Home > Secrets (Lost and Found #2)

Secrets (Lost and Found #2)
Author: Fern Michaels

 

Chapter One

The B.A.R.R.N.

Bodman-Antiques-Retro-Restoration & Namaste Café

Buncombe County, North Carolina

Present day

 

 

A delivery truck pulled up to the rear entrance of Cullen Bodman’s restoration workshop. He wasn’t expecting anything, but the driver handed him a printed version of the bill of lading and began to haul a crate with a dilapidated steamer trunk off the back of the van’s motorized lift. Cullen eyed the document. It was addressed to him, but there was no return label. He looked up at the deliveryman. “Do you know where this came from? There’s no return address.”

The guy shrugged. “I picked it up at the hub. It was on my route ticket.” He stopped at the door. “Where do you want it?” Cullen looked around the workshop, pointed to a space against the far wall, and moved out of the way.

“Is there some way I can find out where this came from?”

“Beats me.” The guy wiped his forehead with his sleeve. “Please sign this.” He handed Cullen an electronic clipboard and a stylus. Cullen scribbled his name and repeated the question. He didn’t get any further.

“You can call the dispatcher if you want.” The driver turned, hopped into his vehicle, and drove off, leaving a very perplexed Cullen standing in the doorway.

* * *

Like clockwork, Luna Bodhi Bodman arrived at the café at her typical time, nine A.M. On her way, she stopped at the Flakey Tart and picked up her usual basket of scones and muffins. Even though the Tart had its own kiosk at the art center, Luna served their delicious delights with coffee and tea during the day.

At the age of thirty-three, she was a dabbler in paranormal psychology and an amateur medium. Dabbled is probably an understatement. She didn’t want her unconventional way of thinking and feeling to be a detriment to her brother’s restoration business. But she certainly looked the part of a New Age psychic if there was such a thing. Her hippie wardrobe, waist-length hair, and granny glasses were a huge clue that she was not your run-of-the-mill barista. The café had been her brother’s idea. She had agreed to run it because doing so gave her the opportunity to do her readings as well as be of assistance to him. Plus, with the café being right next door to his shop, he could keep an eye on her. Not that she couldn’t take care of herself. But Luna had a way of generating more excitement than was either necessary or expected. But that, too, was part of her charm.

In addition to the readings her unconventional talent allowed her to engage in, she was an artist and design consultant. When called upon, she worked with her brother Cullen, assisting customers engaged in redecorating or refurbishing parts or all of their homes.

Cullen heard the bell that signaled that someone had walked into the showroom. He checked his watch—9:15 A.M. He was looking forward to one of the Flakey Tart’s blueberry scones. He knew it was a bad habit, but they were too delicious to pass up. The days the center was open, Luna would bring Cullen his morning coffee and his favorite breakfast pastry.

Luna was a bundle of energy, spinning her light into the room. Cullen, who was not and never had been a morning person, marveled at how bright and effervescent she could be so early in the day.

“Namaste, brother.” She gave a little bow as she handed him a tray holding a cappuccino with an extra shot of espresso and that blueberry piece of heaven.

“Good morning, sunshine.” Cullen gave her a slight bow in return.

“Something smells a little smoky.” She sniffed the air and turned to her dog, Wiley, a border collie. “What do you think, fella? Something smells different.”

Cullen cocked his head in the direction of the far wall. “Somebody had an old trunk delivered. It’s still in a crate.”

“Smells like someone had a fire sale.” Luna would never let her curiosity go unsatisfied. She inched her way toward the mysterious parcel. She kept inhaling and turned to Cullen. “Well, what are you waiting for?” Her eyes grew wide in an accusatory fashion.

“Jeez. Can I please have a sip of my coffee first?” Cullen gave her a playful sneer.

“Considering I made it special for you, yes, please do.” Luna crouched to get a better look at the crate. The crate was open-sided, so part of the trunk could be seen. “Hmmmm . . .” she murmured quizzically. “Where did it come from?”

“I have no idea. Neither did the deliveryman.” Cullen took another sip of his caffeine fix. “He showed me the bill of lading and this is the delivery address, including my name.”

“Huh.” Luna stood. “Curiouser and curiouser. All the more reason we should open it!” She clapped her hands and chanted, “Open it! Open it,” as Wiley yapped in rhythm.

Cullen rolled his eyes and set his coffee cup down. “All right. All right. But not until I get a bite of this.” He chomped down on the scone. “Delicious!”

“Come on! Come on! Let’s get snappy!” She snapped her fingers in rhythm.

“Let me swallow, please.” Cullen was always amused at his sister’s exuberance. She was one of those people who could turn going to the mailbox into a party.

He wiped his fingers on the cloth napkin that always accompanied his morning ritual. “Grab me that crowbar.” He pointed to the wall where he kept most of his tools.

“Aye, aye, Captain,” Luna said, saluting as she brought him the implement he needed. “Any note come with that thing?”

“Not that I can tell from the outside. I am hoping there will be an explanation once we unpack it.” He gently wedged the tool between two pieces of wood and pried the first slat off. He worked his way around the crate until the trunk was completely exposed.

“Wow. How old do you think this thing is?” Luna moved in a little closer.

“It looks like something from an old steamship. Maybe 1920s.” He brushed a finger along the worn leather straps and took a whiff. “Smoke damage for sure.”

“Smells like it was in or near a fire,” Luna observed. “Check it out.” She pointed to a small plastic pouch affixed to the trunk. It contained a folded piece of paper. “Maybe this will solve your mystery.”

Cullen gingerly removed the envelope taped to the lock, being careful not to ruin the leather any further. The lock itself was in desperate need of repair.

He read it out loud:

 

Dear Mr. Bodman,

Please pardon my lack of correspondence prior to the delivery, but time was of the essence and your reputation for restoration is impeccable. This trunk is what is left of my family’s estate and it had to be removed from storage. As you can tell, it was in a fire. Unfortunately, no one can locate the key, and the local locksmith could not guarantee opening it without further damaging the trunk and its contents. It is my hope you will find time to clean and restore it to the best of your ability.

Should you find the contents in good order, I would appreciate your holding them until the restoration process is complete, at which time I will have someone retrieve it. There is no particular rush as I have now removed it from where it had been stored for many years. Enclosed you will find a money order in the amount of $1000 as a deposit. Should you require more money up front, please send an e-mail to [email protected]

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