Chapter One for those just joining the story now in progress.
Chapter 14 for those who might have forgetten where we left off, last week.
The next morning, they all opened up the shop but had very few customers. By 10:30 Gary apologized to the few regulars that were in the store but asked them to leave as they had somewhere they had to go. Before leaving the store, Sharon grabbed her bag what she had kept in the storage closet all this time. It was a medium sized tough canvas bag with a shoulder strap, Gary raised a quizzical eyebrow.
Sharon simply replied with a sweet smile. “Just a few things a girl might need, I like to be prepared.”
Andrew drove his car and Gary held the bag while Sharon climbed in the back seat, the bag was heavier than it looked. He then handed her the bag. “What do you got in here bricks?” The sweet smile, again, Gary was beginning to realize that that particular smile camouflaged if not a devious nature, at least a cunning mind. They got to Andrew’s house in a few minutes and Andrew ushered them in the side doors which lead directly into the kitchen. Ms. Harlan had freshly baked muffins stacked on every flat surface in the room, she said it was for a church bake sale and told them to dig in. Sharon and Ms. Harlan made friends fast, and eventually Andrew’s sister wandered in, fresh from bed in fact she might have been still asleep. She saw Gary and immediately turned around and went back to her room. Ten minutes later she was back with make-up on and her hair tied up in a ponytail.
“Sharon this is my daughter Mary.”
“Hi Mary.” Sharon responded with her typical friendly self from across the room.
Mary saw Sharon with her perfect hair and pretty face but she was not rude. “Oh hi.” Mary stated responded in a deflated manner, then she gathered up a glass of milk and a muffin and left the room for other parts of the house.
“Well I would say you just popped her bubble.” Andrew stated putting some butter on a muffin top.
Sharon gave a quizzical look and Andrew’s mom responded. “Mary has a little crush on Gary.”
“Oh?” Sharon said looking sideways at Gary, then she quickly smiled as she saw that he had not even noticed the teenager enter the room.
Gary had been mostly oblivious to the conversation swirling around him, had looked up when his name was mentioned. “Did I miss something?”
“No go back to reading the paper Gary.” Sharon said chuckling which Andrew’s mom joined in as well.
After they had all eaten too many muffins they started to say good bye and Sharon was told to come back anytime so they could really talk and Sharon promised she would. They were about to walk out the door when Ms. Harlan handed Andrew the cookies in a red metal tin, when she asked who the cookies were for. Andrew stopped and his friends saw that he did not want to answer, but he did.
“They are for Bobbie,” and he held up his hand real quick. “For a favor nothing more.”
Ms. Harlan looked like she was about to say something, but a look of resignation came across her face and she handed over the tin of cookies. “Okay, but I want the tin back.”
The group said their good-byes and Sharon was bursting with curiosity when they got to the car.
“Why does your mother not like Bobbie?”
Andrew simply said. “Long story but we got into a lot of trouble when we were younger.”
Sharon was about to ask more questions when Gary piped up. “Guys black mini-van about a block back, it just pulled out as we did.”
Andrew who was driving, looked into the rearview mirror. “Can’t tell it who is driving due to the wind shield glare, but I am betting it is Mr. Creepy from last night.”
Gary turned around in the sit and looked at Sharon. “What do you think, should we care that he is following us?”
Sharon just shrugged. “The guy hasn’t done anything except buy a book from us,” She turned and looked back and then leaned forward between the seats. “Andrew can we park somewhere out of the way and then use some back ways, through alleys and such to get to the library.”
“I think I got just the place.”
“I hate their pizza.”
“Why.” Gary asked us they hustled thru the side parking lot and into the pizza joint.
“It’s cheap and greasy.” Sharon whispered to Gary. Andrew was leading the way and waved to the owner telling them he would be back later for a slice or two, the old man just smiled and nodded while he continued to knead his dough.
Andrew responded. “Well we are not here for the pizza, at least not right now but now we are going through here because they have a back door that goes almost up to the biology building, and once we get there it is almost a maze and you can’t see most of the walkways from the road due to the trees.” With that said they were out the back door and made a quick walk over to the campus property line.
Gary was carrying Sharon’s bag, and Andrew had the red cookie tin in his gloved hand as they made their way through the deserted campus. Luckily it had not snowed lately as the sidewalks had not been shoveled and their tracks were not the only ones on campus. The three walked in silence each lost in their thoughts and walking quickly to get out of the cold.
Sharon turned on the path that lead to the front door of the library. Andrew pulled her arm and directed her way. “Bobbie said come in the side door nearest the auditorium.”
Gary just nodded and the three of them walked down a lesser used path. As the door came into sight it opened and a figure held the door open and yelled. “Andrew you are late.”
Andrew quickly looked at his watch. “Only five minutes.”
“Bobbie is a girl.” Gary stated surprised, and kept staring at her, she was on the petite side with short red hair, pretty or cute he could not figure out which way he would describe her.
“Bobbie Joe to be exact, long Southern tradition, her mom is from Alabama.”
They reached the door and Sharon reached out her hand. “Hi I’m Sharon.”
After introducing themselves in the stairwell they made their way to the interior of the library, Bobbie leading the way.
“So how long have you two known each other?” Sharon asked.
“Long time since I moved here in the 6th grade and we went to high school together. In fact Andrew and I used to date.”
Gary and Sharon looked at Andrew, who just got busy taking off his coat and then handing the tin of cookies over to Bobbie. “I bet your mom was not happy to be giving me any cookies.”
Andrew responded quickly. “She did not say a word, but she wants her tin back.”
“She still has not forgiven me.” Bobbie said sitting on a table and opening the tin and taking out a cookie, looking it over and then smelling it.
“Forgave you for what?” Sharon asked sensing a really good story.
“Do you want to tell them or should I?” Bobbie said around a mouthful of cookie.
Andrew held up his hand. “I will give them the basics.” Sharon and Gary looked back and forth between the two of them. Bobbie smiling, and Andrew looking very uncomfortable. “Bobbie and I ran away together in the summer between our Jr. and Sr. year in high school.
Gary was shocked. Sharon could barely wait to hear more and leaned forward. Andrew saw the story could not end there. “It was not as sorted as it sounds. We were supposed to go work at a summer camp together, but Bobbie had a cousin working at Sea World in Ohio, so instead of going to camp we slept on the floor of her cousin’s apartment and worked at Sea World instead.”
“And we would have gotten away with it for the whole summer if our high school principal had not visited Sea World, saw us, and then ran into Andrew’s mother as soon as he got home and told her about seeing us feeding the fish.”
“We weren’t feeding the fish, we were feeding the dolphins, dolphins are not fish.” Andrew said sounding like he had had this fight before, but he stopped himself and held up his hand to stop Bobbie. “We came here to find a book.”
“Oh yeah,” Bobbie said sliding off the table top. “What book?”
Gary got out his note cards. “The only thing we know is ‘JV 1868 3rd Edition Page 150’.”
Bobbie went behind the help desk and the three followed leaning against the countertop. “I am guessing the book came out in 1868,” Bobbie said her tone changing to a professional demeanor. “That limits it , any clue if JV refers to the title or the Author?”
Gary shook his head, but then after a second he reconsidered. “It is probably a classic.”
Sharon and Andrew made noises in the affirmative.
Bobbie looked curiously at the three of them. “You mean like Jules Verne.”
“Jules Verne of course, what did he write in 1868?” Gary said excitedly.
Bobbie typed a few things into the desktop computer. “Only one book, In Search of the Castaways.”
The three of them shrieked and yelled almost all together. “That’s it.”
Gary recovered first. “Where is it, and is it a third edition, here in the library?”
Bobbie looked at her screen, then took up a pencil and wrote down some numbers. “Third floor, back in the back, you two go up and get it, if you would not mind Andrew will stay down here and help me find some place for my cookies, I am guessing his mother wants the tin back.”
Sharon and Gary looked at their friend who just nodded. The two of them headed for the stairs and somewhere along the way, they ended up holding hands. Gary looked back over his shoulder at the last minute and saw Bobbie standing very close to the much taller Andrew. Once they were a floor above Sharon spoke up. “That girl is very sure of herself, and I am a little worried about Andrew.”
Gary was about to tell her there was nothing to worry about but then thought back over the conversation and had to agree with her, the girl was incredibly self-assured not to mention pretty. They reached the third floor and they began to search the stacks. After a few minutes they found the book. Gary opened the book to page one hundred and fifty. Nothing fell out, but numerous letters were underlined. The immediately found a table and Gary read off the letters and Sharon dutifully copied them down. This was the message they found, no code, no clues just an address and a short message.
Six two seven main street bring key
“Main Street, what is on Main Street down there, I thought that was all residential areas down that far.” Gary said out loud.
Sharon shrugged, she took the book from Gary and quickly examined it, even looking at the interior cover and flipping quickly through it to determine if anything else was in between the pages. Finding nothing she closed it and smiled at Gary. “Should we go and rescue Andrew now?”