‘It’s all gone through.’ The words I had been waiting for confirmed the purchase after weeks of near misses. I felt relief where I expected joy, though that returned as I drove through the gates. The large, old stone property, a secluded town north of Inverness, the view over the sea, the peace away from neighbours and enough parking for the whole team and many more were the magnets that brought me here to buy this dream.
I had a week to clean the place before the new furniture arrived. Easily, each room in turn, done and dusted clean. Ahead of schedule, I reached the last at the top. I had never noticed the entrance to the eaves, hidden by the shadow of the wardrobe. Inside, a cave, tidily arranged but full.
The last night I stayed to clear the final boxes before the morning’s rush. Amongst them an ancient wooden chest, rope handled, sporting a very faded crest above initials beginning with a G or a C perhaps. As was my wont, I kept the best for last.
The coffee had allowed me to work but this was slowing rapidly. I needed sleep but I wanted this done. I was alone, cold and tired and had let the winter fire go out. The box was locked. Of course, I should have waited but my brain was not in gear. Finding a chisel by the sink, I broke the lock, cutting my finger as the lid flew free. Blood dripping everywhere, I was back there, cold water pouring from the wound. No plasters, so kitchen paper had to serve. Freezing and finger-hampered, I picked up the papers from my box. Six scrolls in ribbons sealed by wax, four of them now with drops of blood, stabbing me with guilt.
I relit the fire, placing the bloodied scrolls to dry. Of the other two, one fell open as the wax on the seal broke. I read with awe a deed of gift granted by a king, his initials now clear, G II R or George II, and sealed three hundred years ago, now worth millions. My finger dripped again. In my fuddled rush to staunch the flow, my weary leg knocked the small table, tumbling the two remaining documents onto the others drying by the fire with the open one on top. The rush of air this caused set up a spark. As I reached the doorway, I turned and watched the flame as it licked into my manuscripts.
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