It was a cold day and snow covered most of the road. A red car drove slowly over the sleet as it turned into a dirt road. Everything in the forest was covered by snow, and the trees were bare. A pair of eyes gazed out the car’s windows examining everything. The radio was on, and a report of roads being closed as a storm would be coming in the afternoon. The car bumped into something which made it leaped a few feet in the air, but it kept going forward. After a few minutes, the road ending and in front was a three-story house. It looked old but was maintained well as there were signs of new windows and paint. A man was outside the house, and he had his arms wrapped around him trying to keep warm. He smiled as he waved his hand to the car. A woman stepped out of the driver side then another woman from the passenger.
“Good morning, Ms. Tino.”
“Morning, Mr. Bald. Sorry to keep you waiting.” The woman said as she walked to him. “I should have sent the key first.”
“It’s fine.” He looked passed Ms. Tino and stared at the other woman who was gazing at the house. “And who is the person with you?’
“Oh, that’s my cousin, Vivian.” She looked at her. “Hey Viv, come over here.”
“Um…are you sure we are allowed to be here? You know aunt Margret was a bit odd with us.”
“She is not here anymore. Besides, it’s cold out here.” Ms. Tino opened the front door and entered. A smell of fresh paint was still in the air, but there was also a strange scent of something decaying. “Oh, geez I thought that smell would’ve been gone.”
“Well, when someone dies in the house it takes a while to leave.” The man said as he stomped his boots and entered. The smell hit him hard and made him vomit. “Oh, I think we should open the windows.”
“I think so too.”
While Ms. Tino and Mr. Bald were opening the windows, Vivian had not moved an inch as her eyes were fixated on the windowpane. Flashes of their aunt Margret watching them from inside the house scared Vivian as she closed her eyes and shook her head. She took a deep breath and opened them to see her cousin opening a window.
“Viv, get over here.”
“Ruth, I think we should just leave. I got a bad feeling about this place.” Vivian looked back up at the center window. “I feel like she is still watching and judging us.”
Ruth walked out to Vivian and placed her hand on her shoulder. “Hey, I know auntie was a bit odd, but she’s not here anymore.”
“I don’t know.” Vivian adjusted her glasses then rubbed her nose. “She allows shouted at us to be ladies and made us do crazy things.”
“She was old schooled. I’m amazed my dad never told me how cuckoo she was.” Ruth rubbed Vivian’s arms with her hands. “Let’s go in and get this over with.”
They entered the house and went to the dining room. Mr. Bald had set up the papers and placed them on the dinner table. He organized everything and was on the phone speaking to someone. When the cousins entered the room and smiled and covered the mouthpiece. “I have an important call at the moment, but I set up everything here for you both. So, go over it and if there is anything wrong tell me.”
“Thank you,” Ruth said.
Mr. Bald walked away as Ruth and Vivian sat down to look at the documents. The house and everything inside was left to them as their aunt had passed away and they were there to sign off the papers to sell the home. Ruth read the will and smiled to herself for there was a small fortune of hundred thousand for each one of them.
“Man, it is so sad that auntie passed away.” Ruth giggled to herself.
“It’s not funny,” Vivian said as she gazed at the paper. “I just want to get out of here and go home.”
“What’s your rush? You heard the report. The roads to the city will be closed so we might have to stay here for the night.”
“Why did we need to do it this time of the year?” Vivian shook her head.
“It’s in her will and her way to make us remember her.”
Vivian leaned back on the chair and gazed at the ceiling. “She has a sick sense of humor.”
Mr. Bald came back and sat in front of the women. “So, is everything in order?”
“Yup, so I think we can sign it,” Ruth said.
“Wonderful,” Mr. Bald grinned. “But before you sign anything there is one thing that Mrs. Golds wanted you both to see. She made a video, and you must watch it before signing anything.”
“Okay.” Ruth leaned close to Vivian. “Bet she’s going to give us one last lecture.”
Mr. Bald pulled out a video cassette and inserted into the player. An elderly woman sat in front of the camera and held a reddish key in her hand. Her face was covered by a black veil, and her voice was hoarse when she spoke.
“Two my nieces Ruth and Vivian. By watching this, I am long gone from this world and have set up the necessary steps to owning everything I have. However, there is a catch, and Mr. Bald will give you two an envelope to complete a small quest.” The camera moved, and a model of the house was shown. “In my house, there is a door which this key that I hold will open. Inside is my treasure which I hope the two of you will cherish. You have until the next day to locate the treasure if not then everything in the house will be gone. I hope you both will have success.”
The video ended and both Ruth and Vivian were speechless at what they learned. Mr. Bald smiled at them as he got up and packed his things.
“Wait, you are leaving?” Ruth asked him.
“For now, I must follow Mrs. Golds requests, but I will be back tomorrow around this time to check on the both of you.”
Once Mr. Bald left both cousins sat there in silence until Vivian shouted.
“I knew it!” She placed her elbows on the table and grabbed her head. “She always does these things to us. She still thinks we are children.”
“Viv, just stop it.” Ruth grabbed her envelope and opened it. She read the letter out loud. “In this house is the red key find it before the clock rings five if not the game is over. Wonderful.” Ruth stared at the clock, and it was one past two. “Well, at least we got time. The first clue is in your room, find the small tin man and place him back in his place to guard the fire.”
“What type of clue is that?”
“Not sure but I better go look for him. What does yours say?”
Vivian opened hers, and the only thing written on it was a word, mantel. “Her sense of humor.”
“No, I bet the tin man has something to do with the fire mantel.”
Ruth got up and headed upstairs. The wooden floor cracked underneath Ruth’s feet as she walked down the hallway. Stopping at a door which led to her old bedroom, Ruth gazed at it and thoughts of her childhood rushed to her mind.
* * *
Aunt Margret walked with command as she held her hands in front of her. Her black dress moved swiftly as she headed to the door and knocked on it.
“Ruth, are you ready?”
“Almost done.” The voice of a child called out.
Margret left and headed downstairs and noticed Vivian gazing up at the fire mantel. She walked to her and tapped her on the shoulder. “Something wrong?”
“Huh?” She turned her head and stared at her aunt. “I was only looking at the tin man.”
Margret raised an eyebrow and placed her hand on Vivian back. “Come we must leave.”
Ruth came down racing from the stairs and jumped down from the last step and shouted. “And the crowd goes wild. Ah.”
“Ruth!” Her aunt shouted.
She stood frozen and only moved her eyes to the right followed by her head. “Sorry aunt…I mean madam Margret.”
Ruth opened her eyes and shook her head as she walked into her old room. Everything was the same as the day she left it. The walls were colored pink, and the small bed still had its pink sheets. The whole room was pink, and for some reason, there was a scent of pink lemonade in the air.
“Wow, no wonder I hate pink,” Ruth smirked to herself and searched for the tin man. She checked the dresser, the closet and underneath the bed but there was nothing. Ruth sat on the bed and observed everything. “No way she would be to so much trouble to hid it.”
“Hey Ruth, did you find it?” Vivian said as she poked her head around the door frame.
“No.” She tossed herself on the bed and looked at the canopy of the bed. There was a strange lump on the fabric, and Ruth sat up. “No way.”
“What?” Ruth said nothing and grabbed the small chair. “Hey, what did you find?”
“Give me a moment.” Ruth peeked above the canopy and found the tin man resting on the fabric. “Ha, found it.”
“That’s great. Then maybe we’ll be able to leave this place before nightfall.”
“What’s your rush?” Ruth stretched her hand to grabbed the figure.
“Nothing but this place gives me the creeps.”
Ruth shook her head as her fingertips moved the figure closer to her. With just a few swings, she managed to grab it. “Got it, now let’s go place it on the fire mantel.”
“How do you know it goes there?” Vivian followed Ruth downstairs.
“Your paper said mantel.”
“Yeah but, what is speaks of aunt Margret’s mantel?”
Ruth stopped and turned to stare at Vivian. A sound was heard upstairs, and they both looked up.