Foreword by Poetria1839: this is a longer story than the ones I have been publishing. Constructive feedback is welcome.
A full moon floats through the star filled sky. Beneath the heavenly body a small cabin sits next to a large lake. Small waves ripple across the surface of the lake as silver lines. Evergreen trees seem to have a blue glow. A gravel path stretches from the cabin door to the wood pier extending over the lake.
Without warning, the cabin’s door flies open.
A woman with gray hair storms from the doorway and into the cold night air. Seconds later a man rushes out of the door after her.
“Penny!” He calls after her.
His own brown hair appears charcoal in the moonlight.
“Penny! Please! Stop!”
The woman stops at the end of the wood pier. She crosses her arms across. A light breeze ruffles her shawl and loose fitting pants. The man joins Penny at the edge of the pier. Neither speak for a moment. The sound of night insects and the gentle rustle of tree leaves fill the night air.
“I know you’re hurting, Penny.” He says quietly. “Don’t shut me out.”
She turns to him, “I’m sorry. But I can’t let her go. Not without knowing the reason why she died. I owe it to her.”
“I know.” He replies quietly, “But going after the mayor isn’t going to be a help.”
Penny takes a deep breath, “I know I know. I lost my temper.”
“Come on.” He says, “Let’s go back inside.”
Penny allows him to guide her away from the lake. As they make their way from the lake, the woman glances over her shoulder. The water slaps against the sandy shore peacefully. Penny’s heart aches at the sight.
“You’ll have to let her go.”
“Not until I get answers. I promised her. I’m sorry, Joseph. I can’t just give it up without getting any answers.”
“I know. Just let me keep you from going over the edge.”
They walk past the cabin and reach a small red car. She gives the lake one last look before getting into the shotgun sheet. He sighs. He notices a pair of teens sitting around a fire pit. For a moment, they look as if they are watching them.
He shakes his head and gets into the car.
Joseph yawns as he leaves a small breakroom. He pauses and takes a sip of his morning coffee. Before him are rows upon rows of shelves. They are two feet deep and ten feet tall. Each row has a ladder and a row of lights above it. A woman appears from around the corner.
“Morning Mary. Fresh coffee in there.” He jerks a thumb towards the break room. “Hot and strong.”
“Thanks. There is a young man out front who needs some help.”
“Oh?” He frowns, “By young man do you mean like twenty or someone younger.”
“High school, if I had to guess.”
“Strange. Why would a high school student be here during summer.”
“I don’t know but he asked for information on the lake.”
“Usually that is your expertise but I wasn’t sure if you wanted to since..”
“Thank you Mary. I appreciate the thoughtfulness but I have to get on with it. This is my job and I need to be able to do it.”
Joseph quickly leaves his co worker behind. It doesn’t take him long to reach the front countertop. A young teen with dark features studies a brochure. Behind him a teen girl wanders around the tables and shelves.
“Hello! Welcome to the Thompson Town Archive Office. My name is Joseph. How may I help you today?”
“Hi Joseph. I’m Talon. That’s Ash. We’re looking for information on Stone Circle Lake.”
“What kind of information are you looking for?”
“Historical. Things that happened to the lake in the last, ten years?”
“I’m not sure if you’ll be able to read back that far. We close in two hours. Either you need to limit your search or pike a specific topic. Or both.”
“Maybe we should both.” Ash says, “We could focus on government involvement in relation to the lake.”
Talon frowns as he mulls it over, “Sounds like a good idea.” He turns back to Joseph, “If we can get the historical data for government activities for the last… three years?”
Joseph feels his throat constrict at the request. He muscles his way past the emotion and focuses on helping the teenager.
“If you wait here, I will get the documents.”
Joseph takes a deep breath as he goes to the proper row. He pulls the documents and stacks them neatly on a cart. He piles a dozen or so folders about the preservation of the forest and lake area. He pauses at the criminal documents.
With a shake of his head, he adds the documents to the pile.
The tired man wheels it out.
The two teens approach eagerly. Joseph notices that they are dressed similarly and unlike any other teens he has seen before. Where other kids their age would wear jeans and a t-shirt, they wear loose fitting slacks and tunics. Both sport leather bags as well.
“Thank you, sir.” Talon says, “We appreciate it.”
“Not at all. Is there any reason why you are looking up historical information? I doubt it is a class assignment since it is summer. Unless you are in summer school?”
They glance at each other for a moment.
“We have a personal interest.” She says, “Just something we want to know.”
“I see. If you need any more help, please let me know.”
“We will. Thank you.”
Joseph returns to his work behind the countertop. He glances over at the two kids. The man notices that they are splitting the documents into two piles. Historic and legal documents are placed into one pile. The other is placed into a second pile.
“Joseph– you got a phone call.”
He turns away just as the door chimes.
Penny pushes the door open to the office. The woman holds a lunch bag in her hands. She notices two teens are sitting in a corner. The boy glances up at her for a moment but then returns his attention to the files open before him.
For a moment she doesn’t see two teens but one.
A laughing girl with blonde hair. A big smile covers her face. She can hear her laughter echoing distantly in her mind.
“Penny. You’re early.”
The vision disappears and two teens pour over documents. She turns her attention to Joseph. He offers a warm smile as he embraces her.
“How are you doing?”
“Alright. Just reorganizing history– again.”
“What are you doing in town?”
“Just wanted to say hello and bring you your lunch.”
Joseph narrows his eyes. She tries to hold his gaze but after a few moments, her gaze wavers then breaks. Penny’s shoulders slump in response.
“You’re going to ask questions again. Aren’t you?”
“Can you blame me?”
“No, but you do need to be careful. The mayor is unhappy with you right now.”
“I know but I can’t help feel that she is involved. Somehow.”
“Security cameras have her car at the lake. Her clothes were ruined by mud. And the only place where mud existed was at the lake. She also was seen driving towards the lake.”
“Maybe so.” Joseph says, “But you have to confirm what you are proposing. You can’t just go accusing her. She lives near the lake herself. And she went to the health store, which goes by this part of the lake. You don’t have any proof.”
“Right. But I don’t know what else to do to find the proof.”
“Maybe put it behind you?” Joseph says carefully.
Penny pulls back from the touch.
“I am sorry.”
“Why are you so eager to go leave her behind.”
“Because it is not healthy to keep holding on.”
Penny spins and leaves the room behind. Her back is stiff and anger smolders in her eyes. Joseph groans inwardly.
“Joseph? Was that Penny?”
“I opened my big mouth.” He sighs and looks up at the ceiling, “I wish I had kept my mouth shut. Seems like I am making things more difficult.”
“Listen, little brother, you have to give her time and rest. You can only do the best that you can do. Just keep being there for her.”
“Right.” He takes a deep breath and changes his focus, “You came out here for a reason? What was it?”
“The Mayor wants to talk to you.”
He groans, “Of course Hannah wants to talk. She always had something to say since high school. Did she say about what?”
“Alright, I’ll call her then.”
He turns away and follows Mary back into the archive shelves. Unbeknownst to any of the adults, the two teens have listened to every word exchanged between them.
As the adults disappear, the teens stop in their work. For a moment they watch to see if anyone else is around.
“Talon.” She says quietly, “You were right. There is something else at work.”
He nods his head.
“How do you want to proceed?”
“Carefully. Very carefully.” Talon says as he scratches his jaw thoughtfully, “But we are missing something.”
The young girl pulls out a slip of paper. Four names are written down in thin, flowing handwriting: Hannah Johnson, Kyle Pan, Ann Leeland, and Joseph Leeland. For a moment the two teens stare at the name. Ash glances over. She is taken back at the anger in his eyes.
“And we will find out what happened.”
To Be Continued