There were four of them, not counting two younger brothers who tagged along whenever it couldn’t be helped. That summer they called themselves the Mystery Hunters, because Samantha was reading a thirty-book series about kids who solved crimes. But there were no crimes in Lakeport.

There was only Sawmill Road, curving through the trees and dead-ending at a lonely parking lot and one ruined building. The sawmill that  had given  the road its name was long gone, burned down before the Mystery Hunters were born. The warehouse erected in its place had burned in recent memory, although only James and Laura had lived in Lakeport at the time.

“Let’s investigate Sawmill Road,” Samantha said, leaning over the handlebars of her bike.

“It’s haunted,” Laura said. “My cousin said any building on Sawmill will burn down. He said the guy who owned the sawmill was crazy….” She launched into a meandering story of the sawmill’s owner, and the others listened with varying degrees of doubt.

When she finished, Samantha said, “That’s stupid. Come on, let’s see if we can find some clues.”

“We might find some wires and stuff like last time,” Matt said.

They rode across town to Sawmill Road. It was cooler under the trees, and the creek that ran alongside the road made it cooler still. “We should kill mosquito larvae later,” James said, looking longingly at the water.

“I didn’t bring my radio,” Matt said. He and the others were convinced that submerging the antenna and turning the radio on killed mosquito larvae.

They glided around the last curve and skidded to a halt in the road. “What’s going on?” Samantha demanded, sounding annoyed. “They’re destroying important clues.”

A bulldozer parked nearby drew the boys’ attention, but Samantha and Laura rode across the parking lot to look at the heap of splintered, blackened wood, all that was left of the old warehouse. “It looks like they’re going to build something new,” Samantha said.

“It’ll burn down.” Laura balanced her bike carefully and lifted both feet off the ground, but had to catch herself again almost immediately. “Sawmill Road’s haunted so it’ll burn down, whatever they build.”

“What if they build a brick house?”

“Well, in that case it would probably just explode.”

Summer deepened into July. In between trips to the lake, church picnics, Matt’s little brother’s birthday party, afternoons spent eating Popsicles and playing Mastermind at Laura’s house, and the big paper recycling drive downtown, the Mystery Hunters visited Sawmill Road. All traces of the warehouse were now gone. From day to day, week to week, a new building was taking shape. It had a wood frame.

In early August someone placed a sign at the entrance to Sawmill Road. “Flowerpot Fran’s Plant Shop, Grand Opening August 12.” The Mystery Hunters stopped their bikes to stare at the sign.

“That’s a really dumb name,” Matt said.

“We already have a greenhouse up on Butternut,” Samantha said. “My mom bought our holly tree there, the one that died.”

Laura said, “I bet the sign will burn down too.”

The long summer evening was fading into dusk. It was dark under the trees; fireflies blinked in the tree canopy as the four children rode down Sawmill Road.

“My mom’s going to be mad,” James said, checking his watch. “I was supposed to be home at eight.” No one answered him.

They parked their bikes behind a clump of bushes and surveyed the building. It smelled of new wood. “I don’t see a greenhouse,” Matt said.

“They must just sell flowers and stuff.” James squatted down and frowned across the parking lot at the building. “They’re crazy to build it here on Sawmill Road. Somebody should have told them not to.”

“It’ll burn,” Laura said, nodding in agreement. She pulled a box out of her pocket.

Afterwards, none of them could remember who struck the first match.

Katherine Shaw lives in Pennsylvania with her dog and two cats.

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Every Day Fiction