She moved silently through the darkened barbershop, past the near-antique barber chairs, the cloudy mirrors, the old black-and-white TV, and the stack of National Geographics from 1963. A sign taped next to a nondescript door in the back wall said, “Legal Services Upstairs.”
It was almost midnight. After everything that had happened, some people wouldn’t have understood why she came there, but it was where she felt safe, and she just needed a chance to be alone.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to happen. The little bell attached to the door tolled, and her heart sank into the pit of her stomach.
She turned to face the man who stood just within the door.
“Dana, I, um, I’m sorry,” he stammered, “I, uh, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“Andrew, what do you want?” she asked.
She had grown up with Andrew Hayle and his five sisters. He was a few years older than she was, almost thirty, she realized, slightly taken aback, but he still looked eighteen. It was obvious that he hadn’t seen the inside of that particular establishment in a while. His hair was falling into his eyes. He also wore a jacket two sizes too big, and the rest of his clothes looked like he’d slept in them. He was out of breath.
“I, ah, I need to talk to you,” he said.
“It’s a little late, don’t you think?”
“Please, it’s important. Do you think I’d be chasing after you like this if it weren’t?”
Dana shrugged. “I don’t know. Would you?”
“Look, I’m really sorry about your uncle.”
“You know you really pissed him off with what you said.”
Andrew straightened himself up. “I’m a reporter. It comes with the territory.”
Dana shot him a look that withered him immediately. “You write for the Ravensburg Ledger, not the New York Times. Your territory is a little nowhere corner of Georgia where nothing is supposed to ever happen.”
“So maybe I should stick to reporting the family reunions and the church yard sales and leave the politics and the murders to someone else? Look, none of us have ever had to deal with this, or at least not in a long time. Five minutes. That’s all I’m asking.”
She sighed. “Okay, fine. I’m sorry.We can talk upstairs.”
To Dana, the office upstairs had already taken on the stale smell of disuse. The walls were bare. The filing cabinets were empty, and the bookshelves had been cleared. Only a few stacks of papers remained here and there, along with one or two personal things. Andrew glanced around the room until his eyes rested on a picture sitting on the barren desktop.
“You and your uncle?” he asked, picking it up.
Dana nodded as she took the picture from him. “I was nine. He took me to Atlanta. We were supposed to go to a baseball game, but I had more fun at the courthouse downtown.”
“And that’s when you decided to become a lawyer.”
“So is that still the plan? I mean, you haven’t gone back to school yet.”
“They granted me a leave of absence until I can– I mean, I need– My mother and my aunt need me right now. I’ll make it up this summer.”
“Can we get to the point? You said it was important.”
Andrew began to fidget with the ring on his finger. “The point. Yeah. Ah, well, I guess there’s no good way to say this. I followed you earlier tonight, to that place in Henson Park.”
“You know, it’s not very safe there after dark.”
She could feel her cheeks turning flush. She knew the code. She could fill in what Andrew wasn’t saying. It wasn’t very safe, because most of the people who lived there were poor and black, and she was a young, white woman from a fairly well-off family.
“I think you should go now.”
“No, look, I’m sorry. I know what it sounds like. You think I’m a psycho or that I’m prying into your business somehow, but I, ah, wanted to make sure everything was okay. I’d hate to see something happen to you.”
Dana glanced at an innocent-looking envelope lying on one of the filing cabinets. She had received it two days earlier. It contained three items–a yellowed article from the April 28, 1963, edition of the Ledger, detailing the disappearance of Thomas Parks, a white man; another, much smaller, yellowed article from the May 5, 1963 edition of the Ledger, detailing the disappearance of Emma Talmadge, a black woman; and a scrap of paper with an address and a message:
I have a secret.
“You can stop it with the Southern male crap,” Dana fired back, “I can take care of myself.”
Andrew, however, persisted. “But you wouldn’t go to a place like Henson Park unless you had a really good reason. Would that reason have anything to do with your uncle’s murder?”
Dana turned toward the window overlooking the street outside, hoping she wouldn’t see it again, her uncle lying on the sidewalk, a dark red pool creeping from underneath him.
“I really think you should leave.”
“I want to help.”
“Go away. Now, please.”
Dana slammed the door behind him. Andrew winced. That really hadn’t gone well at all.
He paused a moment at the foot of the stairs and pulled the folder out of his jacket. He had eased it off the top of a filing cabinet when Dana had her back turned. Anything relating to Albert Sands’ clients should have been gone, shuffled off to other attorneys, which made him wonder about the papers that were left. He wished she trusted him enough to tell him what was going on.
In the folder, there were several black-and-white photographs of two white men in their late teens or early twenties. From the way they were dressed the pictures had to have been taken in the late fifties or early sixties, but there were no marks, no labels, no dates.
Part of him felt badly about taking it, but he promised himself he’d do something to make it up.