My “short” mystery. Um… it is twenty pages. Single spaced, Times New Roman, 12 font.
Mr. Richard Guymond dutifully smiled and bid the last herd of tourists farewell as they marched out the door, clutching their cameras and information pamphlets tightly. The last one of the season… A feeling of relief settled over Guymond at the thought. True, giving tours of his somewhat exorbitantly restored and renovated castle brought in a fair profit and at times actually seemed enjoyable, but it always had to be so hectic! Wide-eyed tourists milling about, wanting to touch the antiques, asking if the weapons on display were real, or where they were going next, or where the bathroom might be at, and trying to read their tour maps upside-down. Absolutely maddening at times.
Guymond shut the door with a sigh before trudging through the castle himself, heading for his room upstairs. His servants gradually emerged from various rooms, having shed their medieval costume and donned their regular work attire. Guymond paused and turned to address them.
“Well, that’s another season well finished,” he stated, clapping his hands together for emphasis. “As I am sure you all do, I look forward to a quiet winter in Castle Sandrock. Let us celebrate the end of the season with a grand banquet. Martha, Lee, can you manage?”
The stout, ruddy-faced cook beamed at him and replied, “Of course, Master Guymond!” Her assistant, Lee, shrugged and nodded. Lee never spoke much.
The servants’ demeanor seemed to have brightened at the mention of a feast. If there was one thing they enjoyed about their employer, it was his fondness for extravagant meals. They cheerfully began the long task of boxing up many of the props and antiques from the tours, and the gray-haired eccentric retired upstairs.
Guymond had been a financially successful mortician, until he decided to retire and pass Guymond Mortuary on to his son. His obsession for mythology had caused some people to label him as an oddity, though he never took it personally. This obsession, people believed, was the reason he’d spent a fortune on the castle and the land in the first place. Others thought it was because he was another relic-hunter drawn to the “buried treasure” stories attached to Castle Sandrock, though no one knew for sure.
Castle Sandrock sat on a little hill above a lake surrounded by sparse woodland, and was named for the sand-colored stones of its walls. Guymond saw it as his dream residence. He had several modern conveniences added, like a telephone line, indoor plumbing, and electricity, but Guymond had done his best to keep the castle as genuine as possible. After making the small estate livable, he’d spent another fortune on medieval weapons, armor, tapestries, and furniture. He then opened Castle Sandrock to tourists who wanted a glimpse of history, but only ever in the fall. He spent the rest of the year shut up in his room or traipsing all over the countryside.
Out of all the rooms in the castle, Guymond’s was by far the most richly decorated. Tapestries depicting knights battling monsters adorned the walls, between which hung ornate, decorative swords. The four-poster bed supported a red velvet canopy that matched the bedspread. A scarlet rug carpeted most of the room, and velvet drapes hung at the vast window, supported by a curtain rod carved to look like the tangled roots of an ancient tree. Each end of the rod branched into four winding “roots,” which twisted around polished globes of red glass.
Upstairs in this room, Guymond changed out of the castle livery dress he wore for tours, and into his richly decorated, but equally historical, suit. Guymond quickly checked his appearance in the full-length mirror next to his wardrobe while donning his finest blue cape. He then plucked a book from the shelf at his bedside, sank into the armchair by the window, and began to read.
Martha and Lee finished their preparations in a little over two hours. With the help of Versis and Teresa, they had the long table in the dining hall spread with exquisite dishes within minutes, and started a merry fire blazing in the hearth. Lee then ran for strong old Jefferson, the groundskeeper, who was readying the castle gardens for winter, and Teresa marched upstairs to fetch Master Guymond.
The banquet put everyone in the brightest mood they’d been in all week. The six of them barely took up a fourth of the long table, but what with their talking and laughing, it seemed a great crowd dined in the castle that night. The merriment only increased after the meal had been finished and cleared away. When Guymond ordered Martha to fetch several bottles of red wine from the cellar, even stony Jefferson and silent Lee had silly grins plastered on their faces after consuming copious amounts of spirits.
At one a.m. Versis, the butler, said he’d had enough. He bid everyone a good night, and stumbled out of the dining hall.
At three a.m. Guymond stood. “I fear I too must retire,” he began, his words slurring together slightly. He raised his hand to halt the protestations. “Really, I must. But the rest of you are free to continue in festivity as long as you wish, so long as the dining hall is clean when I come down for breakfast-” he glanced at his watch, “- in four hours.” Teresa, her eyes bright and her cheeks red, raised her glass drunkenly and exclaimed, “Hear, hear!” Guymond smiled and left.
The lights did not go off that night.
Daylight found Lee, Martha, Teresa, and Jefferson sprawled on the benches and floor. The dining hall had obviously not been tidied up at all. Empty wine bottles littered the table and floor, one of the benches had been tipped on its side, and the empty glasses still lay strewn over the table. Going by the red stains on the flagstones, they’d spilled just as much wine as they’d drunk.
Lee, draped over the upturned bench, shifted in his sleep. The bench moved over the floor as he did so, and Lee slid off. His head knocked painfully against the edge of the bench, waking him rather sharply. He pushed himself into a sitting position and rubbed a hand across his eyes, blinking in the sunlight filtering in through the windows. He took in the mess around him, then something clicked in his head.
“Hey!” he shouted. Teresa scrambled awake, scared by the yell. Martha and Jefferson slowly came to, and looked quizzically at Lee.
“Look at this mess,” Lee said frantically. “Guymond will be up any minute, and if he finds us in this state, he’ll be mad!”
“Oh,” Martha groaned, getting up off the floor. “Oh no, no, no.”
The four of them began clearing up the dining hall as fast as they could. Several minutes passed, and Jefferson noticed something. Gathering up the empty bottles with Teresa, he asked, “What time did Guymond say he’d be down?”
Brow furrowing, Teresa thought for a moment before replying, “He said, ‘in four hours,’ which would be at seven. He’s down every morning at seven.”
“Lee, what time is it?” Jefferson asked.
Lee paused and looked at his watch. “Eight-thirty.”
Jefferson looked at Teresa meaningfully. The housekeeper simply shrugged. “He drank along with the rest of us last night. I wouldn’t blame him for sleeping late. He’ll be down soon, I’m sure.”
They finished cleaning, and Jefferson went out to finish his work in the gardens. Martha and Lee began making breakfast, and Teresa went up to wake Guymond. She knocked briskly on his door and waited. Guymond’s room remained silent. She knocked again and called, “Sir, it’s nearly nine, and Martha’s got breakfast on.”
She went back downstairs without waiting for an answer, and began tidying up the rest of Castle Sandrock. The tourists had left muddy footprints in the halls that had since turned to dust and needed sweeping up.
Half an hour later, when Martha and Lee set breakfast on the table, Guymond still hadn’t appeared. Teresa marched back upstairs and pounded on the door. “Breakfast is waiting, Master Guymond,” she shouted.
No answer. She tried the door. As usual, it was locked. No matter how long or hard she knocked, Guymond refused to answer. Finally starting to feel concerned, Teresa went down to breakfast. The meal progressed in absolute silence.
As Lee began clearing away the dishes, Martha said, “Save a plate out for Master Guymond.”
Teresa spoke up. “I think something’s happened to him.”
Versis looked up, mildly curious. “Oh? What causes you to think so?”
“He’s never been so late before, and he won’t answer when I call.” She stood up and began helping Martha gather up the dirty plates.
“Let’s finish cleaning up,” Versis suggested, “then see what we can do about it.”
They cleared away all but one plate of food, washed the dishes, and straightened the kitchen. Then they all trooped up the stairs to gather in the hall outside Guymond’s door. As Teresa had explained, Guymond did not respond to their insistent pounding and yelling. Jefferson seized the door handle and rattled it furiously. “Curse him, he’s got the only key,” the groundskeeper grumbled. He fished through his pocket until he came up with a screwdriver. The groundskeeper started taking out the screws that held the handle to the door and handing them to Versis. “Don’t lose these,” he said gruffly.
When he handed the last screw to the butler, Jefferson jiggled the door handle until it came out of the door. As the handle on the other side fell to the floor with a metallic thud, Jefferson pushed the door open so sharply it banged against the wall.
Teresa pressed a hand to her mouth to muffle her short scream and jumped back.
Lee swore prolifically.
Richard Guymond lay on the floor near the window, still in his medieval suit, his face frozen in a furious expression. The rug beneath him seemed slightly discolored, but the sand-colored flagstones at the edge of the rug were stained bright, sickening red. The hilt of one of the ornamental swords from the wall kept him from lying flat on his face. The blade of the sword disappeared through the right side of Guymond’s chest and reappeared at a slant under his left shoulder blade. The fingers of his right hand clenched the hilt, as if to pull it from his body. Nearby, the velvet curtains lay on a heap on the floor, and sun streamed into the room
Jefferson was the first to recover from the shock. “Someone call the police.”
Martha started for the stairs, but Lee stopped him, a strange look on his face. “No, don’t,” he said. “Haven’t any of you read Sherlock Holmes?”
There was a collective shaking of heads. Lee sighed and cautiously entered the room. He skirted Guymond’s body to reach the bookshelf. Scanning it quickly, he reached to the top shelf and pulled down a hefty volume, the title The Complete Sherlock Holmes embossed in gold letters across the front, muttering, “Best book ever.” He flipped it open page thirty-three, returned to the open doorway, and handed the book to Teresa. “There! See for yourself. In nearly every case, police inspectors are baffled and Holmes solves it in five minutes.”
“I don’t see what you’re getting at,” Teresa admitted after reading the page.
“Let’s call a detective first,” Lee explained, taking the book and replacing it on the shelf. “Once he figures out who killed Master Guymond, we can get the police. Then we can avoid an investigation lasting for months.”
For a moment, there was silence. Partially because they’d never heard Lee say so much in the span of two minutes.
“Lee, Sherlock Holmes is fiction,” Jefferson pointed out finally.
“I kind of like the idea,” Teresa said.
“As do I,” Martha agreed.
“I’ll go look for a detective in the directory,” Versis volunteered. The butler went down to the foyer to make the call. Jefferson reached for the door. “Well, if that’s how we’re going to do things, let’s not disturb this room.”
“At least let me close his eyes,” Martha insisted, a little tearfully. “I can’t stand to have him staring at us like that.” Jefferson agreed.
The staff went downstairs to the dining hall to wait. The plate of breakfast Martha had saved sat completely forgotten at the far end of the table.
Versis returned from the foyer. “A Detrimus Tason will be here shortly,” he announced.
“What do you suppose he’ll be like?” Teresa wondered.
“Judging by the way he sounded,” Versis said, hiding an amused smile, “I’d say he’s a rather overeager young man who doesn’t work very often, and has far too much time on his hands. I daresay he’s not the most punctual type, either.”
“Ohhh,” Martha sighed. “This will be most interesting.”
They waited for an hour in complete silence, trying to think of anything besides what occupied the upstairs bedroom. Lee shifted slightly, causing the bench to creak. The sound seemed to break the spell. Jefferson grunted and questioned, “He lives in town?”
“Indeed,” Versis answered.
“What’s taking the fellow so long then? It only takes about forty-five minutes to get here.”
“Like I said, he’s probably not the most punctual type.”
“Huh,” Jefferson grunted again.
Another hour passed before there came a knock at the door. The staff of Castle Sandrock jumped frightfully, nearly tipping the benches over in their haste to get to the door. They crowded into the foyer, standing out of the way for Versis to let the detective in. The butler undid the latch and opened the heavy wood door.
“Detrimus Tason, I presume?” Versis put on his best “welcoming manservant” expression and bowed ever so slightly to the figure in the door. “Do come in.”
“Oh, yes, that’s me,” Detrimus Tason confirmed, stepping inside and shutting the door behind him before Versis could get it. He really wasn’t anything like the staff expected. Black hair, narrow face, bright eyes. His whole frame seemed on the small side. He held out his hand. “And you are…?”
Versis glanced between the dark-haired detective’s broad smile and his outstretched hand before realizing he was supposed to shake it. He did so a little cautiously; after all, the servants never shook hands with anyone. “Versis Attaca, butler,” he said by way of introduction. “May I take your coat and hat, Mr. Tason?”
“You may take my hat,” Detrimus said, removing his fedora and handing it to Versis, “but there are several important items in my coat pockets, so I’ll keep it, if you don’t mind.” He patted the numerous pockets of his black trench coat. “And please just call me Detrimus. Everyone does.” He seemed to suddenly notice the other servants standing around him. “Ah! Introduce yourselves.”
“I’m Teresa Hilman, the housekeeper. Or castlekeeper, if you want to be specific,” she added as an after thought. “Then there is Jefferson Niel, the groundskeeper; Martha Stewart, the cook; and her assistant, Lee Jacobson.” Each individual nodded their head in turn, and Detrimus insisted in shaking hands with all of them.
“If you will just follow me upstairs, M- er, Detrimus,” Versis hinted.
“Right. Of course. Lead the way.” The excitable detective trailed the butler up the stairs, with everyone else behind him. They all wanted to see exactly what he would do first.
Detrimus got to work right away. “What is the doorknob doing on the floor?” he asked.
“That’s how we got into the room,” Martha explained. “The door was locked.”
“Is it unusual for the door to be locked?”
“No, Master Guymond always locks his door, and there’s only one set of keys for the whole castle. He keeps them in his room.”
“Before we go in, perhaps you can relate to me what transpired last night?”
“Well,” Versis began, “we’d just finished up the last tour of the season, and Master Guymond decided to have a celebration banquet. We all drank considerably, and I went to bed some time after midnight.”
“You left at about one in the morning,” Teresa supplied. “Master Guymond didn’t turn in for another two hours. But the rest of us stayed up drinking. I don’t know what time it was when we passed out on the floor, but we didn’t get up until after eight.”
“Master Guymond always comes down for breakfast at exactly seven each morning,” Martha continued. “That’s how we realized something was wrong.”
“Such a fascinating narrative,” Detrimus commented, smiling brightly. “Let’s take a look inside.” He pushed the door open, then whistled. “How ghastly.”
He entered the room and began looking around, muttering to himself, “Why was Guymond killed? How did the killer get in? Did they make copies of the keys? So many questions and so many answers,” he mused. “The real puzzle is figuring which answer goes with which question. You know, I always meant to come here for a tour some time. Never got around to it, and now it’s far too late.” Detrimus seemed to be in the habit of rambling.
“There’s so much evidence in here, I just don’t know where to begin,” the detective continued. “How about these curtains. Did any of you, by chance, notice that the curtain rod is missing?”
“Why, no,” Versis said. “I just assumed they’d fallen in the struggle when- that- ” He couldn’t bring himself to say it.
“The curtain rod is indeed missing. Perhaps our unknown murderer was in fact a thief. But why the curtain rod?” Detrimus wandered from the curtains to Guymond’s bedside table and absentmindedly riffled the pages of a leather-bound book entitled Private that rested atop it. “Did it have sentimental value to the robber? Was it in fact valuable? What’s this, by the way?” This last statement referred to the book he was toying with.
Versis came over to see. “I believe that is Master Guymond’s journal. I knew he did keep one, though I never came in here enough to know what it looked like.”
“Mmm,” Detrimus nodded, and idly pulled out the top drawer. “Ah! Keys. These will be handy.” He picked them up and examined them closely.
“What are you looking for?” Versis wondered.
“Do you know how keys are copied?” Detrimus countered. “By pressing the key into a piece of soap or other such soft material, then either taking the imprint to a hardware store or carving a key yourself from a stick. Soap is bound to leave some sort of residue on the key, but on these, there is nothing. That eliminates the possibility the killer made copies to get into the room. Describe to me the curtain rod that once held up the curtains here.”
“It was a wooden rod with convoluted roots or branches on each end that wrapped around two red glass spheres,” Teresa related. “Nothing that would especially catch the eye.”
“The length of the window?”
“Longer, closer to five feet. About this big around.” She held her thumb and forefinger together with the tips together.
“That must have been some curtain rod,” Detrimus exclaimed. “More like a pikestaff. Now for the dirty work. I really hate to do this, but I must have a closer look at that sword.” He pulled a handkerchief from one of his pockets and stooped down to Guymond’s stiff form and carefully pried his rigid fingers from the hilt of the sword. “Strange,” he muttered. “His grip is strong.” Detrimus wrapped the handkerchief around the hilt of the sword, grasped it firmly, braced his foot against Guymond’s side, and heaved.
Teresa, who had grown paler and paler this entire time, clapped both hands over her mouth and raced down the hall in the direction of the bathroom when she saw the gore-stained blade slide inch by inch from Guymond.
Detrimus, ignoring the retching sounds echoing down the hall, rested the point of the sword on the floor, unwrapped his handkerchief and dropped it to the floor. Holding the weapon upright by the guard, he reached into another pocket to find a paper packet of whitish powder. Tearing the packet open with his teeth, he emptied the contents over the wood hilt and blew gently. White lines showing finger- and handprints gradually took form as the excess powder blew off, stark against the dark wood. Detrimus held the sword near Guymond’s right hand and compared the prints.
“Strange,” he said again. “The only fingerprints on this sword are Guymond’s own. The blade never left his hands.”
Martha frowned. “Then he killed himself?”
“I highly doubt it,” the detective snorted. “If that were the case, the curtain rod must have taken itself down and left.” He knelt and began searching around on the floor near Guymond’s feet. “Nothing he could have tripped over that would cause him to fall in that position,” he muttered. “But if he were pushed…” He trailed off, struck with a sudden inspiration, then quickly turned Guymond’s head over. “Aha!” he shouted.
Two short, bruise lines marked the right side of the jaw of the slain man, and another longer, thicker line ran behind them to vanish into his beneath his ear. Detrimus brushed aside the thin gray hair to reveal that the bruise continued several inches across his head.
“A powerful blow,” Detrimus said unnecessarily. “Probably struck with a long, stout object, like a cudgel… or a curtain rod. He fell after being bludgeoned in the head, probably onto the point of his own sword. Watch.” The detective took another sword off the wall and held it in front of him, as about to attack someone. He pretended to fall, and as his arms flew out to catch himself, the pommel of the sword hit the floor and the blade tilted inward. The sharp point pressed against his chest.
“You see? The force of the fall drove the blade through him. He would have hit the floor face first, but the hilt caught him, and he fell on his side instead.” Detrimus reenacted this scene as well, sliding the blade of the sword under his arm rather than impaling himself on it. The staff watched curiously.
“You certainly solved that quickly,” Jefferson complimented grudgingly.
“Solved?” Detrimus cried. “Heavens no, this is far from solved. All I’ve proved is how poor Guymond died in the first place. I have yet to find out who the actual perpetrator is, how they got into the room, what motives they had in robbing Guymond of his curtain rod, and where they went with it.” He put the sword back on the wall. “I have some more investigating to do, outside. I’ll not be back until late. Jefferson, would it be too much to ask for you to stand guard at this door? I’d prefer everyone to be kept out.”
“Of course, Detrimus, sir,” Jefferson agreed stonily. “I’d prefer to ‘sit’ guard, though.”
A hearty laugh burst from the detective’s throat. “Good one!” he exclaimed. “Find yourself a chair. I’ll be back tonight.” Halfway through the door, he paused and asked, “Would it trouble you if I stayed the night?” Without waiting for an answer, he left Guymond’s room. Minutes later, the staff heard the front door slam shut.
“Right, out you go,” Jefferson ordered in his rough voice. “You’d best be getting dinner started, Martha. We’ve missed lunch altogether, and it’s nearly four o’clock.” The staff exited the room slowly. With a furtive glance over the room, Jefferson pulled the door shut, then went to find himself a chair.
Lee stoked the fire in the dining hall as Martha went into the kitchen to prepare dinner for six. The daylit windows gradually dimmed as the evening sky darkened with clouds. Then the soft pattering of raindrops striking glass reached their ears as they worked, providing pleasant white noise. The detective did not reappear for another three hours.
Detrimus charged back inside in the middle of dinner, sopping wet. He marched straight to the dining hall without removing his coat or hat, and announced, “Did you know it’s raining out there?”
“I gathered as much,” Versis observed dryly, watching the prodigious amounts of water rolling off the detective form the sixth Great Lake at his feet.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” Teresa inquired hopefully.
“I found exactly what I was looking for,” Detrimus confirmed, removing his coat and handing both it and his hat unceremoniously to Versis before seating himself at the table next to Jefferson. “Nothing.”
As the butler, looking slightly disgruntled, went to hang the detective’s wet things in front of the dining hall fire, Lee shot Detrimus a questioning look. “You- weren’t looking for anything?”
“Ah, no,” Detrimus explained. “I was looking for nothing, or the absence of evidence. I circled the castle several times, moving farther and farther out until I was at the lake’s edge. Then I wandered a bit in the woods, but still I found no tracks, traces of tracks, traces of brushed-over tracks,rocks out of place, bent grass blades, or broken twigs. It didn’t begin to rain until after I started back, but if I missed anything, it’s long gone now.” He paused to mop rain off his face with his sleeve. “Is there anyone living nearby? Perhaps in the woods?”
Everyone shook their heads, and Jefferson even added a firm, “No.”
“Pity,” Detrimus lamented. “It would make everything so much simpler. Anyway, after finding nothing outside the castle, I could only come to one conclusion: the culprit did not leave the castle. And why did he not leave the castle? He could not get very far. He had no where else to go.” He paused and looked at each of the servants in turn. “He could even have worked in the castle, as a member of the Sandrock Staff.”
Sandrock Staff at once erupted with protestations, as Detrimus expected.
“Preposterous!” bellowed Jefferson. “Where do you get the gall-”
“-door was locked!” Versis objected loudly. “How could you-”
“-know who it is, then!” Teresa gasped.
“-ourselves think- we know-” Martha tried to say.
“I didn’t do it,” Lee stated so quietly, everybody missed it under the shouting contest. Finally, Detrimus held up his hand for silence, which he achieved by degrees.
“I’m not pointing any fingers,” he said mildly. “I am simply stating the possibilities.”
The servants around him stared at each other with wide eyes, as if trying to see into one another’s thoughts.
“At any rate,” Detrimus concluded, “I’m starved. Martha, is there-?”
Still shaken, the cook nodded and quickly filled a plate for him. The rest of them gradually settled onto the benches and resumed eating, staring pointedly at their plates, determined not to make eye contact. Several minutes passed with no sound other than the scraping of utensils on plates.
Detrimus spoke up, “Tomorrow, I search the rest of the castle. I’m still curious as to where the curtain rod ended up. Please make yourselves readily available in case I have questions, and refrain from cleaning anything. Might there be an empty room where I can spend the night? Other than the late Mr. Guymond’s, that is.”
Versis nodded weakly, thrown a bit out of character by the accusations. “I’ll show you up,” he offered.
“Thank you,” Detrimus sighed, rising. “Jefferson, could you replace the doorknob in Mr. Guymond’s room, and make sure it is locked?” He reached into a pocket for a screwdriver and tossed it to Jefferson. “I would prefer to keep out potential sneaks.”
Jefferson snagged the screwdriver out of the air with his left hand. “Thank you for the implement, but I have my own,” he said, tossing the screwdriver back and showing the detective his tool. He then got up and went upstairs.
“A screwdriver as well?” Martha exclaimed. “Detrimus, you’re a regular human Swiss army knife.”
“I’ve never heard it put that way before,” Detrimus mused, smiling. “I do like to go prepared, though.” He and Versis went upstairs.
As the groundskeeper worked on the door handle, Versis showed Detrimus tot he room next to Guymond’s. It was still set up for the tour season, as Teresa hadn’t remembered to take the display items down in the excitement of that day. The detective seemed immensely delighted with everything, and immediately began familiarizing himself with a rather large battleaxe hanging on the wall across from the bed.
“I’ll leave your coat and hat outside your door when they’re dry,” Versis said, recovering his old self some. “Would you like to use some of Master Guymond’s nightclothes?”
“No, thanks. I’ll manage.” Detrimus smiled brightly in clear dismissal. Versis made a slight bow as he backed out of the room.
Before Detrimus could shut the door, Jefferson appeared. “Door is fixed and locked.”
“Very good.” Detrimus clapped him on the shoulder. “Do have a good night.”
“The same to you,” Jefferson returned emotionlessly, and walked down the hall to the stairs. Detrimus quickly shut his door and locked it with a key from the ring he’d taken from Guymond’s room. “I don’t think anyone will disturb that room tonight,” he chuckled to himself as he switched off the light, “as I’ve got the only key. Unless they take the door handle off…” Detrimus removed his shoes and lay down on the bed. His eyes suddenly widened. “Unless they… take… the door handle… off…”
A loud banging on his door woke the detective bright and early the next morning. He was halfway across the room to the battleaxe on the wall when Teresa’s voice floated through the door, “Breakfast is ready!”
Smiling at his own paranoia, Detrimus called back, “I’ll be right down.”
He quickly put his shoes back on, smoothed his rumpled clothes, and tried to arrange his hair to look semi-decent. He unlocked the door and opened it slowly. His trench coat was folded and placed in front of the door with his hat on top. Detrimus smiled again and picked them up before heading for the stairs. He paused in front of Guymond’s door and tried the handle. Still locked. Detrimus nodded in an approving manner and went downstairs.
Midway through breakfast, Detrimus asked, “Is there a map of the castle?”
“There is, printed in the information brochures,” Versis provided. “They’re on the table by the front door.”
Detrimus jumped up and ran to get one. He returned glaring at the map in puzzled frustration.
“This doesn’t make any sense,” he complained.
“That’s because you’re holding it upside down” Lee observed.
Detrimus quickly flipped it around. “Oh, there’s a dungeon?”
“Indeed,” confirmed Jefferson. “But we only ever open it in the fall. It’s locked the rest of the year.
“I see…” Detrimus mused. “Well, if you’ll all excuse me, I am going to have a look around.” He pocketed his map and started up the stairs.
Detrimus reached into another of his coat pockets, removed the castle keys, and unlocked Guymond’s door. He saw at once that something was different. “Jefferson!” he shouted.
“As you stood- er, sat on guard yesterday, did anyone enter this room at all?
“Upon my honor nobody went in that room while I sat outside it,” Jefferson swore.
“Then whatever became of the journal? It sat upon the night stand last I saw it.”
“Search me. No one went in while I sat there.”
“And… you did sit there until dinner, didn’t you?”
“I did not move an inch away from the room.”
“Nobody excused themselves from the table to go upstairs?”
“Hmm… Very well, then. You may go. But I now feel there is more to this crime than I first suspected.”
“If it helps, sir,” Jefferson said, “I thought it rather suspicious that Versis turned in before anybody else the night Master Guymond died. Almost as if he had something planned.”
“A most interesting observation.” Detrimus nodded. “Thank you for your input.”
Jefferson went downstairs. Detrimus quickly searched the room for the journal, but failed to come up with it. Then he dragged a sheet off the bed and draped it over Guymond before locking the door carefully and beginning his inspection of the rest of the castle, careful to hold his tour map the right way up.
But his rounds proved to be frustratingly unfruitful. There was not even a hint of a trace of a clue that could get him anywhere. Finally, around about noon, Detrimus sat heavily at the table in the dining hall, breathing out a huge sigh and resting his chin in his hand. The servants were about in other areas of the castle, and the hall was completely silent. After stewing for a while, he made to get up and try again. As he did so, he felt something sticky on the floor as he lifted his foot. He eagerly dropped to the floor to examine it.
It was the sticky residue of a not-completely-cleaned-up wine spill, probably from the festivities on Guymond’s last night. It stained the sand-colored floor a pale pink under the table, right where Detrimus had placed his feet. On the other side of the bench were two more pink spots, considerably smaller than the first, as if someone had gotten some on their shoes and walked away…
Two particular memories resurfaced in his mind: “The dungeon is locked the rest of the year,” and “Can’t get in unless they take the door handle off.” In a flash, Detrimus was on his feet, running to examine all the door handles.
But his excitement quickly wore off upon finding no difference between Guymond’s doorknob and every other one he examined. Maybe there isn’t a way to tell if a doorknob had been removed, Detrimus thought unhappily, turning away from from the kitchen door. He left the dining hall and walked slowly down the hall until he came to some stairs at the far end of the castle. A quick glance at his map confirmed his thoughts that this was the way to the dungeon, so he descended into the dark, cool, and slightly damp stairwell.
A heavy oaken door blocked his path at the bottom of the stairs. The handle on this door was black iron, rather large and ugly, the plate that held it to the door fashioned to match the hinges. Detrimus looked very carefully at the screws drilled through the plate into the old wood. Four, two on top, two on bottom. No, only three. The fourth was really an empty hole. Detrimus knelt eagerly to get a closer look. As he did so, something sharp pressed into his knee. He jerked his leg up off the floor, biting back a curse. He reached down for the evil object, and found it to be a small screw. A screw that fit perfectly into the door handle plate.
Breath quickening in excitement, Detrimus retrieved the keys from his pocket and unlocked the door. It swung open inwardly on a short corridor, even colder and darker than the stairwell. He brushed his hand over the wall, but encountered no light switch. Agitated, he reached into yet another of his pockets for a small flashlight. He prayed the batteries would hold out; he hadn’t changed them for some time.
Walking after the yellow beam of his light, Detrimus followed the short passage until it turned sharply to the right. There it opened into a typical medieval dungeon, complete with bars and damp flagstones and mossy walls. The flashlight beam played over several cardboard boxes along the walls, containing all the props for tour season.
The dungeon turned out to be somewhat smaller than Detrimus had anticipated, which killed his enthusiasm altogether and added greatly to his pessimism. All the same, he carefully scrutinized every block in the wall, ignoring the fact that they all looked the same in the beam of his flashlight. The detective finally slammed the end of his flashlight against the wall in violent dismay, causing the beam to flicker. However, he perked his head up almost at once: the wall had echoed.
Detrimus quickly tapped the flashlight down the wall, producing the same hollow sound. But he could find no space or crack that might give him a hint as to what lay behind the wall. Then, the third block from the floor shifted ever so slightly when he hit it. His lately-killed enthusiasm revived so suddenly it nearly exploded out the top of his head, but instead he channeled the energy into the block. It shifted even further back. One more hard push got it all the way through, leaving a sizable hole in the middle of the water-blackened block wall. He reached in and turned the block sideways, pulled it out, and set it on the floor. Eying the hole, Detrimus reckoned he could probably squeeze his shoulders through with some effort.
He placed his little flashlight between his teeth and began fitting himself into the hole. The beam from his light illuminated a low tunnel through the earth, seeming endless. With a final tug, Detrimus got the rest of himself through and began crawling on his hands and knees into the darkness, pushing away the thought going out to the his poor trousers and the state they’d be in when he finally got out.
Though the tunnel felt like the dark of December, Detrimus began perspiring heavily after at least thirty minutes of inching along. He wished desperately for space to stand up and remove his hot trench coat. He must have gone nearly a mile or more by this time.
His journey came to a halt at what seemed to be the end of the tunnel. At least, there was a solid wall there. But it looked different… Detrimus put out his hand to touch it, and found that it was made of wood; a door, then. He crawled up as close as he could and gave the piece of wood a good shove with his shoulder, smiling grimly as he felt it give slightly. He continued to push against it until both the door and the detective tumbled out of the tunnel into a dark room. A strange rectangle of light glowed opposite him.
Detrimus realized he was in a basement, and the geometrical light shape was the doorway to the stairs. Waiting for his eyes to adjust, he could make out some folding chairs piled in a corner, an old rug partially covering the concrete floor, and a closed door near the stairs, most likely a closet. That left only the question of what basement he was in, which he decided to solve by going up the stairs to have a look around. He switched off his flashlight and pocketed it again, then ascended the stairs.
Late afternoon sun lit up the windows of a one-roomed cabin of sorts. Every flat surface in the place was cluttered with maps, old papers, drawings, pens, and books. But one table in the center of the room caught his attention particularly, for a leather-bound book marked Private lay on it, in the midst scribbled-in notebooks. Also, an unwieldy curtain rod leaned against the table, carved from wood with translucent red glass globes on either end. Guymond’s curtain rod, for sure.
“What on earth are they doing here?” Detrimus wondered aloud. “Who owns this place?” He picked up the curtain rod, noticing how light it was for its size. He set it back against the the table and picked up one of the notebooks. He felt a shock run through him like cold water as he realized the notebook was full of hastily scrawled plans. He quickly sat down on the nearest chair, turned to the first page, and began to read:
Lost Sandrock Gold
-hidden near Castle Sandrock
-in area where stone for castle mined?
-somewhere in woods?
How to Find
-search all areas
-eliminate impossibilities, then search remaining areas
-team with G, use map and notes
-take map and notes from G
1) not drink
2) wait for G to go to bed
3) wait for others to fall asleep(?)
4) sneak upstairs
5) remove doorknob
6) take curtain rod
7) replace doorknob
8 ) bring curtain rod here
Finished tunnel from basement to dungeon, no one ever suspected.
Now have map and journal. Both written in code. Able to read both, but the map is a riddle. Detective makes everything harder, always snooping. Maybe lay false trail?
Detrimus closed the notebook, thoughts whirling. He nearly had the culprit now. He had learned several new things about him, too. Detrimus knew that the Lost Sandrock Gold was a local legend of a great treasure hidden somewhere in the area, by the people who had built Castle Sandrock in the Dark Ages. Several archaeologists and treasure hunters had searched for it, but never even come close. This person seemed to be only a few steps away from uncovering the secret. By the looks of the notes, Guymond had as well. That was definitely something new.
Taking a deep breath, Detrimus tried to reorganize his thoughts. Guymond had owned a coded map and journal, which were key points to finding the gold. The perpetrator had formed a plan to get these from Guymond and succeeded, although with a few drawbacks. This person was now trying to break the code and seize the gold. Detrimus turned his eyes back to the writing, but was unable to discover if the person writing was right-handed or left-handed, male or female.
Detrimus set the notebook back on the table, picked up Guymond’s journal, and tucked it away in a large pocket inside his trench coat. He then turned to the stairs, thinking to leave by the tunnel, as he had no idea how to get to the castle from the cabin. It couldn’t be too far, though. His brain came to the conclusion that one of the servants had lied to him when he asked if anyone lived nearby.
Detrimus made it down one step when he heard from behind him the slam of the cabin door and a gasp of surprise. He jumped a foot, nearly losing his balance, and started to turn around. But all he saw was the fist of the newcomer speeding toward his face. A split second later, it collided with his jaw with more force than he would have thought possible. Then he hit the stairs, bouncing and rolling to the bottom. His head cracked painfully against the floor, and he tasted blood in his mouth. Detrimus lay on the cold floor for a moment, his reorganized thoughts sloshed into a swimming muddle all over again. Then he slowly sat up and looked to the stairs.
The silhouette of a man stood framed in the doorway, his features invisible against the light behind him. The man did not stay there long, though; in a single long stride he crossed over to Detrimus, wrenched open the closet door, seized the detective by his trench coat, and threw him bodily into the black closet. Before his mind could even begin to understand what had just happened, the closet door slammed shut, and a key clicked in a lock. The attacker’s footsteps then echoed up the stairs. The sound of a door slamming soon reached his ears.
Detrimus sat without moving for a long time. His head throbbed horrendously, a tender lump already forming where he’d hit it on the cement. His ran his hand gently over the right side of his face, wincing as he brushed the bruises on his jaw from the mystery man’s fist. Detrimus felt certain that the mystery man was the very person he was looking for.
Detrimus could not see his hand pressed against his face, so thick was the darkness. His arms could not quite extend fully in the cramped space. Almost cautiously, his hand slid over the door and tried the handle. Locked, of course.
Then he remembered the journal, and he quickly thrust his hand into his coat. The book was still secure in his pocket. He also remembered the flashlight. He took out both and flicked the light on. Opening the journal under the yellow beam, he saw first a line of symbols scrawled on the inside cover: abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz*
The rest of the book was written in these same symbols. Detrimus counted the characters on the inside cover, totaling twenty-six. He got a feeling that this was the key to the code, and silently laughed at Guymond for making it so easy. The first page ran:
after much bribing i was able to get into castle sandrock under the pretense i was considering purchasing it. i found what i was looking for though. the map was in a wooden case disguised as part of the banister going upstairs but the whole thing is in code and i cant make sense of the drawing either. will need time to work on this.*
The next entry:
retired and bought castle sandrock and the surrounding lands. im quite sure the lost gold is hidden somewhere in the land i bought. started working out the code of the map. drawing can be seen right in a mirror. its just a map of sandrock estate with the woods quarry and lake. perhaps coded characters also written backwards.*
The next few pages were nothing but codes and ciphers, different from the one the journal was written in. Countless lines were scratched out and rewritten, sometimes arrows had been drawn in to rearrange orders. Then there came a break in the codes, several months after the first entry, stating:
groundskeeper jefferson niel suspicious. asked about my journal today. i let slip about lost gold and he pressed me for more info. i said no more. i think he may also be after lost gold so i hid map in curtain rod afterwards. maybe should fire jefferson.*
Following two more pages of foreign characters came:
broke the code finally but it is in riddle. runs like this
a thorn that grows by desert stone
points to a place where nothing has breath
a place where sun has never shone
a place as dark and bleak as death
take care searcher you keep in mind
as you journey to this realm of cold
use caution or not a thing you’ll find
instead go to rest with the lost gold.
cant make any sense of it. desert stone is probably castle sandrock but there are no thorns near the castle. tour season over thank goodness ill have more time to work on the puzzle.*
This was the last entry. Detrimus found a pen and some paper scraps in his coat, and he translated the whole book to read:
“after much bribing i was able to get into castle sandrock under the pretense i was considering purchasing it. i found what i was looking for though. the map was in a wooden case disguised as part of the banister going upstairs but the whole thing is in code and i cant make sense of the drawing either. will need time to work on this.
“retired and bought castle sandrock and the surrounding lands. im quite sure the lost gold is hidden somewhere in the land i bought. started working out the code of the map. drawing can be seen right in a mirror. its just a map of sandrock estate with the woods quarry and lake. perhaps coded characters also written backwards.
“groundskeeper jefferson niel suspicious. asked about my journal today. i let slip about lost gold and he pressed me for more info. i said no more. i think he may also be after lost gold so i hid map in curtain rod afterwards. maybe should fire jefferson.
“broke the code finally but it is in riddle. runs like this
a thorn that grows by desert stone
points to a place where nothing has breath
a place where sun has never shone
a place as dark and bleak as death
take care searcher you keep in mind
as you journey to this realm of cold
use caution or not a thing you’ll find
instead go to rest with the lost gold
cant make any sense of it. desert stone is probably castle sandrock but there are no thorns near the castle. tour season over thank goodness ill have more time to work on the puzzle.”
Detrimus excused Guymond his poor grammar, spelling, and punctuation. After all, the thing had been written in code, for goodness’ sake.
So, the curtain rod had a map of the Sandrock Estate in it, along with a riddle revealing the location of the Lost Sandrock Gold. Guymond had either never figured out the riddle, or not gotten a chance to write down his thoughts if he had before he died. Suddenly, something clicked in his head, and he knew the identity of the man.
“I certainly got more than I bargained for out of this,” Detrimus muttered to himself. “Chap probably chucked me in here to die. Well, I suppose I can take a leaf out of his book.” He still had his screwdriver with him, and in the light of his dying flashlight, he removed all the screws from around the doorknob. When it fell from the door, the light flooding in through the small hole momentarily blinded him. Although when his eyes adjusted, he realized the sunlight had a darker, oranger tinge; the light of late evening, rather than of afternoon.
Detrimus pushed the door open and stumbled out into the basement again. He went upstairs for the curtain rod before heading down to the tunnel entrance. He noted that the panel of wood had been replaced in the wall, but he easily knocked it out again and crawled right in, not bothering to use his flashlight. He slid the curtain rod along the earthen floor of the tunnel with his hand, it being much too long for him to carry in his teeth as he’d done with his flashlight.
When the end of the curtain rod struck an obstacle, Detrimus knew he’d reached the dungeon. The culprit must have tried to cover up after Detrimus by replacing to prevent the staff from finding him should he be missed. He left the rod lying there, crawled to the stone wall, and pushed as hard as he could. The block grated out of place and fell with a sharp crack! to the dungeon floor. Detrimus winced at the noise. He’d hoped to make a quiet entrance. He could always hope no one had heard the block. He eased first himself, then the curtain rod out of the hole and waited several seconds. No running feet or excited shouts. The dungeon must be rather soundproof, he thought.
Detrimus trotted through the dungeon with the rod, shut and locked the door behind him, tramped up the stairs, down the corridor, and into the dining hall. He could hear Martha and Lee bustling about in the kitchen, making the beginnings of dinner. He walked to the table, laid the curtain rod down on it, and filled his lungs to their maximum capacity.
“Everybody!” he roared, expelling all the air in his chest. He winced, the bruises on his jaw aching terribly.
Martha and Lee raced out immediately, alarm showing clear on their faces. Teresa entered minutes later, followed by Versis. Detrimus waited, but the groundskeeper failed to appear. “Where’s Jefferson?” he demanded.
“Outside, I think,” Versis said.
“I’ll fetch him,” Lee volunteered, and dashed away.
“The curtain rod!” Teresa gasped. “Where-”
“All will be explained in good time,” Detrimus broke her off. “I’ll wait to begin until Lee and Jefferson are able to join us.”
The assistant cook walked in minutes later, flushed and winded, trailed by a impassive Jefferson. His face registered visible shock when he saw Detrimus standing there, but he did his best to hide it before too many people noticed.
“Thank you for coming quickly,” Detrimus smiled. “I called you all here to tell you I have solved your case, as well as several others.”
A babble of questions rose up, but he shook his head. “I will tell you everything. Save your questions until I’m finished.”
The staff silenced themselves.
“Let me start at the beginning: the night of Guymond’s death.” Detrimus sat down at the table and began, “It was the last night of the season, and Guymond held a celebration in honor of another good year. It was on this night that someone plotted to break into his room and steal something of importance. That someone waited until Guymond had retired to his bed, and laid off suspicions of others by pretending to drink vast amounts of wine, instead pouring their glass out on the floor. As the others dropped off to sleep, our man crept upstairs with a screwdriver, removed Guymond’s door handle, and stole into the room. He was in the act of removing the curtain rod when he made some slight sound, and awoke Guymond.
“Guymond jumped up, snatched a sword off the wall, and charged at the thief. The poor fellow defended himself with the only thing he had. He struck Guymond a vicious left-handed blow with the curtain rod. The attack either stunned or knocked Guymond out, and he fell onto his sword blade, as I demonstrated yesterday. The thief did not expect this, and realized he had to be even more careful. Instead of leaving the castle through the door, where he might leave traces on the ground, he replaced the doorknob, ran to the dungeon, took out his screwdriver, and repeated the process. However, he lost one of the screws in his haste.
“In the dungeon, he removed a block from the wall to reveal a tunnel through the earth, probably dug himself prior to that night. He took the curtain rod through the tunnel, ending up in a cabin in the woods not far from Castle Sandrock. There, he twisted the curtain rod until it came in half -” Detrimus replicated the motion, and the curtain rod fell asunder in his hands. A piece of yellowed parchment showed out of one half. “- and took out this.” He drew the old paper from its wooden casing and set it on the table. The staff gaped at him.
“This is a map of Sandrock Estate,” Detrimus gave in explanation to their shocked expressions. “It includes the castle, the lake, the woods, and the old quarry where the stone for the castle was mined hundreds of years ago.” He unfurled the map to show them. “But there’s writing here, in code. When the thief realized the map was useless to him, he returned to the castle and fell asleep on the floor with the other servants, to hide where he’d been. The next day, after I’d come and examined Guymond’s room, the perpetrator took the first chance he got to sneak into the room and take Guymond’s journal. Although Guymond had written the whole book in code, it was easily decipherable.”
Detrimus reached into his coat and drew out the journal, flipping it open to show them the flowing symbols. “Earlier today, I found the tunnel in the dungeon. I followed it to the cabin, where I found the journal and curtain rod. There were also many notebooks, maps, and diagrams. One of the notebooks listed careful plans to take the map from Guymond’s room the night of the celebration.”
“But why?” Martha broke out, unable to restrain herself any longer.
“Why?” Detrimus’ eyes glowed. “Why? My friends, the thief was competing with Guymond to find the Lost Sandrock Gold!”
“That’s an old myth,” Jefferson snorted.
“Let me finish! While I was in the cabin, I was attacked by an unknown person, as you may see from these bruises. This person locked me in a closet and left, thinking no one would find me and I’d eventually starve. But he forgot that I am a human Swiss army knife – I had a screwdriver in my pocket. I was able to translate nearly all of Guymond’s journal during my stay in the closet, and I learned some fascinating things.” The detective reached into his “Swiss army” coat and pulled out his written-on paper scraps.
“Here I must go back again. Guymond actually bought Sandrock Estate for the purpose of searching for the Lost Gold. He found the map and broke the code. All he needed to do was solve the riddle written on the map. But he died before he could get to that.
“The culprit did some careful planning, but left several clues I could use to find him out. He is a left-handed man, by the marks on the right side of Guymond’s face and the bruises on the right side of mine. He is a man who spends time outdoors, when he would be able to slip away to the cabin in the woods. He is a man who carries a screwdriver in his pocket. Friends,” Detrimus cried, jumping up in the spur of the moment, “I name you, Jefferson Niel, as our man!”
At the mention of his name, Jefferson’s face twisted into such a savage expression, he seemed for a moment more beast than human being. Then he spun on his heel and sprinted for the door.
“Catch him!” Detrimus shouted. Versis and Lee bolted after him. Jefferson was fast, but Lee was faster. The lean young man caught hold of the fleeing groundskeeper and held on for all he was worth. Jefferson slowed down enough for Versis to catch up to him, and together he and Lee dragged him back. He gazed furiously at Detrimus.
“Teresa, you may call the police now, if you like,” Detrimus said, ignoring the daggers shooting from Jefferson’s eyes. Lee grinned triumphantly, as if to say, “Didn’t I tell you a detective was a good idea?”
“Oh, Teresa,” Detrimus called. The housekeeper paused and turned. “If you can, find someone who has a trawler and get them up here as well. And if they have a crane, that would be also be nice.”
By the time the police arrived, Detrimus had written them up a detailed report, similar to his recent account to the Sandrock Staff. After reading it over, the police chief shook his head in amazement. “You certainly do wonders, Tason,” he told Detrimus.
“Thank you,” Detrimus beamed. “I do try.”
Jefferson was being arrested on charges of second-degree murder and breaking and entering. Detrimus didn’t press charges against him for “punching me in the face and knocking me down the stairs and locking me in the closet,” because he thought court was too much of a hassle. He did insist upon the police and Jefferson remaining at Castle Sandrock until the guy with the trawl net arrived, for reasons he refused to explain.
Ten minutes later, a green pickup truck came rumbling up the long drive and parked in front of the house. A blue tarp was tied over something large and bulky in the bed. A middle-aged man jumped out of the driver’s seat and came over to shake hands with Detrimus. “Hi, I’m Devon Hilman, Teresa’s brother,” he introduced himself. “Got a call from her saying you needed a trawler, am I right?”
“You are,” Detrimus said. “It’s lucky she knew someone right off the bat.”
“Happy to be a help,” Devon smiled. “I only brought the net, since I didn’t have a way to get the whole boat up here.”
“The net will actually work perfectly. Someone else is bringing a crane to drag it with, if we can attach the net to the crane.”
“We should be able to. Let’s get the net down to the lake shore while we wait.”
The two men went over and began unloading the truck. Lee, Versis, and several officers joined them in dragging the yards of thick mesh to the water’s edge. As they were unfolding the huge net, a semi with a crawler crane on the trailer growled slowly up the road. The hydraulic brakes hissed and shrieked as it came to a halt next to Devon’s pickup. The grinding engine shut off suddenly, and a sloppy young man jumped down from the cab. His eyes popped when he caught sight of the trawl net.
“Now what -” he began, but Detrimus wouldn’t hear it.
“Kindly drive the crane over here so we can attach the net to it,” he cut him off. “I’d like to finish up here as quickly as possible.”
Wordlessly, the trucker returned to his semi and prepared to bring the crane over. The rest of them finished unfolding the net.
When the crane came rumbling over the turf, Devon fastened the net to the arm of the crane. With everyone’s help, they heaved the enormous net into the lake, the weights on the edge pulling it to the bottom.
“Now swing the arm over the lake and drive to the other end,” Detrimus shouted to the trucker over the grumbling of the crane’s engine. The trucker gave a thumbs-up to show he understood. The crane rotated on its treads until the arm extended to about the middle of the lake. Then it slowly moved forward along the water’s edge, dragging the drawing net along the lake bottom. Detrimus watched it go, biting his lip in anticipation. No one shared his excitement; they still had no idea what was going on. When the crane could go no further without hauling the net onto dry land, it rumbled to a halt, waiting for instructions.
“Bring it up!” Detrimus screamed, motioning upward with his arms since the trucker probably couldn’t hear him. The arm slowly raised up and up and up, bringing with it the dripping trawl net. The detective was bouncing on the balls of his feet by this time, inviting many strange looks from the people around him.
Then came a collective gasp. There, piled in the bottom of the net, were at least six large, oaken crates bound with strips of corroded iron. Detrimus motioned for the trucker to bring the net and its contents back over to the castle, his face split by a wide grin.
“By golly, Tason,” the police chief exclaimed, “what have you done now?”
As the crane dropped the net and crates on the grass nearby, Detrimus began hunting through his pockets, emptying their contents onto the ground. A great pile of keys, toothpicks, coins, paperclips, scissors, magnifying glasses, pens, notepads, feathers, rocks, handkerchiefs, and switchblades came tumbling out of the trench coat into a great pile at his feet. The staff and police looked on with disbelief on their faces as the heap grew.
“Where does he keep all of it?” Devon hissed to Versis. The butler shrugged.
“Curses, no hammer,” Detrimus groaned, glaring down at the huge mound of things. “Can somebody loan me one?” Lee ran into the castle and returned with the desired tool. Detrimus thanked him and moved over to the crates. He pushed the net over top of them so it was bunched up in a big, sodden pile, and waved everyone closer.
“I’d like you all to get a good look at this,” he said, “particularly you, Jefferson.” The groundskeeper was handcuffed under the watchful eye of two police officers. At Detrimus’ word, they brought the former groundskeeper over to the scene. Detrimus scrutinized the bands around the crates, then put his hammer against the ancient wood, catching hold of a nail. He levered back, drawing the old iron spike from the wood. There were eight nails holding the lid down; Detrimus was careful to save all of them, handing them to Versis for safekeeping. When all the nails were in the butler’s possession, Detrimus set the hammer down, grabbed hold of the top of the crate, and pried it carefully off.
There came a second collective gasp, and Detrimus smiled even more brightly, if that were possible. Then Jefferson began screaming curses in a blind rage.
“Perhaps this is a little too much for him,” Detrimus suggested. “After all, he spent years trying to find the Lost Sandrock Gold, and it only took me a few hours.”
“How did you figure it out?” Jefferson raved. “The riddle, the riddle was gibberish!”
“Oh, the riddle,” Detrimus said thoughtfully.
“‘A thorn that grows by desert stone
Points to a place where nothing has breath
A place where sun has never shone
A place as dark and bleak as death.
Take care searcher you keep in mind
As you journey to this realm of cold
Use caution or not a thing you’ll find
Instead go to rest with the lost gold.’
“Right away I noticed that ‘thorn’ was ‘north’ scrambled up. ‘Desert stone’ meant Castle Sandrock, easy enough. A dark, cold place where nothing can breath north of Castle Sandrock was the lake, of course. The second verse is only warning searchers to be careful. Since there were no such things as trawl nets and cranes in the Dark Ages, the people who wrote the riddle assumed searchers would be diving for the treasure, and therefore run the risk of drowning. So, you see, quite simple.”
No one could speak, or move. They were too shocked by the crate of coins and artifacts. Priceless pieces of history, right there in the box. Not to mention the fact that they were all made of solid gold. One by one, everyone turned their eyes to the other five crates.
“Anybody want some?” Detrimus asked.
To make a long story short, the gold did not actually get divided up among all the people present. Detrimus Tason was given a large share of it, being the finder, and would have received all of it had he accepted. Instead, some of it was given to Versis Attaca, Teresa Hilman, Martha Stewart, and Lee Jacobson, and still more of it was donated to museums around the world. Jefferson Niel was also issued a share, but he was sentenced to prison for the next twenty years after his trial, and would not be seeing it for a long, long time.
Since Richard Guymond had never gotten around to writing a will, Castle Sandrock was turned into a historical museum, open year round, and the original staff was invited back to work there. It attracted even more people than Guymond’s original tours had. The most popular attraction was Guymond’s bedroom, where visitors could see where the eccentric treasure hunter met his end and hear about the Sandrock Mystery, as it came to be called.
Detrimus bought Jefferson’s cabin almost immediately after it went on the market. He continued his work as a private detective, and occasionally dropped in at Castle Sandrock to chat with the staff.
He has since added a hammer to his coat pockets.
*These were originally written in Bodoni Ornamental font, but it doesn’t show in this post. 😦