Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Puzzle of Hunter Manor- Chapter 23: The Solution

Eudorra awoke in her bedroom and all was silent. There was no pattering of raindrops against the window, and she desperately hoped that everything that had happened over the last twenty-four hours was not just a dream. They had actually worked together as a team, all of them, Franks and Hawks working on the same team. Her eyes tried to open, but they were being obstinate after an extremely late night of solving clues. There was a knock at her door and she stifled a yawn to ask "Who is it?"

"It's Gilbert. Remember to bring my phone down to breakfast! I'm sure everyone will want to get this over with as soon as possible!"

Eudorra squinted at the phone that was blinking green on her nightstand, "Okay, I'll be right down."

She could hear footsteps retreating down the corridor and rolled over to look at the digital clock on the desk. Could it really be 7:30 already? She forced herself out of bed and into the shower where she turned the water on as hot as she dared to help wake her up. Her muscles hurt from running all over the manor yesterday. Was it really only yesterday? It seemed like a week had passed since yesterday afternoon when she and Gilbert had been caught in the linen cupboard.

She washed her hair and winced as she tried to wash her back.

"Yep, definitely sore," she mumbled to herself.

She got out of the shower and dried off, wrapping herself in a fuzzy blue bathrobe that had been provided for her for the week. Tomorrow was the last day at the manor, then she would be back to that small apartment that would fit inside her room here. It hurt in a way that she wasn't expecting. There was so much room here, room to read and think and be by yourself if need be. Back home it was... well it WAS home, but there was something less home-like about it now that she couldn't quite identify. It was almost as if she belonged here and that other place was just some kind of in between world meant to hold her until she rediscovered this one.

A single tear rolled down her cheek as she put most of her clothes back in her bag for possibly the last time. This wasn't how the adventure was supposed to end. She was supposed to be happy that her father and aunt were back on speaking terms, and that the divide in the family was now gone. But instead she felt disappointed that she was going back to her world with her mom and dad, just to be shut up in that awful apartment again. Why did that disturb her so much?

Her father had been given that money at the beginning of the week, maybe he would use it to buy them a house like this one. But then again could another house be even the shadow of this one?

She dressed quickly and grabbed Gilbert's phone. Everyone was waiting, and it wouldn't do to keep them waiting, even for her own emotional anxiety. She entered the dining room just as they were getting ready to pray over the meal. She handed Gilbert his phone and quickly sat down. She folded her arms and bowed her head, hoping that no one had noticed how tore up she was. She mumbled "Amen" along with the others and tried to keep herself busy with a stack of pancakes and sausages so she wouldn't have to interact with the others too much. Anything to keep them from discovering her tear-stained cheeks.

When breakfast was over Gilbert took out his phone and punched the coordinates into his GPS app, then looked up and smiled at everyone, "Ready for your first GPS guided treasure hunt?"

Everyone murmured in agreement, even Annabel who leaned heavily on Terrence to support her as they walked from the room. Eudorra followed behind Gilbert and the others, trying to keep a low profile, but somehow Mr. Henson slipped to the back and walked beside her.

"What's wrong, Ms. Frank?" he asked politely in a hushed tone that only they could hear.

She didn't know how to respond at first, but finally she said, "I've had a really good time here this week, I just wish it could continue I guess."

"Well, that has yet to be decided, you may yet be surprised what Simon has in store," he said with a wink.

They had arrived at the front door and they all stepped out onto the gravel driveway where Gilbert waited for satellite reception before they could continue. After a few minutes of staring at his phone, he confidently said, "500 feet this way!" as he led them into the orchard.

Mortimer and Annabel felt a sense of deja vu as the walked through the orchard toward the back of the house and were startled when Gilbert came to a halt on the opposite side of the Gazebo from where their last expedition together had ended.

"Should be right here somewhere," he said as he put his phone in his pocket.

Annabel and Mortimer looked at each other then walked over to the edge of the gazebo and looked underneath it together.

"Is that it?" Eudorra heard her father say.

"I think so," Annabel said, "Can you reach it?"

Her father crouched down on his knees and reached under the edge of the gazebo. He pulled out a box, similar in size and shape to the one they had found earlier that week with their first clue. He opened it and handed a large envelope to Annabel, then he felt around the inside of the box to make sure it was empty and closed and replaced it under the gazebo.

"Well, should we head back inside?" asked Gilbert.

"No, I think we can manage just fine sitting in the gazebo here," said Annabel with a wink at Mortimer.

So they all climbed the steps into the gazebo and seated themselves on the benches around the perimeter. Annabel opened the envelope and  pulled out two pieces of paper. One appeared to be a letter, and the other a check. The letter she handed to Mortimer to read aloud to the group.

"Well, Annabel, I'm glad you have learned to work together with Mortimer. He is not a bad chap, really. Slow on the uptake sometimes, but fiercely loyal in a pinch. I know it was always the reward that drove you, so here is your check for two million dollars, and equal share to that which I gave Mortimer at the beginning of the puzzle.

As for the rest of my estate, it is to be put into a trust for the care and benefit of my niece, Annabel Quip Hawk, my nephew, Mortimer Frank, and their spouses and children. I do hope that you will come visit each other regularly at the Manor and that you will continue this tradition of puzzles and rewards for each other.

And should either or both of you desire to move into the Manor with your families, be my guest. It is a large house for one man and could use with some younger feet running the halls. I think Jared and Marie would be grateful for the company too, as well as the new faces to wait on. Mr. Henson can fill you in and take care of the details.

The final solution is to ask Mr. Henson to "Please make the arrangements."

Until we meet again on another plane.

As always,

Your Loving Uncle Simon"

Annabel and Eudorra were openly weeping, several others sniffed and wiped away stray tears with their hands and sleeves. Even Mr. Henson dabbed at his eyes with a handkerchief. Birds chirped in the orchard and the sweet smell of apple blossoms wafted toward them on the breeze. Ripples danced their way across the pond while ducks swam along the shore. The bright morning sun shone across the rows of fields that were just starting to turn green with new growth.

When everyone had had a chance to regain their composure, Mortimer turned to Annabel and said, "How about it Anna, do you think you could handle living in our ancestral home together?"

"Well, Mort," she said after a moment, "I'll have to ask Terrence and Gilbert, but I would certainly consider it!"

So how was it?

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