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At the top of the ladder, Melanie pulled herself up onto the floor of the room above. She shone her flashlight around the windowless space, and saw piles of old boxes and trunks. Her light caught a string hanging from the ceiling. She pulled the string, and an old lightbulb flickered on. She shut off her flashlight to save the battery in case the light died. She reached for the nearest box and opened it.
It was full of old, yellowing papers. She touched them, and they crinkled and a tiny bit fell off. She wondered if it was even a good idea to read them. What if they disintegrated as she read them? She shrugged, and decided it was better to read them, since Grandma Maddie had obviously wanted her to.
Melanie picked up a sheaf of papers and began to read.
I have found my father after many years. He is much changed, and does not know me. I confess to hardly knowing him. Bertha, what shall I do? Father is unfit for travel, and you are in Boston. How can I meet my responsibilities and duties towards you, the woman I love, and yet meet my filial obligations?
I do not know the answer, but for now I must stay here in Montana and look after my father, for he cannot be left. You may write to me care of Lake View House, Whitefish.
I remain yours faithfully,
The page ended there. The signature had been torn off. Melanie looked gingerly through the next few papers, but the bottom of the page, and the beginning of the letter, were not there. There was a deed to a house in Boston, and a birth certificate for Andrew Smythe, but no more letters. She sat down hard on the attic floor to think. After a few minutes, she stood up. She needed to go into town and buy some supplies before she explored further. She left the attic, turning off the light and closing the trapdoor carefully behind her. She pocketed the keys and went to the bedroom to change into clean clothes.
A few minutes later, she walked out the cabin door and locked it behind her. The cabin keys were all in an inner pocket of her purse. She drove down the mountain road and turned right.