels, but Jeff had not gotten her to be more specific.
When had Rose hidden it? Was Rose wealthy in her younger days? It didn’t make sense that a frail older woman would go down there by herself carting a fortune in gold, and jewels. Maybe it was her husband who hid the fortune, and Rose herself did not know where it was. Perhaps the fortune did not exit. There was always that possibility, but Jeff had to be sure. She understood that.
In her dreams Elaine imagined a life of fur coats, diamond bracelets and trips across the Atlantic. They would meet kings, queens and presidents. President and Mrs. Roosevelt would invite them to dine at the White House. She would be richer than the Lucinda Rinaldi.
She and Jeff could buy a house in one of the fancy districts of Detroit or Lansing. They could travel first class around the world and meet Hollywood stars. She would flirt with Clark Gable and Rudy Vallee.
Elaine wanted to dance around the room when she thought of what was possible with enough money and with Jeff.
They would, of course, have to leave town. There was too much prejudice here. People believed that Jeff had taken unfair advantage of Rose, and that all these years as he looked after her and her estate, he was just after her money. They talked about Elaine and Jeff too.
Was it anyone’s business if she were dating a priest? There were too many gossips in this town; she hated Mountain Ridge.
Elaine was tired of being an old lady’s maid. Even with Rose dead, she was still cleaning Rose’s house. Why was she doing that?
Elaine knew the tunnels could be dangerous, but she trusted Jeff. He was smart, and he would be careful. She was not worried about him. Well, maybe a little worried. If he failed to come out of the tunnels, she would be alone and penniless and forced to remain in Mountain Ridge. She’d have to live with her parents again.
When she heard noises in the cellar, she hurried to a mirror to make sure her hair was perfect. Her new lipstick was reportedly the same shade Jean Harlow wore. That’s what the ladies’ magazines claimed anyway. Elaine had bought it at the drug store down the street where she bought all her movie magazines.
She waited for the cellar door to open.
Jeff didn’t walk from the tunnel. He stumbled. His gear fell in a puddle around him. He stumbled up the stairs to where Elaine waited, fell into a chair and sat staring at the wall like he could see the devil himself sitting there.
“Jeff, what’s wrong?” Elaine ran to him.
“Pack a bag. We’re leaving.”
“Just do it.”
“Are you sick?”
“Worse,” he replied. He would tell her no more.
Miles was unprepared for Father Hollander’s visit. “No way,” he said. “I’ll believe there’s a treasure located in those tunnels, unlikely as that might seem, but dead bodies? No way.”
“It’s got to be checked out.” His dad told him.
The two lawmen looked at Jeff Hollander who was clearly shaken. The priest’s face was chalky. His hands trembled. He had bumped into a chair when he staggered into the jailhouse.
“Ready to show me where these bodies are?” Miles asked.
The priest nodded and moved toward the door like a sick man.
Miles followed. His gun was loaded. He would try to confuse the priest once they got into the tunnels. What if he couldn’t? Hollander had become a problem. One that could not be easily dispatched. He was sure of that. Some poor women could disappear, but not a priest.
Miles got in his car and drove the priest back to Almasy House. Hollander was too shaken to drive back himself. He was so nervous, it would be easy for him to have an accident. Save that for when they were alone in the tunnels.