Iris had been lingering outside the library for ten minutes now. It was freezing in the parking lot and the sun was going down. But every time she tried to go inside, her nerve failed.
If Judith had been that mad at her, she could only imagine how pissed Alicia was. And there was absolutely no way in hell that she’d gotten over it in the two months since Christmas.
But Iris needed to access the local history section if she wanted to find anything else about that hotel. Andrew was completely uninterested in the hotel angle, but she thought that it had promise. The two mysterious things in one small town? They had to be connected in some way. And she was going to figure it out.
That was, if she could ever get up the nerve to walk into the library.
Finally, she took a deep breath. “Maybe she won’t even be there,” Iris said out loud, gazing out at the darkening sky over the library building. “So just go in, access the census information, and leave.”
She’d asked Andrew if he would do this research. It’d be quick, she told him. And painless. But he’d said he had to babysit Olivia’s daughter that night. Iris didn’t know if this was true or not, but it left her with the job.
With a determined nod, she stepped up the stairs and quietly opened the heavy wooden door. It was silent inside and the bang of the door closing echoed through the small library.
Alicia Perez sat behind the counter. She looked up as Iris came in and her expression moved from impassive to disgust.
“Iris,” she greeted shortly.
“Hi, Alicia,” Iris said with a nervous smile. “Um, I’m just here to-“
“I honestly don’t give a shit,” Alicia snapped. “I’m not going to keep you from using the library, but I’m done helping you. You screwed my wife over, Iris.”
“I know, and I’m sorry,” Iris said, her face on fire. She looked at the desk instead of into Alicia’s livid face. “I really am.”
Alicia snorted and rolled her eyes. “Sure,” she said. “Go do whatever you need to do, then get out.”
Before Iris could say anything else, Alicia stood up and walked into the backroom, leaving Iris alone in the library.
Or almost alone. The sound of a squeaky cart rolled up behind her. She turned and saw Ruby, the elderly library volunteer, looking at her curiously from behind a stack of books on the cart. She looked like she was about to say something and Iris was in no mood for conversation, not after that had gone so spectacularly badly. So instead she nodded, waved awkwardly, and walked toward the local interest section.
Iris staggered into her shop later that night, exhausted and discouraged. Two hours of research had brought her absolutely no new information, but a whole lot of uncomfortable time with Alicia glaring daggers at her as she worked. Iris had worked silently, barely making any noise even as she turned the pages in the volumes of town records.
She hadn’t dared to stay until anywhere near closing time. She’d screwed up and given in to temptation at the historical society at closing time. So she could only imagine how her still being there for closing at the library would go over.
Her head was pounding from the tension and she fully intended to go in, set the alarm, and head straight upstairs to go to bed.
But she opened the door and stopped short.
The shop was completely trashed, worse than it had been at any point since Roland’s arrival. Shelves were tipped over, with merchandise spilling onto the floor. The window she’d just had repaired was shattered again, glass shards scattered over the floor. Books were piled everywhere, pages ripped out of multiple volumes.
Had she been robbed? As soon as this thought crossed her mind, she watched as a shelf of essential oils tilted to the left, causing the bottles to slide to the floor, shattering as they landed.
This wasn’t mischief or chaos for chaos’ sake. This was fury. Iris was pretty sure it wasn’t directed at her, but it was in the air itself. She thought she could see it, shimmering flickers in the corners like water vapor over a hot sidewalk.
Iris couldn’t stay here. Hands shaking, she backed out of the store, closed the door, and locked it. She’d find a hotel for tonight. It didn’t matter if it took an hour to get to one, there was no way she could stay in her home. All she could do was wait for the storm to pass, then try to figure out what had caused it in the first place.