Monday, August 6, 2012
A Mysterious Find
Sarah Lane, assistant librarian for Camden Corners Library was engrossed in the latest novel by her all time favorite author, J.K. Ellingsworth when she suddenly had the feeling someone was standing in front of her. Startled, she dropped the book and looked up into the most beautiful green eyes she had ever seen. Maxwell Harcourt smiled at the pretty young woman who happened to be reading his latest novel. Max was a tall muscular guy who didn't fit the mold of a romance writer although he never thought of his novels as romantic. It just made them a bit more interesting if there was a love affair going on while his hero was solving the latest murder or catching criminals. His agent told him with his good looks, he would sell even more of his works if he agreed to a book tour. Max enjoyed escaping with his pen and paper and letting his imagination spill out onto the pages. He had written 25 novels and no one except his trusted agent knew who J.K. Ellingsworth was. Max wanted to keep it that way.
He had just arrived in Camden Corners, rented a room in the Wharton House and set out immediately for the library to check out a reference book or two hoping inspiration would come for another novel.
Sarah composed herself and offered her assistance to this stranger with the green eyes. She was just reading about Gilmartin Trent and his latest escapade when she looked up and saw her hero standing before her. Of course he wasn't this fictional character but she was certain Gil would look just like this stranger. Sarah was pleased to learn Mr. Harcourt would be living in Camden Corners. There were a number of good looking men in town but most of them were already taken. She was happy to present him with a library card and guide him to the reference section. Sarah went back to her book but found it hard to concentrate while keeping one eye toward the back section of the library.
Max was contemplating his next novel. He had envisioned a village much like Camden Corners. A calm peaceful town where people knew and liked each other. A town where crime usually consisted of a young lad swiping a piece of taffy from the candy shop on Main, or a smitten teenager stealing a kiss behind the cottonwood tree in the park. Camden Corners would be the perfect location for a perfect crime.
Max spent the next two hours scanning books of history written about Camden Corners. One book had been placed behind other reference books on the uppermost shelf in the corner of the aisle. Max's arms were long enough to reach the large book and noticed it was covered with dust. It must have been hidden in this corner for a very long time. That being the case, Max was curious as to what was hidden and by whom. As he was leafing through the pages, he came upon an article that had been cut out of a newspaper and folded over several times.
The headline read: “MYSTERY IN CAMDEN CORNERS. Aug. 11, 1801 – Long time residents of Camden Corners, Simon and Hannah Lane and Simon's brother, Caleb have disappeared from their home in the Camden Creek area. Friends and neighbors report the family had become reclusive the last few months. Simon and Hannah welcomed twin boys in early spring of last year. Friends calling on the Lanes claim a female caretaker was tending Mrs. Lane as she had contracted an undisclosed illness. Sheriff Martin from nearby Greensboro was summoned to investigate the property and found it to be vacated. Friends and neighbors are suspicious and fear for the safety of the family.
Another article dated two days later reported three bodies had been discovered and quoted Sheriff Martin saying the deaths were accidental and he was doubtful foul play is involved and has closed the case.
Max glanced over towards Sarah. He remembered that her name plate said Sarah Lane.
“I wonder if she knows anything about this mystery and why the articles had been stashed in the book.”
Max noted the time and realized the library had officially closed 15 minutes earlier. He apologized to Sarah for keeping her and checked out the reference book with the article inside.
“Would it be too presumptuous of me to ask you to join me for supper this evening” he asked an enamored Sarah.
“I would like that very much” replied Sarah.
The couple left the library after Sarah turned out the lights and locked the door. They stopped by Sarah's house. Sarah wanted to pick up her wrap as the air was turning cooler. Sarah introduced Max to her parents, Marian and Andrew Lane and her two little brothers who were playing a game of catch on the front lawn.
Marian could tell her daughter was taken with this handsome young man and worried about her. He seemed a bit too worldly for her sheltered daughter who lived in a fantasy world with her romance novels. Andrew, on the other hand was happy to see Sarah with a flesh and blood man for a change instead of having her nose buried in a book.
On the way to O'Sullivan's Pub, Sarah told him story after story of the little shops and the people who owned them. He was interested in the citizens of Camden Corners but wanted to learn more about the Lane family and if they had ever returned to Camden Corners.
By the time the corned beef and cabbage arrived at their table, Sarah and Max both felt they had known each other all their lives.
He asked about her family and how long the Lanes had been in Camden Corners. She told him her Dad was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. He had come to Camden Corners right after graduation from normal school and had been teaching at Camden High School ever since. Her mother had lived here all her life. Max wondered aloud what brought Andrew to Camden Corners and Sarah answered that he had relatives who had lived here.
“His great grandfather, Simon and his great great uncle, Caleb were members of the community. It seems, Simon was shot and killed protecting his brother from hoodlums who were passing through town. Caleb set out to capture the thugs and bring them to justice but was killed himself when he was trampled by a horse attempting to save a young lady from the raging waters of the Patapsco River. Simon's widow was so distraught over her husband's death, she died of a broken heart two months later leaving her toddler twin sons alone in the world. The twins were raised in an orphanage. One of those boys was my great grandfather Charles Lane.”
“What a fascinating tale” thought Max. “I certainly can't ask Sarah about the articles now.”
All too soon the evening ended. Max walked Sarah to her front door. He may have tried to kiss her cheek but Marian was standing in the doorway. Max thought he may have seen a rolling pin hidden behind her back. He hoped it was only his imagination. That night, Sarah fell asleep dreaming of her own happy ending with her very own Gilmartin Trent.
Max was enjoying a tasty breakfast served by Mrs. Wharton at the boarding house. He was the first tenant to arrive at the dining table. While Mrs. Wharton was serving him his eggs and bacon he nonchalantly mentioned the Lane Brothers.
Mrs. Wharton suddenly became very quiet.
Finally, she whispered “There is something very strange about that affair. Everyone has been led to believe that those brothers were the salt of the earth but when I was just a young lass, I heard my daddy and his friends talking about the murder. There was a newspaper article that told the story of the disappearance of the entire family, but it hasn't been found in over 70 years. Someone has tried to cover up something strange all these years. My daddy said Caleb Lane picked up a floozy named Sylvia from the pub, married her and took her back to his cabin. From that day on, sweet Miss Hannah had not been seen again. From what I have heard, Miss Sylvia was not a one man woman, if you know what I mean.”
Mrs. Wharton paused to catch her breath and then went on. “You didn't hear that from me. I'm not one to speak ill of the dead, but there is something very strange about that whole thing. Why do you ask, Maxwell?”
“Oh, no reason, I just came upon the Lane name in one of the reference books at the library. I also spent a delightful evening with Miss Sarah Lane.”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Max knew the very talkative Mrs. Wharton would be sharing this tidbit of information with the whole town.
Max had an appointment with Robert Crowley. He needed an attorney in Camden Corners if he was planing to stay here very long. His agent had recommended Mr. Crowley to handle his business affairs. Max wanted to keep his alter ego, J. K. Ellingsworth under wraps for the time being. Max was impressed with Robert and felt certain he would be trustworthy.
Max had carried the newspaper clippings with him in his brief case and asked Robert what he thought of it. He mentioned speaking to Mrs. Wharton and what she said about the missing articles. Robert thought it was very interesting. He had heard conflicting stories about the incident through the years but the man to speak with would be his dad, Oscar Crowley.