The Skeleton Key

Kate opened another drawer and immediately banged it shut, hard enough to shake the entire kitchen. She groaned. “Did you hear me, Sean? I asked a question.”

Sean peered up at her from the blueprints and other papers strewn across the kitchen table. “I’m sorry. No, I couldn’t hear you. There’s a crazy lady banging drawers.”

She glared at him. “I asked you if you’ve seen the skeleton key. I can’t find it. Mr. McAndrew said it was in the drawer next to the door, but it’s not there. I’ve looked everywhere I can think of.”

“The skeleton key? Why do you need the skeleton key?”

“There’s a room up on the third floor. The door’s locked, and I’ve tried every other key. I need to get in to see what’s in there.”

“Is that all? The workers are coming on Monday. I’m sure they can get you in then.”

He returned his attention to the pile of documents on the table. She put her hands on her hips and stared at him until he looked up at her again.

“I don’t want to wait until Monday,” she said, “I need to know what’s in there before the workers get here.”

“Why?” he asked.

“I just do. What if there’s something in there we don’t want the workers to see? What if there’s something embarrassing?”

He laughed as he picked up a binder several inches thick and began to leaf through it. “Embarrassing? This house had been empty for fifty years. What could possibly be in there that’s embarrassing?”

“I don’t know, but there’s a possibility.” She paused. “That’s not the only reason I want to get inside the room, though. I was up there yesterday, and there’s a strange smell coming from somewhere.”

He looked up abruptly from the binder. “What kind of smell?”

She shook her head. “It’s hard to describe. It smelled a little like perfume, but it was sickly sweet, and it was strong. It made me nauseous.”

“Are you sure you weren’t smelling the honeysuckle from outside? Or you weren’t hallucinating from the toxic mold apparently infesting the attic? Seriously, have you read this inspection report? The electrical’s shot, too. It’s all going to have to be torn out and redone. It’s a wonder this place hasn’t burned to the ground.”

“The honeysuckles aren’t blooming yet, dear, and I’m pretty certain I wasn’t hallucinating. Now, are you sure you haven’t seen the skeleton key anywhere?”

“I still don’t think this is anything that can’t wait until Monday. Why don’t you try to relax a little? In the week we’ve had the keys to this house, you’ve gone through it top to bottom. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were looking for something, besides the skeleton key, I mean.”

“Looking for something? No. That’s silly. I’m just really anxious about this renovation. I don’t want any surprises.”

He smiled, “Kate, sweetheart, it’s a one-hundred-fifty-year-old house. There are going to be surprises. But you know what? We’ll deal with them. I though you were insane when you showed me this house and said you wanted to buy it. I knew you were insane when you said the McAndrews were selling it ‘as is.’ You convinced me, though, that we could do this, that we could make this house beautiful like it used to be. So why don’t you calm down? Nothing’s so important that it can’t wait.”

She sighed. “You’re right. I’m getting myself worked up over nothing.” Then she suddenly looked toward the door leading to the dining room. “Unless Mr. McAndrew meant that the skeleton key was in a drawer in the old buffet.”

Kate ran into the next room to check the drawers in the antique buffet left derelict when the house was abandoned. Sean rolled his eyes and returned to examining all of the papers related to renovating the house. As he did so, his hand slid down to the pocket of his jeans.

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