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Enchantment Lake

Enchantment Lake: A Northwoods Mystery

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Enchantment Lake
    Book Description:

    A disturbing call from her great aunts Astrid and Jeannette sends seventeen-year-old Francie far from her new home in New York into a tangle of mysteries. Ditching an audition in a Manhattan theater, Francie travels to a remote lake in the northwoods where her aunts' neighbors are "dropping like flies" from strange accidents. But are they accidents?

    On the shores of Enchantment Lake in the woods of northern Minnesota, something ominous is afoot, and as Francie begins to investigate, the mysteries multiply: a poisoned hot dish, a puzzling confession, eerie noises in the bog, and a legendary treasure that is said to be under enchantment-or is that under Enchantment, as in under the lake? At the center of everything is a suddenly booming business in cabin sales and a road not everyone wants built.

    To a somewhat reluctant northwoods Nancy Drew, the intrigue proves irresistible, especially when it draws her closer to the mysteries at the heart of her own life: What happened to her father? Who and where is her mother? Who isshe, and where does her heart lie-in the bustle of New York City or the deep woods of Minnesota? With its gripping story, romantic spirit, and a sly dash of modern-day trouble (evil realtors and other invasive species),Enchantment Lakewill fascinate readers, providing precisely the charm that Margi Preus's readers have come to expect.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4462-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [viii]-[x])
    (pp. 1-4)

    Drowning, Francie thought. That’s what this was like. You plunged into the cool, quiet darkness of the theater from the hot, bright street and sank into the gloom of the back rows of the house. And waited. Waited for the air to be squeezed, slowly but surely, from your lungs. Waited while your nerves frayed. Waited for your turn to audition.

    From here, the voices on stage were like those on a distant shore, calmly conversing while Francie struggled, unobserved in the darkness, to keep her head above water. Her chest hurt, and something gnawed at the lining of her...

    (pp. 5-10)

    The trip was agony—everything was taking too long! She couldn’t help imagining the worst scenarios. All the way through security: what if something horrible had happened? During the long flight: if her aunts’ lives were in danger, what did she think she was going to be able to do about it, anyway?

    And now the interminable bus ride, every mile of which was agony—the lurching stop it made in every little town, the blast of hot air as the door clattered open, the clamor of people getting on or off—made her grit her teeth in frustration.Couldn’t...

    (pp. 11-18)

    Francie stood for a moment listening to the boat’s wake wash against the shore. It had always struck her as a lonely sound and seemed even lonelier now that she was by herself. Maybe she should have asked Sandy to come with her. Why had she said no?

    It was eerie how silent everything was. Once the lake was still again and the boat long gone, it was too quiet. No slamming of screen doors or squeals of kids playing in the lake, of parents calling their children home for dinner. But perhaps those were just sounds from her memory,...

    (pp. 19-23)

    The boathouse had been Francie’s favorite place to sleep when she was a kid, and her aunts remembered that. They must have known she would come back, too, because they’d obviously prepared it: the canoe had been taken out, the floor swept, the bed made up.

    Lying in the creaky bunk with the windows open, only inches from the water, Francie tried to recall her childhood wonderment. But instead of feeling the magic of wind and waves, what she noticed was the insistent drone of mosquitoes on the other side of the screens, the scratching of a mouse somewhere, and...

    (pp. 24-34)

    “They’ll call it suicide, but it isn’t,” Astrid said the next morning, taking a sip of coffee.

    Francie choked on her bite of toast. “What isn’t suicide?”

    “The shooting down the way. What do you think that loud bang was in the middle of the night?”

    “Fireworks,” Francie said.

    Astrid set her cup in its saucer and pursed her lips in the same disappointed way she had when as a kid Francie sat on the nice furniture in her wet swimsuit. “All thoseotherbangs were fireworks, but that one bang, in the very early morning hours, was a shotgun,”...

    (pp. 35-41)

    The brief rain had ended and the sun had come out, so Francie continued on, running again, hoping she’d be just a blur and unrecognizable. She jogged along the old familiar path, noticing that the trees seemed even bigger than she remembered. Well, trees never stopped growing, did they?

    Of the people she’d met so far, only the potter and Ginger seemed young and spry enough to have followed her the previous night. The potter hadn’t seemed the slightest bit interested in her, and Ginger was an old friend. As for murderers—she hadn’t seen anyone who would fit that...

    (pp. 42-46)

    Francie drove her aunts’ boat across the lake where she found Sandy in the process of inspecting a boat.

    “Inspecting it for what?” Francie asked when he was finished. “Drugs?” she joked.

    “Plant life and stuff,” he explained. “Invasives. Zebra mussels, mud snails, milfoil. Any one of those things could change this lake forever. Not in a good way.”

    Francie nodded. “Oh, yeah. I’ve heard about zebra mussels. Nasty things. So they’re in lakes around here?”

    “Yep,” he said. “We’re surrounded. Anybody wants to launch a boat here, it gets inspected.”

    “What if you find something?”

    “Then they have to...

    (pp. 47-51)

    The inside of Paradise Realty was a strange mix of carpeting, air conditioning, and rustic log furniture upholstered with bear motif fabrics. A fake stone fireplace loomed at one end of the reception area, with a large and real elk head presiding above the mantel.

    The receptionist’s nameplate identified her asDarcee.

    “I’m looking for a real estate agent to, um, to tell me if I could …” Francie had no idea how to word this, but she told herself to pull it together and finished strong. “I have some property I’d like to sell on Enchantment Lake.”

    “Ooh, Enchantment!...

    (pp. 52-57)

    “Well, Astrid, what do you think?” Jeannette asked as the three of them watched Buck’s boat retreating across the lake.

    “He’s the one,” Astrid said, her eyes glittering. The boat’s wake rushed onto the shore, as if applauding.

    “He’s the one what?” Francie asked.

    “He’s the one who’s been knocking off cabin owners around here. I suspect we’re next,” she said matter-of-factly. “Unless, of course, we do something about it first.” She turned to Francie and smiled sweetly. “Let’s go strawberry picking!”

    Francie did not see how picking strawberries was going to stop Buck from doing anything, and she said...

  12. 10 SLEUTHING
    (pp. 58-61)

    At the one coffee shop in town, Francie ordered a “cappachino,” as it was spelled on the menu, and sketched out the roadless side of the lake on a napkin, putting an X at every cabin where there was a suspicious death. Her list read:

    Falling Tree Limb (Kevin Smattering)

    Drowning (Mr. Hansen)

    Snakebite (Mr. Simonsen)

    Gunshot/Suicide? (Warren)

    Poisoned Well (Ginger’s dad)

    Heart Attack? (Sandy’s dad)

    She resisted also writing:

    Car Accident? (My dad)

    Then she pulled out her laptop. In the time it took to drink her cappuccino, Francie found some interesting information. Of the causes of death, the...

  13. 11 THE PARTY
    (pp. 62-66)

    The partygoers were dressed in hues of watermelon and peach (or was it nectarine?). Plenty of gold jewelry created a dull gleam on the twilit deck. Francie, the only one in black, looked like she was on her way to a funeral. Circulating through the rooms, out onto decks and back inside, she caught snippets of conversations. A couple of men in sport coats were discussing “core samples” with two guys in jeans and T-shirts. Another man rattled on about “yields and commodity prices” with a woman who could barely suppress her yawns. Who were these people?

    And where were...

  14. 12 FISHING
    (pp. 67-76)

    “Oh, never mind,” Buck Jr. said, “I’ll just have a beer.”

    Francie heard the fridge open, the clinking of glass, then the fizz of a bottle opening, followed by the ting of the cap on the counter. Then the click of heels on the tile floor, retreating. She resisted the impulse to heave a sigh and stepped out of the pantry into the kitchen.

    “What were you doing in there?” Buck Sr. asked.

    Oops. She should have counted the number of feet retreating. She’d have to remember that in future sleuthing situations.

    “Me?” Francie squeaked. “Looking for a glass.”


  15. 13 GO DARK
    (pp. 77-79)

    After her encounter with Buck, Francie was too frazzled to even think of making a good impression on anybody, so she stumbled along the path toward home. In the dark. She had a flashlight, but she felt weirdly safer with it off, as if the light would make her a target.

    Lines from one of the poems in the book on her nightstand came to her:To go in the dark with a light is to know the light. To know the dark, go dark.

    She marveled at how her eyes could adjust to the nighttime darkness. There were still...

  16. 14 THE PUZZLE
    (pp. 80-85)

    The next morning, Francie found Jeannette sitting at the table by the picture window, working on a jigsaw puzzle.

    Francie sat down next to her and fiddled with a puzzle piece. “Where’s the picture?” she asked.

    “The picture of what, Frenchy?” her aunt said.

    “The picture on the box of what the puzzle is supposed to look like.”

    “Oh, we don’t use that,” Jeannette said. “We’ve done these same puzzles so many times, we had to find a way to make it more challenging. So we don’t use the picture.”

    “But all these puzzle pieces are the same color! They’re...

    (pp. 86-89)

    The sheriff leaned back in his swivel chair and laughed. “He told youwhat? He saidwhat?” He laughed so hard he started wheezing. “Listen, little missy, I know Buck. We went to high school together; we go elk hunting in Montana together every year.” He nodded with his head to the big rack of antlers mounted on the wall over his desk. “Buck ain’t no murderer.” He leaned over and scratched his dog—a black lab—behind the ears.

    “He doesn’t seem to have any trouble killing elk,” she muttered.

    “What’s that?”

    Francie eyed the rack. “What kind of...

    (pp. 90-93)

    Now what?

    First, she canceled her flight. There was no way she was going to leave her aunts alone now. What shewasgoing to do, she wasn’t sure, but she knew she had to stay. Maybe she could still connect with Mrs. Frederickson. And if things settled down in the next few days, she might be able to get back to New York in time for the next audition.

    She checked her phone. Augh! An urgent message from Granddad: “Francesca, call ASAP. Need to talk.” She felt a twinge of guilt and another of anxiety but tossed the phone...

  19. 17 THE FUNERAL
    (pp. 94-98)

    The funeral was short and nondescript. There was a lunch following, provided by the ladies of Enchantment, the same ladies Warren had helped out so many times in the past. A long table in the church basement was laden with Jell-O salads and hotdishes—casseroles—of all descriptions. Frosted cakes, plates of cookies, and pans of bars weighed down the far end of the table.

    Astrid and Jeannette were part of the crew of ladies who had brought the food and were now serving it. Francie had given a halfhearted offer of help, but she was shooed away by women...

    (pp. 99-103)

    “Don’t say anything!” Francie said, rushing into the sheriff’s office.

    “Oh, hello, Frenchy,” Astrid said. “Rydell, here—”

    Francie turned to her aunts and tried to keep her voice steady, “Don’t tell him anything. You should have a lawyer present.”

    “Now, miss,” the sheriff said, “nobody’s under arrest—yet.” He leaned back in his swivel chair. “I’m just askin’ a few questions.”

    “Even so, they should have their lawyer present,” Francie said, straining to remember her lines from the show. “You can’t hold them if you aren’t going to charge them.” That wasn’t bad, Francie thought. That had been one...

  21. 19 SUNNIES
    (pp. 104-111)

    “I wonder what they’re planning to start for dinner,” Francie said, peering into the brown paper grocery bags. “It seems we have all the ingredients with us.”

    When she glanced up, Nels was looking at her. She quickly redirected her gaze back into the bags. But she was left with the distinct impression he was smiling.

    “It seems sort of strange to be shopping for olive oil and Shore Lunch, whatever that is,” she said, eliciting a raised eyebrow from Nels, “when my aunt is the prime suspect in a murder.”

    “Tell me how that happened,” he said.

    While Nels...

  22. 20 T.J.
    (pp. 112-117)

    “Uh … key?” Ginger said.

    “To the church,” Francie repeated.

    “Uh …” Ginger said.

    “Ginger!” Francie snapped. “Are you drunk?”

    “No.” She slumped into a chair. “It’s T.J.”

    “What?” Francie asked. “What’s happened?”

    “I don’t know,” Ginger said. “He’s gone. He hasn’t come home.”

    “Oh, God.”

    “I’ve been out looking. I just came in now to get a different flashlight. The batteries are going on this one.”

    “When is the last time you saw him?”

    “He was home for dinner, and I thought he went to bed.”

    “Did he?”

    “You can see for yourself.” Ginger led them to a modest...

  23. 21 GONE TO JAIL
    (pp. 118-125)

    Francie woke with a plan. She would take a swim, cool her scratches from the previous night, scrub with Fels-Naptha soap to remove any poison ivy oil, apply aloe to her bites, and brood. She planned to brood on the following issues: Who might have killed Buck Thorne? Whom had she seen back in the peat bog last night? What had he or she been doing? Where had T.J. been? What was she going to do about her grandfather? And where had Aunt Astrid’s hotdish gone?

    But before she started thinking about anything, she needed a cup of coffee.


  24. 22 DQ
    (pp. 126-131)

    With her head spinning, Francie stepped out onto the street. She was getting nowhere, and she only had this one day to figure everything out. I’ve already thought about that enough, she scolded herself. Still, she couldn’t help wondering if there was any way she could defy her grandfather and stay. She really didn’t want to estrange him. He was exasperating, but she did love him, and she knew he loved her, too. It was just that he had all these rules. She had to do this or that or the other thing unless this, that, or the other thing....

  25. 23 A SECRET
    (pp. 132-137)

    Buck’s boat was not at the dock.

    “Sandy!” she said, barging into the store. “Is Buck out on the lake?”

    Sandy looked up from the cash register, his face flushed with a curious mix of surprise and anger. “Buck Jr.?” he growled. “Yeah, he’s out there. Why?”

    “What’s the matter?” she asked.

    “Just a minute,” he said.

    While she waited until he finished with his customer, Francie looked around the store at the old maps, pictures, posters, an arrowhead collection in a glass case, and an ancient illuminated Hamm’s Beer sign with a picture of a red canoe on a...

    (pp. 138-141)

    “All right,” Buck said, sliding the blindfold off Francie’s face.

    She blinked in the sunlight, and once her eyes adjusted, saw that they were standing next to a pile of brush in the middle of the woods.

    “What am I supposed to be looking at?” Francie asked when her heart subsided enough to allow her to talk.

    Buck ceremoniously lifted some dead branches off the brush pile to reveal …

    “A log?” Francie said.

    “A really, really big log.” Buck patted it proudly.

    “Are you kidding me?” she said. “This is a joke, right? I mean, you don’t blindfold someone...

    (pp. 142-149)

    She’d wasted a lot of time on that little fiasco, she thought, as she jumped out of Buck’s boat into knee-deep water, then waded onto the island. The island was just a rounded slab of granite on which enough dirt had collected over the centuries to support a small grove of red pines. It wouldn’t take long to traverse it to get back to her kayak, but she still had to paddle back to Sandy’s.

    As she rounded the corner, she saw Potter. His boat was pulled into a small, protected cove, and he was hauling empty buckets out of...

  28. 26 UNDER WATER
    (pp. 150-153)

    “Potter!” Francie sat up, her hand simultaneously curling around the kayak paddle.

    “I’m surprised to see you,” Potter said. “I looked all over for you earlier. How did you manage to disappear?”

    “Magic.” Francie swung the paddle as hard as she could, the blade catching him in the shins. As Potter went down, Francie leaped up and took off running.

    Just where did she think she was going to go? Were they going to run around and around the island the way squirrels chased each other around tree trunks, until you couldn’t tell who was chasing who? (Or was it...

    (pp. 154-156)

    “You’ve got a really crappy boat, you know that?” Francie said to Potter as the screen door slammed behind them.

    “It was fine this afternoon,” Potter shot back. “I can’t help that somebody shot holes through it.”


    “Remember that popping sound we heard?” Potter said. “I think someone was shooting my boat full of holes. Soon after that there was the sound of a boat going away.”

    “That’s true,” Francie said.

    “Whoever it was also took my life jackets,” Potter added sullenly. “Someone with a gun.”

    “But why?” Francie said. “Were they trying to kill you?”

    “Frenchy, you’re quaking...

  30. 28 FREDDIE'S
    (pp. 157-164)

    The Fredericksons’ door was slightly ajar, so after she had knocked and gotten no response, Francie poked her head inside.

    “Ms. Ricard?” she said. How should she refer to her? Mrs. Frederickson? Savery? Frederica? All these names! Francie felt like she was getting involved with a character from a Russian novel. She would have to pick a name and stick with it. Mrs. Frederickson? Or Ms. Ricard? The latter, she decided, and Frederica if that seemed too formal. But should she go in? Lake people were casual; the door was open; if it were anybody else’s place, she would go...

    (pp. 165-172)

    Francie spun and reached for the handle but heard the click of a lock, then the sound of heels clattering away down the long hall in the other direction.

    Stupid! She jiggled the door handle. No good. She was about to pound on the door when a voice behind her hissed, “Stop it!”

    Francie spun around. Nobody.

    “Be quiet and don’t bang on the door,” the voice whispered.

    “What the—? Who are you?” Francie groped around until her fingers met a mop of dusty-feeling hair. “T.J.! What are you doing here?”

    “I’m taking the pins out of the hinges,”...

  32. 30 THE MACHINE
    (pp. 173-175)

    The beams of the dozer’s lights pierced the darkness as the machine chewed its way through the woods toward them, splintering small trees in its way and crunching over logs, rocks, stumps, everything.

    “Come on!” T.J. shouted. “We can intersect her.”

    “Intercept,” Francie corrected him. Her inner English teacher would probably be the last part of her to die, she thought.

    Frederica Ricard had pushed Francie’s kayak off the island, started a forest fire, tried to drown her, and locked her in a closet with the promise that she wouldn’t live to discover her own talents. So Francie was pretty...

  33. 31 THE BLAST
    (pp. 176-177)

    The blast was impressive. For a moment, Francie stood in shocked stillness. When the smoke cleared, there, bright against the dark sky, was the dime-sized moon, and at her feet some bit of glimmer, as if a piece of the moon had broken off and landed there. But it was nothing so romantic as that; it was a handgun. She reached down and picked it up.

    Through the misty fog she thought she saw an angel, which was really strange since she did not believe in angels. It was, of course, Freddie, who had climbed down or been blown down...

    (pp. 178-186)

    Francie fell into her aunts’ arms as soon as she entered the cabin. Nels and T.J. were smothered with kisses, too, and hugged to bosoms. “Thank goodness you’re safe!” everybody said to everyone else in an outpouring of giddy relief.

    There was a rush of excited explanations: Mastodon bones in the bog! Mrs. Frederickson the murderer! The three of them barely escaping with their lives! And questions: How did you get out of jail? Does the sheriff know you’re here? And so on.

    Finally, Jeannette called out over the din, “Sit down! Sit down! Have something to eat.”

    Soon they...

    (pp. 187-188)
  36. Back Matter
    (pp. 189-189)