Recap: Yehudis asks her father and grandmother to tell her stories about when she was a baby. Her father is evasive and her grandmother only tells her stories about when she was three or four.
On Sunday, Aba went to shul in the morning, and when he came back he said he had some errands in town. “I’ll take you later to the college, Hudi.”
“Did you think of a baby story for me?”
He headed towards the door. “No worries, it will come to me.”
Grandma Henny stopped me as I started towards the stairs. “Not so fast, Yehudis. I need you to help me clean up from breakfast and you can put a load of laundry in. The machine is in a room off the kitchen.”
I sighed and followed her back into the kitchen. Why did I always have to do the dishes?
I was loading the clothing into the washing machine when there was a knock at the door.
Grandma Henny hobbled to the door and called, “Who is it?”
I thought of that strange lady in black who had come the night before and I hoped it wasn’t her. My neck muscles tightened.
“It’s Claire Bauers.”
I strode next to Grandma Henny. She turned to me and whispered. “Who is Claire Bauers?”
The name sounded familiar. “I think that’s the name of the landlady for this house,” I said.
“I rented you the house,” Mrs. Bauers called through the door.
“I don’t know why she didn’t say that to begin with,” Grandma said under her breath.
She opened the door. “Come in. What can we do for you? My son left to do errands.”
Mrs. Bauers was stout woman with short, white hair and a no-nonsense look in her dark eyes. She wore a flowered house dress that was missing two top buttons, and I noticed that a section of the hem was hanging down.
“It’s fine. I just wanted to make sure everything was comfortable for you.”
“It’s satisfactory,” Grandma Henny said in a tone that implied it wasn’t really satisfactory.
“I know it’s a big move for you. This house is out of bounds of the town.”
“That’s not a concern for us,” Grandma Henny said.
“Well, some folks might not like this out-of-the-way location.”
Mrs. Bauers strode into the living room like she was planning to stay for a visit.
Grandma Henny turned away from her. “We have work to do in the kitchen if you’ll excuse us.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean to disturb you. Is this your granddaughter?”
Grandma Henny whispered in my ear. “You go socialize with her. I don’t want to.” Her cane clicked as she went back to the kitchen.
“Hi, I’m Yehudis Strollinger. Nice to meet you. Thank you for renting us your house.”
“Yes, yes.” Mrs. Bauers was looking around the room in a distracted way.
“Is there something you want?” I blurted.
“Actually, I was wondering.” She lowered her voice. “Did anyone stop by here? Anyone at all that you remember?”
I thought of the woman in black and her strange warning. “Uh, there was someone.”
Mrs. Bauers instantly focused her attention on me. “Who was it? Can you describe the person?”
“She was a lady wearing black with a black shawl on her head and shoulders and she had a long nose.”
“What did she say to you?”
“She said we should leave here, that bad things happen in this house.”
“Ignore her. She’s a crazy lady who lives in town and comes around bothering people.”
“Why does she do that?”
“She’s crazy. I’m sorry she bothered you.”
She looked around the living room and then she rose. “She didn’t come in, did she? You didn’t let her in?”
“No, she didn’t come in,” I said, starting to think that I was sorry I’d let Mrs. Bauers in. Why was she looking around the room like that and why was she questioning me so closely?
“If she comes back, don’t answer the door. I may have to call the police.”
“The police?” I asked.
“She’s harassing my tenants. That’s enough reason to call in the sheriff. If she returns, please call me right away.” She handed me a card with her number on it. “Remember, don’t let her in under any circumstances.”
She headed to the door. I escorted her to the door, wondering what in the world all this was about. It was so strange.
When Aba came back, he was on the phone, so I didn’t have a chance to tell him about Mrs. Bauers’ visit.
As soon as he finished his call, he told me to come quickly; someone was waiting for us at the college to let us into his office.
I slid into the front seat of the car. We drove down the now familiar bumpy driveway and headed east towards the college.
“Aba, Mrs. Bauers came over while you were away. She asked me if anyone had come to our house and she told me not to let anyone in.”
“I can’t wait to see my new office,” Aba said.
“Aba, please, did you hear what I was telling you?” I asked.
“Mrs. Bauers, you said. Okay. I’ll call her later.”
We pulled up to a beautiful campus located at the convergence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers. There were neat brick buildings and manicured lawns. Stately oaks and cedars bordered the campus.
We parked in a parking area and Aba jumped out of the car. I had to walk quickly to keep pace with him. “There it is, Hudi.” He pointed at the library. “Let’s go see my new office.”
Inside, a guard led us to an office where Aba spoke to the secretary. “Nice to meet you, Professor Strollinger. Mrs. Kammerman will be here soon to speak with you. I’ll take you to your office.” She handed Aba a key. She smiled at me.
“This is my daughter Yehudis,” Aba said.
The library was large, with a beige carpet and rows and rows of books. There were a few students seated at tables reading or on the computer.
We followed the secretary down a long hallway and she stopped at a door. “The special collections are in here.” She opened the door and we followed her inside. “This is the period I’m researching.” Aba handed me a journal. “It’s the early 1800s, when Aaron Burr was Vice President and after he shot Hamilton.”
“Why that time?” I asked.
“The story of Aaron Burr is one that many people don’t know. He was accused of treason but not convicted.”
I opened one of the journals. On the cover it said, “Journal of Yeshai Cohen.”
“Hey, this is someone Jewish.”
Aba glanced at the cover.
“I didn’t know we’d find something like that. Great.”
I opened the journal and began to read…
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of A Bridge in Time (Menucha Publishing, 2021), Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers, 2020), Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials, and features in various magazines. Fiction serial Jewish Press Falling Star (2019).