Chapter Twelve

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After finishing my deliveries for the day, I received approval for my work from Mr. Wilson and was sent home to warm up and dry out.

Before I left the store, though, I made the decision to purchase a third set of long underwear and socks for sleeping in; that way, I could have my wash drying by the small stove in my room and still not freeze to death or have to sleep in tomorrow's clothing.

I hurried 'home', and found Mr. Best already in the kitchen making supper.

"Look at you, son, you'll catch your death," he said, truly concerned. "Get out of those wet clothes and back in here as soon as possible. Warmest room in the place. I'll make you some tea."

"Thank you, sir." My teeth rattled together from the cold.

I was never more grateful for a change of clothing in my life as I was for the one I had now. I wrapped one of the blankets from the bed around my shoulders as well to try to slow my shaking as I made my way back to the kitchen.

"There's warm water to wash your hands, and the tea is ready," Mr. Best said, indicating the basin on the far wall. "Dinner will be in about half an hour. You must be starving."

"I am," I admitted, too tired in the moment to say much else. The warm water wash and the tea revived me some, and I was content to sit in a chair as close to the stove as I dare and soak in the glorious, radiant warmth.

Dinner smelled delicious, and I wondered what it was.

"A soup recipe I got from Mrs. Sutton," he explained, gesturing toward it with the spoon. "Potatoes and such. It's a favorite of mine. I hope you'll like it."

I didn't want to admit to him that I'd eat anything by this point, but the truth is I would have. I felt like I'd never eaten in my life.

I was still shaking despite my best efforts to stop, and he refilled my teacup. "Drink up, and maybe I should put a little something extra in it to help ward off the chill." He took a small bottle of spirits from a cabinet in the corner and poured a splash into my tea.

I sniffed at it and then took a sip. My drinking career was non-existent, since I was one of the few people who believed in obeying the law and not drinking underage. I had no idea what kind of booze he'd put into it; I didn't care, either. It tasted good and made me feel warmer on the inside. I drank up in a hurry.

By the time I was on my third cup of tea, he began slicing bread and placed it and some butter in front of me. "Help yourself."

I did, and between bites, I analyzed the man carefully. He was a kind soul, slight of build and of stature but large in heart and spirit. I wondered how much I dared trust him with. I knew I needed someone in town I could trust, and he had already trusted me enough to allow me to rent his spare bedroom.

I decided I had no choice but to take him into my confidence, not if I were going to unravel the mystery before me in time to figure out what I should do with the book now: return it to Sutton's library somehow without being discovered, or destroy it the way Seymour wanted me to.

"May I ask you a question, sir?"

"Of course." He stirred the pot again. "Ten more minutes until dinner, in case you're counting."

I nodded. "Thank you. My question may seem a bit odd, but I have my reasons for asking it."

Best replied, turning to face me with the spoon still in his hand. "All right. I'll try to give you my best answer." He took another spoonful of soup and was about to taste it when he added, "Ask away."

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