Author Archives: Finder of Lost Things

1.50 Dealing

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We’d both employed the same cunning strategy – waiting. Perhaps my “plan” wasn’t as lame as I’d previously thought. 

The coffee seemed to need a few more minutes to seep into my system to bad I didn’t have the time. Even in this deluge maintenance would be working (death doesn’t wait for a sunny day) and I really didn’t want to answer the inevitable questions they’d ask if they ran across me sitting in my car. I had a feeling my hair would give away last night’s sleeping arrangements. 

Which meant Joseph and I had a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time.

Joseph (still looking amused): “So why were you waiting for me?”

Me (taking another swig straight from the thermos): “The Stalker, isn’t a Stalker, she’s a Woman In White.”

Joseph (his gaze sharpened): “Tell me.”

Me: “I found her genesis point when I went up into the mountains…”

While I laid the relevant events from the Fall Foliage Tour into a coherent narrative, Joseph sat in the passenger’s seat listening, his fingers tracing the inside band of his grey fedora over and over while I talked. 

Joseph (enunciating each word): “You think she will come here, at some point.”

Me (nodding): “Yes. After I got back I asked Aunt Pearl about the whole affair, she told me Tiffany’s father still lives in Rye, so I expect she’ll come to Nevermore. When she does, we’ll need a plan.”

Aunt Pearl also hinted at some other old gossip about Tiffany, but wouldn’t repeat it, “not wishing to speak ill of the dead.” 

Joseph: “A plan?”

Me (nodding): “If she’s allowed to wander the grounds she will find a Resident then hunt down the others. She won’t hesitate to increase her own power at their expense. With my odd hours and the uncertainty of when she’ll arrive we need to coordinate. You can contain her until I get here and salt her bones directly, right?”

Utterly oblivious to my companion, I failed to notice his amusement and continued to spout off half-formed ideas.

Still Me (spacing out for a moment): “Sarah would call me the moment she arrives if I asked…. Though if she’s cremated that would eliminate all our worries since fire purifies everything… I could ask Sarah to try to steer things that way…Then there’s the rubber ducks, work, sabotage, and I’ll need to shower sometime…”

Joseph (interrupting my revery, amused): “Phoebe.” 

Me (fretting): “I could sleep in my car here after she’s found so I could be on hand more.”

Joseph (plonking me in the forehead with his index finger): “Phoebe. The Residents and I can manage her. What do you think happened before you came here?”

Me (puzzling): “I never put much thought into it.”

My brain jumping the tracks, how did they cope? The first burial happened in 1840, Nevermore (as it is now) came about in 1846, and I’ve been coming here for twenty-seven years, so that leaves one-hundred-and-seventy-eight-years unaccounted for. Something to think about later…

Joseph (catching my attention again): “…Woman In White.”

Me (my mind reversing from its derailed state): “Pardon?”

Joseph: “I will handle the Woman In White.”

Me (nodding, my head still not entirely on this portion of the conversation): “Okay, I’ll leave her to you…”

Joseph (a hard look creeping into his eyes): “You have a handle on Little Ben’s expansion? I assume there’s a problem.”

Me (nodding, diverted by the small opening he’d given me): “Yes to both…How did the Residents cope before I came?”

Joseph (his hands finally still): “They have me. I protect Nevermore and the Residents from all threats.”

Me (slowly sinking into the quicksand of the conversation): “Like Women In White, Stalkers, Walkers, and Soldiers?” 

Joseph (somber): “And anything else.”

Me (feeling small): “So Nevermore doesn’t really need my help.” 

Joseph (his tone commanding me to meet his eyes): “You value those who’ve been forgotten. You find the lost and bring them home. You protect those who undervalue you – no matter the cost. You are Nevermore’s most unique Resident because you choose to be here. You are needed, never doubt that.”

Not know what to say and trying not to cry – I moved on – Joseph doesn’t do tears. 

Me (blinking rapidly): “Since I’m not here as much right now, how can I find you if I don’t want to ask a Resident to pass on a message?”

Joseph (looking at me thoughtfully, pausing for a beat longer than I’d anticipated): “Knock on a gate, Toby will lead you to me.”

Me: “What’s a Toby? And any gate?”

Joseph (smiling): “He’s shy. But I think he’s ready for you to meet him. And yes, any gate in Nevermore.”

Me (startled into dry eyes): “Wait, there’s a Resident I haven’t met yet?” 

Joseph smiled, put on his hat an exited the Princess, the rain (plus his grey suit) erased him almost instantly from my sight. So many layers to the conversation, but no time to consider them if the clock on my dash was correct. I had precisely forty-five minutes to get home, shower, change and eat before my shift starts. 

Aspirin, I also needed to take many aspirins, not being able to turn my head right – due to a stupid crick – won’t make my day any easier.

(Unsplash Picture Credit Here)

1.49 My Flawless Plan

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While Rye does not contain a single drive-thru Asian joint (which is a travesty), it does include an Italian one. So instead of eggrolls, I am eating spaghetti for dinner.

While both countries of culinary origin reside in the same hemisphere – spaghetti does not satisfy an eggroll craving.

In case you are wondering.

Despite the lack of pork, cabbage and plum sauce I attacked my dinner with gusto. While spaghetti & meatballs wasn’t what my stomach demanded, it did sate my hangries, leaving me in a mellower frame of mind. I offered up silent thanks to whichever god steered Joseph away from me pre-food. If he’d stopped by before, I might have taken him up on his offer to actively ‘persuade’ Little Ben to leave Nevermore.

After stowing away my trash, I snuggled under the Princess’s matching afghans and propped my tablet up against the steering wheel. Deciding my neurons needed a jump-start, I snagged one of the three thermoses of coffee from the back seat.

No rest for the wicked. 

My brain and I needed to start working on my other problem, Sunny Valley Farm.

If Wood’s ridiculously fun Brace Affair didn’t do the job, I needed a fallback plan – which unfortunately placed the corner of Bitter and Sweet. Because, subversion, subterfuge, and counterfeiting aren’t pleasant words, but they defined what I might be forced to do to keep Nevermore safe.

Turning on my tablet, I opened my copy of the program Little Ben loves to use when concocting his proposals, campaigns, and announcements. Over the past few days, I’d retyped all of Little Ben’s original text and yesterday I’d copied all the graphics from the Sunny Valley Farm website (which thankfully did not include the proposed location yet).

All of this allowed me to while away the time waiting for Joseph by creating and/or updating the documents from the press packet Sarah’d given me.

Turns out this was only a one thermos task.

Switching tracks I tuned (which just sounds nicer than googled) my tablet to KARB hoping to catch the news. Leaning my seat back a bit and pulling the afghans over my arms I listened to the cymbals, drums, and piano of Brubeck’s Take Five start playing….

…..Copland………..Gershwin…………………………………………zzzzzz…………………………………..

The rain beat down in time Diana Krall’s Devil May Care while my brain struggled to convince my unwilling eyes to open up just a crack. Yup, it was raining, the drops obscuring the mausoleums from my vision (which was impressive as they were touching distance away). With this small sensory input, my nerves decided to chime in and let my brain know their displeasure at sleeping in the Princess’s drivers seat….for, well crap, five hours.

An amused voice addressed me: “Good Morning.”

Crappity crap crap crap. 

Rubbing my eyes…

Me (thickly): “Morning.”

Vision moderately clearer I attempted to turn my neck. Well, that was a bad idea. A crick informed me that under no uncertain terms should I attempt trying that feat again in the near future. 

Turning my entire body, I leaned against the driver’s door and blinked at the man in my passenger seat. 

The crease in his dove grey pants could slice a steak in half. 

Trying to remove the custard filling from my head I leaned forward to snag the full thermos from behind the passenger’s seat. Not bothering with the cup I drank straight from the top. 

Cold coffee is better than no coffee at all.

Joseph looked even more amused when I put the thermos down.

Joseph: “Long night?”

Me (it took a moment for me to quit staring at him): “Yes, I’ve been here since midnight.”

Joseph (tilting his head): “Problem with your new rooms?”

Me (waiting for the coffee to catch up): “No, nothing like that. I was waiting for you.”

Joseph (laughing quietly): “Funny, I’ve been waiting for you to wake up.”

1.48 Wrinkles

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Day six of my fourteen hour fortnight.

FLYT held a general meeting last Friday which I missed due to the Fall Foliage Tour. It turns out one of the drivers came in sick with – swine, C, Spanish, bird, #10 – some variety of nasty flu which knocked out almost the entire fleet of FLYT drivers. Not wanting another rideshare program to “muscle into their territory” they asked the last standing healthy drivers to extend their service hours for a rather nice bonus, plus base pay, and tips. 

When FLYT emailed me about Flu-Gate, I immediately contacted the Senior Center. I wasn’t the only driver the members used, but I didn’t want someone going without services because they couldn’t get a ride. It turns out one of the Center’s members did scheduling for Rye Memorial Hospital for forty years and hasn’t lost her touch. With sacred promises made by all not to fork up her work, she set a two-week schedule (for me, another driver who works the Center and the members). I think she may have issued a veiled threat somewhere to ensure compliance – hard to remember now – it feels like a hundred years ago. 

At this point, I am not sure if the Princess’s driver’s seat is taking on my butt shape or my butt is taking on seat shape. These are the things I wonder about now. Either way, it’s been firmly planted since Tuesday morning.

Last night I dreamt scientist created a bottomless cup of coffee.   

Even with all this driving, I’ve managed to wedge a tiny bit of multitasking into my day – monitoring the radio waves. Without a single fib I’ve managed to keep the Princess’s radio dial planted on KARB 98.1, Rye’s jazz/classical station – ‘Giving you energy thru the day!’. My fares grumbled a bit at first (they love their rock music) but gave in when they figured out I was working from 6 am to 8 pm helping them out.

Why am I on tenterhooks at the top of each hour? Because KARB’s news desk delights in scooping The Daily Harvest every chance they get (a feud which according to my Aunt Pearl dates back to an incident in high school between the Newspaper’s Managing Editor and Radio Station’s Manager). In the last year they’d been the first to report Stripper Gate (former mayor taking out visiting officials to said establishments), the apprehension of the Cascadia Con-man and the reacquisition of six lost Dutch Masters by RAM (Rye Art Museum and it turns out the paintings weren’t lost so much as stolen).

KARB is the only non-news station, west of the Mississippi, which employs four full-time investigative reporters – I’m pretty sure. So I figured if/when the sourest member of the Thin Green Line follows up on my materials – they will broadcast it first (it’s harder to monitor the Daily Harvest, traffic cops frown on reading & driving). 

Are drive-thru egg rolls are a thing?

If they aren’t, they really should be because my shift’s finally over and I can’t go home yet and I’d really like some egg rolls or Mongolian beef with fried rice or pad thai or pho or banh mi or sushi. 

Visions of wontons dance through my head… 

Wouldn’t be the first time I ate dinner whilst wandering through Nevermore. According to my phone Rye doesn’t have a drive-thru Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese or Japanese restaurants, drat.

So Nevermore. 

At the time I didn’t realize how serendipitous running into Joseph at The Crossroads was. When I’d taken care of Nevermore, we spoke daily, no big deal. Now that I’m out in the cold it’s not so easy, which fills me with an uncontrollable urge to kick Little Ben in the shins.

Why you ask is my chest crammed with a thousand angry bees who’d like a word with my former manager? Since returning from the Fall Foliage Tour seven and a half days ago, I’ve been unable to locate Joseph and let him know about the looming problem getting ready to land in Nevermore. Not wanting to alarm the Residents I’ve kept the news to myself but he needs to know, and we need to fix on a solution. 

Why not ask them where Joseph is? Or pass a message onto him? Since my exile, this might lead to panic amongst the Residents, which could mean some uncomfortable nights for Little Ben in the cottage. 

So I’d worked out a cunning plan which cut the Residents out of the equation entirely. Regrettably, it requires my butt to remain planted in the driver’s seat for a few more hours (hopefully only minutes, but I’m not holding my breath). My bright idea? I will sit in the Princess, in Nevermore until Joseph finds me – listening to the radio – drinking coffee. 

Without egg rolls.

Hospitality

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Not really sure what other business happens in a police parking lot.

Though if the police blotter’s any indication people are willing to do all kinds of silly things in the most inappropriate locations…(not that I’d know anything about that)

On the upside I have the precinct’s address now without needing to look it up online – if the sourest member of the forest service doesn’t follow thru on the tip!

1.47 Deadlines

The First Annual Fall Foliage Tour (even with its stressful bits) turned out rather grand. 

Sam got a fat tip from me (for obvious reasons), from Wood (for providing surreptitious Bundesliga scores) and from Beatrice (for carrying her luggage up the trail to the Princess). 

Beatrice earned eternal appreciation by finding Wood’s lost keys (again), the danish filching kid’s glasses, his dad’s book and the staff’s unofficial mascot Beans the beagle (which netted a ten percent discount on our rooms). 

Sarah loved ditching her extended family for the weekend (she’s number seven of eight kids and still lives with her folks).

Wood finally taught Laney bridge, and he’s now entertaining high hopes of hosting his own bridge night (Laney’s not sold on the idea). 

Laney merely enjoyed a weekend sans soccer.

We all decided the Second Fall Foliage Tour needed to happen next October. 

Even better? I found an absurd little spot to mail my missive on the way home, a general store/diner/butcher/post office. An establishment where locals congregate and tourists invariably stop at (since it houses the only “public” bathroom on a thirty mile stretch of road). What sealed the deal for me was the fact there I didn’t see a single camera anywhere. The envelope might smell of bacon (from the diner) when the Prickliest Ranger receives it, but I didn’t think anyone could trace it beyond these walls.

Unbeknownst to the Unfriendliest Ranger, he had exactly three weeks to work up the nerve to investigate the tip I’d sent him. If he let me down, Rye authorities and reporters would find themselves in the midst of an informational deluge until someone finally decided to take a hike. Not a flawless plan, but the best one I got. 

Which gave me a bit lead time before news broke about the contents of the cairn.

When we returned to the Lavender Lady, I ignored my impending date with the washing machine (my luggage was filled with the stuff) and headed back outside to take care of the Princess. 

When we’d stopped at the idiosyncratic general store, Beatrice and Sarah fell in love with its candy counter. Where they indulged their sweet tooth (or teeth in this case) by purchasing homemade snow caps, skittles, lemon drops, licorice, taffy, sweet tarts, gummy bears, peanut brittle, toffee, candied flowers, caramel apples, and marshmallows. I think the store made their daily numbers just off their sugar rush. The upshot of having two friends indulge their inner nine-year-olds? Besides witnessing them inflict giant tummy aches on themselves? They ended up filling my car with a wealth of candy-related detritus.

Tomorrow being Monday and all, I needed to get The Pink Princess ready for work, especially since my FLYT passengers absolutely love her. They’d be shocked and dismayed if they saw her in this state. So spending the rest of the afternoon cleaning my car seemed wise.

On the plus side, it allowed me to avoid listening to my roommate’s groans. She’s currently curled up on the couch cradling a bottle of bismuth. 

The downside? It summoned a giant pain in my…… 

Ms. Hettie: “People in this neighborhood don’t need to know about your appalling eating habits.” 

Me (barely missing the door jamb with my head when I stood up too quickly): “Well, they’ll just think I’m colorful.”

A fist full of skittles wrappers disappeared into the garbage bag I was filling up while I inwardly cursed the stealth of soft soled shoes.

Ms. Hettie (sniffing loudly): “Isn’t there someplace else you can do this?”

Me (trying not to give her an opening): “Nope.”

Several fast food containers followed the candy wrappers into the bag, continuing on with my task while trying to ignore my landlady. I wonder if I needed to monitor Beatrice to make sure she didn’t fall into a diabetic coma. Or at the very least I could supply her with a bucket…

Ms. Hettie (sensing my inattention croaked louder): “That cousin of yours was hardly here this weekend.”

Me (standing up again to peer over the Princess’s ragtop): “Really? I’ll keep your observations in mind.”

Ms. Hettie’s enviable rosy cheeks almost hid the blush which crept across her nose. At least she hadn’t called the cops on Robbie thinking he was a prowler (I’d had visions).

Ms. Hettie (undeterred): “If you both go out of town again, make sure to tell me when you’ll be back.”

Making a noncommittal sound I hunkered down, trying to fish the last crumpled candy wrapper from under the driver’s seat. She’d want a full itinerary next. Funny thing is I don’t think she’s anxious about being alone in the Lavender Lady.

Ms. Hettie (working back to her original complaint and walking around to address her comments to my rump): “Well if you insist on cleaning this car out here, be quick about it.”

Me (failing in my efforts not to rise to her bait, I sat back on my heels): “If I you hadn’t stopped by, I’d be much farther along.”

This earned a hairy eyeball from Ms. Hettie, who finally left me in peace, I assume to reacquaint herself with the contents of an oubliette. Who on earth did she think could see me back here? Besides herself and Beatrice?

When the car no longer crinkled (it did smell like a cross between candy floss and windex) I decided to remove the fine film of dirt and bugs encrusting the pink paint. Choosing to save a few pennies and irritate my landlady further (an added bonus) I  washed her myself. Being a completionist, I decided to make her shine so out came the wax. When I finished The Pink Princess positively sparkled (though the battery operated dewdrop lights I strung up inside helped). 

Even better than a clean car? 

I finally figured out where the external light switches were located – no more stumbling up a dim walk for me! 

1.46 ‘X’ Marks The Spot

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Clearing the cobwebs and remnants of subterfuge from my mind I studied the materials I’d brought with me – tablet, official map, an unaugmented map, camera, and a manilla envelope (filched from the front desk). I set to work.

I decided that specificity was crucial to my Misdirection Scheme.

Specificity would kill multiple birds with one stone. Creedence and curiosity find fertile ground when easily established facts are systematically laid out. All Ranger Lade had to do was take a walk to determine their accuracy, and I bet he’s sick of staying inside on desk duty working on paperwork. Plus it would help prove he isn’t afraid of some mountain. 

I held high hopes for Ranger Lade. 

If he didn’t investigate, I would send packets off to cold case detectives, missing persons, reporters at the Daily Harvest or KARB – until someone finally took a look. 

Specificity would benefit me as well – it would misdirect most scrutiny from my direction. Who would suspect a person so wholly unconnected to the case having insider information? I’d given Mr. Grindle precisely one roundtrip thru FLYT and vacationed in the vicinity of his wife’s cairn – an ephemeral bond at best. 

Closing my eyes, I took three deep breaths to settle myself down then started to assemble the necessary documents. I took a picture of the new unaugmented map with my tablet, then used an app typed an ‘x’ and the GPS coordinates onto the image and printed it. Using my camera’s wireless feature for the first time ever, I printed the pictures I taken of the cairn, the glade, and the unofficial campsite – so the Ranger knew for certain where and what to look for. Adding to the pile, the printer spit out a scan of the newspaper article which mentioned the location of Tiffany Grindle’s abandoned car (highlighting the sentence in green for emphasis) and her missing person’s poster. 

I decided not to include her initial accusation, that Mr. Grindle murdered her, I’d found no definitive facts corroborating her statement. If any linking evidence existed, it would be found underground, and the police would unearth it themselves. 

In any case, the simple fact of finding his wife inhumed will cause uncomfortable questions. They won’t need my help in casting Mr. Grindle as the chief suspect.

With that last momentous decision made, I arranged the documents into a sensible order – then peeled the adhesive stripe off the flap and sealed up the envelope. Turning it over I was oddly proud of figuring out how to use the printer to print the address on the front of the envelope – neatly avoiding the handwriting dilemma. Slipping the entire packet into a cheap paper bag I’d procured from the gift shop, I placed the whole thing into my backpack. 

With this step finished I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. I felt immensely grateful to Sam not only for the printer but for the privacy he’d inadvertently given me. Why?

Because I couldn’t work out a single plausible story (or removing the candy coating – the lie), to explain why I was handling my correspondence while wearing latex gloves. Kinda screams suspicious, even to those who aren’t in possession of a devious mind.

With my report complete, I stuffed my materials back into my pack – making very sure I left nothing behind. Retrieving any forgotten item from Sam’s room seemed even less likely than climbing Pumpkin Mountain a second time. Unless I wanted to besmirch his reputation with management and get him fired. 

I really didn’t want to cause a Dirty Dancing moment, I’m not coordinated enough to pull off a charismatic dance number, and Sam cannot pass for Patrick Swayze.

With a few minutes to spare I debated whether or not I should delete the information from my tablet and in the end, I decided not. If Ranger Lade didn’t follow up, it was better to have subsequent communiques match precisely.

With twenty minutes left in my four-hour allotment, I parked myself in the desk chair to wait on Sam’s return and my clandestine exit – feeling as happy as a silverfish on a shelf of old books.

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