That night, Francine had the dream, but this time there was no writing on the page. The typewriter was still. Disappointed, Francine was about to make her way back to bed when the keys started clacking again. She looked on the page and the name FRANK ATTELLI appeared in capital letters on every line. It was then she woke up in a sweat, breathing hard.

The next day, Francine went to the library. Contrary to what she normally did, Francine arrived mid-morning. The library was busy. There were some children in a storytime session, newly-arrived immigrants meeting to learn English, and some obnoxious teenagers making noise and being told to shush by one of the librarians.

Francine was on a mission, though, and she barely took notice of her surroundings. She looked on the library computer for any books written by “Frank Attelli” and found none. She looked up the title, and although there were a few books with the same name, they were not the one she was looking for.

“Excuse me,” Francine asked one of the librarian’s shelving books. The elderly lady looked at her and smiled.

“You’re Francine Botrelli, aren’t you?” she asked.

Francine was taken aback. She was a bestselling author, but not that well known. She didn’t think her picture was on her books, even, but she couldn’t be sure. She didn’t own a copy of her books; she thought it was bad luck.

“Well, yes, I am, actually.” Francine could feel herself blushing.

“I’m so pleased to meet you. I’m hoping that your books will be in the library soon.” The lady nodded but didn’t hold out her hand to shake.

“Oh, that’s nice. I mean, thank you.” Francine smiled.

“I’ve enjoyed them very much. Are you going to be publishing again? Soon, I hope.” The lady laughed quietly.

There was no name tag on her and Francine felt too shy to ask her name.

“Well, yes, I’m working on one now.”

“Oh, good. I’ll be one of the first to buy it.”

Francine smiled again. What a nice lady, she thought to herself.

“Anyway, I’m looking for an author; well, I think he’s an author, but I can’t find his book anywhere.”

“Hmm; let’s see if I can help you.”

They went to the computer, which of course proved futile, and then the woman excused herself, saying she wanted to check something out.

She was back in five minutes with an old-fashioned catalogue card.

“Here we are, my dear.”

She presented the card to Francine. On it read “Attelli, Frank.”

“Poems and short stories.” Then there was the number it was filed under.

The librarian led Francine to the area where the book was. She handed it to her. Francine felt a jolt, an odd out-of-body experience, like she was watching from somewhere else. Francine wiped her feet on the floor to ground herself. The librarian seemed nonplussed by her movement.

She opened the book and looked at some of the pages. It wasn’t a big book, but it had several poems and a dozen short stories. On the inside leaf, there was a picture of Mr. Attelli. He looked very serious. It was a black and white photograph. Francine looked at the publishing date: 1952. It gave very few details about the man in question, only that he was born in Winnipeg but had settled in Victoria, B.C. No mention of family or any other publishing.

Francine was totally immersed in the book and forgot about the kind librarian standing next to her.

“You can take it out if you want?” the librarian said.

“Oh, yes; sorry, I will. Thank you. You’ve been very helpful.”

“Good, glad to be of service. Now I must get back.”

“Yes, of course. Thanks again.”

“I look forward to reading that new book.” And with that, the librarian was gone.

Francine did take out the book, and for the rest of the day, she read it. She enjoyed it, too, especially the short stories. Francine could envision the book from a couple of them.

The book was on loan for three weeks, and during the three weeks, Francine reread it and took notes. She liked the way Frank engaged the reader straight away. His characters were very real; the stories fell into place around the characterizations.

During those three weeks, Francine continued with her dreams and writing more of the story that the typewriter produced. There were similarities in the writing of the short stories. This didn’t feel like her writing style at all. This was not Francine’s book.

With her superstitious nature, Francine wanted to have Frank’s book until the story was finished. She needed to renew it at the library. She could’ve done it online, but she wanted to see the librarian again.

Francine decided to go to the library the same time she went before in the hopes that the librarian would be there again.

There was no one at the desks and she couldn’t see the librarian anywhere. She thought about just renewing the book and leaving, but she saw another worker shelving books.

“Excuse me, but I’m wondering if one of your librarians is working today. I don’t know her name. She’s older with grey hair, glasses, quite short…”

“Hmm…” Unlike the other librarian, this one had a name tag on: “Grace.”

“She didn’t have a name tag on, but she was very helpful with finding a book.” Francine produced the book. “This one, by Frank Attelli.”

“May I?” Grace asked to look at the book. Grace studied the spine and flipped through the pages. “Oh my,” she spoke.

“What is it?”

“Well, this is no longer on our library shelves. The number on the spine is from an old system that we don’t use anymore.”

“I don’t understand.” Francine felt her body start to tingle.

“This used to be in our library, maybe ten or more years ago. The coding doesn’t configure with our computer system.”

“But I checked it out three weeks ago and the other librarian went to an old catalogue filing thingy at the back and found this book.” Francine grabbed the book back. “I’ll show you.” Francine marched over to the area where the book was found. “It was here, on the bottom shelf.”

Grace knelt down and looked at the bottom shelf. She pulled out a book and showed it to Francine.

“This area is nonfiction; travel books.”

Francine knelt down and looked at the titles of the books. Grace was right; they were all travel books. Francine felt woozy and sat down on the carpeted floor.

“Are you okay?” Grace asked with concern.

“Can you find out the librarian who was on that day and I’ll come back when she is on?”

“We don’t have any older woman with that description, I’m afraid. Are you sure it was this library?”

“Of course I’m sure!” Francine shouted. Some people were looking over.

Grace knelt down beside Francine and gently took the book from her. She flipped through it again.

“Oh, I see,” Grace said.

“Thank God,” Francine sighed. “Finally!”

Grace showed her a page near the back of the book. It was an inscription; it read, “To my wonderful sister Carmella. Love always, Frank.”

Francine looked over at the inscription. “I never saw that in the book and I read it cover to cover, many times.”

“This is Carmella’s book from her brother,” Grace stated.

“Frank is her brother?”

Grace nodded. “Carmella was a librarian here for about 20 years. She hasn’t worked here for a long time.”

“Well, she must’ve been here for some reason…whatever, but can I have a telephone number or can you call her for me?”

Grace paled. “I can’t.”

“I know I might not be able to speak to her directly, but surely you could speak to her…”

Grace cut Francine off. “Hang on a minute; it’s impossible. She died five years ago.

With that, Francine passed out. She came to after a few minutes. Grace was worriedly bending over her, patting her hand.

“Thank goodness! Don’t move; I’ll get some water and call an ambulance.”

Francine reached up and grabbed Grace’s hand. “No, please; I don’t need an ambulance, just some water.”

Grace nodded and ran to get some water. Francine sat up slowly against the bookshelf.

Grace came back and handed Francine a plastic cup of water.

Greedily, Francine drank it. She was sweating and hot.

Francine asked, “This Carmen?”

“Carmella,” Grace corrected.

“Carmella, does she have any relatives?”

“She has a daughter that lives close by. She has kept in contact with us.”

“Can you call her and ask if I can come see her?”

“I don’t know; I’m not sure that would be a good idea.”

“Tell her, tell her I have a book of her mom’s, please!” Francine pleaded.

Grace looked unsure, but somehow, she felt sorry for Francine.

“I’ll call her, but you must go and sit down on one of our comfy chairs, okay?”

“Yes, yes, of course, thank you, thank you…my name is Francine Bottrelli, by the way.”

Grace helped Francine over to one of the high-backed chairs. She got Francine some more water and left her while she went to make the call.

Francine half-expected an ambulance to come and take her to the psychiatric ward.

Grace came back after ten minutes. She told Francine that Carmella’s daughter would be happy to see her. “Her name is Rosalee and this is her address.” Grace handed Francine a piece of paper with an address on it. Francine took it and got up slowly from the chair.

“I can’t thank you enough, uh, Grace, and I’m sorry for the trouble I caused. I mean, I must sound a bit mad…” Francine could see the uncertain look on Grace’s face and she didn’t want her to change her mind about Francine seeing Carmella’s daughter or call the police. With more conviction than she actually had, Francine stood up tall and determinedly walked towards the library’s exit.


For all installments of “The Ghost Writer (Francine’s Dilemma),” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1