"How can you read in a car? I'd be hurling within two minutes."

Clara sat twisted in the passenger's seat of the car. The contents of the pier demolition file laid on her lap, the seat, and the floor beneath her. She held one of the more yellowed documents up in front of her. The harsh sunlight shone through the thin paper.

"Never bothered me," she said, sounding distracted.

Nicholas turned off the highway. He took a sideways glance at Clara. "What's that one?"

"Some kind of vendor contract for 'County Zone C-1 through R-6," Clara answered. "And the signature..."

"What about it?" Nicholas asked.

"This curved cross on this T," Clara said, her voice shaking. "That's the way Theresa signs her name. But this says Theresa Rizzieri – not Theresa Fogelsang."

"Rizzieri... the Castle owner's last name?"

"Yes," Clara said, letting it sink in. "Carlo is her father."

"Whoa," Nicholas said.

Clara looked up just in time to see a "Welcome to Sewardsville" sign off the shoulder. The approaching town looked nothing like Breach Point. Its houses were peeling apart, and the shops and businesses on the main street had seen their prime a good fifty years earlier.

At Clara's suggestion, Nicholas parked half a block down from Rudderow's Rare Books instead of taking one of the spaces in front of the shop. He had to circle the block to find a parking spot out of view from the entrance.

Clara opened her door. Nicholas started to do the same but Clara stopped him.

"No," she said. "It'll be better if we don't walk in at the same time."

"Really?" Nicholas said.

"Yes," she replied. "And we should act like we don't know each other once we're inside."

"Sure," Nicholas said. "Two separate teenage shoppers walking into the same old book store just after it opens on a weekday morning won't arouse suspicion at all."

Clara shook her head. "Once I've made some small talk with Rudderow, I'll ask him about the old Castle articles he wrote. We'll see what I can get out of him."

"And what should I be doing?" Nicholas asked. "Checking for secret passages?"

Clara looked at him sternly. "You just make sure things don't get out of hand," she said.

"Sure," Nicholas said. "Thanks for the specificity."

"Five minutes," she said, shutting the car door behind her.

She crossed the street, noticing litter everywhere. On the sidewalk Clara saw long dirt streaks on the fronts of buildings and wondered why no one had bothered to clean them up. Maybe because there were no customers anywhere. Aside from a father and daughter strolling further up the block, she was the only person on the street.

Clara passed a hardware store, a deli, and a news stand before she reached the entrance to Rudderow's book shop. She opened the door and walked in, immediately locking eyes with an old woman hunched in a rocking chair in the otherwise empty store. The woman's hands were folded under a blanket. Clara turned past the first end cap and went down the History aisle. Though she was out of view, it felt like the old woman was still looking at her through the shelves.

Clara took in the smell and immediately knew that this was her kind of book store. All of the spines were at least lightly worn, if not fully cracked and frayed. She loved imagining the history of each volume laid out before her.

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