Despite the relatively short walk back to the Lavender Lady, Joseph insisted on providing an escort. His confirmation of my hunch, unfortunately, lead to a pair of slightly soggy eyes, which shocked and appalled us both in equal measure. Hence, Orin’s presence on my left.
(Finding out Sarah hadn’t been a friend of mine for some time, stung a surprising amount.)
“Would you like me to keep on tabs on her?”
Giving him a wane smile, I shook my head at Orin’s offer. “That’s not necessary.”
“I don’t mind.” Ambling easily next to me, his casual tone didn’t fool me.
Embedding himself in Sarah’s life, on the off chance he might discover a new nugget of information, isn’t going to happen. Not only is it sleazy to spy on someone in such a manner, but it’s also incredibly cruel to Orin. Isolation and loneliness are highly corrosive elements to Errants and Residents alike. As Sarah’s life is filled with a plethora of people should Orin insert himself in her life, it could quickly drive him around the bend.
“Really, don’t worry about it. I’ve got her number now.” Nearing the Lavander Lady’s back gate, another thought occurred to me. “Though, if you’re bored, it would be a huge help if you could track down Abraham and pass on a message for me.”
“If you could let him know; I’ve check-in with about half the Errants in Rye without finding anything unusual. I’m planning on visiting everyone else over the next week or two.”
Nodding briskly, we paused under the orange glow of the streetlamp by the garden gate. “Anything else?”
Leaning a hip against the slats of the fence for a moment, I shook my head. “Not that I can think of unless you’ve spotted an Errant sporting a green suit wandering about?” Watching Orin’s head duplicate the previous motion of my own, I moved on. “You’ll probably find Abraham hanging-out with Eliza.”
“Then, that’s where I’ll start. Take care, Caretaker.”
“Night, Orin, and thanks.”
Touching his cap, Orin turned on his heel in the direction of the park. Pushing open the gate, ignoring the single butterfly in my stomach that steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the rechristening of Beatrice’s shed, I quickly mounted The Map Room’s shallow steps.
Thankfully, the Lepidoptera I’d dubbed Mrs. Futtersworth, winged it after I flipped on the lights.
Standing before the waist-high wall of boxes, I silently patted my past self on the back for her meticulous labeling skills. Quickly locating the correct cardboard cube containing seven years’ worth of yearbooks, it took mere moments to extract them from their repository, shut off the lights, lock the door, and retrace my earlier route up the garden path. (Only at a far more sedate pace.)
Thankfully my belated arrival back at the Lavender Lady didn’t spawn a single one of my worst-case scenarios. Instead, I found myself nose to nose with one very pushy cousin (and when I say pushy, I mean that in the literal sense of the word).
“Does the name Kiyomi Kimura mean anything to you?”
“Kiyomi Kimura, do you know her?”
“She was one of Josie’s sycophants, why?”
“Her name came up, she’s the Garden Club’s secretary, by the way, and it’s been killing me because I know, I know her…”
“You’re probably recalling the time Wood literally stood on Aunt and Uncle’s rooftop shouting about Rye High winning both the girl’s and boy’s state soccer titles. He and Kiyomi captained their respective sides.”
Dancing out of the way, and thus allowing me to actually enter the apartment, Robbie successfully blocked my attempt to set down my armload of yearbooks. Pressing his advantage further, he deftly shepherded me towards Beatrice’s office by nudging, bumping and jostling me along.
It took less than a second for our guffaws to fill the hall as his herding technique devolved into him, bodily shoving me along while I did my best to emulate a boulder. (Which didn’t work, neither did visualizing redwood roots binding my sneakers to the floor or picturing my bones turning into lead. In case your wondering.)
Robbie, who didn’t view his additional seven inches and fifty plus pounds as an unsportsmanlike advantage, crowed in triumph as he manhandled me across the threshold. Panting slightly and still wearing an impish grin, Robbie promptly flopped onto a pile of forest green cushions customarily found on the living room couch and picked up his tablet. The others, all of whom wore varying expressions of amusement at our antics, resumed their work. Ira, who’d handily beat me back here, sat at Beatrice’s computer zipping thru the security video Joseph already summed up for me. Beatrice and Leo sat opposite each other in the chairs by the window, typing on their respective laptops.
“The Brownie Stealing Bench and Kiyomi were friends in high school.” Robbie, after tapping in his password, aimed my answer at Leo.
Leo transferred his gaze from his screen onto me. “Are you sure?”
Stifling the memories of their mocking laugher, I answered. “Yes.”
“How about Larissa Cardenes and Agata Canetti?”
Crossing the room, I set the yearbooks on the edge of the desk where Ira was working and divested myself of my jacket. “Part of the core group as well.”
“Ummm…..he was in our class…I think one of them went to prom with him, maybe? I’ll check.”
Luckily, stealing a cushion from the edge of Robbie’s nest only elicited a few minor grumbles from its creator. Satisfied the theft wasn’t going to result in getting winged in the head by a retaliatory flying frosted cookie, I set my purloined bit of padding betwixt Leo and Beatrice.
Before I started skimming through my senior year yearbook, for the Prom Court photo-montage, I glanced up at Leo. “So, I gather the hunch panned out?”
Catching my glance, Leo gave me a wide wolfish smile.