Aunt Lucy slipped on a gold bracelet covered with rows of diamonds. She walked over to the walk-in closet, slid the clothes to one side, and scooted her jewelry box into one of the hidden drawers.
Although Aunt Lucy never had children, her house had been filled with nieces and nephews, and later with their children. The children had free rein in the rambling old house and often took the secret passageway in the upstairs closets from the room at one end of the house in a dark journey to the master bedroom.
“If she can drop ten thousand on a cruise, she can lend me the cash to keep creditors off my back,” Jeremy snapped at his mother.
“It's not the appropriate time. This is the first time she's gotten out since your great uncle's death. Wait and talk to her when she comes back.”
They looked up and saw Aunt Lucy approaching.
“How long will you be gone, Auntie Lucy?” queried Margo, her eldest niece.
“Almost three weeks. Can you imagine? “ Aunt Lucy replied.
Margo looked at Aunt Lucy's wrist. “You're not wearing your expensive jewelry are you? We've heard some terrible tales....”
Aunt Lucy interrupted. “Don't worry.. I'm leaving my valuables tucked away in my closet. The alarm system will alert the neighbors if anyone breaks in.”
Jeremy smiled as he remembered that Aunt Lucy had a button she could push if she wanted to leave the house without triggering the alarm. As she mingled with the relatives, he slipped upstairs to the far room, traveling quickly down the passageway, stopping halfway to the master bedroom.
After everyone left, Aunt Lucy and a nephew went upstairs. She walked to the closet and slipped the bracelet into the drawer. “Please slide the door shut inside the closet,” she called.
With a yank, he slid the metal door into place.
“Turn the key and hand it to me,” instructed Aunt Lucy. She smiled at the click of the deadbolt. “Now please pick up my bags and follow me.”
“Please close and lock the door in this closet too,” she directed when they entered the room at the end of the hall.
“I don't remember these doors when we played in here as kids,” he remarked.
“Your uncle had the doors put in a couple of years ago. 'Just in case,' he said. I mostly leave them open, and you don't even notice them in the dark closet. But now that I'll be gone for so long, I thought it wouldn't hurt.”
The same nephew met Aunt Lucy at the dock two and a half weeks later. She chatted on about her trip, then asked the question he had been dreading, “What's been happening with the family while I've been gone?”
He decided to tell her simply and directly.
“Jeremy's missing. No one's seen or heard anything from him for almost three weeks.”