Monthly Chapter: February 2021- Chapter 13

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.

Chapter 13

Tansy drove home at a sedate pace, trying to calm her racing heart as she drove.  As much as she wanted to floor the gas petal and race back to the house in search of answers, she really didn’t want to be stopped for a traffic violation.  Oil paintings were dripping water and posters were shifting about.  She didn’t know quite what was going on but thought that dealing with any sort of official while the weirdness was happening might not be a good idea. She shifted her thoughts deliberately not thinking about the painting while she drove.

‘There are more people about,’ Tansy reminded herself.  “I don’t want to hit anyone.”

While she was in the bank, Oak Hill seemed to have woken up.  There were more cars on the road and despite the chill there were pedestrians waiting at many of the crosswalks.

Tansy took deep breaths and tried not to focus on anything too much in case the world started to shift again in weird ways.  When forced to stop at a red light she waited and stared into the middle ground between the pedestrians crossing and the actual light. When it switched to green she did a visual sweep to make sure no one was in her path and then rolled forward.

Luckily, there weren’t that many stoplights before she made it out of town.  “Thank God Oak Hill is small,” Tansy said to herself as she left the last of the street lights behind.  “And there are no billboards.”

The thought sent a cold shiver down her spine.  Sunday night or Monday morning she would be driving back to the city.  She would be around many more people and the highway between here and her apartment was virtually lined with bill boards.  She wondered if she would actually see the billboards move.

“Maybe it is only something that happens in Oak Hill,” She said. “It’s never happened elsewhere.”

As art had never moved around on her before, even in Oak Hill, Tansy wasn’t certain that was a good enough justification. She just hoped something in her Aunt’s journals would help her figure out why it was moving around now.

“But do I start with the earlier journals or the most recent one?” Tansy wasn’t certain which would be a better course.  If she started with Eunice’s last journal she might be able to find out what she was up to with the search for the rings and the courthouse records.  But if her Aunt was known as a witch then earlier journals might help her figure out how she came to be considered one.

Tansy pulled into the driveway feeling relief at finally being back to the house.  She didn’t bother with the garage this time and left her car parked in the drive in plain view of anyone who was sneaking around in the bushes. 

“At least if anyone plans to break in they’ll wait until I’m gone again,” She told herself as she turned off the car and gathered her papers.  “Hopefully.”

This time when Tansy climbed the stairs up to the front porch, she thought she felt a little bit of a tingle when her foot touched the step.  As so many mysterious things seemed to center around it, she wasn’t certain if it was a real tingle or something imagined.  Deciding the invader repelling step might be something Eunice talked about in her journals, Tansy left the step alone and went to unlock the front door.

As she slipped the keys in the lock she thought she saw the bushes wiggle as though someone was hiding in them.  She looked over and saw a small bunny rabbit emerge from under the branches.

“I’m getting paranoid,” she decided.  “Two attempted break ins and I’m jumping at bunnies.” Tansy unlocked the door and stepped inside.  She locked the door behind her preventing well-dressed burglars evil bunny rabbits from attempting to follow her inside.

Tansy looked around the front rooms but saw no sign that anyone had been inside the house during her absence.  She also noticed that the wallse were completely devoid of art. For decoration, enice favored small shelves with decorative knickknacks instead of framed paintings or prints.  Tansy let out a small sigh.  Whatever else was happening, she would not have to worry about moving artwork here. 

“And it means there might be an answer,” Tansy said.  “After all it is strange to have no framed pictures in the house, there has to be a reason why.” The fact that Eunice might have seen artwork moving as well made Tansy feel marginally better and less like she was going crazy. 

She climbed the stairs and went into her room first.  The paperwork gathered at the bank went onto her small desk in what was once her study area. The papers from Roderick’s office were still there and she placed the new stack next to it. “Lots of paperwork,” she said. 

Luckily most of it wasn’t anything she had to actually do anything with.  They were items she needed to keep for records and tax purposes.  At some point she would need to see if one of the accounts was used to pay bills, but other than that, the paperwork didn’t need an active study.

“Right,” Tansy said.  “Journals then.”

Deciding that she might want to start with the current journal and work her way back, Tansy left her room and went into her Aunt’s bedroom.  She ignored the wall of information, Eunice had pinned up and side stepped the stack of papers.  She knew she would still be reading through the documents but at the moment moving artwork and possible stopping artwork from moving was more of a priority than Eunice’s jewelry search. Eunice’s quest wouldn’t help her with the corridor of billboards she would have to drive through on her way back to her apartment.

Tansy moved to the night stand.  There was no book on top but there was a pair of reading glasses.   They made her feel oddly guilty for going through Eunice’s things.  She signed and pulled open the drawer.  The drawer of the nightstand was filled with the usual items.  Tansy say a tube of hand cream, a bottle of aspirin, a couple of prescription bottles with Eunice’s name on them, extra reading glasses and a veritable see of ball point pens. Tansy shifted things aside and under the layer of pens, she found Eunice’s last journal.

She extracted it from the drawer. The volume looked identical to all of the ones that were shelved in the spare room.  Tansy suspected that when she was through with it, she would place this volume in there with those, completing the collection.  The thought made her sad, but Tansy pushed the sadness away.  She could allow herself to grieve later, for now she needed information. 

Tansy closed the nightstand drawer and turned away from the accusatory reading glasses.  As she moved towards the door Tansy found herself tiptoeing as though sneaking away with something.  She knew it was silly but couldn’t help herself.  She stepped into the hallway and closed her aunt’s bedroom door behind her. 

Tansy took the journal to her room and closed her bedroom door behind her as well even though she knew she was the only one in the house.  “Maybe it is because I’m reading someone else’s diary,” she decided. 

Instead of going to her desk, Tansy flopped out on the bed.  Feeling nervous, Tansy flipped to the back of the volume.  There were only two pages blank and the rest were filled in Eunice’s careful handwriting. Eunice wasn’t one to use one journal per year, but tended to fill each volume completely before moving to the next.  Some of her entries were only a sentence or two while others took up several pages.  Some of the entries were deep personal thoughts, others were simply comments about the weather. The last entry was one of the shorter ones.  It started with a reading taken from the thermometer in the back yard and stated that rain was predicted, but that she thought it would be at least half ice when it arrived. After the notes on the weather, Tansy looked to the few short sentences that followed.

‘I believe the others know I am looking.  I expect someone will try to stop me.  I must be on my guard.’

Tansy read the sentences and felt a lump of lead settle in her belly. The last entry Eunice recorded was a warning to herself.  ‘Makes me wonder how accidental her fall really was,’ Tansy thought.

She slowly began flipping through the pages, moving backwards through the record of Eunice’s days. With each page Tansy felt less as though she was snooping and more as though her aunt had some sort of private code.  At no point did Eunice come right out and say what it was she was actually doing.  Tansy was fairly certain which notes were part of the grand search, but it didn’t shed much light.

They were easy to tease from the fabric of Eunice’s life.  “Went to the courthouse and found several pages missing” was written in the journal about a month prior to her death.  Three days earlier there was a mention of photos from a local museum. The notations were teasers about Eunice’s project but offered no real insight.  It was clear Eunice was on the trail of something, but equally clear she didn’t want to write down exactly what it was. Most alluring was a note dated six months before her death.

‘I wish I could search in the usual way, but they are designed to resist any sort of search I could concoct in my workroom.’

Tansy read the sentence and frowned.  “Workroom,” she repeated. Tansy leaned back against the mound of pillows on her bed.  She remembered Eunice mentioning a workroom.  Mention was always given with a wink and a smile.

“My secret workroom.  That’s what she called it,” Tansy remembered.  She always thought that it was some sort of crafting space where Eunice did scrapbooking or knitting or whatever it was that one did in a crafting workroom. “Although come to think of it I never saw Aunt Eunice knit, or do any sort of scrapbooking.”

Tansy looked down at the journal.  “If I was a witch, and I had a workroom, that’s probably where I’d keep all my secret stuff.” Tansy couldn’t bring herself to actually say the word magic in conjunction with her Aunt Eunice.  “But where would I put a secret work room?”

Tansy stared at the page until her words blurred.  The only place she could recall her aunt spending loads of time in was the kitchen.  She moved between the kitchen and the garden repeatedly.  Tansy supposed that Eunice could have used one of the out buildings in the back of the garden for her workroom but other than dropping off garden tools, Tansy couldn’t remember Eunice spending much time in any of the outbuildings. 

“Maybe she only used the space when I wasn’t here,” she thought.  She shook her head to dismiss it.  She lived with Eunice for almost two solid years and during that time never recalled her spending an excess of time outside when she wasn’t working on the garden or collecting mushrooms in the woods.

“She was always in the kitchen or pantry,” Tansy recalled.  “Even when I thought she wasn’t.”

Tansy recalled thinking her Aunt had gone into the kitchen a number of times and then not been able to find her.  She would circle through the first floor rooms and by the time she circled back to the kitchen Eunice would be there.  Tansy always though she nipped out to the garden for a bit of something to add to whatever she was making. 

“But maybe there is a room I didn’t know about,” Tansy decided. 

The thought was a silly one, but one that wouldn’t leave her.  “The house doesn’t have hidden rooms.” She told herself.

“And lawyers don’t go around throwing green fire and paintings of ships don’t leak water.” Tansy signed and pushed herself up from the bed.  She knew she should probably check other volumes of Eunice’s journals for more information but now that she thought of the possible secret room, she couldn’t let the thought go without checking the kitchen.

She slipped off the bed and walked to the door.  She let herself out of the bedroom and walked down to the kitchen.  Sunlight streamed in through the windows and Tansy could not imagine a place less likely to have a secret room attached to it.  Stainless steel gleamed in the light. 

“Right, that wall is out because I can see the windows leading from this room directly into the back yard, so clearly there is no room between,” She decided.  It felt strange to be logical about secret rooms but she could think of no other way to convince herself that there was no secret room. Slowly Tansy moved around the room.  She tapped walls and tugged on equipment to see if it would swing away from the wall and reveal a hidden door.  None of the equipment moved.  Everything was as it should be.

Tansy rolled her eyes convinced she was on a fool’s errand.  “Aunt Eunice has this entire house to herself, why would she need a secret work room when she could just use one of the guest rooms?”

Still there was one place she hadn’t checked.  Tansy made her way to the pantry.  The pantry was large and in addition to the regular items there were filled mason jars with items from the garden that Eunice put up. The pantry and indeed half of the modern kitchen was carved from the older servant’s quarters when Eunice expanded it. Tansy knew that one of the sets of shelves pulled away from the wall so that Eunice’s Canning equipment and extra mason jars could be stored out of the way. 

As it was the last place to look, Tansy flipped the latch to unlock the shelving unit.  It was on wheels and rolled away smoothly to reveal a second set of shelves built into the wall behind it.  Here there were large bots for boiling, an array of strainers and ladles as well as cheesecloth, empty jars and blank labels. Tansy had seen the space before and it was nothing new.  She looked them over and saw nothing she didn’t expect.

She shrugged and was about to put the shelving unit back into place when she spotted a small metal lever on the edge of one of the shelves.  It looked remarkably like the latch for the main set of shelves.  Tansy stepped inside and flipped the lever.  She heard a bolt unlocking.  She tried pulling the shelving unit forward but it didn’t budge.  She tried pushing it and it swung away like a door. 

A light flickered on in the dark space behind the second set of shelves as though it had a motion sensor attached to it.  The light showed her a set of stairs leading down towards the basement.

“It looks like the original servant’s stairs,” Tansy said.

For a moment she stood on the threshold looking down at the narrow wet of stairs winding downward.  She knew she couldn’t just go back to her room and pretend this didn’t existed, so she took a deep breath and stepped onto the small landing and began the descent.

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