Scarlett sat on a white marble bench in a small hedge enclosed flower bed square. Currently, all the beds were empty expect for dry soil. The late afternoon was a hum with birds and flying insects. Frogs were croaking in the ponds and a gentle breeze was rubbing bare tree branches together.
She looked up and back at the hotel. She could only see the attic windows and the roof from where she was sat. Sighing, Scarlett turned back to her book, but couldn’t concentrate. She closed the pages and reflected on all this mornings’ activities instead. The police and dogs had searched the manor and gardens, but had yielded nothing. There had been no sign of life in any of the out buildings and all the floors were empty. Scarlett toyed with the edges of the book.
It’s been a long time since I’ve looked a fool, she thought, maybe it was just animals or my tried mind playing tricks.
She glanced up again at the attic windows. They were blacked out by heavy curtains and looked smaller than the ones of the floors below. Suddenly, she wondered about them. As far as she knew the hotel had never used the rooms up there had been made for the overflow of the orphanage. Though they might have been used as storage or perhaps left abandoned?
Curious and with her mind running wild, Scarlett daydreamed what she might discover. Perhaps, antiques they could use in the re-modelling of the hotel? The long lost story of some orphan that had very historic significance? A gold mine of sellable items? She pictured fabulous paints and furniture, Victorian children’s toys, ancient books and clothes.
Smiling, she re-focused and decided one day soon she’d have to go up there. Moving to glance down at her book again, a slight flicker of moment caught her eye. She looked back at the central attic window.
The curtain seemed to be moving.
Scarlett clutched her book and shuffled to the edge of the bench, trying to see more. With her eyes firmly glued upwards, she saw the curtain move slowly to the left side. As if someone was trying to peer sneakily out of the window. The curtain dropped back into place. She couldn’t look away.
Swallowing the raising lump in her throat and realising she was shaking, Scarlett broke the contact. She looked down and took a few deep breaths. It’s all in your head, she chanted over and over again. Letting go of her book which was now badly curling at the top, she rubbed her sweaty palms on her dark grey trousers.
Avoiding looking again, Scarlett got up and quickly walked out of the garden she was in. Stepping onto a yellow and cream coloured stone pathway, she broke into a jog and went passed the other garden entrances. The path led her to a main doorway constructed out of an arching hedge, on the other side of which was the sprawling lawn. Scarlett ran across the short grass, the breeze messing up her carefully made up curled red hair.
Reaching the flag patio, her flat shoes slapped loudly and she almost tripped. Regaining her balance, she slowed her pace. Scarlett flung open the back door, dumped her book on the kitchen counter and called for Greyson. His voice replied from the study and she rushed in. He was standing behind the huge, but low oak desk shuffling papers around.
‘What’s wrong?’ he asked, his face crumpling into concern and his hands dropping papers.
Scarlett tried to steady her breathing and unexpected excitement before responding, ‘did you go into the attic before?’
‘No,’ Greyson answered, ‘but the police and dogs checked it. They said it was so dusty that it would have been easy to tell if someone had been there.’
‘Do you remember what’s in there then? What the estate agent said?’ she pressed.
‘No, I don’t. What’s this about, Scarlett?’
‘I want to go up there and have look.’
Greyson put his hands to the table and looked seriously at his wife. Her hair was loose and messy about her small shoulders. Her cheeks were flushed pink and her skin looked damp. Her breathing was still loud and gaspy. Her expression was difficult to read, even for him, but she looked excited, nervous and scared all at the same time.
‘This isn’t like you…’ he whispered under his breath.
Scarlett paused in smoothing out and tucking in the cream blouse she had on. She looked at him puzzled, not having heard him, ‘excuse me?’
‘Will it make you feel better? Though I don’t see how…’ Greyson said instead.
‘We’ll need a torch. I think the police said some of the lights weren’t working or something.’
‘There were at least two with the kitchen stuff, I think,’ Scarlett spoke.
‘I’ll get the keys,’ Greyson added.
Pondering, Scarlett turned and went into the kitchen. Looking through one of the bottom drawers, she found two large torches and some new batteries. Collecting everything, she turned to see Greyson standing in the doorway with his arms folded over his chest, the ring of keys dangling from his right hand.
‘What?’ she asked.
‘Are you sure about this?’ he questioned.
She gave a single nod and a soft humming sound.
‘You never want to get dirty though. You didn’t even want to go into the cellars when we visited,’ Greyson pointed it.
‘I did the third time!’ Scarlett snapped back, ‘but we never did the attic. Did we?’
Greyson rubbed his forehead and looked complexed at his wife.
‘Please. I just…want to make sure.’
‘But the police-’ Greyson tried to point out.
‘I know!’ Scarlett cut in, ‘but for my own piece of mind, Greyson!’
‘All right, all right,’ he rushed, ‘Let’s go take a look.’
Scarlett handed him a torch and the batteries. She checked her’s worked then made to move out of the kitchen.
‘There’s probably nothing up there,’ Greyson uttered.
‘Did the police say that?’ Scarlett asked back.
Greyson shook his head, ‘they didn’t say.’
Clutching the torch, Scarlett squeezed passed him and out of their apartment’s front door. Aware that he was following her, she crossed the entrance hall and began climbing the stairs. Their footsteps were slightly muffled by the carpet, but some of the steps did creak. She turned to the left and when she reached the top, hit the lights before going on and up the next spiralling case.
‘I found the information for the alarm and CCTV by the way,’ Greyson’s voice called out.
Scarlett paused and waited for him to join her.
‘We can set it tonight. Then if anyone does break in we’ll know.’
‘That’s good,’ Scarlett said.
‘Also, the alarm has a connection to the police station, so we won’t have to phone them. They’ll come right away.’
Scarlett nodded and they carried on walking. When they reached the top, they turned on the lights and went down the right corridor, passing all the numbered doors. At the end and unlike the opposite corridor and the ones below, was a door marked with a sign. In white peeling letters were the words, Staff only, no admittance.
‘Well?’ Scarlett said in a low voice.
Greyson looked down at the ring of keys in his other hand then began searching through them. The clanging of metal hitting metal and soft jingling echoed around them.
Scarlett nipped on her bottom lip, feeling the nerves building and replacing the excitement. She clicked on her torch, checking it again then rubbed her finger over the switch.
Greyson found the right key and slotted it in. It turned easily and they both heard the lock click. He took the key out and turned the large brass knob as he slowly opened the door.
To Be Continued….