bed had proved to be more like a divan, and it was easy for
me to help her into it from the wheelchair. She was exceedingly
grateful for my assistance and made me promise to wake her
in a half hour if she didn't wake up on her own. I promised
since I knew that we'd still be there in thirty minutes. It
would take longer than that for Anita to examine all the pens
to her satisfaction. I still hoped though that I could persuade
her to leave as soon as her examination was over.
When I returned to her, Anita was grinning from ear to ear.
"I've taken three apart,' she said. No sac in any of
them, but no dried out residue either. Obviously Martin had
cleaned them and intended to resac them. Not the behavior
of a man bent on suicide, do you think?"
"So Ellen shared her suicide theory with you too?"
Anita nodded. "On the phone when I called her from the
vet about the cats. This family is not exactly close-mouthed."
I chuckled but then remembered my intention to get us out
of there before nightfall.
"If all of then pens are clean and empty, don't you think
we could just pack them up and take them with us?"
Anita shook her head. "I want Morris to handle this."
"But Miranda doesn't," I reminded her, "and
the pens are hers."
"I think it will take a little more persuading, but she
will come around in time," Anita replied.
"But time is what we don't have!" I barked. I collected
myself quickly and apologized.
"I understand that you're eager to see Stew," Anita
said softly. "But we'll have several days with him before
the pen show, and you told me he is busy."
"We'll have two days, if we're lucky," I grumbled.
"And less than that if you persist in sticking your nose
into these people's affairs."
Anita looked at me sharply. "What exactly is bothering
"I feel as if I'm a voyeur, and I don't like the feeling,"
I said. I didn't know where that answer had come from, but
it seemed true.
She smiled fondly at me. "Well, you're not. A voyeur,
I mean. And I promise we'll get out of here as soon as possible."
As she spoke Anita was taking apart a beautifully preserved
Waterman red ripple #56. I loved watching her work on pens.
She was able to focus so completely without appearing to do
Possible for whom? I didn't ask the question. Instead I pulled
a chair up to the table and sat down. "How many are in
there, and are you going to examine all of them?" I inquired.
"There are twenty-seven, and I'm not going to examine
all of them. I'm waiting for Morris to call me back, so I
might as well play with these a little. There, just look at
that line. No flex to the nib at all, but a wonderful smoothness."
Anita had dipped the pen and written my name with it on the
sheet of paper she had before her. "Would you like to
try it?" she asked.
"That's not fair," I complained. "You know
I can never resist." I moved my chair closer and reached
out for the pen Anita handed me. She moved the paper to where
I could easily write on it.
"Did you dip this one?" I asked.
"No, I just pulled it apart and put it together. I haven't
even looked at the nib with my loupe yet. That part of this
procedure would be easier if there were more light in here."
I carefully dipped the pen into the bottle of Waterman blue
black ink and made sure not to spray ink drops all over as
I pulled it out.
"Don't you have a lighted loupe?" I asked her, as
I slowly wrote my name on the page.
"Nope. I had one but broke it."
"Well," I replied, smiling as I made several loops
and under my name, "I know what to get you for Christmas."
The pen was nice. I wiped it carefully on a piece of chamois
she handed me and gave it back to her. "What else have
you got in there?"
"Under the red ripples there's a bronze and green 92,
a cardinal 52V, and a very large eyedropper in black hard
rubber, no chasing visible to my naked eye, but I think it
was chased at one time.. The number is worn off the pen as
well,, but the nib is enormous. I'd guess it's a number eight,
which would make the pen a Waterman 18."
I admired at the large black pen. "I hope it doesn't
leak," I said. "If it does, someone or something
could really get covered with ink."
Anita laughed out loud. "If it gets sold to someone who'll
actually use it, that is."
I shrugged. "If it doesn't leak it would be a shame not
to use it. Just think how long you could write without having
Anita twinkled at me. "Should we fill it?"
"Not here at this table!" I squawked, horrified
at the idea of the mess that could create.
She laughed again, even harder this time. "I think we
should fill it. If we can find our way to the kitchen, we
can do it over the sink."
I knew better than to argue with Anita when she had a plan
that concerned a pen, so I followed her out into the hallway.
"The kitchen is usually towards the back of these old
places," she murmured, "so let's try this way."
The first floor of the house was full of little nooks and
crannies, and it took us a while to find the kitchen, but
once we did, Anita water-tested the eyedropper.
"He really cleaned this baby up, didn't he?" she
said, as she shook the full pen over the sink, first nib down
as if shaking a thermometer and then from side to side. "No
leaks so far," she said happily. "If this pen has
a flexxy nib, well, I might well be tempted." She sighed
as she led me back the way we'd come. "I do wish Morris
would get back to me," she said, patting the lumpy looking
pocket on the side of the tunic she wore. I brought the cell
phone in with me, just in case."
"Didn't you already talk to him?" I asked. "Or
did you just leave a message?"
"Oh, I spoke with him all right. But he had to find someone
to look after little Anita before he could meet us."
"Not here though," I said, surprised that my statement
sounded so much like a question.
"No," Anita replied without any trace of annoyance.
"I'd never invite him here without Miranda's permission."
"I thought of the Privetts' place at first," she
said. She laughed at the sour face I made. "But then
I decided that the antique shop would be a better meeting
"But what if it's locked up?" I protested, uneasy
because the shop and the apartment attached to it had seemed
uncanny to me.
"Morris has a key."
"Morris has a key, Mrs. P. has a key. Is there anyone
who doesn't have a key to the place?" I asked.
"You and I don't," Anita replied shortly. "But
I still think it's a good meeting place. And if we meet there
instead of at the Privetts', perhaps Morris can persuade Joanna
to stay with Anita in his absence."
"Not a bad idea," I admitted, "as that will
keep the erstwhile Mrs. P. out of our hair too."
It was over half an hour later that Morris finally called
to say he'd arranged for Joanna Privett to stay with Needles
and he would meet us at the antique shop in half an hour.
The mention of half an hour reminded me that I had promised
to wake Miranda after half an hour if she didn't wake up earlier
on her own Forty-five minutes had already passed, so I went
to the door of the den and knocked softly. When I heard her
stirring I opened the door and stuck my head in.
"I'm glad you're still here. Would you mind helping me
back into my chair?" Miranda asked me with a smile. I
complied willingly, though getting her into the wheelchair
was more difficult than getting her out of it had been. She
asked me to return her to the room where Anita was in order,
she said teasingly, to check on her progress. I offered a
silent prayer that Anita was no longer on the phone with Morris,
and wheeled Miranda through the door.
Anita was no longer on the phone. She was bent over a pen,
staring through her loupe at the nib. She had managed to attach
a flashlight to the loupe which looked ridiculous but not
as ridiculous as when she had attached one to her head a few
years ago when the lights went out during a pen club meeting.
She looked up when she heard us enter. "I hope you don't
mind, Miranda, "but I borrowed a flashlight. It was just
sitting over there on the edge of the bookshelf, and examining
pens is so much easier in decent light."
Miranda didn't reply. She just looked at Anita expectantly.
I wasn't sure what she was expecting, but there was obviously
," she began. "Well?"
"A very deep subject," Anita said, causing me to
groan loudly. "Is there something specific you'd like
to ask me, Miranda?"
"What have you found?" Miranda replied.
"Twenty-seven pens," Anita told her, "all of
them that I've looked at so far in excellent condition in
need only of new sacs and maybe a little Simichrome."
Miranda looked at her blankly.
Anita chuckled. "You really don't know what I'm talking
about, do you?"
Miranda shook her head.
"Well, some of the pen need to be polished to make them
look nice. And almost all of them, except for the eyedroppers,
of course, need new ink sacs so they can fill. Your husband
cleaned them all out very carefully, but he didn't get around
to resaccing them."
Miranda still look blank. "But how much could you sell
"As they are now, maybe between eight and ten thousand
dollars for the whole lot, if there were a collector or a
restorer who wanted to buy the lot. If someone," Anita
carefully emphasized the word, "were to polish and resac
them and sell them individually, they'd likely go for more."
"Those red, rubber things are worth that much?"
Miranda whispered, amazed.
"The larger ones are," Anita explained, "and
you've got some pens in there under the red ripples that are
worth a lot too. I checked out one huge eyedropper at your
kitchen sink, and it doesn't leak."
"Eyedropper? "Miranda asked. "I thought that
everything in there was a fountain pen."
"Eyedropper filler," Anita added. "A pen that
fills with an eyedropper."
Miranda still looked perplexed, so I interjected, "Eyedropper
fillers don't have an internal sac or any other internal,
uh, container for holding ink. One fills the actual body of
the pen itself with an eyedropper. Many of the older ones
leak. That's quite a disadvantage, of course. The advantages
are that one doesn't have to keep replacing sacs and one can
get a lot of writing done on one fill."
Miranda nodded, but I still wasn't sure she had the faintest
idea what an eyedropper filler was.
"In any case," I went on, "with these pens
worth so much, perhaps you won't have to sell the pens you
showed us earlier."
Miranda nodded again.
I looked at Anita who gave no indication of having paid any
attention to my exchange with Miranda. She was pulling apart
another pen, this one a black Waterman 58.
"How many more to go?" I asked her.
She kept working but had obviously heard me because she answered,
"Nine more. This one is a beauty too. Looks almost mint,;
the nib may have been written with, but you'd never know it
She had reassembled the pen when the phone rang. For a second
I thought it was Mrs. P.'s cell phone, but when I saw Miranda's
chair start to move towards the wall next to the door through
which I'd brought her and realized that Anita wasn't making
any move to get at the phone in her pocket, I relaxed.
Miranda was fairly quick and picked up the phone on the second
"Yes, hello, Morris," she began. "No, she's
not here. I thought she'd gone to you to be with Anita."
After about a minute, I heard her reply, "I see. Have
you called the pediatrician?"
I felt a small shiver of anxiety pass through me.
"I quite understand. Yes, I know you're not a legal guardian,
Morris. I must say that I wish you were. If Ellen has the
van, there's a phone in it. You have the number, don't you?"
After a few more seconds of silence, I heard Miranda say,
"Very well. If you tried the car phone, there's nothing
more to be done. I have Miss Carswell and Mr. Harmon here
with me. Perhaps they can drive me. As the child's grandmother,
I may be able to do what's necessary. Thank you so much for
She hung up and looked at Anita, then at me. "It seems
little Anita has taken a turn for the worse, and Ellen is
neither at home or in the store. And she's not answering the
phone in the van, so I need to meet Morris and the child at
the pediatrician's office."
She sighed. "Sometimes I really long for the days of
home visits by doctors."
I cleared my throat. "We don't have a van. Your wheelchair
is too big to fit in my car."
"I have a folding wheelchair by the back door."
"Our trunk is full," I replied.
"Oh, for heaven's sake, Bob!" Anita snapped at me.
"We can leave our stuff here." She stood up and
headed to the kitchen. "I thought I saw the folding wheelchair,"
she called over her shoulder. "Go empty the trunk, please."
"Damn it!" I swore under my breath and headed to
the front door.
time I got the trunk empty and our possessions stowed inside
the front door of the house, the folding wheelchair was neatly
packed into the trunk, and Anita had helped Miranda out of
her regular chair into the front passenger seat of the car.
"Do you want to drive?" I asked Anita ungraciously.
"I'll drive if you like," she replied. I climbed
into the back seat, crossed my arms over my chest, and stared
out the window.