Tuesday, August 7, 2012
A Secret Revealed
A Secret Revealed
Oscar Crowley liked to drop by the Crowley Law Office every day. He had total confidence in his sons, Robert and Richard to keep things going in the practice he began years before, but he missed being part of the action. He was as spry as anyone 30 years younger than he was and Miss Nettie Dawson might have been partly responsible for that.
Robert knew this mystery would delight his father and asked him to step into his office. Robert introduced the two men and showed Oscar the newspaper article Max had discovered in a book in the library. Oscar was amazed that it had been found and that it was so obviously hidden. Oscar's father was just a young boy when the Lane family vanished. Oscar remembered the adults always stopped their conversation about the incident whenever he was within earshot. He had heard enough to fear that one day he and his family might disappear in the middle of the night. To this day he liked to keep a small light burning near his bedroom door. Max thoroughly enjoyed being with the elder gentleman that morning as he told him everything he had heard about the mystery.
That afternoon Max stopped by the library. He saw Sarah in the children's section surrounded by preschoolers as she read them the story of The Ugly Duckling. Sarah was unlike any other female he had ever known. She was beautiful inside and out. Maybe he should drop the subject of the Lane brothers, after all it happened so long ago. He knew he wouldn't be able to do that. His instincts for a good story were too much a part of him. Sarah looked up from her book and grinned from ear to ear. She was very happy to see Mr. Maxwell Harcourt. She led the children back to their waiting mothers and nannies and greeted Max with a warm handshake.
It was almost lunchtime. Marian had packed Sarah a lunch that morning and as Sarah guessed, it was much more than she could eat alone. She asked if Max would like to share it with her out on the lawn where she liked to spread her blanket and watch people walk by. Today though, she wouldn't be alone as he readily agreed to join her. She picked up her lunch bucket and set aside her J. K. Ellingsworth novel. Max asked if she was enjoying the book.
“Oh yes, J. K. Ellingsworth is my favorite author and as much of a mystery as the novels he or she writes.”
“He or She?” Max exclaimed just a little too loudly.
“I think J.K. is a man although he is very good about bringing romance into each story. Everyone else in my book club thinks she is a woman. Not that J.K. couldn't be a woman's name. Did you know that Louisa May Alcott wrote as A. M. Barnard enabling her to write darker and racier themes so that she could gain the financial freedom to write the way she really wanted in her later years? And do you know the name Mary Ann Evans? Most people know her by her pen name, George Eliot.”
Max wondered if maybe he should have chosen a different pseudonym for himself. Ellingsworth was the name of his first grade teacher and J and K were two letters in the alphabet that had no special meaning except they happened to be side by side on his typewriter. It never occurred to him that anyone would think he was a woman. Maybe he was laying the romance on a little thick. He knew nothing about romance. He had never been in love and never found anyone he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Not until now that is.
Sarah began extolling the virtues of Gilmartin Trent. The way she talked, old Gil was a real person. To Max he was a real person too but for crying out loud, he was a figment of his imagination not Sarah's. He couldn't believe he was thinking this way. Of course he wanted his character to seem real. That's what sold his books. Could he be jealous of this imaginary character? Max was feeling uncomfortable and finally, Sarah changed the subject. She wondered what brought Max to town. He told her he was doing some research on small towns in the area. He avoided telling her it was for his next novel.
Sarah and Max were enjoying relaxing under the big elm tree when Mrs. Wharton came scurrying across the lawn.
“Mr. Harcourt” she shouted. “Someone left this letter for you attached to your outside door. It is my duty as landlady to insure the safety of my tenants which meant I was forced to read the letter. It is a warning for you to leave town or harm will come to you. Mr. Harcourt, I must ask you to vacate your room immediately.”
“Now Mrs. Wharton, calm down. I'm sure there is a logical explanation for this letter. Let me read it please.”
The letter was exactly as Mrs. Wharton had stated but it gave Max some time to think what he would say to Sarah who was standing next to him with a very concerned look on her face.
“I understand your concern Mrs. Wharton, I am sure this is nothing but a prank but I will clear my belongings out of the room in your house.”
Mrs. Wharton was relieved but Sarah had even more questions about this handsome stranger. Max decided it was time to reveal his identity to Sarah. He asked Sarah if he could meet with her when she finished her duties at the library. He had things to discuss with her and he didn't want to be interrupted. Sarah knew Max was a man of mystery and couldn't help comparing him with her fictional hero, Delmartin Trent. Could it be that Maxwell Harcourt was really J.K. Ellingsworth? Sarah thought that was impossible and discounted the possibility immediately, but she was wondering who her new friend really was.
Andrew Lane had heard folks buzzing about the stranger in town and the fact that he had been questioning people about the Lane family of years ago. Andrew didn't have anything to hide but he had made a promise to his grandfather that he would find out all he could about the Lane brothers and the woman who seemed to be so important in their lives. Andrew was happy being a history teacher in the local high school and was a content family man. He had never had the time or the desire to investigate the mysterious disappearance of his ancestors. Maybe it was time he paid a visit to J.K. Ellingsworth. Andrew had discovered several years ago that his favorite mystery author wrote under the pen name of J. K. Ellingsworth. As was typical of Andrew, he never did see any reason to reveal to anyone Mr. Harcourt's true identity. He had heard Mrs. Wharton's tale of finding a threatening note on Max' door that morning. Andrew decided it was time to confront Mr. Harcourt. He was beginning to worry that his beloved daughter might be falling for Max. He honestly didn't think that was such a bad idea but he did need to find out for himself whether Max was a charlatan or just an interested writer who was as smitten with his daughter as she was with him. Andrew arranged for Mrs. Green to oversee his classes for the remainder of the afternoon and set out to meet with Max.
Max wasn't totally surprised to see Andrew turning the corner and heading toward the park. The two men greeted each other cordially. Andrew confessed he knew about J.K. Ellingsworth. Max explained that he had submitted dozens of manuscripts under his own name before he became J.K. Ellingsworth. He decided since Maxwell Harcourt had worn out his welcome with every publishing company he would try another name and it worked. Andrew questioned Max about his interest in the Lane disappearances of long ago. Max explained finding the newspaper article hidden in the reference book. As a writer, he couldn't let the matter go without investigating. He did promise Andrew that he would do nothing to embarrass the Lane family and had already decided he was not going to make it the basis of his next novel. Andrew let Max know about his promise to his grandfather. He thought maybe now was the time to make good on that promise. They both went to see Oscar Crowley and let him know that Andrew's grandfather had asked him to find out what happened to his family and that Charles Lane had been left on the doorstep of an orphanage. Max left the law office to meet Sarah as she would be closing the library shortly. Andrew and Oscar were still deep in conversation.
Sarah was just walking down the steps of the library when she spotted Max walking toward her. Her heart skipped a beat as he took her hand. Although there was a chill in the night air, the couple found a bench by the lake where they didn't think they would be disturbed. Max explained that he didn't mean to deceive Sarah but he was the author, J.K. Ellingsworth. Sarah's heart skipped another beat. She was silently fearing she would call Max by her hero's name Delmartin. Max thought maybe he had lost any chance with Sarah because of his dishonesty.
Sarah then turned to him and exclaimed “I can't wait to tell my book club friends that J.K. really is a man.”
Max filled Sarah in on all that was known about the Lane brothers. She remembered when she was young, she and her friends would go into the woods behind the Camden Hill Ski Lodge looking for the Lane cabins. Although the days were getting shorter, the couple thought they would have about an hour to explore the location before the sun set for the day. They borrowed Andrew's horse and buggy and were off into the woods to see what they could find.
Sarah could feel the excitement building inside her. She felt she was off to solve a mystery with her favorite fictional character, a living, breathing Delmartin Trent. It was a much shorter ride to the old cabins than Sarah recalled. Both cabins were barely standing. They walked to the first cabin, it was rather small with a fairly large area combining a cooking, eating and sitting area. Beyond was a room with a large bed and chest of drawers. The bed was covered in a handmade quilt that, although covered in dust, looked lovely on the hand carved bed. There were two very tiny beds in the corner of the room. Max wondered why after all these years, someone hadn't torn down the cabins or at least taken the furniture out of them. In spite of the dust and cobwebs, it appeared to be in the same condition as the former occupants left it so long ago. Max carefully examined every piece of furniture in the cabin. He discovered a journal secured to the underside of the chest in the bedroom. Carefully, he removed the journal from its hiding place. At the same time, Sarah was examining the quilt. There was a small tear on the left edge of the it and Sarah could tell something was inside.
She carefully felt around with her fingers and pulled out a piece of paper in shaky handwriting, it said “Something is happening to me. I am afraid Sylvia has been poisoning me with one of her potions. Simon will not believe me. I fear for my boys. With all the strength I have left in me, I have buried the treasure in the hollow of the old evergreen tree at the edge of the woods. I want my precious little boys, Charles and Seth to have the treasure. Please tell them how much their mother loves them.”
It was signed Hannah Lane.