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Harlan Coates listened to wind thrash against the rubble stone tower from his bed in the lighthouse guestroom. A ceiling truss creaked under the weight of snow, and he wondered if it would give way. That would be a rude welcome to this wilderness territory. He’d come to a village named Singapore at the bend in the Kalamazoo River to find work. Back home jobs had become scarce, and a wife and two small boys were depending on him. A Singapore saw mill supposedly needed help, and Coates had made the trek from Detroit to investigate the claim. He did not appreciate winter’s eager march across Lake Michigan to greet him.

Despite the snowstorm he counted himself fortunate to have met Lightkeeper Nichols upon his arrival in town the previous day. If not for Nichols, Coates would be sleeping in a crowded boarding house with his wallet a little lighter and his stomach a little tighter.

Sleep nearly closed his eyes when a desperate pounding suddenly cut against the grainy clamor of the gale. A frantic rhythm played out on the front door, too urgent to be characterized as knocking. Something was wrong.

Coates threw off the heavy blanket he’d been huddling under and set his feet on the cold wood floor. He scooped up his clothes from the foot of the bed and dressed in haste. A silver crucifix chained around his neck dangled in sight as he stooped to pull on his leather boots. He tied each lace into a haphazard knot and left the guestroom.

Lightkeeper Nichols had heard the racket too, and raced across the parlor room wearing nothing but his long underwear. He pulled open the front door.

Coates followed but stopped dead when he got a look at the visitors across the threshold.

There were five of them, maybe six. Men, or what was left of them, huddled together against the cold. They stood with shoulders slumped, caked in ice and dirty white paste that didn’t quite fit the look of melting snow. One of them pleaded for entry into the warmth of the lighthouse.


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