Wilom sat at the dining table with his coffee. He wanted to be out of the house by the time Cathlin and Jilli woke up, but he had no letters left to write and no appointments to go to.
He ran a hand over his face. Actually, there was one place he should go. He should go and finally see what had happened to Alph and Gloves.
Gloves had left for the Capital, he knew that much. But he’d never seen any relatives or children go through his part of the River. Of course, that didn’t mean much – they could very well have died and he’d never know about it, just like his father had. But it did mean he’d have to go digging for information.
He counted the years as best he could. Both Gloves and Alph … there was little chance either of them would still be alive. Both of them would be well past ninety, if they were still alive. The best he could hope for was an obituary, he supposed. Vanda said everyone had papers these days … would either of them have lived long enough to need to get them? Would they be easier to find if they had?
Gloves, maybe. Alph … Alph had probably never left the village. Everyone else had been taken out of the village because of bad influences, Wilom suspected. Once they were all gone, well. They’d always been a worse influence on Alph than he’d ever been on him. He was the youngest, after all.
Wilom turned up at the archives with his most unassuming shirt on and waited patiently for the woman at the library information desk to be finish her phone call.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, sir. What can I help you with?”
“I’m uh, looking to find some people,” Wilom said. “One of them lived in the Capital for a while, and the other lived at Harmon Point, last I knew of him.”
The woman frowned. “What is this for?”
“Just a personal project,” Wilom said, using his rehearsed excuse. “They were friends of my grandfather’s, and he recently passed away. He lost contact with his old friends, and now I’m trying to put the pieces back together. So to speak.”
She looked him up and down, and sighed. “I can’t let you into the archives,” she said. “But I can have a look and see if I can find something. If not, I can put a few likely records on order for you, and you can come back and have a look through them in three days. What information can you give me about them?”
“Alphonse Gammon and Rowan Jess. I can tell you parents’ names, too, and dates of birth if you need them.”
She nodded and started taking notes. Wilom told her as much as he could remember about them, their families, any historical incidents that might have put them in a local newspaper – though only a select few of those; he didn’t want to be recognised in a clipping himself – and then when she finally had enough information, she told him to take a seat and disappeared into a back room.
He waited there, looking out the window, mind wandering, it seemed, at every sound that someone made outside. He shook his head to clear it. He must be more nervous than he thought, if he was that desperate for distractions.
“You’re in luck.” The woman came back with a few clippings and a piece of paper, and passed them over to Wilom without a word.
He looked through them. A few newspaper clippings that … well, he remembered. He saw no reason to read those again, and put them aside.
The next was an obituary. Alph had been dead for fifteen years, it seemed. The page didn’t say how, only that he was gone and would be missed. Wilom put that one aside as well.
The last piece of paper was an address, to a house in the city. He patted his pockets. Why hadn’t he remembered to bring something to write with?
“That’s the address for Rowan’s son’s house. Take it with you if you like,” the woman at the desk said. “But I’ll need the clippings back. Would you … like some water? You look a little shaken.”
Wilom put the clippings back on the desk with shaking hands, managed to thank her, and then left with the paper in his pocket.
Wilom was still outside, sitting on a park bench and reading over the address on the card when Vanda showed up.
“Hi,” she said. “Interesting piece of paper?”
“Yeah,” Wilom said, folding it up and putting it in his pocket. “But no longer the most interesting thing around. What’s up?”
“Flatterer. I just noticed you were here and came to see what was up. What was on the paper? You look a little …” she waved her hands vaguely.
“Nothing important. Just another decision I have to make. I’d prefer not to talk about it.”
“Well, alright, then. If you ever do want to talk about it, though …”
They sat in silence for a moment, then Vanda suggested, “Tea?”
Wilom nodded, and took her hand.
“Shit!” he exclaimed, as the world around them faded, becoming hazy and grey.
Vanda looked back. “What?”
“What is this?” Wilom stretched a hand out, to see how far he could see it. Though Vanda was perfectly clear more than an arm’s length in front of him, everything but the two of them was as indistinct as the mist on the River.
“The Pathways,” Vanda said. “The lighthouse keeper taught me. We’ve travelled this way a few times before.”
“When I rescued you from that police station, when I first took you to see our charges …” Vanda paused. “Remember when we ran away? On the River? You said you couldn’t see the tunnels Maybe it’s similar. It’s hard to see unless you’re the right kind of person.”
The pieces fell into place. So that was how they’d covered so much distance so quickly – and why he couldn’t remember which way they’d gone. “Still, it’s useful,” Wilom said. “Was it worth it?”
Vanda frowned at him. “Worth it? What do you mean?”
“The deal. Becoming a lighthouse keeper.”
Vanda stopped walking, and turned to face him. “What do you mean? I didn’t become a lighthouse keeper.”
“Oh. Sorry. The ferryman always said he wasn’t teaching me anything more until I’d chosen to become a ferryman. I assumed you’d have the same rules.”
Vanda pressed her lips together. “Yeah, I remember that.”
“I just … I don’t like it. The lighthouse keeper was always up front about everything. I don’t trust the ferryman.”
“The ferryman is always honest,” Wilom pointed out. “But I understand what you mean. They just … work differently.”
“They do,” Vanda conceded. “I just can’t help but think you’re being deceived somehow.”
Wilom shrugged. “If I am, it’s not hard to get answers out of the ferryman. You just have to ask the right questions.”
Vanda turned away and took Wilom’s hand again. “Let’s get a cup of tea and relax for a while,” she suggested.
Wilom nodded. “Good idea.”