Authors: A. K. Lawrence
Tags: #Romance, #Mystery
By A.K. Lawrence
Krisse, Linda and Charlene. Thank you for your support, encouragement and willingness to read anything I throw in front of you.
This is a work of fiction and any comparison to real or imagined people in your life is purely coincidental.
My favorite tool in my writer’s box is creative license which essentially means I can make things up. With that in mind I would like to say that the town of Baldwin in Michigan is real. They really do have a Blessing of the Bikes in May and it’s worth checking out if you have the time and inclination.
There also is a cemetery in Sweetwater Township that is the home to an unnamed grave as well as a Civil War veteran. The Historical Society would be happy to give you information regarding the cemetery and they also have information about the Underground Railroad.
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy this work of fiction.
Anna Molly Mylan rolled into town on a beautiful day in May. She couldn’t believe how much the town matched her memories from childhood. Now was not the time to make comparisons, however. She’d been on the road for a week and she was ready to find the real estate agent she’d been in touch with and get settled. More than anything she wanted a nap. The online site had shown several cabins for rent and she hoped they had one readily available.
The address for the real estate agent came up on the left and Anna turned in to the driveway. Located next to the local ice cream parlor the building was small and shared their parking lot with the bank next door. There were several motorcycles parked in available spaces and a small compact car shone with a fresh wax. The lawn had been recently mown and spring flowers danced in the breeze. When Anna pushed the door open a bell jangled merrily.
Inside there was beige carpeting with colorful throw rugs scattered about. A coffee table with two comfortable armchairs and a coffeemaker were in the corner and the scent of freshly brewed coffee nearly made Anna swoon. On the walls were several pictures of houses and cabins, some with lake access but most without. Some photos had SOLD stamped across them, others had FOR RENT or FOR SALE. As Anna’s eyes continued down the wall she saw a flyer for the cabin she had been watching on the internet. There was a SOLD stamp across the front of it. Her head cocked to the side. She had known she should have sent a deposit.
Anna continued looking at the flyers as she made her way to the counter. At the moment there was no one behind it but she could hear sounds coming from somewhere in the back. There was an open door and she could see file cabinets overflowing with papers just inside.
“Hello? Is anyone here?” Anna saw a small bell on the counter and tapped the top gently. The countertop was glass and Anna could see more flyers underneath along with advertisements for local businesses including a canoe rental place for tours of the Pere Marquette River, auto repair and landscaping. There were several books about local history including one containing stories of the paranormal and hidden treasure. Anna was intrigued.
“Well, hello there! How can I help you?” She was the tiniest woman Anna had ever seen. She would have been amazed if the petite woman hit ninety pounds on the scale while soaking wet. Her silver hair was cut short in a sort of helmet and ruthlessly sprayed down with something that smelled like lilies. It took Anna back to her own grandmother and the sachets she had used in her drawers at home. She felt a girl crush coming on.
Anna flashed a broad smile. “Hi! Are you the agent here?”
“I am, dear. Let me just set these down and I’ll be right with you.” The woman appeared to levitate six inches and set the armful of empty vases she carried onto the counter. “
I’m Elisa Williams. Now, who might you be?”
Anna peeked over the counter and saw a small stepping stool. Thrilled she had solved that minor mystery she reached her hand across the counter. “My name is Anna Mylan. I emailed you last month about a cabin. I guess I should have contacted you before I arrived today.” She gestured toward the SOLD stamp.
“Oh, yes! Of course! You were asking about the old Martin place. Oh dear.” A look of consternation crossed Ms. William’s face as she took Anna’s hand. Instead of shaking it she held on gently. “In your last email you said you would be arriving soon,” the woman stroked the top of Anna’s hand, patted and released it. “I thought it would be another week, however. They signed the papers on the Martin place yesterday. They’re moving in next week. Most of our vacant places are being rented. This is a busy week for us here.”
Anna took a deep breath and slowly counted to ten as she released it. “Is there a local hotel nearby?” Solution oriented, she could only blame herself for not calling ahead.
“I’m afraid that’s full up, too. We’re having the Blessing of the Bikes this week and this year’s turn out is bigger than ever! The only thing that brings in more tourists is our Trout-a-Rama.” Elisa Williams hopped off of her stepstool and came around the counter.
“Blessing of the Bikes? Trout-a-Rama?” Anna vaguely recalled the Trout-a-Rama from her childhood. A week-long celebration of the town, there were carnival rides, elephant ears and other foods, games and prizes. The library held their largest sale and fundraiser at the same time. Anna had bought her first and only copy of
Gone With the Wind
there the last summer they’d come for vacation. “I didn’t know they still had that.”
“Oh my, yes! It’s so much fun! That will be in August. If you’re still here in town we’ll rope you into volunteering, mark my words. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.” As she spoke Elisa walked along the walls, looking at each flyer she passed and setting empty vases at various points on the floor. “Now, the Blessing of the Bikes, that’s what’s going on in town, that’s another annual event. Bikers come from all over the state and Wisconsin to have their motorcycles blessed for this year’s riding season. It proves to be quite entertaining! We’re no Sturgis, mind you,” she referred to the annual event in South Dakota that had triggered movies, books and legends galore about the lifestyle of being a motorcycle rider. “The Blessing is this Saturday, you should come. The pastor would be happy to bless your truck. Would you like some coffee, dear?”
“Yes, please. It’s been a long drive,” Anna watched as the tiny woman went to the small table in the corner.
“My son just bought me this for my birthday,” Elisa fiddled with a machine in the corner. “Isn’t this a kick? It makes one cup at a time. No more filters or wasting coffee I don’t finish in the day. I limit myself to 2 cups a day, no more, no less. Cream or sugar?”
“Sugar, please. Ms. Williams-,“ Anna began.
“Call me Elisa, dear,” Elisa handed a sturdy mug full of steaming coffee to Anna. “The sugar is right there, help yourself.”
“Thank you,” Anna mixed in some sweetener, took a small sip and nearly groaned in pleasure. “This is fantastic! Your son made a good choice for a gift, from the looks of it.”
“That’s my boy, for you. Hunter is always so thoughtful in his presents. Now, what are we going to do with you?”
“Elisa, I hope you can help me out,
I’m ready to start moving in today,” Anna sipped more coffee and considered buying one of those coffeemakers for herself.
“That old place wouldn’t suit a young lady, it’s been vacant far too long. I’m afraid the pictures didn’t do it true justice. Overgrown and overwrought, as my Hunter says. It took a solid week of scrubbing to make the inside habitable, much less the yard. It was out of control and still is if you ask me! Let me take a look at you, we’ll see where you belong.”
The intensity of the woman’s stare made Anna feel under-dressed in her khaki Capri pants, light top and dark blue spring jacket. Her hair was windblown and she wished she had tied it back before she came in.
“If you can direct me to another hotel nearby I can stay there until you have a cottage ready, it’s really no problem.”
“No, no, that won’t do.” Elisa snapped her fingers. “I’ve got it! Be right back, dear. Have a seat and make yourself another cup of coffee if you like.” She disappeared around the counter and Anna could hear shuffling noises coming from the back room.
Anna sat in a comfortable armchair next to the coffeemaker, crossed her long legs and wondered what this friendly gnome had in mind. False advertising, she thought, to post perfect pictures of a place that was, what did she say, overgrown and overwrought? Then again, that seemed to be the way the game of real estate was played. She’d heard some horror stories from friends who liked to buy properties, restore and flip them for a profit.
“I’ve found the perfect place for you!” Elisa popped out from the back room, a piece of paper waving gaily above her head. “It’s the Lucas place. Been on the market for a while, we don’t generally rent it for the Blessing of the Bikes as it’s a little ways out of town and mostly dirt roads to get there. Rather dangerous for those bikers. It wouldn’t be good to bless them and then have one of them slide out on their way home,” she nearly danced her way to Anna and hopped into the chair across from her. Elisa’s feet did not reach the floor and Anna had to stifle a giggle.
Elisa laid the page on the coffee table between them. “The Lucas’s are an old family here in town. They had a neighbor, Samuel Belvette who had traveled for months using the Underground Railroad. A runaway slave, he came here, set up a homestead on 20 acres and then went back for his family. He never returned. Rumor has it he was stopped in Kentucky and never heard from again.
“The Lucas family had a farm next to Samuel’s spread and they offered to take care of the place for Samuel until he could come back. When no one heard from him for more than two years they incorporated it into their own spread. As time’s gone on and things have gotten tougher for everyone they have opted to sell off parcels to pay taxes and the like.”
Anna was intrigued. She’d known there was deep history here in Baldwin, Michigan - there had to be as it was established in the mid 1800’s - but she had not known about the Underground Railroad.
“Now, look here,” Elisa spun the page so Anna could see the pictures. “It’s an A-frame with 1 bedroom and a sleeping loft. The interior is all open which is all the rage now. Apparently Samuel was ahead of his time,” Elisa chuckled. “The kitchen is electric and the appliances are in good working order. This nice deck here,” she pointed at the appropriate picture, “has a view of the stream that cuts through the back half of the property and a ways beyond that is the burial plot of Nathan Lucas, a civil war hero from right here in Baldwin. The Historical Society cares for the grave so it’s not something you’d have to worry about, dear. The original 20 acres have been bought and sold more times than I can count but they’ve been kept together. It has historical significance, you know.”
Anna found herself nodding along conspiratorially. “Yes, it sounds like it does.” This seemed to be far more promising than the Martin place had been. An A-frame could be fun. “It looks like it may be small.”
“Eh,” Elisa waved that away, “small means easier to clean and leaves more room for gardens.”
“Is that the original home that Samuel built?” Anna was very interested but wasn’t sure she should let on. Then again it seemed Elisa was determined to place her there regardless of her wishes.
“Oh, it is and it isn’t. As the years have gone by, parts have been repaired, replaced and the like. Same as with any house, I suppose. The rent is quite reasonable and there is also an option to buy.”
“Is it furnished?” Anna pulled the page closer and read the details under the various pictures.
“It has a bed, couch, a few tables. If you want more, you’ll have to provide it yourself. There aren’t any dishes or towels but there’s a shop just down the way where you can pick some things up second-hand. Lucy’s shop, down the other way carries quite a few things but if that doesn’t suit you, Ludington isn’t far and they have some of the larger chain stores.”
“How far is it from town? I’d like to be close but not too, if you know what I mean. I’ll need some peace and quiet while I’m working.” Anna slid her phone from the front pocket of her pants, pulled up an application and typed in the address from the piece of paper. While the phone thought about it she decided the place sounded perfect.
“Oh, 7 miles from here, give or take. The roads make the trip a little longer, depending on when they’ve been graded and how good of a job the county did,” Elisa shifted in the chair. “Pardon me, dear, I must stand up for a few minutes. These old hips don’t like sitting the way they used to. Not in these chairs. Give me a good old fashioned rocker on a porch any day. What is it you do for a living?”
Anna rose as well. “I write novels, or I’m hoping to. I was a writer for the newspaper in Grand Rapids until recently. I’d love to go take a look at it. It sounds good but, after what you told me about the Martin place I think I’d better see it before I agree to anything.”
“Of course! I’ll get the keys for you. If you like it, go ahead and start getting settled in. We can sign the papers tomorrow. If it doesn’t suit, come on back and we’ll try again. I’ll be here another couple of hours.”
“That sounds great!” Anna shook Elisa’s hand and waited while the woman went to the back for a set of keys.
“This one key works for the front and back doors. This second key is for the shed. There’s an old lawn mower in there, some other odds and ends. That phone there,” Elisa gestured with her head, “that’s not likely to work. No signal back in the woods.”