Granny and Pop-Pop are away on a cruise. They're having a great time...but their house isn't. There's a problem with the plumbing, and their basement gets flooded. Sharon asks the BSC to help the plumbers and contractors get the place cleaned up, and Mary Anne ends up with most of the work time. She's pretty dismayed when she and Sharon head over there for the first time to check out the damage; there's all sorts of stuff (magazines, board games, etc) that just can't be saved. There's plenty more that CAN be saved, though, so Mary Anne and Sharon get right to work moving things upstairs and away from the dampness. Just as Mary Anne is finishing up with one particular shelf, she notices that the paneling on the wall behind it is a little crooked. When Mary Anne touches it, that section of paneling falls away. She reaches inside, and finds a box wrapped in paper. That's not the most unusual part, though; that would be the writing on the paper. It says, "Do not open or you will be cursed." At first, Mary Anne obeys. She puts the box aside, keeps working, and doesn't say anything to Sharon about what she found. Then, she finally gives in and unwraps the package. Inside, she finds a beautifully carved box, but doesn't open it. She finally shows it to Sharon, who doesn't recognize it. Mary Anne takes it home with her, to keep it safe until Granny and Pop-Pop get back.
It takes Mary Anne the whole weekend to finally open the carved chest, and when she does, she discovers that it's a music box. It plays "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," and Mary Anne asks Granny about it the next time she calls. Granny denies knowing anything about it, and changes the subject pretty quickly. Mary Anne doesn't think anything of it; she's got other things on her mind. She's noticed some of the workers who are cleaning up the house snooping in places that they shouldn't even need to be. Mary Anne catches Jim the plumber looking through a file cabinet, and when the contractors mention digging in the backyard, Hank and Esther (friends of the Porters) seem awfully interested. Other BSC members notice odd stuff, too, when they're helping with the cleanup. Eddie the contractor was found in the toolshed, looking for something that he should have had on him in the first place (a shovel). Hank and Esther STILL seem really interested in the backyard, and there's also this old man who's been hanging around whom no one seems to know. No one can figure out why everyone is acting so strangely, so Mary Anne decides to show the rest of the BSC the music box. That's when she finds the secret compartment. It contains a note that says, "Dearest L.S., They're playing our song. Think of me whenever you look up at the night sky. I'll be on the other side of the world, thinking of you. And, before long, I'll be back and we can loog at the stars together, forever. H.I.W." The note is interesting enough, but the photo is what really captures Mary Anne's attention. It's actually half of a picture, featuring a young sailor from WWII. The creepy thing? Mary Anne had been having dreams about this guy...and she'd never seem him or that picture before. She thinks that there was a girl in the other half of the picture, but all she can see is a hand, wearing an ID bracelet.
Granny and Pop-Pop's anniversary is happening right after they get back from their cruise, and Sharon has a special present in mind; she wants to put their old letters and things into a scrapbook, and she enlists Mary Anne's help in sorting everything out. With Granny's permission, she reads through some of the letters. Granny had actually grown up in the house next door to the one that she and Pop-Pop currently live in, and she wrote quite a few times to her cousin and best friend, June, about everything that went on with the Bailey family who lived there. They had a daughter, Lydia, who had a boyfriend, Johnny, that her parents didn't approve of. Then, Mr. Bailey (a bank president) was caught stealing from his company. Mary Anne thinks that he must have buried the money in the backyard, which would explain why everyone is so interested in it. She also thinks that the music box was a gift from Johnny to Lydia, and that Johnny was the sailor in her dreams and in the photo. No one can figure out what L.S. and H.I.W. stand for, though, so the BSC decides to concentrate on the stolen money/backyard part of the mystery. They set a trap for Hank, Esther, and the workmen, just to see who's most interested in the case. They (loudly) claim to have found something in the backyard, and all the adults take the bait. Before they can confess that they didn't actually find anything, they catch the mysterious old man digging in the backyard. As it turns out, he's the father of Jim the plumber. Their family had lived in the neighborhood years ago, and he's still interested in what happened to the omney. Since the backyard needs to be dug to replace some pipes, everyone sticks around to see what's found in the process. There was a tree planted right around the time that Mr. Bailey had his money troubles, so they start there. Sure enough, up comes a metal box. Unfortunately, there's no money inside; just some papers that aren't worth anything.
Granny and Pop-Pop come home from their vacation, and are happy to see that their house is almost back to how it was. What they don't know is that Sharon, Richard, and Mary Anne have a surprise party planned for them. Mary Anne asks Sharon's permission to wear a piece of her jewelry to the party, and when she's searching the jewelry box for something, she finds something very interesting: the same ID bracelet that whoever was cut out of the photo in the music box was wearing. There's no name on it; just some stars. Mary Anne asks Sharon about it, and Sharon tells her that Granny gave it to her back in high school. Mary Anne is sure that the bracelet belonged to Johnny and Lydia, just like the music box, and she takes the first chance she can that night to talk to Granny about it alone. That's when Granny makes her confession: the music box and bracelet were hers. She's L.S., which stands for "Little Star," and the guy in the picture was her first love, Frank (she called him "How I Wonder." Both nicknames came from the song that the music box played). He was killed in WWII. Granny also gives Mary Anne the music box. Also, Johnny and Lydia ended up eloping, and lived happily ever after. :)
Subplot: the addition to the Barrett/DeWitt house is finished.
Thoughts and Things
- Granny never really explained why she lied about the music box in the first place. Was Pop-Pop in the room when she was talking to Mary Anne on the phone about it?
- This wasn't a bad mystery, but I think I liked it a little more the first time I read it. I DO like that Mary Anne was the one to narrate it, rather than having Dawn come back from CA to do it or something.
- I'm kind of glad that Granny had a first love that wasn't Pop-Pop. :)
- I have a shirt that's the exact same color as the one that Mary Anne is wearing on the cover.