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The door opened and Seth blinked in shock. A young woman with long, curly, coal-black hair and hazel eyes smiled at him.
“You must be the vet.” She reached over to an oak coatrack and slipped into her jacket.
“Yes, ma’am. I’m a veterinarian, but—”
“I’m so glad you’re here. I’m terribly concerned about Harley.” She stepped onto the porch and closed the door.
“ʻCall the vet,ʼ he said.” She laughed. “Of course, he didn’t say that exactly, but he meant it.” She hurried down the steps. “Come along. I know it’s the day after Thanksgiving, but our regular doctor is out of town—as is everyone else in the county it seems—and I had to do something. Harley was very insistent.”
“Yes, ma’am, but where’s Mrs. Holmes?”
“In the nursing home, as usual. I visited with her earlier and she’s doing fine, all things considered, but Harley’s the problem right now. He’s not himself. I’m so worried—”
“Ma’am, is Harley Mr. Holmes?” He barely comprehended her. She spoke rapidly, without a breath between any of her words as he hobbled along in her wake.
She halted for a moment and peered at him as if he possessed a substantial mental deficit. “Why, no. Harley is one of the alpacas. I believe I mentioned that detail when I left the message on the phone, though it is possible I forgot, I was—after all—a bit upset since no one would come out here and examine him. Mrs. Holmes loves the alpacas. I still bring them around to the nursing home on fine days and it cheers her more than you can imagine—calms her, too. Sometimes, she’s almost lucid when she touches their soft fleece.”
His heart sank. Was his grandmother suffering from dementia? “Is Mr. Holmes here?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Didn’t you hear? Dr. Holmes died three years ago.”
Doctor? Seth swallowed. “He’s...he’s gone?”
“Yes, a massive heart attack. It was so...sudden...” She took in a ragged breath before
continuing. “He was the mayor for some time and practically a celebrity in these parts, though it doesn’t take much to be famous in Greenburg. Was he your professor? So many of his former students drop by on occasion. He’s still remembered fondly by many of them.”
“I went to college in Colorado. What did he teach?”
“English. Oh, how he loved Shakespeare,” she exclaimed. “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
A cold chill slid up Seth’s spine. His father often used that quote—mostly because it invariably impressed folks. He realized he discovered a link, though tenuous, but at least one thing made sense.