The Self Leader Secret
Allyson gasped in horror as a wave of muddy water from a nearby puddle drenched her. She looked up just in time to see Tori Eggleston and her friends laughing as they drove away.
“You did that on purpose!” Allyson screamed after the retreating Mustang.
“Are you alright?”
Allyson turned. A young woman wearing a blue sweater and jeans and holding a large black umbrella stood before her.
“I saw what those girls did. It’s warm and dry in my bookstore; come and get out of the rain
“I don’t want to be a bother.”
“No bother. I’ll make tea. I’m Mackenzie. Call me Mac, everyone does.” She opened the door to Petersen’s Rare Books and Curiosities.
“I’m Allyson Richards. I don’t remember seeing this store before.”
“I opened last week. Do you like books?”
“I love them. My mom says I’m a bookworm. She keeps wanting me to try out for cheerleader. But I would rather read.
“Is that a wool sweater?” Mac looked at the muddy garment. “Let it dry naturally? I have a brush to get rid of the mud.
“I hope it comes out. Mom will kill me if it doesn’t.”
“It will be fine. Besides it wasn’t your fault. That car headed straight for the puddle.
“That won’t matter. I missed the bus; I walked too close to the street. No matter what you say Mac, it will still be my fault.
“Well, don’t worry about that right now. I have Chamomile, Earl Grey and English Breakfast; which tea do you want?”
“Chamomile, I need to relax.”
“Chamomile it is then. Why don’t you have a look around while the water’s heating?”
Allyson wandered through the stacks. Names of famous writers lined the shelves. She pulled a volume of Huckleberry Finn from the shelf and opened it. The copyright read 1884. A first edition. Inside the price read $15.95. Wow that is cheap for a first edition. I wish I had some money. She put it back on the shelf and looked farther.
“Tea’s ready Allyson; is your sweater dry yet?”
“Yes, but it’s still got mud on it.”
“No problem.” Mac handed the girl a small brush. “This will take care of your cleaning issues. Just hold it over the spot and press the red button. If there is any left, I have spot remover, guaranteed to take the dots off a Dalmatian. Mom will never know.”
“Mom! Oh my gosh. What time is it?”
“Tell her that you missed the bus.”
Allyson dialed her cell phone.
“Allyson, where have you been? I’ve tried to call you several times.”
“Sorry Mom, I had my phone off.”
“What is the use of carrying a phone if you have it turned off? Where are you?”
“I’m in a bookstore on the square. I stopped here to get out of the rain. It’s two doors down from the diner.”
“Well I suppose I will have to come and get you. Why you didn’t take the bus. I never have to make an unscheduled trip for your sister. I’ll be there in ten minutes. What’s the name of that place?”
“Petersen’s Rare Books and Curiosities.”
“Fine, wait for me outside. Don’t impose on the owner any longer.”
Allyson clapped her phone shut and took a couple of swipes at her sweater with Mac’s brush. The mud disolved into dust.
“Thank you for helping me. My mother will be here in a few minutes and she wants me to wait outside. She thinks I’m imposing.”
“Nonsense, it’s cold and wet out there. Besides, you haven’t finished your tea. I tell you what, stay in here. I’m enjoying the company.”
“Thanks, I will. A few minutes later the bell on the front door clanged and Mrs. Richards walked in.
“Allyson, let’s go. Thank this nice lady for taking up her time.”
“I enjoyed it,” said Mac. “Feel free to come back any time Allyson.”
Mrs. Richards, lips pursed into a thin smile, ushered her daughter through the front door.
To Allyson’s relief, the topic of conversation at dinner centered on the high school Homecoming Dance. Donna, her older sister, babbled on about being the Junior Princess. She had found the perfect dress at Speidwell’s Department store. She and Tim Petersen, her date, would wear color coordinated outfits to the dance. The night would be perfect especially if they were chosen Queen and King.
The following Saturday, while Mom took Donna dress shopping, Allyson rode her bike to the bookstore. Mackenzie stood on a ladder in front of the store hanging a banner announcing a Grand Opening Sale.
“Well, hi there. It’s Allyson isn’t it?”
“Hey, redheads have to stick together.” Mac pushed an auburn wisp behind her ear. “So did you get into trouble?”
“Mom didn’t say much on the drive home then my sister hogged most of the conversation. She’s the Junior Prom Princess and so everything is about her.”
“Hum that sounds like my sister. Your teenage years are a time of great change. When I was your age I even started going by my middle name. It has a bit more pizzazz. Funny how life works though; one day you will be the one to make the folks proud, not Donna. So what’s going on with you?”
“Well, I came back to get another look at your shop. This time I brought money.”
“Great, come on in.”
Allyson wandered through the shelves until she found Huckleberry Finn again. Sure enough the price was $15.95 and it looked in mint condition.
“Mac how old is this book?”
“Well, it’s a first edition and the date is 1884. I would say it’s about 125 years old.”
“But it looks brand new and it’s so cheap.”
“I got a good deal from the previous owner. Do you want it?”
Allyson handed Mac a twenty dollar bill. A moment later the front door opened and a girl about Allyson’s age walked into the store.
“Welcome back Carolyn. Do you know Allyson?”
“I’ve seen you at school.” She smiled. “You’re the girl who likes to hang out at the cliff dwellings.”
“Yeah, I like places like that and learning about people who lived long ago.”
“Me too. Can I come with you next time you go?”
“Sure,” Allyson smiled. “It’s nice to have company on a dig.”
“Yeah, I like to pretend I’m an archeologist. Maybe we can go tomorrow afternoon.”
“That sounds like fun.
As the girls rode to the ruins outside of town the next afternoon, Allyson began thinking about what Mac had said about her future life. I make the folks proud and not Donna? Hum, how did she know my sisters name?
“Carolyn, how well do you know Mac?”
“I know she’s from Chicago. She sure seems to know a lot about this town though.”
“Well, she seems to know a lot about the school and the football team. Course she could just be a fan. She mentioned Tim Peterson too.”
“Did I hear my name?” A tall blond boy appeared from behind a crumbling wall.”
“Aaaaah!” the girls both gasped.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“Oh, Tim! What are you doing here?”
“That cute redhead at the bookstore told me it was a place to find cool stuff. Was she asking about me?”
“Yeah,” Carolyn replied. “Weird, huh; it was almost as if she knew you and Allyson. Maybe she’s some kind of weirdo stalker. We should check her out.”
“That sounds a little paranoid Carolyn. Maybe she is just a merchant who likes to learn about her marketplace.”
“By learning about the kids?” Tim cocked his head.
“You’re right. Let’s go back to town. I’m feeling creeped out. Do you want to come with us Tim?”
“I’ve got my motorcycle, I’ll meet you girls at the Big Dipper for a snack and we can talk more about this person.”
The next morning as she and Carolyn walked to school Allyson saw a blue light coming from Mackenzie’s store. A moment later Mac unlocked the door and turned on the OPEN sign. Her hair looked several inches longer and she wore a cast on her right hand. She saw the girls and waived.
“Hi Mac,” said Carolyn. “What happened to your hand?”
“Uh, oh, I broke it about 3 weeks ago. It’s doing fine.”
“Well, we’d better get to school.” Allyson grabbed Carolyn’s sleeve and they raced down the street. When they were out of site of the bookstore they stopped to catch their breath.
“Now that was intensely weird.” said Carolyn. “How come she just started to wear a cast if she broke her hand 3 weeks ago; and what about that hair? I know it has grown at least 3 inches since Saturday.”
“Well she could have gotten extensions, but that cast has been on her hand for a while. It looks smudge and worn. I think we should get together with Tim and investigate Mac; she’s hiding something.”
“Tim likes you.”
“What! No, he’s my sister’s boyfriend.”
“Yeah but he really likes you.”
“Uh alright, but we need to find out who Mac really is and why she knows so much about us. I know; I’ll start with Mr. Myers. He owns her building. He’s a friend of my dad; maybe he knows something about Ms Mackenzie Peterson.”
That afternoon Allyson stopped into Myers’ Realty company and spent almost an hour talking with Sheila the receptionist about the stores on the square. When the subject turned to Peterson’s Rare Books and Curios, Sheila offered little help.
Tim sat at a computer in the library running a search on Mackenzie Peterson. He frowned as all attempts returned no matching results.
“Any luck?” Allyson asked as she sat down beside him.
“No, not really; these people are all either too old, they don’t sell books or they live in some other country.”
“I got her address in Chicago.”
“Great, maybe that will tell us something.”
Tim typed in Mac’s address. He from city planning records he went into the history of the property. He took a deep breath and scowled again.
“Are you sure this is the right address?”
“Yeah, it’s the one Mac gave to Mr. Myers. I peeked at the file while Sheila was waiting on another customer.”
“Too bad; according to this, the property where Mac lived has always been a vacant lot.”
“So she lied about her address too. Who is she and why she knows so much about us? I think we should follow her when she leaves the store tonight. It will give us more clues.”
“Why don’t we meet in the square at 6:45? Mac’s store closes at 7:00.”
“Great, I’ll bring Carolyn. She has a stake in this.”
As Allyson checked her backpack for the things that she needed; Donna stormed into her room and slammed the door.
“Tori Eggleston saw you huddled with Tim in the library, little girl. Remember he is my boyfriend.”
Allyson sat back in her chair. “You really should be nicer to him. He is a really good guy.”
“No one is taking him from me; especially not you, little sister.” Donna glared for a moment then turned and stomped out of the room.
Allyson grabbed the bag and hurried downstairs. “I’m going to Carolyn’s,” she called as she rushed out the door.
Peddling down the darkened streets, Allyson soon arrived at the square. She switched on her flashlight. Two flashlights answered her signal. The three of them moved toward a clump of bushes that sat adjacent to Mac’s store.
From the shadows they could see Mac moving about, closing up the store. She locked the front door and turned off the main lights.
Through the dim, security lights, Mac could still be seen. She pulled up her sleeve and revealed a silver bracelet with three gems. She pushed the red jewel in the middle and disappeared in a flash of blue light.
“What just happened? Tim rubbed his eyes.
“Uh, I don’t know. She just vanished.” said Carolyn.
“People don’t just vanish.” Allyson walked toward the store. “She has to be in there somewhere.”
The girl pressed her face against the glass and peered into the empty store. There was no sign of Mac.
“Maybe she’s a witch or an alien.” Carolyn shivered. “What does she want and why is she so interested in the three of us?”
“We’ll have to wait until she comes back and ask her.” Allyson shouldered her pack. “The only alternative is breaking and entering.”
“What are you nuts?” Tim put his hand on her shoulder. “You can’t just ask her?”
“Why not? She has always been kind to me.”
“This is a bad idea.”
“What do you want to do Tim; call the police? And what would you tell them? A mysterious merchant knows a lot about me and my friends and tonight she disappeared into thin air? Carolyn and I will come and visit you in the rubber room.”
“Okay, you’re right, but don’t confront her just yet and please don’t do it alone. Maybe we can get her fingerprints.”
“Yeah, my brother is a deputy sheriff; he has an old fingerprint set. If we can get a copy of her prints, I’ll get him to run them.”
“Alright,” Allyson looked toward the empty store. “Tomorrow, I’ll go in there. Mac will probably give me a cup of tea. I’ll swipe the cup and we can get her fingerprints.”
“Good idea, we should go with you just in case there is trouble.”
“She will be suspicious.”
“Then, just me.” said Tim. “In case you need muscle.”
Allyson smiled. Tim had plenty of muscle.
“Tomorrow is a Saturday. Let’s do this about 10:00. I need to be home by 4:00. I have to get ready for that dumb prom. The prom princesses and their dates are supposed to be at the gym by 5:30 for pictures.”
“Dumb prom? I thought you were looking forward to it. I sister sure is.”
“I don’t know; I’d rather be doing something else with someone else. Don’t tell Donna, I don’t want to spoil her big night.”
“What would you rather do Tim?”
“Um, explore cliff dwellings with you…and Carolyn. But back to business; when you pick up the cup be really careful where you handle it so it doesn’t mess up the fingerprints.”
“I‘ll take your fingerprints too, Allyson. Then I can compare them with the ones we get from the cup and rule them out.”
“Can you do that? I mean do you know how?”
“My brother showed me and I’ve played with it loads of times. Okay so tomorrow Allyson, you go into the store about 10 minutes after it opens. Pretend that you are a little upset that way Mac will offer you some tea.”
“I’ll tell her that my sister has been a real pain. She’ll buy that.”
“Good. Then about 10 minutes later Tim will come in and cause a distraction. That way Allyson can swipe the cup. Hang around for a few minutes and then leave separately to avoid suspicion. I’ll have the fingerprint kit all set up at my house.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Tim brushed the hair out of his eyes. “But I don’t like Allyson being in there alone.”
“Mac has never made even remotely threatening moves. I’m not really afraid of her.
“Once, we have her prints, I‘ll get my brother to run them. I’ll have to come up with some sort of story.”
“Why don’t you tell him that she is an alien witch?” Allyson laughed.
“Do you see her in there?” Tim whispered. “I didn’t see that weird blue light.”
Allyson shook her head as she peered through the bushes in front of the store. Just then Mac opened the front door and turned on the sign. She stepped out onto the sidewalk, raised her arms and took a deep breath. Then she turned and walked back inside. Allyson looked at her watch. Eight minutes more.
“Be careful how you handle that cup.”
“Well don’t forget to wait for at least 10 minutes before you come in. I don’t want her to think we are together…uh…in some kind of conspiracy. And if she asks if we know each other tell her that we do. You’re dating my sister after all.”
“Got it; good luck.”
Allyson smiled and walked across the square. She put on her ‘upset’ face and entered the bookstore.
“Allyson, you’re up early on a Saturday. I thought teenagers liked to sleep in.”
“Well I would, but there is no peace in my house. Tonight is prom night and Donna is having a fit. I decided to split.”
“Sounds like a good plan to me. Tea?
“English Breakfast; you know since it’s early and all.”
“Be right back. Make yourself comfortable.”
Allyson looked around the store. Every time she visited she always found something interesting. A silver and gold bowl sat inside a glass case with strange letters inscribed around the rim. She looked at it closely trying to recognize the writing. Just then the door opened and Tim came in. Mac poked her head back into the shop.
“I’ll be right with you. Oh hi Tim I haven’t seen you in a while.’
“Hi Mac, I thought I’d drop by and see what new books you have.” He cast a sidelong glance at Allyson. “Hey kid I thought you’d be helping your sister get ready for the big day.”
“No I’m staying out of it. I figure if I ‘m gone until about 5:00 I can miss most of the chaos. I wonder what she’ll be like on the day she gets married.”
“Probably just as crazy. Here you are Allyson some nice English Breakfast tea.” Mac looked at the two of them and a small smile crossed her lips. “So it begins, and so young.” she muttered.
“So Mac, do you have any new adventure stories?” Tim drew her attention to the stacks. When her back was turned Allyson poured the tea into a potted plant then slipped the cup into the plastic bag hidden it in her purse. She waited a few minutes then thanked Mac for the tea and left.
“Okay Allyson, let me take your finger prints first. Where did you touch it?”
“Just on the handle and the bottom, but Mac put her fingers all over it. You should be able to get several good prints.”
Allyson inked her fingers and then put each one in a separate block on a card from Carolyn’s kit. Meanwhile Carolyn dusted and carefully applied the prints to a card labeled ‘Cup’. She pulled a magnifying glass out of the drawer; and compared the two cards carefully. She frowned.
“Allyson, I thought you only touched the bottom and the handle. Your prints are all over this thing.”
“All the prints on the cup match yours. How do you explain that?”
“How can they be mine? Mac handled cup and when she gave it to me; I took the handle. I never touched anywhere else except on the bottom. You must have done it wrong.”
“I didn’t do it wrong, I have done this with my brother several times and I know what I am doing. If you didn’t touch it on its outer surface then how did your prints get there?”
Allyson threw her hands up into the air. Just then Tim Peterson knocked on the door. “Hey have you done it yet? How did it go?”
“Not good, the only prints on the cup are Allyson’s.”
“Weird? Well I bought a ceramic pot for my mother’s birthday from Mac’s store. She touched it all over. Try and get the prints off of that.”
Carolyn got several good prints from the pot. Then she compared them to the ones on Allyson’s card. Her eyes widened. She went over each print several times. Then she shook her head. “I don’t understand this at all.”
“Allyson’s prints are all over this thing too.”
“Impossible! I never even touched it. I never saw it before today.”
“Let’s go get a second opinion from my brother.”
Carolyn’s brother looked up from his computer as the trio entered the sheriff’s office.
“Hey, what are you doing here?”
“I need your help.”
“Um, we’re doing a project for school. I wanted to confirm my findings with you.”
He gave her a puzzled look; then he picked up the three cards and scanned them into the computer. After a few minutes the results came back.
“Well the prints on all three cards belong to the same person and they are not found in either the state or local databases.
“Can two people to have the same fingerprints?”
“No, everyone’s prints are unique.”
“So how can Mac and I have the same prints? Your brother said it’s impossible.” Allyson paced the floor in Carolyn’s bedroom.
“Mac may have the answers.” Tim looked at his watch. “Uh oh, I have to get ready for my ‘PROM’ pictures.”
“You don’t sound very excited, Tim.”
“Well there’s this other girl that I like better than your sister. I’m going to break up with Donna tomorrow. I just hate telling her.”
“Oh, well it’s you’re nice to take her to the prom. She has been looking forward to it. Good luck with that other girl; you deserve to be with someone who is nice to you.”
That evening just before closing; Allyson hid behind a large tree in the park across from the bookstore. She stood there for several minutes watching and waiting.
“Hello Allyson, I thought I would find you here.”
The girl wheeled around. Mackenzie sat on a bench behind her. “How did you know? Allyson stammered.
“Remember how I told you that when I was your age I met a woman who changed my life.”
“When I went to confront her with my questions; that is where I hid.”
“My friends will be here soon.”
“Ah yes, Carolyn and Tim; let me guess they think I am either a witch or an alien.”
“How did you know that? You know so much about us. Who are you?”
“Well, I am an archeologist. About five years ago my husband and I went to Belize where we found the ruins of a people who had escaped the destruction of Atlantis.”
“What! How come that story wasn’t all over the news?”
“Patience Allyson, I am coming to that. The people of that colony were very technologically advanced and they left a lot of their machines in very good condition. Many things were adapted to our technology and improved the lives of people all over the world. One of the objects left behind was this bracelet.”
“So what does it do?”
“It allows the wearer to travel through time.”
Allyson raised one eyebrow. “You’re a time traveler? Why did you come here?”
“Remember the woman I told you about; the one who changed my life in little ways that made a major impact on my future. I came here to do the same for you. Now you have become friends with Carolyn and Tim and your life will never be the same. Follow your own dreams and become the person you were meant to be. Your life will be wonderful.”
“I…uh…took this the last time I was here.” Allyson handed Mac the mug.
“To check my fingerprints;” she smiled. “And amazingly enough they are just like yours.”
Allyson stood dumbfounded. How could Mac know that too? There was only one answer and that was too fantastic. She stared at Mac; studied the woman’s face. The resemblance was there.
“How I know so much about you and your friends? Been there, did that.” She put her hand on the strange bracelet. “I’m going home now Allyson; back to a life full of happiness and love; as for you – DON’T FORGET TO GO TO BELIEZE!”
A moment later she disappeared in a flash of blue light. Allyson stood alone in the square. Just then she heard the sound of someone approaching. She turned and saw Carolyn running across the park.
“Are you okay? What happened?”
“I’m fine. She’s gone. You know what? I think I am going to start going by my middle name. It has a lot more flair than Allyson.”
“Really? What is your middle name?”
Allyson grinned. “It’s Mackenzie.”