Last time on ACE ARCHER: Caryn Alexander, a mild mannered fact checker, discovered an odd footnote in a science article that brought back old memories of the stories her grandmother used to tell her about Ace Archer, Space Pioneer. However, searching the Internet was strangely inconsistent. Caryn had to go to the source, her grandmother’s books… currently held by her archenemy, her sister Pam!
Caryn rang her sister’s doorbell. Immediately the sound of barking roared up as if it were part of the chime. Caryn’s fingers squeezed into tense fists; she hated dogs, it was part of why she rarely visited Pammy at home. Sorry, she mentally corrected. Pamela. Her sister hadn’t been Pammy since she was ten.
With the sound of latches sliding, the outdoor light turned on over Caryn’s head. A moment later the door opened. The chain kept it from opening far, but she saw her sister’s wan face peer out to confirm it was Caryn.
“Hey, Pammy,” Caryn said.
Pam sighed. “Hang on.”
The door closed for a second and then opened all the way. Behind Pam Caryn could see Grover the Great Dane lurking, waiting for his chance to bite her throat out.
“Grover, down,” Pam said. “He won’t hurt you, he’s a sweetie.” This was apparently as much invitation inside as Caryn was going to get, so she stepped inside, eyes never leaving the canine threat.
“Your place looks good,” Caryn said meaninglessly.
“Thanks. Don and I just had the floors redone.”
The two sisters stood there in the entryway saying nothing.
Finally Pam offered a cup of tea and a seat on the couch. Caryn assented to both. There was transparent plastic covering the sofa, presumably to protect it from Grover’s doggy wrath. Pam sat across from it on a wicker chair.
“So, you said you wanted some of Granne’s stuff?” Pam asked. “You never seemed to have any interest in it before.”
It was Pam’s way to make every statement some kind of accusation. Caryn ignored the subtext and reminded herself that the best way to deal with her sister was to pretend she wasn’t attacking at all.
“Yes, just recently I came across some articles I think might be about Granne… stuff written back in the thirties and forties. Same name, and the geography seems to work out right based on where she used to live.”
Pammy raised an eyebrow. “What sort of articles?”
“Nothing scandalous,” Caryn said answering Pam’s unasked question. “I think she might have been involved with the writing of those Ace Archer books she used to read us.”
“Oh god, I hated those things,” Pammy rolled her eyes. “I was so glad when I was old enough to ditch out of those summer vacations.”
Caryn thought that if she and Pammy touched, they might explode.
“Anyway,” she continued, “I know you got most of her books and papers and stuff when mom died.”
Defense. “I’m still going to do that genealogy project someday. I’ve just been so busy with all the boys’ school activities and…”
“Pammy, it’s fine. I don’t mind.”
Since defense wasn’t needed, Pam switched back to offense. “Well, I would think not… I mean, all that stuff takes up a lot of space, I’ve had to store it in my attic all these years…”
Caryn sipped her tea for strength. “Then you won’t mind if I haul some of it off with me for a little while?”
Her sister let out an exasperated sigh, which caught Grover’s attention. The Great Dane tromped over and started sniffing. Caryn pushed herself further back into the plastic couch.
“I suppose. But you have to take good care of it… these are historical documents, I’m going to need them to chart our family history.”
Caryn wondered if Pammy even knew whether she wanted them or not. Rarely had she ever heard someone so defensive about such an imposition.
“About how many boxes of her papers are there?” Caryn asked.
“Two,” Pam admitted. Yes, Caryn thought, a storage nightmare. “And four boxes of books.”
“Show me to the attic, I’ll start hauling them down to my minivan.”
The small nod from Pammy’s overlooking head was all the incitement Caryn needed to get started. God forbid Pam lend any assistance to the project.
The attic up the wooden stairs was neither a dusty attic of forgotten tomes nor a Tetris-like mass of odd shapes packed as tightly together as possible. No, Pamela’s attic was a perfectly comfortable sitting room, much like the den below, but with chairs that didn’t match. Pamela hadn’t hidden her skeletons in the closet up here; she had dressed them up nicely and placed them about in jaunty poses. Well, metaphorically so.
It was fairly easy to find her grandmother’s boxes. They were the only ones that weren’t matching labeled file boxes with separate lids. Instead, they were four large brown packing boxes sealed with yellowing tape, upon which rested a Buster Brown shoe box and a fancy jewelry box with an ornate latch. The boxes were in a far back corner of the attic behind a green settee that couldn’t have ever matched any other piece of furniture her sister had ever owned.
Caryn pulled the stack of boxes out and sat on the wooden attic floor, Indian-style. She put the shoebox and jewelry box aside and started with the boxes of books. The first one contained a stack of hardcover Agatha Christie mysteries. Caryn opened the top few checking the indicia. None of them were first editions, but they were mostly printed in the Fifties and Sixties. She repacked the box and crumpled up the tape. The next box of books was much more intriguing. Twelve Ace Archer books, starting with Ace Archer and the Saurian Princess (third in the series) and going to Ace Archer’s Duel With Death! That last volume, Caryn remembered from her research, was the last “official” Ace Archer book published. There had been three in the series after that by a different author, but they were not considered “canon” by Ace Archer fandom, small as it was.
The third box contained the five Ace Archer books missing from the last one, as well as five Agatha Christies and a hardcover copy of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. Caryn opened it to see what printing it was, but her eyes fell upon a penciled inscription on the flyleaf.
“Dearest Anne,” it read. “Maybe this will help you understand. Not only have the sharks come, but there’s no more sea left. I fear we shall never fish again.”
Caryn’s breath caught. It was signed, “Love always, Ace.”
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.