Beano and LB sat across the breakfast table from Aunt Marcy. The Maine blueberries in their waffles had left thin purple smudges beneath the shallow amber pools of maple syrup still on their plates. Marcy thought that the smears looked like dark contrails reflected in miniature ponds. She reached for her writing notebook. LB drained the last of his milk, watching her with mild curiosity. “Have you written anything for the novel, lately?” he asked.
Marcy put down the pen and, resting her elbows on the table, sighed. “Noooo,” she answered.
“When are you going to finish telling our story?” asked Beano. “What’s the problem anyway?”
Marcy sighed again and shrugged. “It’s not like I don’t want to…” she started, “and it’s not like I haven’t been writing at all. I write my blog every single day.”
“But didn’t you say you were going to work on the novel this summer, too?” questioned LB.
“Yeah, yeah, I did,” she admitted. “I guess I don’t have a clear idea of where it’s going, and so I’m not sure what I want to write, and so I haven’t done anything on it.”
“Do you know what you’re going to write for your blog every day?” Beano asked. “Because, some days, I really just don’t have anything to say on mine.”
“No,” said Marcy, “I don’t know what I’m going to write on most days. It’s kind of stressful, but usually something occurs to me when I sit down to do it, and then it’s kind of cool. Plus, I’m liking the discipline of daily writing, and for some reason, I feel committed to the routine of posting every day, so I’m going to stick with it for now, even though I’m really not sure where it’s going, either.”
“Couldn’t you try the same thing for the novel, like writing for that every day?” asked LB.
“Well, I was doing that for a while at the end of February before I started my blog, but I couldn’t keep up with both. Then I thought that once summer came, I’d write a little every day on both projects.”
“What happened, then?” Beano wanted to know.
“Like I said, I’m kind of stuck on where your story’s going,” Marcy answered.
“But you also said that you can write your blog even when you don’t know where that’s going,” Beano persisted.
Marcy shrugged again.
“What are you stuck on?” LB asked. “Maybe we can help.”
“A bunch of things...” she trailed off for a minute, resting her head on her left hand. “Okay, here’s one for example. What about that guy in the antique shop? What’s his deal? Who is he? What does he want?”
“Who do you think he might be?” asked Beano. “What do you know about him?”
“Is he good or bad?” asked LB.
“He’s an antagonist; I’m pretty sure. He’s definitely suspicious of you two.”
“Why? What did we do?” LB asked.
“Well, he saw you looking in the window at that coin, and then you dragged Beano in a little while later. He knows he doesn’t know you.”
“Why did we go in there, again?” Beano wanted to know.
“Because LB saw a coin like the one you found in the pouch. You guys want to know if it’s valuable and what it’s called so you can figure out where it came from.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right,” remembered Beano. “What else was in that pouch?”
“There was the coin, a key, and a letter, signed AB and partially encrypted,” Marcy replied. “The letter was supposed to have been written by Aaron Burr, and it referred to some failed expedition, and the cipher was like the Beale Treasure ciphers.”
“What’s the key for?” asked LB.
“I was thinking that it would be to a safety deposit box. I read somewhere that there was a library in the town of Bedford that had once been a bank. You guys are going to go to the library to do some research and in the lobby they have a display about the history of the place. You’ll realize that your key goes to one of the boxes from the former bank.”
“What did they do with the boxes that weren’t claimed?” Beano asked.
Marcy laughed. “You’re going to ask that question at the library,” she told him.
“Well? What are they going to say?” he demanded.
“I don’t know,” she said, “I haven’t written it yet. I guess I can work on that part— I have an idea where to go with it.”
“Good!” cheered LB. “What other parts are you having trouble with?”
“The last thing I wrote was about the farm stand,” she told him. “We take Mrs. Buford there and meet Anna. She mentions that her husband, David, is at the lawyers. Then a storm comes up, and we all go inside to wait. Actually, I could probably work on that part, too; I want Mrs. Buford to ask you guys to do some chores around her house.”
“Will she pay us handsomely for our time?” asked Beano.
“There will be compensation,” Marcy agreed, “both monetary and informational.”
That pleased Beano. “Good,” he said, rubbing his hands together in mock greed. “Good.” His expression changed. “Seriously, though,” he continued, “How does Aaron Burr fit in with everything? Is he going to be an important part of the plot?”
Marcy frowned. “I’m not sure about that,” she confessed. “I did some research last summer that I need to go back to. I don’t know what Burr’s role is. I don’t know what’s going to be down in that cavern, either.”
“The cave where I get knocked out, but then I’m fine?” asked LB.
“The very one,” she replied. “I have this notion that it was used during the Civil War for something—Underground Railroad? Confederate Gold? –and you boys are going to find something important, but I don’t know what, nor do I know how that will relate to Aaron Burr, the antique store guy, the lawyers, or the safety deposit box.”
“Hmm…” said Beano. “You better start writing if you want to find out.”
“You’re right,” conceded Marcy. “It’s never going to come together otherwise.”