Copyright 2012 by Henrietta Handy
— II –
The first box had arrived three weeks ago to the day. It was addressed to Miss Emily Post and did not have a return address on the envelope. The postmark said it had been mailed from Detroit, Michigan. Emily hadn’t thought anything about opening it because sometimes her brother Shaun sometimes forgot to put his return address. This was because sometimes Shaun didn’t know exactly where he was because he was a long-distance trucker. Emily had gotten packages from all over the United States because of his travels.
Shaun Post made sure to call her once a week. Every Sunday they would catch up on what had gone on in their separate lives. Now Shaun had a laptop and was really into Skype, which gave Emily the opportunity for her to see him now, but sometimes Shaun had to rely on the old fashioned telephone if Internet service wasn’t available. Shaun had done this ever since he had started driving. Driving “The Lucky Duck” was his passion and his sanity. Just as Emily knew about Frank the Mailman’s cancer and Rodney’s suicide, she also knew Shaun hadn’t been able to sleep since he had gotten out of the war.
Her brother was probably suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because he had atrocious recurring nightmares about the house in Iraq. He had received a couple of medals, including the Purple Heart, for his actions at “the house” that had saved not only his life but many of his fellow soldiers. Emily didn’t know what had happened there, but Shaun wasn’t proud of what he had to do and was convinced he had lost part of his humanity, his soul on that mission. Shaun was afraid he would have a full-fledged flashback and hurt her or someone else. As long as he was driving and meeting deadlines he didn’t have to worry about making a home anywhere specific. He felt safer driving the country and Canada.
Emily pulled herself away from thoughts about her brother. (He was in Omaha now.) None of that was concerned with this package or the other two.
The first one had been an old photo. It was of a woman in a 19th Century attire and a man in a dapper suite, also of the same era. The man was seated and posed, like many of the pictures of that time, beside a table. His left arm was resting on the table and he seemed to be looking off to his right. He was actually staring at it in an all-consuming manner. The woman was standing to his right. Her left hand rested on the man’s shoulder and her gazed was directed straight into the camera’s lense.
The dress this woman wore was simple in the bodice, but the full skirt was decorated with swirls that resembled cursive “e’s” at the bottom. Her face was oval, and she was very pretty. She was proud. She was determined. Emily didn’t need that odd knowing-without-knowing gift of hers for any of those determinations. That’s how the woman in the picture was.
The second “gift” had come the following Wednesday. This time it was a writing pen, the old kind that used nibs and you dipped into a bottle of ink. The pen was red with a nib and several replacement ones. It was protected in well-kept little box big enough for it and possibly one other dip-pen. The top slid to the side to give you access to the pen.
There hadn’t been a note in the package, just like the first one: it was empty of greetings or anything other than the contents of the pen box. The postmark on this package said West Virginia. Had the person who was giving her these things picked up the pen box and pen in West Virginia? Were they from West Virginia? So how did Michigan fit into the picture?
Now Emily had a third package. The postmark was Lexington, Kentucky. Emily’s mouth went dry. A little tickle of sweat rolled down the center of her back. Why couldn’t she pick up anything about the person who was sending her these things?
Because you never really tried to figure out how to use this stuff to your advantage, chided Emily’s inner appraiser. It was true. Emily had not ever tried to control what went on in her head and the knowing-without-knowing. She had accepted she knew things and had been very careful of how she approached people and situations.
Benny pawed Emily’s arm; his tail was curled and wagging. Emily nodded, more to herself than to the dog, and ripped open the box. Inside was a book. It looked to be about six inches long and four inches wide. The pages were lined in silver and it was at least an inch and a half thick.
The book was bound in dark brown leather that had been worked until it was exceptionally soft and pliable. A leather thong wrapped about the entire thing, making a flap and closure. It was a beautiful piece of craftsmanship and love. Emily carefully removed the book from the box, much like she was removing a bomb, and placed it gently on the table in front of her.
Emily examined the packaging and the box for anything else. A piece of paper explaining what was going on would have been nice. There was nada. This forced Emily’s attention back to the book. Friskers had already discovered the leather wrapping string and his paw was working at it fiercely, claws extended and eyes blazing green with excitement. Benny put his front paws on the table and sniffed curiously.
Carefully, Emily unwound the leather strap and opened the flap. Emily Post was even more careful with completely opening the book. Once she did her heart gave a little skip because there was a folded piece of paper lying just inside. The pages of the book were blank, and surprisingly lined.
Her hands trembled slightly as she unfolded the piece of paper. It was good, thick, quality paper. The writing on the page was elegant – from another era. A large “A” was printed on the top of the page. Was it an initial or company logo?
You are as different from the legendary Emily Post as night is from day. I know you. I know you have a deep fear of fire and that you learned to swim only because your sister wanted to impress a boy and so made you learn. I know you have a deep love of animals and this planet. I know you don’t feel human a good portion of the time and that sometimes, when the wind rustles the summer leaves it frightens you.
Emily shivered. This was true and she had never told a soul and she didn’t keep a diary or journal.
I know these things, Miss Post, because I am exactly like you. We have a sixth sense, a special gift – or would you count it as a curse? We know things about people, situations, animals, and sometimes a good deal about the future. The difference between us is that I have trained my mind since I was a very young child so my legacy would not be wasted. You, I Know, have done nothing.
Find the woman in the photo. I’ll give you a clue as to where she is:
1. She lives in Lexington.
2. She looks very much the same.
3. Her name is Wilhelmina Chastain.
She will teach you about your own legacy. Or curse. It is your choice.
At the end of this year I am giving you, I am going to kill Wilhelmina Chastain, and then I am going to kill you.
You may call me