Chapter 13

There was a small utility room just inside the back door of St. Zita’s, full of things things like cleaning supplies and extra candles. Ari noticed right away that Arden had, in fact, thrown their trash in the plastic waste can to the right of the door. But since she was not in the supply room he went through the open doorway on the other side, which led into the main sanctuary.

The small sanctuary was dark and cool, like a cave, and the light through the windows shimmered, in stained-glass colors, on the oak pews and floor.

Arden was behaving very strangely. Each time she took a tiny step down the center aisle, she stopped to look right and left at the pews as if she expected something in a seat to jump out at her.

“Ari,” she said, “do you see anyone in here?”

“Besides you?” he answered. “No.”

“And did you see anyone leave the building?” she asked.

“Not through the back door anyway,” he replied. “Was there someone here?”

“Well…,” began Arden hesitantly, “yeah…I mean, maybe….I mean…I think so…you really didn’t see anyone leave?…Like a man?”

“I did not see a man,” said Ari.

“Or…,” said Arden, as if she didn’t really want to say what she was going to say, “or, a dog?”

A tingly feeling ran from Ari’s spine to his ears.
“Was it a little dog?” he asked.

“Very little,” she replied. “And it was seriously tearing pages out of hymnals, but…now they’re not torn…it’s like he never did it.”

“Arden,” said Ari, “Did he say anything to you?”

“The man?” said Arden.

“Dewey,” repeated Ari, “the man with frizzy hair and a compass. Did he say anything?”

“That was Dewey?” demanded Arden. “That was the old guy who told you about the note in the dog statue? He was in your deli?”

“Yeah,” said Ari. “In the middle of the night. With Kipper. That’s the dog.”

Arden looked justifiably irritated.
“I’m not sure a detail about a weird old guy who may or may not be a figment of your imagination is a detail you should have left out!” she said.

“Sorry,” said Ari. “I was afraid you’d think I was crazy.”

“I’m afraid I might think I’m crazy,” replied Arden.

“Well,” said Ari. “you’re not. Because both our imaginations are having the same figment. What did he say?”

“When I first came in here, he was pacing up and down the aisle, like this.” Arden demonstrated exactly the same head-shaking, compass-checking, distracted posture Ari had seen when Dewey was in the deli. “And then, he looked up at me and said ‘Glad to see you’re helping the young fella’…there’s something I forgot to mention.’ Then he stopped, right in the middle of the church and started looking at his fancy compass. He says ‘North, northeast…yeah that’s it.’ Then he says ‘Don’t forget about the columbarium.’”

“Is that all?” asked Ari.

“Well,” replied Arden, “I felt kind of bad about the books, so I said ‘your dog is ripping up the hymnals.’ And he sort of chuckled and said ‘Get over here varmint,’ and then…he was just kind of gone. That freaked me out a little, because I didn’t see where he went, and that’s when I called you.”

Ari smiled and sat down on a pew with a shrug. It felt good to know that even if he was nuts, he wasn’t the only one.
“Yep,” he replied, “that’s pretty much how he disappeared on me too.”

Arden nodded uncertainly.
“So, I guess I don’t need to keep looking for him,” she said.

“I don’t think you’ll find him,” replied Ari. “What’s a colum…what was that word?”

“It’s lucky for you that I read a lot,” she said. “Which way’s north northeast?”

“The Harbor’s exactly west,” said Ari. He got up and began walking toward the back of the sanctuary exactly opposite to the church’s main entrance. “Which makes this corner somewhere between north and east. What’s the columb..the thing we’re looking for?”

Arden joined Ari in the back corner of the church and pulled open the wooden door of what looked like a large cabinet built into the wall.
“This,” she said. “The columbarium.”

Behind the wooden door were many smaller doors. Maybe one-hundred. Maybe two-hundred.

“They look like post-office boxes,” said Ari.

“But there’s no mail in there,” Arden replied. “They’re full of ashes. Of people who were cremated instead of buried. See the names?”

And indeed, Ari did see the names. Each small door, except for a chunk of blank ones at the bottom, was engraved with the name of the person whose remains were behind it.

“Ok, then,” said Ari. “Let’s find Charlie and Effie.” He began to scan names from the top down. “Jiggins, Notch, Caleb…”

“Euphemia Luckinbill Pack,” said Arden, who was reading from the bottom up. “That sounds familiar. Didn’t Miss Samms say something about somebody Luckinbill?”

“Effie,” answered Ari. “Effie Luckinbill was the reason Miss Samms didn’t marry Charlie Krew.”

“Because,” said Arden grabbing the note out of Ari’s hand and reading aloud, “Effie had her choice of men! And one of them must’ve been Charlie Krew! Look! Half the guys in this row say ‘beloved husband of Effie!’ She outlived seven husbands!”

“Effie had her choice of men,” read Ari, “until that June of sixty-when?”

“June 7th,” read Arden, “1962. Sixty-two. The missing word is ‘two.’” She made a quick entry in her notebook.

“One of the missing words,” replied Ari. “The other one goes with Charlie. ‘Now make a rhyme for Charlie Krew. It’s something pretty. Most wear two.”

“Well,” said Arden, “we know he’s here with Effie…yeah, here…husband number two out of seven. Charlie Geering Krew, beloved husband of Effie.”

“Ok,” said Ari. “What rhymes with Krew, and most people wear two…SHOE!”

“Shoes might not be pretty,” said Arden. “You should see my Aunt Becky’s. Some of them are pretty ugly.”

“I guess you’re right,” replied Ari. “Besides, I’m pretty sure we shouldn’t be able to guess the answer without finding his name on the ash box first…which means, maybe we’re supposed to rhyme with Geering.”

“Earring!” shouted Arden.

“That works,” said Ari. “They’re pretty, you wear two…put it with the other words. Does it make any sense?”

“Let’s see,” said Arden. She went back to the pews, and sat where the stained-glass light could shine on the page of her notebook. Ari sat down next to her.

“Eyes, guide, black, orient…two, and earring,” Arden read.

“It’s probably scrambled,” said Ari. “Black earring eyes two orient guide.”

Arden squinted at the page. “How about, Guide to, not two, earrings…guide to black earrings. Oriental earrings.”

“Black oriental earrings,” repeated Ari. “Too weird. How about black eyes?”

“Ok,” said Arden, “The oriental earring guide to black eyes. But it’s orient, you know, not oriental.”

“Orient earring,” said Ari.

“Say that again,” said Arden. “Faster.”

“Orientearring,” repeated Ari. “Orient…”

“Orienteering!” said Arden. “That’s what it’s called when you find your way with a map and compass!”

“A compass?” said Ari. “Then that’s gotta be right. What about the other words?”

“Black, guide, eyes, two. Or to,” read Arden. “Guide to orienteering…with black eyes.”

“You can’t add extra words,” said Ari. He felt quite sure about this. “It has to make sense just the way they are, like…Black eyes guide…Blackeye’s…Blackeye could be, like a pirate or something! Blackeye’s guide…to orienteering!”

“Maybe!” said Arden. “This has to be enough for Miss Samms.” She glanced at her watch. “Too bad the library closed twenty minutes ago.”

“Then it won’t be open again until Monday,” added Ari.

“Meet me after school on Monday?” said Arden.

“Yeah,” he agreed. “Monday. After school.”

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