Monday, July 21, 2014

Chapter Twenty-Seven

I literally refused to see the nightmares again.  I closed my eyes and allowed the Sheriff to draw me forward and through the passage until we were well past my husband's "collection."  I don’t care if I am called coward even up to my Judgment Day, there are some things a person shouldn’t have to see even once; twice would have taken a bit of my sanity.

I began leading them lower and lower down several spiral stair cases.  "This had best not be a fool's errand," came the near threat.

"I assure you Guardian, if I could have found any other way to do this I would have."

The passage way dead ended.  "What's this?  A joke?"

"No.  Find the door," I instructed.

The three men looked at each other then tried to find the trick.  It was the Sheriff who found it.  The decoration was a drawing of the design rather than the real thing.  He slid the tile it was painted upon to the side and found the keyhole beneath it.

I looked at him and said, "You do better at these mysteries than you give yourself credit for."

Looking at me seriously he said, "I'd give a lot not to be this good about some mysteries."

When the men slid the door open the Chancellor immediately began cursing.  He turned at me and demanded, "Are there any other entrances in this place?"

"No.  If there were I would have brought you that way and saved myself a nightmare."

We were in the Linderhall Vault and having been in it a few times returning jewelry lent to me for official occasions I could see there were indeed empty places along the shelves.  I turned and led them back the way we came, almost running passed the 'collection' and back out into the bedchamber.  I was breathing heavy but once started I could not stop.

"This way," I told the three men after the fireplace passage had been closed and hidden once again.

Down several flights of stairs I took them to a seldom used sitting room that faced the Dower House.  This time the passage way was behind a large embroidered wall hanging.  Down some more and we came to a tunnel which we followed until we arrived at the nexus I had found the night before.

I pointed, "That tunnel has collapsed.  It led to a structure that no longer exists anyway.  The rest lead to various places on the grounds ... the gazebo, a ruin someone dubbed the folly for some reason, the stable ... and some lead back to the Hall but this one I found last night and it leads to the ..."

The Sheriff sighed and said, "To the Dower House."

"To the Dower House cellar to be more correct."

I led them through the twists and turns, around granite too thick to tunnel through, and then into the cellar.  The Chancellor cursed again and the Sheriff said, "Damnation."  The Linder said nothing but eyed the treasures on the shelves and lying about with anger.

When all three sets of eyes turned my way my chin went up and I told them, "I know what it looks like.  I know the hidden passages.  I know the secret rooms.  I had the Master Key.  But I swear on all I hold dear I did not steal any of these items."

The Sheriff rolled his eyes.  "Of course you didn't.  You weren't here.  I'm guessing the Widows were after a little payback."

I was so tired I almost wept in relief.  At least one of them believed me.

The Chancellor was still stomping around and less than happy, making notes and cursing.  The Linder came over and looked at me consideringly.  "You could have at the very least ransomed some of these objects back to the family."

"It makes no sense to me to steal from oneself.  For now at least, I am family even if it is just by accident and temporary."

The Chancellor came over and asked, "There's dust on everything so it has been here a while ... and ... and you did not touch anything."

"No," I said shaking my head firmly.  "It was bad enough finding it and the last thing I want is to touch any of it."

"And you say you found the key in Widow Ceena's jewelry?"

"I have no way to open the door from this side with the padlock reinstalled or I would take you there so that you could see for yourself."

The Linder said, "Later but for now let us return to the Hall before anyone notices us missing.  We've been gone quite some time as it is."

"Well of course.  You were questioning me about last night.  It was necessary for me to answer all of your questions multiple times for you to make sure that my statement would not be contradictory to the facts that have been established."

The Sheriff looked at me and with a sardonic twist to his lips said, "It appears that I am not the only one hiding a talent for politics."

I shuddered.  "I look forward to the day that I don't have to utilize this hard earned 'talent.'  From the comportment teacher to Marta to the other staff, it was ground into me that to survive in Linderhall requires an understanding of politics and a ... a flexibility when it comes to the facts.  They can be viewed one way or another depending upon how they are presented."  I shook my head, depressed once again.  "I do not like these games.  I can play them but I do not like them."

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