Annie and her family were gathered at the dining room table listening to her grandfather’s last will and testament. The familiar words droned on. In the event of his death, everything would be left to his wife. If she were to die before him then the estate was to be shared equally between his daughter, Alex, and his two granddaughters, Annie and Catherine. The money for Annie and Catherine would be placed in two separate trusts that would only become available to them after they completed college. Blah, blah, blah. Nothing Annie heard was unexpected. She really wished Ms. Tittle would finish. It was hard enough listening to her grandfather’s final wishes. It lent an air of finality to his passing; a confirmation of the end of his time on Earth.
“I have one final bequeath for my granddaughter, Annie Elizabeth Johnson,” Annie’s head snapped up at the mention of her name. She listened to the words intently. “Annie has always been a lover of the past and the mysteries that it holds. It is my desire that upon the death of my wife and I that Annie should inherit our family home. Inside this house many secrets and discoveries are left to be uncovered and Annie is the perfect person to decipher the mysteries it holds. In the event that Annie is not financially independent at the time of our death, a sum of $80,000 has been placed in an account to maintain the home. However, if at the time of our death’s Annie is capable of supporting herself and the home, the money is to be split evenly between Annie and her sister, Catherine Jane Johnson. In the event that Annie is not available to take care of the home or in the event of her death, the house and the funds are to be given to her sister, Catherin Jane Johnson.”
Annie sat in silence, shocked by the gift that she had been given. All eyes at the table were on her. She looked at each face, soaking in their reactions. Her parents’ faces reflected a mixture of admiration and pride and Ms. Tittle’s mouth had lifted into a faint smile. Her sister’s face was the complete opposite of everyone else. Catherine glared at her sister across the table. Her brown eyes burned with fury and rage. Her mouth was set into a grim line of anger. Annie glanced away from her.
“Well that is that,” Ms. Tittle declared. “Are there any questions?”
Annie sat in silence, still trying to absorb the enormity of what had just happened. She reflected over the words that her grandfather had put into the will. Secrets? Mysteries? Could he be talking about the coded letters she had found up in the attic? Were there other artifacts and treasures hidden in the house? All of a sudden Annie was eager to be left alone to explore. With great effort she tempered her excitement. A few minutes later Annie and her family were alone. Catherine stomped out of the room and up the stairs.
“Are you angry mom,” Annie questioned.
“Of course not dear. It’s not like we’ll never see this house again. It stayed in the family. That’s all that matters,” she replied, placing a reassuring hand on Annie’s shoulder.
“It couldn’t have gone to a better person,” her father stated.
“You know you’re always welcome here,” Annie declared emphatically.
“We know dear. We’re just glad you have some roots. And who knows what the old house holds. Why, you could make some history changing discovery right in this very home,” Alex stated.
Annie just nodded, her mind thinking of the folio hidden in her desk. “What about Catherine?”
“Oh she’ll get over it. She’ll be going off to school in a month. Besides, it’s not like she was left with nothing,” George replied. “Your mom and I will talk to her.”
Annie nodded. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to go lay down. All of this has been a little overwhelming.”
“Of course dear,” Alex replied.
“When are you all planning on leaving,” Annie inquired.
“Tomorrow morning. I have several appointments scheduled as well as a surgery to perform the day after tomorrow. Will you be okay here by yourself?”
“Yeah mom. I’ll be fine.”
“Okay. Go get some rest. You look exhausted.”
Annie nodded then climbed up the stairs to her room, closing the door behind her. She glanced over to her desk, contemplating on whether or not she should continue deciphering the letters. She decided against it. There would be plenty of time later, after her family left. For now she just wanted to be left alone with her thoughts.
Annie closed the blinds and curtains. She pulled on her iPod, selecting a relaxing playlist, then climbed into bed and fell asleep.
Catherine stomped into her room and slammed the door, fuming at the words she had just heard. How dare they! What made Annie so special? Annie was a self-righteous bitch as far as Catherine was concerned. Always perfect, always kind, always smart. She was the golden child as far as Catherine could interpret.
It’s not as if Catherine cared about the house. Sure it was nice, but she would be going off to college in South Carolina soon and she had little intent of returning often, if at all. No, the most infuriating part of the special bequeath was the virtually no-strings attached and immediate access to the $80,000 that had been left along with the house. Honestly, how could a house cost $80,000 to maintain? And why should Annie get that money while she had to wait four long years to get hers?
Catherine had been counting on immediate access to her inheritance so that she could permanently sever ties with her family. But no, she had to wait four long years. Her dreams of luxurious independence were dashed.
How could her grandparents do this to her? It was as if torturing her in life was not enough. No, they had to torture her in death too. Well, the torture had gone on long enough. As Ms. Tittle said in the will, if Annie could not maintain the house then it and the money would fall into Catherine’s hands. If she could find a way to get rid of her sainted older sister then she would be free. The question was, what would she do?
Catherine plopped down on the bed and calmed her raging temper. She had a few options. First, she could make Annie disappear. She quickly discarded that idea. If Annie were to simply disappear then her parents would no doubt hold out hope that she was alive and would dedicate their lives to searching for her. Furthermore, Annie’s disappearance would not give Catherine access to the money left behind. That would leave her in the same situation as she was in now. The second option would be to stage her sister’s suicide, even fabricate a note saying that with the death of her beloved grandfather, she could no longer go on living. No, that would not work either. No one would believe that Annie would willingly take her life. That left only one option: murdering her and staging it to look like an accident.
A maniacal smile curved Catherine’s lips. It was perfect. Annie swam all the time. She hadn’t been sleeping well lately. It would be easy to make people think that, in her exhaustion, she had misjudged a dive, hit her head, and drowned. It was the perfect solution.
Satisfied with her Annie free future, Catherine sat down on her bed and began formulating a plan. She would have to wait until her family left tomorrow. She would leave with them, then return, telling her parents that she was going to a friend’s house. It would be easy to get into the old house. She knew where the spare key was. Once she was in the rest would be simple.
With her plan complete, Catherine lay down in her bed and went to sleep. She needed her rest. This was going to take a lot of energy to pull off.