Secret of the Family Tree: Digging Up Old Roots

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Chapter 14: It's All Here in Black and White

“Taking out any books today?” Anna asked, pulling up to the front of the Hearthshire Public Library.

“I’m not sure,” said Samantha. “I really just want to have a look around.”

“The flower shop is just across the square. Come over when you’re done.”


“If I don’t hear from you within the hour, I’ll come over and check on you.”

No time to waste, Samantha rushed up the wide stone steps, entered the white brick building, and headed straight for the librarian standing behind a desk in the entrance area.

“May I help you?“The librarian asked, as she transferred books from her desk to a book cart.

Stoic expression, graying hair, wire-rimmed glasses, knee length navy skirt, matching cardigan, white shirt buttoned up to the neck, Samantha cataloged the librarian’s appearance. She reminds me of a smaller version of Mrs. Doubtfire. “I was wondering if I could take a look through old newspapers.”

Finally bothering to interrupt her task to peer at Samantha over her glasses, the librarian then asked.“Which newspaper subscription are you interested in?”

“The local newspaper.”

“That would be the Hearthshire Ledger,” she said, before turning her focus back to her book stacking. “What dates are you looking for?”

Opening her oak bound journal, Samantha replied, “March 20, 21, and 22, of 1987, please.”

“Those dates will need to be viewed on the microfilm machine.” Stepping from behind her desk, the librarian directed Samantha to a cubical near the reference area. “I will return in a moment with the microfilm.”

Removing her jacket, Samantha took a seat in front of what looked to be a computer monitor. Off to the left of the monitor was another device equipped with a flat piece of magnifying glass, a spool-loading mechanism, and several buttons posi-tioned towards the front of the device. She had never used a microfilm machine, and she hoped she could use this one without too much difficulty.

While waiting for the librarian to return, Samantha went over in her mind the events from that morning of meeting Ashlynn, the tree essence, and her talk with Terrance the previous evening. She particularly recalled the conversation with her mom over breakfast. She could still hear the excitement in her voice as she said. “I feel like I’ve been sprinkled with fairy dust! I am seeing the world in magical ways after what happened this morning.”

Samantha had to agree. She could never look at another tree in the same way again. However, the magic was starting to fade now that she was in the library. In its place was an anxiousness of what she may find within the pages of the Hearthshire Ledger.

The door of the library opened and closed, drawing Samantha’s attention towards the front entrance. A woman carrying a small child placed a book and several DVDs on the counter.

“Thanks, Ms. Emily,” the woman said, waving to the librarian who was just heading back towards Samantha.

“Did the boys enjoy the book I suggested?” Ms. Emily asked the young woman.

“I think they did, but of course they liked the movies even better.”

“Of course, nevertheless we must keep trying to direct them more towards reading and away from the television. I will find a book yet those boys of yours will enjoy, Casey. Have a good day.”

Standing over Samantha, Ms. Emily removed a reel of microfilm from a small white box. “Are you doing research for a school project?” she asked.

“No, I’m looking up…family history.”

“I see, are you the genealogist of your family?” Ms. Emily attempted to give Samantha a smile, which came off looking more like a sneer.

“Yes, ma’am,” Samantha answered, hoping that would put an end to the questions.

“Good. It’s always nice to see young people taking an interest in their family history. Knowing where your bloodline started is very important.”

Ms. Emily explained how to use the device as she loaded the microfilm. By the end of her instructions, Samantha felt confident she’d have no problem navigating her way through the viewing machine.

“As I’ve mentioned, this microfilm has the Hearthshire Ledger for the months of March and April of 1987. I have forwarded the film to the first date you requested,” Ms. Emily said, standing back with her hands on her hips.

“Thank you, I appreciate your help.”

“You are welcome. If you need any further assistance, come see me at the front counter.”

Finally alone, Samantha pushed the little gray button on the front of the machine and began reading the first article in the Hearthshire Ledger. However, by the end of the March 20 newspaper, she found no news concerning the deaths of Ameara and Nanna Fairland. Well, it did just happen. It must be in the next day’s paper.

She advanced through page after page of the March 21 newspaper, while occasionally checking the clock on the wall. At her last glance, it was 10:23 a.m. A scraping sound caused her to stand quickly and peek over the cubical partition. It was just a teenage boy pulling out a chair at one of the nearby tables. Every noise made her think it was her mom coming to check on her. She resumed her search through the Hearthshire Ledger, but again as she neared the end of the paper, she found no news.

Sitting back in her chair, she rubbed her eyes that stung from squinting at the screen. Where is it? It should’ve been big news. Pressing her fingers to the sides of her temples, she had a thought. Maybe we misunderstood. Maybe Aunt Mayra and Kitchet weren’t talking about murder after all. Covering her mouth, Samantha stifled a giggle. Wouldn’t it be funny if we were investigating a murder that didn’t even happen? With this possibility in mind, a little sense of relief came over her. Nothing would thrill her more than learning it was just a case of misunderstanding. But, she recalled, Kitchet did use the word kill in connection to the day Grandma died. Samantha also couldn’t dismiss her grandmother’s last notation in her diary and the note she left for Grandpa Innis. It all pointed to murder.

I’ll look through one more date. If I don’t find anything, well…then I’ll just wait to hear what Zen finds on his computer.

That’s all it took. One more look, one more push of the little gray button brought Samantha face to face with what she was seeking. There on the front page of the Sunday, March 22, 1987, Hearthshire Ledger, the narrow almond shaped eyes of her great-grandmother Nanna Fairland stared back at her. Samantha sucked in her breath as she braced herself to read the words underneath the photo.

Professor found dead in her office at Eastern Vermont University.

She must have read the caption at least three times before casting her eyes downward to read the rest of the article.

Dr. Nanna Fairland, a prominent professor of geography and longtime resident of Hearthshire, Vermont, was found dead in her office at Eastern Vermont University in the early morning hours of Friday, March 20.

Several hours later, Dr. Fairland’s daughter, Ameara Fairland, also a resident of Hearthshire, Vermont, was found dead in her parked car one block from Darlington Airport in Clarkstown, Vermont.

Authorities are certain both crimes are linked because it was learned from Ameara Fairland’s husband, Innis Moor that his wife left the morning of the 20th to meet with her mother at her office at the university.

Kenneth Randal, a graduate student, found Dr. Fairland’s body at 9:45 a.m., and immediately called 911. Mr. Randall told investigators on the scene that he saw a suspicious man wandering the university grounds shortly before he found Dr. Fairland’s body.

When a couple, on their way home from the airport, discovered Ameara Fairland slumped behind the wheel of her parked car at 12:15 p.m., they alerted the Clarkstown local police department who pronounced her dead at the scene.

Authorities have stated that both women had been violently strangled, and they are treating this ongoing case as a murder investigation.

In 1972, Dr. Nanna Fairland was awarded the honor of Department Chair for her professional and academic achievements in the field of historical geography. She is survived by her daughter Mayra Fairland of New York City.

Ameara Fairland, the owner and operator of Essences, a local flower shop in Hearthshire, VT, leaves behind her husband, Innis Moor and their two young daughters.

Violently strangled, were the words that stood out on the screen and repeated loudly in Samantha’s head, assaulting her brain. The rest of the article was just one long stream of nonsensical words, trying to make sense of something that made no sense. It was too much to imagine, let alone comprehend why someone would want to do this to her grandma and great-grandma; especially after reading the loving, caring words Grandma Ameara wrote in her diary about life and raising her daughters. This is the reason, Samantha concluded, Grandpa Innis didn’t tell mom and Aunt Sam the truth. But, now Samantha knew the truth. How can I tell mom and Aunt Sam their mother was, violently strangled?

“How is your family history search going?”

Samantha leaped two feet above her seat when she heard Ms. Emily’s voice from behind her. “Fine,” she said, a little too loud, which made even the old librarian step back. Clearing her throat, Samantha tried again. “Sorry, I mean fine, thank you.”

“Good. Do you need to look through any other newspaper articles?”

She wished she had time to read the rest of the Hearthshire Ledgers on the microfilm, but she had to get over to the flower shop. “No. Oh wait, can I make a copy of this?” Samantha said, pointing to the article on the screen.

“Yes, I can help you with—” Ms. Emily stopped talking mid-sentence. Samantha felt her chair move slightly backwards as the librarian grabbed a hold of it while trying to steady herself.

“Are you okay?” She reached out taking a hold of Ms. Emily’s arm, easing the flushed faced woman into the chair next to hers.

“Yes, give me a moment.” Taking a handkerchief from her pocket, the visibly shaken Ms. Emily patted lightly around her lips before saying. “Why do you want a copy of this news story, do you know these people?”

Confused by the librarians reaction, Samantha wondered if maybe she knew her family, or about the murder. “Yes, that was my grandma and great-grandma in the article, Nanna and Ameara Fairland. Did you know them?”

The stoic expression returned to Ms. Emily’s face as she stared into Samantha’s eyes. “I knew of Nanna Fairland and sometimes I ran into her daughter, Ameara at the flower shop. It was a shame those women had to die that way.” Then rising to her feet, Ms. Emily stated in a matter-a-fact manner, “I heard Innis recently died, and that one of his daughters had moved back to the village.”

“Yes, I’m—”

“Samantha,” Samantha heard her mom’s voice call softly from the library’s entrance area.

“Please don’t tell my mom about the story in the paper.”

“Why?” Ms. Emily asked, raising one eyebrow.

Samantha quickly explained, as she saw her mom walk towards the back of the library, obviously looking around for her. “My Grandpa never told my mom the truth about how they died. I just recently found out myself. I was curious as to what really happened to them, that’s why I wanted to look it up. Please don’t tell her.”

“No, of course not, but why do you want a copy of the article if you have no intention of sharing it with your mother?”

“I thought… well maybe somehow, if I found out what really happened, I could tell my mom the truth,” Samantha confessed. “Can I please have a copy?”

“Oh, there you are,” Anna said, walking back towards the reference desk.

“Hi, Mom, I’m coming.”

“Meet me at the front counter. I will bring you your copy,” Ms. Emily said.

Grabbing her coat, Samantha walked over to join her mom.

“Did you find any good books, maybe a Nancy Drew you haven’t read yet?”

“No, I was just looking around. You know how I love just sitting among books. Anyway, I forgot, I need proof of identification to get a library card.”

“Oh, that’s right. Here, I can show my driver’s license.”

While Anna dug in her purse for her wallet, Ms. Emily returned, handing Samantha a copy of the newspaper article from the Hearthshire Ledger.

“Don’t worry about it today, Mom,” Samantha said, shoving the article into her coat pocket. “We can do it another time.”

“No, let’s do it now. It shouldn’t take too long.” Anna handed Ms. Emily her license. “I hope you will accept my overseas license. I just moved back to Hearthshire a couple of days ago, and I haven’t had the time to get a new one.”

“It will be fine,” Ms. Emily said, handing Anna a form. “I use to chat with your mother when I stopped into the flower shop. So, which one of Ameara’s daughters are you?”

“Oh really, well I’m Anna. My younger sister Sam lives in Hawaii now. I guess you’ve already met my daughter Samantha,” Anna said, rubbing Samantha proudly on her back.

“Yes, we’ve met,” said the librarian.

“You’ll be seeing a lot of her, Mrs.…? Sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

“Emily, everyone calls me Ms. Emily.”

Samantha held her breath. She was worried that while her mom made polite conversation with Ms. Emily, the old librarian would slip up and mention the newspaper article.

“Ms. Emily, Samantha loves Nancy Drew. She’s been reading and collecting the series for about…oh maybe, three… four…yes, about four years now.”

“We do have a nice collection of the Nancy Drew books here at the library,” Ms. Emily said, handing Samantha her brand new library card. “When you come back, I’ll help you locate them.”

“Thank you sooo….much, Ms. Emily.” Samantha hoped by emphasizing her words, the librarian would catch that she was really thanking her for keeping her secret.

“I’ve taken over the flower shop. Maybe we’ll run into each other again sometime.”

“I’m sure we will,” Ms. Emily said, as she grabbed hold of her library cart and disappeared behind an aisle of books.

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