The library was only 4 blocks away from the diner. Mike thought back to the days where he did most of his author research at the library before the internet was such a widely used tool. It’s been years, but he was confident he remembered how to use the Dewey decimal system. Mike followed the turns from the GPS instructions on Anna’s phone. She hadn’t muttered a word to him since finding out about the suspected murder.
They pulled into the cement parking lot. The small library was a square orange-red bricked building with tan accents around the 9 large double windows. Mike pulled into a parking space only seeing 3 other cars in the lot. He leaned over, putting his had on his wife’s shoulder. She turned away from him.
“How long are you going to stay mad at me?” Mike sat up then reached for her hand. “I was going to tell you about it.”
“I just don’t know if we should get caught up in this.” Anna readjusted in her seat, pulling the seatbelt away from her neck. “The right and sane thing to do is to hand over the diary to the local police. We are not detectives, peanut. We should leave the investigations to the experts.” She pushed her purse to the end of her knees, reaching down to unbuckle her seatbelt.
“You heard Randy! No one here would ever believe there was a murder. Hell, I don’t even know if there were a murder, but I need to find out.”
Anna opened her door. She squeezed his hand. “I know you do. I’m thankful to see your passion is back. Just promise me you won’t go too far with this. I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
The short walk to the heavy wooden double doors of the library proved to be challenging. The blustery wind blew so hard, the couple found it difficult to walk straight. Pulling on the door handle, Mike held it open for his wife to enter.
“Welcome to Clover Library, Mr. Sharpe.” A short chestnut brown haired girl greeted them just inside the door. She held out her hand with a goofy smile on her face. “My name is Lindsey. I’m one of your biggest fans.” Mike accepted her hand in his, giving her a strong handshake.
“It’s very nice to meet you, Lindsey.”
“Randy called me to let me know you were on your way.” Anna and Mike looked at each other. The closeness of this small town was unusual for them. Anna raised her eyebrows. “I can’t even tell you how much of an honor it is to have you in our town. Is there any way I can ask you to take a picture with me to post on the library website and get you to sign your books?” She walked backward towards the front desk.
“I would be happy to oblige. So, do you know why I’m here? Can you help me?” Mike removed the cloth and the diary from his jacket pocket.
Lindsey nodded her head. “Typically, people do their property research at the Town Hall in the public records, but I’m glad Randy sent you to me. I’m the secretary of the local historical society. We’ve been working hard to scan our records online to make it easier to search. It is the age of ancestry.com.” The librarian reached over the desk for the stack of Mike Sharpe science fiction books. She grabbed a sharpie and placed it on top of the mountain of books.
The author flipped open the first cover of the top book, scribbling his name inside. This is not what he had in mind of research, but it sounded like he was in good hands with Lindsey. Such a small price to pay for information.
“I would love to set up an author’s signing also if you’re interested of course. It would only be a small venue, but it would be great exposure for the library.” Lindsey walked around the desk and sat down in front of the computer.
“I’m here for a few months working on the next book to Bitterline. I’m sure we can make some arrangement sometime. But I really would like to figure out who owned the property of my cabin.” Lindsey snapped a picture of him signing a book with her cellphone. “I’m sure you’re going to be very helpful in my quest.” He smiled and looked up at the camera.
After all the novels were signed and pictures were taken, Lindsey led them to the main part of the library. She pulled up a few chairs next to one of the public computers. “Scanning all the property deeds into the library system has been my baby for the last 2 years. We should have everything you need on the computer. Randy said you’re staying at the old Olsen farm. Is that correct?”
Anna pulled a piece of paper from her purse. “2116 Kettle Road is the address of our cabin.” She dropped the paper back in her purse then sat it on the ground next to the table.
Lindsey typed in the address. “Do you know what time period or have a name?”
Mike opened the front cover of the diary again. Chills crept up his spine. “I read through the diary. There is no name of the author, but she does mention a man named Micky and two girls named Dot and Pearl. The first entry in this diary is marked August 14, 1908.”
Lindsey held her hand out for the diary. Mike was reluctant to give it up not knowing if he would get it back from a member of the local historical society. He slid the diary in her hand. “That’s completely amazing. What a lucky find. This should be in a museum somewhere.” She looked at the first page and carefully flipped through a couple pages before handing it back.
“My intent is to track down the family that this belongs to. They can make the decision to donate if they chose.”
“According to the records, your cabin was owned by Bernard Olsen in 1908. He inherited the property from his father that passed away in 1904. He lived there with his mother at the time.” She turned in her seat to face the couple. “So, I’m sure this diary belonged to his mother.”
Mike laughed at that statement. His wife looked at him in disappointment. He felt bad for his impassive reaction. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to come across rudely. It’s just that the author of the diary was still in high school when she started the diary. I don’t believe that fits the timeline.”
“I just printed off all the deeds to the property. I’m sure this is where you’re going to want to start your search.” The handbell at the front desk dinged. “You’ll have to excuse me. A librarian’s job is never done as long as there are inquiring minds or research papers due.” She got up from her seat. “Let me know if I can be of any more assistance.”
The bell above the door jingled as the cool breeze blew inside the warm diner. Mike and Anna walked into Mama’s Kitchen to be greeted by a black sign stating to seat yourself. The conversations in the diner were silenced as all the patrons turned to look at the outsiders. Anna pulled her tan jacket closed, looking up at her husband. She felt uncomfortable which angered the author.
“Good Morning.” Mike nodded his head and waved at all the eyes staring at them. His wife shook her head then tapped him on the arm. She stormed off to the booth closest to the window.
The seats of the booth were a faded red color, cracked, and some held together by duct tape. This was not a good start to his introduction to Clover, Vermont, but Mike needed to make his wife feel comfortable before he started questioning people. As he slid into the bench with his back to the window, he smiled at the woman who was his best friend.
“Such a lively bunch. And I bet you were worried we wouldn’t make any friends.” Mike flipped up his coffee cup then looked down at the paper placemat with local advertisements on it.
“I swear, I can’t take you anywhere. Did you have to do that?” She leaned in closer to her husband, lowering her voice. “I wonder if they’ve seen visitors before. We must scream tourists.”
“Maybe you do with your expensive dress coat. That’s why I wore a flannel.” Anna giggled at her husband. She slumped back on the bench, looking out the window at the flower shop across the street.
The waitress was a short woman with dirty blonde hair. The dark circles under her eyes were the same color as the grease stains on her brown t-shirt with the restaurant logo on it. Her heavy white shoes squeaked as she walked. “You guys aren’t from around here.” She laid down 2 menus on the table before getting out an order pad from her apron. “Can I start you off with some drinks?”
“I’ll have a large glass of apple juice if you don’t mind.” Anna grabbed a menu, flipping it open to the breakfast page.
“And for you, sir?”
“I’ll take a pot of coffee, fully caffeinated.” Mike smiled at the waitress who tilted her head. She finished writing down their drink order before turning to retrieve their drinks. Mike felt the eye roll without seeing it.
“You keep that up and they are going to spit in our food.” She turned to look at the whiteboard at the entrance with the daily specials on it.
“Just trying to have a little fun. All work and no play makes Mike a dull boy. Did you decide what you’re getting yet?
Anna looked down at the menu again. “It all looks so good, especially since there are no dishes for me to wash.” Their conversation was interrupted by a glass of apple juice being sat down in front of her. The waitress poured coffee from the coffee pot into Mike’s cup.
“I asked, they wouldn’t let me serve your coffee to you in the pot. I promise to check on you often though, so you don’t run out before you finished this.” She held up the pot, giving Mike a half smile. “Wouldn’t want you drinking cold coffee anyways.” Mike laughed at her banter. “Are you ready to order, or do you need a few more minutes?”
Mike looked at his wife. He never needed time to decide what he was having for breakfast. He ordered the exact same thing every time they went out. Anna flipped her menu closed, handing it to the waitress. “I’ll take an order of biscuits and gravy please.”
After writing down her order, the waitress looked at Mike. “I need to place two orders. First order: Western omelet with hash browns and rye toast, lightly buttered.” He paused to allow for her to write it down. “Karen, may I call you that?” Mike pointed to her nametag hanging crooked at the top of her shirt. She nodded. “Karen, I’m looking for information. I need to find out the history of the cottage I’m staying at. Do you know where I should go for that?” He pulled out the diary from his jacket pocket, placing it on the table with his hand on top.
“I’m really not a good person to ask for information. But if I had to guess, you could start at the library. It’s across the street from the school on Bancroft.” She pointed her pen out the window before leaving to place their order.
“I don’t mean to sound rude. Did I hear you say you’re looking for information?” A portly man with grey hair and jean overalls waved from the booth in front of Mike. “The name’s Randy. Randy Mills. I am the retired postmaster of Clover. Maybe I can help.” The man’s companion propped up his legs on the seat, turning to join the conversation.
Anna rolled her eyes. She pulled her cell phone out of her purse trying to ignore the talking.
“The name is Mike Sharpe. I would be thankful for any help you could give me.” He looked down at the diary, wondering if he should spill the source of his quest.
“Very nice to meet you, Mr. Sharpe. This is Pete.” The man nodded at his friend. “The local handyman around Clover. You need anything, Pete’s your man.” He held up the paper placemat that was in front of him, pointing at the advertisement in the bottom right corner. “Ole Mr. Handyman himself.” Randy chuckled. “We aren’t used to seeing people around here until the snow starts coming down. Skiing season. Where are you folks from and what brings you to the small town of Clover?”
Mike opened his mouth to answer when Anna’s voice interrupted. “We’re from California in town for some R and R while my husband writes a book.”
“A book?” Pete craned his neck to look at the author. “Are you the Mike Sharpe, creator of the movie Bitterlines? My son’s room was filled with those movie posters when he was growing up.”
“That’s me. Except for I wrote the novel the movie was based off. I had little to nothing to do with the movie.”
“Well, I’ll be. Who knew that Clover would ever have a celebrity visiting it.” Randy looked around the room.
“I’m trying to stay low key, so I can finish my manuscript. But I’m a little distracted now. I found this diary in the barn at the cottage, and just wanted to return it to the family it belongs to. There’s a lot of personal family history in here.”
“You read someone’s diary?” Pete looked at Mike with wide eyes.
“I didn’t mean too. Just looking for inspiration for my story.” Mike looked down at the brown book. “Honestly, there are clues in here of a possible murder.” Anna looked up at her husband. Her face was red. He knew better than to tell her about this piece of information until he absolutely had to, otherwise, she wouldn’t have gone along with helping him.
“A murder in Clover.” Randy laughed loudly. “There is no way. I’m sure murder is commonplace in Hollywood, but not here. We would all know if there were a murder. Where did you say your cabin was?
“We are staying at the 1850’s red farmhouse on Kettle Road. My agent booked it through Get Away Cabins.”
“That’s the old Olson farmstead. I’m not sure if any relatives still live in the area so you can give them back the diary.” Randy lifted his arms as Karen placed his big plate of breakfast in front of them. “The library might help you find them though.”
Mike woke up the next morning with the diary still in his hand. His wife was leaning in front of him with her hand on his arm, holding his travel cup full of hot coffee. Her eyes looked tired as Mike sat up realizing he slept in the barn last night. He barely remembered the trip outside to get another stack of firewood for the woodstove and to retrieve a blanket for his lap and a cup of his favorite hot liquid to help him get through reading his treasure.
“Honey, are you alright?” Anna put the cup down on the coffee table and pulled the blanket up over his arms. “I was so worried when I woke up this morning and you hadn’t made it to bed yet.” She sat on the edge of the sofa. Her eyes wandered over to the spot of the accident the night before. “Are you sure you’re ok?”
Mike rubbed his arm as he followed his wife’s gaze to the damage on the wall. “I’ll call Tony, he will send someone over to get that fixed.” He turned to face his wife. “Sweetie, the most amazing thing happened to me last night.” He held up the diary before sitting it in her lap.
“You bumped your head?” She smiled before looking down at the beat-up book. She opened the cover, briefly flipping through the hand-written pages. Mike’s hand closed onto Anna’s.
He stood, pacing and running his hand through his matted hair. “We need to go to town today. I can’t believe I’m saying this. But I must figure out how to get that diary back to the owner.” He leaned over to open the door of the wood-burning stove.
“It’s just a diary, love. What’s the big deal? If the owner wanted it, they certainly wouldn’t have boarded it up in an old barn.” She gave him a questioning look. Turning her head down, she flipped to the front cover looking for a name.
“You don’t understand. I need to find out what happened next. What happened to her? Did she go through it?” Mike returned to his seat on the couch next to his wife, sitting on the edge. “I can’t rest until I find out.”
“She was in love with a man and having his baby, but her father wouldn’t allow the marriage. He arranged for her to go live with his brother until she gave birth. The baby was to be put up for adoption.” His sad eyes feel to the ground. “She really loved him, the same way I love you. I couldn’t imagine if someone did everything they could to keep us apart.”
Anna continued to flip through the book then looked up at her husband. She married him because of his passion. Who was she to stand in his way this time? “Alright, let’s go back to the house to get ready. I’ve been wanting to go to the diner for breakfast anyway.”
Mike jumped up from the couch, leaning over to kiss his wife on the cheek. “You won’t regret this.”