Chapter 34

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Alex couldn’t help but feel both a little foolish and nervous when he walked into the library. It was Saturday so the school library was closed, but he figured what they had the public library would have as well. Peggy was working again and she smiled when she saw Alex walk in. Giving what he hoped wasn’t too forced a smile in return he walked up to her and waited for a brief second while she answered a phone call.

“What can I do for you today deah? More old papers” She asked.

“Not today,” Alex said, “I was wondering if you had any of the old yearbooks from the high school, and if you do how far back do they go?”

“I think we do deah, let me just check on the computah and I’ll tell you what we got” Peggy replied.

She put on a small pair of glasses and started typing into her computer using her index fingers, grumbling to herself whenever she missed a key. Alex waited patiently while she fumbled with the keyboard, smiling at the comical look of concentration on her face, it reminded Alex of a child trying to keep his crayon marks in the lines of a coloring book.

“Ah, there they are,” she said after a few minutes of typing, “we have them all the way back to when the school opened. What year do you want to look at?”

Alex considered the question for a moment, the picture was dated 1940, but for all Alex knew the boy in the picture could have graduated a year or two ahead of the picture, or maybe not even attended the school at all. He realized that the entire venture was just a shot in the dark and sighed, “I think I’ll look at a few, can I have from 1935 to about 1940 or 41?”

“You can look at however many you want as long as you’re the one that carries them” she said with a wink. “Go downstairs and past the children’s wing, they’re in the small reference room across from the bathroom. Section D will be on your far right as you walk in. Room’s not used much so you should have it all to yourself.”

“Thank you” Alex said, then quickly headed down the stairs.

At one point the bottom floor of the library was nothing more than a root cellar, a bare dirt floor and stone walls that held nothing more than junk collected over the years. Alex could almost feel the change in the air as he descended the stairwell, the subtle smell of damp earth couldn’t be held back by the thin walls and concrete floor that were hastily put up during renovations about ten years prior. Alex could even see small stains in the carpet from where the floor was starting to crack underneath and water seep through. The small hallway had a feeling of lonely disrepair, almost making Alex want to turn back. Only the brightly colored nursery rhyme characters on the walls and the sounds of a small group of children laughing at some story kept the place from seeming unusable and abandoned.

Alex paused at the doorway to the children’s room when a group of kids burst into laughter. There were about half a dozen small kids sitting in bean bag chairs around an elderly woman who had a book on her lap and a puppet shaped like a dog on her hand. Whatever story she was reading had the kid’s complete attention, nobody noticed Alex standing in the doorway for that brief moment.

Moving on he came to the small room marked “local reference.” In truth, the room was nothing more than small town politics. Alex could remember Mark complaining about his taxes going up when the library wanted to turn the “root cellar” into a fully useable wing using the children’s room as an excuse just so the town hall could have “another place to store their crap,” as Mark had put it.

Alex felt along the wall inside the doorway until he found the light switch and flipped it on. It took a few moments for the old lights to come to life, when they did one of the bulbs in the fixture kept flickering. There was more than enough light to see, but Alex suspected he would have a headache by the end of the day from squinting at yearbooks in the flickering light.

The room was no more than a large closet, stuffed full of everything from old newspapers to thick binders filled with paperwork. There was barely enough room to move between the four bookcases that filled it, one on either wall and two in the middle marked from A to D. Curious, Alex walked around the shelves to see what the library considered local reference. A and B were mostly filled with old town reports and files of tax records, C had hundreds of maps and blueprints on one side, and dozens of binders on the other that were filled with newspaper clippings and pictures from local events over the years.

Uninterested, Alex turned to the shelf marked D, all the yearbooks donated to the library over the years were crammed into two neat rows on the top two shelves. They went all the way back to the early 20’s. Having no idea what year to start, Alex grabbed the yearbooks from 1930 to 1933. Not wanting to carry them all the way upstairs just for the comfort of a table and chair, he sat down on the dull grey carpet and dropped two of the books beside himself. He doubted anyone would come in here anyways, considering the thin layer of dust on the bookcase and the flickering lights. He was willing to bet that he was the first person to really use this room in years.

Alex opened the first book, he could smell the age in the musty old pages, a mixture of mildew and dust filled the air as he started to make his way through the faces of the students. Looking through the old pictures, Alex couldn’t help but laugh at himself a little. Here he was looking at faces of people who today would be anywhere from ninety six to one hundred years old or older, and hoping to find someone who was only a senior in high school amongst them. Maybe he had gone insane.

It didn’t take long to get through the first book and move on to the next, classes were a lot smaller back then and Alex figured if he kept moving up through the years he should really only have to concentrate on the freshmen class before quickly scanning the upper classes in case of a new student. He spent the next hour slowly and carefully scanning each book, pausing every now and then to look twice at some of the more attractive girls or spend time reading the stories and remarks from students.

The cramped space and hard floor were starting to make his lower back hurt, and as predicted the constantly flashing light was giving him a headache by the time Alex pulled the 1939 yearbook off the shelf. He cracked his neck irritably, by then getting the impression that this was indeed on a wild goose chase. There had not been a new student in the yearbooks since 1932 and all the faces were starting to blur together.

Scanning through more freshmen faces, his stomach was rumbling loudly and he was getting more than a little frustrated with himself for even being here. He turned to the last page of freshmen pictures and saw nobody that even resembled Ethan. He stood up cursing and stretched the stiffness out of his back, feeling his spine pop in four or five places. It was time to get out of here and get something to eat.

Alex started to put the yearbook back on the shelf when he realized that he hadn’t even gone past the freshmen class, he shrugged and opened the book back up. May as well finish this one, he thought. The sophomore and junior classes showed nothing but the same faces he had been looking at in the last few yearbooks; hell some of them even had the same hairstyle in every picture.

It was on the very first page of the senior class that Alex felt his heart skip a beat. There had been a new student transfer in that year, Charles Adams. He had a different hairstyle, but it was still blonde, and there was no mistaking those dark eyes. If it wasn’t Ethan looking up at him from that old picture, it was his identical twin brother from 1939. Looking down at the page Alex’s hands started to shake, and from somewhere inside he felt anger begin to build. The problem wasn’t Ethan’s picture looking up through the pages of time; he had almost expected that and was a little relieved if he was being honest with himself. The problem was another picture on the page, the picture of the teacher.

Alex had also seen her face in an old picture before. This time though, she was smiling instead of looking off and she was wearing a light colored dress instead of a black one. It was Denise Roberts, Nadia’s ancestor and the mother to then nine year old Madeline Roberts, the girl who would be found dead less than a year later in her own back yard.  

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