Rubbing my face, my fingers hardly felt the divots the wire spiral of my notebook dug into my face. Realizing my eyes were no longer open, and hadn’t been so for some time, I eased my eyelids apart. They found Uncle, still sitting at his desk, grinding thru the pile of primary source materials Ira included in his envelope.
Wow, there’s two words my mind hadn’t united in years, primary and source.
I could practically taste the baloney and mustard sandwiches we used to snack on whenever Uncle proofread and fact-checked my school reports. Other than a few extra lines on both our faces, not much in the office has changed since those days.
Man, now I really want baloney and yellow mustard on white with a side of sweet pickles and potato chips.
Too bad, there’s absolutely no way I’m setting foot in Aunt Pearl’s kitchen until we finish. She nearly pitched a fit and fell in it upon realizing she was losing her fastest cupcake froster for a few hours. Only my solemn promise to wield a pastry bag on her behalf once we wound things up in here diverted her wrath. Though the timely arrival of my cousins, their spouses, and the niblings with an awe-inspiring supply of vanilla beans, butter, powdered sugar, and heavy-cream might have done more to accomplish that deed than my word.
I wonder if one of my cousins would be willing to fetch me sandwich fixing…
Cheered at the prospect of fulfilling my baloney flavored dreams, I picked up my phone and discovered two texts waiting. (I’d put my phone on silent to help Uncle stay in the zone.)
Shoving my seasoned sausage craving aside for a second, I opened the message from my Silver City Operative Tavi. Not only did she enthusiastically agree to tackle the pithy list of places Big Ben mentioned in his correspondence with Ira. She also sent me a snapshot of her wearing her investigator’s outfit – greatcoat, fedora, wingtips, and all. After returning the wide grin of the woman in the picture, I flipped over to my FLYT ap and added extra credits to her ride account. Then arranged for her to receive a munificent quantity of thank-you-hanging-up-my-desperately-seeking-Big-Ben-signs-all-over-town tacos the next time she visited her favorite family-owned taqueria. (Which to the untrained eye might resemble a gift certificate.)
Switching back to my texts, I read the other pending message from Mrs. Lebondowsky. The Naturalist and Historical Society have enlisted the help of several regional environmental groups to help populate their picket lines at Nevermore’s entrances – freeing them up to start the sit-in. If tonight’s emergency vote goes the way Mrs. Lebondowsky thinks it will – she’ll let me know.
Staring sightlessly at my phone, pondering, my tummy let loose a deep rumble reminding me of the craving I’d yet to satisfy. Picking up my phone, I texted the cousin that ticked off the boxes of: (a) someone willing to swipe sandwich supplies, (b) who’s cake decorating skills are poor enough that Aunt Pearl wouldn’t immediately miss them, and (c) who is honing his professionally nosiness.
He replied with a thumbs-up in five-seconds flat.
Uncle, who was still zeroed in on the data, didn’t even look up when I set aside Joseph’s purported copy of the Conventions so I could heave myself off the couch. Pressing my ear against the door, I waited until the squeaky floorboard in the hall augmented the hurly-burly sounds bouncing down the corridor before easing it open for my cousin to dart thru. (Seems neither of us is keen on getting caught should Aunt Pearl investigate the familiar creak.)
Robbie, arms ladened with sandwich fixings, chips, and soda, gave me a wide grin.
Robbie: “Hey cuz! You’re timing is marvelous!”
Putting my finger against my lips, I tipped my head towards the side-table. Following my lead, he set down the sandwich components onto the narrow surface once I’d moved Uncle’s awards out of the splash zone. You never know when the mustard bottle might get feisty.
Me (starting to assemble the sandwiches): “Did I save you from dishpan hands?”
Robbie (matching my low tone): “Yeah, and the drama. Mom started ‘touching up’ the cookies Ruby frosted, and she’s fit to be tied.”
I wonder if Aunt Pearl’s really that invested in the success of the school district’s Carnival or if her confections are competing with someone else’s.
I’d place good money on the latter.
Robbie (casting an eye towards the desk): “…So what are you guys doing in here? Mom never said.”
That didn’t take long. Glancing over at Uncle, who apparently wasn’t as tuned out to the room as I’d thought, as he was coming over to grab a sandwich.
Uncle (reading my mind): “It’s up to you. Though I think he could help.”
Holding up a finger at Robbie, forestalling the bevy of probing queries his quivering countenance promised, I took a contemplative bite of the yen satisfying sandwich. (BTW – They’re just as scrumptious as I remembered.)
Me (after taking a swig of soda to wash everything down): “I need your promise not to repeat a word of what’s said in this room to anyone.”
Robbie (lowering his unsullied sandwich): “You have it.”
Me (receiving a nod from Uncle): “Remember the time Uncle and Aunt Pearl rescued Wood, Laney, Beatrice, and I up from Nevermore in the middle of the night?”
Robbie (laughing): “The night Wood dressed you guys like the cast from Pirates of Penzance? What about it?”
Me (exchanging looks with Uncle): “Well, you see, there was more to that night than us settling a bet….”