Copyright 2017 Evelyn Zinn. All rights reserved.
The worst part about coming into work on a Thursday was that it was always Maxine on duty. This shrill spinster always had to have some kind of sound on. Some days it was thankfully 80’s, other days it was miserable news stations peddling a new outrage for their addicts. We started our blasted days at 4:30 in the forsaken butt crack of dawn. Noise, was the last thing my brain needed. The best thing was she always had the best coffee ready for me. Some days that woman would meet me at the door and wouldn’t let me finish coming inside until I had drank half the cup. Today, she even included dark chocolate milk in it.
That was my first clue that something was up.
I dug into my tasks quickly as for all I knew she was telling me it had been a bad morning and didn’t want to deal with anyone or anything. I didn’t speak for at least three hours. I think I even managed to super clean everything. At 8 AM sharp, we were ready to open and open we did to a line of folks. Many of whom I knew well enough to know I was better off staying at the fabric cutting table and not moving unless summoned.
Rosscoe always came in at 11:15 am sharp. Today she was five minutes early. Dear Diary… what the actual fuck?
She immediately hoped onto the second table and started cutting fabric.
“Please tell me it doesn’t look like Marcus is going to call out. We’re going to need someone on the shelves stocking asap. We’re almost out of black, red and orange anything.”
I shrugged as I finished measuring the last of a bolt of fabric. It was a lovely fall pattern on a dark grey background.
As I handed it off to Lady Oak, one of the oldest members of our local community, she leaned in as she took and winked at me.
“Think these young whippers snappers will ever learn the value of prints?”
I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear as she chuckled and headed to the register where Maxine was busy.
Lunch time was always 1 pm. Today it seemed like it was never going to happen. We always closed the store for an hour for lunch.
After getting caught up, we all met in the backroom.
“Did it become October and I missed it somehow because of a coma?” I asked.
“I see you haven’t heard.”
I raised an eyebrow while beginning to inhale a sandwich.
“Apparently, there are no sounds coming from the spirit world right now.”
Maxine didn’t pause but glanced in my direction not so subtly.
“WHA?!” I said with a mouthful.
“You’re the one that liked poking into that world,” Rosscoe teased in her baritone voice.
“Used to. Key words.”
Maxine just frowned and didn’t say anything. I don’t think Marcus or Rosscoe noticed her silence but let me tell you I sure did. Maxine is one of the most opinionated women in town. She’s the lady you’d expect to leading the local gossip… I mean uh… stitch and bitch and quilting group at the library on Mondays. Not a word. She just keep looking into her tea and thoughtfully running her thumb on the lip and handle.
Seven pm didn’t come soon enough. We sold a lot from the store today but sales like this usually only happened on Sabbats, Esbats, rare astronomical events and “OMG get this surplus out of our broom closest” sales. For a “New Age” store, we did a lot of crafting business. No not that kind of crafting, the other kind. We had the biggest selection of fabrics and threads be they yarn or sewing thread, in our county. So even though we had the “Spooky Room” most folks didn’t care because the “spooky” stuff was out of sight.
Thursdays were my long day. I opened and I closed. Days like today… took a good hour just to sweep the store. Then there was the whole putting bolts over two yards back on the shelf and then tagging anything under two yards and putting it into the color sorted bins. Maxine helped me.
Dear Diary…. Okay this went from weird to terrifying.
I finally stopped once we got through the cottons and had only the silks and satin’s left.
“Okay…. what is it?” I asked, my hands on my hips.
Maxine pulled herself onto the table and clasped her hands.
“Do you remember the puzzle I gave you when you were but a small child?”
Ah. I finally knew where she was going. I didn’t feel good about it but I was no longer terrified.
“Yeah. I finished when I was ten.”
Maxine looked at me startled.
“You’ve had that finished for the past seventeen years?”
I only nodded.
“You followed the clues didn’t you?”
“I finished making my map and lining up the landmarks. Yes, last night was the last night I followed the map on.”
Maxine gripped the table with both hands and leaned forward.
“I have good news and bad news.”
She turned white. I knew there was no gentle way of saying what I needed to so I just rushed into it like the idiot I can be at times.
“I found the chest. However, someone else had beaten me to it. It looked as though it had only been found that day but the chest was so badly rotted that the entire clasp was just wretched from it. The lock still intact. Now I need you to confirm something for me. The number of pieces of that puzzles were the number of journals I should have found right?”
“There was only one missing.”
Maxine looked at me perplexed.
“Are… you serious?” she asked me.
“Yes. I imagine it was the more ornate or most intact one of them all. It wasn’t the one that whoever it was should have taken. I think that one was the cookbook,” I said with a half laugh.
“Claudette… are you sure?”
“Yes my Crone.”
“Tried to disintegrate on me. I called a minion. I have it safe and everything in it is safe.”
“Then why is everything quiet?”
I thought for a moment.