The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring
Zimmermann reveals to Rose Rita Pottinger the story of Hunks after the two run into the bitter Gert Bigger in the summer of 1950. Both Zimmermann and Pottinger later find a mysterious photograph in a junk store in an unnamed town in Michigan's upper peninsula:
It showed a woman in an old-fashioned floor-length dress. She was standing by the bank of a river, and she had a canoe paddle in her hand. Behind her a canoe was pulled upon the bank. A man in a striped jacket was sitting cross-legged next to the canoe. He hand a handlebar mustache, and he was playing a banjo. The man looked handsome, but it was impossible to tell what the lady looked like. Someone had scraped the face of the lady away with a knife or a razor blade (Letter, 48).On the back of the old photograph was written: "Florence and Mordecai. Summer, 1905." Later at Bigger's grocery store, Rose Rita finds another photograph of the same man with the handlebar mustache (Letter, 98).
In the Bible, Mordecai was the cousin and guardian of Esther, as seen in the Book of Esther. The name "Mordecai" is of uncertain origin, commonly interpreted as a theophoric name referring to the god Marduk with the understanding that it means "[servant/follower/devotee] of Marduk" in Aramaic. However, knowing Bellairs's penchant for baseball, one cannot help think he may have had famed pitcher Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown in mind as well.