Lighthouse Park Chapter Four

Hidden Treasures

“What have we here?” Winnie asked, looking down into the small hole. It was dark, and she had no intention of just sticking her hand in. She pulled her phone from her pocket and turned on the flashlight, aiming it inside. Her first impression was one of dust. Dust and cobwebs. But as she looked closer, she thought she could make out square edges. There was some sort of box down there. She shivered as a chill ran across her back.

Silas, who’d been leaning over behind her, took a hurried step back.

Winnie reached into the hole with care and felt for the edges of the box, lifting it out and setting it on the floor. She turned off her flashlight and slipped her phone back in her pocket, then swiped at the dust covering the box. It was tin, and about the size of a hardcover novel. Gently, she lifted the latch and opened it up, leaning back just in case a spider or twelve had found their way inside. When nothing jumped out at her, she sat up again and peered inside.

“Oh,” Silas breathed. “I had forgotten about those. I can’t believe they’re still here.”

Winnie glanced around with a frown, then shook her head. She lifted out a pendant—a small piece of jade surrounded by delicate silver filigree hanging from an equally delicate chain—and let out a low whistle. “Oh wow, that’s beautiful.”

Emmaline, Silas thought, staring at the pendant. So distracted by the flood of memories it brought back, he didn’t notice Ginger homing in on the dangling bauble. Too much for the ghostly cat to resist, she jumped out to swat at it, causing it to swing wildly in Winnie’s hand.

“Whoa!” Winnie shivered as Silas leaped forward to grab the cat, looking around for the source of the sudden movement and subsequent chill. “That…okay. That was weird.” With an abundance of care, she set the pendant on the floor beside her, then reached back into the box. The rest of its contents were a bundle of letters, tied together with a faded green ribbon. They were clearly quite old, and Winnie handled them with gentle fingers, turning the bundle this way and that to examine it. The letters were handwritten, in what looked to be a beautiful script, but were far too faded for her to read more than the odd word here and there. “The letters closer to the center might be better preserved,” she mused, before shaking her head at the idea. “But it’s too risky to undo the bundle. I don’t want to destroy them.” They looked ready to crumble at the slightest pressure. She placed the bundle back into the tin, catching sight of a date on the topmost letter as she did. 1925. “Wow.” She whistled again. “I knew the cottage was old, but…wow.” Her inner historian was jumping up and down with glee at such a discovery. Probably the town council would like to have these. She wondered if there was anyone in town who could restore the letters. But glancing at the ribbon that bound them, and the pendant on the floor, something told her that these letters were private. Perhaps it was best that their origin remain a mystery for now. “I think you’ll be safer here,” she murmured, placing the pendant back in the tin with the letters and closing it. She slipped the box back into its hidey-hole and replaced the baseboard, taking care to fit it into place so it no longer stuck out.

Silas let out a breathless sigh, both relieved and disappointed to see his mementos tucked back away into hiding. Ginger struggled in his arms and he set her back on the floor. She stalked out of the room, sulking. Silas turned his attention back to Winnie, who still knelt beside the wall. She looked as if she was considering something. After a moment, she gave herself a shake and stood, brushing past Silas and into the kitchenette, her focus shifted to making dinner.


“Jacob, you do all of the maintenance on the cottage, right?” She refilled his cup and bit her lip. She’d been musing over last night’s discovery all morning, and Jacob’s arrival for a post-lunch break seemed fortuitous.

“Sure do. Is there something you need me to take a look at?”

“No, it’s not that. I was just wondering what you know about its history.”

He gave her a close look. “This isn’t about what Gary said, is it? Because I love the guy, but he’s full of it more often than not.”

“Don’t worry,” Winnie laughed, “I didn’t buy into the whole haunted thing.” Much. “But it did get me thinking. Clearly the place does have a history.”

“Well, that’s true. It used to be part of the Hillis estate. They founded Birchland Bluffs in 1870. The cottage was for the lighthouse keeper, who also kept the estate grounds. It probably dates back to not too long after the founding.”

She nodded, having known most of this already. She latched onto the the new-to-her bit of information. “The estate?” Winnie thought it strange that the cottage wouldn’t have been part of it, but surely if it had survived all these years, the estate would have as well?

Jacob waved toward the picture window at the front of the cafe, gesturing across the street to the park. “Over there. Where the park is. That all used to be the Hillis land, with a big, proper manor right in the middle.”

“What happened to it?”

“Burned down, almost a hundred years ago. That kind of put an end to the Hillis family. I think one or two survived. There was a daughter who’d married and didn’t live there anymore.”

“So the town ended up with the land and the cottage?” Winnie guessed. Jacob nodded. “I’m surprised there’s not some sort of memorial in the park. A statue or something.” For that matter, why wasn’t the cottage designated an official historical landmark? It was considered a landmark by the town, certainly, but didn’t have any legal status that way as far as Winnie had been able to determine.

Jacob seemed to read her mind. “From what I understand, the head of the family at the time of the fire wasn’t very well liked in the Bluffs. Add that to the fact that the will was something of a mess—burned up with the manor, you see—and none of the family stuck around. There wasn’t really anyone to push for a memorial. The town kept the cottage for the new lighthouse keeper, at least for a few years. It was still running, still necessary, back then. But I guess they couldn’t keep anyone in the position for more than a month or two. It was one of the first lighthouses in the state to go electric, which reduced the need for someone to stay there all night. By the time the lighthouse was decommissioned, its upkeep was just part of general town maintenance. No official keeper.”

Winnie didn’t know much about lighthouses, but the information about the founding family was fascinating. “I’m impressed they decided to keep the cottage intact. A lot of work must have gone into preserving it.”

“Not as much as you’d think,” Jacob said with a shrug. “It was well built. After there wasn’t a lighthouse keeper anymore, the town thought to rent it out for vacationers. We were just really starting to see tourism rise here—I don’t think Prohibition was widely enforced in the area, and that was a draw for a lot of the city folk—but the beach houses hadn’t been built yet. Not in the numbers they are now. The cottage’s survival was probably just a matter of good timing, really. I don’t know much more than that, sorry.”

“I wonder if it outlasting the manor is the source of all of the rumors that it’s haunted,” Winnie mused.

“Could be,” Jacob laughed. He wrinkled his nose. “Weird things do reportedly happen there—things moving around and the like. Personally I’ve never seen anything like that, but we’ve had renters mention it often enough that the council decided to limit stays to a week or two at the most. That seems to keep anyone from leaving with complaints. Most of the time. I was honestly a little surprised they decided to rent it out to you full-time.” He shrugged, then chuckled. “I guess the current town council isn’t as bothered by superstition. But honestly, all places with that much history seem to carry a kind of weight about them, don’t you think? Maybe it just gets to folks.”

“Maybe.” Winnie agreed. “I, myself, like history. It’s why I—” She caught herself and amended what she was going to say. “It’s what I studied in school.”

Jacob’s eyebrows rose in interest. “Really? That’s cool. Well, if you’re in the mood for a local history project, I bet the library’s got more information about the cottage and the town in general.” He shot her a shy smile. “If you want to know more, that is.”

“I always want to know more,” Winnie laughed, smiling back.

“So,” Jacob said, “you studied history. Where did—” His phone chimed and he slipped it out of his pocket. “Damn. I’ve got to take this. Should get back to work, too.” He tossed back the rest of his coffee, then mouthed, “See you later,” waving at Winnie as he headed for the door, answering the call as he stepped outside. “This is Jacob.”

Winnie let out a shaky breath as the door shut behind him, watching him turn and walk away from the cafe. She shouldn’t have mentioned school. So far, she’d been pretty lucky about avoiding questions regarding where she’d come from. She really hoped to keep it that way for as long as possible. She was already growing to love Birchland Bluffs, and as she got closer to the people here, it was inevitable that they would want to know more about her. But there was too much baggage in her past, and she definitely wasn’t ready to start unpacking it yet.

The past of the town, and maybe the cottage, however? That was something she was very interested to get into. She’d been making it a habit to go to the library on her day off, but the mystery of the letters and pendant called to her, and she decided that today she could make an exception and go after work.


The late summer day was beautiful. Winnie drew in a deep breath as she stepped onto the sidewalk in front of the cafe. The sunshine was bright and friendly, and the scent of green things carried across from the park. A few school-aged kids walked or skateboarded along Main, and several more wandered through the park. Winnie watched them for a few minutes, smiling at how unfettered they all seemed. She debated running home to change out of her work clothes, but the mystery called to her and she instead turned her feet toward the library.

Smaller than the municipal libraries she was used to, it was still one of the largest buildings in town. The librarian, a friendly woman named Carol, had informed her it was the third largest, in fact, behind only the school and the community theater. The modest building boasted two stories and a basement, although the basement was largely off-limits to patrons, used mostly for administrative purposes and storage. A small vestibule at the bottom of the stairs held the library’s aging pair of copy machines for public use. Carol explained they had been placed there to keep the noise from disturbing people working upstairs. Upon stepping inside, Winnie was greeted with that distinct, wonderful smell of books. She again took in a deep breath, drinking in the surroundings. The library might just be her favorite place in Birchland Bluffs.

Carol was away from her desk, so Winnie perused the new releases shelf while she waited for her. There was nothing new since the last time she’d been in, which was all right, really, since she was pretty sure she’d maxed her check-out limit already. “Winnie, good afternoon! We don’t usually see you on a Wednesday. Have you finished that pile of books already?”

Winnie turned and made her way back to the desk, smiling at Carol. “Not yet,” she answered, laughing. “But I did wonder if you might help me with a little bit of a research project?”

“A research project?” Carol’s eyes shone with delight. “You’re a woman after my own heart. I’d be happy to help you. So. What are you looking for?”


One thought on “Lighthouse Park Chapter Four

  1. Loved it.
    That is what I think
    What an exciting discovery! Winnie’s curiosity and love for history lead her to embark on a research project to uncover more about the cottage’s past. The details about Birchland Bluffs and its history add another layer of intrigue to the story.
    Ely Shemer


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