The Unlikely Association of Meg and Harry
Jennifer Keogh Armstrong
Cold in Canada
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That's what my dad says. He dreamt big. That's why he got on a plane at the Toronto Pearson International Airport and flew to Reno, sending Mom and I a postcard saying he'd be back when he made it rich.
At the same time, Mom discovered that their joint bank account was empty.
Mom has a reasonably good job at Phillips Fine Foods as an Administrative Assistant to Mr. Phillips himself. So there was no danger of her and I ending up living in a ditch. I was 17 at the time and in my final year at high school.
I have big dreams too.
I want to be a cop. Yeah, I know. I'm a female. Everyone who knows about my dream likes to point this out to me. Then they think about it a bit and say, well, there are female cops. They do stuff like hand out traffic tickets and do safety lessons at the local middle schools and frisk the female suspects and that sort of thing, so maybe it will be OK.
But that's not what I mean. I want to be the investigative kind of cop, the kind who goes into the room and looks over the body and crouches down and looks for clues. Mom isn't crazy about the idea but Dad loves it. He and I always sat on our worn-out plaid couch watching cop shows when I was little.
And Dad is always sending me postcards from Reno saying as soon as he wins the money, he'll send me back everything I need for college.
Except that, no surprise, he never wins any big money, so he never sends anything back.
Oh, he keeps at it. And he isn't a bad father. Every week I get a postcard and Mom gets a long letter and Mom and I even went down there to visit him. He's working a part-time job to keep going. Mom doubts he'll come back. We have casinos in Ontario, but Reno is devoted to gambling and dreaming big. You don't have to drive two hours to get to a casino, it's everywhere.
So that's where we are a year and a half after Dad left. No hard feelings, really, but no great hope for the future. Mom has her job, I have my dreams, but that's about it.
With no cheque from Dad, I have applied to no colleges.
I've gone around to every police station and begged for a job. Sweeping floors, filing old files, anything, but of course, it's impossible. I started volunteering at a local community centre in the hope that one of the neighbourhood thugs might commit a crime and I could solve it and then maybe I'd get a job. But as it turns out, neighbourhood thugs don't hang out at the After School program created by the community to keep kids off the street and I am mostly left with quiet girls who want to be left alone to do their homework and noisy boys who want to be left alone to play floor hockey.
It's early December, we've already had our first snowfall of the year, and I am desperate. I have to get a real job soon and it probably won't have anything remotely to do with my dream.
In that spirit, Mom and I set out for the Phillips annual Christmas party at the Hilton Hotel.
The Hilton Hotel's proximity to the airport gets Mom talking about Dad as she parks the car and we walk through the snowy parking lot.
“Oh, Meg,” she says. “I miss him. I know I saw him in the summer, but I think I'll book a flight and see him right after Christmas. Maybe another Christmas alone will convince him that he should come home.”
“That would be nice,” I say, brushing some snow off my black crushed velvet dress as we go through the second set of double doors and into the warm interior. A big sign directs us to the Phillips party, not necessary for the old-timers since it's always in the same ballroom.
Mom is already being greeted by people from work who are saying “Merry Christmas!” to her even though they've seen her four hours earlier at the office.
We get rid of our coats at the cloakroom, brush any remaining snow out of our hair in the ladies' room and go back out into the ballroom's foyer. Mom's attractive so a lot of guys in suits are already lining up to talk to her. Dad's crazy to leave her behind here. I think part of his desire to make a whole ton of money at once is to be able to buy her a big house or a diamond necklace or something like that. He swore to me he wasn't seeing anyone else and that he just wanted to make it big and then come back to us.
Well, I guess I take after Dad because nobody seems very eager to talk to me. I inherited Mom's dark red hair and pale complexion, but somehow, nature didn't put me together the same way. Leaving Mom surrounded, I wander and pretend to be examining the pictures on the wall. I figure I'll move around a bit. Maybe I'll witness a crime, or something interesting.
I turn from a picture of a black Grecian pot.
It's Harry Phillips. Second son of Mom's boss. Tall, wavy brown hair, brown eyes. Cute, yes. My type, no.
I want a rugged man, a strong man. A cop. Basically, I have this dream that I'll have this really tough partner with a heart of gold and after years of solving crimes together, we'll just gradually grow closer and closer until one day he gruffly pulls me into his arms and we live happily ever after.
Harry looks like he should be modelling something. Clothing, toothpaste, a can of Phillips artichokes, something harmless. My man is going to be packing a pistol. Harry looks like he could barely pack a suitcase.
“Oh, hi Harry.”
Harry and I went to high school together.
We always said hi in the hallways because of knowing each other from these Christmas parties, as well as the summer company picnics held down at the Beaches by Lake Ontario.
Tonight, he's in a tuxedo. Looking good, of course. That's what he's good at.
“Did you get some champagne?” He already has a glass. He grabs one for me from a passing waiter. We're both 19 now so we don't have to be sneaky about it. “Haven't seen you since graduation. What've you been up to?”
“Nothing. Volunteering. Trying to figure out what to do next.”
At first, I think he's been struck by appendicitis.
“I totally know what you mean!” he says when he is done groaning. “I have no idea what to do next!” He flops down on a nearby couch without spilling a drop of champagne. I put my champagne down on an end table and sit down more carefully.
Maybe it's the champagne. Harry keeps leaping up to get us more every time a waiter goes by. But we end up talking, seriously talking. He tells me his woes and I end up telling him all about my situation.
Harry's problem is that he has no head for business (I told you) and has spent the last six months at Phillips Fine Foods in absolute agony. His dad insists that he learn the business. It isn't a case of needing someone to take over when he passes on. Johnny Jr., Harry's older brother, is doing just fine and loves his job as Vice President. But Harry has no idea what he wants to do and so his dad says he can't just be a bum, he has to work. So Harry trudges off to Phillips Fine Foods every day, has a desk, even has an administrative assistant named Phyllis who is 64-years-old and available to take down every word he says in case he wants to dictate a memo, which, of course, he doesn't. He doesn't even really know what he's supposed to be doing. Papers end up on his desk and he's supposed to read them and reply, but Phyllis handles most of it without his help and so far no one has complained. Except that Harry is worried he's going to die of boredom if something doesn't happen soon.
He shows a lot of interest in my situation.
He thinks the cop thing is interesting, although it is clearly not something that has ever occurred to him to do. But as a supportive statement, he does tell me that he reads a lot of mysteries. In fact, that's what keeps him going. On his computer at work, he surfs the net and spends a large portion of his day reading classic mysteries at those free online novels sites.
“You know,” he says, as we stand up to go into dinner. Most people are already in the ballroom and seated at their tables. “We'd make a good team, you and me. I know a ton of people who are always looking for private investigators. Dad's friends and all. In fact, there's one woman in our neighbourhood who just lost a diamond necklace. She told my mom she thinks it's stolen but that she can't exactly call the police about it. I don't know why. But she's really upset. Wouldn't that be a great case for you and me to solve?”
And then he's gone. Sitting at the head table with his dad and Johnny Jr. and their dazzling mother in her red-sequinned dress with matching rubies.
“Wouldn't that be a great case for you and me to solve?”
His words play over and over in my head.
If only . . .
That would have been the end of it except that the next day when Mom comes home from work, she has an envelope for me and is looking at me strangely.
She hands it to me.
“It's from Harry Phillips,” she says.
Goofy, I know. But it's the way Mom is looking at me. Like maybe I have a crush on Harry Phillips or maybe, totally unlikely, he has some kind of interest in me.
But I rip open the envelope because I'm eager to read what he has to say.
The creamy white paper has the Phillips company logo with the address, phone number and email address below.
Dear Miss Carmichael,
With regard to our business proposition discussed on December 4th, at 7:30 p.m., I would like you to know that you can fully rely on me to support this venture. I think it would be mutually beneficial to both of us. I eagerly await your reply regarding this matter.
Phyllis must have typed it up but Harry's signature is boldly written across the bottom and he's been careful to add his direct extension beside it.
Maybe if I weren't so desperate, I would ignore the letter.
But as things are, I go to bed knowing I'll be phoning Harry tomorrow at exactly 9:00 a.m.
“I told my dad I had a business meeting,” says Harry, biting into a sandwich.
We're sitting at a Second Cup, within sight of Phillips Fine Foods. When I phoned (and got Phyllis and then Harry), he suggested we meet for lunch.
“He was so thrilled,” continues Harry, reaching for his coffee. “He didn't even ask me who I was meeting with.”
Since this is a business luncheon, Harry tells me to order whatever I want. His corporate expense account covers business luncheons. I'm having a sliced turkey sandwich and a caramel cappuccino.
Harry and I have agreed that it might be wild and it might be crazy, but we are going to give it a go. He will tell Mrs. Shanklin, the lady who has lost the necklace, that we would like to have a try at solving the case. We'll charge her nothing but the expenses on the understanding that if we succeed, she'll discreetly tell all her friends how wonderful we are.
“What will your Dad think of all this?” I ask.
“Hard to say,” says Harry, biting into a biscotti. “He sure doesn't need me at the office. Phyllis can do my job. I think he'll be glad that I'm doing something. What about your mom? Will she like the idea?”
“Yeah, the case sounds safe enough. No murders or anything. She knows I want to be a cop more than anything. She'll be cool about it. Dad'll burst his buttons with pride. Especially if we solve it. And we will. You're sure your dad will be OK with this? You know, my mom works for him and all.”
“Yeah, it'll be fine. Business is good. He's making loads of money. He's happy.” Harry reaches for his large paper cup of coffee. “My father's an atheist. The love of money vs. the love of God, that sort of thing. So naturally I became a Christian.”
My eyebrows go up. It’s a strange confession. I am definitely not a Christian.
“I hope you won't let it interfere with your work,” I say.
“Well, I do like to pray occasionally, about matters in my life and all that.”
“Just don't do it out loud.”
“I'll do my best. Just ignore me if my lips move slightly. I carry a Rosary in my pocket.” He looks at me like he's trying to contain his amusement. “Of course, scripture forbids me from being unequally yoked with an unbeliever, so I hesitate to form any kind of absolute partnership with you . . .”
“Unequally yoked?” I can't believe my ears. “You mean, like cows ploughing a field, or . . .”
“Oxen,” interrupts Harry. “Oxen plough the fields. The females are used for milking.”
“Whatever. I'm not an ox and if it will make you feel better, we can skip the whole partnership thing and just split the profits.”
“I can live with that. I've never really understood the whole business end of things.”
I kind of suspect his father will be relieved to have him out of the company.
“Johnny, now he's the one with the brains for business,” continues Harry. “But I like to look at things from the perspective of how they honour God . . .”
How they honour God? I can’t believe my ears. I also can’t believe what pops out of my mouth.
“Shut up, Harry,” I say to him.
Boy, we're going to be a great team.
on't worry, Meg,” Harry assures me. “I've prayed all about this. We'll be fine.”
“Do you think you could lay off the religious talk?” I say.
We're heading around a circular driveway that leads to Mrs. Shanklin's front door and our first case.
I had met Harry that morning at his house, no, more like his estate, and then we had walked over to Mrs. Shanklin's estate. In my neighbourhood, the distance would have been covered in five minutes. In Harry's neighbourhood, thanks to large properties and houses about a mile back from the road, it has taken 40 minutes.
“Just wanted you to know,” says Harry. “I feel more at peace with something when I've taken it to God.”
“Taken it to God?” I turn to look up at him. “Harry, you're a sap! We're going to solve this mystery! Us! I've got brains, you know!”
Harry doesn't look too upset.
“You can persecute me all you want,” he says. “But you can't stop me from praying. Prayer makes a difference . . .”
“Persecute you? How exactly did I persecute you?”
“You called me a sap,” explains Harry. “In fact, I welcome the rude remarks. It makes me feel part of the universal Church. Christians are persecuted in China, you know. And in most parts of the world they face a certain measure of hostility depending on the government in power . . .”
“Shut up, Harry,” I say.
We are at the front door now.
I run a finger through my long hair – now coated in snow -- before pressing the doorbell. Harry, I notice, doesn't seem nervous at all. His brown hair is dishevelled and he's wearing a leather aviator's jacket with jeans. His ears are warm because he's wearing an absurd pair of purple earmuffs. On the other hand, despite the cold, I'm in a dress, pantyhose, heels and my mom's winter dress coat. I want to look professional, not like a teen detective. Great outfit if you want to go from the car straight into the restaurant, but lousy for a 40-minute hike on a snowy day.
Mrs. Shanklin doesn't answer her own door.
I'm sort of expecting some butler-looking guy to answer the large wooden door, but it's a middle-aged maid wearing a simple black dress with a white apron. She opens the door wide enough to allow us to enter and tells us that we are expected. We are directed to wait in a cool sitting room that runs off of the large foyer.
I say “sitting room” because it doesn't feel like a living room. There is nothing cosy about it. It looks more like a museum – paintings on the wall, some of them several feet long. I gingerly sit down on something that looks about two hundred years old and feels lumpy. Harry is more comfortable with the whole arrangement and collapses onto a chaise longue.
Mrs. Shanklin enters the room and Harry stands right up again.
She is older, older than my mom anyhow, with a grey bob, a simple navy blue dress with pearl earrings and a pearl necklace. The pearls are real, I'm sure.
Her smile is for Harry and only covers me in the periphery. It is to Harry that she talks, sitting down across from him in a chair that matches the one I'm perched on.
“I'm so glad you called,” she says. Her weary smile is genuine. “Is this a new venture for you, then?”
“Yes,” says Harry, leaning forward. “It's something we've just started.”
I hope he doesn't blow this.
“And when I heard of your situation, I knew we could help you.”
He's actually projecting confidence. Unbelievable.
“Well, I'm glad you called. To be quite honest, I didn't know where to turn. If I call the police, they'll think I'm a lunatic. And I'm so worried about Jett I can hardly think.”
Harry nods sympathetically.
Jett? Who's Jett?
I'm looking back and forth at Harry and at Mrs. Shanklin, but they aren't looking at me. I'll have to pick it up as it goes along.
“I know Jett doesn't have anything to do with this,” continues Mrs. Shanklin. “But he's all I can think about right now . . .” Mrs. Shanklin's voice drifts off as she stares at a painting on the wall, a field with people in the distance, maybe harvesting something. I don't think she's really looking at the picture.
“I know, I know,” says Harry soothingly.
There's a pause and I almost have time to get nervous.
“Actually, the first thing I want to do is to talk to Jett,” says Harry. Mrs. Shanklin looks at him. There is interest in her eyes. “I think we should find Jett first. And that's why Meg and I are the right ones to investigate this.”
Mrs. Shanklin glances at me, like she's seeing me for the first time.
“Now, of course,” continues Harry. “In all fairness, I have to tell you we're just getting started. So we won't charge anything to investigate your stolen necklace. But we will have to bill you for our expenses.”
Boy, he's good. He sounds humble and capable at the same time.
Mrs. Shanklin waves a hand.
“I understand. I wouldn't have it any other way. Do you really think you can find Jett?”
“It’s quite possible, yes.”
“This is the first hope I've had in days . . .” Mrs. Shanklin's eyes are focused entirely on Harry.
“I totally understand,” says Harry. And he really sounds like he does.
“Now,” I say, leaning forward. Even though this is the first time I’ve heard of Jett, I think it's time to insert myself into the conversation. “I think what we need to do is . . .”
“I think we need to see Jett's room,” says Harry, standing up.
“Of course,” says Mrs. Shanklin, also standing up.
“My feeling is Jett may know something about this, Mrs. Shanklin,” says Harry, as we exit the sitting room. I am forced to follow along behind them. “So often, people know more than they realize.”
“You might be right!” says Mrs. Shanklin. From her tone, you would think she is talking to Sherlock Holmes himself. “Jett is so observant about things! And he was so close to his grandmother. He spent entire summers with her, you know.”
OK, so at this point, I would make a wild guess that Jett is Mrs. Shanklin's son. What his grandmother has to do with it, I have no idea.
But I would go so far as to presume that Jett and Mrs. Shanklin's necklace disappeared at about the same time. I really wish that I had taken the time to grill Harry about this case. Why wasn’t I thinking? Now he's in the lead and I'm trailing behind. Literally.
We are going up a winding staircase. Large chandelier above us. The upstairs hallway is lined with more well-framed pictures of nothing in particular. The doors are shut and there are occasional little end tables with floral arrangements between the doorways. Honestly, this house could be a Hollywood set.
I expect Jett's room to be a total contrast.
Black, I suspect. Everything black. Somehow my mind has put Jett and black together. I am expecting heavy-metal posters on the wall and an unmade bed.
But his room matches the rest of the house.
It's blue, with a nautical theme. Not babyish, but definitely boyish. There are paintings of tall ships out in the middle of the ocean.
Everything is neat and orderly. The bed is made. The bedspread is blue and white with small anchors around the edge.
At this point, I have no idea as to what the relationship between Jett and the missing necklace is. I figure Harry will have to fill me in later, but the main thing is that we need to search the room for clues, any sort of indication of where he might have gone. It's too much to expect that it will be something obvious. Mrs. Shanklin would have already found a receipt for a plane ticket or would have noticed a Frommer's guide to Mexico sitting around on his dresser. This is the point where I will have to take over.
Discreetly, I open a dresser drawer and start to carefully move stuff around. Mrs. Shanklin is eyeing me as if I might do some damage. The top drawer is full of miscellaneous junk. Kind of like that kitchen drawer that gets everything thrown into it. This drawer has an old doorknob, some keys, a lot of old coins, some unidentifiable brass objects, rocks, a whole collection of model dinosaurs, some dry pine cones, an old piece of paper. I have my doubts that this drawer will be of any use to us.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Mrs. Shanklin pulling a handkerchief out of her sleeve.
“That's his treasure drawer,” she says, dabbing at the corner of her eyes. “He's been collecting things since he was a little boy. Always picking things up off the ground. It's a filthy habit and we strongly discouraged it . . .”
I shut the drawer.
I open the next drawer and am almost knocked off my feet by Harry who has suddenly appeared at my side and is opening the top drawer again.
“What the . . . ?” I shut my mouth when I realize Mrs. Shanklin is looking at me with disapproval.
Harry has pulled out the piece of paper and moved back next to Mrs. Shanklin.
“What's this, ma'am?”
Mrs. Shanklin glances at it.
“A map, I think.”
Harry is diplomatic enough not to sarcastically say that any half-brain could have figured that out.
I realize my mistake in not examining the piece of paper and move closer to Harry.
Harry is studying the piece of paper. It is hand drawn, but very clearly, a map.
“North Drumheller,” Harry reads randomly. “Bankview, Greentree . . .”
It appears to be a town, a town with a river running through it.
Harry may have found the map, but I am determined not to be left out.
“Do you know where this is?” I ask Mrs. Shanklin.
She shakes her head.
“Do you have any idea if your son made up this map?”
Mrs. Shanklin nods her head.
“It's his handwriting, though obviously he made this when he was much younger.”
I glance at the map, still in Harry's hand. She's right. There's a childish quality to it.
“Have you ever been to this town?” I ask.
“Of course not,” says Mrs. Shanklin. “You asked me if I knew where it was and I told you I didn't.”
“I just wanted to know if maybe this is some place Jett visited or maybe it's some imaginary place he made up.”
Mrs. Shanklin decides to ignore me and turns her attention back to Harry.
Very gently, Harry folds the map back up and hands it to Mrs. Shanklin, kind of in the way that they fold up a flag and hand it to the grieving widow of a dead soldier.
“Mrs. Shanklin,” he says earnestly. “I believe we can find Jett. And I think I even know where he is. With your permission, Meg and I will book a flight and begin our investigation immediately.”
I am flabbergasted.
“I think I should look around the room some more,” I say.
But Mrs. Shanklin is looking at Harry, her hero.
“Can you really?” she says, her eyes full of hope. “Do you really think you can find Jett?”
So at some point this whole thing has changed from a search for a lost necklace to a search for a lost son. What is Harry thinking? We have to look around the room! We have to find some kind of link between Jett and the necklace before we book any flights. And where are we going to book a flight to anyhow?”
Harry explains when we get outside. The cold air stings me but I am too busy being miffed to notice.
“Drumheller,” he says. “It's in Alberta. You know, the Alberta Badlands?”
I don't know the Alberta Badlands. I must have slept through that Geography lesson.
“So you found some map in his drawer,” I say. We still have the long Shanklin driveway to go down. And more snow has fallen. Next time I will avoid heels and the dress altogether and just wear my usual combat pants, oversized sweater and winter boots. My professional attire has done nothing to inspire Mrs. Shanklin's confidence.
“And so what?” I continue. “So the guy made a map when he was 8-years-old. What makes you think he's gone off there now?”
“Well, here's where I have the advantage over you,” says Harry, sounding annoyingly modest about it. “I know Jett. Not that we were best friends, or anything. But I've been in that room before. My mom and Mrs. Shanklin are friends and now and then she dragged me along to visit with Jett. You saw how his room was . . . ?”
“His parents did all that for him. I think they have some sort of lineage they're proud of, you know, they're descended from some Admiral who fought the French in the old days. Or maybe it was the Americans, I forget. So they like to think of themselves as nautical. Mr. Shanklin has a yacht and he taught Jett everything about sailing.”
“Yeah, so what?”
“So Jett hates the ocean. He likes the desert. Not the Sahara, or anything like that, but the Alberta Badlands where there are dinosaur bones. You saw those little dinosaur models he had?”
“Yeah, but that's kids' stuff . . .”
“Actually, Jett told me that as soon as he could, he was going to go there and become a palaeontologist, or something like that, and look for dinosaur bones.”
“Look for dinosaur bones?” I say incredulously. “What is he, 10-years-old?”
“That's really neither here nor there. The point is, his parents never went for the idea, so that would explain why he just left without telling them. It's a dream, Meg. Come on! You've got to relate to that.”
He has me there.
“OK, OK,” I say. “So we book ourselves a flight to Drumheller. Do they even have an airport? And then when we get there, what? Do you even know how to drive?”
“I could if I had to.”
“But do you have a license?”
“Never quite got around to it.”
If it had been a beautiful summer day, I would have paused at the end of the Shanklin's driveway to think about this. But since the wind-chill factor is contributing to me not being able to feel my legs anymore, I consider this while we walk briskly along the unshovelled sidewalk. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I never got around to getting my license either. Hopefully Mrs. Shanklin won't mind the taxi bills we incur.
When we get back to Harry's and shake the snow off, we go into some sort of a den with a large wooden desk in the corner that has a computer. Harry drags another chair over so I can sit down while he fires up the computer. He figures the easiest way to book a flight will be online even though he could have called up his former administrative assistant, Phyllis, and had her do it.
We go to the Air Canada site and find out that to get to Drumheller we will have to fly to Calgary. Further research yields the information that Drumheller is 140 kilometres northeast of Calgary.
“That's going to be one expensive cab ride,” I say.
“Oh, I'm sure they'll have a bus going there.”
Taking a bus on a case doesn’t fit with my image of an investigator, but until I get on a police force and have my own unmarked car, I’ll just have to go along with it.
“Yeah, I guess so,” I say.
“Well, let's do it then, shall we?” says Harry cheerfully, returning to the Air Canada site.
The reality of this is starting to sink in. We are really going to do this thing.
Harry is typing away, our starting point, Toronto, our destination, Calgary, and examining the results. He clicks on the first available flight which is 8:07 a.m. . . . tomorrow.
What will my mother say! She doesn't even know that Harry and I have formed a partnership though she has kidded me plenty about our tźte-ą-tźte at the Christmas party. Now I'm flying to Calgary with him!
Harry stands up in order to pull his wallet out of his back pocket.
That's another thing! I don't even have a credit card! But here's Harry typing his number in, and making all the arrangements, and then next thing, there's a receipt coming out on the printer and we're all set to go to Calgary.
“I think I'd better get home and pack,” I say, standing up. “Maybe get some cash out of the bank.”
Harry nods, standing up with me.
“We'll just have to keep careful track of everything we spend. Receipts and all that. You know, for Mrs. Shanklin.”
I am already feeling in-over-my-head and I wouldn't admit it to anyone, but I'm kind of happy to have this cheerful idiot by my side.
He really doesn't have to do it, but Harry actually walks me out onto his street and then to the main road where I can catch a bus back to my crummy neighbourhood. He even waits in the snow for the bus to come. The whole time, he talks.
He promises he'll print some maps off the internet tonight. From Calgary to Drumheller and then of Drumheller itself. He'll make a list of all the phone numbers of all the hotels and motels in the area so we can call around and try to locate Jett that way. Though he figures we'd probably be more likely to find him in the local Y, than at something too upscale. Apparently Jett doesn't like the wealthy life.
Harry says he'll also use the internet to check out the museums or universities or any other educational place that Jett might be drawn to. Being winter, there wouldn't be an archeological dig in process, but Jett might try to get on with some team and do some work in the meantime . . . Harry has so many ideas, I'm in a bit of a daze.
He's still talking when the bus comes down the road.
“OK,” he says, wrapping it up. “We'll meet tomorrow. Air Canada. The new terminal. Flight 147. Got that? 147 . . .”
He gives me a wave as I pay my fare and sit down in one of the window seats. Feebly, I raise my hand in a return wave.
I get one last smile from Harry as the bus pulls away from the stop.
In his brown leather aviator's jacket, the snowflakes in his hair (he left the goofy ear-muffs at home), even though he is still a pretty boy, he does look kind of rugged, and I dunno, kind of appealing.
arry has a carry-on bag. I have a huge suitcase.
Thankfully, I have found him.
I had forgotten our flight number and of course, didn’t have the tickets. But I had stumbled around the oversized terminal with my oversized suitcase and managed to find him despite the early morning crowds.
Mom has been kind of freaked out. But I told her the whole thing from start to finish and I think she's also kind of impressed at where this might go. She acted like Harry and I had this romance-thing and cautioned me about getting too physical with him. I explained that this is strictly business, and besides, he's a Christian, but she just couldn't seem to get past the fact that he's really good-looking and comes from a really rich family and what girl wouldn't be thrilled to be going anywhere with him?
So we just left it at that and she was nice enough to get up early to drop me off at the Pearson International Airport, where she would then carry on to work, smug in the knowledge that her daughter has attracted the attention of the boss's son, and maybe people at work would even find out and begin to talk about it.
Harry checks us in, checks my suitcase in and then chooses our seats on the plane.
We join the other passengers in the waiting area and sit down. We are surrounded by professional people, suits, and like Harry, with carry-on bags. Obviously, I have really muffed up there. I wanted to be prepared for anything, but now I will be loaded down. Learning as I go. That's all I can say.
“So,” says Harry cheerfully. “Here we are!”
“Here we are,” I agree, continuing my general survey of the waiting room, not really wanting to warm up to his smile.
“I couldn't find out if there's a YMCA in Drumheller,” says Harry. “But I figure we can start with the less-expensive motels and work our way up. He may not have had a chance to find a room to rent yet. Let's hope not, anyhow.”
I give him credit for not bellowing. He's speaking in a low voice.
“Listen, Harry,” I say, even softer. This means that he has to bend down a bit and my lips are practically on his ear. I feel hot and hope I'm not blushing. “We're really looking for a necklace, right?”
“So what makes us think Jett didn't have to steal the necklace in order to fund this whole adventure?”
“Ahhh,” says Harry, nodding more vigorously. This time, I'm sure my lip did touch his ear. “I should have told you this yesterday. I'm really sorry. You see, Jett has a grandmother. His father's mother, I think. And Jett's really close to her. Was really close to her. I sort of picked this up over the years. Parent's talking and stuff. And he was her only grandchild.”
“OK,” I say. “But what does this have to do with . . .”
“Well, that's just it,” says Harry. “She died recently. And left all her money to Jett. And from what I gather, again, parents and gossip, she had more money than Jett's dad. And that would be a lot of money. Now, of course, there'd be all that stuff, can't inherit while still a minor and stuff, blah, blah, blah. The magical age was 19. But last week Jett turned 19.”
I think about this.
“He's stinkin' rich,” says Harry, in case I didn't get it.
“OK,” I say. “That's a good reason for assuming he didn't steal it. But why are we doing this? Why does he know anything about this necklace?”
“The necklace would be an inside job,” says Harry. In the background, a voice announces that the flight to Calgary is now boarding first-class passengers and people with small children. “It disappeared just before Jett left. Now Jett's mind would be entirely on his future and his inheritance, but he's the perfect one to talk to because he knows the house and the people in it. It's definitely an inside job. Nothing else was taken. The thing is probably in a safe. But my guess is that Mrs. Shanklin took it out and wore it and may not have always put it back right away. I've seen her wearing it . . .”
“What's it look like?” I interrupt.
“It's magnificent. Something you'd see on a queen at some state occasion. Jett will be able to give us all the dirt about the servants and stuff. Mrs. Shanklin may not.”
This is a world out of my experience. Does Harry know all the dirt about the servants in his house? Before I can ask, the voice announces that our rows are now boarding.
As I say, the majority of people on this flight are suits. Men in suits. Women in suits. Harry's dressed like he was yesterday. I'm more comfortable today in blue jeans, black sweater and an oversized black winter bomber jacket. When we take our seats, me in the window and Harry in the middle, the aisle seat is taken by the one other person on the flight who doesn't look like she's flying to a morning business meeting.
She's about 60-years-old, with white fluffy hair in wild disarray, as if she pulled off her hat and didn't bother to smooth it down after. She has on a long purple coat, which she has just sat down in. Harry and I have both put our coats in the compartment above, but she seems too distracted for this, almost frantic. She makes me nervous and I'm glad Harry is between us.
“Are you OK, ma'am?”
It's Harry that asks. I was planning on ignoring her.
“Oh yes, dear,” says the lady breathlessly. “Well, no, dear. I'm not really. I hate flying.”
“There, there,” says Harry soothingly, actually taking her hand. I momentarily wonder if he would take my hand if I confessed I hated flying. Then I feel stupid.
“I mean, what's keeping us up in the air, anyhow?” the lady asks. “Some mechanic could have had a late night and not bothered to check things properly. We don't know!”
Harry nods, as if her lunacy is the most sensible view in the world.
“I hear you,” he says. “I don't think I would get on a plane unless I knew God had me in the palm of his hand.”
I groan inwardly. Maybe even outwardly.
“Oh, my dear,” says the lady, her eyes closed now. She is gripping her arm rests with Harry's hand still on one of hers. “I should have faith, but I don't, dearie. I lost my faith years ago.”
This should shut up Harry but he doesn't let it stop him.
“Often God shows us his love by sending us people who will care for us.”
The woman nods faintly. Probably just to be polite.
“I believe God has sent me to care for you on this flight.”
Holy Moley. I'm here with Brother Harry, Mother Teresa's successor.
But the lady has opened her eyes and is looking at Harry.
“I never thought about that,” she says, and she doesn't look so desperate. “Are you an angel, dear?”
“No, I'm flesh-and-blood. But God loves you and wants you to know it. So maybe he made sure you sat next to me.”
The plane is still boarding but as soon as everyone is settled and the flight attendants have done their quick check that we're all seat-belted in, the engines start up and we move out. Harry has the woman talking. I'll give him credit. He doesn't go on and on about that God-loves-you stuff. He starts asking gentle questions about where she's heading to.
Alberta is her home, as it turns out. She only came to Toronto to see her first grandchild. She seriously wishes her daughter hadn't married a man from Toronto. Now she won't get to know her grandchildren, except for photos and the occasional visit. Though next time she thinks she'll just take the bus, even if it takes two days. Anything would be better than flying.
Of course, at this point we are flying. And then the woman, Vera, decides to resign herself to her situation and relax a bit and soon she and Harry are laughing and drinking ginger ale and chomping on peanuts and playing some game with a pack of cards that Harry pulls out from somewhere. I sulkily sip a Coke and watch the clouds out the window.
After awhile, Vera seems to be having a snooze and Harry turns his attention back to me. He pulls some papers out of his knapsack.
“I did some research last night. About the Badlands.” His eyes are on his papers. “They're found primarily in southern Alberta. You can have valleys a mile wide and four-hundred feet deep . . .” His eyes are skimming the page. “Volcanic ash turned into impervious bentonite. Do you think that's some kind of rock? Glaciers had something to do with it all. Now there's coal, shale, clay, sandstone, stop me if you know all of this already.”
I shake my head. How would I know this? Yesterday I didn't even know these badlands existed.
“Apparently there are these things called hoodoos, irregular monuments made of rock. Wow . . . !” Harry sounds as if he's just learned something amazing. “As Canadians we should be proud. These things are quite unusual. Apparently a lot of this is caused by sun and rain and wind and frost . . .”
“I really don't want to know all of this,” I say.
Now, at this point, a normal person would be an idiot and keep on reading just to bug me, but not Harry. Not only does he not look offended, he actually stops reading out loud and just keeps it to himself.
Honestly, he takes the fun out of everything.
“Oh fine,” I say. “You can tell me.”
He continues as if there was no interruption.
“Lots of wildlife too. Hawks and eagles. Snakes. Bobcats. Of course, I don't know what it's like in the winter. Do bobcats hibernate? Anyway, the main thing is the dinosaur bones. Loads of them apparently. And it can be quite challenging to get at them. Takes ingenuity.”
“So how much of these badlands are there anyhow?”
“Well, they run for 300 kilometres along the Red Deer River . . .”
“Three hundred kilometres?” I turn and look up at him. “How on earth are we going to find Jett?”
“Well, that's where we've gotten lucky,” says Harry, taking a sip of his ginger ale. “It's winter. Nobody excavates in winter. He'll be in Drumheller, I'm sure, where all the action is. They assemble the bones they've found. That sort of thing. That's all here too,” says Harry, pointing to his papers. “Palaeontologists coat the fossils with shellac and wrap them in a plaster cast. At the museum they assemble the bones and it can take a year and four men to put together a skeleton . . .”
“What museum?” I ask. “Any museum?”
“No, there’s really only one,” says Harry, pulling out another paper. “There's this huge museum there, the Royal Tyrell Museum. Definitely the place to go in Drumheller.”
“But, Harry,” I say. “I know from personal experience that you can't just march into a place and tell them it's been your life-long dream to work there and please give me a job. He's got a high school education. He wouldn't even be able to get a foot in the door without a university degree.”
“But that's not going to be a problem with Jett,” he says. “He's got money, remember? I think he's going to go into the whole thing as a patron. He could fund an archaeological dig in the summer. They'll be really, really nice to him because they're always looking for patrons to sponsor things.”
A voice comes on overhead and tells us that we'll be landing at the Calgary International Airport in 25 minutes. This wakes up Vera, who has another panic attack before remembering that she's got a personal angel sitting beside her to hold her hand all the way down.
Harry couldn't possibly have planned it, but as we're waiting at the carousel for my suitcase and Vera's luggage, she asks him where we're heading. He says, “Drumheller” and she says, “What a coincidence!” Vera lives in Stettler which is about a hundred miles north of Drumheller. She has her car parked in the airport parking and would be happy to drive us.
“I really should have flown from Edmonton,” says Vera, as Harry picks up her suitcase. I'm left to handle my own. “But I flew out of Calgary so that I could visit an old high school friend who's moved here. She knew my daughter and had a handmade quilted blanket for the baby so I drove down here.”
We're walking toward the glass sliding doors that will take us out of the baggage area.
“I mean, when you're driving such a long distance anyhow, what difference does it make?”
Harry agrees, as if he's had plenty of experience in these matters. He even asks her what the distance from Stettler to Edmonton is.
“Takes just over two hours,” says Vera. “And it's two and a half hours to Calgary. But really, dearie. I know I was meant to fly out of Calgary because that meant that I would meet you and honestly dearie, I feel my faith in God renewed.”
“I'm so happy we met,” says Harry sincerely.
As we head for the doors that will take us outside, Vera is bundling up her coat. The pilot said the temperature in Calgary is -16 degrees Celsius with a wind-chill that makes it feel more like -28. I'm hoping Vera's car isn't miles away.
Harry momentarily puts down Vera's suitcase to pull his ridiculous ear-muffs out of his pocket. His ridiculous purple ear-muffs. When he puts them on, Vera squeals. With delight, as it turns out. Vera loves to knit and while she was at her daughter's, she made a purple scarf. It practically matches the ear-muffs. She pulls it out of her carry-on bag and gives it to Harry as a present. He puts it on, with great thanks, telling her how beautiful it is, not seeming to mind one iota that it makes him look like a complete idiot.
Except that as soon as we're out of the door and the wind chill hits us, I realize that it would be better to look like an idiot than to have one's face freeze off. Vera's scarf looks thick and Harry is walking forward into the cold as if he can face anything with it on.
Mercifully, Vera has parked her car in the lot closest to the terminal. But even when we've got the suitcases in the trunk and I'm in the backseat with Harry up in the passenger's seat, the car is still freezing.
“Might take awhile to warm up, dearies,” she says as she starts the engine. “This old car takes awhile. When I was coming here, it didn't start to warm up until I got to Big Valley.”
“How long did that take?” I ask. My first direct question to Vera.
“Twenty, twenty-five minutes,” says Vera, backing the car up without seeming to look out for pedestrians. “You kids hungry? I barely ate on that plane.”
Harry says, sure. He seems to be game for anything. But I feel edgy. I feel like we should just get to Drumheller and start the investigation and think about food once we know where we're going to begin.
“We'll go to Nectar Desserts,” announces Vera. “My doctor says I have high cholesterol, but what the hell! Oops!” She smiles at Harry as if he might not approve of such language. But he grins back, like they're partners-in-crime.
So that's how we find ourselves driving around Calgary instead of on our way to Drumheller.
Calgary looks like any other city. It has some kind of a tower, but Toronto has the CN Tower, so that's not too unusual. Of course, I've only seen Toronto and Reno. But where Calgary differs is it has this big stadium called the Saddledome. (And it does look like a saddle.) Harry points it out to me and we get a chance to get a good look at it as Vera obligingly drives by. It's close to her destination anyhow. The whole area is urban, office buildings mixed with those nonstop rows of trendy shops and cafés.
She explains to us that we'll absolutely have to have the red velvet cake. It's what Nectar is known for. It's a bright red cake, chocolate flavoured, with vanilla icing.
We park the car and get back out into the cold. Thankfully, the place is located nearby. Nectar is found on the second floor of one of the shops. We go through a red door and up some stairs.
The atmosphere is nice, comfy, with oversized chairs and wooden tables and lots of art on the walls. Harry even kind of fits in with his purple scarf. Vera bustles us over to a free table and when a cheerful waitress comes up to us, she puts in an order for three cups of tea and three slices of red cake. Then she and Harry talk about the art on the wall.
The mugs of tea are large and much appreciated since Vera's car didn't seem to warm up in the short drive. The cake is excellent. We compliment Vera on her choice of places to eat. I've never had red cake before but it's great. Even Harry and Vera don't talk much while we eat. Then Vera goes up to the counter and orders a whole assortment of cookies.
“For the road and a few extra for home,” she says, with a wink. Then she insists on paying for everything and it isn't cheap so even I thank her profusely.
It's early afternoon now, and I think we should be getting on the road. But Vera seems to want to stop in some of the boutiques on the way to the car. She buys a fancy rattle to send to her grandson. Harry shares her interest in some blue pottery and then they move onto a bookstore. Vera wants some romance novels. Harry browses the thrillers and points out a few that look good. Vera agrees with him and buys them too. Then she makes him choose a nice devotional for her. Apparently, a devotional is something Christians get. It's got a scripture for each day and some profound thoughts to go along with it. This particular bookstore has three of them and Harry and Vera look each of them over carefully. I'm just about out of my mind. At this rate, it'll be dark by the time we get out of Calgary.
Finally, we're on the road again.
Vera switches on the radio and it's set for a country-and-western station.
I'm too happy to be moving to care.
Vera asks Harry what church he goes to.
Harry says he’s Catholic
Vera nods, like, yes, she’s heard of Catholics.
“I know the Bible says we shouldn’t forsake the assembling of the brethren . . .” she says.
Forsake the assembling of the brethren?
“. . . but I found that the church I went to really wasn't the heart of Christianity.”
“What do you mean?” asks Harry.
“Shortly after I became a Christian, I started attending a nearby church, but the whole experience made me think that church and faith may not really go together,” says Vera.
Harry is listening.
“For one thing,” continues Vera. “The whole thing was run by a board of directors.”
“Like my dad's company,” says Harry, smiling back at me. Maybe it’s his way of including me in the conversation.
“And I didn't get a whole lot out of it,” Vera continues. “Is the Catholic Church different, dear?”
“Oh yes,” says Harry nodding. “Very profound. You leave feeling connected somehow.”
“To the first-century Church. To Jesus. The Mass is like that.”
“I just wish the church I went to was like Jesus said it should be,” says Vera. “I read my Bible. I know that Jesus said we shouldn't be like the world, but I found it all very superficial. No one really wanted to get too involved with each other outside of the Sunday service. I mean, we had some pot-lucks every now and then. But more time was spent setting up the fellowship hall than there was fellowshipping.”
Harry nods. He’s a good listener, I’m noticing. Which is a good quality in a detective. It means that the other person can talk a lot which is what you want when you’re trying to get information.
“And church has so many rules,” says Vera. “Do the Catholics have a lot of rules?”
“Well, after two thousand years of theology, yeah, they have some rules. But they’re the good kind.”
“As long as it doesn’t ends up being just about outward appearance and doing things a certain way, rather than really taking care of the needs of the people there, then rules are good, I think,” says Harry. “In fact, the more I learned the rules of the Church, the closer I got to God.”
“I found that our rules left very little room for the spirit of God.”
We're out in the open country now. So I don't panic too much that Vera is looking at Harry instead of the road. It's just a long straight stretch.
“Well,” says Harry slowly. “I learned that one of the rules of our faith is that we need to choose service over selfishness. So what I did was to pray to God that he would provide me with people that I could serve. People who had a real need.”
“That's so beautiful,” says Vera, shaking her head.
Oh brother. Especially since I know he's serious. And I seriously hope he doesn't think I'm one of his need-cases.
“There should be more like you, dearie,” says Vera, patting his hand. “The world would be a better place.”
“Well, I believe Jesus put all of his children here to make it a better place. I hope that when people look at me, they'll see him.” He doesn't even sound embarrassed. I could never say something like that, even if I believed it.
“That's really wonderful,” says Vera. “I'm not kidding. You've changed my faith. I was really turned off church because I would go there and I’d barely be in the door and they would want me to join some committee or volunteer to clean under the cupboards of the church sink. I mean, I don't even clean under my own sink’s cupboards. It was like, they didn’t really care about me.”
They ramble on about the real needs in the world – for people to have hope, for people to feel loved, for people to hear the truth (whatever that is), for hungry children to be fed, for all to come to a saving knowledge of Christ.
Clearly these two are on the same wavelength. I can't take it anymore. I wish I had my mp3 player but somehow I never thought I'd need it while solving a case. Learning as I go.
I'm not tired but the monotonous scenery and the kooky conversation leave me no choice. I take off my coat – it's now warming up in the car, in fact, it's getting too warm – and use it as a pillow against the window. I probably only doze off for half an hour but when I wake up the scenery is all different. I guess this is the badlands.
It's sort of like desert, except that there are brownish patches of grass poking up through the snow. The rock formations are unreal. It's like, each one is different. Now I'm not bored, there's so much to look at, and I'm not even into rocks. There are large formations that plateau on top and smaller ones that stand on their own. The whole place is unpredictable. You don't know whether you're in the mountains or in the valleys.
Harry glances in the rear-view mirror and sees I'm awake.
“Those are the hoodoos,” he says, pointing.
A hoodoo turns out to be a rock tower with a hat on top. Covered in snow, it's an enchanted world, very easy to imagine a princess in white ermine attended by elves suddenly appearing.
We pass a sign for Drumheller, 15 kilometres.
“Now, where will I be dropping you dearies off?” asks Vera.
“The Super 8 Motel,” says Harry.
I don't know when we decided on this, but I guess it's as good a place as any and I wouldn't have been able to answer the question.
“Now, is this your first time to Drumheller?” asks Vera as we get closer to civilization.
Harry says yes.
“I'll show you around then.”
Being winter, the sun is getting low in the sky, but there's still enough light to see everything.
Vera's tour is down-to-earth. First, she drives by the Super 8 Motel so that we can take it all in in relation to where we're staying. There's an IGA near us for groceries. A Boston Pizza. The Greentree Mall is within walking distance, as is the DQ. A little further down is a Walmart. Then we cross over the railway tracks and Reptile World is pointed out to us. We drive by the World's Largest Dinosaur, a towering T-Rex that looks like he's about to come to life and stomp on the traffic below. A bridge takes us across the river where the Funland Amusement Park is shown to us despite it being closed for the winter.
Vera wants to show us something special.
She says that now that we've seen the world's largest dinosaur, we should see the world's smallest church. And she looks at Harry like he'll be pleased.
And the moron is.
We're in the middle of nowhere. Vera parks the car and she and Harry get out to go look at this tiny white building with a pointed roof and a steeple. Despite the cold, they have a good look around and even go inside the little building, leaving me to freeze in the car. My coat goes back on and I'm practically shivering by the time they get back, chatting about the church.
For some reason, they both think it's a big achievement to be able to build a church with room for only six people. Vera is especially impressed that the pews only seat one.
“Now it's just down the road to the museum,” says Vera and in another five minutes we're in the parking lot of the Royal Tyrrell Museum. I'm ready to get out of the car and start looking for Jett, but Vera turns us right around and takes us back to the motel.
At the motel, our luggage is unloaded. OK, my suitcase is unloaded. And then Harry and Vera hug and talk about how it was God's will that they met and exchange email addresses. Vera gives us the whole bag of cookies from Nectars, very generous of her, insisting that she really shouldn't eat them, high cholesterol and all that.
And then finally, she's off and we're in the lobby of the motel and Harry is booking us two rooms. Honestly. I really wouldn't have cared if we shared. But Harry obviously does. At least the rooms are adjoining so I won't have to go out in the snow every time I want to ask him a question. I sit down in one of the brown leather chairs in the lobby while Harry pays with his credit card. From where I'm sitting, I hear the concierge tell him about the free SuperStart breakfast that comes with our rooms. In addition, he's told that each room has a coffee machine, a fridge, and a microwave. We can shop at IGA and eat in our rooms for all I care. I just want to start finding Jett.
But I will give Harry credit. He picks up my suitcase and carries it down the hallway to our rooms.
Harry drops off his knapsack and then comes into my room via the adjoining door.
He goes over to the little kitchenette, starts brewing up the complimentary pack of coffee and when that's done, he brings it over to a table with two chairs where we drink it with the cookies.
“Is it possible Jett's somewhere in this motel?” I ask, biting into a star-shaped vanilla sugar cookie. Harry has just finished eating a gingerbread bear and is reaching for a cookie that has cranberries.
“Yum, cardamom,” he says, as he bites into it. “Yes, it's quite possible. Though did you notice that campground we passed?”
“He'd probably be there if it were summer. I'm not kidding when I say that Jett really hates luxury. It's one of the ironies of life that he inherited so much money.”
A thought occurs to me.
“Is he a rough-and-tough sort of guy?” I ask hopefully.
“Not at all,” says Harry, pouring himself some more coffee. “Pale and fragile. Blondish hair. Wears glasses.”
“Oh,” I say, disappointed.
“So why aren't we bribing the guy at the front desk to see if he's here?” I ask.
“If he's here, he'll be at the complimentary breakfast. If he's not here, I'll start calling around. But thanks to Vera, after seeing everything, I really think that there's only one place where we're going to find him and that's the Royal Tyrrell Museum.”
I agree with him.
Harry, being the perfect person that he is, tidies up our little mess, including cleaning the mugs, and then excuses himself to spend the evening in his room. Probably has to pray or do his devotions.
I'm left alone with two double-beds and a TV.
And my mom warned me about getting too physical!
t's way too easy.
While Harry and I are drinking our coffee and eating our danish in the little breakfast room, along with about six other quiet people, in walks Jett.
He and Harry are slapping each other on the back and then Jett is sitting down with us at our small table, drinking orange juice and asking us what we're doing in Drumheller.
Harry tells the whole story, including how he and I met. He tells about how we volunteered to do this case just to get the whole thing going. Jett is laughing.
It's just like Harry said. Jett is pale and slim with glasses and light blond hair. But he's lively and seems nice. You wouldn't know that he's got money. He's wearing a blue plaid flannel shirt and jeans with hiking boots.
“You came a long way for a fake necklace!” he says, when Harry is finished telling him all about our visit to his mother.
“A fake necklace!” I say.
Jett nods and bites into his danish.
“Don't tell anyone though,” he says. “Mom still probably wants the mystery solved. Everyone thinks it's real.”
“When did you find out it's a fake?”
“I overheard them talking. But how they found out, I have no idea. Did they take it to a jeweller? I really don't know.
“We came in at the right time. She has this stolen necklace. It's a fake. There's a real mystery here.”
“Yeah, you're doing her a big favour,” agrees Jett.
“I see God's hand in all of this,” says Harry, thoughtfully.
Jett laughs and slaps his thigh.
“You and your God!” he says, but it's good-natured.
“Call it a coincidence if you want, but God has a way of bringing people in need together. Meg and I needed your mom and your mom needed us.”
Jett shakes his head. Finishing his juice, he turns his attention to a mug of coffee.
“Here we are in the valley of dinosaur bones,” Jett says, stirring some sugar into his coffee. “All around us is proof that life evolved over millions of years. And you talk about God!”
“Evolution doesn’t rule out God, Jett. Besides, dinosaur bones don't come with tags on them that say they're millions of years old,” says Harry. “And just because there's a whole bunch of them all together, doesn't mean they all evolved here. In fact, the evidence here is more consistent with that of Noah's flood . . .”
“Now you're talking like a fanatic,” says Jett. But he's amused, not annoyed.
“Does that mean the necklace has no value?” I ask.
I'm really not interested in the age of dinosaur bones.
“Oh no, keep looking,” Jett assures me. “And don't bother mentioning to Mom that her necklace is a fake. She doesn't know that I know. I only know because Dad and her were talking about cancelling the insurance on it and I put two and two together.”
“Then why would someone steal it?” says Harry.
“I don't know. But it's a damn good fake. It's fooled everyone all these years. It belonged to my grandma and it's somewhat of an heirloom. That's what I heard my parents talking about. Mom was talking about its value to our family. Dad said she could do whatever she wanted with it. Insurance, no insurance, he really didn't care. Mom said she couldn't understand why he didn't care since it belonged to his mother. Anyway, that went on for a while. I stopped listening.”
“Did your mom become careless with it after it turned out to be a fake?” asks Harry. “Just leave it out? That sort of thing?”
Jett looks at his watch and shakes his head.
“Nope. Mom always kept it locked up when she wasn't wearing it. Listen, I've got an appointment at the museum this morning,” he says, standing up. “Do you guys want to come along? You could look around the museum and we could hangout together after.”
We go back to our rooms and get our winter coats.
Jett meets us in the parking lot, standing by a rusty old station wagon with Ontario license plates, which he proudly announces is his car since stepping out on his own. Apparently he drove this junkyard escapee all the way out here.
Like Vera's car, it doesn't do heat and I'm shivering in the backseat all the way to the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
Jett parks the car and we get out. The wind blasts us. I'm not used to this kind of wind that whips across open ground.
The museum blends in with the badlands around it, being a sand-coloured low-rise building with only windows and white trim to set it apart. We hurry past some dinosaur models and into the foyer.
Jett grins at us.
“Entrance fees will be paid for by mother, I presume?”
Harry nods, reaching into a back pocket for his wallet.
“Good,” says Jett. “Look around. Take advantage of it. Because afterward we are going to have a serious conversation about how you can still believe in God after a visit to a place like this.”
Harry shakes his head. He's also grinning as he passes his credit card to a girl sitting at the front desk and signals that he's paying for me and him.
Jett gives his name to the girl and she consults a piece of paper and says he's expected. He heads off, without paying an entrance fee, telling us we'll meet back here in an hour.
“Doesn't it bother you that Jett seems hostile to God?” I ask, as soon as we're into the museum. It's probably the first real question I've asked him. I'd like to pretend I'm asking for the sake of the case, but it's really a question about Harry.
“Not really,” says Harry consulting a museum map and then looking around. “Let's do the Dinosaur Hall first.” He leads us into a room that is dark and full of dinosaur skeletons with painted backdrops of a rocky landscape and live dinosaurs.
“People aren't won to Christ by arguments,” he says. “They're won to him by love.”
I look around to make sure nobody is within hearing distance. But we're the only ones in the large room.
“When I see all this, I see God's creation,” says Harry, waving his hand at the dinosaur bones. “Jett looks around and sees atheistic evolution. But the world doesn't need more arguments. I'm not going to sit and argue with Jett, although I enjoy talking with him about things. But I won't try to convince him that his view of the world is all wrong and he has to turn to God or go to hell. Jett needs a friend. Most people need a friend.”
“I don't need a friend,” I say grimly. It just pops out.
Harry grins down at me.
I don't know how to take that, so I pretend to be reading one of the boards in front of the dinosaurs. But all the stuff about the Cretaceous period doesn't go in. In fact, I have a feeling this whole dinosaur thing is going to be a waste for me. Harry and I wander around. He reads the boards in front of the skeletons. He's probably taking it all in.
When we're done with the dinosaurs, we move onto the Extreme Theropods Gallery. More skeletons, more information to read. Then it's a walk through the Ice Ages and the Time Tunnel. Harry reads from the guide that he picked up at the front desk. There are a whole bunch of red display cases with fossil-looking things in them. We stop at each one.
We have ten minutes before meeting back with Jett. I'd like to sit on a bench but Harry suggests a stroll through the Cretaceous Garden before heading back.
The lobby is filling up now. School children are milling around and coats are being hung up while school teachers try to get their groups organized.
Harry gives them a general smile while we wait for Jett. That's just the kind of goofy guy he is. General benevolence for all mankind. Personally, I'm thankful that we did our tour before the hordes arrived.
Unfortunately, we're standing at the starting point of a tour. A few senior citizens and one university student are standing in front of a lady in a white dress and blue blazer with a dinosaur on it.
“Dinosaur hunting started here in the Red River Valley over a hundred years ago when a young geologist with the Geological Survey of Canada, Joseph P. Tyrrell, discovered a partial skull of a dinosaur, later named Albertasaurus Sarcophagus. This happened about five kilometres from here in the valley of Kneehills Creek.”
Harry is actually listening to this.
“Today we'll be passing through not just thousands of years of history, but millions of years of history.”
Thank God I'll be missing that.
“You'll be seeing one of the finest collections of dinosaur bones in the world. Dinosaur skeletons from Alberta can also be found in . . .” She starts listing off a whole bunch of museums.
Harry nudges me when she says the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.
Thankfully the tour gets going and they move on.
“Imagine,” says Harry. “The American Museum of Natural History in New York has bones from here! And the British Museum in London! Makes me proud to be Canadian.”
Honestly, the things he says. I really don't even know how to reply.
Then Jett's back and he and Harry are talking.
Jett leads us to the cafeteria for an early lunch. I'm glad to find out that they have complete meals. Our dinner last night was cookies and our breakfast was danish. I'm actually ready for something healthy.
Harry and Jett order hamburgers and fries. I have a salad and fries.
When we sit down at one of the tables, Jett enthusiastically tells us all about the dig he'll be funding. It'll be about two hundred kilometres from here, in an area that hasn't been overly-explored.
“Of course, everything around here has been done at least once,” says Jett, emptying a packet of vinegar on his fries. “But the last time they had a good look around this spot was about 75 years ago according to the records here. So there'll be new technology and new methods of extraction.”
Harry asks all the right questions about the dig and seems genuinely interested in the answers. Me, I don't know what's so exciting about shovels and picks and tents. Harry is asking about the type of computers they'll have and what kind of programs they have nowadays to analyze data. None of it has anything to do with our real mission, the missing necklace. Why aren't we asking Jett questions about that?
“What about your mom?” I blurt out. I'm finished my food. I'm bored out of my mind. Harry and Jett are on their second coffees and the schoolchildren are now filling up the cafeteria and eating out of their bagged lunches.
“Yeah, my mom. You'll have to tell her I'm here. I'll send her a postcard. No worries.”
“Yeah, that's cool,” I say. I want to talk about the necklace.
“Will it be OK?” asks Harry.
“Yeah,” says Jett. “I knew they'd lock me up in my room if I told them I was coming out here. But now that I'm here they really can't do anything about it. I was just holding on until I had my money. Now it's all out here with me and they can't get at it.”
“Not under your mattress, I hope,” says Harry.
Jett shakes his head.
“Bank account. Canadian Western Bank.”
“You mean, your parents would have held you prisoner?” I say.
“No, they're not quite that bad. But they would have done everything they could to try to persuade me not to launch on the crazy career of dinosaur-bones hunter. Dad wanted me in the navy.”
“We have a navy?” I ask.
“Apparently,” says Jett nodding.
“You had a grandfather in the navy?” says Harry.
“Well, my great-grandfather was a British Admiral in the glorious days of George V and Edward VIII. Guarding Empire and all that. He went all over the world and ended up in Halifax when he retired. Anyway, his son was in the navy and his daughter's son. That would be my father, of course. So it was my turn and I definitely let the family down but I wasn't going to join the navy just because everyone else did.”
“What does our navy do, anyhow?” I ask.
“I imagine they patrol the coasts,” says Jett, not sounding too interested.
I decide I'll let Harry interrogate Jett. He's really not warming up to me. I'll have to ask Harry who George V and Edward VIII were. I've never heard of them.
“Any ideas about your mom's stolen necklace?”
Finally, he's asking questions.
Jett shakes his head.
“They were talking about it while I was planning my big escape. So I didn't really pay much attention. Besides, I knew it was fake.”
“Did your mom always know it was a fake?” asks Harry.
“No, I don't think she did. My impression is they found out recently. That's what my parents were fighting about. In fact, when I was a kid, my mom would wear it on special occasions and I asked her once if all those diamonds were real. She said yes, of course. I told her she looked like a queen.”
“That's how I described it to Meg,” says Harry. “Something a queen would wear.”
“If I were you,” says Jett. “I'd pursue the whole thing from the perspective of the necklace itself. It's a family heirloom. Mom thought the jewels were real. She found out they weren't. What's the deal?”
“That's a good idea. Of course, I can't really talk it over directly with your mom since she probably thinks that no one knows it’s a fake.”
“True,” says Jett. “But you could go at it a different way. You could read my grandmother's diaries.”
“Your grandmother's diaries?”
“Yes,” nods Jett. “Her lawyer gave them to me because I'm her heir. She might have said something about it since the necklace was hers to begin with.”
“So the necklace came from your father's side of the family?”
“Yep,” says Jett. “Dad's an only child. If he'd had a sister, she would have gotten it. He didn't, so Mom got it. The strange thing is, I never got the sense that Grandma liked the thing. She told me once she rarely wore it and was glad to move it along.”
“Do you have your grandmother's diaries with you?” asks Harry.
Jett shakes his head.
“There were a lot of them. I just brought the bare minimum to Drumheller. What I did was I donated the diaries to The Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society. That's where Grandma lived. I thought they'd be interested in them.”
“The Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society?” I say. “I take it that's in Nova Scotia?”
“Yep. I mailed them myself. Halifax, actually. Grandma was a member of the historical society. I went to some of their meetings. They get together once a month and talk about historical things. They serve cookies after the meetings. That's what I remember most.”
“I guess they won't want to mail them back,” I say, not interested in cookies.
“Probably not. You'll have to go there.”
hen we get back to the motel, Harry and Jett phone Mrs. Shanklin.
She's so happy to hear from Jett that it's more of a postscript to the conversation that we're off to Halifax. After Jett finishes assuring his mom that he's alive and well and happy, he goes online with his laptop to get the phone number for The Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society. When he calls them, he speaks with the assurance of a man with money. Bottom line is, they'll be happy to receive us and let us read the diaries. Jett donated some money along with the diaries so that explains why we have no problem.
Jett scribbles a name, an address and a phone number on a piece of paper and hands it to Harry. By now, Harry is online at Air Canada again. A flight from Calgary to Halifax is leaving early the next morning.”
“Come on, buddy,” Jett says. “Want to go back to my room? We can order room service for dinner and drink coffee and talk all night. I'll drive you to Calgary in the morning. I need to go to the University of Calgary bookstore anyhow. ”
The invitation to come back to his room is clearly not for me.
Harry gives me an apologetic look and I try to convey to him with my smile that I'm not really hurt. The last thing I want to listen to is a long, tedious talk where Harry and Jett debate whether or not God exists.
I spend the evening watching TV with a hamburger from room service.
Harry has kindly arranged for a 4 a.m. wake-up call. I swear and consider rolling over and going back to sleep when it comes but am glad I didn't when he's knocking on the door at 4:30. We have a 7:12 flight out of Calgary and Harry, apparently, is one of those people who doesn’t like to take a chance that we might be late.
Breakfast is drive-thru at McDonald's in some small town halfway between Drumheller and Calgary.
Harry and Jett aren't talking much. I guess they're all talked out. So we mostly listen to the radio. At least it’s not country-and-western. Jett has his radio tuned to an easy listening station out of Calgary, and I would never admit it to anyone, but the hits of the 60's, 70's and 80's are kind of soothing for the early morning and the endless scenery.
Jett just drops us off rather than pay any parking, but he and Harry give each other bear hugs and promise to email each other. Jett has the audacity to say to Harry that if the private investigation career doesn't work out, he's welcome to join Jett's excavation team.
Then Harry gallantly lugs my heavy suitcase as we check in along with all the other business people heading to Halifax. (The only exception being a mother with three small and active children. I have a horrible moment imagining that they are going to be Harry's do-gooder project for this flight, but am relieved to overhear that they'll be in the first row of the plane while Harry and I have seats halfway back and over the wing.
“Do you think the weather will be nicer in Halifax?” I ask when we're finally strapped into our seats and waiting for take-off. Again, I'm by the window and he's in the middle.
“I dunno,” says Harry. To my horror, he turns to the person sitting in the aisle seat, a man in his fifties wearing a grey suit and reading a Calgary Herald. “Do you know what the weather is like in Halifax in the winter?”
The man grunts and puts down his paper.
“Better than Calgary, that's for sure. But cold.”
“Is Halifax your home?”
Where does he get his nerve? I'm expecting the man to tell him to mind his own business. But the man is looking at him with interest.
“Yes, it is. But I do a lot of work in Calgary. Young man, would you consider working in sales?”
Harry takes this very seriously.
“Well, actually I have a job. This is my associate, Meg Carmichael, and we're private investigators.”
The man laughs.
“You two?” he says. “Really?”
“We're on a case right now. Obviously I can't give you the details, but we're investigating some stolen jewellery.”
“Really?” The man is impressed. “Well, I'll say this, son. You have the personality for sales. You should seriously consider it and I'd be happy to have you working for me.”
Unbelievable. Is Harry going to move through Canada charming everyone and being offered jobs? It's too much.
“I really appreciate it,” says Harry. “I've actually dedicated my life to God and he's blessed me with a desire to reach out to people.”
“Well, son, I think you have a natural talent for relating to people and that you'd be crazy to waste it on God.”
The man exhales and rubs his forehead. Harry isn't offended though. By now we're going down the runway and our take-off momentarily disrupts the conversation. But when we're in the air and the flight attendants are distributing hot coffees and bagels the man starts up again.
“I shouldn't have said that about God,” he says. “It's not that I really care about God, it's just that I shouldn't have belittled your faith.”
I sip my coffee and don't say anything. I was kind of thinking that if the old guy was such a people-person himself, why did he slip up with that God comment?
“I understand,” says Harry. “And I think you do care about God. You're just mad at him.”
Both me and the old guy are startled.
“Yeah,” says the man, sounding tired. “I guess I am. And I guess it ticked me off that you're going to go around doing things on his behalf when you could be doing things for yourself.”
At this point, I'm thinking Harry should just shut up and we'll sit in silence for the next four hours. Maybe the guy can go back to his newspaper and we can all pretend this never happened.
“I have a feeling it's a long story,” says Harry. “And one you don't really want to tell.”
“You've got that right, son,” says the man.
“But at the same time, I think you want to believe in God and that you've found that living for yourself is a dead-end road.”
“Son, you have definitely got a way of summing things up. I'll be honest with you. I'm a bit jealous of your faith.”
“I know,” says Harry. “I can tell you miss your faith. And you're mad because life has been hard enough that you lost it along the way. And you're mad at God for letting it all happen.”
The man is looking at Harry with amazement.
“Do you have a crystal ball underneath that purple scarf of yours?”
Yes, Harry is still wearing his purple scarf despite that every other civilized person has stored all of their winter paraphernalia in the overhead compartments.
“No,” says Harry. “I can just tell.”
The man doesn't seem to want to talk, but he doesn't seem mad either. He and Harry drink their coffees in an understanding silence. The man returns to his newspaper, but he occasionally mentions something to Harry and they talk about how the Calgary Flames are doing or whether Ottawa will send more troops to Afghanistan. Then the man folds the paper over and works on the crossword, occasionally asking Harry for input. Harry is lousy at crosswords and some of his dumb suggestions make the man laugh, but it's a friendly laughter.
“Well, son,” says the man, when we've touched down at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. “I'm going to think about what you've said. I'm glad we met.”
“I'm glad too,” says Harry, shaking his hand. “God bless you, sir.”
The man gives him a little smile before moving down the aisle toward the exit.
Again, I regret my large suitcase as we wait for it at the luggage carousel, but Harry shows no impatience and soon we're in the Arrivals lounge, looking at a map on the wall, and trying to figure out where to go from here. According to the map, we're in Enfield, just outside of Halifax.
“I think we should get a taxi and go straight to the Historical Society,” Harry finally says.
“What time is it?” I ask, looking at my watch. “It must be late.”
“I dunno. And we crossed a few time zones,” says Harry. “The main thing, though, is to check in and say we've arrived and then find a motel within walking distance.”
I can't think of a better plan so we go out into the cold but thankfully, the taxis are close and are warm as soon as we get in. For a change, Harry is in the backseat with me and he hands the piece of paper with the address of The Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society on it to the driver who seems to know what to do with it.
As it turns out, it's a home address. We're surprised and hesitant to just go up to the door and knock but the driver says, “It's the address on the paper.”
So, once again, we're out in the cold. Harry pays the driver and we are left standing in a driveway with my large suitcase sitting in the snow.
We go up to the door, fully expecting that the inhabitants of the house will tell us to go away, but the door is opened by a smiling, middle-aged woman who says right away, “You're the ones Jett told me about, aren't you?” She introduces herself as Madeleine and tells us to come on in, including my suitcase.
“Did you have a nice flight?” she asks. “Let's see, Jett called from Drumheller, didn't he?”
We nod. We're taking off our boots and coats and Madeleine signals for us to follow her down the wood-panelled hallway into a bright and cheerful kitchen. French windows look out onto a long lawn that ends with a harbour. It's a spectacular view, even with all the snow to diminish any colour. Madeleine is a pleasantly large woman, wearing a homey ski sweater and jeans, with a wavy grey bob. She tells us to sit down at the round wooden table and she puts the kettle on the stove-top before joining us.
“Now,” she says. “Jett doesn't know it, but we don't actually have the facilities to store archives. We don't even have an official building. The Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society meets once a month in different places and we have a speaker and we discuss historical matters. But we don't have our own private collection of historical materials.”
“So then, what's happened to Jett's grandmother's diaries?” I ask. Now that we're out in the real world and away from Harry's personal friends, I feel free to take over this case.
“Thankfully for you guys, I still have them. But I was going to give them to the Council of Nova Scotia Archives. That's generally what we do when anything comes our way.”
The kettle is whistling and Madeleine gets up to make a pot of tea.
“Now, I understand you folks would like to read the diaries?”
We both nod.
“That shouldn't be a problem,” says Madeleine bringing the teapot over to the table and getting some mugs out of a cupboard. “I can arrange to be here during the day, for the next little while.”
“I hope we won't be bothering you,” says Harry.
“Not at all,” says Madeleine, pouring some milk into a little jug. “I actually wanted to read the diaries before I turned them over to Nova Scotia Archives. So this will give me the push I needed. Mrs. Shanklin never told me any great details about her life but I gather her family has been here for a while and that her father, her brother and her husband served in the Royal Navy.”
“Yes,” Harry nods. “Their family is very nautical. Except for Jett.”
“If he's in Drumheller, he loves ancient history,” says Madeleine, smiling. “I'm sure his grandmother wouldn't have minded. She adored him. She was so proud of him and just loved it when he'd spend the summers with her.”
“Every summer, pretty much, I think.”
“We would see him then, yes. When he was really little, he would always be carrying a dinosaur model. So it doesn't surprise me that he ended up loving dinosaur fossils.”
Once again, Harry has hijacked this case and Madeleine is talking to him instead of me.
“You must see a lot of amazing ships from here,” says Harry, looking out the window at the harbour.
“Oh yes,” says Madeleine. “It's wonderful in the summer. I only visited Mrs. Shanklin's house once, but it was bigger than this one and right on the harbour too. Now, where will you be staying while you're in Halifax?”
“Can you recommend a place nearby?” asks Harry.
“There's a wonderful bed-and-breakfast just three houses down from here. It's a grand old Victorian home owned by a friend of mine. Most of her guests are in the summer. So she would have no problem fitting you in.”
Madeleine gets on the phone and calls her friend and we have two rooms booked for however long it takes to read the diaries.
“Annie will give you breakfast every morning,” she says when she hangs up. “If you pitch in a bit, I can take care of your lunch. For dinner, you'll have to take a little hike along this road and you'll come to a lovely restaurant on the harbour, fish-and-chips, that sort of thing. Anything else, you'll have to grab a cab. We're a bit isolated in this part of the harbour.”
“That sounds great,” says Harry, standing up.
Madeleine shows us to the door and says to come back tomorrow, anytime after 9.
The road doesn't have a sidewalk but no cars pass as we head down the road to Annie's Bed-and-Breakfast.
Annie is waiting for us. Like Madeleine, she's middle-aged and grey-haired. She has more of a bohemian look to her though – a long floral dress, lots of beads, and her hair is pulled back in a braid. We're led up a long staircase to the third floor of the house. Annie says her best two rooms are up there. It's the view, she explains.
Harry is shown into a large blue room that reminds me of Jett's back in Toronto, very nautical. Mine is more Victorian, with florals and lace. Annie doesn't hang around. She tells us she's a painter and she's in the middle of a big project. She breezily says to give her a shout if we need anything. (I think we would literally have to shout since she doesn't tell us where she's going to be.) As she's going back down the stairs, she calls over her shoulder that breakfast is at 8 and she'll give us a knock on the door if we're not up by then.
“What do you think?” says Harry, who has tossed his knapsack on his bed and joined me in my room. “Rest or look around?”
“Eat,” I say.
“I agree,” says Harry. “We'd better check out that fish-and-chips place.”
Out in the cold again. We head down the road, past Madeleine's. She said it was a bit of a hike and that's putting it mildly. We're about ready to turn around and go back when we see the sign for Mike's Fish-and-Chips, still in the far distance. We trudge on.
“Oh well,” says Harry, when we are finally inside and at a small table by the window. Even he can't think of anything to say beyond that, we're so pooped.
“What time is it?” I ask. “I mean, is this lunch or dinner?”
“I have no idea,” says Harry, glancing at his watch. “I'm still on Calgary time. I figure the next time we'll know what time it is, it'll be Annie calling us to breakfast.”
I look at the menu.
“I think I'll order lunch and dinner,” I say.
“Good idea. And tomorrow I'm going to ask Madeleine if there's a Tim Hortons close by. There's got to be a Tim Hortons closer than this.”
We both order the Surf 'n Turf special, sipping on hot tea to warm up while we wait and digging in when it comes.
“Dessert?” asks Harry, when our plates are both empty.
“Let's get it to go,” I say.
“You're right. I'll be hungry again after the hike back.”
We order apple pie to go and it comes to us in a Styrofoam container.
We have another tea before bundling up again. The winter sun is low on the horizon. Mike (if that's his name) has provided us with a brown paper bag for the pieces of pie we're carrying back.
With the sun dropping, the temperature has dropped, too. No sidewalk also means that we're walking along in snowdrifts.
We get back to the bed-and-breakfast and go straight up to our rooms. Harry suggests we have the pie in his room since it's bigger. The house is warm but we're still pretty chilled from the walk. There's a kettle on the dresser, along with a selection of teas. Harry fills up the kettle and asks me what kind of tea I'd like to try. Blackberry. Lemon Honey. Chai. Raspberry. Apples and Spice. Everything but plain old-fashioned black tea.
“Lemon Honey,” I say, flopping down in one of the wicker chairs that face the large window. I've never had so much tea in my life.
“Wonder how long it will take us to go through the diaries?” I say when we're both eating the pie and drinking the tea.
“I was wondering the same thing,” nods Harry. Thankfully Mike has included plastic forks, though the two pieces are in the same Styrofoam container, which generates a certain intimacy as we eat out of it. I try not to think about it.
“Are you a fast reader?” I ask.
“Yeah, I like to read. But I'm thinking we should tell Madeleine that we're looking for info about a necklace. That way, if there's anything we miss, she might pick up on it.”
“Good idea,” I say, adding some more sugar to my mug.
After the pie, I stand up and tell Harry that I think I'll just make it an early night.
He smiles pleasantly and says that's a good idea.
But the truth is, it's all getting to me. The sun has gone down. There's only a lamp on in the room. The setting is, I hate to say it, romantic. And there's Harry.
I can no longer refer to him in my mind as the idiot. He's a complete sap, of course. And he's a huge embarrassment when he talks about God. But he's always taking care of things. He lugged that huge suitcase of mine up the stairs without a complaint. He pays for everything. (I know Mrs. Shanklin will reimburse him. But he just does it automatically. It's like . . . it's like . . . he's taking care of things. I want to say, it's like he's taking care of me. But I won't let myself. He's taking care of things.)
I don't want to think about it anymore. I just want to lie
down and sleep. Tomorrow, we start on the diaries.
ell, her diary starts off good. She's just turned 16 and she's in love with a prince.”
We're back in Madeleine's kitchen and I have the first diary. Madeleine has them all in the box that Jett sent them in. Madeleine's like me. She likes to start at the beginning. So she tells me to read the first one and then she'll start in on it.
Harry's going to skim through them looking for info about the necklace. He says he'll start with the last one and go backwards. Except that he has to go through all of them to see which one is the last one. Madeleine only figured out which one was the first one.
Before coming to Madeleine's, we had our breakfast at Annie's.
Both of us packed it away, eggs, bacon, potatoes, two pieces of toast, coffee and juice. Neither of us wants another long hike back to Mike's so we're going to aim for a late lunch at Madeleine's which will hopefully get us through the rest of the day. Harry said at breakfast that there are a lot of people in the world who survive on one bowl of rice a day. Then he told me all about the early Christians and how poor they were. But even then, they would share their food with the less fortunate. The food was portioned out, which meant that on some days a family would eat and some days they wouldn't, just so the food could go around. Then I told him to shut up.
“Oh, read it out loud, Meg,” says Madeleine. “I can't wait until you're done. I love a good romance!”
“August 5, 1919,” I read. “I just turned 16 and I am in love. Today I met the man I will marry. His name is Edward and he is the Prince of Wales. I met him because Father is Captain of the H.M.S. Renown, the ship that is taking him to Canada. Mother, Bob and I were there to see Father off. Father introduced me and Bob to the Prince.”
I look up.
“Who's this Prince?” I ask.
“That would be Edward, the Prince of Wales,” says Madeleine, settling down in the wooden chair beside me with a mug of tea.
I return to the diary.
“I curtsied and said 'How do you do?' while Bob gave a little bow. He was ever so nice to us. And he's ever so handsome and smart looking! I wish I had a photo of him for my room.”
“How romantic!” says Madeleine. “If that's 1919, then Edward would be about, let's see, 25-years-old.”
“Who was he?” I ask.
“He was the son of the King, King George V and his wife, Queen Mary. He would be the current Queen's uncle.”
“Oh,” I say, trying to sort this all out in my mind.
Back to the diary.
“Her next entry isn't until September 15, 1919,” I say. “She says, Everybody is terrified of the Bolsheviks taking over England. Father has told Mother that he is investing our money in Canada to keep it out of Bolsheviks hands if England ever falls. If England falls! Father says it will be like the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution where all the aristocrats had to flee or get killed. That's one of the things he's doing in Canada right now. I heard Mother telling Aunt Bethie about it. Aunt Bethie is horrified at the thought of losing us. Father is buying an estate for us in Canada, Nova Scotia, I think. Also, an estate in Toronto. He says the Bolshies won't make it to Canada. America won't let them.”
“Ah, yes,” says Madeleine. “The Russian Revolution had happened in 1917.”
“So that would be the Communists?” I say.
“Yes. It created quite a stir at the time. Some people thought that the workers of the world would all rise up and overturn their governments, particularly in places where there was a monarchy.”
“That would make sense,” says Harry. “Monarchies have big expensive palaces and that would be irritating to people who were hungry.”
“You're so right,” says Madeleine. “More people were hungry then too. And the working conditions were often poor. Unions have made some big improvements for the working man since then.”
“Did they have Employment Insurance then?” asks Harry.
He asks the strangest questions.
“Yes, it was only a few years old at the time and I wouldn't be surprised if the whole fear of revolution wasn't the reason why Britain started it.”
“She doesn't write very often,” I say. “Her next entry is in November. Bob is finally old enough to go into the Navy. Father couldn't be more proud. But I think Mother is relieved that the war is already over. Bob assures me that as the younger sister of a naval officer, I'll get to meet a lot of dashing young men. I didn't tell him that I am already in love. Edward is the only one for me.”
“We often forget that people like Mrs. Shanklin were young once. So romantic, isn't it?”
I agree and continue reading.
“December 13, 1919 Father is back from Canada. He says that Canada was in a hysterical state over the Prince. He was well-received by all the people. Huge crowds came out to catch a glimpse of him. Father says that Edward bought a ranch in Canada. When I marry Edward, I expect we will live there. Father says Canada is a nice place to live.”
“His ranch was near Calgary,” says Madeleine.
“Really?” I say, putting the diary down for a moment. “We were just there!”
“There was some talk that he might end up living there,” says Madeleine. “He never did. But he did visit frequently. It was a real working ranch although the Prince had very little to do with it. Later, I think he tried drilling for oil but that was unsuccessful.”
Harry is skimming one of the diaries. “He went back in 1924. Mrs Shanklin writes that he was on his way back from the States where he had been staying on Long Island and stirring things up in New York. “The stories are scandalous. Continual parties. The papers are full of it. If he's not at a party, he's going to the races or dashing around in a motor boat.”
“Yes, the Prince of Wales was quite the carefree bachelor,” says Madeleine. “He was the celebrity of his day. There were Hollywood actors back then too, but the Prince had the advantage of being royalty.”
The diary starts to become a daily habit for Mrs. Shanklin. She talks about her friends and the boys they like, though no one compares to Edward. There's nothing to actually read out loud, but it is interesting to know that people haven't changed much in 90 years. Madeleine finishes her tea and putters around the kitchen.
“What sort of things do you kids eat for lunch?” she asks after a while.
I look up, surprised. It's already 11:30. I'm nearly finished the first diary. There's no mention of a necklace, but she talks a lot about her father and how he's almost never home, but when he is home he's telling her how she should dress and who she should be friends with. She's telling him she wants to be a nurse and he's telling her that she's going to get married and that he has the right man picked out for her!
“Sandwiches are fine,” says Harry.
“Great,” says Madeleine. “Turkey or roast beef?”
By the time the sandwiches are made, I'm done the first diary and ready for the second.
“I've already, been through that one,” says Harry after lunch. “No necklace.”
“Wouldn't hurt for me to go through it too,” I say. “You may have missed something.” The truth is, I want to keep reading.
“Sure,” says Harry agreeably.
Madeleine tidies up the kitchen and then sits down to start the first diary.
I'm in 1924 now. Mrs. Shanklin is 21 and has actually won the battle with her father to go to nursing school. The deciding factor was that the man that her father had wanted her to marry had gone off to Beijing to fight in some civil war in China.
Nursing school wasn't easy, but she was enjoying the independence of learning new things. She was still at home and her father still treated her like a child when he was at home, but she and her mother got along fine. There was a doctor at the hospital that she found attractive. But Edward was still her true love; although she candidly admitted it was highly unlikely that he would marry a nurse when he could have a European princess.
The sun is going down when I finish the second diary.
“Well,” says Harry, standing up. “I hope we haven't overstayed our welcome.”
“Not at all,” says Madeleine, looking at the clock on the wall. “I still have an hour until my hubby gets home.”
“You didn't ask about the Tim Hortons,” I say accusingly, when we're back out on the street and heading for Annie's.
“I didn't want to put her out,” says Harry. “Then she'd know we're desperate and feel obligated to drive us somewhere. Let's just order a pizza.”
“I don't know why I didn't think of that,” I say.
We shake the snow off our boots and head up to our room. There's no telephone in either of our rooms, but Harry actually has a cell phone in his knapsack. He comes back to report that he called the generic number for Pizza Pizza and placed an order for a large pepperoni.
“I like beef and pineapple,” I say. Then I feel like a rotter. “But I like pepperoni too.”
“Do you play cards?” asks Harry, sitting down on my bed. He's holding a pack of cards.
“Yeah. Rummy? Crazy 8's? Go Fish?”
“Well, my dad and I played War when I was little.”
“I'll teach you Rummy. It's really fun.”
Harry is arranging all of this on my bed. My only choice is to sit on the other end and go along with it.
We're halfway through the game when Annie calls up that our pizza is here. Harry dashes down to get it and we play cards while we eat.
It turns out I'm pretty good at Rummy. Unless Harry just lets me win. Either way, it's fun. But I wouldn't admit it to anyone.
“Do we have an allowance for doing tourist things?” I ask the next morning on the short walk between Annie and Madeleine's.
“No, I think we'd have to do that on our own money. Why? Do you want to see Halifax?”
“I dunno,” I say. “I don't even know what there is to see in Halifax.”
Madeleine greets us with a smile, her mug of tea in her hand.
“Hello duckies,” she says. “Come on in! It's a cold one today!”
We take off our winter gear and head for the warm kitchen.
“I'll let you guys get to it,” she says. “I'm baking today. There's a monthly meeting of the Historical Society tonight. Would you guys like to come?”
“Sure!” says Harry, for both of us. Maybe it's the aroma coming from the oven that makes him so enthusiastic. Whatever the meeting is going to be about, the snacks will be good.
“Is the meeting going to be here?” I ask.
“Oh, dearie me, no. It'll be at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia. We'll be going right into Halifax. Have you visited Halifax before?”
“No,” says Harry. “But Meg was just commenting on the way over how nice it would be to see some of it.”
I give him a look even though it's more-or-less true.
Madeleine is pulling open the door of her oven to take a peek inside.
“Well, you'll get to see a good bit of it. Though I think it's much better in the summer. In any case, you'll get a decent look at Dalhousie University. Lots of architecture from the pre-Victorian days when they were inspired by the Greeks. Simple and solid.”
She has pulled out a tray of fresh cookies from the oven and is now directing her attention to a large mixing bowl with icing.
The diaries are on the table and I pick up the third one. Harry goes to one of the last ones.
We read until Harry interrupts the silence.
“I've looked over the last five years of her life and she doesn't even mention the necklace.”
“Well, that would make sense,” I say. “By then, she's probably given in to Jett's mom.”
“I wonder how old she was when she got the necklace.” I say. “She's about 25 now and she hasn't said a thing about it. Do you think it belonged to her mom?”
It's more of a rhetorical question since Harry doesn't know anymore than I do. At least we're on equal ground now.
“I gather this necklace is important,” says Madeleine, who has now finished with her baking and is making us some sandwiches for lunch. Roast beef today.
“Yes,” says Harry. “Did you ever see Mrs. Shanklin wear a diamond necklace? I've only seen it a few times, but it's the sort of thing you notice. I think there are three clusters of diamonds, in addition to the whole chain being diamonds.”
“Mrs. Shanklin never wore anything like that,” Madeleine says. “She was always tastefully dressed. I never had any doubt that her jewellery was real. But it was simple. You know, a gold watch, a gold chain with a simple pendant, that sort of thing.”
We put away the diaries to eat the sandwiches.
“What's the meeting about tonight?” asks Harry, helping himself to some iced tea in a jug.
“Pirates and Privateers in Mahone Bay,” says Madeleine. “We have a special speaker. He'll mention the usual story about the Teazer, I'm sure, but then he'll go deeper.”
“The Teazer?” says Harry.
“I take it they don't teach the story in the Ontario schools, then?” says Madeleine. “Well, it's something we re-enact here every summer. “The Young Teazer was an American ship that got chased into Mahone Bay by the British in the War of 1812. She was a privateer ship that used to harass the English ships and do all sorts of things to irritate them. Once she escaped by hiding in the harbour and putting up the British colours. The British had several warships out looking for her and eventually they cornered her. But rather than surrender, she blew herself up.”
“Sounds like Master and Commander,” Harry says. “I can imagine Jack Aubrey taking her on.”
“We're all pretty big fans of Patrick O'Brian's novels around here,” she says. “The days of tall ships may have been hard for the sailors, but they were certainly picturesque.”
In the afternoon I make it up to 1933 in the diaries. Mrs. Shanklin isn't even Mrs. Shanklin yet. She has had some romantic encounters with doctors in the hospital she's working at. But none of them are a Dr. Shanklin and she sounds too busy to settle down anyhow.
Occasionally, she talks about what's going on in the news. She mentions what's happening in Germany. They have Adolf Hitler and some people in England think he's doing a lot of good for Germany. Some people even want to see similar changes in England. America's Great Depression is affecting England and people want someone to come along and change things. But the hospital is keeping her life stable and her father continues with his career in the Royal Navy.
Harry reads about Mrs. Shanklin's more recent life. He tells me there's definitely a Mr. Shanklin. His diaries cover the time when he died. She spends a lot of pages missing him and feeling lonely. Harry doesn't read any of it out loud. That's just how he is. He probably feels like her grief isn't our business. The only thing he mentions is that he died in his 60's, of complications from his World War II wounds. Mrs. Shanklin feels like she could have done something to help him and wonders whether she did something wrong when she was nursing him. So now we know how they met.
“I doubt she did anything wrong,” says Madeleine. “He lived a long life after the war. But it's a shame because Mrs. Shanklin was in her early 90's when she died. So she had a large part of her life without him.”
“Was she in good health?” asks Harry.
“Oh yes. She was quite lively for her age. In fact, the week before she died she was at one of the historical society meetings. She walked with a cane, but beyond that, she didn't need any help.”
Since we're going to the meeting with her, Madeleine invites us to stay for dinner with her and “her hubby.”
Madeleine works on mashed potatoes and corn and then when her husband comes home, she fries up some steaks. He's a contractor and has obviously had a hard day though he's nice enough to us. But he doesn't seem the slightest bit interested in history. Harry helps Madeleine with the dishes and then we bundle up and head out into the night air, all carrying platters of cookies.
If I thought I was going to get a good look at Halifax, it doesn't happen. Snow starts to fall and it's dark already.
“The Public Archives of Nova Scotia is at University and Robie,” Madeleine says. She points out some of the university buildings, but mostly she has to concentrate on her driving.
I can tell as soon as we enter the meeting room that this place is not my style.
Everyone is over 80. OK. Maybe not 80. Definitely over 50.
Harry, nerd that he is, doesn't seem to notice this. Once the cookies are on a table at the back, Madeleine takes him and introduces him to the oldest member of the society. She's a small, frail lady, already sitting down. Harry sits down in a plastic chair beside her and immediately starts talking. Reluctantly, I sit down beside him. Madeleine is busy running around talking to people.
I guess Mrs. Shanklin's diary is on his mind, because somehow (I'm not really paying attention) they end up talking about that Prince of Wales, Edward, and his visit to Canada.
“Oh, yes!” the lady beams. “What wonderful times those were! I was so young at the time, but my older sister and my mother and I all went into Toronto to see the Prince. We had a farm just outside of Toronto, you see. I moved here when I got married.”
Harry is nodding, like it's so fascinating.
“The Prince was shaking so many hands they said he had to switch from his right hand to his left hand. Of course, we were too far back to shake his hand. But everyone was so excited. And Edward was so handsome! Oh, everyone was in love with him in those days.”
The lady's eyes are sparkling and for one moment, she doesn't look so old anymore.
“They even built a gate for him, you know. The Princes' Gate. It was built for him and his brother, George, a little later on.”
“I'm from Toronto,” says Harry. “Is the gate still there?”
“Are you from Toronto, dear? Then you must know it.”
“Actually, I don't think I do. Where is it?”
“It's one of the entrances into the CNE.”
The Canadian National Exhibition.
“Oh!” says Harry. “Now I know it! I didn't realize it was the Princes' Gate. I thought it was the Prin-cess gate.”
“No,” says the lady, shaking her head vigorously. “The Princes' Gate. For Edward and George.”
I'm so glad we got that sorted out.
Madeleine goes to the front and everyone starts to sit down. They do some business stuff first, make a few announcements, and then Madeleine introduces the speaker. He's a professor from the Dalhousie University, tweedy jacket, grey hair, and glasses, everything you'd expect a history teacher to be. Like Madeleine said, he's going to talk about pirates and privateers in Mahone Bay.
Madeleine was right about that Teazer story. He tells it first, and he's a pretty good storyteller. In fact, his whole talk is entertaining. It's like watching a movie the way he describes things and he's got some good adventure stories. But then afterward, he says they can ask him questions and that's when I nearly die of boredom.
I decide no one will miss me if I go to the bathroom so I get up and go out into the hallway.
The light in the hallway is dim. We're the only people in the building that night, I think. I wander down a hallway looking for the ladies bathroom and am startled when a security guard comes around the corner.
But he's young and gives me a big smile.
“Lost?” he says.
He looks pretty hot in his uniform. Probably a university student. Unlike Harry, he looks like he could come out on top in a fight.
“Uh, yeah,” I say. “I'm just looking for the bathroom. Actually, I'm just sort of stretching my legs.”
“You're not with that history group, are you?” he says. He's just standing there, grinning at me.
“Uh, yeah. Kind of.”
“You into history?”
“No,” I say. “Not at all. It wasn't my idea to come. Long story.”
“I like long stories,” he says. Boy, that's a cliché. But I don't mind.
“And I've got lots of time,” he says.
It's totally unprofessional, but I end up telling him the story of my life, including the case we're on.
He's impressed that I'm doing something. Says, he's never met a girl like me.
“I want to be a cop too,” he says. “This job is just to get me through school.”
For one moment, I have a doubt. Is he saying this to impress me, or does he really want to be a cop? Then I decide I'm crazy. He's the man from my fantasies.
“So, this guy, Harry,” Craig says. (That's his name, Craig.) “You like him, or something?”
“No, no,” I say. “Not at all. He's got connections, that's all.”
“Yeah, you need those in your line of work.”
We've been wandering up and down the hallways. I'm starting to feel edgy though, like maybe I'd better get back to that meeting.
“Listen, I’m going to head back,” I say.
“Yeah, sure,” he says. “But how long are you going to be in Halifax? I'd really like to see you again.”
I don't know if my legs are going to be able to hold me up.
“I dunno,” I say. “Depends on how long it takes us to go through those diaries.”
“Well, read slowly,” he says, giving me one of his grins.
We're heading back to the meeting hall and in the distance I can see the light coming from the room and I can hear the people talking. Questions and answers must be over because it's a lot of talk, the kind when everyone is doing it all at once.
When I get to the door, I peek around the corner. Everyone is eating Madeleine's cookies and drinking coffee.
“Hey, you think you could grab me a couple?” says Craig.
I don't know what Madeleine would say, but I hurry in, take some cookies and try to get back into the hallway without being noticed.
“That the guy you were telling me about?” asks Craig, a cookie in his mouth. From where we are, we can see some of the meeting room.
“Yeah,” I say. Harry is sitting talking to an older man. They seem to be enjoying themselves.
“What a loser,” says Craig, putting another cookie in his mouth.
I look into the room. Harry is a nerd. I know that already. But I'm not sure if I think he's a loser. In any case, it just sounds a little harsh coming from Craig.
“Listen,” says Craig, finishing the last cookie. “I got to get back to my station. I work with this old guy, total jerk. If I'm not back from my rounds in twenty minutes, he's all uptight. So could you do me a favour?” Craig pulls a small notebook and a pencil stub out his breast pocket. “Call me, OK? Let's do something before you leave Halifax.”
“Yeah, sure,” I say. It's scary and exciting at the same time. How am I going to do this? What will Harry say when I announce I've met this guy and I'm going to go out with him?
“Don't waste your time with him,” says Craig, jerking his head toward Harry and giving me a final grin. Then he's off down the hallway. I'm looking at his back. The guy is hot. But I've got a lot to think about.
can barely concentrate at breakfast the next day.
I've pulled out Craig's number and looked at it so many times since last night. But now we have to go to Madeleine's and when am I going to get a chance to use it?
Harry and Madeleine go on and on about the talk last night. Pirates and privateers. I can't even follow what they're saying. I pick up the next diary. I'm reading the same line over and over again.
Finally, my mind is able to take it in. This diary starts in 1934. The first line is, “Everyone is talking about Mrs. Simpson.”
Who is Mrs. Simpson? I don't remember any Mrs. Simpson. Why are they all talking about her? When will I call Craig? He's so hot.
I look over at Harry who has now settled down a bit and is reading a diary.
He looks so delicate compared to Craig.
But he's not really. I hold the diary up so it looks like I'm reading, but I'm trying to look at Harry. He's pretty filled out. Kind of pale though. Craig had a tan even though it’s the beginning of winter.
I never thought I'd see my dream man come to life like that. Of course, it wasn't a cop uniform, it was a security guard uniform. I can't imagine Harry in a security guard uniform.
I try to read the diary.
“She and Edward are always together, even though Mr. Simpson is always nearby. Mr. Simpson is not a rich man, but Mrs. Simpson is suddenly wearing all sorts of new glamorous clothing and expensive jewels. But Father says it can't last. Edward can't marry a divorced woman. So maybe there's hope for me after all!”
Edward. Why does that name sound familiar?
But there was something about Craig that made me nervous. I don't like to admit it. But it's the truth. He made me feel edgy. Harry on the other hand . . . No, I won't go there.
“June 2, 1934 I don't follow politics but Father is back from three months at sea and he's reading all the newspapers Mother saved him. They seem to be all about the Fascists. They're called the Blackshirts by the newspapers. Apparently, they are what is going to save us from Bolshevism. Father says that when he was in Germany he saw the same thing. Lots of young men in dark shirts parading around, holding rallies and waving banners. They talk about ending poverty too. So nobody needs to go to the Left if they want to do that sort of thing.”
I read it all over again and try to focus.
“Hey! This is kind of interesting!” I say. Harry and Madeleine both look up from their diaries. I read them what I've read so far.
“Yes,” agrees Madeleine. “It is interesting.”
“I didn't realize the Fascists had anything to do with England,” says Harry.
“I don’t know much about it either,” admits Madeleine. “What else does it say there?”
“June 15, 1934 Father was so interested in all the news about the Fascists that he attended one of their rallies at the Olympia. A lot of people turned out, he reports. Naturally, he wouldn't let me go. Said, as usual, women shouldn't involve themselves with politics. Heard him tell Mother that things had gotten a bit out of hand. Some people who tried to interrupt the main speaker were roughed up by some of the loyal supporters.”
“Wow,” says Harry. “That sounds like Nazi Germany.”
“It does, doesn't it?” says Madeleine. “But the Olympia is definitely in London. Anything else there about the Fascists?”
“Let's see . . .” I say, skimming. “No, seems to be about stuff at the hospital. I'll let you know when I come across anything interesting.”
Mrs. Shanklin talks a lot about a new wing for maternity patients. She enjoys being with the mothers and the babies.
I don't feel right asking Madeleine if I can use her phone and using Harry’s cell phone is out of the question.
But with Annie, it's different. We're paying customers so I should be allowed to use the phone. And if I wait till Harry's in his room, then I can do it without him knowing.
Mrs. Shanklin mentions the Fascists again in 1935. I read it out loud to Harry and Madeleine.
“Father says with 2 million people out of work in Britain, the country will have to turn Fascist to save itself. Edward, our future king, agrees. Either that or the Bolsheviks will move in. The only thing Father doesn't like about the Fascists is their black shirts and how they strut around when on parade. Some people at the hospital find it alarming. It is rather. They all look smart, but in a sinister kind of way. Still, it's better than the unemployed rabble just hanging about. Mr. Winston Churchill doesn't agree though. He is constantly speaking out about the Fascist menace and how it must be stopped not only here, but in Germany as well. Honestly, to hear him talk you'd think we should start mobilizing our troops.”
Smart, but in a sinister way. For a really, really brief moment, I can imagine Craig in one of those black shirts. And he would probably look hot. But that's stupid. Craig's not a Fascist.
“That's really interesting that her father would support the Fascists,” says Harry. “I don't really think of naval officers as being like that.”
“I think you have to consider the times,” says Madeleine. “The big fear at the time was that there would be a worker's revolution. Anyone with money was willing to stand behind anything that would protect them from the Left. And the Fascists were definitely on the Right.”
“I had no idea that England was worried about things like that.”
“If they had it in England, they probably had it here in Canada too,” says Madeleine. “I'll admit, I don't know much about it. I'll have to read up on it.”
“Hey,” I say, to Madeleine. “I think you're right. Listen to this. It's a few weeks later. Everyone is saying that Mr. Hitler will save us from the Bolsheviks and that with him between us and the Russians, England will not have to fight Russia. Father says Hitler has abolished all trade unions and made a one-party state, so there's no dissent there anymore. Not like here in England where Labour is constantly heckling the Tories and a strike could bring the whole country to a standstill.”
“It gives us a good idea of how people were thinking at the time.”
Madeleine gets up and starts on lunch. Today it's pasta. After lunch, I finish up 1935.
1936 starts off with the death of a king. It sounds important enough to read out loud.
“January 21, 1936 There's a horrible stillness in the air. The morning papers announced that our dear King George V died just before midnight. We are all terribly sad. He was a dutiful king, so dignified. The Prince of Wales will be quite different, of course. We all fervently hope he will carry on with the same dignity and make England proud.”
“So when she talks about the Prince of Wales,” I say, “she's talking about that guy Edward?”
“Same one. Of course, he's not so young anymore. He's about 40 now. But he's still dashing.”
“So he's going to become King,” says Harry. “But who's the Queen?”
“That's a good question,” says Madeleine. “Because there is no queen. Edward has had many women in his life, but never one he could marry. A lot of this came out later. He had many women friends who were married. But for some reason, he never fell in love with a nice single girl. At least, not one that his parents approved of. Ideally, he would have gotten married to someone from the nobility, a Duke's daughter, or something along those lines. And there were plenty of European princesses to choose from. But when Edward became King, he was still single.”
“Mrs. Shanklin must be getting pretty old too,” I say. “And she's not married yet.”
“I noticed that,” says Madeleine. “But it sounds like they met during the war. It must be early on in the war because we know she had a child.”
“Jett's father,” says Harry nodding.
I read the next entry out loud.
“January 28, 1936 King George has been lying in state all week. Today he was taken for burial at Windsor. Mother and I stood in the silent crowds. Edward led the procession with his brothers and other family close behind. Our dear Queen Mother Mary held up with such dignity. She has always been an inspiration to put duty ahead of personal interests.”
I keep reading. I had been expecting Mrs. Shanklin to fall in love with a doctor. Apart from her father and her brother, Bob, they're the only men in her life. I can't believe she's gone on for this long without having anyone.
Is that what I want? No men in my life?
I sneak a peek at Harry.
Well, he's definitely a man. But he's not my man. Craig is my kind of man. And I will phone him tonight. Yes, I decide. I will definitely phone him tonight.
“Here's some more Fascist stuff,” I say. “It's March 1936. Father attended a Fascist rally at the Royal Albert Hall. I think he was expecting it to be more dignified. I overheard him tell Mother it was a lot of rabble making a lot of noise. He says he hopes the German Fascists aren't so brutish. Father's impression of Germany (shared by our new King, he says) is that the Germans are industrious and orderly and disciplined. Everything that Father admires.”
“So King Edward really liked Germany?” says Harry.
“Actually, it makes sense,” says Madeleine. “As the King, he would definitely appreciate a strong man like Hitler standing between him and Bolshevik Russia. The noble families of Britain wouldn't regard Bolshevism with favour but with fear.”
“I think I'm starting to get it,” says Harry. “It's a whole different perspective of Hitler. We always hear how he was a really evil man. And I just sort of thought that everyone knew that right from the start.”
“From this diary, it sounds like it was very gradual,” says Madeleine. “And Hitler didn't just come to power and start setting up concentration camps. I know this much about him, a lot of Germans liked what he did for the country. He got things working again. It was the 1930's and the economy was in bad shape. People were out of work and it was a depressing time. A strong man like Hitler was appealing.”
“I've heard that Hitler didn't drink and didn't smoke and that he banned pornography,” says Harry. “So some of the Christians probably stood behind him.”
“Definitely,” says Madeleine. “That's one of the funny things about history. Nobody knows where it's heading. But we look back on it and think it was so obvious. But it wasn't at the time.”
“I think it's starting to go bad now,” I say. “Listen to this. It's June now. Rather alarming events today. The black-shirts were out marching in the streets. They were followed by many Londoners. There must have been at least three thousand people in the streets. They were carrying banners that said rather ugly things about the Jews and they were chanting, ‘The Yids, the Yids. We've got to get rid of the Yids.’ Quite dreadful. It made me think of Nellie Cohen, the head nurse, at the hospital. A dear lady. Working longer hours than any of us. I hope she didn't hear about this. It would be so unsettling.”
“So anti-Semitism started to become a Fascist tenant at this point,” says Harry.
“It sounds like it,” agrees Madeleine. “But there weren't a lot of Jews in England. There were way more in Germany and Eastern Europe, which is where the persecution really took off.”
“Oh, I get it,” says Harry. “The more there were, the worse it was.”
“Something like that,” says Madeleine. “The Jews weren't a large visible minority in England. They blended in and were very English. The Jews in Europe, however, often had their own neighbourhoods and were a very distinctive people. Some people were jealous of their success. Others were just swept away by the fear of anything that's different.”
Different. That's what Harry is, different. But I feel safe with him. But that doesn't make sense because he and I are so different. Craig and I are the same. That's why I should be with Craig. It's obvious.
“Here's more,” I say. “Still in June, end of June though. There is much talk about the goings-on in Germany. Mr. Hitler seems to be violating all the rules made for Germany after the Great War. Everyone agrees on that. What they don't agree on is, who is Mr. Hitler’s enemy? Everyone hopes it's the Russians. In any case, Edward is king now. He is friends with Hitler and will keep us out of a war. England and Germany will sign an agreement and then fight the real enemy, the Russians. (That's what Father says.)”
“Why didn't King Edward keep them out of the war?” asks Harry.
“He wasn't king long enough to do much about the war,” says Madeleine.
“You mean he died?”
Madeleine shakes her head.
“He had personal reasons . . .”
“I think I might have found something,” I interrupt. “About the King, I mean. This is in September now. September 12, 1936 Father and Mother talking in the parlour when I came home from the hospital. Apparently the King has not given up his friendship with Mrs. Simpson. Of course, she's well known in society and always wears the most expensive clothing. She has a simple but elegant look about her. Her jewels are exquisite. The topic of her jewels comes up all the time when Ellie and I have our tea at the hospital. Most people don't know anything about Wallis Simpson, of course, so Ellie and I are careful not to spread it about. With her father in government, she hears more about it than even I do.
But Father was telling Mother how sick of it all he is. He says that if the King continues to give his mistress (at this, Mother gasped) such extravagant jewels the working men will revolt. One of her necklaces could feed two families for a year. Father says if they get as fed up as him and rise up in anger, the Bolsheviks will move in and take over.”
“Wow,” says Harry. “And I thought the royals were only causing scandals now.”
“The royals have been causing scandals as long as there have been royals. The press just makes us more aware of it now.”
“Who is this Mrs. Simpson?” I ask.
“Mrs. Wallis Simpson was an American. Attractive, but older. She'd been married and divorced and was married to a Mr. Simpson when she met the prince. He fell in love with her.”
“I guess she wasn't considered a suitable match for a king,” says Harry.
“That's an understatement,” says Madeleine. “He did a good job of keeping her secret, but everyone in his circle knew about her, of course. It sounds like Mrs. Shanklin's father had friends who knew the royals. Anything more about the whole thing in there, Meg?”
“Yes, September 16, 1936 Ellie made a good point at tea break today. She said that we need not worry about the Bolsheviks here in England. Our King will do anything to keep them out. (We were discussing Mrs. Simpson's jewels again and I remarked how one pair of her earrings would take care of a Welsh coal mining family for a year. I'm starting to sound like Father.) Ellie was pointing out that his Uncle Nicholas and the whole family were murdered by the Bolsheviks. So Edward will sign any agreement with Germany to keep that from happening here. Besides, Edward has German blood in him. He has so many friends and relations in Germany that a war is too unlikely to worry about.”
“Who was his Uncle Nicholas?” I ask.
“The last Tsar of Russia,” says Madeleine. “The royal families of Europe were all related to one another, so it was quite a shock to them when the Tsar and his family were killed during the Russian Revolution.”
“Was the King of England really German?” asks Harry.
“He had German blood in him, certainly,” says Madeleine. “You see, Queen Victoria and her husband were both German, believe it or not. We tend to think of the British as being, well, British. But there are a lot of nationalities put together to make up the British nation.”
Harry diligently reads through his diaries. I don't know how he does it, going through Mrs. Shanklin's life backwards. I can barely keep my mind on it going forwards.
But I've got Craig to think about.
On the walk back to Annie's I say, “You know, I don't think we're really getting anywhere with this. She's a nurse. Her father's in the navy. But she doesn't mention jewellery. Maybe she has the necklace. Maybe it's her mother's. Maybe she's never going to mention it and then what will we do? We have no leads.”
Harry's hand brushes my arm. He's wearing gloves and I'm in a thick coat, but I can still gather that the gesture is to comfort me.
“I just take things one day at a time,” he says. “In the Bible this morning I read about how Jesus only wants us to think about one day at a time. You see, Meg, God is taking care of our future . . .”
“Harry, I don't want to hear about your God. Do you understand that we have to do this? We do. Not God. Maybe there isn't even a God. Maybe there is a God, but how do you know he cares about what we're doing? What proof do you have, Harry?”
“My proof is that I have a relationship with him,” says Harry, as we go up Annie's driveway. “It's as real as the relationship I have with you.”
Now I really know I'm going to call Craig. Why did I ever have a momentary, extremely momentary, twinge of affection for this guy? He's out of his mind.
“Pizza?” asks Harry, when we've shaken off the snow and are back in my room.
“Yeah,” I say. “Hey! How 'bout I call for it?” I'm thinking I can then sneak in a call to Craig.
“Do you know where we are?” asks Harry.
I am totally embarrassed to realize that I have no idea where we are so I therefore would not be able to do a simple thing like order a pizza.
“Uh, you go ahead and order it,” I say.
I'll sneak that call in later. But I have to know where the phone is first.
As soon as Harry is in his room, I hurry down the stairs and take a quick look around. The phone is in the kitchen. Funny how I never noticed that at breakfast. I was too busy being distracted. I dash back upstairs to my room.
My opportunity to call Craig comes sooner than I expect since when Harry returns, he announces he's going to take a quick shower.
As soon as the bathroom door shuts, I am down the stairs and with trembling hands, dialling the number on the paper. Annie is nowhere in sight. Not that it matters. The call isn't long-distance. I don't know why I have to be sneaky about this. I'm completely allowed to have a social life.
The phone is ringing and I almost feel sick.
Then there's a click and the voice mail comes on. I recognize Craig's voice although he just says, “Can’t talk now, leave a message.”
I hang up.
I don't know why. I should have left a message. He could have just been in the bathroom. Annie's number is right on the phone. I could have given that.
He's at work.
Like a dope, I realize this just when I'm about to go back upstairs. He works nights. If I want to talk to him, I'm going to have to get a hold of him during the day. Damn.
I stay standing in the kitchen thinking about this.
Call back? Leave a message? What to say? What if I say something stupid and then it’s permanently on his voice mail? No. It’s better to talk in person. But when?
I head back upstairs trying to think this one through.
Harry is coming out of the bathroom. He's quick. He's running his fingers through his damp hair and only has a towel wrapped around his waist. He looks startled. I guess he was expecting me to be in my room.
“Uh, sorry,” I say, even though I haven't seen anything major.
“Did the pizza come this soon?” he asks.
“Uh, no,” I say, trying to think fast to explain why I was downstairs. “Just thought I heard a noise. False alarm.”
I go into my room and fall on my bed.
Why am I lying to him?
Why do I find it so hard to just say, look, I met this guy last night. Really hot. He asked me to call him.
Am I afraid of hurting Harry?
No way. That's like thinking that maybe he likes me, or something.
Harry could have as many girls as he wants.
OK, that's hard to admit, but it's the truth. And it's even more reinforced by the sight of him in a towel. He's not some puny wimp. He's tall, well-built and pretty damn cute.
But that's the thing. He's cute when I want tough. At least, that's what I've wanted up till now.
But maybe Harry isn't even an option . . .
I don't want to admit it, but maybe Harry wouldn't even go for someone like me. My mom convinced me not to cut off all my long red hair. So that's one thing going for me . . .
Shut up! Too much thinking! Can't do anything about it anyhow. Craig's at work. I have no way of talking to him right now. I'll try to figure out something tomorrow. Find a way to use Madeleine's phone. Make up a story about meeting someone at the historical meeting. But that would be the truth. I did meet someone at the historical meeting. So why am I feeling like I have to lie? Oh, here we go again.
Thankfully Harry is soon knocking at my door, dressed this time, with a pizza and a pack of cards. This time we play Go Fish, and it's so goofy and so childish but for some reason, I don't mind.
Some detective I am. The next day at Madeleine's, I pretty much have to read everything all over again. My mind was so distracted yesterday. But I refuse to let it happen again today. I still have to think of a way to call Craig, but I've got to focus on this case. Otherwise Harry will read faster than me, find some info about the necklace and solve this case before I do.
Almost immediately after reviewing yesterday’s stuff, I'm into something worth reading out loud.
“Listen,” I say. “It's interesting. It's that Mrs. Simpson again and I'm in November 1936 It seems that everyone in the world knows what's going on with our King except for us here in Britain. Father is outraged. He just got back from New York where the papers are full of stories about King Edward and Mrs. Simpson. All out in the open! And to think that Ellie and I discuss it all (what little we know!) in hushed tones on our tea break. Of course, Father didn't bring any of the papers back with him. Wouldn't that have been a scoop! Father says the King has the British newspapermen in his back pocket and that makes us no better than a totalitarian regime.
It took me two hours of talking and plying him with tea and scones just to drag out the following news:
The King and Wallis appear together all the time. (Of course, they must be appearing together in places where I and most of Britain are not at because most of us don't know this. Presumably we are talking about private dinners and that sort of thing.)
When the King took his summer holidays, Mrs. Simpson accompanied him on his yacht. They were seen walking hand-in-hand while in Europe.”
“Do you know how this whole story ends?” Harry asks Madeleine.
“I do,” she says grinning. “And I'm not going to spoil it for you. Mrs. Shanklin is doing a good job of telling the story. Anything else about Edward there?”
“Well, on Tuesday November 16, 1936 she writes about King Edward doing a tour of South Wales. He tours the mining towns and everywhere he goes they cheer for him. When he sees how squalid it is there, he says over and over, 'Something must be done.'”
“I wonder if she was there to see it, or if her Father told her about it?” says Madeleine.
“Yeah, she doesn't say. Oh, but wait, here's more about the king. November 28, 1936 Father and Mother talking in sombre tones. They still think I'm a child and talk quietly so I won't overhear. Honestly! Father says the prime minister was at Buckingham Palace, talking with Edward for nearly two hours. If he doesn't give up Mrs. Simpson, the prime minister and his government will resign. The Labour Party has promised that they won't form a new government either. No government! Imagine! All for a woman. It's like living in the days of Helen of Troy.”
I look up.
“That's pretty serious, isn't it?” I say. “I didn't know governments care about things like that.”
“In Britain it was important,” says Madeleine. “The monarch is the head of the Church of England, as well as the symbolic head of the nation. So a divorced American woman at the King's side wouldn't be acceptable.”
“Her next entry is December 3, 1936,” I say. “She says, The newspapers have gotten a hold of the whole story and the headlines are ‘The King and Mrs. Simpson.’ Father says that now that it's all out in the open, the whole show is over. No more quiet persuasion. The King will have to make a decision. God help our King! God help England!”
“Keep going,” says Madeleine. “This is fascinating!”
“December 4, 1936 Mrs. Simpson has fled the country. Someone told Father she's gone to France. There are loads of people outside of Buckingham Palace singing ‘For He's a Jolly Good Fellow’ and calling out for King Edward. People are marching around with banners of support.”
“I didn't know any of this,” says Madeleine.
“December 5, 1936 Crowds out in the streets at all hours. They're out in front of the Palace, outside the Prime Minister's, outsider of Westminster. They wave banners and call out for the King. I'd be out there myself but Father has absolutely forbid it.
He's deeply concerned. Word is, the Fascists here are making the most of it. Some of the banners say, 'Abdication means revolution.' No one knows whether the King is going to marry Mrs. Simpson, but if he does, the government will completely collapse in protest. Father says the Fascists are not going to miss this opportunity, should it present itself. They will move right in and start running things to save the country. Father says they don't care whether the King stays on the throne and marries Mrs. Simpson. The main thing is that he's supportive of them. I made the mistake of pointing out to Father that he's always favoured the Fascists over the Communists. He looked at me and said that it would be the end of democracy in Britain and that it goes without saying that democracy is superior to all else.”
Harry and Madeleine are just listening, so I keep reading.
“December 6, 1936 No one knows what to do. There are still people out in the streets. Some people are driving around in their cars waving signs. They have megaphones and they call out, ‘Stand by the King!’ Father is convinced that they're Fascists. (Not because the message to stand by the King is sinister in any way. What concerns him is how organized they are, rather than just spontaneous outbursts of affection for our King.) Mr. Winston Churchill is calling on the government to show patience and to give the King time. The government wants the King to abdicate. How dreadful! Some newspapers want the King to abdicate too. Others beg him to stay and to reconsider his relationship with Mrs. Simpson.
I suppose I could marry him, if they wanted. Just to save the nation. Ha!”
We all smile.
“December 7, 1936
Despite the cold and rain, people are out in the streets again. They're singing ‘God save the King’ in front of the palace. The more politically-minded are outside of Downing Street hoping for some news from our government. (While we still have one!)
December 8, 1936
Mrs. Wallis Simpson has issued a statement to the press. She says she has no wish to hurt or damage the King or the throne. The papers say she has offered to withdraw from the whole thing.
December 10, 1936 It started over a woman, but Father says it could ruin the country. The Labour party is calling for a republic! Abolish the monarchy! Can you imagine! Some of the people in the Labour Party are now saying that if the government resigns in protest, they'll step in to start the whole process of making this country a republic.
Fascists one day. Republicans the next. Some people calling for the King to stay. Some people calling for the King to go. It could all lead to civil war, Father says. I can't describe Father's state of mind. He keeps saying that at least he has his properties in Canada. Of course, the King has his ranch in Canada. Maybe we'll all end up there together!”
“How come I've never heard about any of this?” asks Harry. “We studied World War II and the events that led up to it, but this story was never mentioned.”
“I think it was all forgotten once the war ended. Maybe there was even some embarrassment. Keep in mind, once the war was over, the pro-German people had seen how evil Hitler turned out to be. And when Hitler turned on Russia and invaded her, Britain and Russia ended up fighting on the same side.”
“So the war really shook things up,” says Harry. “What happens next?”
“December 11, 1936 I can hardly write. We've just been listening to the wireless. I'm still weeping. Our King has abdicated. He spoke with such sadness, but such resolution. The gist of it was that this was the first chance he had had to address us. He turned the crown over to his brother, the Duke of York. He didn't dwell on the reasons for giving up the throne but said that he had tried to serve the Empire for 25 years and could no longer carry the heavy burden of responsibility without the help and support of the woman he loves. (Mother and I just fell to pieces at that point. Father stayed stern throughout.)
He said he alone had made the decision but that his family supported him. He has full confidence that his brother will be able to take his place and the Empire will carry on uninterrupted. Regarding his brother he said that he has one matchless blessing, enjoyed by so many of the people but not bestowed on him, a happy home with his wife and children. (Mother and I fell apart again.)
He thanked everyone for their kindness and said that he would always follow the fortunes of the British and Empire with profound interest. (This sounds as if he will probably live outside of our Empire in some kind of self-imposed exile. How sad.)
He concluded with some fine-sounding words about our new King and how he wishes happiness and prosperity for all. God Save the King!
Oh, I tell you, mother and I were just sobbing at that point. Father said, ‘Hmmph.’
Well, I hope that's the end of all that talk about Fascists and Republics and civil wars. It's all a bit much.”
“Wow,” says Madeleine. “I don't think I've ever heard about Edward's abdication from the perspective of the people listening to the broadcast. It was a very emotional time, wasn't it?”
We nod. There's still more to read though.
“December 12, 1936 Apparently some people are still worried that there might be a Fascist uprising. Last night, according to Father (who went to his club despite sternly warning me not to go out into the streets!) there were policemen out and about among the crowds, keeping order. The Fascists were out in their black-shirts but nothing seems to have come of it.”
“It was obviously a very critical time in English history,” says Madeleine.
“And that seems to be it,” I say. I turn a page in the diary, looking for anything about Edward. “By the end of December, Edward is living in Switzerland. Everyone says he will marry Mrs. Simpson when her divorce comes through. And then they will return to England.”
I look up from the diary.
“Did they?” I ask.
Madeleine shook her head, getting up to put the kettle on the oven.
“He never returned to England to live. It was tragic, really. His family never accepted him after that. He did marry Wallis and to put it bluntly, they hated her.
“Wow,” I say. “Of course, none of this helps us with the necklace.”
“But it's interesting history,” says Madeleine, getting her teapot off a shelf.
My mind wanders now that I'm back to reading about people at the hospital. Mrs. Shanklin likes most of the people she works with but is having problems with a doctor who has come from Germany. He's Jewish and he's really difficult to work with. But the rumours around the hospital are that the National Socialists, that's Hitler's party, have confiscated his house in Germany and that his wife is still back there.
I start thinking about that phone call to Craig. Now's the time. Madeleine is working on some sandwiches for lunch. Harry is reading one of the diaries. There's a phone right in the kitchen. I could just get up and casually ask Madeleine if I could use it, tell her I met someone at the historical meeting. No big deal.
Except that I can't do it.
Not in front of them, anyhow.
But then, I'd have to ask about using a phone in another room. That would be kind of weird.
I'm barely reading the diary anymore.
On May 12, 1937, George VI has his coronation, but I figure Madeleine knows all about it so I don't bother passing it on.
The diaries are put away while we have lunch.
Time is running out. I have to call him in the afternoon. Otherwise, he'll be at work. Something Harry says gets my attention.
“Meg is my inspiration,” he's saying to Madeleine. “When I met her, I was so impressed at how she knew what she wanted.”
My eyes widen.
“We wouldn't be here if it weren't for her,” he says, smiling at me.
And it's a sincere smile.
Of course, that's no big deal. He's as nice to me as he is to everyone.
Craig was nice to me too. I have no way of knowing whether he's nice to everyone. Would I want him to be nice to everyone?
“Sounds like you make a good team,” says Madeleine, looking at me.
“Yeah, we do,” I say, giving Harry my best smile.
The whole afternoon passes and I have no way of making that phone call.
Mrs. Shanklin's diaries tell us that on June 3, 1937, Edward and Wallis got married in Tours, France with no members of the Royal Family present, although thousands of sightseers lined the streets to watch as the guests went from the hotel up to the chateau where the wedding was being held.
In the middle of October 1937, Edward did a ten-day tour of Germany despite reports about Nazi brutalities.
Mrs. Shanklin said at the same time, Father says we'll probably be going to Canada if war breaks out. He seems to forget that I'm a grown woman.
In my distracted state-of-mind, I manage to make it through all of 1938. But that's probably because there weren't too many entries and it was all hospital stuff with just a bit of the outside world. Two more German doctors arrived. More stories about how Germany was being nasty to its Jews. Some of the Jews were going to America. A lot went to Palestine.
“I'm getting tired of pizza,” says Harry, when we're back at Annie's and sitting on my bed. “You?”
“Do you like Chinese?”
“Sure,” I say. “As long as we get some sweet-and-sour chicken balls.”
“Oh, I know. Me too,” says Harry standing up. “I'll check Annie’s phone book and find a restaurant that delivers.”
I lie on my bed when he's gone. The piece of paper with the phone number comes out of my pocket.
Of course, by now he's at work. Should I leave a message? I could leave Annie's number. But then he'd call me when I'm at Madeleine's. I can't leave Madeleine's number. I don't even know Madeleine's number.
Do I even want to call Craig?
Of course I do. Why did that thought pop into my head?
Harry returns to find me stretched out on my bed.
“Tired?” he asks, smiling from the doorway.
“A little bit,” I say. “How long do you think we're going to be here?”
I roll over onto my side so I'm facing him.
“I dunno. Depends on how long it takes us to go through the diaries. She's in her 50's now for me. How 'bout for you?”
“I guess she's in her 30's,” I say.
“Shouldn't be too much longer,” he says. “You'll do another ten years and I'll do another ten years and we'll be done.”
If I get a hold of Craig, will I even have time to do anything with him? I sigh and fall on my back again.
“You OK?” asks Harry. He comes into the room and sits at the foot of my bed.
“Yeah,” I say. “Just a lot on my mind.”
Harry kind of gives my hand a squeeze. I expect him to say something irritatingly sympathetic, but he doesn't.
“Do you ever, you know, worry about stuff?” I ask.
“I used to,” he says. “I used to worry a lot. I never knew what to do. And I never really liked what I was doing anyhow.”
“I know, I know,” I say. “And then you found God and now you don't worry anymore.”
“Sort of. Meeting you was an answer to prayer because it gave me something to do. I believe that God can do things for people, but I know most people don't want him in their lives.”
“I want to plan my own life,” I say. “I don't even know if there is a God. How do you even know there’s a God?”
Harry takes a deep breath.
“I could give you all sorts of reasons why God exists. You know, all the stuff about life on earth being so complex and the flaws in the theory of atheistic evolution and all that. But for me that's not really the way to know.”
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“I know because I talk to God and he gives me a peace. It's like I totally know he's there and that he's heard me.”
“But Harry . . .” I struggle to sit up. I'm feeling stupid lying on my back looking up at him. “Don't you worry that you're going to miss out on a lot of fun? You know, all the rules and stuff? Thou shalt not do this and thou shalt not do that.”
“I'm having fun right now,” says Harry, grinning.
“No you're not,” I say. “We're working.”
“And I'm having fun.”
For one insane moment, I want him to say something like, “And you can be crazy too. Just let me lead you in this prayer of salvation and then we'll be on the same side . . .”
That's the problem. We're not on the same side. He's got this God and I don't. And I remember what he said about not being able to be partners because of something in the Bible. I forget how it went, but the bottom line is, there's always going to be this distance. He's nice and he will always be nice. But we're never really going to go very far with it.
That's it. I've made up my mind. I'm calling Craig.
“I've got a phone call to make,” I say, getting up.
“You need to call home?” he asks. “You can use my cell phone . . .”
“Oh no!” I say. “It’s actually a local call. I’ll just make it in the kitchen.”
If Harry thinks it’s strange that I know someone in Halifax, he doesn’t pry.
“Oh, sure,” he says, standing up with me. “See you for dinner then?”
I nod and head out of the room and down the stairs. I'm just going to do it. I'm going to leave a message and I'm going to explain everything. I'm at Madeleine's all day but maybe he can call me from work . . . ?
I dial the number and the phone is ringing. I'm all psyched for the machine.
He mutters a hi.
“Oh, hi!” I say, trying to recover. “This is Meg.”
There's a pause.
“We met at the historical society.”
“Oh that's right! The girl in the hall.”
There's a pause.
“I hope I didn't wake you,” I say.
“Uh, that's OK. I was gonna get up soon. Got a later shift tonight. I'll be there till the morning. Usually I'm home by 2.”
“Two in the morning?”
“Yeah. I work with this old guy. Total loser. He's usually there till about 5. He doesn't have a life.”
“He doesn't mind long hours, eh?”
“Yeah, but he's got some surgery thing. So he's not going to be there tonight. Hey!” He sounds like he just had an idea.
“Do you wanna come and keep me company tonight? You know . . .”
“Wouldn't you get into trouble?”
“No, it's just me and the old guy for that building. And he's not going to be there. So no one would know. Just you and me . . .”
Can I do this? I guess I could get a taxi. I would be up all night. I'd be tired tomorrow.
“Yeah, but . . .”
It's Harry I'm thinking about, but Craig thinks I might need more persuading.
“Come on! I promise. It'll be a good time!”
A good time hanging out in a dark building.
The doorbell rings.
For a moment I think I'm going to have to get it, but Harry comes hurrying down the stairs and I can hear the Chinese food arriving.
“Yeah. You got someone coming over there, or something?”
“No, just dinner. Listen, thanks but I don't think I can make it.”
“Oh, come on! It'd be fun!”
But he doesn't sound too upset.
“Yeah, I just don't think I can work it in. Sorry.”
He hangs up before I do.
I meet Harry in the hallway holding the large brown paper bag.
“Finished your call?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I say, looking down at the piece of paper with Craig's number, still in my hand. I crumple it up and toss it into Annie's recycling bin.
'm up to 1939 in the diary.
Madeleine wants me to read everything to her since she says that's the year that World War II started.
“The Fascists are out in the streets saying Hitler doesn't want war with England. The rest of England isn't so sure. Our new Queen is splendid. So pretty and cheerful. But Father says there are still people talking about Edward coming back with his Wallis and becoming King again. They say it's the only way to save England from war with Germany. Such talk! Someone at Father's club (he won't say who, of course) even said that if Germany invades, they'll put Edward back on the throne!”
“Who's the new Queen?” I ask.
“Do you remember the Queen Mother?” asks Madeleine.
“Yeah, she was really old,” I say.
“She wasn't old then, of course. And the people really loved her. She was always popular, even as she got older.”
“So she never knew she was going to be Queen?” says Harry.
“That's right. She married Edward's younger brother, George. And they didn't know that they would end up as King and Queen. George was a shy man with a stutter and some people say that he could have never been King without the support of his wife.”
I keep reading out loud.
“Father says the danger to England now is that the Fascists will take over. Father has had such a complete change of heart regarding the Fascists. He says that however terrifying a prospect Bolshevism is, the Fascists are worse. They're out every Sunday now, with their parades and their loud speeches. Father has forbidden me to go anywhere near the East End now. There are constant outbreaks of violence between the black-shirts and the police. So dreadful. Any Jew who has the misfortune to be passing by is treated abominably. We've treated some of them in the hospital. The wounds are dreadful. One man had bruises all over his face and probable permanent damage to his kidneys. Another woman was abused in ways I can't even bring myself to put on paper. We are thoroughly disgusted. There are even cases of people who just look Jewish being attacked. These black-shirts and their followers are barbarians.”
“I can't believe this is happening in London!” I say. “It sounds like Nazi Germany!”
“The Nazi-spirit spilled over into other countries. There was even a bit of it here in Canada. It wasn't until Hitler began his military activities that some of it tapered off. Then it became clear that Hitler had to be stopped, not imitated.”
“She doesn't write for a while. The next entry is in March. Father has put his foot down and said Mother and I are going to Canada. Bob is very excited. He says finally there will be a war and he'll get to see some action now that Mr. Hitler has invaded Czechoslovakia. I was going to put my foot down just as firmly and say I would not be leaving England just at a time when they would need nurses the most, except that I read an advert in The Times calling for nurses at the Royal Halifax Naval Hospital. So maybe there's a way to keep Father happy and still be part of what may come.”
“Ahh,” says Madeleine. “So that's how she ended up here.”
“I guess she didn't have much time for her diary,” I say. “The next entry isn't until July. Father would disown me if he knew what I did tonight. I was on my way home from the hospital and I really should have just kept on going, but there was such a crowd heading for Earls Court and for once I wanted to see something first-hand. It was too late when I realized that I was in the middle of a Fascist rally! The crowds just swept me inside and I was too nervous to turn around and try to fight my way out. I've never seen so many black shirts strutting about! There must have been about 20,000 people there, including the Fascists. They had banners all over the place saying, 'Mind Britain's Business.' I really didn't know what they meant until the head black-shirt himself gave a big long speech about Britain staying out of Germany's business and that Germany wasn't our enemy and we should just ignore the events in Europe.
The gist of it was that Hitler doesn't want to take over the world. If he did, he would be mad. And since he's not mad, he's not intending to take over the world.
He said some dreadful things about the Jews. And the crowd roared its approval. Such cheering! I've never been to such an event! But it wasn't nice. It was all very dark, literally and figuratively. I kept thinking about Dr. Rosenburg at the hospital. We all know he's Jewish. And he's such a gentle, nice man. Never an unkind word to anyone. I would hate to think what that mob would have done to him, just knowing he was Jewish.”
Madeleine shakes her head.
“August 16, 1939 A letter from the Halifax Naval Hospital! They're taking me on! Father said, 'Good for them' in his gruff way. I imagine he would have taken me by force if I had refused to go with Mother to Canada. Only 2 weeks till we leave! So much packing! I'm afraid you won't be hearing from me for the next little while.”
“The Halifax Naval Hospital,” says Madeleine. “I wonder if she means the hospital at the Canadian Forces Base?” But she's speaking more to herself.
“September 3, 1939 Oh to have to break my silence with such dreadful news! The Captain just came up to Mother and told her quietly. The rest will hear it at dinner. Britain is at war. Hitler invaded Poland two days ago, but of course, we were at sea and the Captain kept it quiet. He has his orders to return with his ship to London as soon as we dock in Halifax. He talked to Mother for a lengthy time. He is such an old and dear friend of Father's that I think it was a comfort to talk to someone as sympathetic as Mother.
I fear I'll be arriving just in time at the naval hospital.”
“So,” says Harry. “This is the beginning of World War II?”
“September 15, 1939 No time to write since the last entry! Too busy trying to settle in and we've already received our first casualties from the German U-Boats. The captain of the ship is relatively young. (OK, he's my age. I still think of myself as young!) His name is James Shanklin . . .”
We all look at each other and grin.
“Finally!” says Madeleine.
“His name is James Shanklin and he's in bad shape, but he stays so cheerful despite his pain. He knows of Father, of course. I think everyone knows of Father! He had 153 men on his ship and thankfully they all survived the attack! They had just nearly made it to Halifax so we were able to help them almost immediately. Unfortunately, there are about five men in critical care. James asks about them every day so I try to know as much as I can about each of them and their conditions.”
“It's the classic war love story,” says Madeleine. “Dashing officer falls in love with tender nurse.”
I look down at the diary.
“Something's wrong here,” I say. “We were in 1939, right?”
Madeleine and Harry nod.
“The next entry isn't until July 1940. How did I miss almost a whole year?”
Madeleine looks over my shoulder.
“There's no break in the diary. She must have just been too busy to write. The German U-boats did a lot of damage in the Atlantic and Halifax probably handled a huge number of the injured.”
“Doesn't sound like much fun,” I say. “Listen to this. July 15, 1940 Our hearts break for England! We hear how every night there is terror from the sky as Nazi planes roll overhead, dropping their destruction. It is not a war on soldiers, but a war on civilians. To crush the spirit of the British people and weaken them for the invasion to come. God keep England strong in her greatest trial!”
I look at Harry. I guess it's because of the God bit. Funny to think that Mrs. Shanklin believed in God. I wonder if she was like Harry, all sure of it.
“July 18, 1940 The invasion of England is so imminent that all the talk here is how if the fight is to continue, England's finest will have to fall back to Canada and continue from here. Oh, I can hardly believe it all! Has the world gone mad? We all wonder when the Americans will step in to end this madness. Will they wait till Hitler is on their doorstep?”
“I never knew there was a chance that World War II would end up here,” says Harry.
“I know what you mean,” says Madeleine. “We hear about the Canadian soldiers that went over to fight. But we hear less about what would have happened if England had fallen to the Nazis.”
“August 2, 1940 Am married now! What!”
We all look at each other in amazement.
“How did that happen?” says Madeleine.
I keep reading.
“She explains,” I say. “I can hardly believe it, it all happened so quickly! How it came about . . . Father was set to sail on Lady Somers for Bermuda and then onto Nassau. Just before they set sail, his medical officer developed a severe influenza and couldn't even get out of bed. I jokingly volunteered to take his place, never expecting that Father would actually accept. Furthermore, he commanded me to bring James along, saying that the sea air would do him good.
We had hardly left Halifax when Father gruffly announced that as Captain of the ship, he was fully qualified to marry us here and now. Honeymoon would be thrown in at no extra cost.
James nearly leapt out of his chair. If I had any doubts about his love, they were dispelled when he said, “What a splendid idea!” Father gave him a grim talk about the duties and responsibilities of marriage. Furthermore, he added, I would be quite penniless when Father passed on. Bob would inherit the family money and property. James was quite cheerful about the whole thing. Told Father he had quite enough money for the both of us and anymore that would come along. (I blushed at this. Don't know why. I'm a nurse, for goodness sake.)
And so here we are, all married and on our honeymoon! Won't Mother have fits to have missed it all!
Of course, it's been a working holiday. I've had to bandage some wounds and handle a nasty oil burn on the cook's arm, but Father promises a few days to ourselves in the Bahamas when we arrive in Nassau and he has to resupply and load all the cargo. There are other stops on the way, but too short to go ashore.”
“That's such a romantic story!” says Madeleine. “I was thinking her father didn't have much of a heart, but I like the old gentleman, after all!”
“August 10, 1940 Still blissfully married. Too busy to write. Nursing half the day. Other half of my time with James. Too lovely. Father has passed on some exciting news. Our former King Edward and his wife, Wallis, are in Bermuda. That's one of our stops. Maybe we'll get a glimpse of them from the railings!”
“That's right!” says Madeleine. “I forget that Edward ended up in the Caribbean. What else does it say, Meg?”
“August 15, 1940 Too unbelievable to be true!! Edward and Wallis are aboard the ship!! They are heading for the Bahamas too. The Duke is to be the next Governor there. They came aboard with much fanfare and luggage. Apparently they had come directly from Lisbon and had some close calls in Europe getting across borders as the Nazis advanced.
Have had a chance to hear the news from England. It's not good. Mr. Hitler's bombs continue to drop on London and the coastal towns, doing enormous damage. The devastation is, apparently, quite shocking. Dear England is in all of our hearts and minds right now.
Perhaps we will see Edward and Wallis at dinner.”
I look up.
“That's pretty cool. Having the former king on the boat and all.”
“Does she get to see him up close?”
“August 16, 1940 Absolutely unbelievable! I had a long talk on the deck tonight with Mrs. Simpson!! Her Edward was tired and went to bed early, as had my James. James wouldn't admit it, but he was in a lot of pain. I gave him a sleeping pill since that's all the man will accept for pain. When he was sleeping, I went up on deck to enjoy the warm night air.
Mrs. Simpson was there, just leaning on a railing and looking very serious. Lovely and elegant. So many jewels. Hair perfect despite the breeze. But I certainly wasn't going to disturb her. Then she turned and smiled at me and said, “Mrs. Shanklin, wasn't it?” And the next thing I knew, we were talking. I think it was because we are both older and both newlyweds. Somehow it sparked a connection.
I gather Edward is rather worn out from all the goings-on in Europe. She says they've had to make a lot of serious decisions in the last few weeks and it's all been rather trying. And then she smiled and asked me all about James and our life and how long we'd known each other. I told her about my nursing and tried to tell her the interesting parts since I imagine a woman like her is easily bored having been around so many Great People. I happened to mention that work at the hospital keeps me so busy that I'd forgotten my own birthday. (I didn't mention that it was on my birthday 21 years ago that I first met her husband!) Then she did something rather startling. She told me to wait by the railing for a minute or two. She had to get something.
She came back with a blue velvet jewellery box and handed it to me.
“For you,” she said. “A late birthday present.”
I opened it and gasped.
I have never seen such a beautiful necklace.”
Now it's our turn to gasp as we look at one another.
“I've never seen such a beautiful necklace,” I continue reading quickly. “(Except for maybe the necklace that Mrs. Simpson had worn that night at dinner!) It was made up of about fifty diamonds, with three clusters of three each in the front.”
“That's the one!” says Harry, nodding.
“Extraordinary in the moonlight. Sparkling.
I told her I couldn't possibly accept such a gift. She smiled and said that it was a recent gift from a friend in Germany but Edward is jealous if she wears anything that was given to her by another man.
So, of course, I accepted.
I don't know when I will be able to wear it. I'd have to have a new dress first. And some new shoes. I'll probably have to wait till after the war. In the meantime, I have it under my mattress. I'll give it to Father after we're finished in the Bahamas. I think if I asked him to put it in the ship's safe now he'd make me give it back!
August 17, 1940 Mrs. Simpson gave me and James a warm good-bye and wished us all the best before she and Edward were carried away to their new position as Governor of the Bahamas.
What a turnout! All of Nassau was waiting for them! And they were so gracious, waving and greeting people like old friends. They were out on the deck, bright and early, for our first glimpses of Nassau. It's a gorgeous sight. White beaches and endless blue sky. Edward and Wallis were trying to figure out which of the houses was Government House. Father kindly pointed it out to them. Wallis turned to Edward and said it put her in mind of a Southern plantation with its spacious verandas and jalousied windows. It's all surrounded by palm trees. I'm sure they'll like it here. It's tropical and civilized at the same time.
Anyway, that was our brush with royalty. Father tends to the ship while James and I have a rented cottage on the beach. We're out on the sand all day. I wade around a bit and catch glimpses of all sorts of colourful fish in the water. It's a paradise here! And where we are is quite quiet. I rather suspect that all the activity on the island will now centre on Government House and its new Governor and His Lady!”
“What a honeymoon!” says Madeleine. “And I wonder what Mr. Shanklin said when his lady appeared in the necklace!”
“That's all there is until December,” I say. “Then she says, Everyone is talking about how wonderful the King and Queen are. Buckingham Palace has been hit twice but they continue to live there. As soon as the All-Clear sounds, they are out and about, visiting the people most affected by the bombs. They're so marvellous and an inspiration to us all. It's times like this I wish Father had let us stay. But then I think of our little one on the way and perhaps it's for the best that we're here.”
I look up.
“She must be pregnant!” I say.
“Might have happened on the honeymoon. People didn't use birth control the way we do now.”
“It looks like she had barely anytime to write during the war,” I say. “After this, there are just a lot of quick entries. Things like, 'Working 18 hours a day.' 'Terribly tired. Too tired to write.' 'Dreadful day. Only 59 survivors out of a ship of 207 souls. We may lose some of them too.' Oh, but wait . . .” I quickly read. “She took some time off starting in the middle of May because she was expecting the baby. On May 30, 1941 she writes, We now have a son, James Robert Shanklin. We're calling him Robert, after his Uncle. We've sent a photograph to his Uncle in the Navy and we expect it to be prominently displayed!”
“Cute,” says Madeleine, standing up. “Do you guys want leftovers for lunch? We had shepherd's pie last night and I've got a lot left in the fridge.”
“Sure,” says Harry.
“That would be Jett's father, wouldn't it?” I say to Harry.
We've found out about the necklace. I guess we could stop there. But after lunch, Madeleine tells us to carry on just in case it gets mentioned again.
“Let's see,” I say, trying to figure out where I've left off.
“June 23, 1941 Hitler has invaded Russia. Father says, Good Riddance to them both. He hopes they destroy each other.”
“September 22, 1941 Everyone is breathing a sigh of relief on behalf of England. Hitler won't invade now that the Channel is too choppy and too foggy. They'll have till spring to prepare for whatever's to come.”
Madeleine is pouring us an after-lunch coffee.
“I don't get it,” I say.
“When autumn comes, the weather on the English Channel becomes a lot more unpredictable,” explains Madeleine. “Hitler would hardly be able to sustain an invasion when he couldn't be sure of good weather.”
I sip my coffee and read the rest of the diary to myself although I mention that in 1942 she writes, Bob is so proud of his little nephew. He's sent him the most darling gift – a complete miniature naval uniform. It will be a few years before he wears it but we have it hanging in his closet. Bob says he had it made up in Hong Kong. It was so kind of him to think of little Robert, even with the war on.”
“Well, that's it for me,” says Harry, stretching and standing up at around 4:00. “Meg's gotten all the breaks with this one. Mrs. Shanklin never seems to mention the necklace again. How many diaries do we have to go?”
“Just two,” I say.
“Can we save that for tomorrow?” Harry asks Madeleine. Tomorrow is Saturday.
“Of course,” she says. “My hubby will be home but he'll be out snowmobiling and I'll be glad to have the company.”
“Are you sure?” says Harry.
“Absolutely,” says Madeleine, escorting us to the hallway where we put on our boots and coats. “Just come a little later. Maybe around 10. I like to have a sleep-in on the weekends.”
“We totally understand,” says Harry, giving a little wave as we head out.
It doesn't seem as cold out. Harry must notice too because he suggests we walk to Mike's for dinner.
“Sure,” I say.
But as we're walking, the sun goes down and so does the temperature. I have a hat and gloves but it's pretty bitter.
Mike's is still in the distance and I'm seriously wishing we were already there.
“Here,” says Harry, suddenly.
He stops and unwinds his purple scarf.
“Harry, I can't . . .”
I'm not sure why I can't. There's nobody in sight to see me in this crazy scarf and I'm miserably cold. Harry hands me the scarf and I wrap it around my neck. It smells like him. It must be the aftershave.
I look up at him. It's rotten to have been wearing a warm scarf and then to give it up.
“Thanks Harry,” I say.
“You're welcome,” he says.
“Let's take a cab back,” I say.
“Definitely,” says Harry.
This time we eat the apple pie at Mike's and we linger over it, enjoying the tea and the warmth of the restaurant.
I guess I could be with Craig right now.
Craig, who wouldn't be caught dead in a purple scarf. Craig, who's just like me.
Except that he isn't. Because I have worn a purple scarf.
Harry tells me a bit about his family. His dad works long hours but his mom is at home. I ask what she does at home. Like, does she do housework? But they have maids for that kind of thing. Mostly, she's just there. And sometimes she volunteers for things. And sometimes there are ladies at the house. Organizing things. Harry isn't even sure what things.
Then I tell him about our family. But he mostly knows everything since I've already told him about Dad and Mom works at Phillips.
So we talk a bit about the company picnics and share memories. I always thought it was cool how everything was just free and you could eat as much as you wanted. Mr. Phillips would have an ice-cream truck there and there'd be a booth with hamburgers and hotdogs and popcorn and chips and drinks. I'd usually eat three times more than I wanted to.
“Me too,” says Harry smiling.
“But why? All that stuff . . . I mean, it all belonged to you guys . . .”
“Yeah, but we don't eat like that all the time. Mom makes us eat salads. We have things like chicken salad for dinner with an apple for dessert. Mom's always worried about Dad's health so we're not allowed to eat ice cream in the house in case he sneaks down at night and eats a whole tub of it.”
“Mom's not worried about her health,” I say. “But she's always on a diet.”
“Yeah, I believe it. You guys look so alike.”
“We do?” I practically drop my fork. “But Mom's gorgeous.” It comes out before I can stop it.
“Yeah. So?” says Harry, filling up his mug with more tea. “You are too.”
Harry doesn't seem embarrassed by all this. But I feel like I'm going to die right there on the spot. Harry looks around.
“There's got to be a phonebook around here somewhere. I’m calling a cab. There's no way we're walking home in that.”
Snow is coming down and it's heavy.
Harry gets up to call a cab then comes back to finish his tea.
While we're waiting for the cab I fill in the time by saying, “So we know about the necklace now.”
“Yeah,” says Harry. “And what a story, eh?”
“Really,” I agree. “But I don't know how it helps us. I mean, it's a great story. A necklace belonging to a woman who married an ex-king.”
“But the necklace didn't even come from the ex-king,” says Harry. “It came from some admirer in Germany. Hey! There's our cab!”
We bundle up and head out.
The snow is coming down so heavy everything is just one big white-out.
The cab goes slowly but we're back much sooner than if we had walked. I notice that Harry gives the guy a $20 and doesn't ask for change.
I'm seriously glad I didn't go with Craig's offer.
'm surprised that Harry isn't up for breakfast.
“Is he still in bed?” I ask Annie, who's fried me up two eggs and some hash-browns, as well as a few sausages.
“Oh no, dear,” she says. Her hair is in two braids and she's wearing a dress that is covered in colourful patches. On her feet are moccasin slippers. “He got up early, had a bowl of cereal, and went out to shovel the driveway.”
Shovel the driveway?! We're paying guests, for crying out loud.
“I told him I'd call him in when I'd made breakfast,” says Annie. She has more eggs and potatoes in the frying pan, obviously for him.
“I'll do it,” I say, getting up.
I go to the hallway, slip on my boots and grab my coat off the hook.
“Harry!” I call out, when I've stepped out onto the porch. The snow is unbelievable. It's everywhere and from what I can tell, it would be up to my thighs if I stepped in it. But Harry has most of the driveway shovelled.
“Harry Phillips!” I shout. “You are too good to be true!!”
His reply is to lean down, pack a snowball and hurl it in my direction.
“Your breakfast is ready!” I call out.
“I'll be in soon,” he says, returning to his shovelling.
I go back inside.
“He'll be in soon,” I say to Annie.
Annie turns the frying pan to low, pours herself a cup of coffee and joins me at the table.
“If I were you,” she says. “I wouldn't let that one get away.”
“Pardon?” I say startled. I was just in the middle of swallowing some potatoes.
“That Harry of yours,” she says, sipping her coffee.
“Well, he's not really mine . . .”
“He's a treasure. Bet the girls are lined up for him.”
“I don't really know. That's his personal life . . .”
“He seems to be with you now,” she says.
“Well, yes. We work together.”
Annie shrugs and butters herself some toast.
“I know a good man when I see him,” she says.
“Yeah, I guess. I mean, Harry is a great guy.” I look down at my plate and try to focus.
The front door opens and in a minute we're joined by Harry.
Annie gets up to get him his plate of food and then she disappears with her coffee and toast.
Harry is all rosy-cheeked and healthy-looking from his exercise. He salts his eggs and puts some jam on the toast.
“So . . . today's really the last day for us here,” he says.
“Yeah, I guess it is,” I say, thinking about it. “What next?”
“Hopefully we'll learn a little more. Either way, I think we should go back to Toronto and report everything so far to Mrs. Shanklin.”
“Yeah, I guess we owe her that. But just knowing the origin of the necklace doesn't really help us figure out who would steal it.”
“I've been thinking the same thing,” says Harry, putting some ketchup on his potatoes. “I thought Jett would be more helpful. You know, that he'd have some suspicions.”
“Yeah,” I say. “It would have been nice if he'd said that his mom had a new pool guy, or something. Do they have a pool?”
“No,” says Harry. “And people don't have pool guys visit in the winter.”
“You know what I mean. A new cook who disappeared after a week. That would have been helpful.”
“Not that reading the diaries was a bad idea,” says Harry, managing to eat and talk at the same time. “It's just that Mrs. Shanklin had already passed on when the necklace was stolen. So she wouldn't exactly have anything to say about it in her diary.”
“We're just going to have to use our brains,” I say.
I look at him.
“Aren't you going to say something about prayer?” I ask.
“Prayed about it this morning, of course.” He's getting up to put his empty plate in the sink. “Do you want to know what I prayed? I prayed that God would show us . . .”
“No, I don't want to know, Harry,” I say, standing up.
Since Madeleine doesn't want us to come over early, we have a whole hour to kill. I'm thinking maybe Annie will let me watch some TV, but Harry is heading back to the door and putting on his boots.
“What are you doing?” I say.
“I asked Annie if I could use her shovel to do Madeleine's driveway too,” he says. He's bundling up.
“Do you want to help?” he asks.
“No, not really.”
Then I feel bad. Madeleine's been really good to us.
“But maybe she doesn't need us to shovel her driveway,” I protest. “She's got a husband for that.”
“He already left on his snowmobile,” says Harry. “I saw him when I was out there.”
“Oh fine!” I say. Sulkily, I put on my boots. A thought occurs to me.
“I don't have a shovel.”
“That's OK,” says Harry, already heading out the door. “Annie has two.”
Thankfully it's not a bitterly cold day.
I wouldn't admit it to anyone, but it's actually nice to be up and out and in the fresh air. Of course, my arms start to ache after about fifteen minutes. But I keep going to stay warm. In the end, I do about a quarter of the driveway and Harry does the rest.
Madeleine is waiting for us with hot chocolate.
“You two duckies!” she says, as we come into her house. “What a wonderful winter surprise! That would have been me out there if it weren't for you two!”
When we're at her kitchen table, she hands us each a large mug of hot chocolate loaded with mini marshmallows on top.
She and Harry talk about snowmobiling while we drink our chocolate. Turns out Harry and his brother go snowmobiling sometimes.
There are only two diaries left. Harry takes one, I take the other.
In mine, the war is still on. So the entries are brief and scrawled, as if she's too busy to write anything long.
“Oh man,” I say suddenly, making Harry look up from his diary and Madeleine look up from the fridge that she's cleaning out. “This is really bad. It's 1944. She says, I can barely stand it. I can barely write. Bob is dead. His ship was sunk by the U-boats. Too far out in the ocean for anyone to help. Father is so distraught. Mother has taken to her bed. It's just too, too . . . oh, words fail me at this time! At least I have James to lean on. And little Robert to hold onto. He's such a darling. His uncle was so proud of him. I weep when I look at my Robert. Of course, I weep at pretty much everything now.”
“That's really sad,” says Harry.
For a moment, we don't say anything. And then Harry thinks of something.
“But that would explain how she ended up with the entire family fortune.”
“That's right!” I say. “She was really rich, wasn't she?”
“Yes,” nods Madeleine. “I never knew any of this, of course. Mrs. Shanklin didn't tell us too much about herself. But we all knew she was well-off.”
I read to the end of my diary. But the necklace is not mentioned.
It's Harry's diary that contains the final reference to it. It's a few years after the war.
“Wore the Duchess's necklace tonight,” reads Harry. “Would that be the same necklace?”
“Yes,” says Madeleine. “The king and Mrs. Simpson were also the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.”
“I don't know what she means though,” says Harry. “Listen to this. James still says the thing is tainted. But it's not like there's much I can do about it. I'll probably just put it away in the deposit box. Still . . . I remember it from better days.”
Harry looks up from the diary.
“And that's it. She never mentions it again.”
“Strange,” says Madeleine, coming over to look at the diary, as if to confirm what Harry's said. “You kids have a bit of a mystery here.”
“We sure do,” says Harry looking at me. And I can tell what he's thinking. We have no idea where the necklace is now. We've just spent a week reading through these diaries and we're no closer to catching a thief than before we got here.
“You know, kids,” says Madeleine, putting the diaries back in their box. “I've got a feeling about this. Can't really explain. But I think I'm going to hold off on putting these in the archives until you solve your mystery. Just in case you need to go through them again.”
I strongly doubt we'll want to go through the diaries all over again, but Harry says it's a good idea.
Madeleine insists on making us lunch, even though we're all done.
We have one more meal of sandwiches together around the wooden table.
Madeleine is talking about how some of the things in Mrs. Shanklin's diary would make a great presentation for the historical society. She may get a professor from Dalhousie, an expert in World War II, to look over the diaries.
Then we say our good-byes, and once again, emails are exchanged and Harry promises Madeleine he'll stay in touch and keep her updated about the mystery. She says she'll contact us if she learns anything new.
“OK,” I say when we're out on the driveway. “I have to admit, it's easier to walk down a driveway that's been shovelled.”
“So true,” says Harry.
But he sounds far away.
“What is it, Harry?” I say.
“Well . . . the thing is, I was hoping we'd go home with something more concrete. You know, a lead. But I have no idea what to do next. The only thing I can think of is to go back to Mrs. Shanklin and tell her what we've done so far.”
“Yeah,” I say. “Just don't let on that we've hit a wall.”
Annie doesn't have a computer and therefore we have no internet access. So Harry phones up Air Canada and books us a flight back to Toronto, leaving the next morning. Another early morning flight. Harry pays our bill and tells Annie not to worry about breakfast. She gives us hugs and a big smile and tells us it was wonderful to meet us.
If it were left to me, I would have slept-in passed our flight, but Harry knocks on my door at 5:30. He's had the foresight to borrow an alarm clock from Annie. He's also had the foresight to call the cab company, so there's a cab waiting for us in the driveway at 6. In addition, Annie's been nice enough to leave us paper bags with bagels and fruit which we eat at the airport after we check in.
Surprisingly, there is no one for Harry to convert to Christianity on the flight home. The seat beside him is empty. Despite this, he doesn't slide over and sit by the aisle. He's right beside me, in the middle seat, for the whole flight and our arms keep bumping into each other.
The only notable (and hugely embarrassing) incident worth mentioning is when some little old lady going down the aisle to the bathroom smiles at us and makes a comment about honeymooners.
“Well,” says Harry, smiling down at me, once we're back at the Pearson International Airport in Toronto. “Shall we give Mrs. Shanklin a call and tell her we're on our way over?”
“Might as well get it over with,” I say. “But remember, don't tell her we don't have any leads. Just make it sound like it's a case-in-progress.”
Harry actually suggests that we take the TTC, the Toronto Transit Commission, instead of adding another cab ride to Mrs. Shanklin's expenses. At least he carries my suitcase on the bus, and then the subway, and then the bus again. A ride that would have taken 35 minutes in a cab ends up being 2 hours. And then we get to trudge through the snow down Harry's long street. He drops my suitcase off at his place first and then we do the final stretch up Mrs. Shanklin's long driveway.
I can't wait to get home and take a hot bath. But at the same time, I'm feeling a little edgy. Harry and I have been together non-stop. I'm actually going to miss him.
That's so moronic. Why should I miss him?
Besides, we still have a case to solve. We're still going to have to work together.
Once again, the maid answers the door and we're shown into the grand room with the uncomfortable furniture.
Mrs. Shanklin comes in with a big smile on her face.
“So how did you do in Halifax?” she asks, holding out a hand to Harry who gives it a warm shake.
“Well, we read through all the diaries,” says Harry, as he and Mrs. Shanklin sit down together on a couch. “This might be a long story.”
“Oh good,” says Mrs. Shanklin. “I'll order us some tea. I love a good story.”
The maid is called and the message conveyed that we want tea.
Then Mrs. Shanklin tells Harry all the news about Jett.
He has an interview with a professor at the University of Toronto. Apparently, U. of T. students are going to be included on the summer dig in Alberta.
“So the good news is we'll have him home for two weeks! He'll be home for Christmas!” she says, her face glowing. “And you must promise me you'll be here. I'm going to have a small party to celebrate.”
Great, I think. For one thing, I don't know if I'm included. For another, this really ties us down to Toronto for the next little while.
The maid rolls a silver tray in.
It seems that tea in the Shanklin house doesn't just mean a pot of tea. It includes sandwiches and some tarts, as well as a whole plate of cookies. How rich people stay thin, I do not know.
Harry turns out to be a good storyteller. I can tell Mrs. Shanklin enjoys hearing about the other Mrs. Shanklin, her mother-in-law. The history part, the Fascists and the Bolsheviks and all that, is sort of interesting to her but she really loves the part about Edward and Mrs. Simpson. When Harry tells her that her necklace belonged to Mrs. Simpson, she gasps and looks like she's going to die of happiness.
“Oh, how wonderful!” she says. “This is such good news! Robert's mother never told me any of this! Oh you are wonderful!”
I don't know why she's so happy. She's just found out the necklace that was stolen from her is more valuable than she realized.
“I have to go get Robert!” she says standing up. “I can't wait to tell him! And you stay right here! I want him to hear all about it from you.”
Being Sunday, I guess Mr. Shanklin is somewhere in the house because Mrs. Shanklin is back with him in about five minutes.
Mr. Shanklin is a prosperous-looking older man with silver-grey hair. He's wearing a golf-shirt and some khaki pants. He looks embarrassed to be dragged into this.
Harry goes through the story for the second time.
Mr. Shanklin is really interested in the stuff about the Fascists and the Bolsheviks. But Mrs. Shanklin is in a hurry to get to the stuff about the king and Mrs. Simpson. When Harry talks about the night on the boat in the Caribbean, she's practically bouncing in her seat.
“See, dear! See, dear!” she says when Harry is all done. “I told you that necklace was special! Your Mr. Cohen can just go and take a hike!”
It's funny to hear a dignified woman like Mrs. Shanklin talk about someone taking a hike.
“Did you hear what he said, dear?” says Mr. Shanklin. “That Simpson woman said that some man in Germany gave it to her.”
“Yes,” says Mrs. Shanklin. “So that proves it's ours! It was a gift to her and she gave it to your mother!”
Harry and I are looking at each other, completely confused.
“A man from Germany?” says Mr. Shanklin, staring at his wife. “Don't you get it, dear? The king and his Mrs. Simpson were friends with Nazis. And the Nazis were in the habit of confiscating Jewish property. Where do you think that German man got the necklace from?”
Mrs. Shanklin gasps.
“Then it might be Mr. Cohen's grandmother's necklace?”
“It's a possibility,” says Mr. Shanklin, standing up and heading for the doorway. “I'll ask him to show us the photo.”
Mrs. Shanklin looks devastated.
“I'm so sorry,” says Harry, leaning forward. “Did we do something wrong?”
Mrs. Shanklin shakes her head.
“No. You did a fine job. It's just that you confirmed my worst fear. The necklace was stolen.”
There's a moment of silence.
Harry gets it before I do.
“Ah,” he says. “You have the necklace, but you're afraid that it was stolen at some point in its history?”
Mrs. Shanklin nods.
“My husband has a Jewish client who said the necklace reminded him of one he had seen in the only surviving photo of his German grandmother.”
“Oh dear,” says Harry. “And we proved that the necklace originated from Germany.”
Mrs. Shanklin nods.
“But Jett was under the impression that it was a fake,” says Harry.
“Why would he think that . . . ? Oh wait a minute,” says Mrs. Shanklin. “I know why.”
I'm still wrapping my brain around the idea that Mrs. Shanklin has the necklace and that it isn't missing.
“Mr. Cohen said an outrageous thing to me. He said that they couldn't be the same, though, since mine was obviously fake and his grandmother's was real.” Mrs. Shanklin shakes her head at the memory. “I've had that necklace appraised in the past. It's real and it's worth a fortune. I held my tongue while we were at the restaurant, but when we got home I blew my top. I was so mad that Mr. Cohen had called my necklace a fake. I guess Jett overheard me going on about that.”
“Probably,” agrees Harry.
“It never occurred to me that the necklace might be Mr. Cohen's grandmother's until I had given it some thought. I really had no idea where the necklace had come from. Robert's mother never told me. She gave it to me when I married Robert. But we never discussed its provenance. And since she had just died, I really couldn't do anything more about it.”
“All for a necklace,” says Mr. Shanklin, coming back into the room. “God knows I'd be happy to buy another one. I just called Levi. He wasn't there so I left a message for him to call me.”
“I have a bad feeling about this,” says Mrs. Shanklin, shaking her head. “In fact, I've had a bad feeling about it ever since I started thinking about it. The whole thing was so unsettling that I dashed over to talk to your mother, Harry. I told her that I'd found out the necklace might be stolen. And when you phoned me up saying you'd like to investigate the whole thing, it was like an answer from God.”
Why do people have to reinforce Harry's kooky ideas that he's an emissary of God?
“Levi told me once that the Nazis had taken everything from his family's estate in Germany in the 1930's,” says Mr. Shanklin. “The family was fortunate in that they made it to Canada before the Holocaust started, but they came here with a suitcase each and just one photo album to remind them of their life in Germany.”
“I'll be honest with you,” says Mrs. Shanklin. “I love that necklace. My first thought was the insurance. If it were ever stolen, the insurance company would investigate and they might find out it belonged to this other family. I'm ashamed to say that I told my husband we should just cancel the insurance since I would never put a claim in if it were lost.”
Jett's father rolls his eyes.
“All for a necklace. I'd be happy to buy her another one,” he repeats. “God knows, it means nothing to me. But now she's never going to let it go. Now that she knows it belonged to a Duchess.”
“Not just any Duchess,” says Mrs. Shanklin. “One that stole a king's heart. The type of woman that a man would give up his throne for . . .”
“Now, let's not get carried away,” says Mr. Shanklin.
urns out I am invited to Jett's Welcome Home party.
A week has passed and Harry and I are back at Mrs. Shanklin's. This time the room is filled with people. It's so close to Christmas, there's a festive feeling. A giant Christmas tree is in the front foyer.
Although Jett is the guest of honour, Mrs. Shanklin is dragging Harry all around the room and introducing him to her friends.
I end up talking to Jett by the punch bowl.
“So it all turned out?” he says, grinning at me.
“Yeah,” I say. “Thanks to you. That was a great idea, to read the diaries.”
“I knew my Grandma. I figured it was all in there. Now I feel kind of bad that I just sent her diaries off like that without reading them.”
“You shouldn't though!” I say, turning to him. “It's really working out well! They would have never been published if we had just read them here.”
“Yeah!” says Jett. “You're right! I never thought of that!”
You see, Madeleine emailed us to let us know that a history professor at Dalhousie wants to edit the diaries and publish them. Mrs. Shanklin's family is thrilled. And that's how the necklace problem is solved too.
Mrs. Shanklin and Mr. Cohen have agreed to donate the necklace to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Nova Scotia, to boost interest in the diaries. Mrs. Shanklin loves the part of the story about Mrs. Simpson and Mr. Cohen says it's important that people understand more about the events leading up to World War II. So I think everyone's happy about the way it turned out.
“Looks like he's getting all the attention,” I say, nodding toward Harry. About five older women are all around him.
Jett laughs as he reaches for a mini meat pie.
“I don't care. He can have it.”
“Things are going OK for you?” I say.
“Never better. It's great. I'm putting together a team of university students for my dig. Getting it all organized. It's really cool.”
“I'm glad,” I say, sincerely. “Hey! You don't think he's telling them all about Jesus, do you?”
Jett glances at Harry.
“Nah. I doubt it. He's not pushy about his beliefs.”
Before I can argue that one, Mrs. Shanklin comes over and links one arm in Jett's and one arm in mine.
“C'mon kids!” she says. “I have so many people for you to meet!”
I guess she's warming up to me.
“Boy, we lucked out there,” I say.
The party is winding down and Harry says he'll walk me to the bus-stop. We're in the foyer by ourselves, putting on our boots. “All that time, we were talking about a stolen necklace and they were thinking one thing and we were thinking another. Even with Jett, he knew his parents still had the necklace but we never connected. And we still solved the mystery. Seriously lucky.”
“Meg, it wasn't luck,” says Harry bent over, lacing up his boots.
“Yes,” I say emphatically, straightening up. “It was.”
The maid brings us our coats and Harry thanks her.
“I would have thought that you would have seen the hand of God in this,” says Harry, as he helps me into my coat. “We weren't lucky. We were dumb.”
“You're speaking for yourself, Harry. We were not dumb. We were just a little quick to jump to conclusions, that's all. We got lucky though.”
I'm zipping up.
“Actually, Biblically speaking, we were foolish,” says Harry, putting on his bomber jacket. “The Bible says to be slow to speak but quick to listen. But that's OK because God also uses the foolish to confound the mighty.”
“What does that mean, exactly?” I look up at him. “To confound the mighty?”
I can't find my gloves.
“It means, we solved this case because of God's grace.”
“Harry . . .” I say threateningly.
My gloves turn out to be in my left pocket.
“Meg,” says Harry earnestly.
“Harry, you can't go around depending on God's grace. Life doesn't work that way.”
I'm staring him down now, which basically means I'm staring up at him.
“You'll just have to see it on our next case. God's grace will be so obvious you won't be able to miss it.”
Harry actually has the audacity to bop me on the nose before wrapping his purple scarf around his neck and putting on his ridiculous matching ear-muffs. Like an idiot, I blush.
Our next case?! He actually wants to do this again! I don't know why this makes me feel momentarily dizzy. Light-headed, even. Oh God, please don't tell me I'm in . . . No I won't say it. I am not in love with Harry Phillips. He's just a partner. An associate, really. Just a guy I work with.
“That's something we need to talk about,” I say, hoping I sound serious and business-like as I put on my gloves. “How are we going to generate new customers?”
“New customers?” says Harry, pulling his gloves out of his pocket. “That won't be a problem. At least three women today asked me if we could investigate something for them.”
Why do they talk to him and not me? Nobody asked me to investigate anything for them.
“Three? That's pretty good.”
“We shouldn't be surprised if God blesses us,” says Harry. “This morning I read in my Bible, For you bless the righteous Oh Yahweh. You cover him with favour as with a shield . . .”
“Please don't tell me about your Bible, Harry,” I say, turning up my collar. “Don't tell me about your prayers.”
“But God is doing big things . . .”
“Don't tell me about what God is doing . . .”
We head out the door and into the cold.