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Monday Morning

Death, Guns and Sticky Buns

I ARRIVED AT THE OFFICE SHORTLY AFTER NINE. TO get there that early was a triumph, since I'd spent most of the previous night awake, missing Garnet and feeling sorry for myself. Only when the sky began to lighten had I fallen asleep.

You look awful, Cassie said.

You're not exactly brightening my day with remarks like that.

Sorry, Tori, but your eyes are puffy, your cheeks are pillow-grooved, and your hair is standing straight up in back. Why don't you go home and go back to sleep. I can handle everything that's scheduled for today.

I'm fine. I smoothed my hair down as best I could, knowing it would snap back as soon as I removed my hand, and took a look at the calendar lying open on my desk. What's this, Cassie? I asked. There's something down for six-thirty tonight, and all it says is Foster's Elevator.

I told you about that. It's the shower for Janet Mar-golies's new baby.

It's being held in an elevator? Small, select group, I guess.

Cassie laughed. Don't be silly, Tori. Foster's Elevator is a grain elevator and feed store in Mountain View. Everybody knows that.

Even though I've had plenty of opportunities to discover that Lickin Creek is very different from Manhattan, I think holding a baby shower in a feed store is just a little peculiar. Don't you?

She shook her head. Not if the feed store happens to be owned by your father, and it's got a large meeting room upstairs.

I give up. I picked up a story sent in by one of our freelancers and pretended to read it, but I was seriously thinking about going home for a nap.

Cassie answered the phone a couple of times and handled whatever crises loomed on the horizon. The fourth time, though, she covered the receiver and spoke to me. I think you ought to take this one, Tori. It's Maggie at the library, and she sounds awfully upset.

Maggie, what's the matter? I asked. She was crying so hard I couldn't understand what she was trying to say. Has something happened to Bill?

No, she wailed. It's the-sob sniffle sob-the gutta-percha. It's gone. Stolen.

Cassie, still listening on her extension, looked at me quizzically. Gutted perch? she mouthed.

Tell you later. No, not you, Maggie. I was talking to Cassie. Do you want me to come over?

Please. Sniff sob sniff.

As I hunted for the camera and some film, Cassie said, Sounded like she was talking about a fish. What's the big deal about a gutted perch?

Gutta-percha, Cassie. It's a rubberlike material. Maggie has a display at the library of objects made of it. I think it was on loan from the town historian.

And it was stolen? Poor Maggie! I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of Gerald Manley's temper.

Ah, here it is. The camera was on top of the file cabinet behind a potted snake plant, the only plant that hadn't died since I'd taken over the office.

I ran down Main Street toward the library. From a block away, I could see the Lickin Creek police cruiser parked in the tow-away zone out front.

Maggie fell into my arms the instant I entered the building. She was sobbing harder than before. What am I going to do? she moaned.

Tell me what happened?

She pointed at the empty display case. Shattered glass lay on the floor and on the table where the neat display of Civil War books still stood.

Hi, Tori, Luscious said, coming to stand beside me. I smelled brandy, not necessarily on his breath, but surrounding him as if it were oozing through his pores. Evidently, last night, while I'd cried myself to sleep in bed, Luscious had quieted his loneliness in a different way.

The door burst open and Gerald Manley rushed in. His silver hair looked worse than mine, and he obviously had pajamas on under his coat. You'd better have a good explanation for this, young lady, he barked at Maggie.

I could see her shaking, but she regained her composure for long enough to say, I'm so sorry, Mr. Manley. In all the years I've had displays in the library, nothing like this has ever happened.

How did the thief get in? I asked Luscious.

Through a window in the rear of the building, Maggie moaned. Nobody would see him. There's nothing back there but the parking lot and the playground of the Third Street Elementary School. Both are empty at night.

Manley turned a furious face to Maggie. Don't you check the windows and doors before you lock up at night?

I usually I think I did I don't remember

Does the library have insurance to cover losses like this? I asked her.

She nodded, but Manley jumped in before she could answer. Those daguerreotype cases are priceless. One of a kind. Collected over a period of forty years. There's no way I can replace them.

Maggie collapsed into a maple chair, put her head down on the table, and cried so hard I feared she'd shake something loose. I patted her shoulder in an awkward attempt to comfort her.

Do you have any photos of the display? Luscious asked.

Yes, Maggie gurgled. Top desk drawer.

In Maggie's office, where three distressed-looking staff members were huddled, I found the pictures and brought them back. While Gerald Manley explained to Luscious exactly why his gutta-percha daguerreotypes were so valuable, I took a few pictures of the empty, shattered display case.

May I take one of the pictures of the collection with me for the paper? I asked Luscious. He handed me the stack, and I selected one that showed a close-up view of a southern soldier in his gray uniform.

Daguerreotypes of uniformed soldiers are the rarest, Manley said. Especially one that shows a Reb.

I'll run these pictures around to some pawnshops, Luscious said.

They'll never turn up in a pawnshop, Manley told him. Whoever took them already had a buyer lined up.

Luscious accompanied me out the front door. I didn't want to say anything in there, he said, but I had a call this morning about another robbery.

My God, I exclaimed. What's happening to this town? We might as well be in New York. What else was stolen?

Some things from the Lickin Creek Archeological Society's collection.

I didn't even know Lickin Creek had an archeological society. Does it have a museum?

Not yet, but they're working on it. Right now, they got all their discoveries on the second floor of a barn out at Snider's farm. A team of amateur archeologists went there yesterday afternoon to put away some things they'd just dug out of a privy at the Coffman farm, and that's when they discovered some of the boxes were gone.

What was missing?

They don't exactly know. Seems they got an inventory, but nobody kept a list of what was in what box.

Let me guess. They also don't know when the boxes were taken. Am I right?

Luscious nodded. Sometime in the last two weeks is the best they can say.

Gerald Manley stuck his head out the door and yelled something unpleasant at Luscious. Gotta go, Luscious said, and reentered the building.

I paused for a moment on the library steps and looked down at the quaint, peaceful square, where the little mermaid poured water into the fountain. The old cannon, aimed at the cars coming down Main Street, had recently been polished and looked better than new. And the Garden Society had decorated the small lawn area around the base of the fountain with pumpkins and alternating pots of rust-colored and gold chrysanthemums. Only a few vehicles passed by as I stood there. Once rush hour was over and all the Lickin Creekers had driven through the borough to get to their destinations, there was not much reason for people to come downtown anymore. Where once there had been thriving department stores, dime stores, drugstores, and dress shops, there were now only dark, empty windows. Lickin Creek was peaceful, that was true, but it was a peace gained from the flight of local businesses to the mall or their closures last year after a huge discount store had arisen overnight on the edge of town.

Under Lickin Creek's placid public face, something sinister was happening. First, Mack Macmillan's bizarre shooting death, followed by Dr. Washabaugh's murder. And now this series of strange thefts: the fire department's antique trumpet collection, Manley's gutta-percha collection, and the robbery of the barn where the Archeological Society kept its collection. Putting these calamities together with the robbery from the Gettysburg park service's collection, it looked like someone who was very knowledgeable about the value of certain types of Civil War relics was methodically targeting local antique collectors.

I went back to the Chronicle, where I began to write an article about the two recent burglaries. I was nearly finished when the phone rang.

More cancellations? I asked Cassie as she gestured for me to pick up my extension.

Nope. It's that strange lady from Gettysburg.

Moonbeam, I said into the receiver. Is anything wrong?

Not at all. In fact the news is great. Dad's doing so well, he may be out of the hospital by the end of this week.

Super! I'm delighted.

Tori, I told him you saved his life, and he's anxious to thank you. Can you come today? He's allowed to have visitors between two and four.

I'll be there, I promised. To keep myself awake until then, I threw myself into the task of changing the farmers advice column from Lickin Creek lingo to English.

Is you'uns singular or plural? I asked.

Usually plural, but it is often incorrectly applied to a single person. That rasping voice certainly didn't come from Cassie. I looked up, startled, to find Helga Van Brackle standing in the doorway, holding a small cardboard box.

Come in, I said. Where the heck was Cassie? My unspoken question was answered when the rest room door opened.

Please sit down. I moved a pile of books from the guest chair.

Helga frowned and sat on the edge as if she feared something would rub off on her tailored black suit. She placed the box on my desk. Home-made sticky buns, she said. My thanks for your part in finding Mack's killer. She opened her purse and pulled out an envelope. This check is from the college-a small thank-you.

I already told Doctor Godlove I wouldn't accept a check. If you insist, I'll donate it to the Salvation Army in the name of the Chronicle.

She dropped it on top of the box of sticky buns. I really don't care what you do with it, Tori. I'm only the messenger. I'm afraid we've had a few more difficulties, and I'm here on behalf of the college to ask for your participation in another event.

I sat back as if confronted by a cobra. The last time I participated in an event at the college, it turned out to be a disaster, Helga, as you well know. I don't want to get involved with anything there, again, ever.

She waited without saying anything, and after a minute my curiosity got the better of me. What kind of difficulties?

As I'm sure you know, this is the week we hold our annual fund-raising tour. It begins on Tuesday night and runs through Saturday.

I didn't know.

Silly me, I forgot you're not local. She gave a little deprecating laugh, which made me want to slug her.

Cassie piped in with an explanation. People pay five dollars to have students dressed in costume take them through the oldest buildings on campus and tell them ghost stories. It's all done by candlelight and very spooky. It's an old tradition that started about ten years ago. I think the college is trying to capitalize on the popular ghost tours of Gettysburg.

Helga took exception to that last statement. Our campus has been haunted as long as the battlefield. We just haven't made a big deal out of it.

I was mistaken for the ghost of a nun once, I said.

I can't imagine why. Helga stared pointedly at my jaunty red, white, and blue outfit with the nautical theme that had looked really cute in a Provincetown secondhand store window two summers ago.

So you're telling me that the college does a Halloween ghost tour to raise money, and

Helga gasped. Not Halloween! Lickin Creek does not, I repeat, does not celebrate that Satanic ritual.

And, of course, we at the college respect that. We call it the Harvest Time Legend Tour.

Impatiently, I asked again, What kind of difficulties?

Lizzie Borden quit last Friday.

You mean you now have no PR department?

Not until Janet returns from maternity leave. And she says she's not coming back one day early! President Godlove suggested you might take over Lizzie's duties during the tour.

Isn't it a little late to be organizing something that's taking place this week?

Everything is ready to go. But we need someone in the administration building to supervise the students, make sure the ticket taker is on the job, keep things moving smoothly.

So get a faculty member to do it, I said, turning back to my desk.

We're spread as thin as butter on hot toast right now. There are no faculty members available. She paused. That does give me an idea. We like to have someone well known play a ghost every year. I suppose we could switch the head of the music department over to supervisor, and you could take her part. She wasn't keen on being in costume, anyway.

Now you're talking. I was once the lead in Blithe Spirit in high school.

Helga stood up and brushed more imaginary dust from her skirt. Then that's settled. I'll see you there Tuesday evening at six.

She'd outwitted me, I realized, and had gotten exactly what she'd come for. Flattery gets me every time, and I liked the idea of being well known.

I'll send a student over to your house with your costume. You'll probably have to shorten it. She strode to the door, then paused and said, By the way, have you turned up anything new about Mack's death?

No. President Godlove told me the investigation was over and I should stop looking into it.

He doesn't really believe it was an accident, does he?

I don't know what he really believes. All I know is what he told me, and that was he was satisfied with the coroner's report and Woody Woodruff's arrest.

He's an idiot.

Cassie started to laugh, then covered her mouth.

He certainly is. I should have been named president. I'm far better at fund-raising than he will ever be. Besides, I'm a woman, and it's a women's college. The position should have been mine. Everybody knows that. I was next in line, and I was better qualified to run the college than the outsider they brought in.

What happened?

The trustees didn't show good judgment. That's what happened. I'll see you on Tuesday.

A few minutes after she left, I turned to Cassie and asked, What's the real story?

According to the Grapevine, Helga and Mack had a longtime relationship that ended abruptly when he went off to learn sign language and came back married to his teacher, Charlotte. In anger, Helga said some nasty things about his new wife, and they got back to him.

Like what?

She called Charlotte a gold digger. Said the only reason a young, attractive woman would marry an old fart like him, her words, was to get her hands on his money.

If Helga thought Mack was an old fart, why did she want him?

Cassie grinned. Who knows? Besides, time has definitely proved her wrong. Charlotte has always been a devoted wife to Mack, even after he lost most of his money in that shopping center deal gone wrong last year. To me, that proves she married for love.

Anyway, when Helga's name came up as the perfect candidate for college president, Mack persuaded the board of trustees to look elsewhere. He said a lot of things about her that later proved not to be true, but it was too late. Godlove was already on the job.

Do you think Helga was angry enough to want him dead? I mused.

It happened a while back. I doubt she'd hold a grudge that long.

From the way she talked, it sounded like more than a grudge, Cassie. I wonder what Helga knows about firearms.

Really, Tori. You're beginning to sound obsessed. The college has moved on, Mack's family has moved on. Don't you think you should too?

Death, Guns and Sticky Buns

I pushed my way through a jungle of helium-filled balloons and potted plants to find Ken Nakamura, pale and drawn, propped up in his hospital bed. Moonbeam was spoon-feeding him a creamy yellow substance.

You look wonderful, I lied as I cleared some magazines off the only vacant chair. Why do I always feel it's necessary to say that to someone in the hospital? Usually they look like they're on their last legs. Ken wasn't quite that bad, but he didn't exactly look wonderful, either.

His right arm was in a sling, his chest was wrapped up like a mummy.

I wish I could give you a hug, he said, but that'll have to wait. Moonbeam told me you saved my life.

I didn't do anything, I said truthfully.

No need to be modest, young lady. If you hadn't thrown me to the ground, the next shot could have been fatal.

Although I had no recollection of doing that, I decided to relax and enjoy the glory. There would be time later to tell him what really happened, that I'd bent over to pick something up, didn't recognize the sounds I heard as shots until I saw him drop to the ground covered with blood, and that someone else had called 911.

A nurse bustled in, took his vital signs, told him he was looking good, but should not allow his visitors to wear him out. You're the heroine who saved him, aren't you? she said to me.

I started to shake my head, but stopped when she continued, The EMTs told us he'd have bled to death if you hadn't kept pressure on that chest wound. That was quick thinking on your part.

How about that? Maybe I did deserve some of that praise, after all.

After Moonbeam had finished feeding him his tapioca, she turned the crank to lower the head of the bed, then said to Ken, Dad, at your house I saw your family scrapbooks and a notebook with Japanese writing in it. Tori said you might have been interned during the Second World War. Is that true?

Ken sighed. Yes, dear, it's true.

Why didn't you ever tell me?

He closed his eyes, and I saw how frail he was. For a long time I tried to forget. Now, I realize I am old, and Tamsin needs to know. That's why I got the books down from the attic-I plan to translate Masao's journal after I retire.

Who is Masao? Moonbeam asked.

My brother.

I didn't know you had a-

Ken interrupted her. Masao died in 1943. Time has blurred the details, but his journal brought back my memories of the most shameful chapter in our country's history.

He leaned back, eyes closed, and for a moment I thought he'd fallen asleep. Moonbeam looked question-ingly at me. I put my finger to my lips. Wait, I mouthed.

With his eyes still closed, Ken began to speak. My father came to America more than one hundred years ago after the Meiji government took his family's land. I'll tell you his story someday. After a series of adventures, he ended up in Long Beach, California, where there was an established nikkei community.

Moonbeam looked at me for translation. People of Japanese ancestry, I explained.

We had a good life there. My father owned several fishing boats. We were very comfortable. My mother never had to work in the canneries. There was even enough money to send Masao to Japan for his education. A child of ten when he left us, he returned a man of twenty, shortly before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He was an American, but thought as a Japanese; he told me he felt like a stranger in his own land.

I can understand that feeling, I said.

Yes, I think you can. May I have a sip of water, please?

Moonbeam held the straw to his lips for a moment. He continued, President Roosevelt signed an order in 1942, which gave the government the right to confine potentially dangerous people from military areas. That military area ended up being the entire West Coast. Anyone of Japanese descent was considered to be a security risk and was ordered to report to a camp.

Moonbeam's voice was pitched high with indignation. But you were American citizens.

Masao and I were citizens because we were nisei, born in America, but our parents were issei, Japanese-born, and excluded by law from becoming citizens. Besides, citizenship made no difference. The order included anybody with even a drop of Japanese blood. More than a hundred and ten thousand of us on the West Coast were considered to be security risks, even the small babies. Some of them were actually sansei, the second generation of Americans, but we all were sent to relocation centers.

How many camps were there? I asked.

Ten, I think, not including some prisons. My family was sent to Topaz in Utah, a place that we called the jewel of the desert.

Why didn't the Japanese Americans rise up in protest? Contact the media? Do something to stop it? Moonbeam asked indignantly.

Ken smiled. We were loyal to our government, no matter how badly it treated us. It's a trait called on in Japanese. And there is also the Japanese belief that difficult situations must be endured, represented by the phrase shikata ga nai.

It must have been awful for you, Dad. Moonbeam stroked his good hand. How long were you there?

Myself-less than a month. The American Friends Service Committee arranged for some of us to go to eastern colleges, and I was one of the lucky ones. My brother couldn't go, because he was a kibei, a Japan-educated nisei, and considered to be a greater security risk. I joined the army in 1943.

I have felt great guilt over the years for leaving my family when I did-wondered if I'd stayed with them would things would have ended differently? You see, they were moved to Tule Lake in California when Masao became a no-no man.

What was a no-no man? I asked.

There was a questionnaire that all internees had to fill out, and everyone was expected to answer yes to two ambiguous questions at the end of it. The questions were ridiculous. They called upon the issei to swear allegiance to America, which had refused to give them citizenship. The kibei, like my brother, thought they were trick questions; if they answered yes, they would be acknowledging a prior allegiance to the Japanese emperor. If they said no, it would be considered an admission of disloyalty to America. My brother, like many of his Japanese-educated friends, and my father answered no-no to the two questions to show their outrage at what America had done.

How dreadful, Moonbeam groaned. I had no idea

Over eighteen thousand people were jammed into the Tule Lake camp. Soldiers with machines guns stood guard in turrets, and tanks patrolled the perimeter to prevent people from escaping.

The camp was overcrowded, the sanitation deplorable, the food insufficient, and the living conditions impossible. My mother tried hard to keep family customs alive. She even taught Japanese dancing to the little girls there. But my father lost the will to live. Masao's journal said he sat and smoked all day and wouldn't talk to anyone.

Finally, kibei youths rioted, and the army moved in to squelch them and took over the entire camp. The young rebels were locked up in the stockade. They were cut off from their families by a twelve-foot-high wall and denied medical care. Masao died there, of pneumonia, after being beaten by the guard in charge of his barracks. Not long after, my father died of a broken heart.

And your mother? Moonbeam asked.

She stayed at Tule Lake until 1946, because she had nowhere else to go.

It was Ken who was now stroking Moonbeam's hand, trying to still her tears. Don't cry, my dear. They are at peace. And you, my dear daughter, will share everything I tell you about them with your daughter, who will tell her children, and our ancestors will never be forgotten.

I grabbed a couple of tissues and walked over to the window looking out over the parking lot and blew my nose. After I'd regained my composure, I said, without turning around, I'm very touched you shared this with me.

Ken answered in a tone of voice that chilled me to the bone. I really don't want to see you. Please leave.

I spun around, thinking he was talking to me and wondering why he'd had such a sudden change of attitude. I quickly realized he wasn't speaking to me, but to Charlotte Macmillan, half hidden by balloons near the doorway, her mouth open in a little oh of surprise.

I wanted to see how you're feeling, she said, without coming into the room.

Please leave, Ken repeated in a firm voice. She stepped backward and was gone.

What was that about? Moonbeam asked.

I think I know, I said.

Do you? Ken asked, staring intently at my face.

The guard responsible for your brother's death was Mack Macmillan, wasn't it?

What makes you think that?

It just now came together. First, your refusal to work with Macmillan when he was made chairman of the college's board of trustees. And his wife's telling me a few days ago he'd been in the army during World War II, stationed out west somewhere. And third, the way you reacted to her presence.

I don't think Macmillan was directly responsible. But he was mentioned in Masao's diary as being one of the cruelest and most sadistic guards in the camp. I learned that only a few months ago while skimming over the journal.

And that's when you submitted your resignation to the college?

Ken yawned. I could not work with a man for whom I had no respect.

I was able to ask no more questions. The old man, exhausted from telling his story, was fast asleep.


Saturday | Death, Guns and Sticky Buns | Monday Evening