The Trail of Gemma Caulfield (Akre Island 2)

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Chapter 8

It was late in the morning when they finally made it downstairs. Hallie was at the counter of her shop, flipping through a few papers, and she smiled at them as they came in. “Well, good morning. Or is it afternoon…“ She made a show of glancing at her watch. “Oh, no, you made it!”

“We usually don’t sleep in so late,” Cassidy said. “But we were up pretty late talking about Gemma.”

“There wasn’t much to talk about,” Hallie said. She quickly wrote a few things down on the top of one of the papers, then used her pen to gesture at the back of the house. “Go ahead and have breakfast. I don’t have too much, but there are a few cereal options in the cupboard. Or you can buy something from the store again.”

“Cereal would be great, thanks,” Cassidy said, then she noticed the mug sitting on the counter. “Would you like more tea?”

“Oh yeah, thanks,” Hallie nudged the mug towards her.

They walked back into the kitchen and had a quick breakfast while waiting for the kettle to boil. Cassidy made a pot of tea, and when it was ready, took the mug out to Hallie. “Do you know if there are any records of births or deaths or anything like that? Simon and I were talking about Gemma’s family. The article mentioned a brother. It would be interesting to follow her family tree and see if there are any descendants.”

“This family history project of yours doesn’t seem very focused on your family history,” Hallie commented idly. She looked up from her papers. “Honestly the church would probably be the easiest place to find something like that, but I’m not sure if you would just be allowed to read any records you want. What is it you’re actually trying to research?”

Cassidy faltered. “Oh, well—”

“Ghosts,” Simon chimed in from behind her, suddenly enough that Cassidy flinched in surprise. “Last summer Cassidy visited because she wanted to do research for a book, and we stumbled on Charles Acres’ book of ghost stories. So we decided to look into them more. We’re trying to learn more about the histories of the stories themselves. When the story started circulating, who it’s supposedly about, what actually happened to that person. Gemma’s story interested us because it was so vague.” Simon paused and shrugged. “But some people aren’t really on board with the whole “researching ghosts” thing. That’s why Cassidy came up with the family history story, because it’s sort of true. Just not completely true.”

Hallie looked between them, her papers seemingly forgotten. “OK. First of all, I love ghosts. Secondly, I had an idea last night, and it sort of helps with your family question, Cass. Why don’t you go try to find Gemma’s gravestone? You’ll probably be able to connect some dots, just by looking for last names and the dates.”

“Oh, that’s a great idea!” Cassidy agreed.

For such a small place, Eastern Hamlet had a large graveyard. It had snowed quite a bit in the early hours of the morning, after they had returned from their meeting with Gemma, and snow lay heavily across the graveyard, giving it an incredibly peaceful feeling. Cassidy took a few pictures before they stepped through the old, worn gate.

The last time she had been in a graveyard was with Simon, when he had found his own tombstone. He had touched it, in the middle of the day, and that was how they had known it was possible for him to touch things. But now, the snow was still causing him problems. And just in case someone else came by, Simon was making a point of stepping in Cassidy’s footprints.

It took a moment to figure out exactly how the graves were laid out. Cassidy led Simon over to what seemed like the oldest section, and started reading the tombstones. With Simon trailing after her, the search took longer than it would have if he could walk around on his own. There were plenty of names. They found a large stone that said Page, and underneath a list of three generations.

“Joseph and Harriet Rose Page,” Simon read the most recent names over her shoulder. “Maybe Hallie’s grandparents.”

“Probably,” Cassidy agreed, before wandering to the next stone. They found more Pages, and even found an Acres, a woman named Meredith who had married into another family. But no Caulfields.

Cassidy was beginning to think they had looked at every tombstone old enough to help them. The newer ones certainly wouldn’t help. In the little alley between two rows of stones, she stopped walking and sighed. “What if she didn’t have a stone? Or maybe her family had a private plot or something.” She looked over at Simon, to see that he was staring at the ground. “Simon?”

“I’m stepping in your footprints,” Simon said, which seemed quite irrelevant. “I feel the ground, right? It’s frozen grass and dirt, and it’s bumpy. But this—“ he took a step backwards, “—is smooth. Like it’s paved.”

Cassidy’s eyes widened. “A stone,” she realized. She stepped back towards him and crouched, brushing the snow away from her own footprints. Sure enough, there was a stone there. The snow was heavy and damp, but she swept away at it with her arm until she found a name. It wasn’t Gemma’s, but it gave her an idea and she stood up. Dotted around the section of the graveyard they had been searching were spots between stones that looked empty. But they weren’t empty. The stones had just fallen over.

Simon followed her gaze. “I’ll try to concentrate,” he offered, with a smile. “I’m sure I can clear some snow.”

“Ok, good.” Newly excited, she tried to grab the end of his scarf, but her fingers slipped right through it. She frowned at it.

Simon laughed. “Sorry.” Then he leaned down and gave her a kiss. “I can’t concentrate on my face, my scarf, and my feet all at the same time.”

“All right, all right.” She wanted to give him a playful shove, but figured her hand might go straight through his shoulder. “Let’s get to work.”

She went in one direction, and Simon went in the other, and they started clearing snow from all the places there should have been a grave. Every once in awhile Cassidy glanced over at Simon. He wasn’t moving nearly as quickly as she was, but he was working at a steady pace.

Then finally, “Cassidy, I think I found her.” Simon brushed more snow out of the way, as Cassidy got to her feet and shook snow off of her gloves while walking over to meet him. “Yes. Gemma Caulfield, 1894-1902. Survived by her parents, and her brother Jerold. Oh. J-E-R-O-L-D. I just imagined it with a G.”

“Me too,” Cassidy agreed as she joined him. She helped him wipe away more of the snow until the entire stone was revealed. She stared at it, almost blankly, and didn’t realize that Simon had moved away. Gemma’s stone was so small and old. A crack ran through the middle of it, cutting the letters of her name in half. Cassidy let her fingers trace along the crack, as visions of the family, putting up a stone for their lost daughter, came to mind.

“This is Jerold’s,” Simon’s voice broke into her thoughts. He had moved to the next clearing over, and brushed enough snow out of the way to see part of the name. Cassidy shuffled over to help him clear it. “Jerold Caulfield,” she read once they had cleared it. “1890-1965. He was twelve when it happened…” she continued reading. “Anne Caulfield, 1900-1973. Harriet Rose Caulfield, 19—”

“Harriet Rose?” Simon repeated, and as he said her name it clicked it Cassidy’s mind, too.

She jumped to her feet and nearly ran to the large Page stone. “Harriet Rose Page,” she read. “Simon, the birth dates match. Harriet Caulfield married Joseph Page. And there isn’t a death date here. Maybe she’s still alive.”

“So…” Simon said thoughtfully. “Gemma was Hallie’s great-great-aunt.”

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