He led Peddy to a large open area at the front of the house. Through the walls she could discern a dilapidated front porch which sagged heavily toward the street, and she knew this used to be the living room. There was no trace of remaining furniture, but Josh had fashioned a table, of sorts, out of saw horses and a square-ish scrap of plywood. He set his Thermos on it, then moved it aside as he pulled a clump of drop cloths across the surface, toward himself.
"I misspoke earlier when I told you we had found something cool. I wouldn't say, 'Cool,' exactly, as much as, perhaps, 'Interesting.'"
He was unable to entirely conceal the smile which touched his lips as he unwrapped the drop cloths before him, like wrapping from a birthday present. Peddy leaned forward, unconsciously drawn to what mysteries might await discovery beneath the dirty linen pile. Josh pulled from the pile a heavy old book, black leather-bound, and with crumbling yellow pages.
Peddy's eyebrows reached for her bangs in surprise.
Josh hefted the book before spinning it and presenting it to her. Again with a grin, he tapped the gold embossed monogram on the cover, "RML is your great-grandfather, I presume?"
Peddy nodded and gently fingered the faded letters, "Reginald Maurice Larmer."
"Well, I figured you might like to have it as a keepsake. Something passed down from your great grandfather, so to speak."
"Well, legally, I don't think -- "
"I already called the Town Hall this morning. And do you know what's funny? They sent down a lawyer to investigate this "discovery" within twenty minutes of my phone call."
Peddy laughed aloud then, so heartily that it kind of startled Josh.
"What's so funny?" he asked.
"Ohhhhhhhhhhh," she shook her head, unsure of how much embarrassing stuff she wanted to share, "family lore."
Josh didn't press, but his eyebrows indicated interest.
Okay, what the hell, Peddy thought, and chuckled, "There's this story that the whole town knows, about my great grandfather being in the Mafia."
"Was he really?"
"No! Of course not!" Peddy sighed with a smile, "But you know, it's one of those things we kind of didn't deny, because..."
"Because it's kind of cool to have your own, personal rumor with the rest of the town."
"Yeah. Something like that."
"So..." he nudged.
"Well, my aunts and uncles and cousins always said that Old Man Reggie had buried three-hundred thousand dollars in his basement, as well as the bodies of several Goodfellas of note."
Josh laughed, then said, "Oh my. That was a hefty sum back then."
"The story was that he had intercepted a very important ledger from some Chicago Family and had retired to the middle-of-nowhere to blackmail them."
Josh nodded wryly, "This town would surely qualify for middle-of-nowhere status."
"So I'm sure when you mentioned some old black ledger, the Mayor must have assembled his crack team of top lawyers so he could get his grubby mitts on untold fortune."
"For the town, of course."
She snickered, "Undoubtedly. But they let you keep it?"
"Sure did," Josh carefully opened the heavy black book, "cuz it's empty."
"Every page is empty. It's worthless to the lawyers, so they said to give it to you."
"Huh. That's neat."
"I thought so. So here."
Peddy took the book and gingerly flipped from the back cover. Every page was unmarked. "Where did you find it?" she asked.
"Under the kitchen floorboards, where the stove used to be."
Peddy remembered that hulking behemoth of a gas stove which was bigger than a station wagon. Her great-grandfather had hidden a completely worthless book in the floor beneath the most immovable object in the entire house? Odd.
"That's weird, he must have put it there before he ever bought that old range. But why? If there's nothing in it?"
Josh shrugged, "I dunno, but those lawyers seemed pretty thorough with it. They were satisfied it was worthless."
He excused himself when one of the guys in the back cursed loudly. Alone, Peddy flipped through the pages again, her mind far away. Suddenly something caught her eye. Had there been a smudge on the back of one of the pages in the middle of the book? She stopped and carefully made her way back a couple of pages, then another.
There it was, a dark smudge, like some long-ago ink blot. She squinted and looked closer, then grabbed a flashlight and shined it on the page and tried again. "I'll be damned," she whispered.
There, on the back of one of the middle pages, written in her great-grandfather's careful penmanship, was a single sentence: IT'S UNDERNEATH THE CUPBOARD.