Tabitha folded the letter and placed it in her jacket pocket – the secret zippered pocket for the things to be hidden. She looked around the attic and noticed the same things that had been here the last time but with an added odd feeling. She knew she would not be back for a little while. 1957 was supposed to be a good year, not one in which her father would remarry that woman that we all hear about on those radio programs. In the far corner of the attic was a broken sewing machine - the one she broke when she was attempting to sew a jacket zipper, not the jacket she was wearing but one very similar. On the other side of the room was a box full of dishes which the new wife put away because she just didn't find them fitting for her new home. Tabitha set the images of this room in the part of her brain that stores memories of better times. Knowing the note was safely in her pocket, she could leave this dusty place without a care.
It is at this moment the villain storms up the stairs points a pistol and demands the note that is in her pocket. That is how it works in the movies. This is Aldershot, not a movie. People do own guns in Aldershot, and sometimes they shoot each other, though mostly by mistake and after a few drinks. The likelihood of meeting a villain, bad guy or ne’er-do-well in her father's attic is pretty much zero. Feeling slightly disappointed of no adventure, Tabitha pulled the light cord, took one more look around, closed the door and climbed the stairs down the kitchen.
Clarissa looked at the red dress jacket and knew this is the one she will be used to make her next creation. She was at The Aldershot Dramatic Society's wardrobe closet, which they are clearing out to make room for new costumes. Clarissa's father owns the building and got an opportunity to go through the costumes that were being given away or eventually sending to Goodwill for sale. Clarissa always paid for her wares this and this coat was worth every single penny.
“The jacket hasn't been used for almost aeons,” said a quiet voice behind her. It was her friend Margaret. “I think people are scared to wear such a beautiful coat. It doesn't even smell bad, which is a good thing I'm guessing.”
“Margaret, I'm taking this one. I think this will work great with my next project. I may take the sides out a little bit and add some flare. It looks like it needs a new hem, just right for an added fringe, maybe,” said Clarissa as she inspected the coat.
"Clarissa you have to try it on first. You are bad at just grabbing things, fixing them up, and discovering they don't work because it's too big, it's too small, it's too green, it's too purple, it's not enough red. Except for this jacket, of course, this jacket is all red," Margaret spoke as Clarissa waved a hand to deflect the realism.
Margaret caught Clarissa's one minor problem with repurposing clothes. Margaret was right, Clarissa did have a habit of going all gung-ho not realizing until the end (and plenty of dollars later) it didn't quite work out. Clarissa had been able to sell a good number of her creations that she was not able to keep herself. Margaret had to admit the ruby red coat with faded buttons as rather attractive. That was a sign of danger. Clarissa slipped on the jacket, and it fit like a glove. The redness seemed brighter when she moved under the lights. She also noticed the buttons were a little scuffed, but those are replaceable. A tear appeared on the left cuff, which will lead to some more frills.
“Margaret, my dear friend,” began Clarissa with fake hesitation, “I almost don't want to touch this; however, I will need to do some sewing – both by hand and by machine. Oh, before I forget, I should check the pockets.” Pushing her hands inside the pockets, she discovered they were quite usable. Pockets in 2019 are just for show, but the ones in this jacket were obviously used as pockets. Pockets used to carry things, like lipstick, gloves and a can of creamed corn. She noticed a small zipper in the right pocket, opening it, she found a slip of paper.
A note? asked Margaret. At this point, she knew there was going to be a more complicated comment coming up. “Please, be a grocery list, please,” Margaret finished the conversation in her head.
You do realize Margaret it is at this point the bad guy storms your aims a gun at us and demands that we hand over this note that's how it works in the movies.
A blank safe appeared on Margaret's face. "Oh, no."
Clarissa cleared her throat and read out the note:
“You will find the manuscript in the basement of St. Giles. Call me when you find it, and we will go from there.”
At the top of the page was the name of a long-closed restaurant that was situated in Aldershot called ‘Randall's’. Clarissa remembered the name, as did every person living and dying in Aldershot. Children yet to be born will know about Randall’s. The restaurant closed in 1978, according to the plaque attached the apartment building now occupying the spot where Randall’s existed. From what she knew, most teenagers got their work experience at Randall’s, Clarissa’s mum being one of them. The piece of paper was from an order book, from what she could tell. It was still in good shape, even after being tightly folded, and like a mummy buried in ice, the bright blue cursive handwriting lasted all this time.
Clarissa gave Margaret a wink and without words, let Margaret know what she was going to do.
“Don't you dare. That place is falling apart; you could die falling through the floor. Something could fall on you, or you could get bitten by some kind of insect or beast. No, do not, I repeat, do not go there,” Margaret spoke in a hurry, yet her tone was very stern.
“Margaret, it will only be for a moment. I ...” Clarissa stopped to think of the right words. “Marg, you and I are on our way to commit an adventure,” continued Clarissa, winking.
“No, we are not.”
“Yes,” began Clarissa, slowly, “we are going on an adventure. You are taller, and there might be shelves.” Clarissa, turning to face Margaret, who moved closer to the door, “let’s go,” she finished and hugging her jacket. With that, Clarissa and Margaret left the Aldershot Dramatic Society.
It was a cloudy morning, heading closer to noon. Clarissa found it perfect hunting weather. For someone not wanting to go with Clarissa, Margaret did not seem to go another direction. The two were silent as they made their way down the street toward Saint Giles. People take photographs of buildings like Saint Giles with the aura found in places like Aldershot.
“S-a-i-n-t Giles,” whispered Clarissa to Margaret. Margaret nodded in silent agreement. Saint Giles, the former Anglican Church down the street from where Clarissa lived, is derelict, is considered to be haunted. Throughout the Prairies, whether being in Canada or the United States, churches like Saint Giles become a focal point for photographers, painters and squatter. The last time Clarissa walked past she saw a skunk.
The jacket began to fit better as they neared the church’s front door, or was this Clarissa’s imagination? Margaret could see Clarissa move quicker, touching the jacket as if it were a good luck charm. Margaret was not a person who believed in curses or hauntings, but part of her wanted to brush by the coat, just in case.
A figure stopped, looked at Clarissa and Margaret, then walked on. Either of the two women saw the person.
The front door was locked, yet this was not a problem for Clarissa, as she had a knack for opening unopenable things. With a small jiggle and a couple of heavy sighs, the lock became unlocked. The creak of the door would have awoken everything, even those who were awake.
“I have a funny feeling the minister would not have minded this sound effect to catch those sneaking in,” Clarissa said with a laugh.
“Clarissa, this was an Anglican church, I highly doubt the minister was that strict,” commented Margaret. “In fact, from what I remember of my grandfather, he was an Anglican minister in Regina, most priests were quite happy to see anyone come in, regardless of the time of the show.”
“Ah, my kind of place,” Clarissa replied quietly.
The air in the church was dusty and musty. The cracking of the boards as they walked down the aisle did shock both at first. Both stopped to look around, Margaret regretting she left her cell phone at home, as this would have been a great time to take pictures. The pews still looked in good shape, though some did have some water stains from one of the windows that was not boarded over. This must have been recent, as one of the benches was still wet. It had rained the night before. The altar cloths were still on display, and the Gospel Book was sitting on the lectern waiting to be read. The stillness was snapped when Clarissa made a move to the back of the church towards the vestry.
“Clarissa, NO!” yelled Margaret. Her voice echoed eerily.
Clarissa turned to face Margaret, and with a stern tone said:
“Margaret, I am fine. I will not be very long. Sit down or leave if you want no part.
Margaret watched Clarissa continue to the back room, open the door and to her surprise, the door was open. Clarissa walked into the room, leaving Margaret standing at the altar.
The vestry was completely empty, which seemed rather sad to Clarissa. The altar cloths must have been left to keep the place holy. The room did not appear to be burgled, as you might expect if there were other items on display in the church. Clarissa is rarely hit with guilt; however, this time there was a slight pang. She also began to feel an uncomfortable warmth in the coat. Looking around the room, she found a chair, too off the jacket to cool off. The chair was sitting in front of a desk, which had a telephone. As you find in the universe, there is always a person who tries a phone, knowing full well it does not work. Clarissa is that person.
“I already looked here,” said a confident voice behind Clarissa.
With a sudden movement, Clarissa fell towards the desk, hitting her knee. She saw an older woman in the doorway, standing in front of Margaret, who turned white as a ghost.
“Gran?” Clarissa asked, even though she recognized the woman.
“Yes, Lisa,” answered Gran. Gran was the only one who called Clarissa “Lisa”.
“Clarissa, your grandma followed us in, as you can tell,” Margaret said obviously. “Tabitha, I warned her not to come here.”
Tabitha looked at Margaret and grinned the grin that Clarissa inherited. “Margaret, yet you chose to come in.”
“Yeah, I did. Oh, I hate this. Why?” Margaret started to talk to herself.
“Margaret, stop,” Clarissa had found the words to continue a conversation. “Gran, I do not understand.”
“Come, let’s sit down. Do not fret, the floor and seats are safe here; you won’t fall through today,” Tabitha said as she directed Margaret and Clarissa to two empty seats.
“In 1957 Aldershot was celebrating its 100th birthday and commemorating this a town recipe book was developed. As you can imagine women, primarily, submitted their recipes for the book, and my stepmother happened to be on the committee that was organizing this project. There was one minor issue; committee members were not allowed to put in their recipes due to conflict of interest. This caused a lot of grief and a break-up of the Recipe Committee. My friend, Reneé, and I discovered the rogue members had decided to publish their own book. Reneé and I, fighting demons of our own, decided to thwart the process and take this book to the Recipe Committee. It is that unauthorized manuscript that was hidden in this building.”
Tabitha told her story. She had expected the “all ears” look you find in the movies, yet Margaret seemed uninterested, and Clarissa was not impressed.
“There is no treasure map?” asked Clarissa.
“No, there is no treasure map,” answered Tabitha plainly.
With a look of disappointment, which seemed almost surprising, Margaret said:
“A recipe book conspiracy? I am embarrassed even to say the words.”
Tabitha turned her eyes to the floor. She was also embarrassed.
“You are talking about the recipe book that every new person gets when they move to town? The one that has a thousand copies?”
“Yes,” answered Tabitha.
Recipes of Aldershot was exactly as Clarissa described. It seemed the committee that organised the book got a printing deal. The recipe book is part of the town’s welcoming package. Margaret and Clarissa both received a copy when they moved into their own apartments.
“Wait,” Clarissa spoke with some clarity, “did the rogue book every get printed?”
Tabitha sat up straight, and with no hesitation replied:
“No, it did not.”
“Ah, I see. That was due to the missing manuscript,” Clarissa concluded.
“Well, I am sure their plan was eventually discovered,” Margaret added.
“No, neither of those things caused the book not to be published.”
“Oh,” said Clarissa and Margaret in unison.
“It was down to money; there wasn’t any. As photocopiers were not available at the time, the only way to get a copy was by a printer – there was a place in Regina - or type the complete book yourself. My step-mother discovered the printer in Regina would not publish her group’s book,” Tabitha explained.
“Then why did you come here looking for the manuscript?” Clarissa asked her grandmother.
“That is where that note lead you astray. I should have taken it out before I gave the jacket to goodwill. I was too hasty, I guess.”
Margaret stood up and straightened her back. The vestry was beginning to get cold. The heat of the hunt suddenly turned into the cold of reality. Clarissa, still fuming, sat rigidly.
“The book was collected, turned in to the Recipe Committee, and the whole thing was brushed away. I was recently married, pregnant and looking to find some way to get back at my dad for marrying for the third time. Shaming my step-mother was the easiest way I could find at the time.” Tabitha felt relief to say the words out loud.
“How did you know we came looking for the book?” began Clarissa, looking at Tabitha.
“You,” finished Margaret.
“I did not know at first. When I saw you were wearing my old coat, the one I had to give away due to me carrying your father, I thought it was rather nice to have it back in the family. As I live down the street from you, I followed you because I was going home. I saw you break in and remembered what happened the last time you went adventuring. I was prepared to call for an ambulance. After walking in, I saw Margaret abandoned at the altar and asked what was going on.”
Clarissa and Margaret sat in silence. This was not an adventure, according to Clarissa. Margaret wanted to go home and have a sandwich. Tabitha was glad this episode ended in disappointment. The conversation and explanations were quick and uninteresting. After a few more moments, the three women got up and left the vestry. Walking down the aisle of the church, Clarissa felt slight sadness.
“I should repair the lock, I guess.”
“Yes, that would be nice. Maybe you can come back and place a board over the broken window. If anyone asks, that is what you can tell them as to why you were here,” suggested Tabitha, grasping Clarissa’s hand with compassion.
“I will do that.”
“I told her what you had mentioned as the reason the manuscript was not here,” Tabitha told a person on the other end of the phone.
Tabitha had gone back to the church, entered the vestry and placed a call to Reneé.
“Good. I will come over in a little while. Benjamin is over with his new little one,” Reneé replied. “Oh, did you tell her what the manuscript was?”
“Yes, I gave the version you suggested.”
“Good,” stated Reneé.