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The Archivist

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The rattle of the approaching engine was familiar. He still hadn't got that thing running smooth, and she doubted it had yet to see a new coat of paint. Singer's Chevelle eased to a stop and the door chunked shut. Footsteps on the porch and a knock on her front door followed.

"Come on in, Bobby."

"'Dwina." His eyes sought, found her at the edge of the single pool of light. Dusk had taken over the room unnoticed while she worked, and her worktable was the only bright spot.

She rolled away from the table and gestured at the lamps on his side of the room while she reached for the one between the wing chairs. "Coffee?" she asked, making her way toward the kitchen. He followed her, waiting while she grabbed a clean mug from the drainer and poured from the thermos. She left it on the counter and backed away to let him stir in what he liked, waiting for him to take a sip before she peered up at him. "So, what'd you bring me?"

His features remained impassive. "Larry Simmerson's book."

Hers twisted briefly in sympathy. "Larry's gone? How?"

"Chupa," he told her, and she nodded. Simmerson had a fierce hatred for the things, and had devoted most of his time to learning their habits and the most expedient ways of killing them. "It was a breeding pair. He didn't know. The female got him after he killed her mate."

Edwina fetched a bottle and two glasses and poured a shot in each. "To Larry." She raised her glass and Bobby did, too. They drank, and then she set her glass down. "Bring that, would you?" She rolled back towards the work table. "Let's see what you brought me."

It was pretty standard, a small three-ring binder stuffed with lined looseleaf from the drugstore, filled closely with crabbed handwriting that spilled up and down the margins. In between looseleaf pages were the backs of envelopes with drawings and cryptic scribbles, what looked like paper napkins, even a couple of pieces of brown paper bag, torn across the store logo, each punched through, some raggedly, just using the points of the binder rings themselves, some obviously mechanically hole-punched. Photographs were glued onto pages, or in some cases held by scrapbook points. There were bits of dried plants, hair samples, what might be parts of claws, some labeled and some not, stuffed into plastic sleeves, themselves hole-punched for use in the binder. As she paged through Simmerson's book, his whole adult life apparent between the covers, it was obvious to Edwina that there was a wealth of information here, waiting to benefit the next hunter wanting to track and kill chupacabra. Bobby stood at her shoulder, making a murmured comment here and there, pointing to identify a sketched flower, or a term he'd run across before. They came to the last page, and Edwina closed the binder. "Okay. I'll start work on it tomorrow."

"How long do you think it'll take you?" Bobby sipped at his coffee, eyeing her over the rim.

"You never know." Her thumb stroked the stiff, scarred leather cover. "I've got a couple of students doing straight transcription, but taking it apart, deciphering the codes he used, and IDing the samples he collected, all that takes time."

Bobby nodded. He had done quite a bit of this work, himself. He cast an eye over the papers and photos spread across the worktable. "What are you working on now?"

Edwina set Simmerson's journal carefully aside. "This is info from a couple of werewolf hunts Griggs, Holloway, and Jordan collaborated on, maybe fifteen, twenty years ago? Griggs' grandkids found it in a box in the attic when they were helping clear out the place. His daughter's selling and moving on."

Bobby leaned over the table, careful not to disturb anything. He swung the architect's lamp to focus light on a series of newspaper clippings as Edwina continued. "They took turns on notekeeping, too. Notes in each of their handwriting, some duplicate clippings--arranged chronologically, and another set arranged by location. There's a lot of good info here--Lassiter and Johnson could have used some of this before they took on that den last fall."

They'd lost Lassiter, and Johnson would never hunt again. "That's good." Bobby nodded. "Everything helps."

Her stomach rumbled, and she vaguely remembered gnawing on an apple sometime after breakfast. "You had supper?" she asked. He started to stammer out a reply, but she shook her head. "Come on. It'll be faster if you help, and it's been a while since I had company for dinner."

All the pots and pans were in lower cabinets where she could reach them, as were the heavy groceries: potatoes, onions, flour. Her grabber, a string-operated claw on a stick, reached boxed goods in the overhead cabinets, but even then only on the bottom shelves. All the higher shelves had long been emptied. The storage space tempted her, but she had decided she wasn't using space she couldn't reach.

A pack of frozen hamburger went into the microwave for fast defrost, and she let Bobby fill and carry the tall pasta pot and set it on to boil while she assembled jars of herbs and cans of tomatoes and sauce. Once the meat had browned, along with a couple of garlic cloves, she added the other ingredients and clapped a lid on the pan to let it simmer.

"So tell me," she began, pulling the plane shredder from the drawer and a chunk each of romano and mozzarella from the fridge. She rolled her knees up under the lower section of butcher block counter and started shredding cheese. "What do you hear? Who's hunting what, and who's winning?"

They gossiped and updated each other on their own areas of knowledge until the timer rang. She had her quilted lap mat and gauntlets, but she allowed him to lift the heavy pot off the stove, carry it to the sink and drain the pasta into the colander she had set ready. He portioned out the noodles into wide bowls as she gave the sauce a final stir. "Sauce is ready."

He was at her back. "Sure smells good. Here, let me." She let him lift the pan and ladle sauce onto the pasta while she reached into the rack for a bottle of red and pulled the cork.

"Glasses in the cabinet behind you," she nodded in that direction. "And there's some bread in the box on the counter. You want garlic toast? Take two minutes."
He shook his head. "Nah, this is fine." He pulled half a dozen slices from the bag and put them on a plate.

By herself, she would have eaten at the roll-up counter section, or back at her worktable, but she pointed with her chin at a small kitchen table tucked against the wall, two chairs pushed up close, facing across it, the open end wide enough to accomodate her knees and footrests. "Here okay?"

He grabbed the plates and carried them over, returning for the bread and the glasses. She scooped silverware from a drawer and napkins from another and, bottle tucked in the crook of her arm, rolled over to join him, the plate of shredded cheeses balanced on her knees.

There was coffee after. She apologized for the lack of dessert, but offered more whiskey or a sweet cordial--there was a bottle of Chambord in one of the bottom cupboards, and some Amaretto. He professed himself satisfied without. They talked a little more, and before he knew it he was hiding a yawn with a balled fist.

"Why don't you stay?" she suggested. "Lord knows I've got room. The students stay over from time to time, and they change and air the beds, do what cleaning's necessary for upkeep." Her gaze dropped to her hands in her lap, as they didn't discuss how long it had been since she had seen the second floor in her own house, or why. "Truth to tell, I'd appreciate an outsider's opinion of their standards," she flashed a wry half-grin at him.