The six of them stood outside next to the gardens as Winston finally got his smoke break. For a few minutes, they stood in silence, listening to the sounds of the small creek running through the yard, talking about mysteries as it gently ran over the smooth rocks. Somewhere, church bells sang the time in twelve long chimes.
“Well, it has been an interesting night,” Winston said as he drew in a long breath of his second cigarette. “A missing book containing the secrets of our past and the foretelling of the future. A book, if not found, could mean the end of a family legacy. No pressure.” He chuckled.
“Not exactly what I imagined when I got my invitation,” Sydney remarked as he rubbed his face with his hands. “I thought that we would all smoke cigars, debate Hemmingway, H.P. Lovecraft, and Voltaire, all while writing the next great American Novel.”
“She looked so sad.” Isabella agreed. “I just want to hug her, make her a cup of tea, and find the book.”
“Wait!” Kostova exclaimed. “Are we looking for the Book of Veiled? Is that what I am hearing? This is a thing?” Kostova was moved by the story; she felt the truth of the words to her soul. But she was a writer. She couldn’t keep track of her keys, and half the time, she lost her wallet inside her purse. She couldn’t remember how many times she had left her phone on the table at a restaurant and walked out, halfway home before she remembered, and had to turn around to go get it. Just the other day, she left her purse in a Wal-Mart bathroom, hanging on the back of the stall door, all because she remembered that she needed paper towels and was in a rush to go get them.
“I assure you, Kostova, that this is indeed ‘a thing’.” No one had heard Eidolon walk up behind them, and they all turned to look at him like kids caught smoking at a school dance. “This society was founded on the idea of preservation and continuation of the written word. Many would assume that we would sit around debating novels that have been disputed for hundreds, or even thousands, of years. However, that is not our main focus. We will help Moll find her book by doing what writers do best, research and investigation.” He looked up at the moon, slightly hidden by the night clouds, and took a deep breath of the clear air that had a hint of the thunderstorm from the night before still lingering. “Nevertheless, it has been an exhilarating night, and it is late.” He looked back at Kostova, the reflection of the moon highlighting his oddly ornate eyes. “The witching hour is quickly approaching, and I think that we should all go home and get some rest. We will meet back here tomorrow afternoon to come up with a plan.”
“Great idea!” Winston said as he put out his cigarette. “Come on, Isabella, I will walk you home, and you can offer me a nightcap.” The two of them walked off arm in arm, debating who would offer who a drink. Anne and Victor slide off silently into the darkness, whispering of missing historical texts that had never been found.
“This was as exciting as a sideshow at the circus,” Sydney said as he looked at Kostova. “Should I walk you home?”
“Thank you,” Kostova replied, strangely comfortable with the man she had met only a few hours before. “I live down the street, not far from here.” She turned to Eidolon. “Will you be alright?”
Eidolon looked startled at the question. “I assure you that I am fine. I have some work to do before tomorrow night. Go get some rest, and I will see you for dinner.” He turned to walk back into the house, pausing at the door. “Come a little earlier, Kostova; I think that there are some things that we should talk about.” And with that, he was gone, leaving Sydney and Kostova alone in the garden.
“Strange man, that one,” Sydney said as he watched the door close. “Well, let’s get you home. You led the way, and you can tell me how you ended up here tonight.”
Kostova laughed as they started toward her home, “That is a story of unfortunate events. How much time do you have?”
They strolled back to Kostova’s apartment, the usual 20-minute walking taking closer to 45 minutes as they ambled, sharing stories. Kostova told Sydney about her book and blog, about Beacon the puppy, and about her love for coffee. Sydney talked about his job on the construction site as an engineer and his recently published book.
“I wrote a murder mystery.” He said with a smile. “As a kid, I had found The Moonstone tucked back in the town’s public library. It has been a bizarre summer, with unusual rain that kept me locked inside for days. My mother was getting weary of me running amuck inside the house, so she took me to the library. I must have sauntered up and down those shelves a hundred times, angry that my option was reading and not playing outside.
It was by chance that I found the book, and it opened my eyes. There was a world that I had never entered before! War in India, a large diamond guarded by three Brahmins, a theft, a suicide, a tragic love, a double life. The book is filled with fascinating characters that all communicate the story differently. Each piece a different angle to a bigger picture…who did it? I actually believed that I was hearing them talk to me. And that was when I knew that I was going to be a writer. I was going to be Wilkie Collins. But without a cool name like Wilkie!
I would write in the middle of the night. I didn’t want to lose my cool points by sharing that I was writing in a journal with my teenage friends. It wasn’t until college that writing became a tolerable thing to do, and even then, it was with only a selected few. We would meet at the local pub, discuss ideas until 3a.m., and go home and write. It took years and so many disappointments before someone took my work seriously. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Working during the day, writing at night. I was exhausted mentally and physically, but I couldn’t stop.” He looked at Kostova with a smile. “But then finally, someone read my book. Actually, read it. And liked it. And even then, it was another year of editing, chopping, rewriting, editing again. It was published, and I spent the day celebrating by working because no one tells you that you don’t really make money doing what you love to do.” He laughed softly.
“I understand,” Kostova replied with her own tired grin. “Years of writing short stories, writing half novels, researching, blogging, posting, hoping, and begging. I feel like the ends of my fingers have shortened from the constant typing on a keyboard.” She looked up and realized that they had been standing outside her apartment for a while. “Thank you for walking me home.”
“It was my pleasure.” Sydney looked down at his watch. “I better get home and try to get some rest before our next meeting. We need to be ready to hunt down a thief and find a missing magical book that could destroy the world as we know it.”
“I don’t know if I will be able to sleep with so much pressure.” Kostova responded laughing, “I think that I am going to try to get some writing done. If I don’t put my thoughts onto paper, I will never be able to understand everything that happened tonight. Thank you again.”
As Sydney strolled down the street, Kostova turned slowly to walk back into her apartment. She felt as if the veil of the magical world that she had just spent hours discovering gradually faded away with each stair leading to her everyday life. As she walked through her front door, she felt as though the idea of being Kostova the adventurer was tucked away into a dark closet. Her normal skin of Caroline the dull, making its appearance once again.
She made herself a cup of coffee and settled down to write about what had happened. The words jumbled around in her head, swarming left and right, never settling down enough for her to have a complete sentence. She stared out the living room window, wondering how someone finds a missing secret book filled with hidden mysteries of the past and the future? What was in the book? She grabbed a pen and paper and started to make a list:
- Who killed JFK?
- What was Dark Matter? You cannot see dark matter; no one knows what it looks like. But scientist knows it exists because it interacts with matter that we can see? Seems a bit fishy.
- Is Dark Matter like calories? We can’t see calories, but we know they exist because someone wrote them on the label. How did they measure them? How do you take calories out?
- Where did Roanoke go?
- Is there really a money pit on Oak Island? Or is the only money pit the long series of television shows that you can watch on Netflix?
- Where is Amelia Earhart? Why are there conspiracy theories that the United States government gave her a new identity after she secretly returned?
- What is the Bermuda Triangle? If it is known that people go in and never come out, why do people still go in?
She woke up in the morning, sore from falling asleep at her desk and Beacon staring at her waiting to go on his morning walk. She stumbled into making her coffee and jumped into the shower, noticing the black circles under her eyes and the new wrinkles. Aging was such a noticeable process she thought. Once upon a time, she could stay up all night drinking and writing and still function the next day as if she didn’t have a care in the world. Now she suffered if she didn’t get a least 6 hours of sleep and 3 pots of coffee. Advil was her best friend, taken every morning with her multi-vitamin that promised smooth skin and luscious hair. Neither promise has been fulfilled in the last 3 months, but she still took it religiously every morning.
She wondered why Eidolon needed to talk to her before everyone else showed up. He was an intimidating figure, quietly watching everything going on around him, overseeing without joining in. Caroline did not want to admit that he intrigued her. That she got goose-bumps every time he was caught looking at her, that she saw his face in her dreams while fluttered between sleep and consciousness.
“Come on, Beacon.” She called to her dog that was already sitting by the front door with his leash. “Let’s walk this off. We will get some coffee and then head to the park.” Beacon happily barked his pleasure, and they took off into the early morning quiet of the day.
They spent a lovely half of an hour walking the town center and eventually ended up at the park after grabbing a refill of coffee. This early in the morning, only the most dedicated dog owners and runners were awake, and the silence helped to soothe Kostova’s overworking imagination. They took a break and sat by the city fountain enjoying the small rest when Kostova felt a presence next to her. It was Eidolon.
“Good morning.” He said, looking as though he had a whole night’s sleep and was well-rested, not a sign of wrinkles or bags under his eyes. Aging was so cruel to middle age ladies. She sat up straighter and tried to relax her face into a welcoming smile, which she was sure resembled her having a mini-stroke. He sat next to Kostova and petted the sleeping Beacon. “Seems like he is ready for his mid-morning nap. And you look like you could use some sleep.”
“Yes, well…I was up researching last night and fell asleep at the desk. Doesn’t make for the most restful nights rest.” Kostova rubbed her aching neck. “What are you doing here?”
“I have a coffee shop that I like to visit early in the morning, not far from here, most wonderful pastries. I took a long way back home after engulfing too many of the morning delights, and I happened to see you sitting here. I hope I am not disturbing your morning ritual.”
“No.” Kostova laughed. “Most of the time, I just sit here watching Beacon nap. It is nice to have company.”
“I love this time of the day when the world is still sleepily trying to shake off the dreams of the night.” He said while stretching his long legs out in front of him. “It seems to me that this is the moment where the day decides what the next 12 hours are going to hold. Will it be a good day? Will it be a normal day full of normal things? Will it end in some type of tragedy? It is all a gamble at this point.”
“I like to think this is the moment where I decided what my day is going to be.” Caroline responded.
“Take life by the horns! ‘Our destiny is not written for us; it’s written by us’ kind of women you are?
“That is actually really good! What book did you get that from?” Caroline asked while playing with her coffee lid.
“No book. I heard Barrack Obama say it once, and I thought it was kind of good.”
Caroline laughed. “No, I am more of a ‘My life is just a series of awkward and humiliating moments separated by coffee’ kind of girl.” Caroline looked at Eidolon laughing. “No, seriously, two nights ago, I accidentally punched myself in the face while trying to pull my blanket up. If that doesn’t describe where my life is right now- I don’t know what would.”
“It seems to me that you have things figured out. You are a published writer, an up-and-coming career, and you have a dog that seems to enjoy coffee as much as you.” He said while point down to Beacon, who was happily drinking Eidolon’s coffee, sat down on the bench next to him.
“Beacon! No!” Caroline said while pushing the 20-pound bolder off the bench. “I am so sorry.”
“It’s fine. I had already had a few pots, so I really didn’t need that cup anyway.”
“A few pots? Did you not sleep last night?” Caroline asked while still wrestling Beacon, who was now trying to climb into Eidolon’s lap.
“He is fine.” And allowed Beacon to get settled on top of him. “No, I do not sleep much as it is, and last night I had a lot of my mind. I wanted to get some writing done and ended up spending the rest of the night researching.”
“Really? Did you find anything interesting?” Caroline asked, shifting so that she could look at Eidolon closer.
“Some things.” Eidolon said with a hint of mystery.
“So, you believe the story from last night? You think that there is a missing book, holding secrets of the past and the plans for the future?”
“I have too.” Eidolon replied.
“Because she is my grandmother.” He replied, looking out at the fountain.
“I don’t want other people to decided who I am. I want to decide that for myself.”Emma Watson