I desperately wanted to call my father and tell him about the meeting. Instead I googled Claire Donovan of Woodside Queens. Fortunately she still had a listed land line and her phone number popped up. As soon as Aunt Claire answered I said, “I found him.”
“Zoe is this you? Donovan is the name the phone ID is flashing, but it’s been such a long time since I heard from a Donovan.”
“Yes, it’s me.”
“Well, now that we cleared that up, who did you find?”
“Edwin Spencer, the guy Mere was engaged to in college.”
“Yeah, so? Well, did you ask him if he’s the father?”
“Yes, in a way. He denied it “
“He even said Mere was sexually involved with more guy than him.”
“Maybe, it was the sixties- free love. Who knows? She never told the family any of it.
She was sexually active outside of marriage and my parents would have none of it.”
“Aunt Claire, it sounded like they were really in love and you should see the ring- two carrots.”
“I remember it. You don’t forget that ring.”
“So, do you think I should pursue meeting with Spencer and my father again and try to find out, maybe with DNA?”
“Your grandmother made her decisions. She was very honest with a clear sense of right and wrong. If she believed Spencer was your dad’s father, she would have told him. I don’t think she would keep a man like Spencer from knowing your father.”
“Aunt Claire, did my grandmother ever say anything to you about not wanting to have a family or kids of her own.”
“Honey, the pill was just coming on the market. The idea that women could choose or not choose a family was too far ahead of our talks on the stoop”.
“Oh,” was all I could say. I was disappointed.
“Sorry, Zoe, the road to Grandpa’s wealth isn’t as easy as you once believed.” Aunt Claire said and abruptly ended the conversation.
As I walked to the park I kept replaying the details. Going into the conversation with Spencer, I believed finding my lineage was the purpose. But what he told me about Mere surprised me more. When Spencer said my grandmother never wanted children, I was shocked. I had so much fun with her as a kid. I could still remember her playing on the floor with me. Tea parties, coloring, hide and seek, and of course reading entertained us in her three room apartment. I thought she loved children, especially me.
Then how did Spencer describe her relationship with her parents, “chained to a family.” How could that be? Though she rarely mentioned her own childhood, she created such a wonderful family for me and my dad.
Her long lost lover clearly had no respect for Mere’s religion. However, Mere had a
living faith. We made those church visits together and lit candles. Mere even attended mass
during the week. Moreover, she practiced her faith through charity. For years she distributed food at the St. Francis breadline. This clearly contradicted what Spencer told me. So much of her past was different than I imagined.
As far as the murder investigation, the most significant information gained from my conversation with Spencer was Mere’s admission that she was involved in saving an important religious book. That had to be the Gutenberg. The connection between the Bible and the murder was growing stronger.
Next I called Ruiz but only shared certain parts of my conversation with Spencer. I emphasized that my grandmother told Spencer she was trying to protect a sacred text. No need to share Mere’s unwanted pregnancy, or her lack of maternal feelings, but that information weighed heavily on my heart.
Ruiz was clearly angry with me.
“What the hell, Zoe? I was with you when you spotted Spencer. You dumped me.
I’m the cop. You’re the victim’s family. You should have let me interview Spencer.”
I didn’t apologize. I just said, “I have to go.”
I wanted to find out more about that religious text Mere was saving. So I hightailed it back to the Forty Second Street Library and went straight to Madeline’s office.
“Madeline, you were right about my grandmother and a romantic interest right before she died. I just had a conversation with him.”
“Really, so you found him. Anyone I know?”
“No, someone she went to Columbia with in the Dark Ages.”
It can be a small book world and I didn’t want to further complicate this mess by revealing Spencer’s name.
“Well, tell me about him.” Madeline said impatiently.
“Apparently he was still interested in my grandmother, but she was reluctant to reconnect because she was trying to save some religious book. Don’t you see? That has to be the Gutenberg. You must know something about this. Please tell me, Maddy.”
Maddy clearly annoyed said, “The Gutenberg is a main attraction in this library. Stars are stalked and sought after for many different reasons. Maybe it had to do with the auction of the Bay Psalter or a spotlight on religious fanaticism. Quite recently Gwen said she thought the security on Gutenberg was lax.”
To that she replied, “The security is extremely tight on the Gutenberg. However, no human system is foolproof.”
As Maddy was telling me this I could see her anger growing. She ranted,
“The public doesn’t respect books enough to believe that one would kill for a book.”
Madeline’s comments hurt me. I, myself, was seriously considering getting rid of my grandmother’s library. I tried to think of something to say that would make Madeline understand.
“Books are just changing.” I said. To prove my point I started to explain my grandmother and Dylan’s collaboration on future e- book software. This only fueled Madeline’s anger.
“Instead of worrying about the future, why can’t readers preserve what we have by learning from the past?” Madeline snapped.
“Well, when I was talking to Chase,” Madeline immediately interrupted me again. “Oh please, from what I have read geeks like Chase can’t capture the mystique of a book so they copy the traditional book onto a screen.” Madeline’s voice registered how annoyed she was with technology.
Then she then started interrogating me. “How do you access the e-book?”
“By tapping the book app?” I answered hesitantly. Actually I was afraid to mention apps to Madeline.
“Yes, on an app that looks like a book stand. How creative!” said Madeline.
“Does an e- book need a cover, Zoe?”
“No, not really,” I admitted.
“Software designers use a traditional cover because readers love pictures on books covers. What does that say about e-books? Zoe, neither you, nor any of the mediocre public, have any idea of the artistry of making a book.”
“Did your grandmother ever tell you how I spend my vacations?”
I just shook my head no.
“I go to courses in rare books at the University of Virginia. I dorm in Jeffersonian lodging without an indoor toilet. I revel in turning back the pages of time. You know what I l do with the books?”
I barely blinked as Madeline raged on.
“I disembowel worm eaten books so I can pinpoint their origins. Can a computer give you that experience? From my touching and smelling - forsaken tactile interactions with books, I understand that every book has a history that will never be copied onto a computer screen.”
Madeline’s wrath was now out of control, so I blurted out, “My dad is outside waiting for me. I have to go.”
As I started to walk away, Madeline grabbed my hands and whispered, “What are we to do? You, Zoe, are the future. It’s up to you. To no avail I have written numerous articles in scholarly journals bemoaning how libraries and universities are turning their backs on the physical properties of the book. What will it take Zoe, to get the public to realize what’s happening to our books?”
I repeated that my dad was waiting and I had to go, but Madeline like an exploding volcano spewed argument after argument.
“Well I tell you my dear. I had been agonizing over the problem until one day I realized the answer was here in this library.”
“Really,” I said, half listening, walking slowly but very determined to get to the exit.
When she saw I was at the door, in her deep, strong voice, Madeline yelled out,
“Go ahead. Run away, Zoe. Turn your back on books, and on your grandmother.”
I just kept walking. Not only was Madeline enraged, I was starting to boil too.
What was she talking about disemboweling worms and the answer is right here in the library? The answer to what – who stole The Gutenberg? Who killed Mere? One thing Madeline was right about was when she said that turning away from books was turning my back on my grandmother.