A thatch of tumbleweed scuttled across the parking lot like some scrawny creature caught naked.
She felt a little exposed, herself, and pulled her coat closer as she braved the wind. What am I doing here? How did I get myself into this?
She had agreed readily enough when the tiny woman pressed her hand and insisted on her participation. Of course she did, she loved her Nana, transparent matchmaker or not. Nana's favorite orderly at the nursing home, Chuck, had also been roped into the game, imagine. Suzie hoped he was the fine young man Nana bragged about, because she saw his old truck wheeze into the spot next to her car. Too late to bail out now.
He hustled to the chain link fence with a large satchel. Sure enough, the key Nana had given him on the last day of her life fit the enormous padlock, and Suzie's key let them into the building.
Nana had arranged things so that they had to work together to retrieve what she called 'her greatest treasure,' following the instructions in her will. So here they were--her only living relative and her last friend--in this abandoned factory, which Suzie was surprised to learn Nana owned.
"Okay, we're in. Whew! It's good to get out of the wind." Chuck ran his fingers through his hair in an unsuccessful effort to tame it.
"Yep. Here we go. Do you really think we can find it? We don't even know what we're looking for." Suzie didn't voice other thoughts: was this just a wild goose chase, with nothing more than an elderly woman's silly schemes behind it?
"Well, let's give it a try, and see if things fit together. I don't have to tell you how crazy she was about puzzles, word games, and figuring things out. She said she'd been working this out in her mind for years, and she was so excited about the whole thing. Might as well start. The first clue, according to the will, is on this tape."
He set down the case and rummaged around until he had the cassette in the portable player, then pushed PLAY. Nana's warm voice, with smiles around the edges, echoed through the entryway:
"Hello, Darlings! Are you ready to begin? Of course you are! Six words:
"Got it? Good. Go!"
The two young people looked at each other, mystified. Angel Can, Direct Forward, Book Everyone. What? Huh?
They huddled over the tape player, rewinding and replaying the brief greeting over and over, mumbling, "What did she say, exactly?" and tossing ideas back and forth.
They decided to head straight down the hall in the center of the building, hoping that was the "Direct Forward" part of the clue.
"Maybe we'll see something that looks like an angel..." Chuck said.
"...or a can. Or a book?" Suzie knew Nana loved to read, and had been an avid book collector.
"I thought she meant the verb book, as in when a criminal is processed. Book Everyone." Chuck raised his voice over the howl of the wind outside. "Like that old television show: 'Book 'em, Dano!'"
"Nana wasn't much of a TV watcher, so I doubt it. Look!"
They stopped in their tracks. In a room to their right they saw a vast library, dusty and packed with hundreds of books.
"Nana's books!" Suzie was delighted to see that they hadn't been sold off or lost when Nana entered the nursing home: here they were! Some she recalled from her childhood: warm memories of sipping hot cocoa in the window seat while Nana read out loud, or dreaming of far away places while they sat in the shade under the elm tree in the summer. She ran her finger lovingly over the worn spines of the books of her childhood, her companions.
A table in the middle of the room had papers stacked on it, and Chuck said it was an inventory of all the books. "I wonder if this library is the 'great treasure' she mentioned. The notation 'First Edition' is next to many of the books listed, and there are collections: all of the Nancy Drew mysteries, and...
"...Hmm. This one is circled. The complete works of Billy Graham--you know, the preacher?"
Suzie had an idea, knowing Nana's love for organization, and within a minute they had located their next clue.
How to find that clue is here in these 750 words...