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Woods of the Raven
Author: Mary Calmes





It was early for whoever needed me, but I was up watering the garden, checking on the damage the deer and rabbits had wrought—which wasn’t bad. Unfortunately, I’d been unable to sleep and so had done my morning rounds early. From the time I was old enough to understand, my grandfather had drilled into my head that one must always check the land first before anything else. At the time, it meant sitting quietly, seeing through his eyes. Now, at the grand old age of thirty-two, it was a quick fly over twenty-two acres before breakfast. As usual, there wasn’t much to see, simply the normal ebb and flow of a forest. Since I didn’t allow hunting on my land, and neither did my neighbors on either side, all of us content to let predator and prey find balance without interference—cue “Circle of Life” from The Lion King—we never had to worry about accidents with guns. More importantly, no animals were murdered for sport. I did note that there were a couple of cars out by the road, but I didn’t check on them, as the only people who ventured this far down Cider Lane were probably lost and would be making a U-turn at the Wingate Farm a half mile from my mailbox.

Normally, I wouldn’t be home at this time on a weekday, I’d be at work instead, but Mr. Samuels, the head librarian in our small town of Osprey, New York, had to put me on leave, as the town budget didn’t have enough for both me, Xander Corey, and Joanna Milton in the reference section of the library. I knew he would have preferred I stay. He told me so. But she had seniority, though as far as I could tell, she hated it when anyone bothered her. That included questions, special requests, and having to search the archives for books no one had seen in over a hundred years. People always thought I was kidding when I said things like that, but the town of Osprey, sitting between Westfield and Mayville in Upper New York, had been established in 1825, three years before Westfield, and the new library—if 1920 could be considered new—was built over the basement of the old one.

There were treasures in the dark, musty rooms, but unless you were like me—unafraid of shadows and venturing down narrow staircases complete with spiderwebs, descending into an abyss—you weren’t going to find the good stuff. Joanna certainly didn’t enjoy the cold or what she thought was the faulty wiring on the lower levels. I would’ve told her to simply speak nicely to the ghosts, but since she wasn’t a believer, I couldn’t very well explain that if you asked kindly, Mrs. Radcliffe, the first librarian, who still watched over the reference stacks in the solarium, could be persuaded to descend the stairs to the basement to help you find whatever you needed. She was lovely, and I made certain to always put flowers on her grave on her birthday. I knew she appreciated it; hyacinths had been her favorites.

Now, as I saw a police car coming down my cobblestone drive, I stepped out onto the porch, pulling my cardigan tighter around me, the T-shirt underneath not offering much warmth, and waited.

Like many in Osprey, I was surprised when our little town got its own police department five years back. Before that, we were dependent on Westfield for anything law-enforcement related. But as Westfield grew, they could not oversee the needs of another town, even a small one just thirty minutes away. They were still there to offer backup, and beyond that, the New York State Police and the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department also provided police protection. But for the goings-on in Osprey, now we had a chief, two deputies, and a receptionist. When our first chief left—apparently it was a snooze fest of a job and he had wanted out from the moment he was appointed—the mayor had looked at candidates and decided to hire someone from out of state. Someone who was looking for a new start and a slower pace. Six months ago, she settled on Lorne MacBain, who’d moved from Boston. When he was hired, I, like everyone else, had seen him onstage the day Madeline Kong, our mayor, presented him to the town, but beyond that, I didn’t think our paths would cross again. Why would they? If you weren’t in trouble, how often did you see law enforcement?

That was before I understood things about our new chief. Namely, that his idea of protect and serve had more to do with catching small things before they turned into big ones. And when I said small to the people I complained to, I meant tiny, teeny, slight indiscretions he caught you doing that seemed beneath the chief of police.

“You’re being dramatic,” my friend Natalie Bauer, the local florist, assured me. “He’s a beautiful, enchanting man.”

He was absolutely not that.

The first time I met him in person, I was crossing our two-lane road and heard the brrp-brrp of the siren behind me, which, because I was focused on not dropping anything from the farmers’ market, had nearly scared me to death.

“You need to use the crosswalk,” he informed me as his SUV glided next to me. The car had the words Osprey Police on the side in the most garish shade of blue I’d ever seen. The last chief had a cruiser, but the vehicles had been upgraded for Chief MacBain. “You could get hit if you’re jaywalking. Next time you’re getting a ticket.”


We had one traffic light in our entire town. Everybody jaywalked. No one used the crosswalk. Ever. Why was I being singled out?

The next time we met, I was walking along the shoulder of the road, and he stopped his SUV right in front of me, got out, and told me, “You should be walking on the other side of the road, against traffic, not with it. That’s how people get kidnapped and murdered.”


“Use your head.”

Use my head?

Another time I was closing the library, having stayed to make sure everything got put back in its rightful place, and I was coming down the steps when there he was, lights flashing, illuminating the dark parking lot. There were lights on the street but nothing in the lot. But this was Osprey, not Manhattan.

“It’s dark out here,” he said like this was news. “You should have a flashlight and a taser in case there’s trouble.”

Trouble? At the library?

“You don’t know who could be lurking.”

Lurking? In Osprey?

Did I think it was right for young men or women to be out alone at night in the dark? No, of course not. But there were things he didn’t know about me. I was hardly helpless.

Next, he stopped me at the grocery store as I was getting a new grease pencil. I smiled at him before he said, “You know you need to pay for that.”

I looked at him, confused.

He reached out and gently pulled the writing instrument from behind my ear where I’d tucked it. “This is called shoplifting.”


He could not be serious, and I was about to say something horrible, really give him a piece of my mind.

“Oh no,” Benny Haskins, the store owner, told the chief from where he was behind the front counter. “Xan brought a basket of strawberries for my wife in exchange. He’s fine.”

I smiled up at the chief. “You see, I’m not a criminal.”

He just scowled at me and left.

“What did you do to Chief MacBain?” Benny asked me.

I had no idea.

Whenever I saw him, he was frowning, never smiled, and I was always doing something wrong he needed to point out.

The last time I parked my bike downtown, I got in trouble for no lock and no bicycle license. I had to go to the city hall to get one, and Avril Thompson had me behind the counter helping her look for the form, since she could not remember the last time someone got one.

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