Authors: Barbara Ivie Green
my beautiful and precious daughter,
first taught me
the joy of being a mother.
My profound thanks
goes to my husband for his unwavering support and for making this possible, and to my daughters, who continue to be my inspiration; I couldn’t have written this without you. I would also like to thank my readers for their support and encouragement.
Special thanks to
[email protected] for her amazing editing skills and for helping me make this dream a reality.
Amber looked at the older woman across the counter and couldn’t help but wonder how she had achieved that particular shade of blue hair color. It reminded her of a bluebird.
“My good friend just gave me a makeover.” The woman patted her hair proudly because of the young woman’s attention. “Do you like it?” she asked, sweeping a light blue strand of hair from her ear back toward the mass of hair that was combed into a bee-hive.
“It’s lovely,” Amber said as she stamped the return date on the stiff book marker and slipped it into the sleeve in the front of the library book.
“She’s getting her license to do hair at the School of Hair and Design in town if you’re interested.”
Amber smiled, not at all sure if she was ready for that one. . . . Not that she hadn’t done her fair share of experiments, or had her share of disasters for that matter. It was, after all, part of the role of someone in hiding, but blue hadn’t made the list . . . yet. As it was, her naturally curly hair was dyed a mousy brown, and the thorough brushing she’d given it before tying it into a pony tail had its volume and frizz potential set on high.
“Here is a card for ten percent off.” Mavis set a banana yellow card on the table that read,
Gloria-specializing in natural dyes for the hair and skin
. “Spray tan is so popular right now.”
“Thank you,” Amber said graciously enough, though, she was starting to think the blue haired maven was trying to tell her she needed some help in the hair department.
That’s a little like the pot calling the kettle black
, Amber thought, pushing her thick rimmed glasses further up on her nose . . . a habit she had picked up years ago in order to avoid direct eye contact. They were perfect for hiding behind.
The bluebird of happiness and hair design nodded at her. “Her shop is just around the corner from here.”
Amber tried not to be offended; after all, the styling of her hair and clothes, for that matter, was deliberate. The more unnoticeable she was the better. She cleared her throat. “These are due back on Valentine’s Day,” she said as she checked out the last book. The lights flickered when she spoke. Amber glanced at the screen of the computer, thanking her lucky stars that the power had stayed on this time. “Thank you, Mrs. Peterson,” she said, reading the woman’s name from the file.
“Call me Mavis, dear,” the blue haired woman said with a smile. “Everyone does. This is a small town where everyone knows everyone else.”
. . . .
And their business
, Amber thought, wondering just how long she could safely stay there. The lights flickered again, and this time they stayed dim.
“You know I could have my son come in and look at the wiring here,” Mavis said. “He’s an electrician.”
Amber glanced at the clock which was still clicking away the seconds. It was five minutes to seven, almost time to close. “Maybe tomorrow.” She turned off the computer before the erratic electricity blew a fuse or a surge caused a system failure. “I’ll have to call the branch office to see if we have a maintenance man on staff first.”
“Well,” Mavis said, “just don’t believe the rumors of the ghost.”
“The ghost?” Amber asked. On cue, the lights flickered and lightning flashed in the distance, followed by a rumble of ominous warning.
“It’s probably worse due to the storm,” Mavis said, then added as if sharing a confidence, “I doubt very strongly that Miss Dimity was in her right mind when she said the library was haunted.” The older woman nodded. “She’s the one you’re filling in for you know.”
“Ah.” Amber nodded in understanding; although, this was the first she’d heard of a ghost.
Funny how the employment agency hadn’t included that in the job description,
she found herself thinking. “They said it was due to medical leave.”
“Oh, it is! She’s undergoing psychiatric evaluation,” Mavis whispered, “but you didn’t hear it from me.
Amber nodded slightly. She’d assumed it was an accident or surgery not . . .
Without waiting for a response, Mavis went on. “Don’t believe any of that nonsense though. It was rumored that my own ancestral home was haunted. In fact, that busy bee woman had the whole town convinced of it. For a while there, it seemed as if everyone had gone nuts.”
“Patricia Parker,” Mavis spat out distastefully. “She’s a local reporter . . . and if you ask me, she goes for sensationalism rather than the truth.”
“I see.” Amber glanced at the clock again. Only a minute left, but it looked like she wasn’t going anywhere soon, what with the annoyed bluebird in front of her with ruffled feathers and the whole library to close. She glanced at the door and the stack of books waiting for her attention.
“Well, enough about that. Welcome to town, dear,” Mavis said, glancing down at the name plaque that rested on the desk. “Amber Smith, it was nice meeting you.” She looked at her cell phone. “I’ll just go outside to make a call.”
“It was nice to meet you too.” Amber set her books up on the counter and picked up the yellow card. Rather than throw it away, she placed it in her pocket as the older woman looked on approvingly.
“I hate to just run off, but I left my Duke at home alone. He’s my little doggie,” she added. “I know he must be beside himself in the storm,” Mavis continued, gathering up her books.
“I have a cat.” Amber nodded in understanding. “She knocks everything off the counters when she’s agitated.”
“So you know how it is.” Mavis smiled
before heading for the door.
Amber more than understood how it was. . . . She was the poster child for the lonely old maid with a cat persona.
It is better than the alternative
, she reminded herself. Unfortunately, it was also why she’d been forced to take a room which reeked of urine at the local motel and pay extra for the privilege. Amber took a pen and jotted down a note to pick up deodorizer, coffee, and creamer before returning
The lights flickered again, and this time she heard a distinct thump that sounded like it had come from the back of the library. She looked up. “Hello,” she called out. She could have sworn she was alone. “Is anyone here?” In response, the lights flickered once more before leaving her in the dark altogether.
Amber found her purse and felt around for the keys, grabbing a can of pepper spray she kept in the front pouch while she was at it. Clicking on the small flash- light hooked on the key ring, she scanned the room.
The sound of another thump made her turn the light toward the rows of book- shelves near the back wall. She thought for a moment she saw a flash of something in the small beam of light and had to hold down her fear. . . .
They couldn’t have found me
She was probably just seeing things she decided as she held the light higher. “It’s probably just a mouse,” she said to bolster her own confidence as she passed the first row of shelves and continued toward the back.
Another sound from the front of the building gave her pause. She turned around. If something
in here with her, it had just circled around her without her seeing it pass. . . .
Maybe there was a ghost
. She swallowed, glancing back at the light coming in through the front door. Another flash of light lit the main corridor, making it a little brighter . . . the shadows darker and longer. Ten seconds later thunder sounded.
What was it about a bunch of old books that could make you want to jump out of your sensible shoes when left alone with them in the dark?
Amber tightened her hold on her purse, taking some comfort in the fact that it was heavy enough to wallop someone with.
At least if she had to run, she’d worn sensible shoes. She glanced down at her Doc Martin’s and the skirt she wore which was flared a little at the knees. It was certainly wide enough for a decent stride if she had to take flight. She looked back up, pushing her glasses higher on her nose as she did.
Amber jumped at the noise, turning to see an end shelf topple over, the books scattering across the floor. Panicked, she clicked off the flashlight and darted down the nearest row, flattening herself against the last book shelf. Her breathing sounded loud to her own ears as she tried desperately to quiet it and listen to the room. She swallowed as she heard a shuffling sound that was getting closer.
I have to escape!
Unfortunately, she’d managed to trap herself in an aisle that dead ended. She glanced up at the narrow window above her. If she could climb the shelf, she could slip out the window.
Anything was better than being caught!
Amber hitched her skirt up to her thigh, exposing the top of her extra-long knee high stockings. She found footing on the third shelf and a hand hold near the top of the other and started to climb up the corner. The shelf near the top tipped slightly when she reached for it. She thought the noise surely must have given her away. She paused a moment, listening to the quiet room.
When the lightning flashed again, Amber decided to use the percussion of the thunder to mask her next move. She counted to nine before scrambling the rest of the way to the top. Once there, she only had to crawl a few feet to the latch, and she was home free . . . 0r would have been if the lights hadn’t chosen that moment to flicker back to life and expose her position.
Feeling slightly betrayed by the light, she paused for a moment, looking down over the library, somewhat surprised to see that she was alone. She could also see the bookshelf that had fallen over from her vantage point. The hinge on top where it had been connected was clearly broken.
Is that all it was?
She sighed in relief . . . until the door opened, and Mrs. Peterson walked back inside.
“Amber?” Mavis called out softly when she noticed her missing from behind the counter. She walked down the center aisle and did a double take when she found her. “Oh, there you are, dear.”
Amber made a little wave from her perch, feeling like an idiot.