(Note 2 – I split this chapter in half to make for shorter reading. This is the second half and starts immediately after Part 1 ends)
After that brief conversation with Izle, I could do nothing else except to continue my walk. After just a minute or two I passed in front of the Old Mill, but on the side towards the road, not from the railroad tracks like the time I was caught in the rain. A large Mercedes SUV was parked out front.
Mrs. Adams flagged me down as I was passing by. She was wearing tight exercise clothes with a light jacket over them. She was much more athletic than I had realized.
“Hey Gill, do you have a second?”
“Sure, Barb,” I said, even though I felt cautious. In the back of my mind I knew it was just Izle’s weird warning.
“I tried to get this bench into the building, but was having a hard time by myself. It’s times like this that I really miss George.” Before I had a chance to think how strange that sounded, she said, “Come on, it should just take a minute.”
The wooden bench in the back of the Mercedes was ancient. It was heavy, but not extremely so. I’m sure I could have carried it myself. But it was bulky and it was much easier for two to carry it.
“Where’d this come from?”
“I picked it up an antique store. They say that it came out of one of the mills, but not mine, of course. Still, I want to bring in some artifacts that will fit. I’ve picked a few pieces of equipment, the earlier the better.”
Mrs. Adams guided us over to a blank wall, near some boxes and other old furniture. She took her jacket off and tossed it on the bench.
A lot had changed since I had visited it in the past. Most of the rooms had been taken out stripped down to the beams.
“You’ve done a lot of work here, I see,” I said.
“I wanted to get rid of as much as I could that was post the 1858 rebuilding. I picked that date because that was the last time the outer walls were expanded or changed, at least on the core building. I left a little in, but not much. I then put in some new plumbing and a little electrical over there.” She pointed to an enclosed area at the far end. “You should have seen the ancient stuff that was here! Every bit was tube and knob wiring. All of it is gone now. Not just electrical, but everything I could get rid of, as you can see, down the beams, most of them original from 1804.”
I looked around at the old, empty shell.
“Are a lot of the beams burned? It looks worse down at that end…” I took a few steps towards one side where the beams were charred, some of them almost to the point of no longer being weight-baring.
“Oh yes, there have been a couple of fires here, the worst, of course, the 1821 disaster.”
“1821 is a dark date in Amesbury, but I didn’t realize that there was a fire here, in the mill. What happened?”
“There are a lot of stories. One that has passed down through the family, starting with the first George, is that some of the first Thomas’ enemies, mostly creditors, had sabotaged the place. They wanted Thomas to lose the mill so they could take over. In particular, Alexander De’Trell. Thomas owed him a fortune and Alexander never let him forget it. He was originally form the Caribbean, but actually moved to Amesbury because he said he didn’t trust Thomas with his money.”
“I’m not familiar with the name.”
“I’m sure you aren’t. Just know that he was bad man. He conspired with a few others to destroy Thomas. They started a fire in the mill. Thomas got a lot of people to help him put it out, but many died in the attempt, including almost all of the conspirators. Nobody knows what happened to Alexander De’Trell, but most think he died as he was setting the fire. Poetic justice.”
“I never heard any of this.”
“You can look it up, but I’m sure it will be different. The winners write the history books and all. There was a family feud and Martha wanted her father to appear the bad guy in all of this. She was pure evil. But her brother George saw through it. He was his father’s son and carried on the family tradition. My George was a direct male heir, so he was tied closely to Thomas.”
“Anyway, enough of my ranting. Thanks for helping with the bench. I hope to see you around town soon. Maybe we can have lunch or something.”
“Sounds good to me.”
She had been close, but took the step even closer, almost touching. I could smell her perfume. She patted my arm, in a friendly fashion, not really suggestively. “Any time you want. Since George is gone I really don’t have much company and so can change plans at the drop of a hat. I really want to get to know you better.”
She was looking at me funny. I was sure that Lyndsey would say she was flirting, but it was different. It was almost like she did want to plant something in my mind to try to seduce me later, but not for sexual satisfaction, but for something else. Something that I couldn’t put my finger on. All I know is that she made me very uneasy. Even if I wasn’t in the early stages of a relationship with Lyndsey, I would have been very leery about Mrs. Adams. But I didn’t want to be rude or totally brush her off. It was as if something was warning me that being too direct would be dangerous.
“I look forward to it, but I’m not really sure when I’ll have time. I’m very busy all week and will be working out of the office instead of at home almost every day. I’ll most likely be spending all weekend with Lyndsey, but I can’t tell too far out. I haven’t even begun to thing about the week after that, but I…”
She kept her smile, but something shifted as soon as I said “Lyndsey”.
“Oh well, I know how it is,” she said, interrupting my flow. “I’m sure we’ll catch up soon.”
“I’m sure we will,” I said. I did a little wave and headed for the door. She walked next to me. I stopped and said, “It was nice seeing you, Barb. Talk to you later.”
“Thanks for the help,” she said. She briefly touched my shoulder. “Later.”
As I walked out, someone in the shadows of the building said, “Tread very carefully.”
I turned and for a second that I saw the black man dressed in nineteenth century clothing that I had seen with George Adams a few days earlier, but he was gone before my eyes could focus on him.
When I returned home, I locked the door as I entered. I usually don’t do that. I sat down and started to shake.