Dr. Degas walked into the exam room with a rueful smile. “Hello, Andrew,” she said.
Andrew sat on the exam table in an ill-fitting cotton gown. “Hi, Dr. Degas,” he said.
“So the rumor I heard was correct then,” she said, setting down her clipboard and sitting down in her desk chair. “How long have you been here?”
“Two and a half months.”
Dr. Degas made a quick note on her computer and Andrew shivered. At least he’d been able to keep his trousers on, but it was way too cold to be sitting in a hospital gown for as long as he had been.
“Is there anything else you’re here for today, or is it just the curse?”
“Oh, just the curse,” Andrew said with a grim smile. “My mum was insistent, especially when she heard that you’re still the doctor here.”
“Your mother’s not-”
“No,” Andrew said quickly. “Nope, absolutely not. She offered to come back, but there wasn’t a chance in hell I was letting her.”
“Good,” Dr. Degas said. She stood up and removed her stethoscope from her pocket. “Alright, let’s do a quick checkup, then we’ll talk.”
Her hands were cold, just like the stethoscope and everything else in the room. Andrew followed instructions, taking deep breaths and opening his mouth when instructed. Finally they were done.
“Everything looks fine,” Dr. Degas said. “How are you doing mentally?”
His laugh was a little bitter. “Fine? I mean, I have a place to stay at least. But I lost my job and my home, though I was apparently going to lose that anyway. I’m trying to find a way out, but so far, nothing Iris and I have tried has worked.”
Dr. Degas suddenly looked interested. “You’re working with Iris?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Andrew said, now unsure if he’d said too much. “We’re trying to figure it out.”
Dr. Degas nodded. “That makes sense,” she said softly.
Andrew was suddenly sure he was missing something.
She frowned for a second, then Andrew could clearly see her making a decision. “Call me if there’s anything I can do to help,” she said, picking up a business card and writing a cell phone number on it. “Either the office phone or my cell. Don’t mention it to the receptionists, they’re very sweet but don’t like to talk about the curse. But if you and Iris are going to work on it directly, I’d like to help in any way I can.”
Andrew blinked. This certainly wasn’t what he had been expecting. The doctor of his teenage years talking to him on an adult to adult level about breaking the curse as he sat on the table in a johnny. But he took the card and nodded. “I’ll pass that on to her,” he said. “Thanks.”
She nodded, then smiled. “Okay, you’re all set,” she said. “Tell your mom you’re healthy as can be. And also that I say hi. And remember, call me.”
She left before he could respond, closing the exam room door behind her. Andrew sat for a second, turning the card over in his hands. Then he got up and started to get dressed.
Andrew hadn’t used a bloody microfiche machine since he was fifteen. And yet, here he was at the New Winslow Public Library, attempting to look at 1920s newspaper articles and town records.
Iris had begged him to go and do this. She’d found mention of a hotel deal in the digitized collection. But apparently some shit had gone down between her and the librarian, something that Andrew wasn’t sure about and she didn’t seem thrilled to discuss. So she’d wanted to get a few more articles checked, but didn’t have the stomach to go herself. So she’d offered to try a few more satchels and herb combinations to maybe keep trying to cleanse him if he went to the library and did the research.
He’d take the satchels because it wasn’t like they could hurt. And even if they weren’t actually effective, they smelled very nice and lifted his mood a little. And maybe he could share them with Olivia too.
But if he was going to take another bath, he’d be sure to lock the door this time.
The print on the newspaper articles was starting to swim as he strained his eyes to read it. Lots of old, boring nothing. He loved history, he really did. But if he had to read the minutes of one more town meeting about cows, he was going to lose it.
Cows…cows…oh, what was this?
The Alderidge property up for auction? Previously the scene of a vicious legal battle, then it burned down. The home needed to be torn down, but the land itself was up for auction.
Was that vicious legal battle about the hotel? Or was it just yet another small town squabble?
He took off his glasses, wiped them on his sweater, then put them back on and turned back to the screen. The article didn’t mention anything about a hotel. Just that the Alderidge property had been the center of a struggle in the years before the Quabbin Reservoir was built. The article itself was actually from 1939. By then the reservoir was nearly complete.
He didn’t know the local history as well as the others. Having unwillingly moved here from an entirely different continent as a teenager, he hadn’t grown up as steeped in it as his friends had.
Noah in particular seemed to be interested in the history and geography of the area. Andrew rubbed his eyes again, wondering if it’d be worth asking Noah about this. Did he have any knowledge about the history of the Quabbin and New Winslow?
And if he did, would he even be willing to talk to Andrew? Or sober enough to give a coherent answer?
Andrew shoved aside the sinking feeling that arrived in his stomach every time he thought of Noah these days. That wasn’t something he could solve. If Noah wanted to drink himself to death, that was his business.
Yeah, like Andrew could really get himself to believe that. But he could keep himself awake worrying about it tonight. Right now he had to finish this research so he could head home.
Head back to Olivia’s house, he corrected himself. Not home. Home was gone. Home was his beautiful Beacon Hill apartment, the lease for which was expiring in four months.
He printed out the article and set it in his bag. Then went back to the machine and got back to work. Unfortunately, that seemed to be the only mention of anything even potentially related to a hotel to be found in the years of newspapers he had.
The library closed a couple hours later and Andrew walked out into the early evening darkness. It was cold, but not that biting, freezing cold that had lingered through February. Now that March had finally arrived, the air seemed a little warmer. Not actually warm by any stretch of the imagination. But less frigid and hopeless, even now at the very beginning of the month.
Or maybe he was imagining it. Either way, the walk from the tiny wooden library to Olivia’s car was more bearable than it had been since he’d arrived in December.
Andrew slid into the driver’s seat and put the key in the ignition. The car started with a little stutter and Andrew frowned. He’d have to remember to let Liv know about that. No good letting it get worse.
He yawned as he backed out of the parking space. It was only six now, but he was just about ready for bed. Olivia had been working the day shift today. He’d dropped her at Keegan’s this morning, and she was due to get off work right about now. She’d offered to walk home so that he could take his time, but he was going to go get her on the way back. She was lending him her car, he wasn’t going to make her walk.
Olivia was waiting outside Keegan’s when he pulled up. “Thanks,” she said as she slid into the passenger seat.
“Thanks for the loan,” he said.
Andrew shrugged as he pulled out of the parking lot. “Maybe a lead, but nothing obvious. There was an auction for a property that burned down. I’m going to bring it to Iris tomorrow and see what she thinks.”
“Good call,” Olivia said. “You know, Noah knows a good amount about local history. It might be worth talking to him about it too.”
Andrew turned off the main road and onto a side street. “How was your day?” he asked.
“Fine,” Olivia said. “Nothing too exciting. It was slow until five and I kept seeing a ghost behind the bar.”
“Oh?” Andrew didn’t have anything more intelligent to say than that.
“Yeah, a man. I think he was a bartender or something. He was fuzzy, but I saw him back there like five times today.”
Olivia looked out the window. “You don’t believe me, do you?”
“No, no, I believe you, I swear,” Andrew said hurriedly. “It’s just…what do you say to that?”
Olivia was silent for a second and he worried he had offended her. Then she nodded. “Yeah, that’s fair.”
They chatted comfortably for the last few minutes of the ride. Then, as they pulled in, Andrew noticed another car in the driveway.
“Expecting someone?” he asked Olivia.
Olivia shook her head. “Nope. And Noah’s still working.”
They got out of the car and started walking up to the front door. As they approached the other car, the driver’s side door opened and Cleo got out.
“Hi, guys,” she said.
Andrew stopped short and for a second Cleo looked cautious, like maybe she’d messed up. But then he threw his arms around her.
“I missed you so much.”