Monday, November 28, 2016

The Puzzle of Hunter Manor- Chapter 20: Treefall

Eudorra quietly punched in another message to Gilbert on her phone. It was the third one in the hour since she had run from the linen closet and he hadn't responded to any of them.

"They took his phone," she responded to herself. Did she dare try sending a message via Jared? That was probably too risky, if they had taken his phone away they would probably see to it that he didn't get a chance to get so much as a scrap of paper from anyone, even Jared. She hoped she hadn't gotten him in too much trouble. Annabel looked furious that they had been working on a clue together, and if what her father had said about her was any indication, there was no limit to her wrath.

She laid out the clues on her desk once again, in an effort to take her mind from their immediate troubles, but that only reminded her that they were in trouble for these very clues. She turned instead to the letter cards and began copying them again onto pieces of plain white paper she had found in the desk. She cut them apart and tried to remember what order they had been putting them.

She had just gotten them back to about the point she and Gilbert had them in the linen cupboard when there was a loud slam from the front of the house. She jumped and almost lost her cards off the desk. There were loud voices and she started to wonder if something awful had happened. There were hurried footsteps in the corridor and she looked up quite startled when her parents entered the room.

They heaved a sigh of relief, then her father said, "Thank goodness, we thought you might have run out of the house for some reason."

"What are you talking about?" she asked, "I've been in here doing my homework!"

"Then, that means it has to be either Annabel or Gilbert," her mother said.

"What ARE you two talking about? Who has to be what?" Eudorra said in an exasperated tone.

"I'm sorry dear, but someone just ran through the entry hall and out in to the storm. We think it might have been Annabel."

"Annabel?" Eudorra sat on the end of her bed. "Really? She just doesn't seem the type to lose it."

"I told you she can be very demanding," said her father, "With all these clues back to back she could have snapped."

"What about Gilbert?" she asked, fear shaking in her voice, "Is he okay?"

"We don't know, why?" her mother asked.

"Annabel caught us working on a clue together in the linen cupboard. She may have told him off and he ran out!" Eudorra's face went white, "We need to see if he is alright!"

The three of them ran from the room and came to the top of the Grand Staircase just as Terrence was headed down them in his light jacket.

"Terrence, what has happened?" her father asked.

The sitting room door opened and Jared stepped out into the upper level of the hall. Terrence looked back up the stairs and said, "Talk to Jared, he will fill you in." Then he added, "Eudorra, I'm glad you are alright."

He zipped up his jacked as he walked down the steps and across the hall. At the front door he braced himself then opened it and walked out into the rainstorm. They watched on as a feeling of dread came over them, Jared came toward them at a quick trot.

"I think it best that we join Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Henson as soon as possible. Please save your questions, we need to all get on the same page." He said wiping the sweat from his brow with a white handkerchief. He led them across the landing to the opposite corridor. Around the corner Mr. Henson and Gilbert were walking toward them.

"Mom's run off," Gilbert said to Eudorra, though he realized afterward that he was really addressing the whole group.

"Where has she gone?" Angela asked.

"No one knows. We had an argument and then she sent me to my room. Dad talked to her for a minute, but after we heard her bolt off he came and checked on me to see which of us run for it," he said.

"I suggest we split up and search the house," said Mr. Henson, taking charge of the situation. "On the off chance she is still inside. Let's split up into pairs and search each room. Jared, you are with me, we'll search the upper rooms on this side of the manor. Gilbert and Eudorra, you seem to have become friends under the radar, so why don't you two search the downstairs rooms on this side. Mortimer and Angela, take the west side of this floor. Whoever gets done first can search the remaining rooms on the ground floor."

"Mr. Henson, we should probably alert Marie as well," said Jared, "I believe she is the only one currently, as they say, out of the loop."

"Quite right. We will search the second floor on this side then go to the Kitchen and alert Marie." Mr. Henson said, "When we have searched everywhere, meet at the bottom of the grand staircase."

They all agreed and ran off in their assigned directions. Gilbert and Eudorra darted down the stairs at a full run. Mr. Henson and Jared headed around the top of the Hall to the Game Room. Mortimer and Angela went back to the guest rooms to start searching there first.

The Game Room was as the Franks had left it. It definitely looked like someone had riffled through it. The secret panel and the locked drawer stood open. The pool table was empty, and the vent cover was sitting askew. Jared and Mr. Henson quickly looked through the room and behind the door, then went on to their next room.

Mortimer and Angela quickly searched their room, Eudorra's room, and the other guest room on their side of the house. The spare room was unadorned, the bed was only dressed in a white fitted sheet and the desk was bare. The shower looked like the tile was being replaced, and the room was coated in a light layer of grout dust. Disappointed in their search, they left the room and moved forward along the corridor.

Gilbert and Eudorra reached the Theater first. They flipped the lights on and searched the four rows of theater seats. Gilbert checked behind the movie screen while Eudorra looked in the closet where the popcorn supplies were kept. Gilbert wove through the various projectors while Eudorra checked behind the popcorn machine and the video case. Finding nothing they left the room and turned off the light.

Mr. Henson blinked as they entered the Music Room. He had never set foot in this particular room and the royal blue carpet caught him by surprise. There were instruments all over the room, making it a maze to search through. The freshly polished baby grand piano in one corner shone black against the cream wallpaper. A Harp stood against one wall, and a rack held several guitars, banjos, and mandolins. There were open lockers that held black cases that he suspected were a clarinet, saxophone, and violin. Music stands were peppered throughout the room as well adding to the monotony. Jared seemed to know his way around this room very well, so he let the butler do most of the searching among the instruments since he didn't want to accidentally knock any of them over or damage them. When they had finished there was still no Annabel.

"I'll check the guest rooms, you go talk to Marie, let her know what has happened," said Mr. Henson. Jared agreed and hurried down the back stairs to the kitchen.

Mortimer and Angela searched the linen cupboard quickly and found nothing. They moved on to the Sitting Room, and again found nothing. They quickly walked back to the Grand Staircase and headed downstairs to start checking those rooms.

Gilbert and Eudorra searched the dinning room in almost no time, and were about to go into the kitchen when Jared came down the stairs and waved them on as he entered the kitchen himself.

They moved on to the ballroom, which had several doors around the outside, but which neither of them had entered yet. They pushed open the doors opposite the dinning room and flipped on the lights. They both gasped. The room was gorgeously decorated. Eudorra loved the mural in the Entry Hall, but they didn't hold a candle to the dark paneling and the marble pillars that lined the walls of the ballroom. The room was two stories tall and had an arched ceiling that had been painted with scenes from literature. A solitary mountain was being circled by a fire breathing dragon, a strange machine with a man sitting astride it was being surrounded with light, a small girl and a robin appeared to be unlocking a door mounted in a stone wall, and there were many more.

Eudorra tore her eyes from the ceiling to begin searching the drapes that lined the windows on the back wall of the large ballroom. Gilbert was searching the band stand along the west wall and was beginning to look frightened. Eudorra finished searching the drapes and moved over to the bar that was on the east wall, opposite the bandstand. Gilbert moved back to the open door and started scratching his ear. A nervous tick he had picked up whenever he was worried about something. To Eudorra there could only be one thing he was worried about, 'Where was she?'

Terrence followed the muddy footprints into the orchard, but with the rain coming down as hard as it was, it was impossible to see very far. He shouted Annabel's name, but could not hear any response with the rain and thunder pounding in his ears. He searched the orchard as best he could, but not knowing the grounds like Annabel, who had visited often while growing up, he could easily have missed her. He wandered back towards the pond and searched the gazebo. There was nothing there, so he moved on to the boathouse, easily the only other structure within walking distance that could offer some protection from the storm. He slipped inside and hand to lean hard against the door to close it.

Inside it smelled of mildew, and it was dark. There was no light to turn on because the boathouse had never been fitted with electricity. He fumbled with his phone which had surprisingly stayed dry under his jacket. He turned on the LED flashlight and used it to search the entire boat house. Nothing. 'Where on earth was she?' he thought. There were just too many places to search and not enough people to do the searching.

Suddenly, through the gale of the storm he heard a loud scream coming from the orchard. He dashed out the door and ran as hard as he could into the wind. He soon found himself beside a large weeping willow. A platform of sorts had been erected into two of the boughs, but in the wind of the storm it had been twisted so hard that it fell out of the tree. Lying next to the broken platform lay the unconscious figure of his wife. She wasn't moving and there was a cut on her forehead.

"Annabel!" Terrence shouted as he rushed up to her.

Her hands were like ice, and she was soaked clean through. He knew he had to get help, but he couldn't bring himself to leave her there, lying like that in the storm. The branches of the willow tree whipped through the air menacingly above him rain continued to fall in buckets and lightening flashed across the sky then the thunder rumbled overhead.

Finally he talked himself into running for help, knowing that the longer she stayed out here the worse her chances were. He ran from the willow tree all the way to the front door. When he opened it he saw Gilbert and Eudorra leaving the ballroom, as well as Mr. Henson at the top of the stairs with Mort and Angela Frank who appeared to be approaching from the opposite corridor.

"I found her!" he shouted, "But she's hurt, and I need help to get her inside!"

There was a great clamoring about this as everyone ran to grab their coats and headed to the front door. Jared arrived with a large board with handles cut into it to help carry her in. Together they marched out into the orchard and carefully lifted her up on to the board and carefully carried her into the house. They brought her to the first available room, the library and laid her out on the sofa. Marie arrived with dry clothes, towels, and a basin of hot water. Jared brought in hot chocolate and warm finger sandwiches.

The Franks waited in the Entry Hall while Terrence and Gilbert dried her off and with Marie and Jared's help changed her into dry clothes. They wrapped her in a blanket and set her on the sofa in front of the fire, which Jared had kindled.

It was well past dinner time before Terrence finally opened the door and said, "Annabel's awake."

So how was it?

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