Does kindness really pay?................still editing
The Locked Room
Unloading the U-Haul, Annie noticed a small, elegant woman with a cap of silvery hair, looking at her over the next door;s fence.
"Hi. I'm Mrs. Warwick. I just baked these cookies and want to welcome you to the neighborhood," she said, handing Annie a plate.
Annie, touched at the kindness, invited her in for a cup of coffee and to share the cookies.
As the afternoon wore on, Mrs. Warwick and Annie began what would become a strong friendship.
When Mike got home from work, he was delighted to meet Mrs. Warwick.
"Well, I'd better let you get on with your supper." Mrs. Warwick said. "I'll be going. I'm just over the fence if you need anything. So very glad to have you as my neighbors."
"What a kind lady." Said Mike.
From that day forward, Mrs. Warwick became their family. Mike's parents lived far away and Annie had no family. They appreciated the warmth and the love Mrs. Warwick showed them.
As the weeks passed, Annie noticed a doctor, visiting Mrs. Warwick. Concerned, she picked some of her favorite flowers and went next door. When Mrs. Warwick opened the door, Annie could see she was pale and had lost some weight.
Annie said, "Hi, neighbor. These are for you," handing her the flowers.
Mrs. Warwick, quickly, grasped Annie's hands and pulled her inside.
"Mrs. Warwick. I just saw the doctor leave. Is anything wrong?"
"I don't want to worry you, dear but my health is deteriorating. The doctor says I have to have plenty of rest, take care of myself, and .........," responded Mrs. Warwick. "He told me what's wrong with me but it's such a long medical term I can't even say it.
"I am so sorry, Mrs. Warwick. Please don't worry. Both Mike and I will help you, whatever you need." Responded Anne, kindly.
"I've been told I don't have too much time left. I've had a good life with little regrets, but I will miss you both." Mrs. Warwick said. "But I am looking forward to being with Bob again." Bob, Mrs. Warwick's husband had died about twenty years ago.
Over the course of the next six months, Annie spent most of the day with Mrs. Warwick, cooking tasty meals, doing her laundry, and keeping her little house clean. When Mike got home from work, he'd cut the grass, take the garbage out, and tidied the yard. It was a little hard on top of their own busy schedules, but they were glad to do it.
This morning Annie had gone over for her daily visit with Mrs. Warwick and had found her dead in her favorite chair with her favorite glass of tea. She was holding a Christmas picture of them as she died.
Annie called Mike and told him the bad news. He rushed to Mrs. Warwick's house. They stayed by Mrs. Warwick's side until the officials got there. Sadly, they walked home. Annie couldn't stop crying. Her mother had died when she was two and Mrs. Warwick had filled that hole. Annie couldn't imagine life without her. She was having a rough time adjusting to the loss.
Later that same day, Mike, comforting Annie, heard a knock on the door and got up to look through the window.
"Are you expecting anyone?" He asked Annie.
"No." sniffed Annie
"It's Mrs. Warwick's attorney, Mr. Cheney." Said an unknown voice.
Opening the front door, Mike let the lawyer in.
"I know it's a sad day for you both. But I have something here we must discuss." Mr. Cheney said.
Motioning to a chair in the living room, Mike said, "Please sit. Would you like some coffee?"
"Thank you, Mike, and yes, I would love a coffee." Mr. Cheney responded.
Annie, getting the coffee, returned from the kitchen. Both she and Mike sat on the couch, holding hands.
"Mrs. Warwick wanted me to give you this key and the directions to a place she had at the beach. Mrs. Warwick thought you both needed a vacation, a chance to relax after the struggles you've had. She, specifically, requested you go out there immediately. before probate is completed. That usually takes about six months. Nothing can be taken or used before that deadline but there's a little-known law that states an asset can be used if it adds to the estate's value. As executor, I have the right to rent it to you while her will is being processed. If you give me a dollar, that rents the cottage, increases the estate, and keeps me law-abiding." Mr. Cheney finished.
Annie said, “That’s right, Mike. I’d been telling her about how difficult it had been for us since you lost your job. She offered to help us out, but I said no. I wouldn't take her money although she meant it in the kindest way. I never told you because I knew you would agree with me.”
Handing Mike a large manila envelope, Mr. Cheney said "Here's the directions to the cottage with the key. Please enjoy it and call me when you get back."
After Mrs. Warwick's funeral, Annie and Mike packed their car and left for the unknown cottage. Annie was the navigator since maps baffled Mike. Annie, on the other hand, was very good with accounts and numbers, things she came by naturally. It's true, opposites did attract but instead of a competition, they used each other strengths, adding to the success of their marriage. Mike had lost his job several months ago and was feeling particularly useless. Annie had reassured him, it was only temporary, but it hadn't done any good. Maybe a vacation was just what Mike needed.
"Annie?" asked Mike. "Where are we going?"
"From Mrs. Cheney's directions, we're headed for the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I've always wanted to go there but we never could afford it. What a kind lady Mrs. Warwick was. Even after she's gone, she's still looking after us. I do miss her so."
Mike reached out and squeezed Annie's hand, "Me, too."
After driving for about six hours, they arrived in the Outer Banks. Mike, stopping the car, got out. Breathing deeply, he motioned Annie out. "Smell that air, Annie. Let's go down to the beach. According to the direction, the house is not far so we've got time."
Mike grabbed Annie's hand and ran down to the water, dropping shoes and socks on the way. They waded into the water, splashed each other, and collected their first seashells.
Refreshed, they returned to the car.
"Which way, Annie?" Mike asked.
"Our GPS says Kitty Hawk, NC. Say, isn't that where the Wright brothers flew their first airplane? I remember hearing something about that in history class. Maybe we can go sightseeing after we settle in."
"That would be great, Annie. We'll be here for a while so why not enjoy it."
"Mike? I can't tell which road is the way to the cottage. Park over at that diner. We'll see if anyone knows where the cottage is." Annie said.
Entering the diner, a waitress with a heavily lined face, said. "Sit anywhere, folks. We ain't busy. My name is Bertha. What can I get you?"
"Two coffees, please."said Mike. "Actually, we're kind of lost and hope you can help us. We're looking for this road." Mike showed Bertha the map.
"Why sure, Mr. You're looking for the old Warwick place. Warwick's have been coming here for years. We haven't seen much of them since the old man passed several years back."
Pointing out the diner's front window, Bertha said, "Go to the stop sign, turn left and go all the way to the end. You can't miss it. Come back when you get hungry." Putting the coffee on the table, Bertha disappeared into the kitchen.
Getting back in the car, Annie said. "Mike. It's so beautiful here. It's like a Monet painting, muted greens and pinks, blues, the brown glistening sand, faded green grass lining the road.
"Annie, we're here." Said Mike, stopping the car in a driveway.
Looking at the cottage, he went on, "This can't be it. This is a mansion, not a cottage. Let me check the address."
Mike, looking at the name on the mailbox, confirmed, "Well, this is it."
Annie slowly opened the car door and got out, not believing what she saw. Looking up at the cottage, she saw a wonderful two storied house, spreading towards the sea behind it. Magical brown shingles, solid comfortable porches upstairs and downstairs, wonderful Victorian details that decorated the porches and railings.
"Wow!" Annie shouted. Running to the front door, she yelled back at Mike, "Get the key. I want to see the inside!"
Entering, the first thing they saw was a carpeted staircase, rising to the second story. To the left was an old library complete with leather chairs, globes of lights, and hundreds of dusty old books. Turning right, they entered a room that stretched half the length of the house, richly upholstered couches and armchairs sprinkled throughout the entire room, Oriental rugs and Tiffany lamps completed the picture, enticing them in. The second half of the room was an elegant dining room with a long-polished mahogany table. Above glistened a huge glass chandelier. Embroidered curtains drawn closed had protected the glorious table from the sun. The room ended into a glassed-in porch at the back of the house.
"This table will seat at least thirty people, Mike. Do we even know thirty people? Just look at this place. Isn't it grand?"
"It sure is, Annie." Answered Mike. "Mrs. Warwick never said a word about all this. Let's explore the rest of it."
Returning to the front hallway, they went through the library, opening a door at the back. It was a kitchen, dominated by a long wooden table. Huge windows, showing the sea, lined the right side of the room with ample cupboards between the windows. A back door led into the same back porch as the living room. The appliances weren't new, but they looked serviceable.
Leaving the kitchen, they went back to the front entrance, Annie noticed a small table by the front door, an envelope on the top.
"What's this?" Annie said, picking it up. "Why, it's from Mrs. Warwick." Reaching for Mike's hand. She started reading out loud.
"I had my lawyer bring me out here one last time so I could leave this note for you. By now you must know this place isn't just a cottage. It's a lovely home that needs a new family. I am the last of the Warwick's. I leave everything to you with all my love. I am very grateful you shared the last part of my life.
All my love
Annie burst into tears, wiping her nose with her sleeve. "Mike? Can you believe this. This place must be worth at least a million dollars. Let's see what else this house offers."
Climbing up the stairs, they entered a hallway with two doors on either side and what looked like a bathroom at the end. In the first three bedrooms, Mike and Annie saw huge four poster beds with matching wardrobes, side tables, and more Tiffany lamps. Each had a marbled fireplace which was, apparently, used to keep the rooms warm during the inter. All these bedrooms looked pretty much the same, but the fourth bedroom was different.
It had the same type of furniture, but it also held family pictures, jewel boxes, obviously cherished books of poetry and print of French impressionists everywhere.
"This must have been her bedroom, Mike. It's so beautiful." Going over to the bedside table, she picked up a gold leafed jewelry box. It was empty except for a single key with a note.
The note read, "Annie, I know how you like mysteries. There's a mystery associated with this house. My grandfather always told me this house held a secret, a valuable secret. This key unlocks the mystery if you can find the locked room. Good luck."
"Mike? Did you notice any locked rooms in this house?"
"No, I didn't."
Annie explained about the key and the mystery.
By the time, they had unpacked the car and put their personal belongs in the upstairs front bedroom, both had forgotten about the key and the locked room.
Annie and Mike spent the next week exploring the beaches, eating fresh seafood, and sleeping in the fresh salt scented air.
Over dinner Mike said, "Annie I have a great idea. I don't have a job and you can work from home. What do you think about selling our house and Mrs. Cheney's house back in the city and moving out here? Wilmington isn't far. Surely, I can find work there. We both love this area. It's perfect for us. What do you think?"
Annie jumped up and ran over to Mike, "Oh. Mike, could we? I absolutely love the idea of raising a family in this grand old house."
Mike, hugging her said, "It's done. Let's put a plan together."
Packing their car for the trip home, Annie suddenly stopped, "Wait a minute, Mike. We forgot about the key. Where is it?
Running up to their bedroom, she opened the jewelry box, "Here it is. Do you notice any lock doors it might fit?"
"I doubt it's up here, Annie. We've been through all these rooms. It's got to be downstairs. Let's start in the library."
"OK, Mike. Let's go" Annie responded.
Going into the library, Mike pointed to the far end, "You start over there. I'll start from this end, and we'll meet in the middle."
For a few minutes, there was only silence except for the movement of the books they pulled out and replaced, finding nothing.
"Mike!" Annie exclaimed. "Over here. I think here's an opening behind this bookcase. Help me move it."
Stacking the books neatly, Mike and Annie managed to move the heavy bookcase out from the wall, revealing a small door with a keyhole.
Holding her breath, Annie pushed the key into the door and turned it. The door swung open.
"Oh my gosh, Annie. Is this the mysterious locked room?" Mike bent down and slowly pulled himself inside.
"Anything?" Annie said.
"Nope, I don't see anything.....wait a minute. There's a small dark leather-bound book back here in the corner." Grabbing the book, Mike inched his way back out.
Going closer to one of the windows, Annie said, "It looks like a diary, Mike. Wonder who it belongs to. Let's look inside."
Annie said, "It's got a name on the cover, O. Wright."
"O. Wright?" she wondered, then caught her breathe.
"Mike, could this belong to one of the Wright brothers? Remember we explored their museum last week, first flight and all that. Quick, let's read it."
Annie started reading out loud:
July 10, 1901
We arrived in Kitty Hawk today. Began experiments with the large glider we assembled.
August 28, 1902
We've made over one hundred flights, ranging fin distance from twenty to almost four hundred feet.
September 8, 1902
We have assembled our new glider. Wilbur is beside himself with our success.
September 19 - October 24, 1902
Wilbur and I have made between seven hundred and one thousand glides and increased our distance to six hundred and twenty-two feet.
We're conducting experiments with propellers. Soon we begin to build a 1903 four-cylinder engine.
March 23, 1903
We've applied for a patent on our flying machine.
September 25, 1903
Wilbur and are back at Kitty Hawk. Time for more experiments.
September 28 - November 12, 1903
We've been experimenting with our 1902 glider. I feel it's a success.
October 9 - November 8, 1903
We're going to try to assemble the 1903 machine and install the engine.
November 5 - December 9, 1903
Problems with the propeller shafts. Mush return to Dayton for mush needed repairs and buy replacements
December 14, 1903
Wilbur made the first attempt to fly a powered machine from the slope of Big Kill Devil Hill. Machine stalls after three- and one-half seconds in the air and lands 105 feet below. Not a success but we'll keep trying.
December 17, 1903
We just made our first free, controlled, ad sustained flight in a power-driven, heavier that air machine. Three men from the Kill Devil Life Saving Stations and two men from Nags Head witnessed the four trial flights. I made the first trial at 10:35 A. M., stayed twelve seconds in the air and flew one hundred and twenty feet. Our friend John T. Daniels photographed the first flight with my camera. Wilber made the longest flight during the fourth trail, fifty-nine seconds in the air and eight hundred and fifty-two feet. We have accomplished much.
"Mike!" Annie exploded. "Do you realize what this is" It's Orville Wright's Diary. It's how he and his brother built the first airplane and all about the first flight. This is amazing.!"
Mike, growing paler, continued to thumb through the rest of the diary as if he couldn't believe it.
"What do we do with it, Mike? It must be worth a fortune." Annie asked.
Mike sat on the floor, "Le me think for a minute, Annie."
As Annie read more of the diary.
Mike said, "I know what we have to do. We don't need to sell it. Since Mrs. Warwick was so generous to us, leaving us this house, we really don't need the money. It's a piece of history and it's priceless. We'll call the National Museum in Washington. They can tell us what to do. Let's call them right now.," finished Mike.
"Perfect, Mike. Absolutely perfect." Annie said.
Word Count 2952