Clunk! “Ouch,” mumbled Mandy.
Gerry yelled, “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” Pulling up floorboards was hard work. “Stupid house. Rotten floorboards. Wow, what’s that?” Tossing a board aside, Mandy peered into the hole. A metal box smiled eerily at her. “Yikes,” she jumped back, then looked again. The box was indeed smiling – someone had painted the face of a young child, maybe three years old. Mandy lifted the box to a solid floorboard. “Gerry, look what I found.” Hearing no answer, she called again, “Come now and see.”
An irritated Gerry appeared. “I’m really busy. Can’t it wait?” Seeing the box, he said, “that’s sort of spooky. What do you suppose is in it?”
Mandy’s blue eyes gleamed, “Let’s open it.”
“Wait. What does that say?”
“Do not the contents lightly take
Examine them with wisdom and truth
Rely on your heart and not your mind”
Gerry’s husky voice said, “Maybe we should leave it buried.”
“No way,” Mandy said. “Come and sit.” The rusty clasp fell apart at her touch. The smiling child’s face disappeared as Mandy lifted the lid. Inside, she found several items including a scroll and a map with a missing corner.
Gerry picked up the scroll. “Listen to this. Whoever uncovers the mystery of this box will be richly rewarded. Be observant and cautious, for some would kill for these items. I leave you clues. Eighteen Eleven is the year, forced into marriage to an abusive and hateful man. He wanted children, yet beat me until my babies died within my womb. This time, I vowed to make a difference. Leaving before he knew of this child, I took only my clothes and this map, which contains directions to my land, given to me by my father before he died. My desire is to deed it to the finder. May you use the treasures with wisdom and love. I cannot tell you my name, but your keen eyes will find what you seek.”
“What else does it say?” Mandy felt like a curious child, instead of the forty-something woman she was.
“I’m going to figure out who the mystery person is by researching the Internet and library.”
Weeks passed and the house began to look livable. Mandy spent spare moments poring over the Internet. “I’ve found something,” she exclaimed one day. “This photo looks a lot like the painting on the box.” The accompanying article read:
Guinevere was a young woman who became famous for her paintings of children and their captivating smiles. Famed historian Wendell Sheaves noted: “It’s a shame she was murdered. We know nothing about this woman or even if Guinevere was her name. Had she lived to continue painting, her work would be priceless. She could have surpassed Monet.” She was brutally murdered and the assailant was never found. Her child mysteriously disappeared. The stone on the grave reads “Guinevere 1825.”
Mandy’s curiosity grew as she studied the map. One day, in frustration, she tossed it down. The sun shining through the window seemed to point to the box. Laying the map over the child’s smile, Mandy exclaimed, “the missing piece of the map. The treasure is right here on our land.”
Following the map, Mandy and Gerry found a hidden cave entrance. “Paintings!” exclaimed Mandy as the flashlight shone on the canvases. “There must be a hundred of them.”
The appraiser shocked them when he demanded, “how did you acquire these?”
Gerry said, “We bought a house and found them.”
Mr. Statler said, “Do you know what these are? Genuine Guinevere paintings, I’m sure. She died nearly two hundred years ago after selling only two paintings. These three are worth a million dollars each. It’s too bad you don’t have more.”
Mandy smiled, “We have over one hundred more.”
Mr. Statler’s voice squeaked, “If you are willing to sell, I have buyers.”
Mandy and Gerry knew exactly how to spend their newfound wealth.
* * * * One Year Later * * *
Mandy and Gerry stood in front of their mortgage-free mansion sitting on twenty acres of wooded land. A state-of-the-art security system provided protection. The house included a country kitchen, ten bedrooms with private baths, three dens, and a dining room with a forty-person table. Adorning the walls were over half of the paintings, the rest were sold to pay for the mansion.
Best of all was the simple sign in the flowerbed:
“Guinevere’s Home for Battered Women and Children.”
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