The New Winslow Public Library was always quiet, no matter the day or time. Iris stood by the reference desk, absently tapping her foot as she gazed around the small building.
“All right there, Iris?” asked Ruby, an eighty-year-old volunteer who had been shelving books at the library for as long as Iris could remember.
Iris jumped. “Wha-yes, I am. Thanks, Ruby.”
Ruby smiled at her as she set another pile of books on her rickety wooden cart. “No problem, sweetie. I just wanted to be sure Alicia had seen you waiting at the reference desk.”
“Yeah, she’s down in the archives getting something for me.”
“Good, good,” Ruby was slowly organizing the books she had just piled onto the cart. “I’m just going to go shelve these books, but be sure to tell your parents I say hi.”
Iris nodded. “I’ll do that,” she said, scanning the room for Alicia.
“Nice people. Where are they now?”
“Georgia, actually,” Iris said. “They wanted to retire back to where my mom grew up.”
“Wonderful, wonderful,” Ruby said. “Alright dear, I see Alicia coming up the stacks, so I’ll take my leave. Bye-bye now.”
Ruby gave the cart a shove and began lumbering away as Alicia came back to the desk carrying a stack of books. Alicia was about ten years older than Iris. While she wasn’t a customer at the shop, her wife came in occasionally. So Iris knew her well enough, but still found her intimidating.
“Alright, Iris, here’s what I found,” Alicia said, dropping the small stack of books onto the desk. “Unfortunately, there wasn’t much. Early town leaders apparently weren’t fond of talking about the curse in town histories and papers, not that it’s any different today. I found some census information for you, but honestly not much.”
Iris glanced at the books, which all seemed to be bound copies of the local census. “Thanks. Wow, yeah, there really isn’t much, is there?”
“Nope. Small town with limited time and resources? You’re lucky I found what I did.”
Alicia’s tone hadn’t changed beyond a barely perceptible edge. Iris flinched. “Sorry, I didn’t mean-”
“You could try the New Winslow Historical Society too,” Alicia said. “My wife, Judith, works there and she might have more access to local primary resources than I do here. If you’ve got a minute, I can give her a call.”
“That would be great, thanks!”
Alicia walked behind her desk and dialed a number on her phone. There was only a few seconds’ wait until someone picked up.
“New Winslow Historical Society, this is Judith Perez speaking.” The library was so quiet, Iris could hear her perfectly.
“Hi Judith Perez,” Alicia said, her voice now teasing and affectionate. “This is Alicia Perez down at the New Winslow Public Library. I have a patron doing local historical research you might be able to help with.”
Alicia sat back in her chair. “I have Iris Davies here and she’s doing research on, um, the curse. Shockingly, none of the official town records have any information on it or its origin. Any thoughts on primary sources she could use?”
“Hmm…” Judith said, her voice slightly quieter for a moment. “I’ve got a few things that might help? A couple of diaries, letters, things like that. Equally shockingly, the town council isn’t huge on emphasizing that part of our town history in the collections. But a few naughty archivists miiight have done some side work on this very subject. Have her come by and I’ll see what I can do. Anything else I can do for you today, Mrs. Perez?”
Alicia laughed. “No, that will be all, Mrs. Perez. I’ll send her along. See you for dinner tonight?”
“Sounds delightful. Love you.”
“Love you too.”
Alicia hung up the phone. “Alright, Iris, Judith said to head over there and she’ll see what she can pull up for you.”
“Great!” Iris exclaimed. “I’ll do that! Thank you so much!”
Alicia smiled at her. “You’re welcome. Let me know what you find out, I’m intrigued.”
Iris gave her one last wave, then made her way to the front door. She very nearly walked into Noah Kelly and Olivia Walker as they came in with Olivia’s daughter.
“Oh, excuse me!” she said, stepping out of the way. “Hi again, Noah. Olivia.”
Then she gave the baby another look. “Keep an eye on her,” Iris said. “She’s going to catch a cold tomorrow.”
Iris walked out, leaving Noah and Olivia looking at each other.
“It can’t ever be good news,” Noah said, shaking his head.