Today's Reading

"I went to the library to find my mother." Annalee blinked in the dark.

'Why am I telling a near stranger this?' But she went on. "I grew up . . . without her. So I'm hunting for her in a census record. I figured the library might have something. Then I got distracted by a detective story." She tried to laugh. "But I was there for my mother. She lived in a mining town in the mountains—a little place called Annalee."

"Like your name? The ghost town?"

Annalee peered at the sliver of moon. "It's abandoned now. And so was I." She stiffened her back. "Up near Telluride."

"Telluride?" Rebecca pulled at her woolen scarf. "My dad owns an old cabin near there."

"Your dad? Small world."

Rebecca slowed her pace to a stop. "May I tell you something?" Annalee gave her a look, showing she was listening.

"Jeffrey steals. That's one reason I was crying. He stole my late mother's jasper necklace."

Annalee took that in. "Steals jasper?" "It's not even worth much. I know." "You want me to find it?"

"I know where it is. It's in the window at the big pawnshop in Five Points. I saw it there."

"So what's going on?"

"Gambling, probably. Jeffrey has a job, but we're always short. He's always in debt. Something's always missing. Even my wedding earrings." Pain crossed her face. "They're small pearls—small but real." She glanced away. "He lies, too. He's not going to meet his boss. That's just some excuse. I checked once. He goes somewhere else, but I don't know where or what he's doing, staying out all hours."

"Have you talked to him about it—the stealing and lying, the debts?" Rebecca half laughed, sounding bitter. "A talk?" She looked at Annalee.

"How about now? Can you come in? I'll make us tea." She blinked hard. "For a real talk."

They were at Franklin Street, not quite to Five Points—the city's colored neighborhood. Rebecca pointed to a small house. "This is me. Jeffrey won't be home for hours. Please come in and warm up."

Annalee licked at her lips but hesitated. Something didn't feel right. Barnstormers were high-profile trouble. Some were, anyway. If one was having money woes or marital worries too, she should steer clear. That wasn't her kind of case.

But the airfield angle stirred her like a bad itch. Half the folks in town were fighting to get in early on airport deals. High rollers battled to put up the cash for Denver's new municipal airport, just being planned. Others fought to be the builder, some already testing fleets of planes. But why? To appear modern and smart? Catch the excitement of flight? Annalee didn't know enough about it yet, but she could confess to being intrigued. Flying around in fancy machines? It offered thrills. Maybe a crazy freedom, too. Rebecca might have an inside scoop.

Still, Annalee pushed back.

"The colored detective visiting your house? Having a cup of tea? Now that's a sure way to start trouble."

"I've already got trouble." Rebecca gave the bitter laugh again. "So please come in. Just one cup. It's the least I can do for someone today. I won't cause us trouble."

But of course there was trouble.

Trouble is a determined thing. Insistent but also insidious. Her steadfast old Bible confirmed that. Trouble and anguish find us out, its psalmists said. In this world, Jesus himself declared, you'll have trouble as sure as you live, even though he offered a remedy. Annalee knew that more than most.

Thus, as she stepped onto the porch of the Manns' darkened house, trouble met them with full force.

'"Rebecca!"' Annalee tensed. "A break-in!" She froze. What was this young wife getting her into? "Watch out! There's glass."

"What break-in?" Rebecca gaped at the smashed window on her front door. It stood ajar, glass jagged.

Annalee pushed back the door.

"Wait." Rebecca reached for Annalee's arm. "Should we go in?"

But Annalee was stepping inside, her eyes checking every corner, hands grabbing at the wall for a light switch, which didn't work. The electricity turned off? Light bulb burned out? Bill not paid? Finally she reached for a small lamp, its shade missing, and yanked its fraying cord, groaning at what met her.


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