It was a typical spring day in Florence, Oregon. A fine mist covered the river, a sharp breeze was blowing up, and rain wasn’t far away. The line of buildings opposite the river had been erected some years back and were now home to several shopkeepers. The old-fashioned wooden frontages lent a sense of history to the Old Town, which was an area loved by tourists and locals alike. The overnight rain had left several puddles on the roadway where a family of three jays were competing for the available water.
Ellen Williams stood outside her bookshop, The Reading Nook, and examined the window display with a critical eye. Since she’d moved into the premises a few years earlier and set it up as a bookshop, she’d worked hard to make it what it was today. Now, tourists to the area headed there, eager to sample her wide selection of local and Native American offerings, while the locals enjoyed her skills in sourcing hard-to-find books as well as the provision of new releases by their favorite authors.
Weak sunlight sparkled on the cobweb-fine threads and feathers in the dreamcatcher hanging from the top of the window. She’d made it the focus of the display for the Native American fantasy books, much loved by the local youths. Ellen sighed, and fingered her long plait of black hair streaked with grey as a gust of wind blew the tails of her shirt. Gazing at the dreamcatcher, she wished she could catch her good dreams and dismiss the recent nightmares. The display would have to do. She didn’t have time to tweak it any further this morning. Turning away, she became conscious of a dark cloud obscuring the sun and shivered with a sense of foreboding.
Signs and portents weren’t unusual to Ellen. Since childhood she’d been able to see things others couldn’t. Usually they helped her to see the future for others, enabling her to assist them through difficult times. This was something different. It was as if she could smell trouble brewing, but without her usual innate sense of what it referred to. It seemed she had no option but to wait for something to happen, something momentous perhaps, something over which she would have no control.
Back inside, Ellen lit the scented candle she always kept behind the counter, breathed in the calming aroma of bergamot and geranium, and set to unpacking and sorting a carton of books which had arrived the previous day. She’d hoped to lure the author featured in her display to a book signing, but his publisher had replied that Peter Travers wasn’t doing any signings in the foreseeable future. Ellen was in the process of setting up the inside display, when she heard the familiar jangle of bell above the door.
Ellen nodded. Accustomed to meeting most men’s eyes, she had to raise her head to meet his steely blue ones. Tall and broad shouldered, wearing a soft dun colored, fringed suede jacket, the man’s faded blonde hair was tied back in a shoulder-length ponytail. A scruffy goatee and unkempt moustache completed the picture. He slouched in the entrance, filling the doorway. His neck was festooned with the turquoise jewelry usually only worn by members of the Native American community, but his Nordic looks indicated he didn’t belong to one of the local tribes. His ancestry hailed from much farther away. All of this must have passed through her mind in an instant, because the man was speaking.
“Ron’s sister?” he asked.
Ellen nodded again, warily. Coming so closely on her presentiment of disaster, she had a strong sense that his arrival and her premonition were somehow linked. What had her brother been up to now? And who on earth was this guy pretending to be a Native American? Could he be the source of her fears? She’d come across a few wannabes in her life and had no time for them. They had no understanding of the profound history of her people. They were an insult to all she held dear.
“It’s Ron.” He seemed to be fumbling for words. “Maybe you’d better sit down.” He looked around. There were a number of chairs in the shop, but none by the door. They were all hidden in secret corners designed to enable readers to curl up and lose themselves in a book.
“Spit it out!” Ellen’s stomach churned, her anxiety leading her to speak more sharply than usual. Her hands curled into fists, and her quickened breathing sounded loud in her ears. Since being invalided out of the forces after Vietnam, her older brother, Ron, had shunned finding gainful employment and spent his days jawing about his experiences with a group of old comrades down by the lake. He’d returned a broken man, in body and spirit, and to the despair of his family, was content to spend his time with those guys, rehashing what he saw as the highlight of his life. But he was still her brother, the brother she loved, irritating though he might be.
“What’s up with Ron? Did he send you here?” she asked, beginning to suspect her visitor’s motives. “And who are you, anyway?” She looked him up and down as dismissively as she could. One of Ron’s old Vietnam cronies, no doubt – another layabout.
“Travis, Travis Petersen,” he smiled, a wide smile showing a mouthful of perfect teeth.
Travis, he would be a Travis, Ellen thought. All the Travises she’d ever met meant trouble. “So?” Ellen folded her arms to still her trembling. Was there really something the matter with Ron? She tapped her foot impatiently, her earlier sense of foreboding in the forefront of her mind. Was this what she’d been warned about?
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