The temperature was in the high sixties by lunchtime, so I decided to go for a walk. Marcus was out of town taking a course on crisis negotiation. He'd left a message on my voice mail and when I called him back I'd had to settle for doing the same.
I walked down along the Riverwalk as far as the hotel before turning back. I knew that a month from now the wind would be coming in off the water and pulling at the tree branches, so I was glad to take advantage of the out-of-season warmth while it was here.
I had just turned the corner toward the library when a man stopped me on the sidewalk. He looked to be in his late sixties or early seventies; a tourist, I was guessing, since his face didn't look familiar. "Excuse me," he said with a polite smile. "Could you tell me if I'm headed in the right direction for the library?"
"Yes, you are," I said. "I'm headed there myself. I can show you."
The man smiled. "Thank you," he said. He offered his hand. "I'm Victor Janes."
Victor Janes was maybe five foot nine, with salt-and-pepper hair. He was on the thin side, I noticed, and there were dark circles under his eyes, but his handshake was strong.
"I'm Kathleen Paulson," I said. "Are you related to Simon Janes?"
"Simon is my nephew," he said. "His father and I are brothers." We started walking. "Is Simon a friend of yours?"
Were Simon and I friends? I wasn't sure how to answer that. We'd met at a fundraiser for the library's Reading Buddies program. At the time his daughter, Mia, had been our student intern. Simon and I had gotten to know each other better over the past few weeks, working together to try to figure out if a proposed development out at Long Lake had had anything to do with the death of an environmentalist. Did that make us friends?
I settled for saying, "Mia works for me." I gestured at the library building. "I'm actually the librarian here."
"It's been a long time since I've been in the library," Victor said. "And I wasn't what you'd call the studious type back in the day." He smiled and looked up at the roof and the copper-topped cupola. "That can't be the original weather vane?"
"It is," I said. "It had a bit of a cant to one side, but we managed to get it straightened out. Rumor has it that happened one year at Homecoming, when a surprisingly lifelike effigy of the high school principal ended up on the roof."
"It was tied to the weather vane and it was a lot heavier than it looked." He shifted his gaze to my face. I was having a hard time keeping a grin in check. Victor Janes cleared his throat. "Or so I heard."
"I'm sure it was," I said.
I led him down the sidewalk to the main entrance. Inside he stopped and looked around, taking in everything from the wide plaster medallion on the ceiling over the circulation desk to the sun coming through the stained-glass window. "I heard the building had been restored, but I didn't expect anything like this," he said. "Very nice."
"Thank you," I said. I looked in the direction of the stacks. "Is there anything I can help you find?"
"Could you tell me where I could find whatever you have on vegan cooking?"
"The subject in general or cookbooks?"
"The subject in general," he said. "I've been following a vegan diet throughout some . . . health issues, but I left my books at home."
I wondered if those health issues were why he seemed a little gaunt and pale. "They would be in the 613s." I pointed across the room. "Go down to the end of those shelves and turn right."
Victor smiled. "Thank you," he said. "It's been a pleasure to meet you. I'm sure I'll see you again."
"If you need any help please let one of us know," I said. He headed for the stacks and I turned and walked over to the front desk. Mary was there, staring unabashedly after Victor Janes.
She shook her head. "Lord love a duck, it can't be," she said, more to herself than to me, it seemed.
"Can't be what?" I asked.
"That can't be who I think it is." She was still staring after Victor, who had disappeared "I didn't really think he'd come."
"It's Simon's uncle."
She turned her attention to me then. "I know that. You might want to go get a fire extinguisher."
I frowned at her. "What on earth are you talking about?"
"If Victor Janes is back in town there's a good chance we're going to be struck by lightning."
© Sofie Kelly