Well, yesterday ended up strange. Instead of writing, I fell asleep at 6:45 (!!!), woke up for three hours, and fell asleep again and slept until 7:30. I am learning that chronic pain is energy sapping (this is good for all of us to realize when we deal with people who LOOK fine but tell you they are hurting). Since my knees have gotten worse my energy levels have dropped. I'm good for one activity per day, basically. My class is filled with absolutely wonderful people who do not mind me sitting when I lecture, so work has been okay. But when I go out and DO anything (like trying on 100 bras), I get wiped out FAST.
Knees -- terrible again today. I cannot wait to get home and start the program again and find some relief! I am encouraged to know that relief WILL come from adjusting my diet, though!!!
(Irene -- my toes are some form of scarlet -- since I fell asleep so early I did not give myself a pedicure, which I need!)
I also forgot to post a new chapter of Caroline, too. So here is chapter five:
“What are you waiting for?” Caroline urged. “Read the letter!”
“It’s not our letter,” Alex stated flatly. “We have no business reading it.”
“Geez, Alex. If everyone followed that rule no one would ever discover ancient treasure maps or learn about lost civilizations. What if it’s a ransom note and we solve a kidnapping? Besides, I don’t know any ‘Cassie’ and I grew up here. Go on—maybe the letter will help us figure out how to return this stuff to its rightful owner,” she added quickly, hoping this would appeal to his sense of justice.
Apparently it did the trick. “All right. I suppose it is on my parents’ property, anyway.”
Caroline bent over to pick up the flat oval object that Alex had dumped out of the envelope. It was some kind of metal, a little bigger than a quarter, and had a seam running around its perimeter. It was tarnished to a dull brown color, a faint swirl pattern pressed into its sides. She wedged her fingernail into the edge and pried it open. It was a tiny picture frame, the smallest she’d ever seen, made to hold two photographs. As she opened the frame a tiny leg popped out of the back, allowing the frame to stand, propped open, on a flat surface. Inside the frame were two black and white photographs, one on each side. The photographs had aged a bit but Caroline saw two smiling faces, one of a young man and the other of a young woman. They looked familiar somehow, yet she couldn’t place either of them.
She looked up at Alex. “Read,” she commanded him.
Alex sighed, unfolded the letter, and read aloud.
“Dear Cassie,” he began.
“I’m so sorry, my darling, but I have to leave right away. I can’t wait even long enough for you to return from Jacksonville, but I must be on the bus to New York City this evening.
“Our prayers have been answered, Cassie. I’ve been offered a job—an engineering job—which will give me the resources I need to see some of my inventions take form and perhaps even be manufactured. This offer is everything we’ve been praying for—maybe more. The only down side is that it’s so far away.
“I want you to come with me, Cassie. To marry me, just like we’ve been talking about. I can’t imagine all of this without having you at my side to share it. You’ve been my inspiration all along, encouraging me to stick with my creations even when I wanted to give up. Even when my folks—and just about everyone else—told me to stop dreaming. Any success that I will ever have in this life, my dearest Cassie, will be due to your encouragement and your faith in me.
“I’ll be making enough money to support us in New York. We won’t be rich, but we won’t starve. And we’ll be together. Forever. You can apply to the CIA like you’ve dreamed—or go to college—anything you want to do.
“I wish I could see you right now. Or at least talk to you about all this. I know what you’d say, though. I know that you want this for me—maybe even more than I want it for myself.
“I’m giving this letter to Danny, along with a picture frame that I bought for you this morning after I got the news. I’ll buy you an engagement ring, of course, but I want you to have this now. Danny’s promised to pass them along to you as soon as you get home. I’ve given him a plane ticket for you, too, Cassie. If you say ‘yes,’ I’ll meet you at the airport gate and whisk you off to City Hall to be married. The ticket is for two weeks from now. That will give me time to find us a place to live and time for you to do the things that you have to do before you can join me.
“Before you can marry me. Before we can begin the rest of our lives together.
“I know it’s not the fancy wedding that you deserve. But more important than our wedding will be our marriage, our life together.
“I love you with all my heart, my beautiful Cassie.
“Yours, always yours, Chris.”
Alex’s voice trailed off. He looked up at Caroline with a questioning look on his face.
“Do you know anything about this? Do these names ring any bells?” he asked.
“Wow. No. I don’t know any Cassie, and Danny and Chris are such common names that they’re not much help as far as clues go. There’s not a plane ticket in the envelope with a last name, is there? Is there a date on the letter?”
“No date—it just says ‘Friday afternoon’ on the top of the first page. And nothing else in the envelope—just the letter and the frame. How did it get under my gazebo? And why was it there in the first place? Hey—I thought you said it was boring around here!”
“Check out the frame, Alex. How long ago do you think this letter was written? Look at the pictures – maybe we can figure something out based on their hairstyles or their clothes. Oh—you can’t really see what they’re wearing.”
Alex took a pocketknife out of his shorts. Very gently he pried the picture of the man out of the frame. “Look at this, Caroline. They’re not photographs like you’d take with a camera. They’re cut out of a book or magazine or something.” He handed her the small picture.
She turned it over. On the back was part of a picture of someone else—the very top of a head—and part of what might be a name above that: “Joa—.” The rest of the word was cut off. “I wonder where these pictures came from. Hey—maybe this IS part of a kidnap plot. I mean, your house is a mansion and all. And she wanted to join the CIA! Maybe she became a spy! Maybe someone was kidnapped and the frame is the kidnapper’s proof that he had Cassie and—”
“Caroline,” Alex interrupted. “This is a love letter, not a ransom note. And you already told me that everyone on the island knows about everybody else. Don’t you think you’d have heard if there had been a kidnapping, even if it was fifty years ago?”
“Okay, Mr. Knows Everything, what’s your idea?”
“Maybe there was a tragic accident. Maybe just as Cassie was about to get on the airplane to New York she got word that Chris had been killed and in her grief—”
“In her grief she wrapped up his letter and the frame, stuck them inside a mayonnaise jar, and hid them in your gazebo? Yeah, sure, that makes a lot more sense than my kidnapping idea,” Caroline scoffed.
“Okay, well, let’s think about it. The jar was hidden. Was it hidden so that no one could find it or was it hidden so that only one person could find it?” Alex was thinking out loud. “Maybe Chris hid it here because he knew Cassie would find it. But maybe something happened and she never got here.”
“What about Danny? In the letter, Chris says that he’s giving the letter and the frame and the ticket to Danny. Maybe he’s the one who hid them here and forgot about them or something. Wait, though – how could anyone ever have found them? They were under the floorboard, after all. You had to rip out a board to get to them.” Caroline carefully placed the picture back into its frame. “We’re assuming that these are pictures of Chris and Cassie, right?”
“I think so, yes. That would make sense, anyway. Well, Caroline—what are we going to do with this stuff? Maybe we should take it up to the house and give it to Mrs. Birch.”
Caroline hastily took the letter from Alex. She put the letter and the frame back in the jar and screwed on the lid. “No, Alex. Let’s see if we can figure this thing out by ourselves. We have all summer to solve this mystery. Who knows how long this stuff has been here? A few more weeks won’t make a difference.” Looking at Alex’s doubtful expression she added, “We’ll give everything to Mrs. Birch if we haven’t worked this out by the end of the summer. Deal?”
“All right,” Alex agreed. “Deal.”
“Let’s take this stuff to my house. I need to get this bread to Mom and we can figure out where to hide the jar in my room.”
“Why do you get to keep the stuff?” Alex asked. “I found it. It was on my property. I think the letter and the pictures should stay with me.”
Caroline had to admit that Alex’s claim to the items was stronger than hers. She wasn’t willing to part with them that easily, though.
“I think I should definitely keep the frame,” Caroline stated. “It looks like something a girl might have so it’ll be less suspicious if I’ve got it and someone spots it. Let’s share the stuff now—you keep the letter and I’ll keep the pictures. We can walk down to the library later and make copies of the letter so we can both study it.”
Alex responded as Caroline had figured he would. “All right,” he agreed. “But we need to make copies of the pictures in the frame, too. Just in case.”
After taking their empty milk glasses back to the kitchen and telling Mrs. Birch where they were going, Alex and Caroline headed over to her house. Before they got there, Caroline turned to Alex. “Take the envelope out of the jar and stick it under your shirt. I don’t want anybody to know we’ve got this stuff. I have the nosiest family on the planet.”
The Tomato wasn’t in its usual parking spot as they approached the Brennan house. Kael wasn’t home. Good, Caroline thought. One less person to get past. She quietly opened the front door and she and Alex slipped inside. She could hear her mother singing in the kitchen and the noise of the tv in the family room. “Stick close by me,” she whispered.
As Caroline had figured, Donny didn’t even glance up as the two of them walked by. They got into Caroline’s room undetected and Alex pulled the envelope out from underneath his shirt. He handed it to Caroline.
“I’ll put it in my drawer. No one ever looks in here but me, but I’ll bury it underneath my socks anyway. Let’s go give this bread to Mom before she wonders why we have it in here.”
With the frame and the letter safely stashed away, Caroline and Alex hurried to the kitchen. “Look innocent,” Caroline whispered to Alex as they entered the room.