“I think this book might be the reason he left,” Faye almost shouted to George as he sat on her sofa drinking coffee and trying to stay awake. “I mean, don’t you think it’s strange he would take the time to swap the covers, hide the real copy under my pillow, and take the fake one with him? There has to be something important about it.”
“Let me see,” George reached for it. Faye handed it to him and he flipped the cover open. “Hey, this is that book he had with him Saturday night. The ghost book.”
“What?” Faye froze.
“Phantom Publishing, the publisher… never heard of them. Never heard of the library either, in fact. Maybe it’s from beyond the grave. Spooooky…” he flipped to the center of the book and cringed. “More proverbs.”
“Proverbs? It isn’t proverbs, it’s a story about–”
“Give gravity where it is due, and let your jollities be few,” George read. “Now look here, you strange sentient book, stop telling me what to do, hear?”
“That… that wasn’t there last night.”
George flipped a page. “Ah,” he looked up with a smile. “This is even better. A man who refuses wisdom is worse than an idiot who talks to inanimate objects. I swear, it’s like it has it out for me.”
“Almost as if…” Faye trailed off, face pale. “George, last night, the entire book, I’d swear my life on it, was a story about a girl and a wandering knight. There were no proverbs anywhere inside it.”
“You sure you weren’t dreaming? Looks to me like the whole bloody thing is proverbs from cover to cover.”
“And I’m saying last night it wasn’t.”
“But why do you think this has anything to do with Silas?”
“I don’t know, but that’s not the only odd thing about the book. Look at the front page. Not the title, the next one.”
George humored her. The pages rustled as he flipped them, but before he’d had much of a look at it, he jumped and dropped the book. Faye let out a scream as they scrambled away from it, then she punched him.
“Is that some idea of a joke?” George asked, rubbing his head.
“Joke? You scared me.”
“Only because some lunatic thought making it write my name in the pages would be a funny way to give me a scare,” he nudged her with his elbow. “How’d you do it? Some kind of invisible ink that appears with exposure to air? I’ll bet Skander put you up to it.”
Faye stared at him. “I… George, I didn’t write your name in the book.”
He picked it up and flipped to the front page. “Then why’s it there?”
There was George’s name, written in an unknown handwriting in the top right corner.
“It’s not my handwriting,” said Faye. “And it’s not Silas’ either. And last night, my name was written there.”
George set the book down on the table and they sat there staring at it for a long time.
“Huh,” he said finally, rubbing his mustache.
“What do you think it is?”
He shook his head. “You should probably get rid of it.”
“There’s no such thing as magic,” Faye said, as much to convince herself as anything.
“I do think there is a healthy fear of the spooky instilled in us for survival, though.”
“You haven’t heard anything from Mr. Lawrence?”
Faye shook her head. George tried to suppress a yawn and crossed his arms.
“You should go get some sleep,” said Faye. “You can nap on the couch if you want.”
“I s’pose so.”
Faye got up and pulled her coat on. “I think I’ll go out and look up those addresses. Gore Hall and the publisher.”
“I’ll come with.”
“But George, you’ve already stayed up all yesterday with me, not to mention all night working. I would feel perfectly horrible if you came with me now. Besides, all I want is to know is if anyone has seen Silas. I’ll be back in an hour or less.”
She buttoned the top of her coat and swung her purse over her shoulder, picking up the book.
“Independent woman,” George sighed. “Fine. I won’t say no to a quick nap, but you have to promise me you won’t go snooping or getting yourself into trouble.”
“And why ever would I do that?” Faye huffed and walked out the door.
“Make a promise or go snooping? Faye! You didn’t answer me!” George shouted after her, but she ignored him and rushed down the stairs.
Faye found Mrs. Finch in the kitchen and informed her that her brother George was staying with her for the day and would be up in their rooms while she ran a quick errand. Mrs. Finch wasn’t happy about it because a single young lady from the country named Belle also roomed upstairs, but given the tragic circumstances, she made an exception. When she walked back to the parlor, though, George was standing there waiting for her.
“George,” she started.
“Don’t deny it,” he said. “You’re going snooping.”
“Only if I find occasion.”
“I’m coming with you and that’s final.”
“Fine,” she shrugged. “I’m not the one who worked all night. But if you fall asleep somewhere, I’m leaving you there.”
“That’s the thanks I get?”
They first went to the university so she could check with the secretary of Massachusetts Hall to see if he had any new information. He didn’t, so they moved on to the library. It was a tall gothic building cornered by spires and circled by elm trees. The front entrance was grand and capped with an ornate window.
George held the door open for her as they stepped inside. An aisle spanned the length of the center of the building from end to end, and the ceiling vaulted high above it. Windows lined each wall and streamed in the dim November light. It was barely warmer inside than it was outside, and Faye wrapped her arms around her coat as they walked. Her shoes tapped on the floor and echoed through the whole library.
“Hello,” a man called, looking down from the balcony of the second floor. “Can I help you?”
“Yes, I believe so,” Faye called back. “I was wondering if I could look in the basement.”
“One moment,” the man said, disappearing and reappearing a moment later down the stairs. “Sorry, what did you say?”
“I’d like to look in the basement if that’s at all possible.”
“Oh?” the man adjusted his round spectacles. “May I ask what you’re looking for?”
“It’s going to sound a little odd, but I’m not quite sure.”
“How about that? You’re the second person this week who’s wanted to look in the basement for something they don’t know what.”
“Who was the first?” asked George.
“Ah… one of the faculty. Ancient languages professor, I think. Mr…”
“I’m Mr. Lawrence’s wife,” said Faye. “He’s disappeared, you see, the night before last, and right before he did, he seemed to be looking for something. I thought if I could retrace his steps I might find out where he went.”
“Well, that’s awfully resourceful of you, Mrs. Lawrence. Although, don’t you think it might be better to hire a detective?”
“Mr. Lawrence’s father already has, but I’d still like to look myself.”
“The more heads on a problem, the better, I always say,” said George.
“I suppose so,” the man nodded. “If you’d really like to, you can take a look at the basement, but I’m afraid you’ll be as disappointed in it as Mr. Lawrence was.”
“Can you tell me when he was here, and what he was looking for?” Faye asked.
“It was Monday morning, close to noon. He was down in the basement a good hour or so. When he came up, he was covered in dust. I asked if he’d found what he was looking for and he said he hadn’t, but he seemed a little… distracted.”
“Oh,” said Faye, disappointed. Silas always looked distracted.
“Or perhaps, rather, flustered. Would you still like to look?”
“Here, you can use this lamp,” the man took an oil lamp from the table next to the stairs leading to the basement. He lit it and opened the door, holding it out to the steep wooden stairs. “By the way, my name’s Edgar Smith.”
“Pleased to meet you,” said Faye absently as they followed him into the basement.
“This is about it. Like I told your husband, newspapers are against the walls, arranged loosely in order by date, and magazines and periodicals are in the center.” He handed her the light. “Let me know if you need anything.”
He left back up the stairs.
Faye took the book from under her arm and opened it to the title page, looking at the stamp again.
“What a load of dusty junk,” George said, blowing a film of dust from a periodical into the air. “What in the world was Silas looking for down here?”
“Gore Hall Under,” she murmured, looking up. “This can’t be it.”
She frowned and clapped the book closed, then made a loop through the basement, looking into each crate and scanning the walls. It appeared to be a very normal library basement.
“Hate to break it to you, Faye,” said George after a while, hands in his pockets and looking ruefully at the dust now maring his pristine jacket. “There’s nothing down here.”
Faye put her hands on her hips and sighed. “I know. But what on earth do you think that address means?”
“Not this,” George frowned.
They walked back up the stairs. George blew out the light and set it back where it had come from.
“Hullo, Edgar!” he called. “We’re finished with that basement!”
Mr. Smith walked down the second flight. “Well?” he asked.
“I’m afraid you were right,” said Faye.
“Sorry to hear that.”
“I wonder, have you ever heard of a library called the Boston Fellowship Library?”
“Mr. Lawrence asked about that, too. No, I haven’t heard of it. You could check the city records, though.”
“Alright. By the way, Mr. Smith, did Silas say anything about where he was going next?”
“He didn’t. Like I said, he seemed quite distracted.”
“At least he was acting himself,” George muttered to Faye.
“Yes… thank you,” she said to Mr. Smith. “I appreciate your help.”
“Of course. Let me know if I can be of any more assistance.”
Mr. Smith bowed and walked back up the stairs. Faye tucked the book tighter under her arm and turned on her heel, running straight into a man in front of her.
“Oh, gracious,” she said. “Sorry… oh!”
The man turned, recognition playing across his face. “Mrs. Lawrence! Fancy running into you here.”
“Mr. Stevens! What are you – goodness, you gave me a fright. Em… I’m sorry, this is Mr. Lagarde, a family friend. George, this is Mr. Stevens, one of Silas’ students here.”
“I pity you, man,” said George. “Very nice to meet you.”
“Likewise,” said Mr. Stevens with a baffled smile. “Any word on the professor?”
“No. Thank you for asking.”
“’Course.” He cocked his head. “Checking a book out?”
“What?” Faye glanced down and saw he was looking at the book. “Oh, no, this is my own copy. I came here to see if anyone had seen Silas in the last few days.”
“Twain’s one of my favorites. Loved Tom Sawyer. What’s that new one about?”
“It’s called the Prince and the Pauper. It’s about… well, you’ll just have to read it.”
“Perhaps I could borrow it sometime?”
“No,” Faye said quickly. “I mean, not for another day at least. I’m only at the beginning.”
George raised an eyebrow at her.
Mr. Stevens laughed. “Well, let me know how it is when you finish.”
Faye smiled and turned to go, not exactly sure why she’d lied about the book. Mr. Stevens opened the door for them and followed them out.
“Are you leaving, too?” she asked.
“I’ve finished my classes for the day, and I’m headed downtown.”
“Perfect,” said George. “We’re headed there as well. You can share a cab with us.”
“That’s kind of you. Thank you.”
“I remember the old college days,” George grinned.
“Where did you attend?”
“Me? Heavens, I didn’t go anywhere. Alright, that’s not true. I went to the Boston College for a semester and a half. But I was friends with Silas and his pals and Faye here, and they were all in the thick of it. Miserable time, from what I could tell.”
Mr. Stevens blinked. “Mrs. Lawrence, you… went to college here?”
Faye paused and blushed. “Well, not exactly. When my brother Favian was going to school, I used to buy copies of his books and study alongside him.”
“Blimey. You mean to say you studied all the way through college?”
“Yes, I did.”
“But what degree?”
“So you actually have a degree in…”
“No. Obviously, I wasn’t a student here. But I do know everything my brother knows and that’s what’s important.”
“That’s incredible! I’ve never heard of any girl who made it through Harvard… ah, woman… I mean…”
George burst out laughing and Faye nudged him. He stopped himself, but only barely.
“Here we are,” Faye interrupted and gestured to the cab.
Stevens stepped up into it and George held out his hand for her. She took it, glancing down the street. There was a man standing at the corner to cross the street, and he was watching them. Faye met his gaze, her back stiffening, but he only glanced away with disinterest and walked across the street.
“See something interesting?” George asked, following her gaze.
“No,” Faye said, feeling like she was losing her mind.
She climbed in and sat across from Stevens while George climbed in next to her. George told the driver to head back toward Boston and the cab started off. Stevens was sitting on the edge of the seat and staring out the window.
“Where did you say you were headed?” Faye asked.
“Where are you heading?”
“Oh, sorry. Em… just to the, eh, to the music hall for practice with the symphony.”
“Music Hall, please,” she told the driver. “Do you have aspirations of being a musician, Mr. Stevens?”
“I’d like to, but I doubt it will happen. Father wants me to study medicine, so I’m only studying music on the side.”
“Oh, but you’re very good. It would be a shame to waste all that talent.”
“I’ve not much talent really,” Stevens shrugged.
“You’ve at least a little to be able to play in first violins in the symphony.”
“First violins in the symphony,” George whistled. “That’s something.”
“Didn’t you see him there on Saturday night, George?” Faye asked.
“Oh, that’s what’s so familiar about you. Forgive me, I meet so many people hither and thither that sometimes I forget where I’ve met them. But we haven’t met before, have we?”
“No, I don’t believe so,” said Mr. Stevens.
“Well, now we have, and next time I see you play I’ll come backstage and say hello. It’s jolly good fun. They’ve banned me from coming back there so I have to sneak in, usually.”
“George,” Faye sighed.
“Anyways,” said George, slapped his hands on his knees. “If you’re playing in first violins, you can’t be all that bad.”
“Technically, I play fine, but I don’t have the touch that real musicians do.” Stevens shrugged. “I’ve thought about giving it up altogether.”
“Because it won’t be your career?” George asked.
“You don’t know what father’s like. And besides, I’m not good enough to earn a living from it in the long run.”
“I wasn’t talking about that. What I meant to say is that even if you won’t make a career of something, doesn’t mean it’s not still worth doing. You like music, yes?”
“Of course, I do.”
“Then play music,” he shrugged.
“You know,” said Faye. “There are a lot of people with passions and ambitions who achieve them only to find out the achieving of the thing has ruined it completely. For instance, I… know a writer who always dreamt of being a writer, but when confronted with the realities of publishing and working day in and day out and the criticism and shifting tastes of the public, found it rather unpleasant most the time.”
“I have actually never thought about it that way before,” Stevens said.
“I hadn’t, either,” Faye sighed as the cab came to a stop.
“Thanks for the cab,” Stevens said as he got out. “It’s very kind of you. And…for what it’s worth, I do hope things turn out with the professor. Good day, Mrs. Lawrence. Mr. Lagarde.”
He turned and walked away as Faye told the driver the next address. “283 Washington Street,” she said, reading from the stamp inside the book. “Over,” she added in a mumble. “Under and Over… is it some sort of code?”
“Under the river and through the woods,” George started singing.
They had driven another several minutes when George suddenly stopped singing and cocked his head. “Mr. Stevens didn’t bring his violin,” he mused out loud. “I’ll bet that’ll make it difficult to practice.”
Faye sighed. It was exactly the sort of thing Silas would do – forget to bring an instrument to practice. She hoped he was alright. He had to be alright because if he wasn’t, she wasn’t sure she could go on.