For the second time in a week, and again in her pajamas, Naomi found herself plied with tea and biscuits by the neighbors. She was exhausted from the waves of anxiety that she felt in the basement, but exhilarated after its release on her psyche and her stomach. She couldn't eat cookies quickly enough as she sat in Surya's kitchen, hands still shaking as they clutched a mug of Five Roses tea.
"Thank you," she said again, looking at Surya. "Thank you for getting us out."
"It was nothing," said Surya. "And it was my father's doing. I'm sorry he had to leave so quickly, but a cousin was driving him to Best Buy this morning and nothing would deter them from browsing for large, useless electronics." Surya grinned to show Naomi that she was joking.
Naomi nodded and smiled. She glanced at the tea cup in front of her.
"You must wonder what we were doing in there," she said at last.
"Were you looking for something in particular? Or perhaps getting to know the house?" asked Surya, taking a sip of her tea.
"I was following that old woman," explained Naomi. "It seemed kind of like she was seeing things, kind of remembering things very vividly. It was strange, but sort of exciting." She looked up from her tea. "There's not a whole lot of mystery in life," she said. "I don't mind a little Nancy Drew."
She paused. "You have a son, right?" Naomi continued. "Do you know who I mean by Nancy Drew? I know boys don't usually read those books."
"Of course," replied Surya. "I read them in India, when my cousins brought them in the summer. Along with the Agatha Christie. Did you know that Nancy Drew's creator lived in Orange Heights?"
Naomi looked skeptical, but Surya spoke confidently. "Oh, yes," she continued. "Edward Stratemeyer and his daughters started the company, moved it to Orange, and wrote many of those books." She rose and walked to her refrigerator. Pulling the town calendar from the wall, she returned to the table and opened it to May.
"Look," said Surya, pointing at a photo of the town's Village Hall with a large clock in its cupola. "They say that Stratemeyer drove past this every day on his way to the writing factory in Orange. When he thought of Nancy Drew and crafted a mystery for her, he took inspiration and named the first book Mystery of the Old Clock."
Naomi considered this. Could Stratemeyer have been to her house? Did he find Nancy's inspiration elsewhere?
"The Mystery of the Old Dumbwaiter," she said aloud, then laughed, embarrassed.
Surya looked at her. "Don't forget to mention the china," she said. "Your dumbwaiter was filled with china, enough for a large party. But somehow it was forgotten, left there for decades. What happened?" She stood to refill their cups with hot water. "That, to me, is the mystery."
Naomi rose and opened her mouth to speak again.
"No more thanks," said Surya. "But when the time is right, I will go down to that basement with you and see what other mysteries we uncover."