The Dog Who Ate the Drawing, written by Edward J. Coburn, is a story of murder and mayhelm.

When Adam, Marti, and Livinia attend the ghost party at the Canary House apartments on New Year’s eve, they are told the story of the lost Chandler gold mine. Knowing full well that he can't leave a mystery like that unsolved, Adam starts on a quest to follow the trail of well-hidden clues that, he hopes will help him solve one of the most storied mysteries in the history of Canary Corners, West Virginia. In the process of ferreting out clues, a couple of dead bodies are found and Adam, Marti, and Bagel have to figure out who the murderer is while continuing to search for the mine.

Here, read the first five chapters of The Dog Who Ate the Drawing. Then, if you like the book, you can order the ebook in Kindle format at Amazon.com .

Chapter 1

      “All right,” Harriet Thompson said as she clapped her hands a couple of times to get everyone’s attention. “Places everyone.” Harriet was the leader of the Canary Corners, West Virginia, theater troupe and director for their performance of “A Christmas Carol.” All the performers hurried to where they were supposed to be, even though only Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit were on stage in the first scene. Ebenezer Scrooge was being played by Adam Martin Swope, also known as Robert Adam Madigan or Ram to the readers of the local newspaper, the Tweet. Adam had become popular not only because of his newspaper articles, but also because he’d started the Rambling Foundation to distribute some of his massive wealth to those in the area deserving of his monetary help.
     Adam had gained much of his wealth winning two large lotteries by making use of his inherited psychic abilities. The lottery wins, along with his stint as a finder, had shown him how valuable his abilities were. Unfortunately, his time as a finder had also shown him how much of a toll being a finder would have on his psyche. That’s why he hid from his real name and his history as a finder. He came to Canary Corners to work for his long-time friend Larry Archibald at the Tweet, writing a column called “Ram’s Ramblings,” which was also posted as a blog on the Internet.
     This Saturday’s matinee performance of the play went smoother than did the first performance before a live audience, the evening of the prior Wednesday. Naturally, a few cues were missed and a few lines were flubbed, but, all in all, the play went well. When all of the actors came to the front of the stage for their bow after the final curtain, Harriet raised her hand to silence the audience. “As most of you know,” she began, “Robert Adam Madigan, better known as Ram, did a marvelous job as Ebenezer Scrooge in our play.” The crowd started to applaud again, but again, Harriet raised her hand to silence them. “But what some of you may not know is that the Rambling Foundation funded by Ram is responsible for this marvelous new theater you now find yourself sitting in.” She paused while the audience gave Ram a standing ovation that she did not try to stop. The rest of the cast moved back to enable Adam to be virtually alone on the stage for his moment of glory. After a few moments of applause, Adam turned and swept his hand to indicate that the applause should be for the rest of the cast as well. They all took another bow. Adam thought he should say something, but couldn’t think what that might be. Therefore, he simply let the audience continue to applaud until they tired and sat back down. Then he led the rest of the cast off the stage.
     Backstage, Harriet said, “Good job, everybody. See you tonight. Please be on time.”
     Everyone filed through the doors at the back of the stage and down the few stairs to their dressing rooms. Adam waited in the hall for his semi-constant companion Marti Blossom to come out of her dressing room. Marti and Adam had been together since the first few weeks he’d been a resident of Canary Corners. They’d been introduced by Marti’s great-aunt, the septuagenarian Livinia Blossom, who happened to be Adam’s next-door neighbor on the third floor of the Canary House apartments where he’d initially settled. Now he lived in a large house on Political Street, a few blocks away from the mayor’s house which, by an odd set of circumstances, his foundation now owned.
     Marti put her arms around Adam, giving him a brief kiss. “You were wonderful tonight, Sweetheart.”
     “So were you.” Marti played the part of the Ghost of Christmas Past in the play. “Shall we go?”
     “Ram.” Harriet had walked up behind them without notice. “I want to thank you and Larry for the fine article on the new theater in the paper and the nice review of the play, too, of course. Since the articles came out yesterday, we’ve sold virtually every ticket we had left.”
     “Good, I was hoping that would happen,” Adam said. “Larry and I thought maybe some people who weren’t all that interested in the play might buy a ticket anyway so they could see the new theater. I guess that proved to be the case.”
     “Honestly, I hope that’s not the case. I hope the tickets went to those who also want to see the play. But I guess I don’t actually care why the tickets were sold. I’m just glad they were sold.”
     “Me, too,” Marti said.
     “I’ll give sales one more week,” Adam said. “And then whatever tickets are left I’ll buy and give them to Marti so she can give them to any of her students who might be interested in seeing the play but can’t afford tickets. We’ll also arrange transportation for anyone who needs it considering the theater is a ways out of town.” The new theater had been constructed in an old warehouse originally used to store mining equipment after the existing theater in Canary Corners burned down. They did their best to locate the new theater between the local communities to make traveling to the theater convenient for the actors and their audiences who lived in the surrounding towns instead of in Canary Corners.
     When Adam and Marti arrived back at Adam’s house, they put the dogs on the back porch and let them go through the doggie door to the backyard. Adam owned two purebred beagles, or, as he often said, they owned him. Bagel had been bequeathed to him by his mother when she succumbed to her reoccurrence of cancer.. Before she died, Adam’s mother learned of Bagel’s special abilities, teaching him several games most other dogs can’t play. Bagel plays colors whereby, when asked, he can fetch a toy of a particular color from his large collection of toys. He also plays with the dice from a Boggle game. He upends the box on the floor, pulls a certain number of dice away from the rest, and turns them to the appropriate letters with his paws and nose. Adam had discovered the letters could generally be rearranged to form a word that would have something to do with a mystery he was trying to solve.
     Adam’s other beagle, a female named Butter, came into Adam’s life from the Mason Jar restaurant, where it had been the custom for the customers to give the dog any butter left over from their meal. Adam knew doing that couldn’t be healthy for the dog, which was evidenced by her vastly overweight bulk.
     Since the time he’d taken Butter home, Adam had been hard at work keeping Butter’s diet to a set amount and making sure she got at least some exercise each day to help her to trim down to a more healthy weight. Unfortunately, even though Adam frequently gave Butter carrots and other vegetables to supplement her dog food as suggested by the vet, sometimes he’d still found her eating all sorts of things that probably weren’t good for her including, once, chocolate. Fortunately, it was white chocolate, which has less of the chemical theobromine, which is what makes dogs and other animals sick. Adam wrote a Ramble about how bad chocolate is for pets.
     When they brought the dogs back in the house, Marti looked appreciatively at the large Christmas tree in the corner of the living room. They’d bought the tree together from a Boy Scout tree lot and had decorated it with all the brand new lights, ornaments, and icicles Adam had bought with Marti’s guidance. Adam had never had a Christmas tree that he could’ve actually called his own. Of course, his parents had had a tree every year when he was growing up and there’d been trees around when he went to college, but after he gone out on his own after he finished college, he never put one up. He hadn’t seen the need because everywhere he turned, whether in the newspaper office, in the lobby of whatever apartment he lived in at the time, or whatever store he visited, there were lavishly decorated trees. He felt whatever tree and decorations he might be able to afford on his paltry reporter’s salary would look pretty sad by comparison. He also thought coming home to that type of tree might even be depressing.
     “Are you sure you won’t give me just a little hint?” Marti said, looking longingly at the packages under the tree with her name on them.
     “What, and spoil the surprise? Not on your life.”
     “Well, what now then, Sweetheart?” Marti said, giving up quickly. She actually didn’t want a hint as she preferred being surprised. She also looked forward to his opening the presents she’d bought for him. There were also presents under the tree for each of the dogs. It actually surprised her that their presents hadn’t been disturbed because she thought the dogs could probably smell the treats in their packages. She’d caught Bagel sniffing the packages a time or two, but that seemed to be the extent of his curiosity. She’d even seen Bagel shoo Butter away from the tree when she’d seemed intent upon disturbing one of the packages.
     “Why don’t we relax with some music for a while? I’m still a bit keyed up from the play,” Adam said.
     “Sounds like a plan. I could use a bit of relaxation myself.”
     “Shall we then?” He led the way into the living room. She settled on the couch while he turned on the music system.
     “Vivaldi, again?” she said.
     “You know it’s Bagel’s favorite. Would you like something else?”
     “No, Vivaldi’s fine, but how about some Mozart after this CD is finished?”
     “That’s fine with me.” He settled next to her on the couch, putting his arm around her.
     As they were both dozing slightly when the CD finished, Adam got up carefully, hoping not to disturb Marti. He went to this music system and changed CDs, but when he turned around, she was smiling at him.
     “Did I disturb you, Sweetheart?”
     “Maybe just a little, but that’s all right.” She looked at Bagel. “Would you like to play some colors, Bagel?”
     Bagel raised his head, pulled back his upper lip in what passed for a smile, but didn’t move.
     “I think he likes the idea,” Adam said.
     “Bagel, blue,” Marti said.
     Bagel went to his collection of toys, nosed through them for a second or two, and then brought a blue stuffed hippo out of the pile, which he dropped at Marti feet. “Good boy.” Marti reached down to massage Bagel’s ears. “His ears are so soft.”
     “And he loves it so much when someone massages them.”
     “I know.”
     “Bagel, red,” Adam said, sitting on the couch again.
     Bagel went to the pile and shortly brought back a red rubber alligator, which he dropped at Adam’s feet.
     “Let’s see if he’s learned orange yet,” Marti said. “Bagel, orange.”
     Bagel looked up at her with what could best be described as a look of confusion. He didn’t move. “Guess not,” Marti said. “Bagel, yellow.”
     Bagel went back to the pile of toys retrieving a yellow rubber canary, which he dropped at her feet.
     “I wonder if we could teach him orange,” Marti mused.
     Adam shook his head and a bemused expression crossed his face. “I doubt it. Though I’ve not tried to expand on his knowledge, I was told by Ryan and Sheila dogs can’t discern between orange and yellow.” Ryan and Sheila were his sister Sarah’s children. Ryan was ten and Sheila was eight. “So, while we might teach him the word, he would probably bring back a yellow or orange toy more or less randomly.”
     “Well, I guess that answers that question, then,” Marti said. “I’ve noticed, though, that when we ask him to get yellow toys, he generally brings a yellow toy, not an orange one.” She looked thoughtful for a moment, tapping her cheek with her finger. “Though, I guess that’s not always true.”
     Adam thought back. “You know, I think you’re right. I’ve never noticed that. Maybe, in that case, we could teach him orange. Maybe orange doesn’t look exactly like yellow to him. Maybe there’s enough difference in shade to allow him to tell the difference. Either that or he simply likes some toys more than others.”
     “That may be it, but we could try to teach him. But how about some other day? Right now I think I want to just relax and listen to the music.”
     “Fine by me. It’s wonderful just sitting here with you.”
     “Thank you, Sweetheart.” She had to stretch to kiss his cheek.
     “I know it’s not time, but where would you like to eat tonight?”
     “I’ve been thinking about that. If it’s all right with you, I think I’d like to eat at Ariel’s tonight. I feel like having a steak.”
     “We’re on the same wavelength. I was thinking the same thing.”
     They continued to listen to the music and doze for a couple more hours before it was time to go eat. They’d decided they should eat early so they could have time to come back to the house and get ready before they had to go to the theater for their nightly performance.
     “I think we have time for a couple of games of Boggle before we go,” Marti said. “It might be a good idea to wake up our minds after relaxing all afternoon.”
     “It might at that.” Adam walked to the shelf and picked up the Boggle shaker box. Then he walked into the kitchen to get the electronic timer. When he returned, he noticed Marti had grabbed a couple of pads of paper and pens on which they could write their words. He accepted a pad and a pen, set down the timer, shook the box until the dice fell into the bottom, and then asked, “Ready?”
     He reached over and turned on the timer. “Go.”
     The timer was set for three minutes. At the end of their time, they compared their lists of words. After eliminating the duplicates, Adam had four four-letter words left while Marti had two four-letter words and three five-letter words left, which gave her the victory.
     They played two more games, with Marti winning both of them. “Boy,” Adam said, “I feel like a real dummy tonight.”
     “I hardly think so. You’re just not seeing the words as well as you usually do. It happens to me sometimes like that, too. You’ve seen it.”
     “Yeah, I guess so. But now, I think it’s time to get ready to go.”
     Marti glanced at the clock on the wall and agreed, so they went into the bedroom and got into their costumes.
     When the cast walked to the front of the stage after the final curtain that evening, Harriet again gave Adam the recognition for his part in the creation of the new theater as she’d done earlier in the day. She’d noticed Rupert Nichols, the contractor responsible for the building of the theater, was in the audience, so she had him stand and accept a well-deserved ovation as well.
     Backstage, Marti went into the dressing room and came out a few moments later with a Christmas package for Harriet. She held it behind her back until she saw Adam come out of the men’s dressing room.
     “What’s this?” Harriet said when Marti handed it to her after Adam had joined them.
     “Just a small token of Ram’s and my esteem for you to show our thanks for all your hard work.”
     “But I didn’t…”
     Adam held up his hand. “Not necessary. We just wanted to share a bit of our good fortune with you.”
     Harriet looked from Adam to Marti. “What can I say but thank you? That seems to be so inadequate.”
     “How do you know? You don’t even know what it is yet,” Adam said.
     “If it came, at least in part, from you, I’m sure it will be lovely and, probably quite extravagant.”
     “Remember, a poor teacher helped pick it out.” Marti smiled.
     “Do you want me to open it now?”
     “No. We want you to save it for Christmas morning,” Adam said. “I think it’s good to feel a bit of our inner child each Christmas.”
     “You’re right, it is.” Harriet smiled. “I’ll run out and put this in my car before I set it someplace and forget it. You know how I can be.”
     Neither commented on Harriet’s last statement but instead Marti said, “Why don’t you do that? We’ll see you after Christmas for the Wednesday performance.”
     Harriet nodded and left the theater.
     On Christmas day, when Adam and Marti went into the living room, Bagel had pulled all his and Butter’s packages from beneath the tree. He hadn’t torn any of the wrapping paper; he’d simply dragged them to the middle of the room.
     “Do you suppose he read his and Butter’s names on the packages?” Adam cracked.
     “I think it much more likely that he simply smelled them and knew they were treats. Besides,” she said with a smile, “if he’d known who they belonged to, wouldn’t he have separated them into two piles?”
     “Yes, I suppose he would have. I was going to suggest we have breakfast before we open packages, but I don’t think that’s going to work now. Bagel apparently has an inner child as well.”
     “I agree. We’d better at least give them a treat either from their Christmas packages or from the bag of treats we already have.” She paused and then she added, “However, it is Christmas, so I think we ought to let them open their packages.”
     “Well, we’re going to have to watch Butter so that she doesn’t eat the paper We can watch her and Bagel to make sure that he doesn’t either. But right now, I think you need your presents,” Adam said.
     She smiled at him. “And you don’t?”
     “Well, of course I do.” Adam reached under the tree and retrieved five packages for Marti, handing them to her one by one. He also picked up the rest of the packages he knew were for him. These he sat on the couch before he separated Bagel’s packages from Butter’s, placing the appropriate ones in front of each of the dogs. “Before you start, read the label on the packages please.”
     “Were you talking to me or the dogs?” She winked.
     “Very funny. We know Bagel knows which Boggle letters are which, but I really don’t think he’s learned to read yet. Maybe next week. I think you knew I was talking about your packages.”
     “To which label were you referring? You mean the one that says ‘Open me first’?”
     “Of course I do.”
     “Does that mean it’s a camera like that old television ad?”
     “Well, now, you’ll just have to open the package and see, won’t you?”
     She opened it, being careful not to rip the paper.
     “Don’t tell me you’re a paper saver,” he said.
     “But it’s such pretty paper.”
     “But opening it like that takes away half the fun of opening presents,” he said as he ripped the paper off one of his presents. “Hang on a second.” He got up and went into the kitchen and returned with a plastic trash bag. He shoved the wrapping from his present into the bag. “We need to be careful not to leave paper lying around that Butter might try to eat. As I understand it, wrapping paper can be more toxic than regular paper.” He looked at the dogs sitting behind their presents. “I guess they haven’t figured out they’re entitled to open those so, I guess, we don’t have to worry about the paper yet.”
     “All right,” Marti said, shoving her paper into the bag. When she opened the box she was holding and saw the pearl necklace, she caught her breath. “Oh my God,” she said. “I assume these are real?”
     “Would I give anything else to the woman I love?”
     “I know I was admiring them in Laurent’s, but I really didn’t expect…” He’d gone with her into Laurent’s Jewelry Store several weeks ago when she needed a new watch band. She got up, went to where he sat in the chair, gave him a kiss, and held the necklace out for him to put around her neck.
     He did so and then smiled. “Very lovely.”
     She looked down at them, putting her hand on them under her chin. “They certainly are.”
     “I wasn’t referring to the pearls, although they’re nice, too.”
     “Why, thank you dear,” she said before going back to the rest of her packages.
     They opened the rest of their gifts and opened one of each of the dog’s packages, which held bags of treats for the dogs. Adam and Marti each gave each of the dogs one treat. Adam had given Marti a pearl bracelet and earrings to go with the necklace, along with a blouse of her favorite color, lavender, and several other items of clothing. For his part, he’d received several shirts, one in lavender, a new watch because he’d misplaced his old one, and a new word game she’d found since she knew he liked to play Boggle.

Chapter 2

     On Friday before the last play performance, Larry had Adam meet him in his office in the afternoon. “Are you glad the play performances are almost finished?”
     “Sort of. I like performing, but it’ll be nice, to climb back down into my rut.”
     “Are you trying to say you find writing for the Tweet boring?”
     “Not at all. Perhaps rut was the wrong term to use. That implies I don’t like my life, and I definitely do. All I meant is it’ll be nice to get back to my ordinary life without the obligation of being at the theater five times a week. But enough about that, what did you want to see me for?”
     “I know you know the story of Canary House and its ghosts.”
     “Of course I do; I wrote a ‘Ram’s Ramblings’ on it.” Adam had agreed to write the sporadic column for Larry under the condition that he could write absolutely anything he wanted. “I think I know where you’re headed. Supposedly one of the prostitutes died in a closet in the Cat House New Year’s Eve, and her ghost supposedly shows up in the same closet every New Year’s Eve, making noise and so on.”
     “That’s the story.”
     “Did you investigate last New Year’s Eve?”
     “I was going to have Alex do it last year, but he came down with a bad case of the flu a few days beforehand. I tried to send someone else, but I couldn’t talk anyone else into it. They all had logical excuses, but I think they were basically afraid to go. I even tried to bribe them with the champagne party, but no one would volunteer.”
     Adam looked slightly confused so Larry tossed a folded copy of the Tweet on the desktop. Adam briefly looked over the page he was sure Larry wanted him to see.
     “I’ve seen the ad.” The Canary House ad stated there was to be a champagne and finger food celebration in the meeting room in the lobby. Outside guests would pay twenty dollars and residents of Canary House would be charged fifteen dollars. Then everyone who didn’t live in Canary House but wanted to come in just to witness whatever was going to happen with the ghost had to pay a five dollar admittance fee. The ad’s headline shouted that everyone could go up to the second floor to hear Dorothy do her thing in the closet. “Do they do this every year?”
     “I can’t say. They did it last year. And, as I said, I even tried to bribe the reporters by paying to get them into the party but no takers.”
     “Well, why didn’t you go?”
     “It’s not my place. I’m not a reporter anymore. I run the newspaper. I’m supposed to get other people to write the articles.”
     Adam knew this was why Larry asked to see him. “So, let me guess. You want me to go.”
     “I do, unless you’re afraid.”
     “Are you going to pay my admittance fee for the party?”
     “Boy, sometimes you can really be a cheapskate.”
     Adam wasn’t about to let that pass unchallenged. “Is that the pot calling the kettle black?” Larry was notorious for the tight grip he held on his wallet.
     “Never mind. I only meant I think you can afford to pay your own way into the party.”
     “All right, if you insist. And you know darn good and well I don’t believe in ghosts. Therefore, why should I be afraid?”
     “So you’ll do it?”
     Adam had to smile in spite of himself. “I absolutely will. What time does Dorothy supposedly start her ghostly whatever?”
     “I’ve heard it’s anywhere from 9:30 to 11:00 but never later than that, and the whatever is supposed to be moans, screams, and other sounds you’d associate with someone in pain.”
     “Okay, I’ll be sure to be there early and I’ll take my digital recorder to see what I can get. Do you want me to write it up for a regular column, or would you like it to be a ‘Ram’s Ramblings’?”
     “Either way. But, honestly, it might be better if the article was a Ramble because people are getting used to your column and it’s become one of the most popular features in the paper. A random article, even with your byline, might not have the same impact as a Ramble.”
     “Works for me. I assume I can take someone else with me.”
     “You need someone there to hold your hand?”
     “That would be nice, but not for the reason you’re implying. I think Marti might enjoy going, especially considering Livinia lives in Canary House. I’ve never asked Livinia, or Marti for that matter, if they’ve been around when the ghost supposedly appears in the closet, but Livinia did tell me she’s never seen one of the ghosts.”
     “Well, perhaps they’re scared. Besides, this is not a ghost to be seen.”
     “I understand that and I suppose it’s possible they’re scared, but I highly doubt it. Marti and I once talked about ghosts and she doesn’t believe in them any more than I do.”
     “They might find the experience exhilarating then.”
     “They might at that and I’m certainly going to ask them.”
     “New Year’s Eve’s on Monday this year—can I expect a column by Wednesday?”
     “I should be able to manage that.”
     Marti was an English teacher at the local high school, so she’d been on Christmas break since December seventeenth and had been staying with Adam most of that time. She’d returned to her house to do some paperwork for school while Adam visited with Larry, but she was back by the time he got home. He gave her a quick kiss. “Got any plans for New Year’s Eve?”
     Marti wondered what he was up to now. “Why, do you have plans that don’t include me?”
     “I certainly hope not, though I do have plans. I hope they’ll include Livinia as well.”
     “Okay, enough beating around the bush. Out with it.”
     “Have you or Livinia or both ever been at the appropriate place in Canary House to hear the New Year’s Eve ghost?”
     She looked at him askance. “Now you know I don’t believe in ghosts, so no, I haven’t been there on New Year’s Eve other than to be with Aunt Livinia in her apartment. And I’m pretty sure she hasn’t been down to listen for the so-called ghost either.”
     “Well, would you like to go this year? Larry wants me to go a write a column on what happens. Do you think Livinia would be interested in going with us if I can talk you into it?”
     “From what I’ve heard, the hallway that houses the ‘Ghost Closet’ becomes a real circus on New Year’s Eve.” Marti indicated the quotation marks in her sentence by making two finger indications in the air.
     Adam was a bit surprised by the name. “So they actually call it a ‘Ghost Closet’?”
     Marti shrugged. “That’s the name I’ve heard. To answer your other question, I’ll be happy to go with you. It might be an interesting experience, but I don’t know if Aunt Livinia will want to go. At her age, she doesn’t really like crowds anymore and she generally doesn’t stay up that late.”
     “I don’t think age has anything to do with disliking crowds. I don’t like them, either. I’ve found, though, that you sometimes just have to put up with them to go somewhere you want to go or to see something you really want to see.”
     “True enough. Would you like to go over to Canary House and ask her if she’d like to go with us?”
     “I have a better idea. We haven’t taken her out to eat for a while since we’ve been involved with the play, so how would it be if we invite her to the Mason Jar or anywhere else she’d like to go?”
     “I think that’s an excellent idea. I’ll call her.” Marti took out her cell phone and speed dialed Livinia’s number.
     “Hello Aunt Livinia, this is Marti.”
     “You think I don’t know your voice?” Livinia said.
     “No, I’m sure you know my voice by now. Adam and I’d like to invite you out for supper at the Mason Jar, or wherever else you’d like to go, if you’re not busy this evening.”
     “I’m not busy, and I’d like to go. Thanks for the invitation.”
     Marti glanced at Adam and nodded her head. “It was Adam’s idea. But we have an ulterior motive. He and I have something we need to ask you.”
     “What would that be?”
     “We’ll save that for tonight. What time would be good for you?”
     “Six will be okay if it’s okay for you.”
     Marti turned to Adam and mouthed, “Six.”
     He nodded, so she added to Livinia, “Six it is then. See you.”
     “We pick her up at six, then.”
     “That’s right.”
     “What would you like to do in the meantime since we have a couple of hours to kill?”
     “I know you like to play Boggle, but do you ever play other word games like Scrabble or the Upwords I got you for Christmas?”
     “I used to play Scrabble with my sister when I was a kid, but I haven’t played in years and I don’t know how to play Upwords, though based on the picture on the box, it looks interesting.”
     “It’s kind of a neat game. You put letters on a square board and score points by stacking the letters, making words in multiple directions. I’ve played it a couple of times before.”
     “Either one sounds fun, but I think I might like to play Scrabble because I haven’t played it for such a long time. Unfortunately, as you know, I don’t have it.”
     “That’s all right,” Marti said, “I have my game in the car. I thought we might need something to do this afternoon.”
     “Good plan. You want me to go get the game for you?”
     “Not necessary. Why don’t you take the dogs out on the back porch and see if they need to go out while I get Scrabble from the car?”
     “I can do that. Why don’t you set it up while I take the dogs out? We can always try Upwords another day.”
     “Okay. I’ll be right back.” She headed for the front door.
     Adam turned to where the dogs were laying. “All right, Butter, what’re you eating this time?” Marti turned back around and Adam added, “Butter’s eating paper again.” He noticed the wastebasket. “Darn, I forgot to put the wastebasket up on the desk.” He’d gotten in the habit of always putting it on the desk to keep Butter from eating paper. He still needed to keep Butter on her diet for a while longer, so he’d learned he had to be careful to not leave anything sitting around that she could interpret in some way or other to be food. How she found any nutrition in paper, he couldn’t fathom, but he’d caught her eating it several times.
     “Well, you’d better get the rest of it from her.” Marti turned back around and continued her trek to her car.
     “I will, and I think I’ll call Maggie to see if she’s come up with any ideas how to keep Butter from eating paper. It can’t be good for her.” Adam reached down and pulled the remnant of the envelope of a solicitation that he’d thrown away earlier when he’d gone through the mail. As Marti went through the front door, he dialed Dr. Maggie Ridley’s phone number. He’d taken Butter to her when he first got her. The receptionist put him through to the doctor immediately.
     “Maggie, this is Ram.”
     “Ram, so nice to hear from you. Are Butter and Bagel doing okay?”
     “More or less. But Butter’s still eating paper. I know you told me it’s a sort of disease called pica when dogs eat non-food items. But other than spraying all paper items with Tabasco sauce or something like that, is there any other thing you can suggest?”
     “The only thing I can suggest is to take Butter to a specialist called a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. That’s someone who’s sort of a pet psychologist. Is she eating any other non-food items besides paper?”
     “I’ve caught her eating bits of the tree branches that seem to continually fall from the trees in the backyard. And of course she eats grass and weeds like most dogs do. But I think that’s a fairly normal behavior, isn’t it? Don’t they eat grass when their stomach is upset?”
     “That’s true. Sometimes they do it in an attempt to make themselves vomit when they are feeling sick. With some dogs, it helps to improve their digestion. They may also eat grass to help get rid of worms or help them over some other kind of stomach problem. As long as Butter only eats grass occasionally, it’s nothing to be concerned about. But her eating paper does sort of bother me. I assume you’re doing all you can to keep paper away from her as we discussed and continuing to supplement her diet with carrots and other vegetables.”
     “Of course I am, to both.” Adam turned as Marti came back into the house. “Unfortunately, I sometimes forget and leave the wastebasket beside the desk and the next thing I know, I find her chowing down on something that was in the trash.”
     “Well, as I said, the only other thing I can suggest is a specialist.”
     “Is there one anywhere close that you can suggest?”
     “The only one I know of is Dr. Sylvia Jackson in Charleston. I’ve given her name to a couple of other people and they’ve reported that she helped somewhat.”
     “Well, I’ll have to give that some thought. I wouldn’t mind taking her to a specialist, of course, but I don’t know about a pet psychologist. That sounds a bit odd to me.”
     “By and large, the research and studying that I’ve done tells me that it’s a reputable profession and they can sometimes help. Of course, they can’t always help. It’s like when a human goes to a psychologist, sometimes the person doesn’t get any better.”
     “As I said, I’ll have to give it some thought.”
     “You do that. Be sure to give me a call if I can help any other way.”
     “Naturally.” He hung up and turned to Marti. “She suggested taking Butter to a pet psychologist.”
     “Are you going to do it?”
     “I don’t know. I’m going to have to think about that one. I don’t necessarily put a lot of stock in human psychologists, so you can imagine how I feel about one for pets.”
     “Why don’t you like psychologists?”
     “It’s not that. I just think the mind is such a wondrous and enigmatic thing I don’t really think anyone can delve into the mysteries of anyone’s mind and solve them.”
     “They may not be able to solve everyone’s problems, but don’t you think psychologists might be able to help some people?”
     “I really can’t say. I think sometimes a psychologist might be handy when someone just needs somebody else to talk to. I know sometimes talking out a problem can help solve it.”
     “I think that may be what the psychologists think, too.”
     “We could hash this one out for hours and probably not come up with a definitive opinion. The real question is do we think that a pet psychologist is a viable choice for Butter.”
     “If we go on the premise that a psychologist does the most good for those who need to talk out a problem and, as far as I know, Butter doesn’t talk…” She paused to let her point sink in.
     “On that basis, you’d be right. I guess I’m back to what I told Maggie. I’ll have to think about it.”
     “Well, while you think, can we play a game of Scrabble?”
     “Sure, why not? We can set it up on the kitchen or dining room table. Why don’t you set it up? I still haven’t taken the dogs out.” He did that while she set the game up on the kitchen table. It was all laid out with the tiles mixed up when he came back in. As he sat at the table, Bagel and Butter continued into the living room.
     “Shall we?” Marti picked up her first tile and showed Adam a D.
     He picked up his first tile and it was an N. “I guess that means you get the first word.”
     “Guess so.” She picked her other six tiles. She studied her tiles for a while and then put the word DONUT on the board.
     “Just a minute. Is that really a word? I thought donut was spelled D O U G H N U T.”
     “Actually, either spelling is correct. I know, because it’s come up before in one of my classes. The word was originally spelled D O U G H N U T because it is made from dough, but, at one point, someone started spelling it D O N U T and now either spelling is considered correct. This is just another example of why English is such a difficult language to learn.”
     “I’ve heard that and, based on how many words are spelled the same as other words, how many words that are spelled differently sound the same, and other more or less nonsensical rules of English, I’d agree that English is tough. It seems I pick up something new every time I read a book or magazine. Ah, there we go.” He picked up five of his tiles that he’d been studying while they talked and made the word DOUBLE, building off the D in DONUT.
     They continued to play for the next hour and when they’d finished, Marti had won with two hundred thirty-five points to Adam’s one hundred ninety points.
     With scarcely a word, Adam dumped the tiles on the table. Together they turned them face down, mixed them up and chose their first letter again. This time Adam started but, by the end of the game, Marti had won again. They played two more games, with Adam finally winning the last one, but only by three points.
     He shook his head. “You’re just too good for me.”
     “What do you mean? You won that time.”
     “Maybe, but by the barest of margins and you stomped me the other times. You also win most of our Boggle games. Maybe I shouldn’t let you teach me the other game. What was it called?” He looked at her.
     “Upwords. It’s still sitting under the tree. I can’t believe you’re going to wimp out on me.”
     “I was just kidding. You should know by now I only care about playing the game, not about who wins.”
     “I know.” She glanced at the clock. “But we don’t have time right now. We need to get ready so we can pick up Aunt Livinia by six.”
     Adam glanced at the clock as well. “You’re right. We’d better get ready.” He grabbed the top of the Scrabble box, held it under the edge of the table, and swept the tiles into it. Then he folded the board, put it in the box, put the tile holders in, and poured the tiles in it before closing the box and putting it back on top of the table.
     Marti got up and walked toward the bedroom with Adam following.
     “Hello Livinia,” Adam said when she answered his knock.
     “Good evening,” she said.
     “Are you ready?” Marti said.
     “I am. Let me grab my coat.” She ducked back inside. She locked the door and led the way to the elevator.
     “Did you decide where you’d like to eat?” Adam asked.
     “I choose the Mason Jar, if that’s okay.”
     “Of course it’s okay,” Marti said. “You know we both like it.”
     “I do, too,” she said as the elevator doors creaked open. “Now, what do you want to know?”
     “I’ll let Adam tell you.”
     “I’ve been asked to write a Ramble on the goings-on around the supposed closet ghost on New Year’s Eve. Marti’s going to keep me company and we’re wondering if you’d like to go with us, though, you, of course, don’t have to go far, just down a couple of floors. “
     “I would.”
     “You would? That’s nice. Have you been there before?”
     “I went once a few years ago, but when I saw the crowd, I went back upstairs.”
     Adam wasn’t surprised by her reluctance to brave what would probably be a rowdy crowd. “And you’re sure you want to brave the crowd this year?”
     “It’ll be better with you. Maybe you can keep the crowd back.”
     “We can try,” Marti said. “But that’s about all we can promise. I’ve not been so I’m not sure how bad the crowd will be.”
     “That’s all right. We’ll find out together.”
     “That we shall,” Adam said.

Chapter 3

     Adam and Marti decided that they’d go to Canary House at eight to experience the atmosphere but wouldn’t get Livinia until a bit later. They didn’t want her to have to endure the crowds any longer than necessary.
     Ten people were waiting in line when they’d parked and walked up to the door. They seemed to be in excited, animated conversations. The line moved slowly before someone shouted, “Ram’s here. Make way.” Several people moved aside to leave an unobstructed path to the front door where Trudy Hammerschmidt, the Canary House manager, stood taking admission.
     “Ram, so nice to see you. You come to hear Dorothy’s ghost?”
     “We did,” Adam said. “But how did you come by the name Dorothy? When we researched my column on Canary House, we couldn’t find anyone who knew her name. I guess no one thought to ask you.”
     “I know because my grandmother knew her. Don’t get the wrong idea, though. Grandma didn’t work at the Cat House. She just knew Dot before she started working there and they became and stayed friends even after Dot started working there. Grandma already had been married to Grandpa when she met Dot.”
     “So your grandmother knew her as Dot rather than Dorothy?” Adam said.
     “Yes, but I’d better let you in. We’re holding up the line.”
     “How much for the two of us?” Adam indicated Marti by grabbing and raising her hand.
     “For you and Marti, nothing. I presume you’re going to write an article about Dot.” Trudy grabbed Adam’s right wrist and encircled it with a band, the ends of which stuck together. Adam looked at it and Trudy said, “That’s for getting into the champagne and food party.”
     The band was decorated with two different ghostly images. Adam had to smile at Trudy’s “spirit.” “I see.”
     Marti raised her arm to enable Trudy to put a band on her wrist as well. Marti and Adam went into the building hand in hand.
     Even though Adam had lived in Canary House in the past, he wasn’t sure he knew where the conference room was. He didn’t have to wonder long, however, as a rather large crowd milled around in the hallway. He led Marti down the hall and into the room.
     Adam glanced around the room, recognizing several faces. There were a couple of actors who’d been in the play, Carl Everett, the director of the local funeral parlor, and, much to his surprise, Sheriff Daniel Stibbens was there. Daniel appeared in street clothes rather than his uniform. He had a glass of champagne in one hand and a plate of finger food in the other.
     “Chief,” Adam walked up to the sheriff, “might’ve known I’d find you here at the goodies table, stuffing your face.”
     “I’m paying my fee so I’m entitled.”
     Adam wondered why he said “paying” rather than “paid.” “Are you here to protect the people from the ghost?”
     “Wouldn’t I need my gun if I was going to do that?” Daniel smiled.
     “So you’d shoot the ghost?” Marti asked.
     “I don’t think so. Hasn’t the ghost already suffered enough?”
     Adam shook his head in disbelief. “Don’t tell me you actually believe in this nonsense, Chief?”
     “Of course I don’t. I’m only here because I think the happenings are kind of interesting. Besides, Trudy lets me in for free if I volunteer to keep the crowd from becoming too rowdy. That’s the fee I was referring to. I’ve actually been here a couple of times in the past for the same reason.”
     “And does Dorothy always make an appearance?” Adam asked.
     “She doesn’t appear; she only makes noise in the closet. Once someone even opened the closet, but, as you might expect, nothing was found and the noises stopped after that. I’ve been told noises have been heard every year as far back as anyone can remember.”
     “Does she start rattling her chains the same time each year?” Adam said.
     “No, and she doesn’t rattle chains. This isn’t an episode of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ The only thing I’ve ever heard are a few screams and some moaning and groaning.”
     All of a sudden someone from across the room hollered, “Adam!”
     Immediately, the question crossed Adam’s mind who’d be calling him Adam. All the people in Canary Corners knew him as Ram. As he turned to see who’d called him, he immediately recognized the face of the man approaching him. He reached out a hand as the man walked up. The other did not take the proffered hand.
     “Anton, what’re you doing here?” Before he could answer, Adam continued with, “And please call me Ram like everyone does.”
     A quizzical look crossed Anton’s face, but he said, “Okay, if you say so. What kind of scam are you running here, Ram?” Anton stood a few inches shorter than Marti, wore a suit of some shiny silver material, and had a face that apparently did not smile easily.
     Adam turned to Marti. “Marti, I’d like you to meet Anton Didier, a friend from Chicago.”
     Marti held out her hand and Anton did shake hers. He even smiled at her. “Any friend of Ram’s,” Marti said. “But what did you mean by ‘scam’?”
     Before Anton could answer, Adam said, “Marti, if you’ll please excuse us, I think I need to talk to Anton and it really is too noisy in here. We’ll be back in a few.” Before Marti could respond, Adam grabbed Anton rather roughly by the arm and led him from the room and out of the apartment building. Once they were outside, Anton shook free of Adam’s grip.
     “What are you doing here?” Adam said quietly so anyone within earshot wouldn’t overhear. He continued to walk to the parking lot so they might be alone. “The last time I saw you, you were in Chicago charging people exorbitant prices for your finder services.”
     Anton followed Adam. “I’m still in Chicago and I only charge people what they can easily afford. After all, not everyone can use their psychic abilities to win lotteries like you did. But what happened to you? One day you were stealing my clients and the next you were gone.”
     Adam shrugged. “You and I both know that being a finder is not easy on the psyche. After rescuing a small girl from her pedophile teacher, I decided I’d had enough and went to Mexico.”
     Anton stopped walking, forcing Adam to do likewise. “So why are you back and, more important, what are you doing out here in podunkville?”
     “I had to come back to the States because my mother’s cancer recurred. My friend and former colleague had purchased the newspaper here in Canary Corners. He offered me a job so I decided to stay. The people hereabouts are a nice bunch and they don’t know who I really am. And I want it to stay that way.”
     A surprised look crossed Anton’s face. “Why?”
     “Because I don’t want to be a finder anymore.”
     “I guess that answers my next question. You are going to stay here, aren’t you? I was getting awful tired of you pirating my business.”
     Adam fervently hoped Anton would cooperate so he could stay. “I’ll stay here as long as you or someone else doesn’t ruin it for me. Therefore, I suggest you call me Ram like everyone else does. I have no intention of going back to Chicago unless the people here discover who I am.”
     Anton nodded slowly and thoughtfully. “Gotcha, Ram. I won’t tell anybody. The last thing I’d want to do is mess up your little setup. You might feel vindictive enough to come back to Chicago and start ruining my business again. It’s hard enough convincing people to pay for my finder services without you offering the same services for free.”
     Adam looked at Anton sternly. “You and I both know I don’t believe a finder should be charging for their services.”
     Anton shook his head. “We really don’t have to get into that discussion again. As long as you stay here, you won’t be interfering with my business and I certainly won’t tell anyone where you are. I’d much rather you keep hiding here rather than return to Chicago.”
     “Okay. Now what do we do about what you said in there?” Adam pointed to the apartment building.
     “You mean about the scam?”
     “I do.”
     “What do the people here think you do?”
     “As I said, I work for a newspaper. I write a column called ‘Ram’s Ramblings’.”
     “Thus, I presume that the people here knew you used to be a reporter in Chicago?”
     Adam nodded. “They do.”
     Anton held up his right hand, palm-side up. “Well, how about if we just tell the lady and guy you were with, and anyone else who might’ve overheard, that I said scam because I work for the Tribune and you used to scoop me on stories all the time.”
     “That might work.”
     “Okay.” Anton turned to walk back into the apartment house.
     Adam grabbed his arm. “Hold on a second. You haven’t told me what you’re doing here.”
     Anton turned back to face Adam. “It’s pretty simple, really. My dad lives in Pittsburg. I came for a visit for Christmas and my uncle, who also lives in Pittsburg, had gone on vacation in this area so he’d heard of your ghost. He told Dad, who passed it on to me. I thought it’d be interesting to come see what all the hype was about. Little did I know that I’d run into you.”
     “How long are you going to stay?”
     “I’m only planning to stay tonight. I came here today and was planning to start back tomorrow.”
     “Where are you staying?”
     “I got a room at the Canary Motel out on Ridge Road.”
     “Good. That’s a nice place. By the way, the guy that I was with when you walked up is the county sheriff and the chief of police of Canary Corners.”
     Anton shrugged. “And that matters because…”
     “It doesn’t. I just thought you might like to know. Shall we go back in?”
     “Might as well. I think I can handle whatever questions the sheriff and your lady friend might throw at me.”
     “Okay.” Adam led the way back into the apartment building and to where Marti waited.
     “Now what’s this about a scam?” she asked.
     “Anton works for the Chicago Tribune and I used to scoop him all the time and he always accused me of perpetrating some kind of scam to get witnesses to talk to me who wouldn’t talk to him.”
     “I see.” She glanced at her watch. “It’s almost nine o’clock. Maybe we’d better go get Aunt Livinia.” Then she turned to Anton. “Would you like to go with us? It’s all right, isn’t it, Ram?”
     “Of course it is, if Anton wants to. He’ll only be in town tonight, so it’d be nice if we showed him a good time, such as it is.”
     “Thanks for the invitation. I don’t know anybody else here, so I’d like to join you if you’re sure it’s all right. I don’t want to intrude, but I don’t really know much about what’s about to happen and being with someone knowledgeable would be helpful.”
     “I hate to disillusion you,” Adam said, “but we don’t know much either. This will be the first time for all of us.” He turned to Marti, grabbing her hand. “Shall we?”
     “I think we’d better. Aunt Livinia will be wondering where we are.”
     Hand in hand, they exited the conference room and went to the elevator, where they had to wait behind a number of people. Anton followed them. “Guess we’ll have to wait our turn,” Marti said.
     “Don’t they have stairs?” Anton asked.
     “They do,” Adam said. “But Livinia lives on the third floor and I’m afraid I don’t feel quite that spry tonight. Plus, the stairs will probably have a waiting line, too.”
     “Sorry, didn’t know.”
     “Of course you didn’t. But we shouldn’t have to wait long. I imagine most of these people are only going to two, considering that’s where Dorothy is supposed to do her thing.” Almost as soon as Marti finished, several people decided not to wait and headed down the hall to the stairs.
     They still had to wait through two elevator loads before it was their turn. Five other people got on when they did and Adam said, “Two?”
     One of the others said, “Yes, please.”
     Adam pushed the buttons for two and for three. All five of the others got off at two while Marti, Adam, and Anton went up to three. Adam looked out on two and noticed the crowded hallway.
     When Adam knocked on the door of Livinia’s apartment, she opened the door, spied Anton, and said, “Who’s this?”
     Anton reached out his hand and said, “My name is Anton, dear lady, and you must be Livinia.”
     “If I must be, I guess I am.” She smiled and shook his hand. “But I still don’t know who you are.”
     “He’s just an old friend from my days in Chicago and he’s only going to be here tonight. I thought it might be nice if he joined us. It’s all right, isn’t it?”
     Livinia nodded. “Of course it is. Who am I to say who goes with us? You invited me and it’s not my party.”
     “Well, good then. Are you ready?” Adam asked.
     “I am.”
     “Shall we go then? I think we’ll have to wait for the elevator, though.”
     They walked over by the elevator where Adam pushed the call button. It didn’t take long until they heard the squeak and groan of the elevator arriving at their floor. “It must have been on its way up already,” Marti said.
     “That’s not too much of a surprise,” Adam said. “There are a lot of people wanting to get to the second floor. Of course, if they started the elevator to the second floor and we pushed the button for three, the elevator would keep coming. So, I’m guessing we hit it lucky.” Adam finished just as the doors opened.
     When the elevator opened on the second floor, Livinia took one look at the crowd, and said, “I don’t know about this.”
     “Don’t worry, Livinia,” Adam said. “We’ll protect you.”
     Adam guided her off the elevator and then immediately got in front of her to split the crowd so they could make their way to the front. When they got near the closet where Dorothy was supposed to be hiding, they noticed a large sign on the door. It read, “Please do not open the door. You’ll drive Dorothy away.”
     “Hello, Ram,” Rachael Aragon, Adam’s next-door neighbor on Political Street, said. “Are you here to write a column about Dorothy?”
     “I am. Larry wanted someone to write an article last year, but he couldn’t get any takers.”
     “So you got elected this year.”
     “I did,” Adam said, having to scratch the end of his nose, which generally meant something bad or at least unexpected was about to happen.
     Just then, they heard an eerie moan that started as a low rumble and grew to a high-pitched whine that caused a lot of people to cover their ears. Most people moved away from the closet, which made the hall even more crowded around Livinia, Adam, Marti, and Anton. “Excuse me,” Adam said when someone stepped on his foot.
     The man turned around and said, “Oh, excuse me, Ram. I didn’t mean to step on your foot.”
     “That’s all right, Walter. No harm done.” Adam recognized Walter Harper, owner of a lumber yard in Frozenville. He’d met Walter during a poker game at his house several months before. The game had been arranged by Tom Stevens, the sports reporter for the Tweet.
     The moaning, whining, and occasional screaming continued, and now there was even a banging on the inside of the closet door. This cacophony continued for several minutes until all of a sudden, a man stepped from his spot in the crowd and reached over to open the door. When he did so, a body fell from the closet, and several women screamed, including Livinia. Adam hurried over but knew immediately that the body wasn’t a body at all but a mannequin.
     “What is this?” the man who opened the closet said loudly. “That darn thing nearly scared me to death.” The sounds from the closet had stopped the moment the door had been opened.
     “The sign warned you not to open the door, Jeremiah,” someone else said, laughing loudly. In a few seconds, the entire crowd had begun to laugh and several people were applauding.
     Everyone stood around for a few more minutes until one by one, they realized nothing else was going to happen and people started to wander away to the elevator or the stairs.
     “Who do you suppose is responsible for that mannequin in the closet?” Marti asked.
     “My guess would be Trudy,” Adam said. “Though I’m not sure what she hoped to accomplish.”
     “Perhaps you’re going to have to ask her,” Anton said.
     “Maybe so, but I think we’d better take Livinia home first,” Adam said.
     The three followed Adam to the elevator. It wasn’t crowded as most of the people had headed for the stairs. He didn’t have to push the up button because it’d already been pushed. It took just a few seconds for the elevator to arrive and two people got on in front of them and four more people got on behind them. When the elevator reached the third floor, Adam said, “Anton, stay on the elevator and hold it for us while Marti and I take Livinia to her apartment.”
     “Sounds good. Then we won’t have to wait for it again,” Anton said.
     “That’s the idea.”
     Anton leaned against the door so it wouldn’t close while Adam and Marti accompanied Livinia to her apartment. The three of them were back on the elevator and on the way down to the first floor in just a few seconds.
     Adam walked to the front door of the apartment building but, as he guessed, Trudy was no longer taking admission. Therefore, he walked to her apartment, followed closely by Marti and Anton. She answered as soon as he knocked and ushered the three of them into her apartment.
     “I’d bet I can guess why you’re here,” she said.
     Adam knew she probably could. “Yes, we were wondering why you put the mannequin in the closet.”
     “Just trying to bring a little excitement to the event,” she said with a shrug.
     “But do you really think you need to scare people half to death to bring a little excitement?” Marti asked.
     “Were they really that scared?”
     “Startled would be more like it. In the end, most of them thought it was funny,” Marti said.
     “So there was no harm done.”
     She really is a schemer, Adam mused. “I suppose not, but it really was a nasty thing to do.”
     “But it may cause them to come back next year to see what’ll happen.”
     “It might at that. Unfortunately, I don’t know how I’m going to write this up.”
     “It’s okay with me if you just tell the truth.”
     “Including the part about how the sounds are not from a ghost but from some hidden speakers in the closet?” Adam threw out the theory that had been bouncing around in his mind for the last few minutes but was certain to be the truth.
     Trudy was obviously taken aback. “But how did you know that?”
     “I didn’t, but because I don’t really believe in ghosts, it was a logical conclusion.”
     Trudy shook her head. “I’m not going to try to tell you what you can and cannot write in your Ramble, since I have no say anyway, but I’d appreciate it if you’d leave that part out.”
     Adam looked at her seriously. “Well, I don’t know. It is part of the story, after all.”
     “How about if I offer you a bribe?”
     “Now Trudy,” Adam sadly shook his head, “you know I’m rich and whatever you might be able to offer would not impress me.”
     Trudy smiled and winked. “I wasn’t intending to offer you money but information that you might find interesting and, perhaps, enticing.”
     “I’m listening,” Adam said and the looks on Marti’s and Anton’s faces showed their interest as well.
     “I know you know the history of how Dorothy died, and based upon your article in the paper a few months ago, you also know a little about the other prostitute who was killed in the Cat House. Her name was Gertrude, or Gerty by the way.”
     Adam shrugged. “Only what I’ve been told.”
     “Well, maybe I can add a little to your knowledge. Did you know, for example, that the man who killed Gerty was a prospector?”
     Adam looked at Marti, who shook her head, and then said, “No. I’ve never heard that. But what’s that got to do with anything and why might I consider that information vital enough to accept as a bribe?”
     Trudy smiled like a cat who’d cornered a mouse. “Because there’s much more to the story. He got drunk that night because he was celebrating. Guess what he was celebrating.”
     Adam looked thoughtful. “Well, considering he was a prospector, I’d guess he was celebrating a gold strike.”
     “You got it. And,” she said with a big grin, “his claim was never filed nor found after his death. Based on what he bragged about to some of the other people in the Cat House that night, it was a very rich strike.”
     “Okay, you’ve piqued my interest, but where are you going with this?” Adam said.
     “Well, I know something that not a lot of other people know. According to what I’ve been told, he drew a map to his gold mine that he buried in a small box, which has also never been found.”
     “Okay,” Adam said, pulling out the notepad he always carried for situations like this. “I assume there’s more.”
     “Of course there is. He didn’t trust his memory about where he buried the box, so he drew directions for finding the box on the handgrip of his pearl handle pistol. He’d apparently won the gun in a poker game and it was his pride and joy.”
     “And what happened to the gun?”
     “It was buried with him. But, when the body was found, the side of the pearl handle that had directions to the map had broken into three pieces. Each of the two people who found his body and buried him took one of the pieces and left the third piece on the gun with the body. They apparently tried to remove it, but it wouldn’t come loose so they left it. I guess their thought was to go back later to get the last piece. They apparently never got the chance to go back and because the body’s never been found, the three pieces have never been joined. Thus, nobody’s ever had the directions to where the box is buried.”
     “Okay,” Adam said, “I’ll bite. Where are the two pieces that weren’t left with the body? And do you know where the body is buried?”
     “Well now, those are part of the mystery. Nobody really knows who has the pieces or where the body is buried.”
     “Well, who originally found and buried the body? Do you know?” Marti chimed in.
     “That’s never been known either, but me and a friend have been doing some research and I think maybe we’ve figured it out. We discovered early in our research that the prospector’s name was Butch Chandler and he was married to a full-blooded Hopi Indian woman whose name was Honovi, which I believe means ‘Strong Deer’, not that that has anything to do with anything. My friend’s been doing research for a doctorate on the Hopi Indians and he came across an Indian named Honovi Chandler from the late 1800s. She was apparently pregnant when her husband died. There isn’t any record of who Honovi Chandler’s husband was, but her last name was Chandler and Butch Chandler reputedly had a full-blooded Hopi Indian wife, so it isn’t too hard to figure out that she must’ve been his wife and Honovi’s daughter must’ve been Butch’s daughter. Now, as it turns out, Honovi’s daughter had two daughters and a son of her own. The two daughters died a long time ago, but her son’s still alive, though he’s over eighty years old.”
     “Just a minute,” Adam said. “I once had to write an article about Indians around the country, and as far as I remember, the Hopi Indians are only in Arizona. Were they ever in West Virginia?”
     “Not that I know of,” Trudy said. “But apparently Chandler had looked for gold in California, and met up with some Hopi Indians on his way back east. And to make a long story short, he married one of them and brought her east with him.”
     “But what’s all that got to do with the map to the gold mine?” Anton asked.
     “Who is this?” Trudy looked as if she’d just noticed Anton for the first time and asked, “Should I be telling you all this in front of him?”
     Adam frowned at Anton, but said, “He’s all right. He’s an old friend from Chicago. Go on with the story.”
     “Well, according to the records my friend uncovered, Honovi found and buried her husband. The records also indicated the other person helping to bury her husband just so happened to be Kitty Sheridan. I do believe you know who she was.”
     Adam nodded and Marti said, “Isn’t she the one who owned your house, Ram?”
     “Correction,” he said. “She originally owned the foundation’s house.” He turned back to Trudy. “So you’re saying that the records indicate that Honovi and Kitty each had a part of the directions to where the box with the map in it was buried on the piece of the gun grip they took with them.”
     “That’s what I’m saying. Where they are now nobody seems to know. Nor does anyone know where Chandler’s body is buried. That knowledge apparently died with Honovi and Kitty, so, even if you could somehow get your hands on Honovi’s and Kitty’s pieces, you wouldn’t have any way to find the third piece.” She paused for a few seconds and then looked at Adam hopefully. “But, even though that’s true, don’t you think it’s an interesting story?”
     “It is indeed,” Adam nodded. “In fact, it’s interesting enough that I’ll forget about how the ghostly sounds are artificially generated.”
     “Oh good.” Trudy clapped her hands with a little girl’s excitement. “Thank you so much. If that got out, maybe nobody would come to my New Year’s Eve party next year.”
     “Never let it be said that Ram got in the way of legal commerce. Though I don’t know how kosher it is to fake the noises, I don’t see how what you’re doing could possibly be construed as being illegal and you’re not really hurting anyone. From what I saw, the people were having fun and I don’t think there’s much chance all of them believe the sounds are really coming from a ghost.”

Chapter 4

     After Marti and Adam had bade farewell to Anton and Trudy and were on their way back to Adams house, Marti asked, “What now, Sweetheart?”
     “I guess we’ll go home and get a good night’s sleep.”
     Marti gave Adam a stern look, which he didn’t see because he deliberately kept his eyes on the empty street in front of them. “All right, quit being a wise guy. You know what I meant.”
     “Oh,” Adam said, feigning innocence, “you mean about the theoretical gold mine?”
     “Of course I do. I know you well enough to know you’re not going to be able to leave that mystery alone. So again I ask, what’s next?”
     “I guess the first step would be to find Kitty’s piece of the pistol grip. Without that, finding Honovi’s piece won’t do any good and without both of those, finding the one that’s still in Chandler’s grave definitely won’t do any good.”
     “And just how do you suggest we go about finding Kitty’s piece?”
     “Do you remember that passage in Kitty’s journal we couldn’t figure out?” After Adam had moved into the Arkin house, Bagel had noticed a small door under one of the kitchen cabinets and Adam found a journal written by Kitty therein. The journal had been written with a distinctive and florid Old English style. Unfortunately, many of the passages made reference to one or more things that were unfamiliar to either of them.
     “You’ll have to be more specific than that. There were a number of passages we had no clue about what she was talking.”
     “I’m thinking of the one that made reference to gold. Do you remember what else it said?” As he drove into the garage, the door automatically opened.
     “No, I’m sorry, I don’t. I assume you’re thinking it has something to do with the prospector’s lost grave and map. We’ll just have to go through the journal again.”
     After Adam had turned off the alarm system, they went in the house to let the dogs out and back in. Then they settled down on the couch with the journal. It didn’t take long before Adam found the passage about which he’d been talking.
     “Here it is,” he said. “See it says gold and then has the initials RTD and the numbers 2-4, 3-6, and 5-2. Any idea what it might mean?”
     “I don’t have any more idea now than when you asked before.”
     “The only other time I’ve seen the initials RTD was in a city and it meant Rapid Transit District, in other words, the bus routes,” Adam joked.
     Marti looked at the ceiling in mock consternation. “Somehow, considering most of this journal was written about a hundred years ago, I doubt that it refers to bus routes.”
     Like I didn’t know that, Adam mused. “I know. I was only kidding. I do wonder, however, what it could stand for.”
     “More than likely, it refers to something that had meaning only to Kitty.”
     “Maybe so, but I do have an idea. You know Dolly’s grandmother was Ivy Franks and she and Kitty were the prostitutes who danced in the Undress Inn.” She nodded so he continued. “I just thought that perhaps Dolly might have some idea what RTD stands for. And if she doesn’t, maybe her mother does. I interviewed her mother for the Undress Inn Ramble, if you recall, so I’d think she’d probably be willing to talk to me again if Dolly can’t help.” Once, when business was slow at the Cat House, the owner had sent Ivy and Kitty to what was then known as the Snowbound Inn to do a strip-tease to help drum up business. Their show proved to be so popular that the owner of the Snowbound Inn hired them away from the Cat House. Henceforth, the Snowbound Inn became known as the Undress Inn. Complaints by their wives forced the city fathers to tell the owner of the Undress Inn to get rid of the strippers or risk being shut down. Thus, the show was no more and Ivy and Kitty were out of a job. Fortunately, each had a former client who loved and married them.
     “I seem to remember,” Adam said, leafing through the journal. “Ah, yes, here it is.”
     Marti looked from Adam’s face to the journal page. “What’s that?”
     “Kitty makes reference to a grave being hidden away. I didn’t understand that when we first read the journal, but now I think I do.”
     Marti looked thoughtful, but said, “I still don’t.”
     “You know that most of the paintings hanging in this house were painted by Kitty Arkin, the wife of the original owner.”
     “Of course I do. You know I’ve admired them ever since you moved in.”
     “I know and I know you’ve looked at the paintings enough to know that Kitty had a label put on each of her paintings like Squirrel, Bear, and Meadow Sunset. I’m thinking that she created a painting of the spot where she and Honovi buried Chandler and had it hanging somewhere down here. Then, at some point, she must have hidden it. Possibly in the attic. So a grave wasn’t hidden, but a painting of a grave.”
      “Possible, I suppose. Have you ever been in the attic?” Marti absently looked at the ceiling, though the opening to the attic wasn’t in the living room.
     “Only once, after I first moved in, but I didn’t see any paintings.”
     “What’s up there?”
     “Just some old furniture and boxes of stuff that I’ve yet to explore.”
     “Are any of the boxes big enough to hold a painting?”
     “Not if the painting in question is anywhere near the same size as the other ones spread around the house.” Adam gestured at several of the walls. “She seemed to like to paint on large canvases.”
     Marti glanced where Adam was gesturing. “Yes, she did. Do you want to go up in the attic to look for the painting?”
     “No, I don’t think so. It’s awfully dusty up there. Besides, we don’t really need to find the grave until we find the other two pieces of the grip.” He didn’t want her exploring the attic because he’d hidden a box of papers his mother had left for him before she died. He hadn’t looked at them yet, but he didn’t want Marti finding them. He guessed they probably contained some family history and even though he was absolutely certain of his love for her, he still wasn’t ready to share his history quite yet. He might be someday soon, but certainly not tonight. Besides, he didn’t want her going through the papers until he’d had a chance to do it himself. He wasn’t sure why he hadn’t gone through the papers yet except for the fact that they might bring back painful memories of how his mother had died. He didn’t think he was ready for that quite yet.
     “Good morning, Dolly,” Adam said when she answered his call.
     “Morning, Ram, what can I do for you?”
     “Marti and I have a couple of questions for you if it’s not too early.” He didn’t have the number, but Marti had it in her phone because Livinia and Dolly were such close friends and often spent time together.
     “It’s not. I’ve been up for hours. Come on over.”
     “Okay, we’ll be there in a few minutes.”
     Dolly answered at his first knock. Vastly overweight, Dolly could generally be seen wearing a mumu as she did now. Her silver hair always reminded Adam of an untended garden because it stuck out all over the place.
     “Morning, Ram, and you, too, Marti. Please come in.” She stood aside so they could enter her apartment.
     “Now, what do you want to know?”
     “As I said, we have a couple of questions for you, if you don’t mind,” Adam said.
      “Of course.” She settled her bulk on the couch and Adam and Marti sat in the proffered chairs. She nodded, indicating Adam should begin.
     “I know you know your grandmother’s history with the Undress Inn, but do you know she was friends with Kathyrn or Kitty Sheridan?”
     “Yes. But I think her name was Arkin, not Sheridan.”
     “Arkin was her married name. She was Kitty Sheridan when she was dancing. But that doesn’t really matter. What we need to know is if you might know what the initials RTD stand for?”
     “Where did you see those initials?”
     “I’m living in the house that Kitty’s husband originally owned and was then passed down to Kitty’s daughter and finally, by a strange twist of fate, to my foundation.”
     “I’ve heard.”
     “My dog Bagel found a secret hiding place in the kitchen and we found a journal written by Kitty inside. In one passage, she refers to gold and then lists the initials RTD, followed by a series of numbers.”
     “Sorry. I don’t know what it means. I’ve never heard anyone using those initials in reference to anything.”
     “Do you think your mother might know?” Marti said.
     “Can’t say. She might.”
     “Do you think she’d be willing to talk to me again?” Adam asked. “I originally interviewed her for my Ramble on the Undress Inn.”
     “I knew that. She told me. She enjoyed talking to you.”
     “So you think she’d talk to me again?”
     “I’m sure she would.”
     “Okay. I’ll call the nursing home and find out when it would be convenient to talk to her. But now, I think we’d better be on our way. We haven’t eaten breakfast yet. Have you? If you haven’t, would you like to join us?”
     “I have. But thanks for the invitation.”
     “Amy,” Adam said when Amy Frisco answered the phone at the Sunset Village nursing home. Adam knew Amy not only from his first visit to the nursing home to interview Audrey, but also because she was a cast member of “A Christmas Carol.” When the theater caught fire and burned down because of some extremely old wiring shorting out, he rescued her son. “I’d like to come over and talk to Audrey Leech again whenever it’s convenient.”
     “I’m sorry, Ram. Audrey had a stroke last night. The doctor’s attending to her now.”
     “How serious was it?” Adam glanced at Marti, who looked worried, so he mouthed, “Stroke.”
     “Fortunately, according to the nurse who was with her before the doctor arrived, it wasn’t too bad. She should be up and around again in a few days.”
     Adam waited a few days before he called again, but Amy told him that Audrey still wasn’t ready to have visitors. After several more days, he arranged his visit. He went by himself because Marti’s Christmas vacation from school was over and she was back at work.
     “Good afternoon, Amy,” Adam said, entering the lobby of the Sunset Village nursing home. “How’s Audrey doing?”
     She shook her head sadly. “She’s kind of in and out. She’s sleeping a lot. I just looked in on her a couple of minutes ago because I knew you were coming, and she was awake. That doesn’t mean she’ll still be awake.”
     “Well, shall we go see?”
     “Certainly. What did you want to see her about? Are you going to write another column about Ivy?” Ivy, Audrey’s mother and Dolly’s grandmother, stripped with Kitty at the Undress Inn. Thus, Ivy was mentioned in the article Adam wrote about the Undress Inn.
     “No. I’m in pursuit of a story, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with Audrey’s mother, other than in a peripheral way. I just need some information and thought perhaps Audrey may be able to give it to me.”
     “Well, let’s go see if she can.” Adam followed Amy down the hall into Audrey’s room.
     “Hello Audrey,” Adam said. “How are you feeling?”
     “Only so-so,” she said, her speech slurring a bit. “You want to talk to me?”
     “I do, if you’re feeling up to it.”
     “I’m okay, just a bit tired. What do you want to know?”
     “I think I told you I’m living in Kitty Sheridan’s, or Kitty Arkin’s house.” Audrey nodded so Adam continued. “My dog Bagel uncovered a hidden storage place where I discovered a journal written by Kitty. In one of the passages, she made reference to something abbreviated RTD. I was wondering if you might know what the initials RTD stand for?”
     Audrey shook her head. “Sorry, I don’t know.”
     “But I think I do,” Amy said. “I wish you had told me that’s the information you were seeking. I could’ve given it to you days ago.”
     Adam turned to look at her. “Okay, I’m game. What is it?”
     “RTD stands for roll top desk. I only know because my grandfather used to build roll top desks and he used that abbreviation all the time.”
     “That’s very interesting. I’d have never figured that out.”
     “I’m not surprised. The abbreviation wasn’t necessarily in common use, even in Grandpa’s day, and it certainly isn’t in use today because roll top desks haven’t been manufactured for many years. It’s really a shame, too, because I think they’re really neat. Of course, it only stands to reason I’d think so since Grandpa made them.”
     “Why don’t we continue this conversation in your office?” Adam glanced at Audrey. She’d fallen asleep. “It doesn’t seem that our conversation stimulated Audrey.”
     “I’m sure she’s just tired. I don’t know what you know about strokes, but they really take it out of a person. Of course, I’m used to seeing the results of strokes around here because, unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence for our residents.” Amy left the room and Adam followed her down the hallway to her office.
     “There’s more to the passage in Kitty’s journal. Just a second.” Adam took out the small notebook in which he’d jotted down the whole passage from the journal. “Following the initials RTD, there is a series of numbers.”
     “What kind of numbers?”
     “There were three sets of numbers and they were 2-4, 3-6, and 5-2. Do you have any idea what they might mean?”
     “No, I’m sorry I don’t. But maybe my dad will. He used to help my grandfather make the roll top desks. He was a carpenter before he retired, even though he didn’t make roll top desks anymore.”
     “I’d love to talk to your dad. Does he live around here?”
     “He doesn’t live in Canary Corners, but he does live in Bear Cave which, as you probably know, is only about forty miles away.”
     “I’m familiar with Bear Cave, although I haven’t actually been there yet. Could you give your dad a call by way of introduction and find out when he might be available?”
     “I’ll be happy to call him for you, but he doesn’t need an introduction to you. He’s read your column ever since it first appeared and he feels the same way I do about your writing. I have no doubt he’d be honored to talk to you. As a matter of fact, why don’t I call him right now?”
     “That would be appreciated.”
     “Dad,” Amy said after she listened for her father to answer. When she spoke, her voice was barely below a shout. “Everything’s just fine. Ram is here and he needs some information. No, not Sam, Ram. Would you like to talk to him?” She listened for a few moments, and then held the phone away from her body and turned to Adam. “He’s overjoyed at the possibility of being able to help you, but I think and he thinks it would be best if you visit him instead of talking to him on the phone considering his hearing’s not the best. Years ago, Dad was working in a house near a manufacturing plant, and the plant had a gas explosion. Fortunately no one was hurt, but the noise from the explosion damaged Dad’s hearing.”
     “Tell him I’ll be happy to drive up to Bear Cave and see him in person. I presume you can give me directions to his house.”
     “I can.” She turned her attention back to the phone and said loudly, “Dad, when would be a good time for Ram to come for a visit? Okay, I’ll check.” She held the phone out again and turned to Adam. “He says you can come right now if you’re available. He has a golf game with a couple of buddies in a few hours, but he’s free now and is going to be home until then.”
     “Now’s just fine. I shouldn’t need to talk to him for more than a few minutes. Hopefully, he’ll have some idea of what the numbers are all about.”
     “Hopefully so.” She told her dad Adam would be leaving for Bear Cave soon, hung up, sat at her desk, wrote an address, and sketched a small map. When she finished, she handed him the paper. “Here’s his address and I drew a small map to his house. I’m not much of an artist, but I think it’s good enough to enable you to find his house.”
     Adam looked briefly at the map. “I’m sure I’ll be okay. I think you drew a fine map.”
     “I thank you for that, even though I know it’s not true. But, if it does the job, I guess it’s good enough. By the way, my father’s name is Bernard, although everyone calls him Bernie and I’m sure he’d be pleased if you did so as well.”
     Adam drove into Bear Cave and, following the map, drove directly to Amy’s father’s house. “Hello,” Adam said loudly when a man an inch or two shorter than Adam, with muscles bulging under his T-shirt, answered the door. Adam remembered that Amy’s father was hard of hearing. “You must be Bernie. It’s all right if I call you Bernie, isn’t it?”
     “Of course it is. You must be Ram. I’m so pleased to meet you. Amy probably told you that I love your column. I presume she also told you I’m a bit hard of hearing because of an explosion a few years ago.”
     “She told me,” Adam said loudly.
     “In case you’re wondering, I’ve tried various hearing aids, but none of them seemed to help. I guess the damage to my ears is too severe. Fortunately, I can hear as long as people speak up. But enough about me, what can I do for you, Ram? And please come in and have a seat.”
     “Amy told me you used to be a carpenter,” Adam said when he settled in a chair near where Bernie sat.
     “That’s correct. I made furniture, cabinets, and just about anything else you might want that could be made out of wood. I even helped build some of the houses around here.”
     “She also told me you used to help your father build roll top desks.”
     “I did. They were a lot of fun to build.”
     “Well, if you don’t mind, I have a bit of a puzzle for you to solve. At least it’s a puzzle to me and to everyone else I ask.”
     “What is it? I’ll help you solve it if I can.”
     Adam pulled out the small notebook he’d written his notes on. “I have a journal that was written by someone about a hundred years ago, and it makes reference to a roll top desk with the initials RTD. That does mean roll top desk, doesn’t it?”
     Bernie nodded. “Probably.”
     “Then the initials are followed by some numbers.”
     “Yes, the numbers 2-4, 3-6, and 5-2. Do you have any idea what the numbers might mean?”
     “Indeed I do. Before my grandfather began building roll top desks, when he was just a youngster, someone named Carlos Danvers was famous in the area for building roll top desks with at least one hidden drawer in each desk. The drawer was revealed when several of the many small drawers under the roll top were opened in a certain sequence. My guess would be your numbers mean row two drawer four, row three drawer six, and row five drawer two.”
     “You mean there’s a roll top desk somewhere that if I open those drawers in that sequence, a hidden drawer will open?”
     “I should think so. As I said, Carlos was famous for making desks like that. Any idea what may be in the hidden drawer?”
     “I guess I can tell you because you may have helped me solve the puzzle,” Adam said. “I think there’s a piece of the grip from a pistol in it.”
     “Come again?”
     “You said you’ve been reading my columns. Did you read the one about how the Cat House became the Canary House?”
     “Of course I did. That was really interesting. I didn’t know any of that.”
     “I’ve been told the man who beat the prostitute to death was a gold prospector who’d just found a gold strike. He was apparently celebrating his find with a visit to the Cat House.”
     “Okay, but what’s that got to do with a piece of a gun grip?”
     “Apparently, he didn’t trust his memory, so he drew a map to the location of his gold strike. He buried it in a small box somewhere. So he could go back later to find the box, he drew directions to where the box was buried on one side of the grip of his pistol. When his body was found, apparently the grip had broken into three pieces and I think one of those three pieces may be in that hidden drawer in the roll top desk. At least I’m hoping it’s in that drawer. I’m also hoping, of course, that I can find the right roll top desk. At this point I have no idea what roll top desk the lady who wrote the journal was referring to. I’m currently living in the house she owned, but there isn’t any roll top desk in the house.”

Chapter 5

     When Adam got home, he thought he’d look through the attic to see whether the roll top desk he hoped to find might be there as the desk wasn’t anywhere in the main part of the house. He hoped maybe, just maybe, he’d get lucky. He knew there were a lot of items in the attic covered by sheets. Like he’d mentioned to Marti, he’d checked out the attic when he’d first moved into the house. When he hid the box of records his mother left for him in the attic, he’d covered it with a sheet in the hope that it would blend in with the rest of the items. He’d looked under several of the sheets and had found a couple pieces of old furniture and a stack of boxes. At the time, he speculated he’d return to the attic someday to check out everything, including anything in the boxes he might find there, but hadn’t yet done so. Now he had a perfect reason.
     Grabbing a flashlight from the kitchen, he walked into the hallway, grabbed the knob on the end of the rope hanging from the ceiling that was connected to the stairs, pulled them down, unfolded them, and then carefully climbed the stairs into the attic.
     His memory served him well. About ten to fifteen items were covered with sheets. Before disturbing any of the sheets, he walked through the attic, looking for something that looked like it might be a roll top desk covered with a sheet. He didn’t see a likely candidate, but he knew a roll top desk would be at least three to four feet high. Therefore, he skipped all the items that were not at least that tall.
     First he uncovered a tall stack of boxes, and then a chest of drawers, and finally a roll top desk. The reason it hadn’t looked like a roll top desk when covered by the sheet, was that it had a mirror lying flat on the top of the roll top, camouflaging the arc of the roll top. He set the mirror on the floor and raised the roll top. As he’d hoped, there were several rows of small drawers. Unfortunately, they were split down the middle and he didn’t know whether he should be going from the left towards the middle on the left side or from the right towards the middle on the right side. But he knew the first thing he needed was the set of numbers. He took out his notebook, where he’d written the theoretical roll top combination.
     He decided to try the right hand drawers first. He pulled out the fourth drawer from the right in the second row. He listened carefully for a click or some other sound that might indicate pulling out the drawer caused something to happen. Unfortunately, he heard nothing. Undaunted, he pulled out the sixth drawer from the right in the third row. He still heard nothing. He knew he wouldn’t be satisfied until he’d finished, so he pulled out the second drawer on the fifth row. Nothing happened.
     He knew either the set of drawers on the left side held the key to opening the hidden drawer, or it had to be the wrong roll top desk. He wasn’t about to give up without trying the combination on the other set of drawers. Unfortunately, this availed him nothing either. He had no choice but to deduce this wasn’t the roll top desk that, hopefully, held the sought-for piece of pistol grip.
     He looked under the sheets of the rest of the covered items but found no other roll top desk. He also didn’t find the painting of the grave the journal had hinted might be in the attic. He didn’t think any of the boxes were big enough to hold the painting if, as he’d mentioned to Marti, it was anywhere close to the size of the paintings in the rest of the house.
     All of a sudden, he remembered something Addison Marsden told him. Addison was the realtor who originally arranged for Adam to borrow the house when he formulated a plan to trap the burglar that had been terrorizing Canary Corners. Addison had mentioned a museum in Frozenville had several of Kitty’s paintings. He wondered whether any of Kitty’s furniture had been put in the museum as well. He knew he’d never rest until he drove to Frozenville and visited the museum to find out.
     Because he planned to go to a museum and wanted to do more than merely look at the desk, if it was indeed there, he thought he’d better take proof the foundation now had ownership of everything in the Arkin estate. Otherwise, if he did happen to locate the right roll top desk and the piece of the grip was indeed hidden therein, they might not let him take it.
     When Adam arrived in Frozenville, he stopped at a gas station to get directions to the museum. Fortunately, the man he talked to did, in fact, know the location of the museum. He jotted down the directions on a piece of paper even though they were so easy he didn’t think he needed to have it written down. After he left the gas station, he drove directly to the museum without a single wrong turn.
     “Hello, Adrian,” Adam said to the pretty young girl at the ticket counter, reading her nametag. “My name is Ram and I…”
     “You’re the new writer for the Tweet. I recognize your name. Of course, that’s not too hard. It’s not everybody who has a name like Ram.”
     “I’m certain that’s true. I’ve never heard of anybody else called Ram. But what I started to say is, I started the Rambling Foundation, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but the foundation is now owner of everything in the estate of Rebecca Arkin. I’ve been told you have some paintings by her mother, Kitty Arkin. What I’m wondering is if you might also have any furniture originally owned by Kitty.”
     “Indeed we do. Would you like to see it?”
     “That’s why I came here today. But I’m hoping to do more than look at it.”
     “What do you mean by that? Do you intend to take some or all of the items back? I know it’s your right because the items are only on loan, but it would be a real shame if you were to do that. Of course, if you intend to take some of the furniture or paintings, I’ll need some kind of paperwork showing you are indeed the inheritor of the estate.”
     “No, nothing like that. I simply want to explore Kitty’s roll top desk, if you happen to have one.”
     “Actually, we have two roll top desks on loan from the Arkin estate. But what do you mean by explore?”
     “I’m hoping a piece of Canary Corners history is located in the roll top desk.”
     “So you’ll want to actually open the roll top desk and maybe some of the drawers within? If you’re going to do anything like that, I’ll still need some proof you have the right to do so.”
     “That’s all right. I brought the paperwork with me that assigns everything in the Arkin estate over to the Rambling Foundation, of which I’m the chief officer.”
     “Okay. I guess that should do. But before I let you leave with anything, if that’s your intention, I’ll have to talk to the manager of the museum. Give me a moment to call Jesse up here to relieve me, and I’ll take you back and show you the desks.”
     “Is Jesse the manager?”
     “No. Just another girl who works here. I thought it might be best for her to relieve me so I can show you around the museum to point out precisely where the things on loan from the Arkin estate are located and what those things are.”
     “Sounds like a plan,” Adam said.
     Adrian picked up a phone and spoke a few words before turning her attention back to Adam. “She’ll be just a few minutes.”
     It was actually only about one minute before a tall, willowy blonde came out of the back and opened the door to the ticket booth. “This is Ram, the new columnist for the Tweet.”
     “I’ve read your stuff.” Jesse’s smile lit up her face. “Are you going to write about the museum?”
     “That’s not why I’m here, but that’s not a half bad idea.” Adam looked at Adrian and said, “What do you think?”
     She didn’t even hesitate. “I think it’s a heck of an idea. Do you think you can?”
     Adam shrugged. “I’ll have to check with my editor, but I don’t see why not. I’m supposed to be able to write about anything I want to and the museum would seem like an interesting topic. Depending, of course,” he winked at Adrian, “on what I see.”
     “Then maybe you should go on in and see if you think there’s enough interesting stuff.” Jesse pointed to the door into the museum proper.
     “Good idea.” Adrian exited the booth and indicated that Adam should follow her as she headed into the museum.
     Glass cases lined the hallway they walked down. The cases held all manner of historical items, each with a label. Above the cases were a number of paintings and pictures. Adam looked at a couple of paintings closely, and saw one that he recognized as Kitty’s style even though it was smaller than the paintings in his house. It had the name of the painting, Sunset Drive, inscribed on a brass label and the painting had the artist’s name, K. Arkin. It depicted a carriage with a background of a gloriously colored sunset. A little farther on hung a painting Adam easily recognized as the Cat House because it had a large sign above the building virtually identical to the one in the photograph he’d put in his Ramble about the Cat House.
     Adam followed Adrian to the end of the hallway, which opened into a large room overflowing with antique furniture. The room held several roll top desks.
     Adrian walked directly to one of the desks. “Here’s one of her, or now your, roll top desks.” She winked.
     A sign on the top of the desk indicated it was on loan from the estate of Rebecca Arkin, but it also said the desk had been built by Thomas Herriman. Adam’s spirits sagged a bit as he knew this was the wrong desk. “I don’t think this is the desk I was looking for. May I look at the other desk from the estate?”
     “Yes, of course. It’s in another room.”
     Adam followed her out of the room, around a corner and down a short hallway into another large room almost as packed as the first room. Only one roll top desk stood in this room and Adam walked directly to it. It had been roped off, but he could see a small sign on this desk proclaiming it to be on loan from the estate of Rebecca Arkin. Fortunately, this desk was, in fact, built by Carlos Danvers. He grinned because he felt he’d found the desk he had been looking for, or at least he hoped he had. He could scarcely believe his luck. But he had yet to prove this was, in fact, the desk with the secret drawer containing the piece of the pistol grip.
     “This is the desk I was looking for. At least I hope it is. Do you know anything about desks created by Carlos Danvers?”
     “Only that the desks were created around 1900 and he was famous for his craftsmanship. Why do you ask?”
     “Because I’ve been told one of the things he was also famous for was creating a hidden drawer in his desks. I have,” Adam took out his notepad on which he’d written the numbers, “a series of numbers that, supposedly, is a type of combination so that when you open the drawers under the roll top in a particular order, the hidden drawer opens.”
     A startled look creased her face. “You don’t say?”
     “I do say, but only because someone else told me. I don’t know if it’s true or not. I’m hoping it is, because I’m hoping the artifact I’m looking for will be in the hidden drawer. Is it okay if I try the combination I have written here?”
     “It is as far as I’m concerned, but may I see the papers you said proved you’ve inherited the Arkin estate?”
     “Absolutely,” Adam said, pulling out the copies of the papers he had Debbie, the manager of his foundation, make because he didn’t feel comfortable carrying the originals. He handed them to Adrian, who glanced at them briefly.
     “May I also see an ID? No offense, but just because you say you’re Ram, doesn’t make it so. I’ve never seen your picture in the paper. And, by the way, what’s up with that? I thought reporters liked to have their pictures in print.”
     “Well, I’m an exception to that.” He handed her his driver’s license. “I don’t take very good pictures.”
     She looked at him intensely. “I highly doubt that. But if that’s your story…” Her voice trailed off while she looked at his license. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll call Don, the manager of the museum, and get his permission to let you do whatever you need to do to the desk.”
     All Adam could do is hope that Don would agree with his plan. He nodded. “Whatever you need to do.”
     Adrian took out a cell phone and speed dialed a number. She spoke for a few moments to her manager, assuring him she’d examined the papers Adam had brought. When she hung up, she turned back to Adam. “He said it was okay for you to do whatever as long as you didn’t damage the desk and that you could go ahead and get started. But he also said he’s going to come over to meet you and see what you’re doing and he wants to examine the artifact, if you find it.”
     “I don’t intend to cause any harm to the desk. As I said, I’m only looking for a secret drawer. I want to see if the artifact I’m looking for is hidden within.”
     “Just what is this artifact, if you don’t mind my asking?”
     Adam told her the story of the prospector and the three pieces of the pistol grip. “So may I explore the desk?”
     “Of course. I’d like to see for myself if such a thing is true. It’ll give me a little bit more information for the museum. I haven’t shown them to you because you didn’t ask, but the museum has several more roll top desks created by Carlos Danvers.”
     “Well, if the hidden drawer in this desk, if there actually is one, doesn’t contain what I’m looking for or my combination doesn’t open the drawer, maybe I’ll have to try the others.” Adam suddenly had a thought. “Because you have several other desks created by Carlos Danvers, is it possible this desk was inadvertently switched with one of the others?”
     “Absolutely no chance at all. We’re scrupulously careful about such things. If we weren’t, people wouldn’t loan us things for the museum and the museum depends upon those loans. Most of the things in the museum are, in fact, on loan.”
     “Okay, let’s see if my combination works.” Adam went behind the rope and raised the roll top. Before he had a chance to do anything, however, a tall, slim man with a craggy face came into the room. They both turned.
     He held out his hand. “You must be Ram,” he said. “I’m Don Jeffers, the manager of this museum.”
     “My, you certainly got here fast,” Adam said.
     “I live just around the corner from here. Kind of handy, actually.”
     “I can imagine,” Adam said, shaking his hand. He was immediately overtaken by a brief vision in which he saw the face of a woman, but little else.
     “Are you okay?” Don asked. “You kind of spaced out there for a second.”
     “I’m fine,” Adam said. “I just got a little dizzy. I have a slight heart problem that sometimes affects me.” He’d concocted the story to explain his body manifestations when overtaken by a vision. He hoped it would be satisfactory. He thought about the face he’d seen. He knew he’d seen the woman before, but couldn’t place her.
     He turned back to the desk that had the roll top rolled up. The desk had a separation between the left side drawers and right side drawers like the desk he found in the attic. He thought he’d start from the right side the same way he did before. This time, however, when he pulled out the fourth drawer on the second row, he heard a faint click. He could scarcely contain his excitement. “I think this may be it. Did you hear the click?”
     She nodded. “I did hear a virtually imperceptible click. What did it mean?”
     Don looked confused.
     “I’m hoping it’s like tumblers that fall into place when you use the combination of a safe. But I guess it remains to be seen. I have two more drawers to pull out.” And with that he pulled out drawer six on the third row. He heard another faint click. He turned and smiled at Adrian and Don. “One more.” He pulled out the second drawer on the fifth row. With that, a panel on the right side of the desk slid down and a drawer as wide as the width of the desk poked out slightly. He reached over and pulled the drawer as far out as it would come.
     “Ah ha.” He smiled when he looked into the drawer and saw the piece of the pistol grip he was hoping to see. He picked it up and briefly looked at it before he held it out for Adrian and Don to see. “This is just what I was looking for.”
     She looked at it and then shook her head. “What’s so important about that? It’s not even the whole side of the grip.”
     “What grip?” Don asked. “What is that?”
     “It’s part of a pistol grip,” Adam said to Don. “I didn’t expect to find the whole grip. Look carefully at it.”
     “I see the markings,” Don said. “But what do they mean?”
     “I was told that this piece of the grip along with two other pieces of the same side of the grip form a set of directions to where a box is buried which holds a map to a gold strike.”
     “That wouldn’t be the lost Chandler mine, would it?” Don asked.
     “You know about the Chandler mine?”
     “People have been looking for the Chandler mine for I don’t know how long. Every so often, a new map to the Chandler mine will surface. Obviously, as the mine has never been found, the maps have been bogus.”
     “Supposedly, the map that the directions on the gun grip lead to was created by Chandler himself. Whether it proves to be the genuine article or not, is still to be discovered.” This conversation tickled the back of Adam’s consciousness. He would have to have some time alone to bring everything into focus.
     Adrian pointed at the piece in Adam’s hand. “Do you intend to take that piece of the grip with you?”
     “If it can be arranged. I’ll be happy to bring it back at some point. When that’ll be, however, I really can’t say yet.”
     “That’s okay. As I said before, I guess it actually belongs to you.” Adrian turned to Don. “But also, as I said before, that decision is up to Don.”
     “What do you intend to do with it?” Don asked. “As you said, it’s only one piece of three, and doesn’t have the entire set of directions.”
     “I’m hoping to locate the other two pieces as well,” Adam said. “This was just the first piece. I’m not sure where the other pieces are yet.”
     “I assume one of the pieces is still buried with Chandler’s body,” Don said. “Do you have any idea where that is?”
     “I see you’re familiar with the legend, and, no, I don’t know where Chandler’s grave is. All I can do is hope to find some clues at some point.”
     “Well, I’m afraid we can’t be of any help in that matter. We don’t have any information about the grave in anything in the museum.”
     “What do you think, Don? Is it okay to take this with me?”
     “As Adrian said,” Don said, “by all rights it belongs to you anyway. I know Adrian examined your paperwork, but do you mind if I take a gander at it as well?”
     “Of course not.” Adam handed the papers to Don.
     He looked them over and then said, “These look to be in order. You can take the piece, but, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d appreciate it if you’d sign a receipt.”
     “I don’t mind at all. With any luck, I’ll be able to return this piece along with the other two pieces to the museum at some point.”
     Don nodded to Adrian. “Okay. Adrian will write up a receipt for you to sign.”
     “I can do that,” Adrian said. “If you’ll follow me to my office…”
     Adam followed her and Don left.