Searching for Answers, Chapter 3 of The Portal Closed

After: and – for the Finish It! Bingo. Not technically a finish, per se, but another chapter.

“If there are other portals, it stands to reason that someone has heard of them.” Clarence came into their hide-out with his arms loaded down with books and his backpack heavy with more.

Barbara set up the camp light and cleared the main table to give them a workplace. “Like that old woman, oh, dear…. Dorothy. Dot Garrington. The one who told us when she had been to Ombrion, and we thought she was putting us on for the longest time?”

“Or,” Diane said more softly, “Donald Jackson, the one that Verdana told us about. Went missing here — I still have the clipping. Because he died in Ombrion.”

“Do you think there’s another portal here? In [town?] If we have to go further out, it’s going to take some doing, especially with the school administration getting so concerned about us.” Barbara wrinkled her nose. Mr. Richardson was doing his best to intervene on their behalves, but the school administration had started paying far too much attention to the four of them.

“Well, that’s the first thing to look into. We know about Mrs. Garrington, and we know about Donald Jackson. Verdana confirmed those. So we have to find anyone else. I’ve got twenty years of old newspapers from old Mr. Dellard’s garage, and gloves, because old Mr. Dellard is not the tidiest.”

“How is that not going to bring suspicion?” Ralph demanded.

“Because Mr. Dellard paid me to clean out his garage,” Clarence shot back. “Because we need spending money, and we’re not old enough for jobs — and besides, I’m too short for the counter of anything retail here, and I don’t think they’d hire me as a fencing instructor.”

Barbara did not giggle, although she did smile a little bit. They were all shorter than they had been, but Clarence, they had discovered, did not have his growth spurt until eighteen or nineteen. He, of course, found the entire thing completely unfair, but there was not much one could do about biology in Ombrion, and less here on Earth.
“Jobs are a good point. I could pick up some babysitting work. The Hardessy triplets are nothing after dealing with…” Barbara trailed off softly. There were things they never talked about. That was one of them. “Well, anyway. I could babysit.”

“I think the branch library needs someone to work afternoons,” Diane offered, “and there’s more research time. After we read through Clarence’s papers here.” She slid on a pair of gloves and picked up a notepad.

Barbara did the same. “So, we’re looking for Dots and Donalds. Strange stories and missing people?”

“And maybe missing time. You remember when we made the paper and all got grounded for a month and a half?”

“Urgh. Yes.” Barbara glared at the paper. That one had been Clarence’s fault, but it was ancient history in so many ways now.

Ancient or not, it probably didn’t stink as bad as these papers. Barbara opened a window after the first thirty-year-old paper, but that didn’t help much until Ralph opened another one on the other side of the building. It meant they had to be quieter — their little hideout might be out of the way, but people did still walk by here — but since all they were doing was reading, that wasn’t all that difficult.

“Got it!” Ralph crowed out. “Look, here…” he dropped his voice to a whisper as all three of them glared at him. “Here. I mean, probably not the only one, but Millie Dioli, here. She was missing for a week, and they assumed she’d fallen in the river.”

“People fall in the river all the time,” Clarence argued.

“Yes, but they don’t come back talking about strange things she saw in the library. The Dolan library,” Ralph added, with heavy emphasis. They looked around the building they were in — the “old, abandoned library” that had “Dolan” carved very clearly above the front door. “She said she’d been in the library the whole time, and that she’d only been gone for an hour.”

“Nnng.” Barbara curled her knees to her chest. “They didn’t institutionalize her, did they?”

“No, although she was, um, ‘soundly punished for her lies’ and eventually told them she’d been off playing pirates and lost track of the time.”

“If she’d been ‘playing pirates’ in the Bay of Sorrows…” Clarence pursed his lips. “That would explain the time shift.”

They all shuddered. The Bay of Sorrows seemed to work differently from the rest of Ombrion in all ways, and it was infested with pirates that they had never been able to get rid of. “So what happened to her?” Barbara leaned forward. “If she didn’t get institutionalized…”

“I brought some phone books.” Clarence pulled them out of his bag. “Although if she married…”

Diane shook her head. “After ‘playing pirates’ with those pirates?”

They all shared another shudder, and Barbara pulled Diane close to her in a sisterly hug. “Probably not,” Clarence allowed. “Dioli… Dioli… All right, she’s in the phone book. But we should keep looking, too. If she’s only been to Ombrion, she won’t be able to help us find someplace else.”

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0 thoughts on “Searching for Answers, Chapter 3 of The Portal Closed

  1. Moar please! You could just say “in town” instead of “in [town?]”, and get around to naming it later. The abandoned Dolan library is where their gate was, as well as Dot’s gate? (Same gate, probably.) I wonder if she’d be interested in finding other gates, too, or if she’d think she’s a bit old for that now. But where are they having this conversation? I thought at first they were still in Mr. Dellard’s garage, cleaning up and reading old papers, but the paragraph about the library suggests that they’re in the old library (with the relocated papers from the cleanout).

    • Their gate’s in the Dolan library, yep. I’ll see about making that clearer, then, where they are. And I really ought to remember to do a find-all for [] before I post something, sorry.

  2. This has the feel of a small town, and something of a while ago with the “punished for her lies” showing up in the newspaper. It’s likely that going to their local library (not Dolan, a functional one!) for its collection of old newspapers would draw questions. Moving 30 years of newspapers will take either a good-sized vehicle, or a ridiculous number of trips with a wagon. How did Charlie get those newspapers to wherever they are without getting pointed questions? It’s pretty clear they’re not in Mr. Dellard’s garage. Maybe in a storage shed of the town recycling center?

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