"Boy," she confided suddenly, "wait till next year. Next year when Mrs. Rhea retires, I'm taking over as head librarian. You come back next year, you can use the phone, whistle, hum. without a signed permission slip from your mother—"

"It's okay." Natalie laughed. "I don't want to use the phone, anyway. I just want to look something up."

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Clement Jeffries was not listed.

Now what, thought Natalie. For a minute there I thought I was really a hot-shot detective. Boy, if they'd put me on the Watergate assignment, Nixon would still be in office.

"Do you by any chance," she asked, returning the telephone book, "have old yearbooks from Simmons' Mills High School?"

Ms. Farley groaned. "You've really made my day," she said. "Yes, we have the yearbooks. But now I have to read you this." She took a paper from the desk drawer, glanced at it, and recited, '"In the past, certain people have abused their library privileges by defacing the high school yearbooks that are kept here. It should be clearly understood that anyone who marks these books in any way, particularly with obscene drawings or remarks, will be held liable for the replacement costs and will have their library privileges suspended for one year.'"

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Natalie crossed her heart earnestly. "I promise I will not deface the yearbooks," she said. "Cross my heart and hope to die."

"You won't draw big breasts with a ball-point pen on the gym teacher?" asked Ms. Farley, grinning.

"I will not draw big breasts with a ball-point pen on the gym teacher," promised Natalie, giggling. "Honest."

"Okay, then. What year?"

"1960."

"Darn," said Ms. Farley. "If you'd asked for 1970, you could have seen me as homecoming queen, freckles and all." She laughed and found the 1960 book in a locked closet lined with shelves.

The 1960 Simmons' Mills yearbook was dark green and was called "The Oracle." The school colors were green and gold, and the yearbook was dedicated to Herman Wright, who was retiring after thirty years of teaching shop.

Julie Jeffries looked exactly like Natalie. She had expected that, but the surprise of seeing it was so great that her knees shook, and she had to sit down.

"You okay?" asked Ms. Farley, watching her.

"Yes," said Natalie slowly. "I'm okay. Thank you for everything."

21

NATALIE SPRAWLED crosslegged on the bed in her room at Mrs. Talbot's, looked through her notes, and summarized what she had learned about her mother. She had spent almost two hours seated at the library table, reading the yearbook from cover to cover.

Julie Jeffries was not in the 1961 yearbook; she had not returned to Simmons' Mills High School for her junior year. She was also not there as a freshman.

Someone named Julie Jeffries, who had long dark hair and light blue eyes, had spent one school year in Simmons' Mills, Maine. She had been there from the beginning of her sophomore year, apparently, because she was a cheerleader. Cheerleading tryouts were always held at the very beginning of a school year. Julie had been pictured smiling and posing with five other girls, wearing short plaid skirts and dark sweaters with a large SM on them. Saddle shoes and knee socks. Her dark hair long and straight, with bangs. Lipstick: this was 1959.

She was probably the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Clement Jeffries, who had lived on Falls Road. They were listed in the 1959 and 1960 telephone directories; there were no other Jeffries in Simmons' Mills. Clement Jeffries was very probably an executive of the P. R. Simmons Paper Company, the same mill that was on this sunny Friday sending heavy yellow fumes over the town.

Julie had been on the honor roll. She was also on the girls' field hockey team that fall and a member of the French Club.

She attended the Christmas formal. Natalie found her in the crowd in a yearbook picture, wearing a floor-length net-skirted gown, ruffled around the shoulders, with a corsage, smiling, holding the hand of a tall, dark-haired boy whose face was turned away and blurred. Damn, Natalie had thought, studying the picture. That is probably my father, and he didn't have enough sense to hold still when the picture was taken.

She had been in the school Dramatic Club, as well, and in November had appeared as Cleopatra in Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra. Natalie blinked in astonishment, looking for a long time at the yearbook photograph of Julie in the role. She was stunning. She was slender, sophisticated for her age (maybe only fourteen then, in November?), heavily made up for the role, with dark shiny color above her eyes, and her hair heavy, her mouth petulant and seductive, as Shaw had written the young Cleopatra to be.

In other pictures, she was simply a very young, very beautiful high school girl, usually laughing.

What else do I know? In December she became pregnant (by whom? Probably the boy who took her to the dance on the 23rd; who is he? No way to know). She would have realized that by what? February, probably; or at least she would have been scared stiff by February; by March, for sure. It may not have shown, three months along. But at some point—say March—she went to Dr. Therrian. Did her parents know?

Would she have finished the school year? Can't tell; the yearbook pictures are all taken before Christmas. The school year ended here in late May; she would have been five months pregnant then. Funny thing; that was the year (she had realized, from the yearbook) that those awful "sack" dresses were in style. Julie could have pulled it off, could have finished her sophomore year without anyone knowing she was pregnant.

Then what? She had stayed in Simmons' Mills. Dr. Therrian had delivered the baby (my Lord: me!) in September. It must have been a horrible summer for her. This isn't the sort of town where one goes unnoticed.

And then she, and her parents (and other kids? No other Jeffries in the high school, at least), had moved away.

Where? And where is she now?

Natalie thrust the notes into her suitcase and went out to her car. Falls Road wouldn't be hard to find, she thought. There are so few streets in this town.

It wasn't. It was, in fact, very close to the hospital, just beyond the huge brick smoke-spewing mill. Falls Road turned off River Road in a curve, crossed the Penobscot on a narrow bridge, and moved in a gradual bend up the hills until it overlooked the town of Simmons' Mills. There were very few houses on Falls Road; Natalie counted seven at wide intervals before the road ended in a circular turn at the top of the wooded hill.

This is where the rich guys live, she thought. I have to add that, then, to my notes. Julie Jeffries was a rich kid. And there weren't very many of them in Simmons' Mills. I wonder if she was a snob; I wonder if she had a lot of friends. She had one friend who made her pregnant. Some friend.

Natalie slowed the car when she saw a gray-haired woman at the end of a long driveway, removing the mail from a box marked "Petrie" in carefully painted Gothic script.

"Excuse me," she said, stopping. The woman looked up, startled, and then smiled when she realized it was a young girl. Not a crank; not a vandal; not a potential mugger.

"Yes?"

"I'm, ah, looking," Natalie said, frantically trying to remember the story she had prepared and hadn't needed to use yet, "for someone who knows something about someone who used to live here."

"Goodness. Could you say that again?"

Not for a million dollars, thought Natalie. It sounded so stupid. "I'm sorry." She laughed. "My cousin used to live in Simmons' Mills a long time ago. I thought, since I was here, I'd drive past her old house so I could tell her I'd seen it. But I've forgotten which one she said it was."

"What is her name, dear?"

"Jeffries. It was Mr. and Mrs. Clement Jeffries who owned the house."

The woman laughed. "Well, they didn't own the house, dear. These houses are all owned by the mill. But yes, I know which one it was, because it's the one I live in now. The Jeffries were here just before we came. I believe they were here only a short time?"

Natalie nodded. "Just a year. But, ah, my cousin has very fond memories of the house."

"Well—" The woman hesitated. "I could show you the inside if you'd like, but I'm expecting guests for the weekend, and I'm afraid—"

"No," said Natalie. "That's all right. But could I just drive up the driveway and look at the outside?"

"Certainly," said the woman. "In fact, you can give me a lift back to the house. It's not far, but it's uphill."

She got into the car, and Natalie drove slowly up the winding narrow driveway. The house was barely visible from the road.

"It's very large," the woman said. "A terrible house to take care of. They built them so big back then. These houses were all built, oh, I think around the 1880s, when people had servants. See?"

The driveway widened into a circular area in front of the house, and Natalie stopped the car and looked up with awe. There were actually turrets at the corners. The front door was heavy oak, carved in an intricate design.

'"Last night I dreamt I was at Manderley again,'" Natalie quoted, smiling.

The woman laughed. "Yes. It's like a Gothic novel, isn't it? You should have to vacuum it, though. My grandchildren adore it—there are back stairs, and dark hallways, and cubbyholes, and the towers, of course. It's fun, for them. But try keeping it clean." She sighed, and got out of the car. "Well, tell your cousin—what was her name?"

"Jeffries. Julie Jeffries. She's older than I am, of course. She was a kid when she lived here."

"Tell her you saw it, and it's still standing, but there is dust in every corner. I hope her mother had more energy than I do."

Natalie smiled. "Yes, I'll tell her."

"Will you be seeing her soon? I can't remember where they moved to."

Natalie smiled again and waved. "Thank you for letting me see it. She'll be pleased. Yes, I'll be seeing her later this summer. Bye."

She drove down the curving driveway again, and in the rearview mirror saw the turrets disappear behind the thick pine trees. Yes, I will be seeing her later this summer. If I can find her.

22

"NATALIE, you're so dumb."

Natalie leaned over and punched Paul affectionately on the arm. He had become very tanned, from work; she felt pale and pasty white, herself. Working all day in an office didn't lend itself to beach trips or tennis, and it had rained the past two weekends.

"You're getting muscles you never had before," she told him. "Big bronze god. Why am I dumb?"

He rolled over and lay on his back in the grass. They were in Natalie's yard, loafing. Thinking up things to do. Saying "Why don't we—" to each other. Then not doing anything. Saturday afternoon laziness. It was good, just being with Paul. She hadn't seen him for a while.

"Because," he said. "Listen, when did I talk to you last?"

"A week ago. You rat. What have you been doing?"

"Messing around with the guys." He grinned. She punched him again.

"No, listen, really," Paul said, more seriously. "I really have been thinking about what you told me. About the whole Nancy Drew bit."

"Mmmmmm?"

"Why haven't you done anything more since you came back from that town—what's it called?"

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