2/18/13 I did not get to write much so I missed my deadline (which was yesterday) but I got Faith to postpone the editing until March. I am going to wrte today and I have tomorrow off for Cataract surgery so I hope to get some writing done then as well.
I was delayed because I was in a horendous car wreck. The other guy was driving a stolen car, had been drinking, had the cops after him, and came into my lane of traffic and hit my car head-on. Fortunately, I didn't get hurt much (though he did - both ankles broken and his hip broken - plus he will be going to jail, which is only right and proper).
2/25/12 - Well, it's been a long time, but I will start writing on Book 4 today (Christmas - Brenda is in Colorado). I WILL have it finished in time for Faith to edit it in February.
11/30 - I haven't written on 4 again yet. Book 2 (Burglar) is out on Amazon and I am now editing book 3 again so it can go to Faith on the 9th. I will get to book 4 after that.
11/1/2012 - I am currently editng Book 3. I am through Chapter 9 and hope to have the entire thing finished by the end of the weekend. It is pretty dirty and will need to be done again at least once more before sending it to the Pro editor.
When Adam, Marti, and Livinia attend the ghost party at the Canary House apartments on New Year’s eve, they are told the story of the lost Chandler gold mine. Knowing full well that he can't leave a mystery like that unsolved, Adam starts on a quest to follow the trail of well-hidden clues that, he hopes will help him solve one of the most storied mysteries in the history of Canary Corners, West Virginia. In the process of ferreting out clues, a couple of dead bodies are found and Adam, Marti, and Bagel have to figure out who the murder is while continuing to search for the mine.
Butter has a problem. She's afflected with a common pet disease called PICA in which the dog will eat all kind of none food items. That's how she will end up eating the drawing.
Butter also gets ahold of some chocolate (fortunately it was white chocolate) but it makes her very sick.
When Adam buys Marti roses, he alsways composes a small verse. The one in this book is (he also bought her a necklace)
These flowers and this necklace are for you
I hope they prove my love is true
When we’re apart I feel the pain
But when we’re together you drive me insane.
All my love, Ram.
-----------------------------------------“That’s right, Ram. It’s short for Robert Adam Madigan.”
“I get it. That’s cute. Did your folks anticipate the nickname when they named you or was it just a lucky, or unlucky, accident?”
Since Adam had originally just pulled the name out of thin air, he paused a moment before he answered. “Honestly, I don’t know if they even thought about it. I guess they just liked the names Robert and Adam. Nobody called me Ram until I was in junior high school.”
“Well at least it’s kind of a cute name. Sometimes kids can come up with some really cruel names. For example, I have a friend who, unfortunately for her, has rather big feet. One day some wise guy called her big foot and that let to Sasquatch and from there to Sassy. Sassy by itself wouldn’t be all that bad a nickname, but since she knows where it comes from, every time someone calls her Sassy, it’s like they’re calling her big foot. So I don’t call her Sassy. Her real name is Beverly or Bev. Mine, by the way, is Julie, but everybody calls me Jules.
“Alright," Harriet Thompson, said as she clapped her hands a couple of times to get everyone's attention. “Places everyone.” Harriet was the leader of the theater troupe and director for their performance of “A Christmas Carol.” All the performers hurried to where they were supposed to be even though only Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit were on stage in the first scene. Ebenezer Scrooge was being played by Adam Martin Swope , who was better known as Robert Adam Madigan or Ram to the readers of the local newspaper, in Canary Corners, West Virginia, called the Tweet. Adam was not only known because of his newspaper articles, but also because he was the money man behind the Rambling Foundation, which he'd started to distribute some of his massive wealth to those in the area deserving of his monetary help.
Adam had gained much of his wealth by winning two large lotteries; thanks to his inherited psychic abilities. The lotteries and his stint as a finder had shown him just how valuable his abilities were. Unfortunately, his time as a finder had also shown him how much of a toll being a finder would have on his psyche. That's why he was now hiding from his real name of Adam Martin Swope and his history as a finder in Canary Corners, working for his long-time friend Larry Archibald at the Tweet for whom he writes a column called Ram’s Ramblings, or just Rambles, which is also posted as a blog on the internet.
This Saturday matinee performance of the play went smoother than did the first performance before a live audience, which was done the evening of the prior Wednesday. Naturally, a few cues were missed and a few lines were flubbed, but, all in all, it went well. When all of the actors came to the front of the stage for their bow after the final curtain, Harriet raised her hand to silence the audience. “As most of you know," she began, "Robert Adam Madigan, better known as Ram, did a marvelous job as Ebenezer Scrooge in our play. But what some of you may not know is that the Rambling Foundation funded by Ram is responsible for this marvelous new theater you now find yourself sitting in.” She paused while the audience gave Ram a standing ovation. The rest of the cast moved back so he was virtually alone on the stage for his moment of glory. After a few moments of applause, Adam turned and swept his hand to indicate that the applause should be for the rest of the cast as well so they all took another bow. Adam thought he should say something, but couldn't think what that might be so he just let the audience continue to applaud until they tired and sat back down. Then he led the rest of the cast off the stage.
Backstage Harriet said, "Good job, everybody. See you tonight. Please be on time."
Everyone filed through the doors at the back of the stage and down the few stairs to their dressing rooms. Adam was waiting in the hall by the time his semi-constant companion Marti Blossom came out of her dressing room. Marti and Adam had been together since the first few weeks that he'd been a resident of Canary Corners. They'd been introduced by Marti’s great aunt, the septuagenarian Livinia Blossom, who just happened to be Adam’s next door neighbor on the sixth floor of the Canary House apartments where he initially settled. Now he lived in a large house on Political Street just a few blocks away from the Mayor's house. He‘d initially moved into the house temporarily to try and capture a burglar that was plaguing Canary Corners. After that was accomplished, he decided that he liked the house so much he'd moved in permanently, paying rent to an unknown man in Charleston through a rental agency. That man had inherited the house from the daughter of one of the prostitutes who originally plied their trade in the infamous Cat House. His wife, who was extremely religious, decided she wanted nothing to do with the house, because of the history of her husband’s ancestor, and she forced him to donate it to the Rambling Foundation. That meant, of course, that the house was actually owned by Adam. He, however, didn't look at it that way and continued to pay rent to the foundation.
When he first moved into Canary House, Adam was told by Livinia that it was originally the self-same Cat House and was purchased and converted in about 1920. Three floors were added to the original three and many other modifications and repairs were made to the building. Livinia's father was one of the workers during the construction and the new owners liked his work so much they hired him as the maintenance man for the apartments. When he died, they generously allowed Livinia to stay and kept the rent low so she could manage to pay it, being as she was, in her words, on the government dole.
Marti put her arms around Adam and gave him a brief kiss. “You were wonderful night, Sweetheart."
"So were you.” Marti played the part of the Ghost of Christmas Past in the play. “Shall we go?”
“Ram,” Harriet had walked up behind them without notice. “I want to thank you and Larry for the fine article on the new theater in the paper and the nice review of the play too, of course. Since the articles came out yesterday, we’ve sold virtually every ticket that was left.”
“Good, I was hoping that’d happen,” Adam said. “Larry and I thought that maybe some people who weren't all that interested in the play might buy a ticket anyway, just so they could see the new theater. I guess that proved to be the case.”
“Honestly, I hope that's not the case. I hope the tickets went to those who also want to see the play. But I don't care why the tickets were sold, I'm just glad they were sold."
“Me too,” Marti said.
“I'll give sales one more week,” Adam said, “And then whatever tickets are left I’ll buy and give them to Marti so she can give them to any of her students that might be interested in seeing the play but can’t afford tickets. We’ll also arrange transportation for anyone that needs it since the theater is a ways out of town.” The new theater had been constructed in an old mining company store after the existing theater in Canary Corners burned down. They did their best to locate the new theater between the local communities to make it convenient for the actors and their audiences who lived in the surrounding towns instead of in Canary Corners.
When Adam and Marti arrived back at Adam’s house, they put the dogs on the back porch and let them go through the doggie door to the backyard. Adam owned two dogs, or, as he often said, they owned him. Both pure-bred beagles, Bagel had been owned by his mother and she bequeathed him to Adam when she succumbed to her reoccurrence of cancer. Adam had long known that his abilities were inherited from one of his grandmothers many times removed who was burned at the stake in the Salem witch trials. What he hadn’t known was that apparently she had a dog that was thought to be her familiar and one of Adams aunts traced the genealogy of that original dog and discovered Bagel. He was owned by a distant relative and she bought Bagel and gave him to Adam's mother. Before she died, Adam’s mother learned of Bagel’s special abilities and even taught him several games that most other dogs can’t play. Bagel plays colors whereby, when asked, he can fetch a toy of a particular color from his large collection of toys. He also plays with the dice from a Boggle game. He upends the box on the floor, pulls a certain number of dice away from the rest, and turns them to the appropriate letters with his paws and his nose. Adam has discovered that the letters can most often be rearranged to form a word that has something to do with a mystery Adam is trying to solve.
The other Beagle, a female named Butter, came into Adam's life from the Mason Jar restaurant where it was tradition for the customers to give the dog any butter left over from their meal. Adam knew that couldn't be healthy for the dog, which was evidenced by her vastly overweight bulk. When his sister Sarah told him that he needed to perpetuate the line by getting Bagel a girlfriend and that girlfriend had to be a purebred beagle, he checked with the restaurant owner and found out that Butter was indeed purebred. When, he was given Butter as a favor by the owner of the restaurant for writing a favorable review of the restaurant, he knew something had to be done. Of course, Adam didn't write the favorable review to be awarded ownership of the dog, he’d already written the favorable review before he proposed the change in ownership. Since the time he’d taken Butter home, Adam had been hard at work keeping Butter’s diet to a minimum and making sure she got at least some exercise each day so she could trim down to a more healthy weight. Since the plan was to breed Bagel and Butter, Adam knew Butter had to be healthy. Unfortunately, even though Adam frequently gave Butter carrots and other vegetables to supplement her dog food as suggested by the vet, sometime she was apparently still hungry because he’d found her eating all sorts of things that probably weren’t good for her including, once, chocolate. Fortunately it was white chocolate which has less of the chemical theobromine, which is what make dogs and other animals sick. Adam had actually written a Ramble about how bad chocolate is for pets.
When they brought the dogs back in the house, Marti looked appreciatively at the large Christmas tree in the corner of the living room. They’d bought the tree together from a Boy Scout tree lot and had put it up and decorated it with all the brand new lights, ornaments, and icicles that Adam and had bought with Marti’s guidance. Adam had never had a Christmas tree that he could’ve actually called his own. Of course his parents had had a tree every year when he was growing up and there’d been trees around when he was in college, but after he’d finished college and was on his own, he never put one up. He just hadn’t seen the need since everywhere he turned, whether in the newspaper office, in the lobby of whatever apartment he was living in at the time, or whatever store in which he chose to do what little shopping he did, there were lavishly decorated trees. He felt that whatever tree and decorations he might be able to afford on his paltry reporter’s salary would look pretty sad by comparison and thought coming home to that type of tree might even be depressing.
“Are you sure you won’t give me just a little hint,” Marti said looking longingly at the packages under the tree with her name on them.
“What, and spoil the surprise. Not on your life.”
“Well, what now then, Sweatheart,” Marti said, giving up quickly. She actually didn’t want a hint since she preferred being surprised. She was also looking forward to his opening the presents she’d bought for him as well as the one that had come from his sister in Maine. She’d told Marti what was in it and though Adam had begged for a hint, Marti had been completely silent about the contents of the package. She knew she’d enjoy his surprise upon opening it almost as much as the surprise she’d experience upon opening her own presents. There were also presents under the tree for each of the dogs. She was actually surprised that they hadn’t been disturbed because she thought the dogs could probably smell the treats in their packages. She’d caught Bagel sniffing the packages a time or two, but that seemed to be the end of it. She’d even seen Bagle shoo Butter away from the tree when she’d seemed intent upon disturbing one of the packages.
“Why don’t we just relax with some music for a while? I’m still a bit keyed up from the play.”
“Sounds like a plan. I could use a bit of relaxation myself.”
“Shall we then,” he led the way into the living room. She settled on the couch while he turned on the music system.
“Vivaldi, again,” she said.
“You know it’s Bagel’s favorite. Would you like something else?”
“No, Vivaldi’s fine. But how about some Mozart after this CD is finished?”
“That’s fine with me.” He settled next to her on the couch and put his arm around her.
They were both dozing slightly when the CD finished so Adam got up carefully, hoping not to disturb Marti. He went to this music system and changed CDs, but when he turned around she was smiling at him.
“Did I disturb you Sweetheart?”
“Maybe just a little, but that's all right.” She looked at Bagel. “Would you like to play some colors Bagel?"
Bagel raised his head, pulled back his upper lip in what passed for a smile, but didn't move.
“I think he likes the idea,” Adam said.
"Bagel, blue," Marti said.
Bagel went over to his collection of toys, nosed through the toys for a second or two, and then brought a blue, stuffed hippo out of the pile and dropped it at Marty feet. “Good boy,” Marti reached down and massaged Bagel’s ears. “His ears are so soft.”
“And he loves it so much when someone massages them.”
“Bagel, red,” Adam said.
Bagel went to the pile and shortly brought back of a red, rubber alligator and dropped it at Adam's feet.
“Let's see if he's learned, orange yet,” Marti said. “Bagel, orange."
Bagel looked up at her with what could best be described as a look of confusion and didn't move. “Guess not,” Marti said. “Bagel, yellow."
Bagel went back to the pile of toys and brought back a yellow, rubber Canary and dropped it at her feet.
“I wonder if we could teach him orange,” Marti mused.
“I doubt it. Though I've not tried to expand on his knowledge, I was told by Ryan and Sheila that dogs can't discern between orange and yellow.” Ryan and Sheila were his sister Sarah's children. Ryan was 10 and Sheila was eight.
“Well, I guess that answers that question, then,” Marti said. “I’ve noticed though that when we ask him to get yellow toys, he generally brings a yellow toy, not an orange one, though, that’s not always true.”
“You know, I think you're right. I've never noticed that. Maybe, in that case, we could teach him orange. Maybe orange does look exactly like yellow to him. Maybe there's just enough difference in shade, to allow him to tell the difference.”
“How about some other day. Right now I think I want to just relax and listen to the music.”
“Fine by me. It's wonderful just sitting here with you.”
“Thank you, Sweetheart," she had to stretch to kiss his cheek.
“I know it's not time, but where would you like to eat tonight?"
"I've been thinking about that. If it's all right with you, I think I'd like to eat at Ariel’s tonight. I feel like having a steak."
“We're on the same wave length. I was thinking the same thing."
They continued to listen to music and doze for a couple more hours before it was time to go eat. They’d decided they should eat early so they could have time to come back to the house and get ready before they had to go the theater for their nightly performance.
“I think we have time for a couple of games of Boggle, before we go," Marti said. "It might be a good idea to wake up our minds after relaxing all afternoon.”
“It might at that,” Adam walked over to the shelf and picked up the Boggle shaker box. Then he walked out into the kitchen to get the electronic timer. When he returned, he noticed that Marty had grabbed a couple of pads of paper and pens so they could write down their words. He accepted a pad and a pen, set down the timer, shook the box until the dice fell into the bottom, and then asked, “Ready?"
He reached over and turned on the timer. “Go.”
The timer was set for 3 minutes and at the end of their time, they compared their lists of words. After eliminating the duplicates, Adam had four four-letter words left while Marty had 2 4-letter words and 3 5-letter words left which gave her the victory.
They played two more games with Marty winning both of them. “Boy,” Adam said, “I feel like a real dummy tonight.”
“I hardly think so. You're just not seeing the words as well as you usually do. It happens to me sometimes like that too. You've seen it.”
“Yeah, I guess so. But now, I think it's time to get ready to go.”
Marty glanced at the clock on the wall and agreed, so they went into the bedroom and got into their costumes.
They arrived at the theater 10 minutes before their appointed time and stood around talking to a couple of the other cast members who’d also arrived a bit early.
When the cast walked to the front of the stage after the final curtain, Harriet again gave Adam the same recognition for his part in the creation of the new theater as she’d done earlier in the day. She’d noticed that Rupert Nichols, the contractor responsible for the building of the theater, was in the audience so she had him stand and accept a well-deserved ovation as well.
Back stage, Marti went into the dressing room and came out a few moments later with a Christmas package for Harriet. She held it behind her back until she saw Adam come out of the men’s dressing room.
“What’s this?” Harriet said when Marti handed it to her after Adam had joined them.
“Just a small token of Ram’s and my esteem for you to show our thanks for all your hard work.”
“But I didn’t…”
Adam held up her hand. “Not necessary. We just wanted to share a bit of our good fortune with you.”
“What can I say but thank you? It seems to be so inadequate.”
“How do you know? You don’t even know what it is yet,” Adam said.
“If it came, at least in part, from you, I’m sure it will be lovely and, probably quite extravagant.”
“Remember, a poor teacher helped pick it out.” Marti smiled.
“Do you want me to open it now?”
“No. We want you to save it for Christmas morning,” Adam said, “I think it’s good to feel a bit of our inner child each Christmas.”
“You’re right. It is,” Harriet smiled. “I’ll run out and put this in my car before I set it someplace and forget it. You know how I can be.”
Neither commented on Harriet’s last comment but instead Marti said, “Why don’t you do that. We’ll see you after Christmas for the Wednesday performance.”
Harriet nodded and left the theater.
On Christmas day when Adam and Marti went into the living room, Bagel had pulled all his and Butters packages from beneath the tree. He hadn’t torn any of the wrapping paper, he had simply dragged them to the middle of the room.
“Do you suppose he read his and Butter’s names on the packages?” Adam cracked.
“I think it much more likely that he simply smelled them and knew they were treats. Besides,” She said with a smile, “If he’d know who they belonged to, wouldn’t he have separated them into two piles?”
“Yes, I suppose he would have. I was going to suggest that we have breakfast before we open packages, but I don’t think that’s going to work now.”
“I agree. We‘d better at least give them a treat either from their Christmas packages or from the bag of treats we are already have."
"It’s Christmas after all. I think we ought to let them open their packages."
“Well were going to have to watch Butter so that she doesn't eat the paper.” Butter had shown a propensity lately to eat paper. Adam had checked with the vet and it seemed that Butter had a condition called pica which caused Butter to have a taste for a variety of non-food items, paper being one of them.
“We can watch her, and Bagel to make sure that she doesn't. But right now, I think you need your presents," Adam said.
"And you don't?"
"Well, of course I do." Adam reached under the tree and retrieved five packages for Marti handing them to her one by one. He also picked up the rest of the packages that he knew were for him. These he sat on the couch and then separated Bagel’s packages from Butter’s and placed them in front of each of the dogs. “Before you start, read the label on the packages please.”
“Which one? You mean the one that says ‘Open me first?’”
“Of course I do."
"Does that mean it’s a camera like that old television ad?”
“Well, now you'll just have to open the package and see won't you?”
She did just that, being careful not to rip the paper. “Don't tell me you're a paper saver.”
“But it's such pretty paper.”
“But opening it like that takes away half the fun of opening presents," he said as he ripped the paper off one of his presents. “Hang on just a second.” He got up and went into the kitchen and returned with a plastic trash bag. He shoved the wrapping from his present into the bag. “We need to be careful not to leave paper lying around that Butter might try to eat. As I understand it, Christmas wrapping is even more toxic than regular paper."
“All right,” Marti said and shoved her paper into the bag. When she opened the box she was holding and saw the pearl necklace she caught her breath. “Oh my God,” she said, “I assume these are real?”
“Would I give anything else to the woman I love?”
“I know I was admiring them in Laurent’s, but I really didn't expect…” He’d gone with her into Laurent’s jewelry store several weeks ago when she needed a new watch band. She got up, went over the where he was sitting in the chair, gave him a kiss, and held the necklace out for him to put around her neck.
He did so and then smiled, “Very lovely.”
She looked down at them, put her hand on them under her chin, “They certainly are.”
“I wasn’t referring to the pearls, although they’re nice too.”
They opened the rest of their gifts and opened the bags of treats for the dogs. Adam and Marti each gave each of the dogs one treat. Adam had given Marti a pearl bracelet and earrings to go with the necklace and he had also given her a blouse of her favorite color, lavender, and several other items of clothing. For his part, he’d received several shirts, one in lavender, a new watch since he’d misplaced his old one, and a new dice game she’d found since she knew he liked to play Yatzee.
On Friday before the last play performance, Larry had Adam meet him in his office in the afternoon. “Are you glad the play performances are almost finished?"
"Sort of. I like performing, but it’ll be nice, to climb back down into my rut."
"Are you trying to say you find writing for the Tweet boring?"
“Not at all. Perhaps rut was the wrong term to use. That implies I don't like my life, and I definitely do. All I meant is it'll be nice to get back to my ordinary life without the obligation of being at the theater five times a week. But enough about that, what did you want to see me for?"
"I know you know the story of Canary house and its ghosts.”
“Of course I do since I wrote a Ram’s Ramblings on it.” Ram’s Ramblings was the name of Adam’s sporadic column that he’d agreed to write for Larry under the condition that he could write absolutely anything he wanted. “I think I know where you’re headed. Supposedly one of the prostitutes died in a closet in the Cat House New Year's Eve, and her ghost supposedly shows up in the same closet every New Year's Eve making noise and so on.”
“That's the story."
"Did you investigate last New Year's Eve?"
"I was going to have Alex do it last year, but he came down with a bad case of the flu a few days before hand. I tried to send someone else, but I couldn't talk anyone else into it. They all had logical excuses, but I think they were basically afraid to go. I even tried to bribe them with the champagne party, but no one would volunteer."
Adam looked slightly confused so Larry tossed a folded copy of the Tweet to Adam. Adam, briefly looked over the page, that he was sure, Larry wanted him to see.
"I've seen the ad.” It was an ad put in the paper by Canary House. There was to be a champagne and finger food celebration in the meeting room in the lobby for which outside guests would pay $20 and residents of Canary House would be charged $15. Then everyone who didn't live in Canary House but wanted to come in just to witness whatever was going to happen with the ghost had to pay a five dollar admittance fee. The ad had a headline stating that everyone could go up to the second floor to hear Dorothy do her thing in the closet. “Do they do this every year?"
"I can't say. They did it last year. And, as I said, I even tried to bribe the reporters by paying to get them into the party but no takers."
“Well why didn't you go?"
“It's not my place. I'm not a reporter anymore. I run the newspaper. I'm supposed to get other people to write the articles."
"So, let me guess. You want me to go.”
“I do, unless you're afraid."
“Are you going to pay my admittance fee for the party?”
“Boy, sometimes you can really be a cheapskate.”
“Is that the pot calling the kettle black?”
“Never mind. I think you can afford to pay your own way into the party.”
“All right, if you insist. And you know darn good and well I don't believe in ghosts. Therefore, why should I be afraid?"
“So you'll do it?"
"I absolutely will. What time does Dorothy supposedly start her ghostly whatever?”
“I’ve heard it’s anywhere from 9:30 to 11:00 but never later than that, and the whatever is supposed to be moans, screams, and other sounds you’d associate with someone in pain.”
“Okay, I’ll be sure to be there early and I’ll take my digital recorder to see what I can get. Do you want me to write it up for a regular column, or would you like it to be a Ram’s Ramblings?"
“Either way. But, honestly, it might be better if it was a Ramble since people are getting used to your column and it’s become one of the most popular features in the paper. A random article, even under your byline, might not have the same impact as a Ramble.”
“Works for me. I assume I can take someone else with me.”
“You need someone there to hold your hand?”
“That would be nice, but not for the reason you're implying. I think Marti might enjoy going, especially since Livinia lives in Canary house. I've never asked Livinia, or Marti for that matter, if they’ve been around when the ghost supposedly appears in the closet, but Livinia did tell me that she's never seen one of the ghosts.”
“Well, perhaps they're scared. Besides, this is not a ghost to be seen."
“I understand that and I suppose it's possible they’re scared, but I highly doubt it. Marti and I once talked about ghosts and she doesn't believe in them any more than I do."
"They might find the experience exhilarating then."
“They might at that and I'm certainly willing to ask them.”
“Since New Year's Eve’s on Monday this year, can I expect a column by Wednesday?”
“I should be able to manage that."
Since Marti was an English teacher at the local high school, she‘d been on Christmas break since December 17th and had been staying with Adam most of that time. She’d gone to her house to do some paperwork for school while Adam visited with Larry, but she was there when he got home. He gave her a quick kiss and then said, “Got any plans for New Year’s Eve?”
“Why, do you have plans that don’t include me?”
“I certainly hope not, though I do have plans. I hope they’ll include Livinia as well.”
“Okay, enough beating around the bush, out with it.”
“Have you or Livinia or both ever been at the appropriate place in Canary House to hear the New Year’s Eve ghost?”
“Now you know I don’t believe in ghosts, so no, I haven’t been there on New Year’s Eve other than to be with Aunt Livinia in her apartment. And I’m pretty sure she hasn’t been down to listen for the ghost either.”
“Well, would you like to this year. Larry wants me to go a write a column on what happens. Do you think Livinia would be interested in going with us if I can talk you into it?”
“From what I’ve heard, the hallway where the ‘Ghost Closet’ becomes a real circus on New Year’s Eve.” Marti indicated the quotation marks in her sentence by making two finger indications in the air.
“So they actually call it a ‘Ghost Closet?’”
“That’s the name I’ve heard. I’ll go with you. It might be an interesting experience, but I don’t know if Aunt Livinia will want to go. At her age she doesn’t really like crowds anymore.”
“I don’t think age has anything to do with disliking crowds. I don’t like them either. I’ve found, though, that sometimes you just have to put up with them to go somewhere you want to go or to see something you really want to see.”
“True enough. Would you like to go over to Canary House and ask her if she’d like to go with us?”
“I have a better idea. We haven’t taken her out to eat for a while since we’ve been involved with the play, so how would it be if we invite her to the Mason Jar or anywhere else she’d like to go.
“I think that’s an excellent idea. I’ll call her,” and Marti took out her cell phone and speed-dialed Livinia’s number.
“Hello Aunt Livinia this is Marti.”
“You think I not know your voice,” Livinia said.
“No, I’m sure you know my voice by now. Adam and I’d like to invite you out for supper at the Mason Jar or wherever else you’d like to go if you’re not busy this evening.”
“I not busy, and like to go. Thanks for invite.”
“It was Adam’s idea. Specifically because he and I have something we need to ask you.”
“We’ll save that for tonight. What time’d be good for you?””
“”Six be okay if okay by you.”
“Six it is then. See you.” She turned to Adam, “You heard?”
“We pick her up at six.”
“What would you like to do in the meantime since we have a couple of hours to kill?”
“I know you like to play Boggle, but do you ever play other word games like Scrabble or Upwords.”
“I used to play Scrabble with my sister when I was a kid, but I haven’t played in years and I don’t know what Upwords is.”
“It’s kind of a neat game. You put letters on a square board and score points by stacking the letters making words in multiple directions.
“Either one sounds fun, but I'm afraid I don't have either game.”
“That's all right," Marti said, "I have both of them in the car. I thought we might need something to do this afternoon.”
“Good plan. You want me to go get them for you?"
"Not necessary. Why don't you take the dogs out on the back porch and see if they need to go out while I get the games from the car?"
"I can do that. Why don’t you set up Scrabble since I already know how to play that. We can try Upwords another day.”
“Okay. I’ll be right back.” She headed for the front door.
Adam turned to where the dogs were laying and said, “Alright, Butter, what’re you eating this time.” Marti turned back around and Adam added, “Butter’s eating paper again.” He noticed the trash can. “Darn, I forgot to put the waste basket up on the desk.” He’d gotten in the habit of always putting it on the desk to keep Butter from eating paper. Since he still needed to keep Butter on her diet for a while longer, he’d learned he had to be careful to not leave anything sitting around that she could interpret in some way or other to be food. How she found any nutrition in paper, he couldn’t fathom, but he’d caught her eating it several times.
“Well you’d better get the rest of it from her,” Marti turned back around and continued her trek to her car.
"I will, but I think I'll call Maggie to see if she's come up with any ideas how to keep Butter from eating paper. It can't be good for her." Adam reached down and pulled the remnant of the envelope of a solicitation that he’d thrown away earlier when he’d gone through the mail. As Marty went through the front door, he dialed Dr. Maggie Ridley's phone number. She’s that he’d taken butter to when he first got her. The receptionist put him through to the doctor immediately.
“Maggie, this is Ram."
"Ram, so nice to hear from you. Are Butter and Bagel doing okay?"
“More or less. But Butter’s still eating paper. I know you told me that it's a sort of disease called pica when dogs eat non-food items. But other than spraying all paper items with Tabasco sauce or something like that, is there any other thing that you can suggest?"
“The only thing I can suggest is to take butter to a specialist called a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. That's someone who's sort of a pet psychologist. Is she eating any other nonfood items besides paper?"
"I've caught her eating bits of the tree branches that seemed to continually fall from the trees in the backyard. And of course she eats grass and weeds like most folks do. But I think that's a fairly normal behavior isn’t it. Don't they eat grass when their stomach is upset?”
“That's true. Sometimes they do it in an attempt to make themselves vomit when they are feeling sick. With some dogs it helps to improve their digestion. They may also eat grass to help get rid of worms or help them over some other kind of stomach problem. As long as Butter only eats grass occasionally, it’s nothing to be concerned about. But her eating paper does sort of bother me. I assume you’re doing what you can to keep paper away from her as we discussed and continuing to supplement her diet with carrots and other vegetables.”
“Of course I am to both,” Adam turned as Marti came back into the house. “Unfortunately, I sometimes forget and leave the waste basket beside the desk and the next thing I know, I find her chowing down on something that was in the trash.”
“Well, as I said, the only other thing I can suggest is a specialist.”
“Is there one anywhere close that you can suggest?”
“The only one I know of is Dr. Sylvia Jackson in Charleston. I’ve given her name to a couple of other people and they have reported that she helped somewhat.”
“Well, I’ll have to give that some thought. I wouldn’t mind taking her to a specialist, of course, but I don’t know about a pet psychologist. That sounds a bit odd to me.”
“By and large, my research and studying that I’ve done tell me that it’s a reputable profession and that they can sometimes help. Of course, it doesn’t always help just like when a human goes to a psychologist, sometimes the person doesn’t get any better.”
“As I said, I’ll have to give it some thought.”
“You do that. Be sure to give me a call if I can help any other way.”
“Naturally.” He hung up and turned to Marti, “She suggested taking Butter to a pet psychologist.”
“Are you going to do it?”
“I don’t know. I’m going to have to think about that one. I don’t necessarily put a lot of stock in human psychologists so you can imagine how I feel about one for pets.”
“Why don't you like psychologists?"
"It's not that. I just think the mind is such a wondrous and enigmatic thing that I don't really think anyone can delve into the mysteries of anyone's mind and solve them.”
“They may not be able to solve everyone’s problems, but don't you think that psychologists might be able to help some people?”
“I really can't say. I think that sometimes a psychologist might be handy when someone just needs somebody else to talk to. I know sometimes that just talking out a problem can help solve it.”
“I think that’s may be what the psychologists think too.”
“We could hash this one out for hours and probably not come up with a definitive opinion. The real question is do we think that a pet psychologist is a viable choice for Butter.”
“If we go on the premise that a psychologist does a the most good for those who need to talk out a problem and, as far as I know, Butter doesn’t talk…” she paused to let her point sink in.
“On that basis, you would be right. I guess I’m back to what I told Maggie, that I’ll have to think about it.”
“Well, why you think, can we play a game of Scrabble or Upwords?”
“Sure, why not. As I said earlier, let’s play Scrabble. We can set it up on the kitchen or dining room table. Why don’t you set it up. I still haven’t taken to dogs out.” He did that while she set the game up on the kitchen table. It was all laid out with the tiles mixed up when he came back in. As he sat down at the table, Bagel and Butter continued on into the living room.
“Shall we?” Marti picked up her first tile and showed Adam a D.
He picked up his first tile and it was an N. “”I guess that means you get the first word.”
“Guess so,” and she picked her other six tiles. She studied her tiles for a while and then put the word DONUT on the board.
“Just a minute. Is that really a word? I thought donut was spelled D O U G H N U T.”
“Actually, either spelling is correct. I know, because it’s come up before in one of my classes. The word was originally spelled D O U G H N U T since it is made from dough, but, at one point, someone started spelling it D O N U T and now either spelling is considered correct. This is just another example of why English is such a difficult language to learn.”
“I’ve heard that and, based on how many words are spelled the same as other words, how many words that are spelled differently that sound the same, and other more or less nonsensical rules of English, I’d agree that English is tough. It seems I pick up something new every time I read a book or magazine. Ah, there we go,” he picked up five of his tiles that he’d been studying while they talked and made the word DOUBLE building off the D in DONUT.
They continued to play for the next hour and when they were finished, Marti won with 235 points to Adam’s 190 points.
With scarcely a word, Adam dumped the tiles on the table, they turned them face down, mixed them up and chose their first letter again. This time Adam stated but, by the end of the game, Marti had won again. They played two more games with Adam finally winning the last one, but only by three points.
He shook his head, “You’re just too good for me.”
“What do you mean? You won that time.”
“Maybe, but by the barest of margins and you stomped me the other times. You also win most of our Boggle games. Maybe I shouldn’t let you teach me the other game. What was it called?” He looked at her.
“Upwords. It’s sitting here,” she picked up the box from the chair beside her where it had been hidden from Adam’s view by the table. “But I can’t believe you’re going to wimp out on me.”
“I was just kidding. You should know by now I only care about playing the game not about who wins.”
“I know.” She glanced at the clock. “But we don’t have time right now. We need to get ready so we can pick up Aunt Livinia by six.”
Adam glanced at the clock as well. “You’re right. We’d better get ready.” He grabbed the top of Scrabble box, held it under the edge of the table, a swept the tiles into it. Then he folded up the board, put it in the box, put the tile holder in, and poured the tiles in it before closing the box and putting it on top of the Upwords box on the chair.
Marti got up and walked toward the bedroom and Adam followed.
“Hello Livinia,” Adam said when she answered his knock.
“Evenin’,” she said.
“Are you ready?” Marti said.
“Am. Let me grab coat.” She ducked back inside and was out the door shortly. She locked the door and led the way to the elevator.
“Did you decide where you would like to eat?” Adam asked.
“Choose Mason Jar if okay.”
“Of course it’s okay,” Marti said. “You know we both like it.”
“I too,” she said as the elevator doors creaked open. “What to know?”
“I’ll let Adam tell you.”
“I have been asked to write a Ramble on the goings on around the supposed closet ghost on New Year’s Eve. Marti’s going to keep me company and we’re wondering if you’d like to go with us, though, you, of course, don’t have to go far, just down a couple of floors. ”
“You would? That’s nice. Have you been there before?”
“I went once a few years ago, but when I saw the crowd, I went back upstairs.”
“And you’re sure you want to brave the crowd this year?” Adam asked.
“It will be better with you. Maybe you can keep the crowd back.”
“We can try,” Marti said, “But that’s about all we can promise. I’ve not been so I’m not sure how bad the crowd will be.”
“That’s alright. We find out together.”
“That we shall,” Adam said.
Adam and Marti decided that they’d go to Canary House at 8 to see what was happening but that they wouldn't get Livinia until a bit later. They didn't want her to have to endure the crowds any longer than necessary.
There was a line of about 10 people when they'd parked and walked up to the door. They seemed to be in excited and animated conversations. The line was moving slowly and then someone shouted “Ram’s here. Make way.” Several people moved aside and an unobstructed path to the front door was formed where Trudy Hammerschmidt,, the Canary House manager, was taking admission.
"Ram. So nice to see you. You come to hear Dorothy's ghost."
"We did," Adam said, "But how did you come by the name Dorothy. When I and others researched my column on Canary House, we couldn’t find anyone who knew her name. I guess no one thought to ask you."
"I know 'cause my grandmother knew her. Don't get the wrong idea, though. Grandma didn't work at the Cat House, she just knew Dot before she started working there and they became and stayed friends even after Dot was working there. Grandma was already married to Grandpa when she met Dot."
"So your grandmother knew her as Dot rather than Dorothy?" Adam said.
"Yes, but I’d better just let you in. We're holding up the line."
"How much for the two of us?" Adam indicated Marti by grabbing and raising her hand.
"For you and your lady friend, nothing. I presume you're going to write an article about Dot." Trudy grabbed Adam’s right wrist and encircled it with a tag, the ends of which stuck together. Adam looked at it and Trudy said, "That's for getting into the champagne and food party."
Marti raised her arm and Trudy put one on her wrist as well. Marti and Adam went into the building hand-in-hand
Even though Adam had lived in Canary House in the past, he wasn’t sure he knew where the conference room was. He didn't have to wonder long, however, since there was a rather large crowd milling around in the hallway. He led Marti down the hall and into the room. He leaned over and said in a voice loud enough she could hear over all the other voices in the room, "Larry said if I was scared, I could take someone to hold my hand. I'm not scared, but I certainly picked the right person to hold my hand."
"And I'm glad you did," she had to speak loudly as well.
Adam glanced around the room and recognized several faces. There were a couple of people he recognized as actors who’d been in the play, Carl Everett, the director of the local funeral parlor, and, much to his surprise, Sheriff Daniel Stibbens was there. He was in street clothes rather than his uniform and he had a glass of champagne in one hand and a plate of finger food in the other.
“Chief,” Adam walked up to the sheriff, “Might’ve known I'd find you here at the goodies table stuffing your face.”
“I’m paying my fee so I'm entitled.
“Are you here to protect the people from the ghost?"
“Wouldn’t I need my gun if I was going to do that?” Daniel was smiling.
"So you’d shoot the ghost?” Marti asked.
“I don’t think so,” Daniel said. “Hasn’t the ghost suffered enough?”
“Don’t tell me you actually believe in this nonsense, Chief?”
“Of course I don’t. I’m only here because I think the happenings are kind of interesting. Besides, Trudy let me in for free if I volunteered to keep the crowd from becoming too rowdy. That’s the fee I was referring to. I’ve actually been here a couple of times in the past for the same reason.”
“And does Dorothy always make an appearance?” Adam asked.
“She doesn’t appear, she only makes noise in the closet. Once someone even opened the closet, but, as you might expect, nothing was found and the noises stopped after that. I have heard that noises have been heard every year as far back as anyone can remember.”
“Does she start rattling her chains the same time each year?” Adam said.
“No, and she doesn’t rattle chains. This isn’t an episode of ‘A Christmas Carol’ after all. The only thing I’ve ever heard are a few screams and some moaning and groaning.”
All of a sudden someone from across the room hollered “Adam!”
Immediately the question crossed Adam’s mind who would be calling him Adam. All the people in Canary Corners knew him as Ram. Then he recognized the face of the man approaching him. He reached out a hand as the man walked up. The other did not take the proffered hand.
“Anton what’re you doing here?” Before he could answer Adam continued with, “And please call me Ram like everyone does.”
A quizzical look crossed Anton’s face, but he said, “Okay, if you say so. What kind of scam are you running here, Ram?”
Adam turned to Marti, “Marti, I’d like you to meet Anton Didier, a friend from Chicago.”
Marti held out her hand and Anton did shake hers. “Any friend of Ram’s,” Marti said, “But what did you mean by ‘scam?’”
Before Anton could answer, Adam said, “Marti, if you’ll please excuse us, I think I need to talk to Anton and it really is too noisy in here. We’ll be back in a few” And before Marti could respond, Adam grabbed Anton rather roughly by the arm and led him from the room and out of the apartment building. Once they were outside, Anton shook free of Adam’s grip.
“What’re you doing here?” Adam said quietly so anyone within earshot wouldn’t overhear and he continued to walk to the parking lot so they might be alone, “The last time I saw you you were in Chicago charging people exorbitant prices for your finder services.”
Anton followed Adam. “I’m still in Chicago and I only charge people what they can easily afford. After all, not everyone can use their psychic abilities to win lotteries like you did. But what happened to you? One day you were stealing my clients and the next you were gone.”
“You and I both know that being a finder is not easy on the psyche. After rescuing a small girl from her pedophile teacher I’d decided I'd had enough and went to Mexico.”
“So what’re you doing here?”
“I had to come back to the states because my mother's cancer reoccurred. My friend and former colleague had purchased the newspaper here in Canary Corners and offered me a job so I decided to stay. The people hereabouts don't know who I really am.”
“Because I don't want to be a finder anymore.”
“I guess that answers my next question. You are going to stay here, aren't you? I was getting awful tired of you pirating my business.”
“I'll stay here as long as you or someone else doesn't ruin it for me. Therefore, I suggest you call me Ram like everyone else does. I have no intention of going back to Chicago unless the people here discover who I am.”
“Gotcha, Ram. I won't tell anybody. The last thing I would want to do is mess up your little setup so you might feel compelled to come back to Chicago and start ruining my business again. It's hard enough convincing people to pay for my finder services without you offering the same services for free.”
“You and I both know that I don't believe a finder should be charging for their services.”
“We really don't have to get into that discussion again. As long as you stay here, you won't be interfering with my business and I certainly won't tell anyone where you are. I'd much rather you keep hiding here rather than return to Chicago.”
“Okay. Now what do we do about what you said in there?” Adam pointed to the apartment building.
“You mean about the scam?”
“What do the people here think you do?"
"As I said, I work for a newspaper. I write a column called Ram’s Ramblings."
“Thus, I presume that the people here knew you used to be a reporter in Chicago?"
"Well, how about if we just tell the lady and guy you were with, and anyone else who might’ve overheard, that I said scam because I work for the Tribune and you used to scoop me on stories all the time.”
“That might work.”
“Okay,” Anton turned to walk back into the apartment house.
“Hold on a second. You haven’t told me what you’re doing here.”
“It’s pretty simple really. My dad lives in Pittsburg. I was visiting him for Christmas and my uncle, who also lives in Pittsburg, had gone on vacation in this area so he heard of your ghost and told Dad who passed it on to me. I thought it’d be interesting to come see what all the hype was about. Little did I know that I’d run into you.”
“How long are you going to stay?”
“I was only planning on tonight. I just got here today and was planning on starting back tomorrow.”
“Where are you staying?”
“I got a room in the Canary Motel out on Ridge Road.”
“Good. That’s a nice place. By the way, the guy that I was with when you walked up is the county sheriff and the chief of police of Canary Corners.”
“And that matters because….”
“It doesn’t. I just thought you might like to know. Well, shall we go back in?”
“Might as well. I think I can handle whatever questions the sheriff and your lady friend might throw at me.”
“Okay,” Adam led the way back into the apartment building and over to where Marti waited.
“Now what was this about a scam?”
“Anton works for the Chicago Tribune and I used to scoop him all the time and he always accused me of perpetrating some kind of scam to get witnesses to talk to me that wouldn’t talk to him.”
“I see,” she glanced at her watch. “It’s almost 9:00. Maybe we’d better go get Aunt Livinia.” Then she turned to Anton, “Would you like to go with us? It’s alright isn’t it Adam?”
“Of course it is, if Anton wants to.”
“Thanks for the invitation. Since I don’t know anybody else here, I’d like to join you if you’re sure it’s all right. I don’t want to intrude, but I don’t really know much about what’s about to happen and being with someone knowledgeable would be helpful.”
“I hate to disillusion you,” Adam said, “But we don’t know much either. This will be the first time for all of us.” He turned to Marti grabbing her hand, “Shall we?”
“I think we’d better. Aunt Livinia will be be wondering where we are.”
Hand-in-hand they exited the conference room and went to the elevator where they had to wait behind a number of people. Anton followed them. “Guess we’ll have to wait out turn,” Marti said.
“Don’t they have stairs?” Anton asked.
“They do,” Adam said, “But Livinia lives on the sixth floor and I’m afraid I don’t feel quite that spry tonight.”
“Sorry, didn’t know.”
“Of course you didn’t. But we shouldn’t have to wait long, I image most of these people are only going to two since that is where Dorothy is supposed to do her thing.” Almost as soon as Marti finished, several people decided not to wait and heading down the hall to the stairs.
They still had to wait for two elevator loads before it was their turn. Five other people got in when they did and Adam said, “Two?”
One of the others said, “Yes, Please.”
Adam pushed the buttons for two and for six. All five of the others got off at two while Marti, Adam, and Anton went up to six. Adam looked out and noticed how crowded the hall was.
When Adam knocked on the door the Livinia's apartment, she opened the door, spied Anton, and said, "Who this?"
Anton reached out his hand and said, "My name is Anton, dear lady, and you must be Livinia."
“If must be, guess am,” she smiled and shook his hand.
“Are you ready Livinia?" Adam asked.
“Shall we go then? I think we’ll have to wait for the elevator though.”
They walked over by the elevator and Adam pushed the call button. It didn't take long until they heard the squeak and groan of the elevator arriving at their floor. “It must have been on its way up already," Marti said.
“That's not too much of a surprise,” Adam said, "Since there are a lot of people wanting to get to the second floor. Of course, if they started the elevator to the second floor and we pushed the button for six, the elevator would keep coming. So, I'm guessing we hit it lucky." Adam finished just as the doors opened.
When the elevator opened on the second floor, Livinia took one look at the crowd, and said, "Don't know ‘bout this.”
“Don't worry, Livinia," Adam said, "We’ll protect you."
Adam guided her off the elevator and then immediately got in front of her to split the crowd so they could make their way to the front. When they got near the closet where Dorothy was supposed to appear, they noticed a large sign on the door. It read, "Please do not open the door. You will drive Dorothy away.”
“Hello, Ram,” Rachael Aragon, Adam’s next-door neighbor on political Street said. "Are you here to write a column about Dorothy?"
"I am. Larry wanted someone to write an article last year, but he couldn't get any takers.”
“So you got elected this year."
"I did.” Adam said having to scratch the end of his nose which generally meant something bad or at least unexpected was about to happen.
Just then they heard an eerie moan that started as a low rumble and grew to a high-pitched whine that caused a lot of people to cover their ears. Most people move away from the closet which made the hall even more crowded around Livinia, Adam, Marti, and Anton. “Excuse me," Adam said when someone stepped on his foot.
The man turned around and said, "Oh, excuse me Ram. I didn't mean to step on your foot."
“That's all right, Walter. No harm done.” Adam recognized Walter Harper, owner of a lumber yard in Frozenville, that he'd met during a poker game at his house several months before which was arranged by Tom Stevens, the sports reporter for the tweet.
The moaning, whining, and the occasional scream continued, and there was now even a banging on the door coming from inside the closet. This cacophony continued for several minutes when all of a sudden, a man stepped from his spot in the crowd and reached over to open the door. When he did so, a body fell from the closet, and several women screamed including Livinia. Adam hurried over but knew immediately that the body wasn't a body at all but a manikin instead.
“What is this?” The man who opened the closet said loudly. “That darn thing nearly scared me to death.” The sounds from the closet had stopped the moment the door had been opened.
“The sign warned you not to open the door, Jeremiah,” someone else said, laughing loudly. In a few seconds, the entire crowd was laughing and several people were applauding.
Everyone stood around for a few more minutes until one by one, they realized nothing else was going to happen and people started to wander away to the elevator or the stairs.
“Who do you suppose is responsible for that manikin in the closet?" Marti asked.
"My guess would be Trudy," Adam said, “Though I'm not sure what she hoped to accomplish.”
“Perhaps you're going to have to ask her.” Anton said.
“Maybe so, but I think we'd better take Livinia home first," Adam said.
The three followed Adam to the elevator. He didn't have to push the up button since it’d already been pushed. It took just a few seconds for the elevator arrived and two people got on in front of them and four more people got on behind them. The elevator stopped at the third floor and four people got off, and then it stopped at the forth floor and the other two people got off. When it reached the sixth floor, Adam said, “Anton, stay on the elevator and hold it for us while Marty and I take Livinia to her apartment.”
“Sounds good. Then we won't have to wait for it again.”
“That's the idea.”
Anton leaned against the door so it wouldn't close while Adam and Marti accompanied Livinia to her apartment. The three of them were all back on the elevator and on the way down to the first floor in just a few seconds.
Adam walked to the front door of the apartment building but, as he thought, Trudy was no longer taking admission. Therefore, he walked to her apartment followed closely by Marti and Anton. She answered as soon as he knocked and she ushered the three of them to her apartment.
“I can guess why you're here,” she said.
“Yes, we were wondering why you put the manikin in the closet.” Adam said.
“Just trying to bring a little excitement to the event,” she said with a shrug.
“But do you really think you need to scare people half to death to bring a little excitement?”
“Were they really that scared?”
“Startled would be more like it. In the end, most of them thought it was funny.” Marti said.
“So there was no harm done.”
“I suppose not, but it really was a nasty thing to do,” Adam said.
“But it may cause them to come back next year to see what’ll happen.”
“It might at that. Unfortunately, I don’t know how I’m going to write this up.”
“It’s okay with me if you just tell the truth.”
“Including the part about how the sounds are not from a ghost but from some hidden speakers in the closet,” Adam was just throwing out the theory that’d been bouncing around in his mind for the last few minutes.
Trudy was obviously taken aback. “But how’d you know that?”
“I didn’t, but since I don’t really believe in ghosts it was a logical conclusion.”
“I’m not going to try to tell you what you can and cannot write in your Ramble, since I have no say-so anyway, but I’d appreciate if you leave that part out.”
“Well, I don’t know. It is part of the story after all.”
“How about if I offer you a bribe?”
“Now Trudy,” Adam sadly shook his head, “You know I’m rich and whatever you might be able to offer would not impress me.”
Trudy smiled and winked, “I wasn’t intending to offer you money but information that you might find interesting and, perhaps, enticing.”
“I’m listening,” Adam said and the looks on Marti’s and Anton’s faces showed their interest as well.
“I know you know the history of how Dorothy died, and based upon your article in the paper a few months ago, you also know a little about the other prostitute, whose name was Gertrude, or Gerty, was killed in the Cat House.”
“Only what I’ve been told.”
“Well, maybe I can add a little to your knowledge. Did you know, for example, that the man who killed her was a prospector?”
Adam looked at Marti who shook her head and then said, “No. I’ve never heard that. But what’s that got to do with anything and why might I consider that information vital enough to accept as a bribe.”
“Because there’s more to the story. He got drunk that night because he was celebrating. Guess what he was celebrating.”
Adam looked thoughtful, “Well, considering he was a prospector I’d guess he was celebrating a gold strike.”
“You got it. And,” she said with a big grin, “His claim was never filed nor found after his death. Based on what he bragged about to some of the other people in the Cat House that night, it was very rich strike.”
“Okay, you’ve piqued my interest, but where are you going with this?"
“Well, I know something that not a lot of other people know. According to what I've heard, he drew a map to his gold mine that he buried in a small box which has also never been found.”
“Okay, Adam said pulling out the notepad he always carried just in case, "I assume there's more."
"Of course there is. He didn't trust his memory about where he buried the box, so he drew directions for finding the box on the hand grip of his pistol. His pistol had a pearl handle. He'd won the gun in a poker game and it was his pride and joy.”
“And what happened to the gun?"
"It was buried with him. But, when the body was found, the side of the pearl handle that had directions to the map had broken into three pieces. Each of the two people that found his body and buried him took one of the pieces and left the third piece on the gun with the body. They apparently tried to remove it, but it wouldn’t come loose so they left it. I guess their thought was to go back later to get the last piece. They apparently never got the chance to go back and since the body’s never been found, the three pieces have never been joined. Thus, nobody’s ever had the directions to where the box is buried.”
“Okay," Adam said, “I'll bite. Where are the two pieces that weren't left with the body?"
“Well now, that's part of the mystery. Nobody really knows.”
“Well, who found the body? Do you know?” Marti chimed in.
“That’s never been known, but me and a friend have been doing some research and I think maybe we've figured it out. The prospector's name was Butch Chandler and he was married to a full blooded Hopi Indian woman whose name was Honovi, which I believe means ‘Strong Deer.’, not that that has to do with anything. My friend’s been doing research for a doctorate on the Hopi Indians and he came across an Indian named Honovi Chandler from the late 1800s. She was apparently pregnant when her husband died. There isn't any record of who Honovi Chandler’s husband was, but since her last name was Chandler and Butch Chandler had a full blooded Hopi Indian wife, it isn't too hard to figure out that she must've been his wife and Honovi’s daughter must’ve been Butch's daughter. Now, as it turns out, Honovi’s daughter, had two daughters and a son of her own. The two daughters died a long time ago, but her son’s still alive, though he's over 80 years old.”
“But what's all that got to do with the map to the gold mine?” Anton asked.
“Who is this?” Trudy looked as if she’d just noticed Anton for the first time and asked, “Should I be telling you all this in front of him?"
"He’s all right,” Adam said. “He's an old friend from Chicago. Go on with the story."
“Well, according to the records my friend uncovered, Honovi found and buried her husband. The other person helping to bury her husband just so happened to be Kitty Sheridan. I do believe you know who she was.”
Adam nodded and Marti said, "Isn't she the one who owned your house, Ram?"
“Correction,” he said, “She owned the foundation’s house.” He turned back to Trudy. “So you're saying that the records indicate that Honovi and Kitty each had a part of the directions to where the box with the map in it was buried on the piece of the gun grip they took with them.”
“That’s what I’m saying. Where they are now nobody seems to know. Nor does anyone know where Chandler’s body is buried. So, even if you could somehow get your hands on Honovi and Kitty’s pieces, you wouldn’t have any way to get the third piece. But, even though that’s true, don’t you think it’s an interesting story?”
“It is indeed,” Adam said. “In fact, it’s interesting enough that I’ll forget about how the ghostly sounds are artificially generated.”
“Oh good,” Trudy said. “Thank you so much. If that got out, maybe nobody would come to my New Year’s party next year.”
“Never let it be said that Ram got in the way of commerce. Though I don’t know how kosher it is to fake the noises, I don’t see how what you’re doing could possibly be construed as being illegal and you’re not really hurting anyone. From what I saw, the people were having fun and I don’t think there’s much chance all of them believe the sounds are really coming from a ghost.”
After Marti and Adam had bid farewell to Anton and were on their way back to Adams house, Marti asked, “What now, sweetheart?”
“I guess we'll go home and get a good night’s sleep."
"All right. Quit being a wise guy. You know what I meant."
“Oh,” Adam said, feigning innocence, “You mean about the theoretical gold mine?”
“Of course I do. I know you well enough to know that you're not going to be able to leave that mystery alone. So again I ask, what’s next?”
“I guess the first step would be to find Kitty's piece of the gun grip. Without that, finding Honovi’s piece won't do any good and without both of those, finding the one that's still in Chandler's grave definitely won't do any good.”
“And just how do you suggest that we go about finding Kitty's piece?"
"Do you remember that passage in Kitty’s journal that we couldn’t figure out what she was talking about?” After Adam had moved into the Arkin house, Bagel had noticed a small door under one of the kitchen cabinets and Adam found a journal written by Kitty therein. He’d offered to give the journal to Kitty’s grandson, but his wife didn’t want anything to do with it or anything in it so he was told to do with it what he wanted. Marti and he had read the journal which was written in a distinctive and florid old-English style. Unfortunately, many of the passages made reference to one or more things that were unfamiliar to either of them.
“You’ll have to be more specific than that. There were a number of passages that we had no clue as to what she was talking about.”
“I’m thinking of the one that made reference to gold. Do you remember what else it said?” He said as he drove into the garage after the door automatically opened.
“No, I’m sorry, I don’t. I assume you’re thinking that it has something to do with the lost prospector’s grave and map. We’ll just have to go through the journal again.”
After Adam had turned off the alarm system and they’d gone in the house and let the dogs out and back in, they settled down on the couch with the journal. It didn’t take long before Adam found the passage for which he was looking.
“Here it is,” he said. “See it says gold and then has the initials RTD and the numbers 2-4, 3-6, and 5-2. Any idea what it might mean?”
“I don’t have any more idea now than when you asked before.”
“The only other time I’ve seen the initials RTD, it was in a city and it meant Rapid Transit District, in other words, the bus routes.”
“Somehow, since most of this journal was written about 100 years ago, I doubt that it refers to bus routes.”
“I know. I was only kidding. I do wonder, however, what it could stand for.”
“More than likely, it refers to something that had meaning only to Kitty.”
“Maybe so, but I do have an idea. You know that Dolly’s grandmother was Ivy Franks and she and Kitty were the prostitutes that danced in the Undress Inn.” She nodded so he continued. “I just thought that perhaps Dolly might have some idea what RTD stands for. And if she doesn’t, maybe her mother does. I interviewed her mother for the Undress Inn Ramble so I’d think she’d probably be willing to talk to me again if Dolly can’t help.” Once, when business was slow at the Cat House, the owner sent Ivy and Kitty over to what was then called the Snowbound Inn to do a strip-tease to help drum up business. Their show proved to be so popular that the owner of the Snowbound Inn hired them away from the Cat House and, henceforth, the Snowbound Inn became known as the Undress Inn. Complaints by their wives forced the city fathers to tell the owner of the Undress Inn to get rid of the strippers or risk being shut down. Thus, the show was no more and Ivy and Kitty were out of a job. Fortunately, each had a former client that loved and married them.
“I seem to remember,” Adam said, leafing through the journal. “Ah, yes, here it is.”
“Kitty makes reference to Grave being moved to the attic. I didn’t understand that when we first read the journal, but now I think I do.”
Marti looked thoughtful, but then said, “I still don’t.”
“You know that most of the paintings hanging in this house were painted by Kitty Arkin, the wife of the original owner.”
“Of course I do. You know I’ve admired them ever since you moved in.”
“I know and I know you’ve looked at the paintings enough to know that Kitty had a label put on each of her paintings like Squirrel, Bear, and Meadow Sunset. I’m thinking that she created a painting of the spot where she and Honovi buried Chandler and had it hanging somewhere down here. Then, at some point, she must have moved it to the attic.”
“Possible, I suppose. Have you ever been in the attic?”
“Only once, after I first moved in, but I didn’t see any paintings.”
“What’s up there?”
“Just some old furniture and boxes of stuff that I’ve yet to explore.”
“Are any of the boxes big enough to hold a painting?”
“Not if the painting in question is anywhere near the same size as the other ones spread around the house. She seemed to like to paint on large canvases.”
“Yes she did. Do you want to go up in the attic and look for the painting?”
“No, I don’t think so. It’s awfully dusty up there. Besides, we don’t really need to find the grave until we find the other two pieces of the grip.” He didn’t want her exploring the attic since he’d hidden a box of papers his mother had left for him before she died. He hadn’t looked at them yet, but he didn’t want Marti finding them since he thought they probably contained at least some family history and he even though he knew he was in love with her, he still wasn’t ready to share his history with Marti. He might be someday soon, but certainly not tonight. Besides, he didn’t want her going through the papers until he’d had a chance to do it himself. He wasn’t sure why he hadn’t gone through the papers except for the fact that they might bring back painful memories of how his mother died. He didn’t think he was ready for that quite yet.
“Good morning Dolly,” Adam said when she answered his call.
“Morning Ram, what can I do for you?”
“Marti and I have a couple of questions for you if it’s not too early.”
“It’s not. I’ve been up for hours. Come on over.”
“Okay, We’ll be there in a few minutes.”
Dolly answered at his first knock. She was vastly overweight and could generally be seen wearing a Mumu as she currently was. Her silver hair also stuck out in many places as usual and it always reminded Adam of an untended garden.
“Mornin’ Ram. What would you like know?”
“As I said, we have a couple of questions for you, if you don’t mind,” Adam said, “May we come in for a few minutes?”
Dolly moved aside. “Of course. Come in.” After she had settled her bulk on the couch and Adam and Marti had sat in the proffered chairs, she asked, “What do you want to know?”
“I know you know your grandmother’s history with the Undress Inn, but do you know that she was friends with Kathyrn or Kitty Sheridan?”
“Yes. But I think she was Kitty Arkin not Sheridan.”
“Arkin was her married name, she was Kitty Sheridan when she was dancing. But that doesn’t really matter. What we need to know is if you might know what the initials RTD stand for?”
“Where did you see these initials?”
“I have moved into the house that Kitty’s husband originally owned and was then passed down to Kitty’s daughter and then, by a strange twist of fate, to me.”
“My dog Bagel found a secret hiding place in the kitchen and we found a journal written by Kitty inside. In one passage, she refers to gold and then lists the initials RTD followed by a series of numbers.”
“Sorry. I don’t know. I’ve never heard anyone using those initials in reference to anything.”
“Do you think your mother might know?” Marti said.
“Can’t say. She might.”
“Do you think she’d be willing to talk to me again?” Adam asked. “I originally interviewed her for my Ramble on the Undress Inn.”
“I knew that. She told me. She enjoyed talking to you.”
“So you think she’d talk to me again?”
“I’m sure she would.”
“Okay. I’ll call the nursing home and find out when it would be convenient to talk to her. And now, I think we’ll be on our way. We haven’t eaten breakfast yet. Have you? If you haven’t, would you like to join us?”
“I have. But thanks for the invitation.”
“Amy,” Adam said when Amy Frisco answered the phone at the Sunset Village nursing home. Adam knew Amy not only from his first visit to the nursing home to interview Audry, but also because she was a cast member of “A Christmas Carol,” When the theater burned down caused by extremely old wiring catching fire, he rescued her son. “I’d like to come over and talk to Audrey Leech again whenever it’s convenient.”
“I’m so sorry, Ram. Audrey had a stroke last night. The doctor’s attending to her now.”
“How serious was it,” Adam glanced at Marti who looked worried so he mouthed “Stroke.”
“Fortunately, according to the nurse who was with her before the doctor arrived, it wasn’t too bad. She should be up and around again in a few days.
Adam waited a few days before he called again, but Amy told him that Audry still wasn't ready to have visitors. Thus, it was several more days before he was allowed to visit her. He went by himself since Marti’s Christmas vacation from school was over and she was back at work.
“Good afternoon Amy," Adam said entering the lobby of the Sunset Village nursing home.” How’s Ivy doing?"
"She's kind of in and out. She's sleeping a lot. I just looked in on her a couple minutes ago because I knew you were coming, and she was awake. That doesn't mean she’ll still be awake."
“Well, shall we go see?"
"Certainly. What did you want to see her about? Are you going to write another column about Kitty?" Kitty was Audrey’s mother, who stripped with Kitty at the Undress Inn. Adams interviewed Audrey for his ramble about the Undress Inn.
“No. I’m in pursuit of a story, but it doesn't really have anything to do with Audrey’s mother, other than in a peripheral way. I just need some information and thought perhaps Audrey may be able to give it to me.”
“Well, let's go see if she can." Adam followed Amy down the Hall into Audrey’s room.
“Hello Audrey," Adam said. “How are you feeling?"
"Only so-so,” she said slurring her speech a bit. “You want to talk to me?"
“I do, if you're feeling up to it."
"I’m okay, just a bit tired. What do you want to know?"
"I think I told you that I'm living in Kitty Sheridan’s, or Kitty Arkin’s house.” Audrey nodded so Adam continued. "My dog Bagel uncovered a hidden storage place where I discovered a journal written by Kitty. In one of the notes, she made reference to something abbreviated RTD. I was wondering if you might know what the initials RTD stand for?”
Audrey shook her head. “Sorry, I don’t know.”
“But I think I do," Amy said. “I wish you had told me that's the information you were seeking. I could‘ve given it to you days ago.”
“Okay, I'm game. What is it?"
"RTD stands for rolltop desk. I only know that because my grandfather used to build rolltop desks and he used that abbreviation all the time.”
“That's very interesting. I'd have never figured that out.”
“I'm not surprised. It wasn't necessarily in common use, even in grandpa’s day, and it certainly isn't in use today since rolltop desks haven't been manufactured for many years. It's really a shame too because I think they're really neat. Of course, it only stands to reason that I’d think so since grandpa made them."
"Why don't we continue this conversation in your office?” Adam glanced at Audrey and she had fallen asleep. “It doesn't appear that our conversation stimulated Audrey.”
“I'm sure she's just tired. I don't know what you know about strokes, but they really take it out of a person. Of course, I'm used to seeing the results of strokes around here since, unfortunately, it's a common occurrence for our residents." Amy left the room and Adam followed her down the hallway to her office.
“There's more to the passage in Kitty's Journal. Just a second," Adam took out the small notebook in which he'd jotted down the whole passage from the journal. “Following the initials RTD, there is a series of numbers.”
“What kind of numbers?"
“There were three sets of numbers and they were 2-4, 3-6, and 5-2. Do you have any idea what they might mean?"
"No, I'm sorry I don't. But maybe my dad might. He used to help my grandfather make the rolltop desks. He was a carpenter before he retired, even though he didn't make rolltop desks anymore.”
“I'd love to talk to your dad. Does he live around here?"
"He doesn't live in Canary Corners, but he does live in Bear Cave which, if you don't know it, is only about 40 miles away.”
“I’m familiar with Bear Cave although I haven't been there yet. Could you give your dad a call by way of introduction and find out when he might be available?”
“I'll be happy to call him for you, but he doesn't need an introduction to you. He's read your column ever since it first appeared and he feels the same way I do about your writing. I have no doubt that he'd be honored to talk to you. As a matter of fact, why don't I call him right now?”
“That would be appreciated."
"Dad," Amy said after she listened for her father to answer. When she spoke, her voice was barely below a shout. “Everything’s just fine. Ram is here and he needs some information. No, not Sam, Ram. Would you like to talk to him?” She listened for a few moments, then held the phone away from her body and turned to Adam, “He's overjoyed at the possibility of being able to help you, but I think and he thinks it’d be best if you visit him instead of talking to him on the phone since his hearing’s not the best. He was working in a house that was near a manufacturing plant once, and the plant had a gas explosion. Fortunately no one was hurt, but the noise from the explosion damaged Dad’s hearing. ”
“Tell him I'll be happy to drive up to Bear Cave and see him in person. I presume you can give me directions to his house.
"I can.” She turned her attention back to the phone and said loudly. “Dad, when would be a good time for Ram to come for a visit? Okay, I'll check.” She held the phone out again and turned to Adam, “He says you can come right now if you're available. He has a golf game with a couple of buddies in a few hours, but he's free and is going to be home until then.”
“Now’s just fine. I shouldn't need to talk to him for more than a few minutes. Hopefully, he'll have some idea of what the numbers are all about.”
“Hopefully, so.” She told her dad that Adam would be leaving for Bear Cave soon, hung up, set down at her desk, wrote down an address, and sketched a small map. When she was finished, she handed him the paper. “Here’s his address and I drew a small map to his house. I'm not much of an artist, but I think it's good enough that you'll be able to find his house.
Adam looked briefly at the map. “I'm sure I'll be okay. I think you drew a fine map.”
“I thank you for that even though I know it's not true. But, if it does the job, I guess it's good enough. By the way, my father's name is Bernard, although everyone calls him Bernie and I'm sure he would be pleased if you did so as well."
Adam drove into Bear Cave and, following the map, drove directly to Amy's father's house. “Hello,” Adam said loudly when a man of about 5 foot 10, with muscles bulging under his T-shirt answered the door. Adam remembered that Amy’s father was hard of hearing. “You must be Bernie. It's all right if I call you Bernie isn’t it?”
“Of course it is. You must be Ram. I'm so pleased to meet you. Amy probably told you that I love your column. I presume she also told you I'm a bit hard of hearing because of an explosion a few years ago.”
“She told me,” Adam said loudly.
“In case you're wondering, I've tried various hearing aids, but none of them seemed to help. I guess the damage to my ears is too severe. Fortunately, I can hear as long as people speak up. But enough about me, what can I do for you, Ram? And please come in and have a seat "
“Amy told me that you used to be a carpenter.” Adam said when he settled in a chair near where Bernie sat.
“That's correct. I made furniture, cabinets, and just about anything else you might want to be made out of wood. I even helped build some houses around here."
“She also told me you used to help your father build rolltop desks.”
“I did. They were a lot of fun to build.”
“Well, if you don't mind, I have a bit of a puzzle for you to solve. At least it's a puzzle to me and to everyone else. I ask.”
“What is it? I'll help you solve it if I can.”
Adam pulled out the small notebook he'd written his notes on. “I have a journal that was written by someone about 100 years ago, and it makes reference to RTD and then it's followed by some numbers.”
"Yes, the numbers 2-4, 3-6, and 5-2. Do you have any idea what the numbers might mean?"
"Indeed I do. Before my grandfather began building rolltop desks, when he was just a youngster, someone named Carlos Danvers was famous in the area for building rolltop desks with at least one hidden drawer in each desk. The drawer was revealed when several of the many small drawers under the rolltop were opened in a certain sequence. My guess would be that the numbers mean row two drawer four, row three drawer six, and row five drawer two.”
“You mean there's a rolltop desk somewhere that if I open those drawers in that sequence, a hidden drawer will open?”
“I think so. As I said, Carlos was famous for making desks like that. Any idea what may be in the hidden drawer?”
“I guess I can tell you since you may have helped me solve the puzzle.” Adam said. “I think there’s a piece of the grip from a pistol in it.”
“You said you've been reading my columns, did you read the one about how the Cat House became the Canary House?”
“Of course I did. That was really interesting. I didn't know any of that."
“I've been told, that the man who beat the prostitute to death was a gold prospector and he’d just found a gold mine. He was apparently celebrating his find with his visit to the Cat House.”
"Okay, but what's that got to do with a piece of gun grip?”
“Apparently, he didn't trust his memory, so he drew a map to the gold mine. He buried it in a small box somewhere. So that he could find the box later, he drew directions to where the box was buried on one side of the grip of his pistol. When his body was found, apparently the grip had broken into three pieces and I think one of those three pieces may be in that hidden drawer. At least I'm hoping it's in that drawer. I'm also hoping, of course, that I can find the right rolltop desk. At this point I have no idea what rolltop desk the lady who wrote the journal was referring to. I’m currently living in the house she owned, but there isn’t any rolltop desk in the house.”
When Adam got home he thought he'd look through the attic to see if the rolltop desk he was looking for might be there since it wasn’t anywhere in the main part of the house. He thought maybe, just maybe, he'd get lucky. He knew there were a lot of items in the attic covered by sheets. Like he’d mentioned to Marti, he'd checked out the attic when he’d first moved into the house. When he hid the box of records that his mother left for him in the attic he’d covered it with a sheet just like the rest of the items. He'd looked under several of the sheets and had found a couple pieces of old furniture and a stack of boxes. At the time, he thought he’d return to the attic someday and check out everything that was there including what was in any boxes he found, but hadn't yet done so. Now he had a perfect reason.
Grabbing a flashlight from the kitchen, he walked into the hallway, grabbed the knob on the end of the rope hanging from the stairs, pulled them down, unfolded them, and then he carefully climbed the stairs into the attic.
It was just as he remembered. There was about 10 to 15 items covered with sheets. Before disturbing any of the sheets, he walked through the attic looking for something that looked like it might be a rolltop desk covered with a sheet. He didn't see a likely candidate, but he knew a rolltop desk would be at least 3 to 4 feet high. Therefore, he skipped all the items that were not at least that tall.
First he uncovered a tall stack of boxes, then chest of drawers, and finally a rolltop desk. The reason it hadn't looked like a rolltop desk when it was covered by the sheet, was that it had a mirror lying flat on the top of the rolltop camouflaging the arc of the rolltop. He set the mirror on the floor, and raised the rolltop. As he'd hoped, there were several rows of small drawers. Unfortunately, they were split down the middle and he didn't know whether he should be going from the left towards the middle on the left side or from the right towards the middle on the right side. But he knew the first thing he needed was the set of numbers. He took out his notebook, where he'd written the theoretical rolltop combination.
He decided to try the right hand drawer's first. He pulled out the fourth drawer from the right in the second row. He listened carefully for a click or some other sound that might indicate pulling out the drawer caused something to happen. Unfortunately, he heard nothing. Undaunted, he pulled out the sixth drawer from the right in the third row. He still heard nothing. He knew he had to finish so he pulled out the second drawer on the fifth row. Nothing happened.
He knew that it either wasn't the set of drawers on the right side that held the key to opening the hidden drawer, or it was the wrong rolltop desk. He wasn't about to give up without trying the combination on the drawers on the left side. Unfortunately, this availed him nothing either. He had no choice but to deduce this wasn’t the rolltop desk for which he was searching.
He looked under the sheets of the rest of the covered items but there was no other rolltop desk. He also didn't find the painting of the grave that the journal had indicated might be in the attic. He didn't think any of the boxes were big enough to hold the painting if, as he’d mentioned to Marti, it was anywhere close to the size of the paintings in the rest of the house.
All of a sudden, he remembered something that Addison Marsden told him. Addison was the realtor who originally arranged for Adam to borrow the house when he was trying to trap the burglar. Addison had mentioned that there’s a museum in Frozenville that had several of Kitty’s paintings in it. He wondered if any of Kitty’s furniture was in the museum as well. He knew he'd never rest until he drove to Frozenville and visited the museum to find out.
Since he was going to a museum and he wanted to do more than just look at the desk, if it was indeed there, he thought he’d better take the proof that the foundation was now owner of everything that was in the Arkin estate. Otherwise, if he did happen to locate the right rolltop desk and the piece of the handle that he hoped to find inside, they might not let him take it.
When Adam arrived in Frozenville, the first thing he did was to stop at a gas station and ask directions to the museum. Fortunately, the man he talked to did, in fact, know where the museum was. He jotted down the directions on a piece of paper though they were so easy he didn't think he needed to have it written down. After he left the gas station, he drove directly to the museum without a single wrong turn.
“Hello, Adrian" Adam said to the pretty young girl at the ticket counter reading her nametag. Admission was being charged for the museum but it was only three dollars. “My name is Ram and I…”
“You're the new writer for the tweet. I recognize your name. Of course, that's not too hard. It's not everybody who has the name of Ram.”
“I'm certain that's true. I've never heard of anybody else called Ram. But what I started to say is, I started a foundation called the Rambling Foundation and it’s now owner of everything in the estate of Rebecca Arkin. I was told that you have some paintings by her mother, Kitty Arkin. What I was wondering is if you might also have any furniture that Kitty originally owned.”
“Indeed we do. Would you like to see it?”
“That's why I came here today. But I want to do more than look at it."
"What do you mean by that? Do you intend to take some or all of the items back? I know it's your right since the items are only on loan, but it’d be a real shame if you were to do that. Of course, if you intend to do that, I'll need some kind of paperwork showing that you are indeed the inheritor of the estate”
“No, nothing like that. I just want to explore Kitty’s rolltop desk, if you happen to have it.”
“Actually, we have two rolltop desks that are on loan from the Arkin estate. But what do you mean by explore?”
“I’m hoping a piece of Arkin history is located in the rolltop desk.”
“So you’ll want to actually open the rolltop desk and maybe some of the drawers within. If you’re going to do anything like that, I’ll still need some proof that you have the right to do so.”
“That’s all right. I brought the paperwork with me that assigns everything in the Arkin estate over to the Rambing Foundation of which I’m the chief officer.”
“Okay. I guess that should do. But before I let you leave with anything, if that’s your intention, I’ll have to talk to the manager of the museum. Give me just a moment to call Jesse up here to relieve me, and I'll take you back and show you the desks."
“No. Just another girl who works here. I just thought it might be best for her to leave me so I can show you around the museum and precisely where the things on loan from the Arkin estate are located.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Adam said.
Adrian picked up a phone and spoke a few words before turning her attention back to Adam, “She’ll be just a few minutes.”
It was actually only about one minute before a tall, willowy, blonde came out of the back and opened the door to the ticket booth. “This is Ram, the new columnist for the Tweet.”
“I’ve read your stuff,” Jesse’s smile lit up her face. “Are you going to write about the museum?”
“That’s not why I’m here, but that’s not a half bad idea.” Adam looked at Adrian and said, “What do you think?”
“I think it’s a heck of an idea. Do you think you can?”
“I’ll have to check with my editor, but I don’t see why not. I’m supposed to be able to write about anything I want to and the museum would seem like an interesting topic. Depending, of course,” he winked at Adrian, “On what I see.”
“Then maybe you should go on in and see if you think there’s enough interesting stuff.” Jesse said.
“Good idea,” Adrian exited the booth and indicated that Adam should follow her as she headed into the museum.
The hallway they were walking down was lined with glass cases with all sorts of historical items, each with a label. Above the cases were a number of paintings and pictures. Adam looked at a couple of paintings closely, and saw one that he recognized as Kitty’s style, it had of brass label on it, and it was signed K. Arkin. It was labeled Sunset Drive and depicted a carriage with a background of a gloriously colored sunset. A little farther on, there was a painting that Adam easily recognized as the Cat House since it had a large sign above the building virtually identical to the one in the photograph he'd put in his ramble about the cat house.
Adam followed Adrian to the end of the hallway, which opened into a large room overflowing with antique furniture. The room held several rolltop desks.
Adrian walked directly to one of the desks. “Here's one of her, or now your, rolltop desks,” she winked.
There was a sign on the top of the desk indicating that it was on loan from the estate of Kitty Arkin, but it also said the desk was built by Thomas Herriman so Adam knew this was wrong desk. “I don't think this is desk I was looking for. May I look at the other desk from the estate?”
“Yes, of course. It is in another room.”
Adam followed her out of the room they were in around a corner and down a short hallway into another large room that was almost as packed as was first room. There was only one roll top desk in his room and Adam walked directly to it. It was roped off, but he could see a small sign on this desk as well indicating that it was on loan from the estate of Kitty Arkin. Fortunately, it said that this desk was built by Carlos Danvers. He’d found the desk he was looking for. He could scarcely believe his luck. But he had yet to prove that this was, in fact, the desk with the secret drawer containing the piece of the pistol handle.
“This is the desk. I was looking for. At least I hope it is. Do you know anything about desks created by Carlos Danvers?”
“Only that the desks were created around 1900 and he was famous for his desks. Why do you ask?”
"Because I was told that one of the things he was famous for was creating a hidden drawer in his desks. I have," Adam took out his note pad on which he'd written the numbers, “A series of numbers that’s supposedly is a type of combination that when you open the drawers under the rolltop in a particular order, the hidden drawer opens.”
“You don't say?”
“I do say but only because someone else told me. I don't know it's true or not. I'm hoping it is, because I'm hoping the artifact that I'm looking for will be in that hidden drawer. Is it okay if I try the combination I have written here?"
“Absolutely. I want to see for myself if such a thing is true. It’ll give me a little bit more information for the museum. I haven't shown them to you because you didn't ask, but the museum has several more roll top desks created by Carlos Danvers.”
“Well, if the hidden drawer in this desk, if there actually is one, doesn't contain what I want or my combination doesn't open the drawer, maybe I'll have to try the others.” Adam suddenly had a thought. "Since you have several other desks created by Carlos Danvers, is it possible that this desk was inadvertently switched with one of the others?”
“Absolutely no chance at all. We're scrupulously careful about such things. If we weren't, people wouldn’t loan us things for the museum and the museum depends upon those loans. Most of the things in the museum are in fact loaned to us.”
“Okay, let's see if my combination works.” Adam went behind the rope and raised the rolltop. This desk had a separation between the left side drawers and right side drawers just like the desk at the Arkin house. He thought he’d start from the right side just as he did before. This time however, when he pulled out the fourth drawer on the second row, he heard a faint click. He could scarcely contain his excitement. “I think this may be it. Did you hear the click?”
She nodded. “I did hear a virtually imperceptible click. What did it mean?”
“I'm hoping it's like the tumblers that fall into place when you use the combination of a safe. But I guess it remains to be seen. I have two more drawers pull out.” And with that he pulled out the drawer six on the third row. He heard another faint click. He turned and smiled at Adrian. “One more.” He pulled out the second drawer on the fifth row. With that, the panel on the right side of the desk slid down and a drawer as wide as the width of the desk poked out slightly. He reached over and pulled the drawer as far out as it would come.
“Ah ha,” he smiled when he looked into the drawer and saw the piece of the pistol handle he was hoping to see. He picked it up and briefly looked at it before he held it out for Adrian to see. “This is just what I was looking for.”
She looked at it and then shook her head. “What's so important about that? It's not even the whole side of the grip.”
“I know it's not. It wasn't supposed to be. Look carefully at it.”
“I see the markings, but what do they mean?”
“I was told that this piece of the grip along with two other pieces of one side of the grip form a set of directions to where a box is buried that holds a map to a gold mine.”
“That wouldn't be the lost Chandler mine would it?”
“You know about the Chandler mine?"
"People have been looking for the Chandler mine for I don't know how long. Every so often, a new map to the Chandler mine will surface. Obviously, since the mine has never been found, the maps must have been bogus.”
“Supposedly, the map that the directions on the gun grip lead to, was created by Chandler himself. Whether it proves to be the genuine article or not, is still to be discovered."
“Do you intend to take that piece of the grip with you?”
“If it can be arranged. I'll be happy to bring it back at some point. When that’ll be, however, I really can't say yet.”
“That's okay. As I said before, I guess it actually belongs to you. But also, as I said before, I'll have to talk to my manager before I can let you take anything out of the museum. Let's go back out to the ticket booth and I'll call him.”
Adam followed Adrian back out to the front where she went into the ticket booth. Though Adam couldn't hear, Adrian must have told Jesse she could go back to whatever she was working on when she was called to the front, because she immediately left the booth and headed into the museum. Adrian then dialed the phone and spoke to someone for a few minutes.
When she hung up the phone she turned to Adam and said, “He said it would be okay for you to take the piece. All you have to do is sign a receipt that I’ll write up.”
“That's okay with me.”
“Okay, give me just a few minutes and I'll have it ready for you to sign.”