(The problems the Woodlands faced prior to the Naturalists and Historical Society taking up residence.)
Fifteen years ago, Big Ben and I were at our wit’s end.
Despite both of us living on-site and increased security – vandals, underage drinkers, illegal trash dumpers, and the like had started treating The Woodlands (an underutilized corner of Nevermore) as their own. Unfortunately, their destructive shenanigans started attracting all kinds of unwanted attention, like the Rye City Council’s. Whose members took it upon themselves to begin grumbling into KARB’s microphones about Nevermore’s ‘burgeoning reputation as host to Rye’s unsavory elements.’
Around the same time, the Daily Harvest ran an article detailing the plight of the Rye Historical Society. Apparently, the group had drifted for over a decade thru a series of dreary office parks, abysmal basements, and one memorable stint above a bakery. Due to their itinerant state, they’d found it challenging to attract new members and keep their ledger from sporting more red ink than black. Both of these unfortunate realities caused their Director to admit she was close to dissolving the group.
Struck by a bolt of inspiration over my morning bowl of cereal, it took less than twenty minutes to arrange a meeting with the Director of the Historical Society, Big Ben and I for Noon.
Though in fairness, my bolt of inspiration might also have doubled as a sugar rush. As I’d run out of coffee beans and eggs the day before, so I decided to start my day with a bowl of Fruit Loops and a bottle of cola (don’t tell Aunt Pearl). Either way, six hours after my meal fit for a fifth grader or undergrad, the Historical Society began moving into Nevermore’s original records building, and I went marketing.
My solution was a win-win for both of us. The Society found a permanent home, and Nevermore gained an effective deterrent against those of a more nefarious or destructive disposition.
The other byproduct of my bright idea? The deal cut Chief Councilman Lucas Reville off before he bandied about the phrase, he’d love to link with Nevermore’s name, ‘eminent domain.’
(The Naturalists moved into the neighboring building a year later, and with their traipsing about the grounds, added to the Historical Society’s constant watchful presence, the rest of Nevermore’s troublemakers moved on to greener pastures.)
However, the vital bit of the story here is the Historical Society’s legacy of relocation.
Now given the fact the Historical Society curated, cultivated, and housed an archive dedicated to preserving and recording Rye’s history the entire time they struggled to find a fixed address – you’d think they’d be pro’s at packing.
Apparently, if I’m reading the controlled confusion before my eyes correctly, not so much.
Layers of bubble-wrapped framed art leaned against the walls. Packing peanuts crunched intermittently underfoot. Box knives, scissors, plain newsprint, cardboard sheets, and cartons crowded the usually meticulously arranged room. Creating – with the help of oddly arranged extra pieces of furniture, haphazard piles of the aforementioned supplies, plus stray books, binders, and accordion files – a perilous and convoluted maze.
Standing in its center, looking absolutely nothing Jack Torrance or a minotaur, was Aarti Singh.
The Director of the Rye Historical Society was in the midst of educating a group of volunteers on the best practice for packing books in a box. Which, as I’ve discovered from Beatrice’s work at PULP and my own recent-ish foray in house moving, is trickier than it sounds.
“Place packing materials in the corners and on the bottom, stack the books spine to spine. Separated them with more paper so they don’t rub together until you reach the top two inches of the box. Then place more paper on the top to keep them in place. This method keeps the pages crisp, corners unbumped, and the covers dent-free.”
Aarti spotted me a split second later after a precariously perched archival box landed at my feet with a resounding thump when I inadvertently nudged it onto the floor – by looking at it sideways. Exchanging grins across the chaos, I gave Aarti a quick nod when she held up an index finger asking for a moment. Plopping my pack next to the door, I knelt down and started gathering up the items the archive box had disgorged at the end of its short but rapid descent.
Listening to the rest of Aarti’s instructions with half an ear, my awareness of the room dwindled away when my eyes caught sight of a sun-darkened snippet.
‘Edmund Wynter Found Murdered’
The Daily Harvest headline was accompanied by several grainy black-and-white pictures of Wynter during happier times and the lurid description of the circumstances surrounding the discovery of his body. My cleanup slowed to a snail’s pace as I started examining each photo, snippet, map, and memo individually before restoring them to their cardboard repository.
So mesmerized by the materials shuffling through my hands, I’d failed to notice Aarti had both stopped issuing instructions and now stood grinning over me.
“Ah, you’ve found our file on Rye’s most notorious unsolved murder. Can’t blame you for ignoring me.”
Startled by the proximity of her voice, I nearly but not quite, tipped over the box again. Shooting her a sheepish grin, I hastily gathered up the last bits and bobs and stood up, slinging my pack over my shoulder.
“Funny thing, until a couple weeks ago, I’d never heard of Edmund Wynter or his notorious demise.” Picking up the box, I endeavored to seal the ephemera inside, only to have the odd-shaped flaps, a length of string, and an oddly placed segment of double-stick tape thwart my attempts.
“Didn’t your Uncle ever discuss the case during dinner? The Harvest still runs articles about Wynter from time to time.”
Still being bested by an inanimate object, I stopped bobbling the box and consider her question. “No, Uncle never brought his work home with him. Probably worried about what we kids might accidentally repeat.”
Shooting an amused smirk at me, she nodded her head in understanding and moved on, “So what brings you by today?”
“I think I found another undocumented family cemetery. I suspect it might be in imminent jeopardy of being paved over.” (Which will undoubtedly cause Ina Von Haeville to rapidly sink into insanity and Fade.)
Snorting, then turning on her heel, Aarti motioned for me to follow, “Not unlike us. Follow me.”
While my hands continued to fiddle with the Wynter box, my feet followed in Aarti’s footsteps, which safely navigated us through the maze of dusty steamer trunks, folding chairs, and disassembled tables towards the back of the building.
“Just a warning my office isn’t any better than the rest of this place at the moment….”
Boy, she wasn’t kidding.