New Winslow S6E15
If the missing Harbinger pages were in Town Hall, Iris needed to find them fast. But her determination was thrown off when the first thing she saw as she walked into the building was Olivia Walker and her daughter. They were standing by the clerk’s office and didn’t notice Iris as the front door closed behind her. Iris’s mind had been a whirlwind of fear over what she was planning to do, as well as the creeping dread that she’d see Charles Baxter here on his own turf. And, of course, the ever-present threat that Roland would show up and ruin everything. But as soon as she saw Olivia, that was all replaced by an overwhelming guilt and need to make things right.
Olivia was looking at her phone and didn’t see Iris. She must have been there for the cafe she was opening over at the Limerick building, where that tea room had been. The idea of the place up and running again thrilled Iris, and she had a good feeling it would be successful. Not just because of the vague notions she got of the shop years from now, but also because Olivia had kept Keegan’s running for so long.
Keegan’s Pub, however, was on borrowed time and Iris could see a For Sale sign on the front door in the coming months.
Quest momentarily set aside for the purpose of fixing things here too, Iris walked toward Olivia, suddenly unsure how to hold herself. She was far too conscious of her pounding heart and the shame that still had her lungs in a chokehold. And when Olivia looked up and her placid expression immediately moved to anger, the feeling got worse.
That’s when the pain hit, a spike through Iris’s head that came on so quickly that she staggered and nearly fell. A struggle… She could push him away for only a second in the dark and cold before he shoved her aside and took control, leaving her a silent witness in her own head to anything that was about to happen.
The vision hit her unbidden and Iris realized that was what Olivia was remembering right now. She’d never been able to read thoughts, and this wasn’t Iris intentionally invading the other woman’s privacy. But it was like this memory was pulling her in, whether she or Olivia wanted it to. Iris had experienced this before with clients after trauma, even those she hadn’t had a previous connection with.
The image pressed its way into Iris’s own brain and the chill of this stone hallway froze her fingertips as Iris pushed it gently aside. Olivia wasn’t sending those thoughts on purpose and Iris had no right to receive them, even as she wished desperately to take it all back.
“Olivia,” she greeted.
“Leave me alone, Iris,” Olivia snapped as she moved in front of the grumpy toddler beside her.
Iris took a risky step closer, stopping as Olivia stepped backward. “I mean it,” she said, the shake in her voice breaking Iris’s heart. “Don’t talk to me. Don’t come near me. Just go away.”
It wasn’t the anger that got to Iris, though that stung. No, it was the terror in Olivia’s every move as she put her body between Iris and her daughter. Just like Judith Perez, Iris knew there was no fixing this one.
“I’m sorry,” she managed to get out through the tightness in her throat.
Olivia didn’t answer, and Iris hurried away toward the stairwell.
No matter how wracked with guilt she was after seeing Olivia, Iris still had a mission in Town Hall. Outside of Baxter’s own home (which she couldn’t even bring herself to consider breaking into at this point), this seemed like the most obvious place to hide pages torn from Evelyn Harbinger’s history. Charles Baxter would always be nearby and who was going to willingly spend their time in Town Hall, anyway? Only an idiot like Iris would go directly under Baxter’s nose to find them.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), Charles Baxter didn’t have an office at Town Hall. None of the council members did. This meant there were two likely possibilities, neither of which were appealing. The council meeting room and the basement. Iris had never been in the basement before and could have happily lived her whole life without going in there. But the odds were much higher that she’d get caught rifling through the council’s meeting room. And since there was no council business today, that had to be the first stop. This might be her only chance to get in and out without being noticed.
Iris couldn’t make herself invisible. That kind of power was beyond her and most others born with magical abilities. She doubted Celine could do it either. Vivien, maybe. But Vivien was equally likely to make herself the only thing people could see.
Maybe Iris could keep others from feeling the need to go in the conference room for the few minutes it would take for her to search it. This would be more effective if she had any of her equipment beyond a small pink crystal and a mirror in her bag.
No, she simply needed to hurry. There was nobody in there now and she was going to miss her window of opportunity if she hesitated.
The council’s conference room was on the second floor of Town Hall, down the end of a long hallway lined with offices. Iris walked as softly and quickly as she could, darting along the shadows that were still there during the day. At one point, a silhouette appeared against the frosted window of one of the offices and she froze, not daring to breathe as the form stayed there. It was either a ghost or a town employee, she couldn’t tell from this angle. Then the figure walked away and Iris could breathe again.
The conference room door was open and she could smell the powerful scent of lemon wood polish as she slipped inside. She’d rather close the door, but that might look suspicious. So instead, she went straight for the heavy wooden bookshelf at the back and opened the first drawer, hoping against hope that the pages would be sitting right there waiting for her.
Of course they weren’t. There was a stack of neatly arranged papers and a quick, careful look through them showed they were meeting minutes from 1987. She couldn’t imagine why they kept those, but that wasn’t her focus right now.
The second drawer beside it held vintage postcards for New Winslow and the other towns in the region. As Iris gently shuffled through them, her hand brushed against one. The scent of lake water on a cool breeze caressed her face and for a second, she could hear the sound of laughter on the air. It was vacation, and the girls were playing in the lake. She could relax in the sun for a little while.
Iris jerked away from the vision, looking at the postcard she’d touched. Greetings from Greenwich!, the cheery print announced. Behind it was a sepia-tinted photo of small lake houses on a vacation resort. Below this card was another, with a colorful painted scene showing the neat little downtown of a place called Dana. Iris knew both towns were gone now, destroyed to make way for the Quabbin Reservoir. They’d been chosen while New Winslow was left alone. That cheery vacation scene was what Barlow’s company had been attempting to profit off of once Greenwich was a hundred and fifty feet below the water.
Unfortunately, no history pages in here either. And the next two drawers contained only printer paper.
Iris was running out of time and had no explanation ready if someone were to walk in on her right now. A small closet off to the other side of the room was empty, save for a broken chair. She turned on her phone’s flashlight and shone it throughout the space, but there was nothing hidden in the closet walls. And there were no shelves or drawers in the massive conference table, secret or otherwise.
This room was a bust.
Iris slipped out the door, knowing that this was the riskiest moment. One person coming out of any of these offices for a bathroom break would blow her cover. She hurried down the hall toward the stairwell, sensed tuned to the slightest movement behind any door she passed. Heart pounding, she went into the stairwell and hurried down the steps.
As she reached the first floor landing, the door opened and an old woman Iris recognized from the library walked in. She barely looked at Iris, but Iris felt compelled to give her a smile. The woman just walked up the stairs toward where Iris had just come from.
If she could just get into the basement, then she could cross Town Hall off the list and be done with it. But as she rounded the second landing, she noticed that the basement door was roped off with a large yellow Do Not Enter sign.
Iris barely managed to avoid screaming. The old woman from before was standing behind her, despite the fact that Iris had very clearly seen her going up the stairs. “It’s dangerous,” the woman continued. “The stairs are crumbling and you’ll get hurt.”
She waited to be asked what she was doing down here, or to be told that the old woman was going to report her, but the old woman said nothing. Instead, she just sniffed and started back the way she came. Just as she looked back down at the basement entrance, Iris remembered that she’d seen that woman’s obituary in the local paper a month and a half ago. When she turned around, she was alone in the stairwell.