A LIKELY STORY
“I need a plunger and a mop stat!” Lindsey Norris cried from the family restroom in the children’s area of the Briar Creek Public Library. There was an inch of water on the floor and the water spilling over the toilet bowl showed no signs of slowing.
The harried mother and daughter who had just been in the restroom, stood by the door with the young girl giving Lindsey big worried looks while the mother gushed apologies almost as fast as the toilet spilled water.
“I’m so sorry, so sorry, so very, very sorry,” Kimberly Curtis said.
“It’s fine,” Lindsey lied. “Happens all the time.”
She glanced down at the young girl, Madison Curtis, who was pulling her winter hat over her face as if to hide. She peeked at Lindsey from under the edge and said, “I sorry. Ducky wanted to swim.”
Lindsey felt her lips turn up in spite of the situation. She glanced at Kimberly and said, “It does make sense on one level.”
Kimberly hugged her daughter and gave Lindsey an appreciative glance. “You’re very kind, but there is nothing logical about flushing a stuffed duck down the toilet.”
“Here’s the mop!”
Lindsey glanced past Kimberly and Madison at her second in command. Her longtime friend, Beth Stanley was coming at her with a mop in one hand and a plunger in the other, or more accurately, a mop under one wing and a plunger under the other.
“Wild guess, here,” Lindsey said as she took in Beth’s bright yellow hooded sweatshirt with wings on the sleeves and an orange beak and two large eyes sewn onto the hood. “Make Way for Ducklings for story time?”
“McCloskey is the man!” Beth said. “Yes, we read all the feathered faves; Ping, Come Along, Daisy!, and The Ugly Duckling, natch.”
“Well, you inspired little Madison here to set one free,” Lindsey said.
“Uh oh,” Beth said. She looked past Lindsey at the bathroom floor.
“It’s fine, I changed into my boots,” Lindsey said. She pointed to her L.L. Bean snow boots. “I’ll just waddle on in there and shut the water off.”
“I’ll help. I’m in boots, too. They look like duck feet, don’t you think?” Beth asked.
“They do,” Lindsey agreed. She looked at Kimberly and Madison. “We’re going to start cleaning and then I’m going to call our maintenance people from the town and see if they can get your duck out of the pipes.”
Madison’s face crumpled and she looked like she was going to have a complete meltdown. Beth, ever in touch with her story timers, saw the brewing storm and started having a conversation with Madison’s duck.
“You’re going where? Oh, sorry,” she called into the toilet. She glanced at them with a chagrinned look. “I forgot to speak in duck.” She turned back to the toilet and said, “Quack, quack quackety quackers.”
Madison’s face went from distraught to hopeful. Beth kept up the conversation, making Madison laugh while Kimberly leaned close to Lindsey and said, “We won’t need Fluffy back. When Madison made it her go-to stuffie, Beth advised me to buy more of the same. I bought three of them and I rotate them in and out so they have the same amount of wear.”
“Brilliant,” Lindsey whispered back. Then she hurried into the bathroom to shut the water off.
“Where did Fluffy go?” Madison asked Beth. Her four year old voice was so pitiful that Lindsey wanted to hug her.
“Fluffy says she’s going to visit her sister and she’ll be back,” Beth paused to look at Kimberly, who nodded, “After dinner.”
Madison beamed and clapped her hands as Beth and Lindsey sloshed back toward them.
“What do you say, Madison?” Kimberly asked her daughter.
“Thank you,” Madison hugged Beth around the knees and then did the same to Lindsey.
“You’re welcome,” they said together. They waved as the mother and daughter bundled up to go out into the February cold.
“Maintenance is never going to get that duck out of there, are they?” Lindsey asked.
“Not a chance,” Beth said. “But it’s okay. Kim is smart and has backups.”
“So she said,” Lindsey said. “Great advice you gave her there.”
“Sometimes I pull a good one out of my beak,” Beth joked. “Quack.”
“Clark from Maintenance just called. They are fixing an electrical issue with the town garage and can’t get back here until late this afternoon,” Ms. Cole said as she joined them. She looked at the bathroom with disapproval and said, “When Mr. Tupper was director we never had plumbing issues.”
“That’s ridicu—“ Beth protested but Lindsey interrupted her.
“Thank you for calling them, Ms. Cole,” Lindsey said.
When she had taken the job as director of the small town library a couple of years ago, she’d had no idea that her skill set would expand to include basic plumbing, but then there were a lot of things she hadn’t expected when she took this job. She supposed the unexpected was what kept it interesting.
She glanced at her watch, speaking of interesting she had a meeting to attend. Her weekly crafternoon group was scheduled for one hour from now, and she knew what she had to do. Mop.
“Hurry!” Beth said as she and Lindsey hustled down the hallway.
It had been a couple of years now, and Lindsey was surprised at how much of an important part of her life their weekly crafternoon meetings had become for her.
Briar Creek was a small town nestled on the coast of Connecticut. Its claim to fame was that Captain Kidd had once buried treasure out in the Thumb Islands, which numbered into the hundreds if you counted big rocks, out in the bay. As yet, no one had found the treasure although plenty had tried.
When Lindsey had become the director of the library, she knew that in order to survive, she had to make the library a place that people really enjoyed spending time. One of her very first ideas had been to form a crafternoon club, a group of women who met every Thursday for lunch, book talk and crafting. Men were welcome, too, but so far they’d had no takers.
Instead of a program for the library, what Lindsey had gotten was a close knit group of friends who shared her love of food and books and tolerated her inability to craft. She adored each and every one of them.
She and Beth skidded into the room to find the meeting already under way. Nancy Peyton, Lindsey’s landlord, was leading the discussion.
“Inspector Grant,” Nancy said. “What do we think of him, ladies?”
Her short gray hair was cut to flatter her large, sparkling blue eyes. She was dressed in her usual turtleneck sweater and slacks with a heavy chambray shirt over the sweater to keep out the winter chill.
“I like him,” Violet La Rue said. “He has spunk.”
Lindsey smiled as she and Beth hit the buffet spread and loaded up their plates. Violet would know a spunky personality since she had one herself. A retired star of the Broadway theater scene, Violet dressed in long flowing caftans in brilliant jewel tones. She wore her thick gray hair in a knot on the back of her head. While about the same age as Nancy, Violet’s brown complexion was wrinkle free except for several tiny lines at the corners of her eyes, which only showed when she laughed which she did quite often.
Given both Violet and Nancy’s feisty ways, it was no surprise to Lindsey that they approved of Inspector Grant the hero of this week’s book under discussion The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.
“Hurry up, you two, before we get to the good stuff,” Charlene La Rue ordered.
Charlene was Violet’s daughter and just as lovely as her mother. Charlene worked in New Haven as a newscaster but spent her off time in Briar Creek with her husband and children as her children loved to help their grandmother with whatever community theater project she had underway.
Charlene had been in charge of the food this week and it consisted of a large casserole dish filled with Shepherd’s pie, an arugula salad, sweet tea, and chocolate cream pie for dessert. The pie was still hot and Lindsey felt her mouth begin to water. She’d had no idea that swabbing a bathroom floor could cause such an appetite.
“The good stuff?” Mary Murphy asked. “Are we talking about the food or the book?”
Mary Murphy was a pretty brunette who owned the local café the Blue Anchor with her husband Ian Murphy. She was also the younger sister of Lindsey’s ex-boyfriend Capt. Mike Sullivan, known to everyone locally as Sully.
Lindsey always appreciated that Mary was able to separate their friendship from Lindsey’s relationship with her brother, although Mary did lobby on her brother’s behalf every chance she got.
“The book, definitely the book,” Charlene said.
“Speaking of which,” Nancy paused and her eyes twinkled as she looked at Lindsey. “Can you imagine trying to solve the mystery of whether King Richard III murdered the princes in the tower just because you were hospitalized with a broken leg and were bored? Who does that sort of thing, solve mysteries just because?”
Lindsey shoved a forkful of salad into her mouth and then pointed to her lips to indicate she couldn’t talk right now because she was chewing.
Charlene laughed. She scooted over on the couch so that Lindsey could sit next to her. Then she looked at Lindsey and said, “I think she’s teasing you.”
Lindsey swallowed. “You think?”
Beth took on seat on the other couch next to Mary and said, “We could always talk about who you’re dating if that would be more comfortable for you than your inclination for amateur sleuthing.”
“Did you know that The Daughter of Time was written in nineteen fifty-one, shortly before Tey’s death? It was her last novel and was voted number one on the list of top one hundred crime novels of all time by the UK Crime Writer’s Association in nineteen ninety?”
Mary shook her head at her. “That was the worst attempt at a subject change ever in the history of our meetings.”
“Obviously, Lindsey does not wish to discuss her personal life,” Violet said. “We should respect that.”
“We should,” Nancy agreed. “But we’re not going to, are we?”
“Of course not,” Mary said. “So, how is the old love life?”
Lindsey gave her a stubborn look. “I’m not dating anyone right now, so it’s steady as she goes thank you very much.”
“Really?” Mary asked. She sounded disappointed. “Not even a lunch date?”
“No breakfast, lunch or dinner dates,” Lindsey said. “Or any other kind of date for that matter.”
“So, you’re not dating at all?” Violet clarified. She caught Lindsey with her hawk like stare and Lindsey turned to Charlene.
“I bet you never lie to her,” she said. “She’d catch you in a nanosecond.”
“That stare is like getting blasted with a laser gun,” Charlene agreed. “It’s kept me on my toes my whole life.”
“It’s sort of like Tey’s hero Inspector Grant and his ability to judge a person’s character by their face,” Lindsey said.
“It doesn’t keep you from changing the subject though, does it?” Violet asked, looking a bit put out.
Lindsey grinned. Violet had a horse in the race for Lindsey’s affections, an actor friend of hers named Robbie Vine, who was ridiculously charming and also married, adding to what was already a complicated situation.
“Speaking of Inspector Grant’s uncanny ability,” Lindsey said. “Do you think it’s possible?”
“To read a person’s character from their face? I wish,” Beth said. She pushed her salad around her plate with her fork. “Every time I think I’ve nailed it, the guy turns out to be a toad. I’ve dated more than my share of toads. I’m surprised I don’t have warts.”
“But I thought you had a nice time with that young banker you went out to dinner with last week,” Nancy said.
“Ugh,” Beth grunted. “He’s all about conspicuous consumption, you know, the big house, expensive car, designer label life. So shallow.”
“That’s too bad,” Violet said. She patted Beth’s shoulder. “Don’t you worry, the right one will come along.”
“Speaking of the right one,” Charlene said.
She turned her reporter’s gaze on Lindsey, who immediately hopped up from her seat before the conversation could veer back to her personal life.
“Do we have enough paper for the paper flowers we’re making?” she asked. “Maybe I should go check on that.”
She crossed the room to their crafting table. Today they we making bouquets of paper roses out of recycled office paper. Lindsey planned to use the bouquets to decorate the library and help fight off the winter doldrums.
Using scrap paper with words printed on them, they used a template to cut the petals out then they colored just the edges of the paper to give the flowers some pop. Next they would use a glue gun to layer the petals from biggest to smallest. Once the flowers were done they would attach green florist wire for the stem and then put them in vases all over the library.
She heard the women resume talking about the novel and she heaved a sigh of relief. She loved them all dearly but she didn’t want to talk about her love life, since she barely had a handle on it herself. In truth, it wasn’t complicated so much as it was none of their business, but that seemed rude to say.
“Lindsey, can I talk to you for a sec?”
Lindsey glanced up at the door to see their library clerk Ann Marie Martin standing there. The ladies all greeted Ann Marie warmly, and Nancy promised to bake a batch of molasses cookies for Ann Marie to bring home to her two precocious boys.
When Lindsey had started at the library, Ann Marie had dressed in the standard issue mom ponytail and corduroy jumper, but as the boys had gotten older and were more occupied in school, Ann Marie was letting her dark brown hair down and dressing in tailored slacks and pretty sweaters. Still, she always smelled like cinnamon and apples, which Lindsey found comforting.
There was no question that Ann Marie was looking much more professional these days. An idea wiggled in the back of Lindsey’s brain but she pushed it aside for the moment, focusing instead on her employee.
“What can I do for you?” Lindsey asked.
“We finally got that book in for Stewart Rosen,” Ann Marie said. She held up the book in question. It was a medical text that they’d borrowed from a university for him. “They’re giving us a very short turn around on it. Just two weeks.”
Lindsey glanced at the title and nodded. “Stewart will want this right away then.”
“That’s what I was thinking,” Ann Marie said. “Do you want me to put a call in to Sully to see if the water taxi is available?”
“That’d be great,” Lindsey said. She felt her heart kick up a notch at the thought of spending the afternoon with Sully.
“I think Stewart and Peter have some other books put aside for them on the hold shelf as well. Could you check this one out to them and put it with the others?”
“You got it, boss,” Ann Marie said. “Make sure you dress warm. The wind out on the water today is brutal.”
“Will do,” Lindsey said.
In her previous occupation as an academic librarian, Lindsey had never mopped up after overflowing toilets, but she’d never gotten to go on boat rides, either. Even though it was a chilly day in February, she couldn’t help but be pleased that she was going out to the islands to deliver books to two of their homebound patrons. It was one of the parts of her job that made her feel as if she really was making a difference in her patrons’ lives.
When Lindsey had become the librarian, she had made it her mission to reach out to the residents of the Thumb Islands and provide them with borrowing privileges and they had responded with great enthusiasm. Stewart and Peter Rosen were elderly brothers who had lived their entire life on Star Island. They were definitely on the odd end of the spectrum but Lindsey had become rather fond of them and their quirks.
Now if it just so happened that she had to use the local water taxi, operated by her ex-boyfriend Sully, well, what was a girl do? Borrowers needed books and Lindsey was all about giving excellent customer service.
Luckily, Star Island wasn’t too far out in the bay. She could be out there and back within an hour. Easy peasy, or so she thought.