“Welcome to Lake Falls, nothing bad ever happens here.”
“Says the man chasing foreign operatives in a stolen car.”
Sawyer Finn is a daredevil with a photographic memory. He is returning to small-town, Texas after graduating Yale. His mother expects law school. His father is waiting with keys to the family business. But Sawyer fancies himself a fedora-wearing detective.
Jenny Nicolay is a savant with a silver tongue. After graduating at the top of her Harvard class, she is looking for a fresh start. She boards a train, landing in Lake Fall, Texas. But will the change of address allow Jenny to escape her shadowy past?
Sawyer craves adventure. Jenny knows people. Together they become swashbuckling heroes who might just have feelings for each other.
Moments after hanging the open sign, they hear rumors of a Soviet Spy. Dragging Sawyer along, Jenny pushes the dangerous case and spars with a sketchy gambling tycoon. With fingers in every pie, the tycoon becomes the prime suspect when his arch-enemy, a county judge with information on the spy, is kidnapped.
Gunfights, train escapes, car chases, hired goons, shady politicians, and Soviet spies create havoc for Sawyer and Jenny as they attempt to navigate growing feelings and mounting suspicions.
Can the budding detectives crack the case? Or will the dangerous pursuit drown them in international espionage?
Targeted Age Group:: Adults or YA
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Who says truancy doesn't pay off? I made straight A's in high school and never received detention, but the school required me to attend Saturday school because of a little bit of tardiness. I've never been a morning person or punctual for that matter. With no homework to work on and all sorts of ideas floating around in my head, I decided to start this book. By the end of the four hours, I completed the first several chapters in almost the form you see here. I liked the way this story turned out and almost wish I was sent to Saturday school a few more times. Maybe not – I had to wake up too early.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My characters are influenced by some of my favorite television shows. I loved the action, mystery, and character development of LOST. Gilmore Girls inspired witty, fast-paced dialogue. Alias portrayed one of the best female spies in Sydney Bristow.
CHAPTER 1 – SO IT BEGINS
Dirt and grass smudges stained my white uniform. Oil and pine tar coated my hands. The smell of a crisp spring day and chirping birds battled with the mood around campus. I gathered my glove and bat, swinging it over my shoulder. A cool breeze brushed my cheeks. My teammates left the field disappointed by our loss. Removing my white and black cap, I wiped my dirty face with a handkerchief.
My longtime buddy Mitchell Turner strolled across home plate. With hands in the pockets of his letterman, he kicked at the dirt. "I guess three consecutive years in the College World Series was too much to ask, ey Cowboy?"
I tossed the baseball lefthanded to Turner. "Disappointing way to end the season. And my college career."
"Too bad Poppy wasn't here," Turner said lobbing the baseball high in the sky.
George "Poppy" Bush, served as the team captain in '47 and '48. I filled the role when he graduated.
I slapped the dusty hat on my head and moseyed to the exit. The girl I'd been seeing for a few weeks stood underneath a spreading chestnut tree. She offered a finger wave.
"Say hello to Bernadine for me," Turner said roaming the opposite direction.
When I rotated to Bernadine, I noticed a sketchy fellow approaching her. A fedora shielded his features and he wore a trench coat despite the pleasant weather.
I cupped my hands to amplify my voice. "Bernadine!"
Her gaze lifted from her book and she grinned as she marked her place. With a deliberate motion, I drew her attention to the shady fellow. His eyes met mine and surprise spread across his face. He snatched the purse from her shoulder and bolted. Bernadine screamed. I dropped my bat and raced after the fellow in an all-out sprint. My spikes offered excellent traction as I dashed through the open field.
The thief glanced over his shoulder, his crooked teeth snarled and he sported a bandaged nose. I pumped my arms as I gained on the thief. He sprinted like a gazelle, but during the autumn I was a third-team All-American fullback. The thief relocated the pursuit from the baseball field to the quad. The campus was empty, putting the time after five. Knowing I gained ground, the thief cast the purse aside. While I could have abandoned the chase and returned Bernadine's purse, I decided to catch the thief.
He cut across the grass to the pavement. My spikes slipped as the metal hit the slick pavement. I kept close as the thief dashed across the courtyard. I took a shortcut and hurtled a bench. The couple sitting there screamed as I sailed above their heads. I offered a weak apology and kept my gaze on the purse snatcher. Weaving through the yard I paused the pursuit to rub the golden foot of Theodore Dwight Woolsey – the Bulldogs' good-luck tradition. The thief made a beeline for Phelps Hall and through the arched opening of the castle-like structure. The thief bounced upstairs with great agility, but I refused to let him escape. I mounted the stairs two by two. He ascended until he reached the door to the roof. After an eternity, I gained enough ground to wrap my hand around his bony shoulder. He swerved and sent a dirty elbow to my throat and slammed the door into my nose. I stumbled backward, disoriented by the blow. My momentum sent me tumbling down the first flight. Sitting on the landing, I shook the ache. After catching my breath, I vaulted upstairs to the roof. At first, I didn't see the thief. I scanned the horizon with my eagle vision. His caramel trench coat flapped in the wind, one building over. Scanning, I searched for how the fellow reached the other building. The gap between Phelps Hall and Welch Hall must have been twelve feet. Surely the thief didn't risk a long jump and falling five stories.
As if hearing my concern, the thief saluted. He assumed he reached freedom. I set my jaw, determined to wipe away the cocky swagger. Retreating several steps, I made room for a running start. A quick prayer and a deep breath later I sprinted to the edge of the roof and jumped. My arms flailed in the air as I soared toward Welch Hall. I felt sick when I realized my jump might be a little short. I grasped to the ledge with no more than a few fingernails. With desperation, I tried to find a stronger grip. I managed to secure my left hand as my feet wiggled, in search of a foothold. My right arm slipped from the roof and my stomach sank. What a stupid way to die. I swung my body to the roof and grasped the ledge with my right hand. Using every bit of energy, I pulled myself to safety and rolled onto the roof. With care I stood on the slanted shingles of Welch Hall, my spikes digging in more than they should.
The thief's head spun in surprise as he opened the stairwell door. He expected me either to fall to my doom or abandon the chase. I didn't plan on doing either. Running as fast as I could on the precarious roof, I made my way to the closed door. I yanked on the handle and almost collapsed when it didn't budge.
"That no-good thief locked me out," I said to myself.
With an urgent scan, I searched the roof for an alternate escape. I glanced at the fourth story windows searching for an opening. I slid down the side and dangled on the edge. Resembling a circus performer, I slipped inside the open window. The late afternoon class screamed at my sudden presence. The bowtie professor gave me a perplexed glare. I sunk across the front of the room to the exit.
"You there," the professor said in a European accent. "Number twelve, come back here immediately."
I slid across the waxed hall with the screech of metal spikes and lunged downstairs. With luck, I spotted the thief strolling the courtyard. Like a jungle cat, I stalked him. When I grew close enough, I pounced. I wrapped him in a textbook tackle and pinned him to the ground. With a knee pressed against his lower back, I waited for campus police to arrive.
"He's a purse thief," I said to the head officer Lazzeri.
"I got him, Cowboy," Lazzeri said in his Connecticut accent. "Good work." He gave me a nod of approval and reached for a set of cuffs. I released my pressure on the thief and jogged to Bernadine.
"I got him," I bragged.
"This has to stop," she said in her hoity-toity pitch. "You promised you'd quit this hero business."
"He snatched your purse," I said revealing more of my hometown accent. I attempted to wipe away the dirt plaguing my uniform. "I don't understand why you're angry with me."
"How can you be so calm?" She clipped her words like Oscar winner Katherine Hepburn. "This delusion is going to get you killed."
I ran a hand through my dirty-blonde locks. Now probably wasn't the right time to tell Bernadine about my career change. She assumed I'd start law school next fall and marrying a lawyer was on her list of superficial requirements. I realized I couldn't play football, baseball, and chase girls at Yale forever.
I weighed the decision for the next few weeks until graduation in May of 1949. By then I decided my career path; I wanted to be a gumshoe. My plans didn't mesh with Bernadine and we split. Before returning home I broke the career news to my folks, who thought I was bonkers; maybe I was a little crazy for getting into that line of work.
My summer started normal enough. Everything changed when I hung the open sign. And yes, there was a girl in the picture – an enigma who drove me nuts. The girl signified the beginning of my troubles. One of my first cases landed me in the middle of international conflict with the Russians. I never would have believed our small Texas town could serve as home to Russian spies and the girl I mentioned could lead me into a complete mess.
Most of my early teenage years took place during World War II, a time of disarray. The Germans controlled most of Europe. Like any other boy, I found interest in what took place in Europe. I remembered listening to FDR on the radio. I dreamed of going to war and fighting in Europe, but I too young and in school. In the back of my mind, I hoped the war would linger until I could join. But I never shared that with my parents. They scolded me for saying such things.
I basked in the Texas sunshine, a welcome feeling after four years in the northeast. A brick walkway guided me to the home of my youth. A flood of memories accompanied the stroll. My first steps came on the front lawn at eight-months. I watched my mother bring home my screaming baby brother from the front porch swing. I said goodbye to my family in the driveway when I left for Yale. A smile spread, reaching my eyes.
My father, with his no-nonsense attitude, leaned his broad frame against the porch pillar. He offered me his rough, workman's hand and slapped me on the shoulder. "You look taller." Emotion clouded his baritone.
Charles Finn owned the store in town – Finn and Sons General Store. During the war, I helped him run the business and deal with bonds and shortages. The name plastered to the front of the store said it all. My father expected his three sons to one day run the business alongside him. I shattered his dream when I attended college in Connecticut. Since I returned, he expected me to jump in and leave any fantasies behind.
My mom, Virginia, wrapped her arms around my neck in a suffocating but loving hug. "Welcome home, honey." She taught grade school after graduating from the local college more than twenty years earlier. Everyone in town adored her. I accredited her as the reason I made it to the Ivy League. She loved to read, as her children's names reflected, and she taught me the joy of learning.
Both my parents treasured our little Texas town. There weren't many people or many things to do but they would never live anywhere other than Lake Falls.
My younger brothers sat in chairs on the porch. Lake Falls would be their home forever.
My middle brother, two years my junior, greeted me with a distant handshake. He was named Clemens after Mark Twain's real name. "You're a Yale graduate now." He scratched at his sandy hair. He hadn't changed much since I left for college. I had four inches on him, putting him around five-foot-ten. He had a stockier build. Clem planned to manage the family business since diapers. Much like my father, Clem enjoyed the business.
Seventeen-year-old Twain, obviously named after Mark Twain, rose with a wide grin and a warm welcome. He stood tall like me and my father but lanky. "Don't let nobody scare you off big brother. They're all happy to see you." He rubbed at the top of my head. "Boy do I have some stories for you. I've got four years of town activities to update you on."
His sea-colored eyes filled with excitement as he regaled about our crazy little town. Twain was destined to serve on the town council before he turned twenty-one. Despite his friendly demeanor, he had a politician's doublespeak down pat.
"Come inside for dinner," my mom said grabbing my arm. "I fixed your favorite."
My family had plans. They decided what they wanted to do with their lives and what I should do with mine. But small-town life wasn't my thing. Four years earlier, I was eager to go to college far, far away. I wanted to travel and see the world as soon as I graduated high school. I didn't want to live in a place where everyone knew you, your family and your business. But we didn't have much money, like most families of the time. I worked hard through school and made almost perfect grades. I took on multiple jobs around town and saved every penny. In 1945, I graduated Valedictorian from Lake Falls High and headed to Connecticut. I got a partial scholarship to Yale. My parents couldn't have been prouder, especially my mother. My father was proud for a different reason: I represented Yale on the football field and later on the baseball diamond. I played fullback for the Bulldog's football team and outfield for the baseball team. But I also went to Yale to study law. I figured it would be the perfect career choice given my eidetic memory. Everything I read, I remembered.
I made stellar grades at Yale and enjoyed the classes. I also treasured the Connecticut atmosphere. Unlike Lake Falls, we got a fresh blanket of snow every Christmas in Connecticut. Seeing the campus ensconced in layers of snow was a stunning sight. Taking the field against the hated Harvard Crimson embodied some of my best college moments.
After graduation, I decided to peruse the law but not as a lawyer. I didn't want to prosecute or defend, I wanted to solve crimes. Yale gave me a clear picture of what I wanted to do. I returned home and applied for a private investigator's license. The place I wanted to leave four years earlier somehow became the place I missed the most.
My parents were ecstatic to have me back. We exchanged letters while I attended college, but we hadn't talked in person since the day I left.
"What's this private investigator stuff about?" My father rubbed his full belly. I noticed a touch of gray in his brown hair and somehow, he seemed smaller.
"I thought long and hard Dad, and I realized I wanted to arrest the criminals, not defend them."
My mom gathered our dishes and headed to the kitchen. My politician little brother leaped to his feet. "I'll help, Ma. You deserve a break."
My dad shook his head. "Well Sawyer Finn, PI, I wish you would have figured that out before you wasted four years in college."
Yes, my name was Sawyer Finn. My mom loved to read so with the last name Finn, Sawyer seemed like a logical choice. The name combined two of Mark Twain's most popular characters, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. I rubbed my square jaw. Parents had a talent for making your name sound like a threat.
My petite mother returned to the table. "It wasn't a waste Charles." She, unlike my father, hadn't aged a day. Not a trace of gray touched her blonde locks. "After the summer, I'm sure Sawyer will decide to attend law school. I talked to Mr. Holden last week at the store and he praised the University of Texas Law School. You would be closer to home and also receive an excellent education. Then in a few years, you could start your practice or even become a prosecutor."
My father twisted to face my mother. "Sawyer's wasting his time. I built the store for the boys. 'And Sons' isn't for decoration. You have a mind for this business. You've done the college thing. You have a fancy education. It's time you joined the real world."
I combed a hand through my slicked dark blonde hair. "I learned how the law works. That'll be an advantage when I start my agency."
"Where are you going to open your agency?" asked my practical father.
"Right here in Lake Falls, of course," I said.
My mom cleaned off the table. "And then maybe in the fall, you can reconsider law school. But for now, I'm happy to have you home."
Clem shot me a look, already disapproving. "What kind of investigating can you do here? We live in Lake Falls. Nothing bad ever happens."
I glared at my younger brother. "You're twenty Clem, not forty. What do you know about a PI business?" I shot from my chair. "My decision is made. This is what I'm doing. I don't care how impractical it might sound to you. I am doing it." I hugged my mother and headed for the door. "Tell Twain I said goodbye."
Without another word, I trudged outside in the direction of Main Street. I traveled the clean, healthy streets. Our little town recovered from the Depression and prospered after the war.
I stepped across the area we referred to as Town Circle. I trudged through the park and entered Town Hall. "Is Mr. Waley in?"
The woman at the front desk peered over her bifocals. "Do you have an appointment?"
"Yes, the name's Sawyer Finn."
"Go on in Mr. Finn. Mr. Waley will be expecting you."
Theodore James Waley the 4th, the richest man in town, controlled Lake Falls. He owned almost every piece of land and building in town. If I planned to have an office I had to go through the old tycoon.
"Hello, Mr. Waley. How are you today?"
"Not bad Half-Pint and you?" His thick, coarse gray mustache bobbed as he spoke. I cringed at the nickname my tall frame no longer warranted.
Waley, as most people called him, was in his early sixties. Course gray hair lined the side of his head, and a shiny bald spot glistened in the middle.
"I'm good." I tampered my annoyance. "How's your grandson doing these days?"
He adjusted the round glasses he wore along his thin face and across a prominent nose. "Teddy is doing great. Thank you for asking."
I learned the best way to get something from a Waley was to butter them up and take an interest in their lives.
"What is he, twelve now?"
Waley beamed. "Sure is. He played his first round of golf a week ago. He's going to be the next Byron Nelson."
After the Waley family bought most of the land around the town, they wasted many of the acres on a golf course. Being expensive, and the first of its kind in our county, most people considered it useless. Only the Waleys and their prosperous friends could afford the indulgence. I would never step foot in their ritzy club.
"Do you like golf, Sawyer?"
I attempted to hide my surprise. The Waleys had a motto "Never talk about others when you could talk about yourself".
"I'm more of a baseball or football fan myself."
"Really? What team? Yanks?"
"You like Joe DiMaggio?"
"He's with the Yankees. I'm a big Ted Williams fan. The Splendid Splinter."
"I've never been interested in baseball. Golf is my game. It's quiet and peaceful."
When Waley got going, it was hard to bring him to a stop. After hearing about his exploits on the links for an exhausting ten minutes, we got down to business. "So, what can I do for you, Sawyer?"
"I'm searching for office space to rent."
"A budding entrepreneur. What field are you entering?" he asked.
"I'm starting a private investigating business."
Waley eyed me. "Are you sure that's smart?"
Why did people keep asking me that? Didn't Waley want to rent the property? "Do you have anything for me?"
"I think we could find something."
An hour later I left bound to a two-year lease agreement on a one-room office. It wasn't ideal, but it was a place to start.
For twenty-one years, I called Boston, Massachusetts home. I'd never been away from my hometown except for vacations here and there. I glanced around the packed train and to the bag at my feet. This time I didn't plan on returning to Boston. I watched the other passengers as I twirled a silver dollar between my knuckles. During the previous leg of the trip, I entertained a pair of six-year-old children for close to three hours with my endless supply of coin tricks. Their parents were more than happy to have them quiet and in awe of the disappearing and reappearing silver dollar.
My survey landed on a family of four. I overheard they planned to see California. My jealousy didn't lack merit. As a young girl, I lost my mother and didn't remember much about her. I didn't have any siblings, so I spent the majority of my time with my father. A pain formed in my chest at the prospect of leaving home, but I couldn't stay any longer.
The ticket taker came by once again, checking to make sure everyone belonged. "Enjoying the ride?" he asked as he marked off my ticket.
With a British accent, I said, "Indeed. It's been ages since I thoroughly enjoyed traveling."
The man tipped his hat and went on to the next passenger. I wasn't from England, nor did I speak with a British accent. I closed my eyelids and remembered the games my father and I played when we traveled. Adopting a unique accent and persona was my favorite game as a child. But it felt odd playacting alone. Or maybe I realized it was more than a game.
Tucking a strand of dark brown hair behind my ear, I resumed reading my book. My mind traveled through time as I heard swinging jazz music and pictured people dancing the Charleston. I flipped another page of the yellow, frail book I'd read many times before. While the Great Gatsby wasn't my favorite book, it ranked near the top of my list.
"I need a cup of coffee," the foul, demanding man said from a neighboring seat. For the last four hours, he'd done nothing but complain and yell at his wife. The woman's head bobbed but her eyes never left her shoes. My observation techniques were as sharp as ever. From the moment I saw Mr. Hanson and his frightened wife, I pegged him as trouble.
I placed the book atop my bag and decided to stretch my legs. I smoothed the pleats along the front of my springtime blue dress before adjusting the wide, V-neck collar. The heel of my new white shoes silently followed Mr. Hanson to the dining car. I'd never met him, but something about him gave me an uneasy feeling. He toddled to the coffee pot inside the dining car and poured a large cup. He held the mug as he leaned against the wall. After several minutes, Mr. Hanson hadn't made a move to drink the coffee in his hands. He scanned the crowd as if meeting another passenger. Then it hit me. His beady gaze canvassed the crowd searching for a mark. The lowlife thief flinched when he found a suitable mark. He rubbed his thin neck with a grimy mitt. His squint focused on an older gentleman with an affluent air about him. The older man wore a flawless, tailored suit. A shiny, gold pocket-watch protruded from his breast pocket. Mr. Hanson revealed gapped teeth as he sneered.
Mr. Hanson pushed his way to the older gentleman, bumping him as they passed. I watched Mr. Hanson stuff his hand in his jacket pocket along with the older gentleman's wallet.
I rolled my eyes at Mr. Hanson's amateur attempt. The train didn't have another scheduled stop until Austin, three hours away. If the older man noticed his missing wallet, Mr. Hanson would soon be wearing bracelets. But what if Mr. Hanson got away with the pickpocket? I sighed, knowing I had to intervene. I poured myself a cup of the steaming brew. Mr. Hanson fought through the crowd, returning to his seat. I stayed for several minutes, sipping the coffee. When I felt Mr. Hanson had sufficient time to return to his seat, I followed. As I crept closer, I spotted his blonde rug peeking above his seat. When I drew close enough, I made a spectacle of tripping and spilling the remaining contents of my coffee on Mr. Hanson.
Mr. Hanson's face reddened and his fist balled like he wanted to clock me.
"Oh, my stars," I said in a Georgia accent. "What have I done? I am such a klutz."
Mrs. Hanson emitted a whimper. "Oh no."
I retrieved a handkerchief and blotted at the stain on Mr. Hanson's blazer. "I'll have this stain out in no time, mister. My great aunt Stacy has a remedy she just swears by. I never leave the house without it." As I blotted with my left hand, I took the wallet with my right. I placed it in my handbag before Mr. Hanson shoved me.
"Watch it, Bud," another man with glasses said intervening. "The little lady apologized."
When Mr. Hanson ambled to the next car, I squatted, pretending to discover his dropped wallet. "Oh no, he dropped his wallet. I am too clumsy for my own good." I buried my head in my hands.
"I'll give it back to my husband," Mrs. Hanson whispered taking the monogrammed wallet. She turned it in her hands, not recognizing the object.
"Is that not your husband's wallet?" I asked the question loud enough for others to hear. "I'm sure I saw it fall from his pocket."
The man with glasses stepped forward. "Why's he got some other guy's wallet?"
"It's a mistake," the wife said in a cracked voice.
"Maybe some kind of mix-up or somethin'," I offered.
The man with glasses snatched the wallet. "I bet anything your husband lifted this off another passenger. I knew the guy was trouble."
"He said he was through with this stuff." The wife spoke in a soft voice only I could hear. I felt bad for the charade and embarrassment I'd caused the woman. Maybe publicly wasn't the best way to return the wallet to its rightful owner. Then again, I couldn't let Mr. Hanson get away with robbing other passengers. I did the right thing, even if it meant picking Mr. Hanson's pocket. I patted Mrs. Hanson's shoulder and turned to my seat. I froze, something striking me as odd. The necklace hanging from Mrs. Hanson's neck belonged to a passenger that exited the train during the last stop.
"Your necklace is lovely ma'am," I said pointing to the intricate gold design.
Her hand gravitated to the stolen item. "Thank you." The harshness in the clipped words startled me.
"It belongs to a guy named Hester," the man with glasses said as he held the monogrammed wallet and informed the ticket taker. "The man in that seat," he pointed next to Mrs. Hanson, "stole it."
I devoted my attention to Mrs. Hanson. Her demeanor shifted. I glanced at her open handbag. Several gold items were dumped inside, no doubt stolen as well.
Mrs. Hanson followed my sightline and bolted. She drew a knife and wrapped me in a stronghold.
"What's going on?" the glasses man asked glancing away from the ticket taker. He enjoyed the excitement but didn't want to participate in the action.
Several other passengers fled the car for the safety of another. An officer aboard the train barreled in from the direction of the dining car.
I panicked at the cold steel blade against my neck. The sharp edge dug into my skin. How could I get myself into such trouble? And to think, I felt sorry for bringing embarrassment to the plump woman.
Despite my racing heart, I stuck with my southern accent. If I didn't the other passengers might imagine I was somehow involved with the Hansons. "Honey, I'm not sure what you're doing taking me hostage, but this surely can't be your best option."
"Shut up," she said holding me tighter.
I chided myself for not seeing through her quiet, abused wife disguise. "As of right now, you and your husband have only robbed people, right? It's a felony, but you can't get the death penalty. What you're doing right now, hijacking a train, makes it a federal crime. And if you kill anyone, it bumps this whole thing to murder, a-hangin' offense here in Texas."
"What are you rambling about?" she asked.
"I'm giving you some advice," I said. "My daddy's a lawyer."
My father taught economics at Harvard University. But I'd read enough detective stories and enough court cases to fake it with the dimwit holding a knife at my throat.
"It's too late; I've already pulled a knife."
"But you haven't killed anyone," the police officer chimed in. "If you let the gal go, we'll forget about this mess."
"I don't trust the police," she said.
"Me neither," I said trying to bond. "But I decide whether to press charges at this point. They ain't got nothing on you if I don't."
"No huh?" she said loosening her grip enough for my escape. I lurched away from the madwoman and the police officer pounced, wrestling the knife from her grasp. As the officer slapped cuffs on her wrist, I tried to slow my pounding heart.
"That was quite foolish, little lady," the officer said as he hauled Mrs. Hanson away. "Let's go get your crook husband."
I returned to my seat proud of the part I played in the sting. The operation didn't run as smoothly as I'd like but I managed to catch a pair of thieves. I spent much of my youth reading detective stories, even female detectives like Nancy Drew, but I never experienced the thrill of catching a criminal.
My father raised me without help from anyone else. It wasn't traditional, but I had an interesting and fun childhood. Every day he went to work at Harvard, I promised him one day I'd go as a student. He taught me many different skills, not how to cook or take care of a house but he taught me the joy of a good book. Among other things. I recalled his study with fondness. Walls covered in bookcases and bookcases filled with books. I made it my goal to read every book in the room but I left home maybe three or four short.
After World War II, Harvard started accepting women into their college. I applied during my senior year of high school. Pride flashed across my father's face when he handed me the big envelope. During the four years I spent at Harvard, I heard rumors I owed my acceptance to my father and his string-pulling ability. I ignored them because I knew they weren't true.
Four years later, I proved I belonged at Harvard. I graduated in the top ten of my class with a degree in Business. But after graduation, I felt stuck. My whole life I dreamed of going to Harvard, but I never planned beyond the diploma.
I waved goodbye to Boston and boarded a train. I didn't know what I wanted but I realized I wouldn't find it in Boston. Not knowing what I wanted to do with my life wasn't my only reason for leaving. My carefully crafted world crumbled and I ran as fast as I could. But Boston resided in my past. I deserved a fresh start. I visited a few places along the way after my incident on the train, but nothing felt right. An image of my mom's hometown drifted into the front of my mind. It was described with love and comradery. The small Texas town was located in the southern part of the state. I wasn't acquainted with the locals but I sought somewhere to belong – a place to evoke the "home sweet home" sensation. I boarded another train from Austin to San Antonio. From there, I took a bus to Lake Falls.
I stepped off the bus, luggage in hand. A long deep breath yielded fresh and pure air unique to the country. I stared at the sky challenging anyone to find a prettier color blue. The afternoon sun reflected off the glass window of the bus and I realized what true heat felt like. I bathed in the sunshine, somehow enjoying the sizzling glow on my neck. The bus dropped me in front of a quaint general store on Main Street. The old letters above the door spelled Finn and Sons. The design of the store provided a quaint atmosphere. I smelled the faint aroma of fresh bread as I opened the door. A bell chimed signaling my presence.
"Welcome, young lady," said a man from behind the counter. His dusky hair featured a slight dusting of gray in the sides which put him around forty-five years old.
I spotted fresh fruit and vegetables in round wooden bins. A long row of homemade bread made me dream of a submarine sandwich. A Coca-Cola ice tub filled with bottles of Coke, NuGrape, Frosty Root Beer, 7-up, and Dr Pepper sat at the front entrance. Near the rear of the store were household items ranging from clothes to cans of paint. "You have a lovely store, Mister."
"Charles Finn. But you can call me Charlie. Everyone does." He had a strong South Texas drawl but also seemed well educated.
"I'm Evalynn Waley, sweetheart." Her dark irises studied me. "I haven't seen you in town before. You must be new."
"Yes, ma'am. I arrived from back east. It sure is hot today."
"Honey, it's only June," Charlie Finn said. "Just wait until the forty-three days of August roll around." He slapped his knee and laughed at what must have been an inside joke. "It's miserable heat until September 15 most years. This is practically winter weather."
My father complained about a Texan's tall tales; for my survival, I hoped the summer heat was one of them. "I sure hope it doesn't get much worse than this."
Mrs. Waley patted at her fashionable white hair. "Are you passing through or staying?" She stood at the front counter with a bag of groceries. She too spoke with a drawl but more aristocratic.
"Staying." I liked Lake Falls. I'd only been there for five minutes, but I felt right at home. I decided I would even risk staying through the dog days of summer.
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