In last episode: Mark Masters and the De La Croix sisters were held at gun point by hooded invaders demanding Sunni turn over the contents of the safe. Mark was able to alert 9-1-1 which forced the hoods to leave with an envelope that they would not believe was the sole item of the library safe. Unsatisfied, the hoods promised to return and finish what they came to accomplish.
After the local police unit gathers the three victims’ statements, perpetrators’ descriptions and leave, Sunni approaches Celia, puts her arm around her and gives her a gentle hug.
Celia tenses and resists Sunni’s solace, “Why did you give them the envelope?”
“They we’re going to kill you,” Sunni reaches out again to console her younger sister.
Celia slaps Sunni’s arm away, once again refusing her embrace, “You saw them flee and leave us alive. They are not about to kill us until they find what they’re looking for.”
Mark who wisely has stayed several feet away begins to draw closer, “I think Celia has a point.”
“You stay out of this,” Celia’s arm and pointed finger jets out in Mark’s direction.
“There’s no way I’m out of this. Not after being threatened by hooded men with guns,” Mark grabs the wrist of Celia’s pointed finger hand.
Celia’s pointed finger becomes a fist as she tries to wrestle free. She squirms and then kicks at Mark who continues to keep a firm grip on the thin, small wrist.
“Stop it both of you. We’re all in this too deep now. Fighting ourselves is the last thing we should be doing.”
Reluctantly, Mark releases his grip but remains poised in a combative stance. Celia eases her arm back down to her side as she glares back at Mark with fists and teeth tightly clinched.
“That’s better,” Sunni places one hand on Celia’s shoulder and the other on Mark’s.
“What else was in that safe, Sunni?” Celia’s glare slowly transitions in Sunni’s direction.
“You’re lying to me. If you’re lying to me because of this guy, tell him to leave.”
“I’m not lying.”
“Then why did you give it to them?” Celia throws up her hands poking her face nearly up against Sunni’s face – a gesture her father used when he was upset with his girls.
As she often did with their father, Sunni raises one eyebrow like she’d watched their mother do with their father.
“So, they would suspect I was hiding something.”
Mark watches the two sisters scowl at each other and then raises the question, “What are we going to do about it, now?”
Sunni’s scowl softens from anger to deep thought, “We figure out what these men are looking for.”
“I assume they were looking for the things a rich family would have tucked away in a safe,” Mark lands on the most obvious answer.
“You watch too much TV,” Celia slaps Mark on the arm.
Mark feels the slap is intentionally too hard and the remark an insult to his intellect.
“Celia is right. Rich people don’t keep their most valuable things in home safes.”
“Of course, I’m sorry. Your father was a good man, a fair man and entrepreneur. But I don’t understand what that has to do with this.”
“You, of all people, know how much opposition Dad faced if his generosity was towards people of color.”
“You think this has something to do with that?” Mark emphasizes his point with a hand gesture.
“I don’t know. But they were wearing hoods,” Celia twists on a strand of her hair.
All three remain silent in deep thought. Mark admits that the hoods worn brought to mind stories he’d heard his grandmother tell. He knew that same hatred exists but believes it is expressed in more subtle ways today.
Mark turns to Sunni, “What was in the envelope?”
Sunni had almost forgotten the envelope, “A key.”
“That’s it?” Celia’s head jerks back and her jaw drops until her chin nearly touches her chest.
“Do you mean that symbolically like it’s the key to the mystery?” Mark again punctuates his words with hand gestures, a habit which his father says Mark’s grandmother gave him.
“It might be both. It is an actual key but old fashioned. Probably wouldn’t work anywhere in this house.”
Celia raises an index finger, “The door to the attic.”
“What door to the attic?” Sunni closes her eyes and tries to recall a door like that.
“The one in my room. As kids we always imagined magical kingdoms and treasures behind that funny looking door that we could never get open.”
Sunni’s face lights up as she remembers that door. Her mind is flooded with reminiscences of Celia and her playing in that room. It was once a play room that become Celia’s room when Sunni reached puberty.
Sunni signals for Celia to follow. The two grown up sisters practically run towards and up the stairs that leads to the bedrooms. Mark hesitates. Sunni’s signal is not directed at him. Yet, when he decides to follow, no one stops him.
Mark follows several feet behind, partly because he is ten and sixteen years older than the sisters, partly because he is not actually invited. When he reaches the bedroom, the sisters are already inside, across the room and standing in front of a huge, thick wooden door. Mark stops at the threshold and watches.
Celia leaves Sunni at the attic door while Sunni jiggles and pulls on the plain, scarred brass doorknob. Celia returns with a pocket knife she retrieves from a top dresser drawer.
Mark watches them as they stare at each other with a questioning look. Celia shakes her head, opens the blade of the pocket knife and slides the blade in the door frame between the door and the frame. After a few efforts, Celia who has been holding onto the doorknob, pulls it and the door pops open.
Celia stands holding the knob in one hand and the knife in the other. The door is only slightly ajar and Mark becomes anxious to see what is on the other side. The sisters stand staring and smiling at one another.
Finally, Celia opens the door wider until it is wide enough for her to slip through to the other side. Sunni follows and being somewhat wider hipped widens the opening a bit more, but not yet enough for Mark to see what is beyond the door.
Mark enters into the bedroom and makes his way across the room to the barely open door. He opens it wide enough for him to get through exposing a few warn, wooden steps leading up to another open doorway.
Reaching the top of those stares, he can barely make out shadowy objects that only the light from a small window helps to reveal.
A loud thump is heard, then, Celia yelps, “Ow! I banged my knee against this darn desk.”
Mark watches as the shadowy figure shaped like Sunni says to him, “I think I saw a flashlight near Celia’s bed. Find it and bringing back with you.”
Mark makes his way down the stairs, scans the room and spies a small, plastic flashlight on a night stand next to the bed. It takes a couple of clicks and a smack or two against his hand to get it to come on.
By the time he reaches the attic, he has had to coax the light back on twice. The De La Croix women have now found a cord hanging down from a small 100 watt bulb that shines down on a roll top desk.
“It appears that the key in the envelope fits this,” Sunni points to the keyhole on the tightly shut top on the roll top.
“Those old desks are probably easier to open than old doors,” Mark stands holding a flashlight that keeps blinking off and on.
Mark hands Celia her flashlight and spins around looking for something to open the desktop. Celia hands him her pocket knife.
“I don’t think we’ll find anything valuable in here. It was too easy to get in the attic and…,” Mark opens the desktop.
Sunni reaches into the desk and retrieves a journal, the only item under the desktop. Celia begins opening empty drawers.
“Nothing in the drawers,” Celia slams the last drawer, “The book is all there is.”
Sunni flips the closed journal front to back to front again. She begins to leaf through the journal. At first, this appears to be a financial journal filled with columns and numbers attached to names of supplies, equipment and suppliers.
Then, halfway through the columns and numbers sit left to right names and personal comments. Sunni flips to the last pages and starts turning several blank pages heading toward where she left off until she reaches journal entries similar to the front portion.
“What do you make of this?” Celia edges next to Sunni who repeats her actions of the last few minutes.
Sunni flips pages front to back, then back to front. Finally, she closes the book and opens it to the middle. In the front and in the back, she finds financial entries. In the middle few pages, several names followed by comments.
Sunni looks at Mark who has drawn near to peer over her left shoulder. He shakes his head and shrugs. Sunni glances over at Celia who has been watching with one arm across Sunni’s shoulder.
“I don’t know what to make of this,” Sunni closes the journal and lays it on top of her right hand and rests her left hand over it cradling the journal in front of her.
I write about what I'm thinking or what I've imagined in an effort to regain that childhood imagination and marry with my many years of real experiences. I'm getting better at it the more I write.I am a published author of two romantic intrigue novels.My books can be found at Amazon.com or if you want a personalized copy, by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.