Authors: Valerie Sherrard
Tags: #JUV000000, JUV028000
A SHELBY BELGARDEN MYSTERY
Copyright: Valerie Sherrard, 2008
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise (except for brief passages for purposes of review) without the prior permission of Dundurn Press. Permission to photocopy should be requested from Access Copyright.
Editor: Barry Jowett
Design: Jennifer Scott
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Searching for yesterday / Valerie Sherrard.
“A Shelby Belgarden mystery”.
Â Â Â Â Â Â I. Title.
PS8587.H3867S42 2008Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â jC813'.6Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â C2008-900696-8
1Â Â Â Â Â 2Â Â Â Â Â 3Â Â Â Â Â 4Â Â Â Â Â 5Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 12Â Â Â Â Â 11Â Â Â Â Â 10Â Â Â Â Â 09Â Â Â Â Â 08
We acknowledge the support of
The Canada Council for the Arts
Ontario Arts Council
for our publishing program. We also acknowledge the financial support of the
Government of Canada
Book Publishing Industry Development Program
The Association for the Export of Canadian Books
, and the
Government of Ontario
Ontario Book Publishers Tax Credit program
, and the
Ontario Media Development Corporation
Care has been taken to trace the ownership of copyright material used in this book. The author and the publisher welcome any information enabling them to rectify any references or credits in subsequent editions.
J. Kirk Howard, President
Printed and bound in Canada.
Printed on recycled paper.
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Dedicated with love to my daughter-in-law
Maria Amatulli Vucenovic,
who is beautiful in so many ways.
It's funny how you can know someone pretty much your whole life, and then find out that you really don't know that person at all. At least, you don't know the things that really matter about them.
In a town as small as Little River, where the same people tend to be in the same places year after year and you see the same faces day after day, it starts to feel as though your whole world is familiar in a boring, nothing-ever-happens way.
Except it isn't like that. Not really. It just seems that way.
There are always things going on behind the scenes, behind the faces, things that you'd never guess. People have secrets â some good, some dark and horrible.
Underneath the smooth surface of small-town life are both unseen kindnesses and hidden cruelties. Those
human acts we never hear much about, and yet which occur on our streets and in our towns every day.
Displays of goodness. A box of groceries left anonymously for an impoverished family. A donor card signed to offer someone hope even at a time of terrible grief. Medical care paid to save an injured stray. Donations made of money and time and caring, unknown and un-applauded apart from the recipients.
But there is also evidence of malice. A child, mistreated and left to console himself. A cold heart turned away from a plea for help. A pregnant cat, dropped off on the roadside and left to face the birth of her kittens homeless and hungry. Heartless, hurtful acts of selfishness and spite. Outrages for which the culprits rarely face discovery or consequence.
The frightening thing is that you often can't tell them apart â the good Samaritans and the evildoers.
There is so much we don't know, so much that goes on behind what we see. Good fortune is celebrated and suffering is endured behind closed doors and closed faces.
I found out a little about this shortly after Christmas this year. There was still more than a week left in the winter break and my best friend Betts and I were planning a skating party on the Green Pond. That's the best spot around here for outdoor skating. We'd called a bunch of kids from school â mostly our friends in grade eleven, but there were a few from other grades too.
Annie Berkley happened to be one of them. She's a quiet girl who's always struggling to lose weight. She has trouble fitting in with a group and tends to hang back when she's someplace where there's a crowd. Recently, she'd become even more reclusive than usual.
I made the call to Annie, and her foster mother, Pearl Norton, answered the phone. When I asked for Annie, she hesitated, then I heard low voices, which sounded like a whispered argument. After a silent pause, Annie finally came to the phone.
I could hear it in her throat when she said hello: that tight, strained sound of someone who's trying to sound normal. So, of course, I was way too cheerful, trying to act like I didn't notice anything.
I told her about the party, no doubt going way overboard with the enthusiasm. It was as if I had the idea that, if I could just make it sound like it was going to be the most fun ever, she wouldn't be able to resist the invitation.
“Yeah, well, thanks for letting me know,” Annie said. If
had any enthusiasm for the idea, she managed to keep it well hidden.
“So, you think you'll come?”
“I might.” Again, not even a hint of real interest.
I could tell that she was just saying what she had to say to get off the phone, and that she had absolutely no intention of going to the party. But that's not the kind of thing you can confront someone about, is it?
“Great,” I said, feeling like an idiot for going along with the pretence. “So, I'll probably see you there.”
“I really hope ...,” I started.
“Listen, Shelby, I've gotta go,” she said, cutting me off before I could say another word.
Then there was just a dial tone. I hung up the phone, feeling frustrated and, I might as well admit it, a bit insulted.
“You'd think,” I said to Betts, “that she could make some kind of effort. After all, we did invite her. Most people just leave her alone.”
“Most people know she
to be left alone,” Betts pointed out.
“But that's not good for her,” I insisted. “She needs to get out, do things, spend time with kids her own age. I mean, she hardly bothers with anyone at school, and she's the only teenager at her foster home.”
“The Meyerton twins are there. They're not that young, are they?”
“They're only eleven! You just think they're older because they're so tall.”
“Whatever,” Betts said. She'd clearly tired of the conversation. “Anyway, maybe she
But I knew she wouldn't. And sure enough when everyone had gathered, when the hotdogs and marshmallows were being roasted and skates were flashing along the ice, Annie was nowhere to be found.
I would have shrugged it off and figured if she wanted to be antisocial it wasn't my problem, except for something I discovered through a quirk of fate.
You see, as it happened, my boyfriend Greg had a cold. About an hour or so into the skating party he started coughing and coughing and couldn't get stopped. This went on until he was red-faced and doubled over.
“I'm going to get you something for that,” I told him. He tried to protest, but a new spasm hit him and I took that opportunity to haul off my skates, toss on my boots, and run up the bank to the road.
I hurried along the street toward the convenience store on a corner about five minutes away from the pond. And when I reached the corner, I saw something down the street that stopped me in my tracks.
It was Annie. Her back was to me as she trudged along, shoulders slumped and head down. I stood there with a horrible, sad feeling in my stomach as I watched her get farther away.
, hanging from her left hand was a pair of white figure skates
. And I realized that she
come to the skating party â or at least, she'd tried to. I pictured her getting close enough to see all of the kids skating around, laughing and having a good time, and I knew somehow that she'd
to join in, but something had held her back.
It tore at my heart to think of her, overcome by
shyness or insecurity, turning away and beginning the long walk home ... alone.
On my way back to the party, cough drops for Greg in my pocket, I got thinking about how long I'd known Annie and yet how little I knew her. It seemed that, instead of getting closer to anyone as time went by, she was putting up more and more defences. And right then and there I made up my mind that I was going to do everything I possibly could to befriend this sad, lonely girl.
It was the day after the skating party and I was standing on the front step of Annie's foster home. There was no number on the house, but the mailbox said Lucas K. Norton in gold letters, so I knew it was the right place.
I shivered and tugged my jacket closer to me as I waited for someone to answer my knock. I could hear movement inside: vague noises that finally gave way to the more distinct sound of approaching footsteps.
“Yes?” A tall, thin man stood peering at me over eyeglasses that looked as if they might slide off the end of his nose any second.
“Hi. I'm a friend of Annie's. Is she home?”
?” He sounded surprised, as though he wasn't quite sure anyone by that name lived there.
“Annie Berkley,” I said, as if he needed her full name to recognize whom I meant.
“Yes, Annie.” He smiled. “I was just a little surprised. She doesn't have a lot of friends over. But come in. Come in.”
I stepped into the hall, making sure I stayed on the mat inside the door.
“Is Annie expecting you?”
“Not exactly.” Even as the words came out of my mouth, I wondered what that actually meant! “Is she, uh, busy?”
“I don't really know. She spends a lot of time in her room. Let me get my wife to check for you, uh ...?”
“Okay. Just excuse me for a moment then, Shelby.”
I watched as he took a few brisk strides along the hallway, stuck his head through a doorway, and spoke in hushed tones to someone there. Then he stepped back and a woman emerged from the room. She came toward me, stopping just a few feet away at the bottom of a staircase, tilted her head upward, and hollered, “Aaa-nnie! There's someone here to see you!”