Blow arrived home just as Barbara Bassett, his secretary, was leaving for the day. He saw her behind the wheel of her Mazda after he'd parked beside it on the pad outside his office. She rolled her window down, and he walked over to say hello. Slow morning, she said, which gave her time to catch up on her filing.
“Lt. Callahan called around ten, wondering where you were. He said your truck was over at the Salzwedels but you weren't anywhere around. Said he tried calling you but your phone was out of service. You OK?”
“Everything's fine, Barb. I was with a client. Probly in a hole for the phone.”
She studied him a moment, and he knew he'd hurt her by not saying who the client was. It wasn't that he didn't trust her, just didn't want to take the time to explain. He was anxious to look at the documents. She smiled tightly. “Those holes are a pain. You have a good day, Joe.” She said, and drove off.
Callahan had been waiting for Blow when Salzwedel brought him back to his truck. Blow offered no explanation, nor did the cop inquire. His enthusiasm over the shooting site discovery apparently overrode all else. When Blow declined lunch after their visit to the park, Callahan took him back to his truck with no more to say than small talk. Blow was glad for that. Callahan's only reference to what they had just seen was a reminder, when he dropped Blow off at the Salzwedel house, to “keep all this under your hat, even if you don't wear one”.
Blow fetched Sarah's box from the pickup and carried it into the house. He went straight to the library next to his bedroom. He flipped a switch on the wall just inside the doorway that brought to life three recessed ceiling fixtures each containing a 100-watt incandescent bulb. He set the box on the conference table in the center of the room, walked around to the opposite wall and opened blinds covering arched windows on either side of two towering stacks of bookshelves. The more light the merrier, he believed, especially in this room, where the dark walnut paneling and leather-bound volumes sucked up every lumen that drifted near.
He settled into one of the leather-cushioned courtroom chairs at the table and tugged off the thick rubber band that secured the flaps on the box. A musty smell of things very old greeted him when he lifted the flaps. This despite the multiple layers of sheer plastic wrapped around everything inside. He removed the tabs of masking tape that held the plastic together, but stared at the exposed contents.
An eight-by-ten-inch leather-bound book lay atop what appeared to be sheets of tan stationery. He started to reach for the book, then held back, worrying he might further damage the frayed and worn, fragile-looking material that looked to have been genuine leather at one time. He placed an index finger lightly on the book. It felt solid enough. He pressed gently, still OK. Finally reached in with both hands and lifted it out with the care of someone handling a jar of nitroglycerin. He set it beside the box, and exhaled the air he'd unconsciously held in his lungs.
The book looked no worse. Nothing had cracked or broken loose. Blow studied the edges of the pages between the covers. A similar tan to that of the sheets still in the box, ragged edges, some signs of dogearing. He decided against opening the book, and moved his attention instead to the other papers. The writing on the top sheet was black and, although in a rapidly applied cursive, appeared legible. The first words looked to be the salutation in a personal letter. My Dearest Wife Charlotte, it began. The date, in the top right-hand corner, was May 7, 1775.
Blow carefully lifted the sheet out of the box. From its heft and sturdy condition he guessed it had been expensive paper, probably a rag linen or something even better. He'd intended to copy the materials first and read the copies. He wasn't about to do this with the bound book, but he would with the separate sheets. But not at the moment. He felt the pull of the words he'd already read. He reached in the box and pulled out the rest of the sheets. Eight in all. From the dark brown cross on each, he surmised they had been folded at one time into a square a quarter of the original size. The legibility of parts of the writing faded along these dark lines, but with the magnifying glass he fetched from his office he was able to make out most of the words. Returning to his seat at the table, he pushed the box back, placed the sheets next to the book, then propped his elbows in front of him and began to read.