Sorry for the long wait, folks. I hope you enjoy!
Alice embraced unconventionality. She was odd. Knew it. Didn't care. So when something weirded her out? It was really weird. She stared at Mister Dan.
"Don't look at me like that," he said.
"I...well, I...it's just that--"
"Do you trust me?" he said.
"You've been hanging out here since you were what, ten?"
"And have I ever lied to you?"
"I don't think so."
Mister Dan cocked his head, then said, "Good enough. Have I ever treated you like you were some dumb kid?"
That one was easy. "No, Mister Dan."
"How old are you?"
"So, six years. I haven't lied to you. I haven't treated you like a kid who don't know nothing. Right?"
"Don't that get me a little trust?"
She nodded again.
"Then take the book." He held it out to her.
Alice reached out and took it. She had never seen a book like it. Was it even a book? It was shaped like one, but the cover was metal, with a lot of fancy engraving. And gosh, it was so heavy! She lugged it to the workbench and laid it down as gently as she could, but it still hit with a thud.
She lightly drew her fingers across the cover, feeling the intricate designs of swirls and flourishes. Although it looked very old, the metal was bright and untarnished. "Is this gold?" she said.
Dan shrugged. "Never gave it much mind and it sure ain't something I'd go carting around for opinions."
"If it's gold, it would be worth a fortune, wouldn't it?"
He leaned toward her and spoke softly. "Alice, no matter what kind of metal it is, this book is worth more than a trainload of gold."
"Where'd you get it?"
"Back in the day, this place showed silent pictures. Since the movies didn't have sound of their own, a piano player would play the music that came with the movie. And even after the shows got sound, that old piano sat in its spot on the left side of the auditorium for dang near thirty years. When they remodeled the place about ten years ago, they asked if I wanted the piano. I said sure and got a few buddies and a pickup truck and we hauled it to my house."
"Can you play piano?" Alice said.
Dan smiled and scratched at his chin. "Nope, thought I'd teach myself but that didn't work out so good. To begin with, the thing was so out of tune that it sounded like some kind of sick animal. I hired a fellow to come tune it up and when he opened it up, the book was inside."
"It's beautiful. But what makes you think it has some kind of magical powers?"
He shook his head. "I don't think, Alice." He tapped his head with a finger. "I know."
She lifted the heavy cover and flipped it gently to the side. She looked at the first page. Looked at Mister Dan with her eyebrows scrunched up in confusion. Looked back to the book. On the page, beautifully printed in bright silver ink, was the following:
MAGIC ENDURES. LOVE TRIUMPHS. A CHRONICLE OF ADVENTURE.
Directly beneath the printed line was a handwritten name: Alice Renee Pendergast. Her name. Her handwriting.