Holly Grant was never happier to see her father then when he returned from a long trip. It was one of the things she missed about living in California the most, every time that there were changes needed on the movie’s script he needed to travel now. He used to just go to the production company’s studios and solve the problem, he was almost always home for dinner and sometimes with a movie star in tow. Bill Grant had to leave between Christmas and New Years to resolve some issues with the filming of The Nightmare Affair, even though the set was closed and all of the actors were off for the holidays. He returned on the Friday after New Years and was waiting for Holly when she got back from her abbreviated school week.
The young woman had decided that Minnesota wasn’t so bad though after celebrating her first Christmas with snow, and learning the adventure that was snow tubbing; although to call what amounted to hurtling down Buck Hill on an out of control inner tube as an adventure was similar to calling the NASCAR experience in Las Vegas as a leisurely Sunday drive.
Christian’s Bar Mitzvah had come and gone as well, so the young man was back in the mix with the girls trying to figure out the mystery of the Grant house. The fact that Holly had given him an iPod identical to the one Julia now carried with her everywhere made him even more eager to help his friend. The only difference between the two devices was that his was engraved with “and now a man” in hebrew did not hurt his willingness to ignore the secrets he knew were being kept from him.
With the end of the year came the cold weather that is associated with Minnesota. While Julia Pearson had done her best to warn Holly about the ravages of the cold Minnesota’s January, nothing had prepared the her for stepping outside that first “sub zero” day. It occurred on the day Bill Grant returned home from California. Holly was running late that morning, having not fully acclimated to having to wake up and go to school again after the two weeks off between Christmas and New Years.
Stepping outside with her hat in hand and jacket open, despite warnings from her aunt, the young girl immediately froze in place. The mucous in her nose froze instantaneously with her first breath, stiffing into a swollen block of snot-cicle without warning. As if upon queue a blast of arctic wind blew through her open jacket and cut through the heavy sweater she had on as though it were a piece of cheese cloth. Holly’s brown eyes immediately began to tear up as she struggled to fasten her zipper, get her gloves and hat on all while fumbling with her school bag as she made her way down the front steps of the patio. A second blast as she approached the end of the front sidewalk reminded her of everything she had ever heard and thought about Minnesota, simply put that it was a very cold place.
As the “long yellow limousine” pulled up to her stop Holly was amazed at how good the blast of warm air felt when the doors slid open. Even more amazing Maurice, the bus driver, was sitting there in a t-shirt and jeans; the only indication that it was winter outside was the heavy coat slung over the back of the chair and a pair of winter boots behind his seat. “Morning Holly,” called out the man as she stepped onto the bus. “Its a cold one out there, you really need to make certain you have bundled up.”
Holly just shrugged a little, which was barely perceptible under her winter jacket and loose slung scarf. Sensing that she needed to better acknowledge Maurice’s greeting the young woman responded verbally, “Yeah, not used to this at all.”
“Well sit yourself down and keep warm,” stated the kindly bus driver. Maurice knew the names of every student on his route, and he could point out where they lived. He considered it part of his job responsibilities to ensure the safety of all of the children he provided rides for, and that included ensuring their safe return to their homes when possible.
Holly sat down next to Julia and started making plans for the weekend. Although they had seen each other extensively over the course of the Holidays, and Julia spent multiple nights over at the house as they explored the contents of the hidden rooms looking for an answer as to what had happened with Frank and Erma they still didn’t have an answer to what happened to the two people in the photo album after World War II, or for that matter what had happened to their adopted son Brian. The other Photo albums that they found either predated their romance, or were of a completely different family and much closer to modern times.
From the look of the people in the pictures, with their longer hair and monster side burns Holly had figured that the pictures were from the seventies and showed a young couple with their children playing in the yard of the mansion. They had scoured through the pictures looking for evidence of any of the original three people, but could not see any sign of Frank or Erma, and the handwriting had changed to a much less flowing script and into very neat and tidy printing.
“You know I have been thinking about that last photo album, the one thats all disco retro,” stated Julia Pearson as the bus rounded a corner and bounced heavily over a piece of hardened snow left over from the plow. “My grandfather used to print like that and he was an architect.”
“You might be onto something there,” replied Holly. The young woman’s nose had finally defrosted and she found herself sniffling heavily. “It would take someone really familiar with building design to build all those secret passageways. I bet whoever built them was an architect.”
“Do you think that Chris could pull a copy or the plans for your house from city hall and see who designed your home?” Julia had seen the police do it all the time on television, and even read about it in some novels so there must be a basis for it being such a common trope.
“He might, I think our house is Historical or something,” stated Holly. “There are all kinds of rules about what we can and can’t do to it.”
Shortly afterwards Chris got on the bus and sat down in the seat in front of Holly and Julia. He turned to talk with them but was interrupted by the Peggy named Samantha, “you guys are such losers talking to a dweeb like him.” The girl sat down in a seat a few rows further back.
Julia’s face turned bright red as the rage within her began to boil upwards. She had clearly had it all with Samantha Peggy. The girl had turned her ringtone of Julia into a virtual anthem for the Peggies, the the normally quiet and reserved Julia Pearson was about to blow her top. “Listen Samantha…” started the young girl angrily.
“Jilli, don’t let her win. She wants you to blow up and get into trouble, just back down,” interjected Holly in a quiet whisper. Holly was more correct then she could have possibly known.
Samantha had started recording the conversation right after she flung the bait out and was disappointed when she had to sit down and quietly turn off the recorder on her cell phone without capturing anything useful.
“You should have let me deck her,” stated Julia as she slumped back down into the bus seat.
“You would have gotten suspended, it isn’t worth it,” replied Holly. Chris couldn’t do anything but look dumbfounded at the two girls.
“Jilli, why are you letting her live rent free in your head,” inquired Chris eventually? “She is just a mean girl that doesn’t like anyone.”
Julia Pearson relaxed a little in her seat as she felt the rage directed at Samantha subside. It drained out of her face, through he stomach and the eventually let its self out the back door with a whisper. She sighed in absolute assured content.
“Did you just let an air centurion out,” gasped Holly quietly.
Julia started to giggle, “An air centurion, never heard it called that before, but I suppose I did, sorry.”
“Don’t worry, it’s wonderfully normal and I could use you being a little more normal at times.”
“Your the one to talk Holly, seriously could you be any less a normal teenager?”
“What are you two going on about,” inquired Chris, who looked as confused as a rabbit on plucking day.
The girls laughed slyly at each other and told the boy to stop worrying, what he didn’t know couldn’t possibly hurt him. Holly thought to herself that it could scar him though.
The rest of the week went without major incident from the Peggie’s or for that matter Chris, who had taken to doing online research during the lunch periods in order to see if he could track down who built Holly’s house. On the bus Friday morning Chris told holly and Julia to meet him in the library after school that he had something to show them.
Friday crawled through its hourly routine as thou caught in a temporal loop. Social sciences dragged as the pair learned about the inner workings of the United States political system. In great detail the pudgy Mrs. Wayneright explained how each house of the congress had to pass their own version of the bill, and then come together to figure a compromise. Julia wished that Mrs. Wayneright could compromise with herself to stop droning on.
Julia could tell that none of the other kids in the class were actually paying attention to the teacher. It seemed to her that the only person paying attention to the detailed conversation was Mrs. Wayneright herself, and even then it was half heartedly.
Surviving the utter monotony of the United States of America’s political system the two girls met Christian in the library near the back of stacks where a set of Macintosh computers were clustered for student research. The young man was seated at one with a smile on his face.
Sitting down in the chairs next to him Holly and Julia looked at the screen. The public records office interior records site was displayed on the screen and Holly’s address was churning through a search.
“Holy cow Chris, is that a government computer you using?” inquired Holly.
“Well that would have required me to do something nefarious now wouldn’t it,” replied the young man.
“Chris, you didn’t,” whispered Julia in as stern a voice as she could.
“Well its not like they required a strong password or anything, you really just need to know the people there.” Chris smiled slyly and winked at Julia.
“Well hurry up and show us what you want us to see before we all get into trouble,” stated Holly.
The library attendant Miss. Reid gave a warning glance toward the three students and then followed it up with a light smile. She liked Christian Pierce, who was always so nice and helpful. She was also happy to see that he seemed to have friends.
The two girls smiled back as Christian attempted to speed up the progress of the search. Finally the little floating beach ball stopped spinning and the list of prior home owners and building permits popped up.
The list wasn’t nearly as long as what Holy had anticipated.
Garfield St. John
Frank & Erma Prudence
Brian and Margaret Prudence
Joseph and Jean Miller
Christian quickly grabbed the blue prints and a list of building permits that had been issued for Holly’s house and logged off the remote computer. “Best not to be on there too long.”
“I don’t even want to know,” stated Holly as she shook her head.
“Well the list doesn’t look too long, so one of those owners are responsible for all those passages,” inquired Julia? The young woman seemed to be having a lot of problems following the information.
“Well if we look at the original blue prints the passageways were not on them.” Chris looked over them again and noticed rubbed his eyes a little in disbelief. The blueprint was signed by Garfield St. John.
“Who the heck is this Garfield guy,” inquired Holly?
“I don’t have a clue, but I am certain that Google will be able to tell us something.”
A quick internet search didn’t reveal any reliable information of Garfield St. John, proving instead to feature a list of comic strips and ambulance services. “Looks like your faith in the Internet was ill found,” quipped Julia as she searched through the list of results.
“I have never had it fail me so utterly…You don’t suppose he never existed,” inquired Chris?
“Chris now your just being silly, it is just that no one has bothered to write about him.” Julia Pearson hated whenever Chris tried to say something wasn’t real or didn’t exist because he couldn’t find it on the internet.
“Well then he didn’t exist in my universe of knowledge.”
“Will you two please stop bickering like an old married couple?” Holy sighed heavily as a dramatic pause, “Jilli, don’t pick on Chris for his beliefs, and Chris just because someone doesn’t have an entry in Wikipedia doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”
“But Mom,” started Julia Pearson in a long whiney tone…
“Zip it young lady, don’t make me ground you.”
Three friends printed out a few items and took the activity bus home. Despite being a little disappointing, learning that there had only been five owners to the house. She also had a new name that she could try to find references to in the pile of documents they had found in the attic office.
The manuscripts in the attic were still a puzzling mystery to the three students. Holly had counted over thirty-two manuscripts. Each one was a short novella, mostly in the genre of either detective or mystery murder. Christian had read three of them and said that they were pretty good, although this was the same guy who thought Alien three was an alright movie so Holly seriously doubted his critical analysis skills.
Holly Grant knew that this type of output represented a lifetime of work, all of it done in private and hidden away from the world. Clearly whoever had written these manuscripts caught the writing bug, she just couldn’t imagine hiding away like that for hours at end clacking away at an old typewriter.
Walking through the front door of the mansion the young girl was greeted by her aunt Melody, tapping her foot and looking very much the part of an annoyed; and slightly irritated school matron.