I was the one Grandmother sent to the hall to show the government man into the library. Any of us could have; she could have herself – she’s spry still as a nanny goat and not half so fat as her bankroll. It wasn’t until he did what he did that I knew why she hadn’t wanted to watch.
It was uncanny how he seemed to know exactly where it would be. After following close upon my heels up the stair and down the passage, he strode past me through the open library door and struck a beeline to the high corner shelf upon which it rested.
“Have you… been here before?” I ventured to ask.
“Here we are,” he said, fetching the beautiful, antiquated thing down and hefting it in his hands.
“Heeere we are,” he said again, almost as if crooning to a pet. There was fierce satisfaction, too, in his voice. And gloating.
I was staring right at him, yet the knife was out and open and working before I’d even registered him reaching for his pocket.
“D-d-don’t…” I stammered all too late as he deftly flayed the heirloom tome’s stately spine.
“There, you see?” From the recess within the big book’s backbone, he plucked a small, scrolled piece of paper. “This!” he exclaimed, dropping the slain tome heedlessly to the floor, “this is it!”
“Haha!” His laugh was not a laugh, but a vocal victory dance. “Ask your grandmother. She knows well enough. Else I wouldn’t be here, now would I?”
“What does it say?”
“I’ll see myself out,” he said. “Good day.” The knife and scroll were gone from his hands as he fairly flew past me out of the room. “A very, very good day,” I heard him say as he trotted down the stair.
As I lifted the victim from the floor, its familiar scent filled my head, stronger now than ever before. It smelled, I had always thought, like time.
After returning the book to its shelf, I went down to be sure he’d pulled the door closed behind him. He had. At some length, I found Grandmother in the kitchen, where she never was.
“What did it say?” I asked unceremoniously.
“What it said,” she replied, “or says, rather… is that we do not own this house.” She sounded like herself, brisk and matter-of-fact, but her hands, I saw, were shaking a little as she leaned the kettle over to fill the teapot.
“I, we, our whole line. That… document… is a codicil to a will — a will from generations back. What will come to pass remains to be seen, but… Well, Thomas, things may be a bit different.”
[inspired by the The Daily Post’s Discover Challenge, Blogging the Senses]
Photo by Erik Kwakkel.