The Monthly Chapter: December – Chapter 11

On the first of the month a new chapter is posted from an as yet to be released book. The current book is Tansy Moves In. This is the first book of the upcoming Oak Hill Series. I hope you enjoy it. All of the previous chapters are still up on the site and will remain so until at least the first week of January 2021.

Chapter 11

Tansy spent the rest of the evening looking through each of the rooms.  She searched the pantry.  She studied every item in the parlor.  She even went down into the basement looking for a secret box.  As she looked the basement over, Tansy realized she had never actually been in the basement before and wouldn’t notice if anything had been added.

“Unless there was a big sign saying I am the secret prize everyone wants,” she told herself.  Not seeing such a box or note, Tansy left the basement. Before heading up to the more familiar upper floor where her bedroom was located, she couldn’t resist making a pass through the ground floor to make certain all the doors remained locked.

“Nothing like two sets of attempted intruders to make you double check the locks,” she muttered to herself as she decided everything was secure, turned off the last downstairs light and went upstairs. There were four bedrooms on this floor and a warren of former servant’s quarters.  As she didn’t think she’d notice anything amiss in either the servant’s quarters or the upstairs attic spaces, Tansy left them alone and decided to look in on the main bedrooms. 

Her Aunt Eunice’s room looked more or less as she left it.  The time line of her Aunt’s attempt to trace the seven rings was still tapped to the wall.  Most of the stacks were where she left it, the papers she brought back with her still in their various bags and suitcases.  She saw nothing out of place and moved off to the first guest room.  It was set up nicely, the bed neatly made as though awaiting a guest, the furnishings looked a little plain without the personal items scattered throughout the house.

There was no mysterious package, no strange gem encrusted item, no ancient book of wisdom or even an unfamiliar looking candlestick; nothing that could possibly be the object of the other’s focused intent to break in was in evidence anywhere.  Tansy closed the door and moved off to the second guest room.  It was set up as a mirror of the first.  There were a couple of extra book cases placed against the walls but Tansy knew these held Aunt Eunice’s old journals.  She had been keeping them since she was a child.  She didn’t have one for each year but just kept one until it filled up.  Some entries had no more than a sentence or two, others had multiple pages for one date.

Tansy frowned as she looked at the neat rows.  “Maybe there is something in the journals?”

She stared at the shelves.  Even though she had gone through her aunt’s papers and might have to sort through more of her personal belongings, the journals felt like prying. As much as she wanted to know what was going on, Tansy wasn’t yet comfortable with looking at Eunice’s diaries.

‘Maybe because she doesn’t quite feel gone yet,’ Tansy thought.   ‘Besides these are the older ones.  Anything about the rings would be in the recent ones. I’m not sure where she kept her current one.”  As it often took Eunice more than one calendar year to fill up a journal then the one she was writing in should cover all of the events Tansy needed to know about.  “Maybe it’s in the bedroom.”

Despite making excuses for Tansy not to visit, Tansy had been home a little more than a year prior.  After graduation from college and before her first ill-fated venture into the workforce Tansy stayed with Eunice for almost a month before moving to her current apartment.

‘And there was no wall of the ancient ring search then,’ Tansy thought. ‘So she had to start it after I left.’

Tansy nodded, closed the door to the second guest bedroom and went into her room.  Eunice’s current journal would be in her bedroom, she was sure of it.  ‘If I don’t get any answers at the bank tomorrow, I’ll search or it then,’ she promised herself.

The room Tansy thought of as her own looked as it had when she left on Sunday, minus the additions of her bags.  It was both a relief and a disappointment.  While she knew she would be freaked out by a new addition to the house as she knew that would mean someone had successfully broken in, since nothing was amiss on her last visit, Tansy felt there would be a relief in knowing.

Deciding her Monday morning work clothes didn’t need to be wrinkled, Tansy began unpacking and hanging things in the closet.  When the suitcase was empty she slid it under the bed. As she worked she kept going over the evenings events, looking for a logical explanation.  Lawyers did not chant, causing globes of green fire to appear in their hands.  It just wasn’t what happened in real life.

“Of course the same lawyer doesn’t try to invade a client’s house with his cat burglar wife,” Tansy reminded herself.  She didn’t even know who the two women outside the back door were, but somehow Tansy found it less disturbing than thoughts of Roderick and Margaret Weathersby.  There were all sorts of kooks in the world.  It was easily conceivable that some of them thought her Aunt was a with and that she was following in her aunt’s witchy footsteps. The home invading lawyer felt much stranger.

“Especially since he had the keys.”

Tansy shook off the thoughts and once settled scanned the bookshelves for something to read before bed.  Thinking she might need some mystery solving pointers, she pulled Sherlock Holmes from the shelves and hoped that Sir Arthur would provide some clue finding ideas.

Sherlock took her into bed time and by the time Tansy’s eyes were drooping and her yawns more prevalent, she had no further clues but she had managed to pack the events away enough that she thought she would sleep.  Tansy expected to dream or at least have issues sleeping as she strained to listen for even more burglars, but once she closed her eyes she fell into a deep and dreamless sleep, waking just as dawn caused the sky to blush.

She stretched, showered and managed to dress and eat breakfast well before it was time to head to the bank.  Tansy gathered all of the papers she thought she might need and read through them again as she waited until it was time to go.  Part of her wanted to study the stacks of papers or look for Eunice’s current journal or study the time line again, but she knew it wasn’t a good idea.  There was the all too real possibility that she would be drawn in and lose track of time. 

“And while I can go through the paperwork here, my time at the bank is rather limited, even if Mr. Hampton gave me leave to ask for time off,”  Tansy frowned as she looked up from her pages.  Thinking the kitchen made the upstairs papers less of a temptation, Tansy had the legal pages spread out over the kitchen table as she looked through them. That was another mystery.  While her boss seemed like a nice and considerate man for offering the time off, Tansy knew she was low enough on the office totem pole that he shouldn’t have known she existed. She was a recently hired temp who often caused more mayhem than good in the office environment. His attention and acknowledgement was…strange.

“Maybe its company policy regarding the death of family members,” Tansy said as she realized it was time to go and started gathering the pages. “Still, someone would have had to tell him and Ms. Abbot didn’t know. Which means someone else would have to be watching me or my file.” 

As her mother was rarely around, Tansy listed Eunice as next of kin and person to contact should anything go awry.  She didn’t think those names were monitored for changes. She would have thought if anything, she would have had to notify whoever kept the records that her next of kin was changing due to a death in the family.

“I suppose I’ll have to tell them soon anyway,” Tansy realized as she finished putting the papers into the bag she used for work. 

The thought was depressing and after she checked the bag to make sure all of her identification, cell phone and Eunice’s giant key ring were in the bag, Tansy let the thought slide away.  She left via the back door and dug out Eunice’s keys to make sure the door was locked behind her.  Like her apartment door she couldn’t help, but twist the knob to double check that it was in fact locked.  If she came home to find the door open she wanted to know for certain that she had done her best to make sure she wasn’t at fault. No one was going to convince her that she accidentally left the door open.

“And this time I’d call the police instead of grabbing a broom handle for self-defense,” Tansy said. “Third attempted break in gets the cops.”  She took a few steps down the hall.  “And the broom handle,” she added.

Satisfied the house was as secure as she could make it, Tansy released her car from the garage and began the drive into town.  The drive was a quiet one with few cars passing hers.  Tansy figured that anyone going to the farmer’s market was probably on their way already and everyone else was staying indoors.  The calendar may have proclaimed that spring was on the way but Tansy could see her breath puff around her face and even with her heater running on high, the interior of her car barely warmed up before she made it to the official town limits.

At this time of morning, downtown looked mostly abandoned. There were few cars and any business that kept Saturday hours had either not started them or had no current takers.  At the bank there were a few signs of life.  A couple of cars were parked in the surrounding lot and the lights were on. It cast warm light into the overcast morning. Tansy parked and got out of her car, locking it behind her as she was becoming extremely security minded. As she walked from car to bank she wondered if it was going to rain or if the clouds would burn off.  She cast an eye skyward.  While she wouldn’t mind a sunny day, part of her wanted it to rain as she doubted anyone would be tromping around outside of the house looking for entry in a downpour.

At the door she pulled it open and forgot about the weather as the scent of the bank hit her. There was always a particular scent to the bank.  She noticed it when she was small and her father brought her here to begin her first savings account. It smelled of fresh paper, toner and carpets that were cleaned far more often than they were walked on.  It was a sealed off smell that changed very little from her first visit.  It was like a mausoleum for money. While it wasn’t a scent she preferred there was something comfortingly timeless about the scent. As she walked to the counter, she wondered if the bank did that on purpose or if it was an unintentional side effect.

She passed the mostly empty cubicles erected around the main lobby and moved towards the tellers. There was no line, and no one being helped ahead of her.  One woman with brown hair, dark eyes and a welcoming smile gave her a little wave beckoning her forward.

“Good morning and how may I help you?” she asked.

“I’m Tansy Mac Dougal,” Tansy replied.  She fought off the urge to whisper. “I have meetings scheduled with both Peter Addams and a Mr. Wallace. I wasn’t told which order the meetings were in.”

The teller leaned back and looked towards a corridor, Tansy assumed led towards offices. “Oh well, Mr. Wallace appears to be on the phone, But I know I saw Mr. Addams a moment ago, let me call back and see if he is ready for you.”

Tansy nodded and despite saying she was going to call back, the teller slipped out of her seat and walked back to the corridor, disappearing from sight. She returned with a man in his mid-thirties following her. While the teller returned to her place, offering Tansy another bright smile, the man walked around the counter.

“Ms. MacDougal?” He half said, half asked as he approached Tansy.  “Peter Addams.” He held out his hand to shake, which Tansy did.

“Mr. Addams thank you for seeing me this morning,” Tansy said.

“Not a problem,” he assured her.  “And please, call me Peter.  If you will please follow me, we can get started in my office and then when Mr. Wallace is free, I can send you to him.”

Tansy nodded and as Peter turned, she followed him behind the bar separating the offices from those with general banking needs. Tansy felt as though she was being led behind a secret curtain.  Even when she opened her account she was led to one of the cubicles positioned in the front lobby instead of one of the back offices.

She followed Peter into his office and he gestured towards the guest chair.  He closed the door and then walked around the desk to his seat.  Tansy was somehow expecting the back offices to be more spectacular, but Peter’s office, while large, boasted a standard desk and computer set up and two guest chairs.  Almost all of the rest of the room was taken up by filing cabinets.

“First I must say, I am sorry for your loss,” Peter began.  “Miss Eunice was…” he smiled.  “Well, she was one of a kind. She also had an unconventional portfolio and an unerring sense of the market.” He took out a file.  “I’ve made a kind of crib sheet for the investments and properties so you can see it all on one page and then start to look at the details.” Peter handed the page to her and Tansy started looking down the list.  Very little of it meant all that much to her but even she could see it was a lot. 

“As you can see she contracted with a management company for much of her property, and you can see the arrangement of funds which I have broken out in more detail in this file I put together for you.” He tapped a thick file on his desk and his smile slipped a little with sadness.

“Miss Eunice always came in with her account books at the end of each month and we’d go over things.”  He smiled.  “She used an old fashioned ledger to keep her accounts and double checked that her figures and mine were the same, and then I’d print out a copy for the official files for her. I’ve printed out a copy of the last month’s for you as well so you don’t have to go looking for them.  These are just her investments and the accounts related to them.  You’ll find some listed that were taken care of by her legal team, rather than by me. I only know the money end when it dealt with the bank. They would have further details. The names and notations are on the sheet, I have the contact information for you as well.”

Tansy nodded, her eyes still scanning the page as she struggled to make sense of the influx of information.  The writing was small, the investments many and the amounts of money far greater than she ever would have suspected. It was the kind of list you needed to hire a professional to handle.

“Why wasn’t the legal information with the files Mr. Weathersby gave me?” Tansy asked.  It was the only question she could think of at the moment.

“Ah,” Peter said.  Tansy looked up. “Well, Miss Eunice liked working locally for a lot of things, but Oak Hill is a small enough town that very little is ever really hidden and even then, not for long. I suspect there were things she wanted to keep private or at least not gossiped about in town.  So she hired a different lawyer, out of town, to handle certain aspects. They should be listed.”

“I see,” Tansy said nodding.  She remembered Eunice’s comments on small town gossip and thought that hiring someone from outside to deal with things she didn’t want known was exactly how Eunice would have dealt with matters.  She opened her mouth to comment when her eyes fell onto the name of her lawyer. “William Hampton,” she said.  “Of Lowell, Hampton and Carmichael.”

Tansy took a deep breath after reading her boss’ name. ‘Well at least that explains how he knew Eunice was gone,’ Tansy thought.  She looked at the rather substantial set of numbers placed beside the items listed as being dealt with by the firm.  Oddly, it made her relax slightly. It made Mr. Hampton’s condolences seem much less strange. It was a logical reason for him to express concern to an insignificant temporary hire.  After the last twenty four hours, Tansy was very happy to see logic once again returning to her world.

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