Chapter Three

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It was still early in the day when I left Seymour Sanderson, his hands wringing as he begged me to promise I'd return the book safely home.

The consequences of not doing so, of keeping the book here, seemed impossible to fathom as he described them. So I tucked them away in my mind for now. I needed more information, but it was clear I was only going to get so much from the notes he'd dictated and the quickly scribbled map of sorts he had drawn into my notebook with thin and shaking fingers.

I needed time to think. I needed to sort through the information he'd thrown at me so quickly I'd had no time to absorb it.

I needed more coffee.

I was going to have to call in sick.

Making that call wouldn't be difficult; I sounded stuffy as hell after my foray into Donahue's attic the day before. My allergies and asthma were still killing me. I sat in my parked car and swallowed a couple more antihistamine pills with the cold remains of the coffee I'd picked up earlier. I grimaced as the bitter pills mixed with the stale brew, but at least I got them down. I drew another puff from my inhaler. It seemed to slow the spasms of my lungs enough that I could get some air again.

I took my phone out of my bag, antiquated though it was— its only abilities were to make phone calls and take horrible pictures. I hit speed dial number three.

"Sandy Reynolds," said the voice on the other end.

"Sandy, it's Keigan." The phones at the library were too old to have caller ID, so I didn't expect her to know. "I'm sick as a dog, I need to call off today."

"Attic got the better of you, didn't it? I swear, you sound like you're wheezing."

I listened to my own breaths and realized I was. I pulled my inhaler out of my pocket again and began to shake it. "I am. I have got to rest today, and sort through some stuff, too." I let the last bit hang there, and she made the assumption I expected.

"I know you must have things to tie up from your Grandfather's estate. Has to be hard to do on weekends when nothing is open and no one answers the phone at the insurance companies. We'll manage without you today. Tomorrow, though, is another story. So don't overdo. Get better, hear? Don't go thinking you can show up in the morning, flash me those green eyes and dimples, and expect to go home early."

"Yes ma'am," I replied. "Thanks."

I clicked the phone off and flipped it shut. Then I took one more blast from my inhaler.

Was it possible Seymour Sanderson, this self-described scientist, was more than just senile and delusional? Did the book hold the key to some sort of doorway to another world, one he swore I would have to see to believe?

One he insisted I had to visit if I was going to stop potentially disastrous things from happening.

I didn't know what to think, really, but I knew where my first stop would be. I'd head home, throw a few more things in my backpack. Then I would raid the change jar Grandfather kept behind the front door, I would beg his forgiveness, and I would empty the contents into the coin machine at the local supermarket. There should be more than enough cash in there to get me where I knew I needed to go next: Wishing Cross Heritage Railroad, inside the Historical Park. I didn't want to wait until nightfall to do a little looking around. And this way, whether or not the old man's key worked, I'd be where he wanted me to be when darkness came.

***

Charged up on the double cappuccino I treated myself to between the apartment and the Park, my mind raced as it rarely had before. I had read through the notes Mr. Sanderson had given me three times, but then I did as he asked and reluctantly burned them, with one of the last of the matches Grandfather had used to light his pipe in the evening.

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