Read The Secret Manuscript Online

Authors: Edward Mullen

Tags: #friendship, #canada, #orphan, #fire, #discovery, #writer, #manuscript, #inheritance, #calgary, #alberta, #secret room, #cold lake

The Secret Manuscript (7 page)

BOOK: The Secret Manuscript
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Ben walked
over to assist him. With his hand on the doorknob, Kyle paused
before opening the door.

“If there are
any dead bodies in this place, they’d be stored in this closet. I
just want to make sure you’re ready for that.”

“I’m
ready.”

With a quick
jolt, Kyle yanked the door open. Much to their surprise, there were
no skeletons in the closet; in fact, it was not even a closet.

“Hey, what do
you know, this place has a basement!” Ben exclaimed with
delight.

“After you,”
Kyle offered.

They stood at
the top of the stairs and peered into the abyss. The basement was
completely underground and had no windows so it was freezing cold
and pitch black. This was apparent just from standing at the top of
the stairs. They both had chills running up their spines from the
temperature and eeriness.

“I don’t
suppose you have a flashlight on you?” Kyle asked.

“As a matter
of fact, I do,” Ben said, as he retrieved one from his
backpack.

“Lead the way.
I’ll be right behind you,” Kyle said.

Ben turned his
flashlight on and the beam of light pierced through the darkness.
The wooden staircase leading down to the basement creaked with each
step. When they reached the bottom, a new odour presented itself.
The damp basement smelled like an old shoe. Years of condensation
seeping into the porous concrete had sprouted mould and other
bacteria growth that created a retched stench.

They stayed
close to each other; neither of them was willing to admit they were
a little scared to be down there. Nevertheless, since it was part
of the house, it too needed to be explored. Despite being scared,
their curiosity made them proceed.

The basement
was equally as unimpressive as the rest of the house. It was
unfinished, with concrete walls and visible rafters in the ceiling.
The main area of the basement was just an open space with no
furniture. There was a fireplace at the far end and nothing hanging
on the walls. A little bar occupied one corner, but there was no
alcohol or glasses. Through a small doorway, they were able to
access the remainder of the basement. There was a small furnace
area on the right, and just beyond that was a pair of bedrooms side
by side. Ben shone his flashlight into each of them. The rooms were
empty, but something about them caught his attention.

“Hmm,” he
said, as he stood there peering in.

“What is
it?”

“I don’t know,
it’s probably nothing,” Ben replied. “Take a look at these rooms,
don’t they seem a little shallow to you?”

Kyle took
another look. He did not notice anything unusual. “Shallow in what
way?” he asked.

“When we did
the tour of the main floor, one thing I noticed was the breadth of
the house. It was very wide. But looking at the basement, I get the
opposite impression. It’s much narrower. It just strikes me as
odd.”

“Basements are
dug in the ground, and there’s no rule that says they have to be
the same layout as the floors above it,” Kyle said.

“That’s
true.”

“Or perhaps
it’s the absence of light that’s not allowing you to properly gauge
distances.”

“Yeah, you’re
probably right,” Ben replied.

“Either way,
can we get out of here? This place is giving me the creeps.”

Chapter
Fourteen

Over the next
few days, Ben and Kyle worked diligently to get the house in order.
They worked well as a team and were no strangers to manual labour.
It was especially satisfying working for themselves for a change.
The place was dusted, scrubbed, and polished. They bound up
fourteen large garbage bags filled with old junk and hauled them
out to the curb.

“Are you sure
the garbage collectors will take all this?” Kyle asked.

“I’m not sure;
I’ve never owned a house before.”

They did an
inventory of the house, but did not find anything of value. Nor did
they find any of Mr. Gringer’s personal effects. Any letters lying
around were just junk mail and not assigned to anyone specifically.
It was as if the previous owner had just vanished one night without
leaving a trace. It was a peculiar mystery indeed; one that Ben had
a hard time wrapping his head around.

He stayed
indoors mostly, only leaving when necessary. One such trip was to a
pawnshop where he pawned the jewellery he had stolen from his old
apartment building. It was the only money they had and it was
keeping him and Kyle afloat until they found work. It was enough to
get the electricity turned back on and for Ben to buy a cheap
computer from the pawnshop. Due to the recent events in his life,
Ben was actually inspired to start writing again. It had been over
a week since he last touched a keyboard, and he was brimming with
new ideas.

Ben sat at the
dining room table; he had been writing all morning. During a break,
he opened up a browser and typed ‘Charles Gringer’ into a search
engine. When the results populated, Ben could not believe his
eyes.

“Hey, Kyle,
check this out,” Ben said.

“What is
it?”

“Read
this.”

“Charles
Gringer of Calgary wins Alberta’s largest lotto jackpot —
twenty-two million dollars,” Kyle read the headline aloud. He then
skimmed the rest of the article. “So Charles Gringer, a man who you
claim to have never met, wins the lottery, dies the next day, and
then for no apparent reason, decides to leave everything to an
orphan kid from Cold Lake, who presumably he has no relation
to.”

“Yeah, that
sounds about right,” Ben said.

“Where’s the
twenty-two million? Shouldn’t you get that too?”

“Not sure,
maybe he gave it away to charity.”

“Aren’t you
his charity of choice?”

“Maybe he
buried it in the backyard.”

“This guy was
old, right? Maybe all that digging gave him a heart attack.”

Kyle was half
kidding, but still, it was a possibility. They both looked at each
other and then bolted to the backyard. They paced around like a
couple of hounds sniffing out a trail. Unfortunately, there were no
disturbances in the land. If Charles Gringer hid the money, it
certainly was not in the backyard. Disappointed, the boys sauntered
back into the house and contemplated their next plan.

“Wouldn’t the
obvious explanation be that this Gringer guy is related to you
somehow?” Kyle said.

“I thought
about that, and it still might be a possibility, but it doesn’t
explain why he would do such a kind act for me at the end of his
life. Why not reach out to me earlier?”

“Who knows?
Maybe he just recently found out you were his grandson or
something.”

“Hmm, I doubt
it.”

“I’ve got an
idea. Follow me,” Kyle said.

“Where are we
going?”

Kyle did not
respond. He simply marched out the front door, down the porch
steps, and across the yard to the neighbour’s house.

“Kyle, what
are you doing?” Ben asked.

“I’m going to
get some answers. Somebody in this neighbourhood must have known
him.”

Kyle pulled
back the screen on the neighbour’s front door and gave three hard
knocks. They only waited a moment before someone answered.

“Yes, what can
I do for you?” an old lady asked. She looked slightly nervous that
two unfamiliar young men who did not appear to be selling anything
were standing on her doorstep.

“Hello ma’am,
my name is Kyle Watson and this here is Benjamin Owen. We just
moved in next door and wanted to introduce ourselves.”

“Well, hello.
I’m Gladys. Would you boys like to come in?”

“Sure, we’d
love to,” Kyle said as he looked at Ben and smiled.

“But we can
only stay for a bit,” Ben added.

Ben and Kyle
entered Gladys’s home and took notice of the familiar layout. The
furniture was similarly dated, but in much better condition than
theirs. Little figurines and trinkets, which had most likely been
collected over the past fifty years, occupied shelves behind glass
cabinets.

“Please, have
a seat. I’ll put on a pot of tea.”

“That would be
great, thank you,” Kyle said. “By the way, this is a lovely home
you have here Ms… Gladys.”

“Thank you,
dear,” she called out from the kitchen. Moments later, she returned
with a plate of biscuits.

“So how long
have you lived in this neighbourhood for?” Kyle asked.

“Oh, let’s
see,” she said, taking a moment to think. “It’s been about thirty
years in this house. My husband and I moved out from Ontario. We
ran a shoe repair business in the neighbourhood. It wasn’t much,
but it paid the bills and put a roof over our heads.”

“Are you and
your husband still together?”

“In spirit
only. He passed away last August and it has been a really hard
adjustment for me.”

“I’m sorry to
hear that,” Kyle said.

“Gladys, did
you know Mr. Gringer?” Ben asked.

For some
reason, that brought a smile to her face. “Which one?” she said, as
she chuckled a bit. Ben and Kyle looked at each other,
confused.

“The one that
lived next door to you.”

“I’ve known
Charles for thirty years. He’s a wonderful man; keeps to himself
mostly. He used to come by often for tea and biscuits. He and my
husband got along quite well. That reminds me, perhaps I’ll invite
him over this afternoon.”

“Gladys, I’m
sorry to be the one to tell you this, but Charles Gringer passed
away recently.”

Gladys did not
respond the typical way one would expect upon hearing such news.
Instead she looked down at the crumbled napkin in her hands, which
she had been fidgeting with ever since she sat down.

“Can you tell
us about him? Did he have any kids, or grandkids?”

“Charles? No,
he never married and did not have any children as far as I
know.”

“Did that
strike you as a bit odd?”

“Why are you
two so interested in Charles?”

Ben looked at
Kyle, then back at Gladys. He decided to be forthright with
her.

“Mr. Gringer
left his house to me in his will, and I’m just trying to find out
why.”

Gladys took
another moment before she spoke. She opened her mouth at the
precise moment the water in the kettle began to boil. The sound of
steam whistled from the kitchen.

“Please excuse
me,” she said, getting up from the couch and heading into the
kitchen.

Ben and Kyle
chatted amongst themselves until Gladys returned. She brought out
three cups on a tray, accompanied by a pot with some sugar and
milk. She set the tray down and they each took a moment to sort out
their tea.

“So, Gladys,
you were going to say something about Mr. Gringer,” Ben said.

“Well, you
asked me if Charles’ behaviour seemed odd… I’ve known the man for
thirty years and the oddest thing about him was winning the
lottery.”

“What was odd
about that?”

“Charles only
played the lottery once in his entire life. I know this because he
would give me grief for playing. He always referred to the lottery
as tax for the poor. Then the one time he plays the lottery, he
wins.”

“Yeah, you’re
right, that is a bit odd,” Kyle said, trying to goad her into
revealing more information. “What else did he do that was odd to
you?”

Again, Gladys
took her time to respond. “Well…” she paused.

“What is it?”
Ben probed eagerly.

“Perhaps I
have said enough, I don’t wish to get involved any further.”

“Gladys,
please.”

“Whoever left
you that house looked like, sounded like, and dressed like Charles
Gringer, but he wasn’t the man I knew for thirty years. I know that
probably sounds crazy, and I don’t know how to explain it, but
trust me, it wasn’t the same man.”

“Surely you
have some thoughts about it though, right?”

“Oh I don’t
know, I guess it could be a number of things: split personality,
amnesia, alien implant…”

“Alien
implant? Do you really believe that?”

“I’m not sure
what to believe.”

“You seem
pretty convinced it wasn’t the same person.”

“Call it an
intuition or a gut feeling, but something was definitely different
about him.”

“We appreciate
your help, Gladys.”

“I’m sorry I
couldn’t be of any more service to you boys.”

“Your
hospitality was enough. Thank you for the tea,” Kyle politely
said.

They rose from
the couch and headed toward the door. On their way out, Kyle
offered to be of future service. “We’re next door if you need
anything, just give us a call and we’ll be right over.”

On their walk
back to their house, they discussed what Gladys had said.

“So, did that
go how you had expected?” Ben asked.

“Not really,”
Kyle replied. “Now I’m more confused than ever.”

“What do you
make of her story about this so-called ‘new’ Charles Gringer?”

“Who knows,
but I think the simplest explanation is that the money changed
him,” Kyle said. “I heard a saying once — money doesn’t change a
person, it just reveals who they naturally are when they are no
longer required to be nice to people. Perhaps that explains why
Gringer behaved so differently after he won the lottery.”

“Perhaps, but
that still doesn’t explain why he played the lottery in the first
place, nor how he won on his first try.”

“We don’t know
for sure that it was his first time, all we know is what Gladys
told us, and what he told her. For all we know he was playing the
lottery his entire life.”

“Still, the
odds of winning are astronomically small – something like fourteen
million to one.”

“True, but
despite the narrow odds, people still win it… especially old people
from quiet neighbourhoods.”

“Then die the
next day?” Ben added.

“It could just
be a stroke of bad luck. Who knows, the guy was old, right? Isn’t
it possible that there’s no grand mystery in it all, that all the
answers are really that simple?”

BOOK: The Secret Manuscript
6.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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