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Chapter 1 continues

The story so far: The Pirate shadows Kacie, and she gets jumped by some Bayfield bullies.

At City Dock, a tour boat pulled out. A guide’s voice droned over the loudspeaker, “Lake Superior is the largest body of fresh water in the world …”

On the top deck, a few passengers listened, but most read, chatted with each other or tried to corral overactive children.

The guide continued. “The lake is so big, she makes her own storms. So cold, she can kill a person in fifteen minutes or less. So, you might want to keep your kids back from the edge.”

The boat swung about port and chugged toward Madeline Island.

Behind it, Kacie teetered on the dock edge, waving frantically. “Ronnie!” she yelled.

Another tour boat, the Mainlander, motored toward the now-vacant spot. On its deck, Veronica Jamieson — a pretty, dark-haired woman in her early 20s — gripped a generous coil of rope. She moved with the casual grace of someone who’d spent her entire life on boats and loved every minute of it.

Ronnie broke into a grin when she spied the young girl on the pier. She waved back. “Hey, Kacie! Catch!”

Ronnie tossed the bowline. Kacie caught it and quickly looped it around a dock cleat. In a few moments, the boat maneuvered close enough for Ronnie to leap ashore with stern and midship lines. Ronnie secured her lines and wandered up to check Kacie’s.

“Looks good,” Ronnie said, then caught sight of Kacie’s scratched face. “But you don’t. What happened?”

Kacie shrugged. “Scurvy cutthroats. Slew ‘em all.”

As passengers departed the Mainlander, a gentleman in his late 60s appeared on the top deck. He sported a neatly trimmed white beard and mustache, and wore a captain’s hat.

“Hullo, Kacie — ” He broke off when Kacie glanced up. “What happened to you?”

“Cutthroats, she says,” Ronnie chuckled. “Again.”

Pete shook his head. “You never back down from a fight, do you?”

Kacie grinned like a ship cat in a cargo full of mice. “Not if I can win.”

* * *

There was a time when the two-story brownstone on Rittenhouse Avenue had been Kacie’s whole life. Her mother was a waitress at Thea’s Place, the restaurant downstairs.

Kacie could sketch the entire layout from memory. Seven tables on the right, three on the left. Kacie always sat at the table closest to the kitchen. She’d wait for Gina to push open the swinging door with one hand, a tray full of orders in the other. Kacie marveled that she’d never seen her mother drop so much as a coffee cup, not even once.

Next to the kitchen door a cash register sat on a long, cherry-red counter that matched the vinyl stools. Behind the counter was a map of Bayfield, as well as a sailing chart of the Apostle Islands. Kacie spent hours studying that chart. She’d kill time waiting for Gina by trying to memorize the location of each island.

Above the restaurant were two apartments. Kacie and Gina lived in the two-bedroom, closest to the lake. Thea Delacroix, the building and restaurant owner, lived in the one-bedroom apartment next-door.

Kacie was used to living above a restaurant. She didn’t mind waking to the smell of eggs and bacon, or the aroma of grilled whitefish in the evening. The payoff came when she could look out the window of her small bedroom, out over City Dock and, beyond that, Lake Superior. The wind whispered stories to her each night, and the rhythm of the waves lulled her to sleep.

Gina sometimes grumbled about her inability to get away from work, but in the next breath, she’d admit that she had a great commute. And Thea (once you got past her gruff exterior) was a fair boss, a decent landlord and a good friend.

But now, Kacie balked at the restaurant’s front steps. She clutched the ice pack to her cheek and shot a glance at Pete. “Maybe they won’t notice.”

Pete peeled away the ice pack and frowned. “Doubtful.”

Tomorrow: Chapter 1 continues.