Books

Chapter One

Abby came down the stairs from her apartment to her shop and headed to the front to start the day. She got the cash register ready, then moved on to make coffee and set out the cookies and muffins. Where was Sarah?

It was a quarter to eight and Abby would turn the closed sign to open in a few minutes. As the coffee started brewing and sending wonderful aroma into the room, she looked around to make sure all was in order.

She had opened her little shop eight months ago and she never tired of seeing all the books and magazines displayed around the room. There were small intimate tables where patrons could sit and either use the free WI-FI with their laptops or enjoy a cup of coffee and a snack. Several comfortable stuffed chairs were placed strategically about where customers could sit and peruse a magazine or book. Her place always gave her a warm, comfortable feeling in her chest.

The big franchised bookstores offered more content, but her small shop offered more ambiance and a more welcoming atmosphere. It was perfect for this small New England college town. She often made the cookies that she sold there but she would travel to the local bulk store to buy the muffins. Abby noticed at the end of the day there often were only crumbs left on the shelves. She wondered if she should expand her selections to offer more choices of baked goods. She had already expanded her coffee machines to include flavored coffees and cappuccino. Sales had definitely improved. She had added a small stationary nook off the back. This was where the students could get specialty and novelty items that weren’t available elsewhere in the area.

The cuckoo clock on the back wall came to life announcing the eight o’clock hour. Abby headed for the door to turn the sign and again noticed Sarah wasn’t there yet.

Sarah was her newest hire, a sweet girl with long blonde hair and pixie-like face, a bright smile and twinkly eyes. Sarah was sixteen and a sophomore in high school. She liked to open with Abby and work a few hours each day on the weekends, then come back to help close the day out. Sarah had never been late to work before. In fact, she was usually there twenty to thirty minutes early to help get things up and running. So where was she today?

Emily was the other girl who worked in the cafe on weekends. She liked to sleep in so she would come in and spell Sarah and work through until Sarah came back in the afternoon. Emily was a nineteen-year-old freshman in college who liked her evenings free. Emily was more bookish than Sarah, with short brown curly hair and brown eyes. She was shorter in stature and carried a little more weight than her counterpart. She also tended to dress in jeans and t-shirts, while Sarah would wear micro mini-skirts with bold knee socks and her trademark white tank tops.

Abby opened the front door and held it open with the brightly painted stone door stop she had made for that purpose. It tended to catch people’s eyes. Anything to draw business into her shop. It was already hot, the summer sun bringing the temperature to a new high for this early in the day. She would have to flip on a couple fans to keep the air moving and comfortable. Abby stretched to place the open flag in its spot and turned to go back inside. The Painted Stone Cafe and Book Nook was open for business.

The town’s main street was already busy, coming to life on a Saturday morning. Anthony’s, the restaurant across the street served only breakfast and lunch. It was already filled with people picking up coffee to go. Patrons were sitting on the little brick patio, where there were several tables under umbrellas for al fresco dining.

The clothing store next to Anthony’s wouldn’t open until noon. The real estate office on the other side opened at ten. Students dressed in shorts, tanks tops, and flip flops walked in small groups along the sidewalks, talking and laughing. Older people, she figured they were professors or other local professionals, were scurrying to their offices. Tourists meandered along the street taking their time, enjoying the summer weather and sites. Young people dotted the huge green in the center of town. They were laying in the grass reading or listening to music on their phones.

Abby loved this little town. It had such heart and soul, and it reminded her a little of the small coastal town in Maine where she grew up. The difference being, her hometown had relied on tourism for most everyone’s livelihoods. After Labor Day, it became a virtual ghost town, inhabited only by the few locals who wanted to tough out a coastal Maine winter.

This quaint town of Cambridge was very much alive all year round. There was so much to do, every season had its focus. All the seasons brought tourists. Fall had the colored leaves, frost on the pumpkins, apple picking and apple cider. Winter had skiing, skating, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and ice fishing. Spring was breathtaking with the apple and cherry blossoms. Summer was wonderful, with the large lake for sailing, swimming, and boating. The college community generated arts and social events of all kinds. Not to mention the sports. College hockey, football, baseball, basketball, soccer and more.

As Abby was taking it all in she noticed the small gray SUV security vehicle pulling into a nearby parking space and she smiled and waved. Zack Russell got out of the vehicle with a wide grin as he greeted Abby. He was usually one of her first customers of the day. He was tall and slender but she imagined the way he filled out his security uniform that he had a muscular physique underneath. His sandy blond hair cropped short, was almost military style. He removed his dark sunglasses and beamed at her with flashing white teeth and sparkling blue eyes. She never got tired of looking at him. He made her stomach do little flips every time he looked at her.

“Hey there Miss Abby. And how are we this morning?” She loved the way he called her ‘Miss Abby’. He had a hint of a slow southern drawl. She had asked him once where he was from. He had told her a little about his life in southern Georgia with longing and sadness in his voice. She still hadn’t gotten it out of him why he was living here in New Hampshire, since it was clear he missed Georgia.

“G’ morning Zack. I don’t know about ‘We’ but I am getting a bit concerned this morning. Sarah isn’t here yet and I haven’t heard from her.” Abby looked a bit puzzled. “But then I haven’t checked my texts, maybe she texted me….” She said as she went in search of her phone.

Her friend Renata was always telling her to carry her cell phone and to check it often. She was always missing her calls. Making a mental note to start carrying it in her pocket, she located the phone on the counter where she had left it. A quick check showed no texts or voice mail messages.

Zack had followed her into the café and was watching her intently. “Why don’t you give her a call and see where she’s at. She’s probably just running late.” He slid onto a stool at the counter and eyed the coffee machine.

“Oh, forgive me, I’ll get your black, with two sugars, Zack.” Abby poured his coffee for him and handed him a blueberry muffin, his favorite. She then sat for a moment, picked up her phone and dialed Sarah’s number. After three rings it went to voice mail. All she had for Sarah was her cell number so she grabbed the phone book and looked for a local listing for her. There were several people with the same last name, couples mostly. She remembered Sarah was still in high school, so she would be living with her parents. She tried to remember what street she had told her she lived on. Finally taking a guess, she dialed one and she had guessed right as she got Sarah’s older sister.

No, Sarah was not home. No, she didn’t know where she was. Hold on a minute and she’d get her mom.
“Hi, this is Marian. I’m Sarah’s mom. How can I help you?”

“Hi Marian, this is Abby down at the cafe. Sarah’s not here for her shift. Do you know where I can reach her?”

After a slight hesitation, “Well, she stayed over at her friend Sasha’s house last night. Maybe they overslept. I’ll give them a call.”
Marian hung up before Abby could say thanks. She had wanted to ask her to have Sarah call her, but then she was sure Marian would do that. So she turned back to Zack with a tentative smile and poured herself a cup of coffee to join him. So far there were no other customers in the cafe.

After chatting over a second cup of coffee, Zack said his goodbyes. He started to head out the door and came face to face with Lieutenant Michael Logan, of the Cambridge Police Department and his daughter Sasha. The men shook hands and spoke and then all turned and headed back to Abby.

Lieutenant Logan shook hands with Abby. “Hello, I’m Lieutenant Michael Logan with the Cambridge Police, Ma’am.”

“Hello, Lieutenant. How may I help you?”

“Well, Miss Brennan… “

“Call me Abby, please.” They shook hands and a tingle went up Abby’s arm, such that she almost wanted to pull away. He felt it too, she could tell by the change in his grip.

“Okay, Abby. I understand Sarah Farrell works for you and hasn’t shown up for work this morning. Is this her regular shift?”

Abby thought, Oh, My God, her mom called the police! “Yes, sir, she works for me and this is her regular shift. I haven’t heard from her.” Abby was truly worried now.

“Well, it appears she was to spend the night with my daughter Sasha here.” He stepped forward and placed his big hand on Sasha’s tiny shoulder. “And apparently they snuck out to a frat party from which Sarah never returned.”

Sasha hung her head and Abby saw her father’s grip on her shoulder tighten a little. It was clear Miss Sasha was in mighty big trouble. But with no one knowing where Sarah was, she might be in worse trouble.

“I have sent one of my deputies over to the frat house to find Sarah but I wanted to check with you. Also, Sasha has offered to work Sarah’s shift for you until Sarah returns. Sasha will work for free.” Lieutenant Logan gave Sasha a slight nudge, her head came up and she looked at Abby with tear filled eyes.

“Miss Abby, I’d be happy to work the shift like my dad said,” Sasha said with a little sniffle.

“There’s really no need…” Abby started to say, looking from daughter to father. They both interrupted her.

“Yes, there is.” The lieutenant said with authority. Abby looked into his steely blue eyes and acquiesced. “When Deputy Hughes locates Sarah he’ll bring her by to have a chat with you also.” He said. Abby agreed and the two men left.