Wade and I were now inside Thornton hall, and were heading up the stairs.
When we reached the top, we saw Bess sitting motionless on my sleaping bag, her back facing us.
“Bess?” I said, reaching a hand out toward her.
Bess gave out a high-pitched squeak, and whirled around to face us.
“Oh Nancy, Thank goodness it’s you!” Then she saw Wade. “You must be Jessallyn’s…grandfather?”
Wade simply groaned.
I sat down beside Bess.
“Now, Bess, please try to calm down and tell me what happened.”
Bess told us about how Ned had disapeared, and how she had been here ever since.
“Oh no…Ned’s missing?”
“I was.” said a familiar voice.
We all immediatly looked out into the hallway, where the voice had come from.
“Ned?” Bess and I said in unison.
“The one and only.” He smiled.
The cheerful tone in his voice clashed with his somewhat dishevled appearance.
“Two questions.” Bess said. “What happened to you, and where did you come from?”
Ned gestured to the wall on his right. He showed us the passageway which he had come out of.
“That’s right! The passageway!” I said.
“To answer your “what happened to me” question…”
He moved aside as a woman stepped out of the passageway.
“Harper?” I said.
“What’s a Harper?!” Bess said. She was still quite shaken.
“She is!” Ned replied.
Bess was silent now.
OMGoodness! I couldn’t believe the sight in front of me.
Harper looked like the “before” picture in a shampoo commercial!
Seriously? What was it with Harper and kidnappings?
Anyway, I still needed to find Jessalyn and tell her about Charlotte’s letter. But, wait. Sure, Harper is crazy, but she was Charlotte’s sister. Maybe…I should tell her.
“Can I tell you something about…Charlotte?”
Harper looked surprised.
“What could you possibly know that I do not?”
“I know why Clara killed her.”
She didn’t know what to say – all she could do was stare at me. Finally, she spoke.
“What difference does it make?! My sister is dead and it’s all her fault!”
“But what if I told you that I knew what Charlotte wanted? What if I told you there’s a way you can help to carry out her final wishes?”
“…Well? What are they?”
I handed her the letters, which she quickly took from me and read. She read, and read, until she finally looked up and said:
“How can I help?”
We were now heading over to the crypt. According to Harper, that’s where Jessalyn was.
I was still unsure whether or not she’d even help us. But something in me told me that she’d be willing to, once we told her about Charlotte’s final wishes.
Harper was in the lead, and Ned and I were falling a little behind.
“Soooo, Ned. I guess you had an interesting meeting with Harper, huh?”
“Yeah. That’s one way of putting it.”
“You must think she’s a little crazy, right?”
“Well, yeah. But, at the same time, I kinda feel sorry for her. She lives in the basement, she has no one to trust, and her entire family thinks she’s insane.”
“Aw, Ned. You’re such a softie.”
“That explains the dent in my skull.” He replied jokingly.
By now we had reached the crypt. I stepped up to the door, took out my key, and unlocked it.
I opened the door, revealing the same old room, with the same old coffins, which contained the same old skeletons. How did I get to the point in my life where a crypt seems like a familiar location? Weird.
Sitting in the middle of the room was Jessalyn. She had a pencil in one hand and a piece of paper in the other.
“What are you doin’ Jessie?” Harper asked.
“Writing. A girls gotta have some way to occupy herself in a crypt…believe it or not, skeletons really aren’t very lively conversationalists.” She said, gesturing to the coffins on either side of her.
“I could’ve told you that.” Wade chuckled.
We all entered the crypt.
“Nancy, I can honestly say that this is definitely one of those times when I really wish I’d stayed home.” Bess said.
“It’s ok, Bess. Just try to focus on us.” I said.
But I could tell that this was not easy for Bess to do – especially at night.
“So, Nancy, any new developments?” Jessalyn asked.
“Well, yes. Something pretty big, actually. I opened the safe, and inside…”
I took Charlotte’s letters out of my bag.
“…Were these.” I continued, as I handed her the pieces of yellowed paper.
“You opened it?! Thank you so much Nancy! I’m so…” Her voice faded away as she read the letters.
“S-so, my mother really did kill Charlotte. the proof is right here in my hands.”
I stopped mid-sentance as the light suddenly went out – and we were stuck in complete darkness.
I could hear Bess’ worried breathing.
“What’s going on?” Wade said. No one knew, of course, but we were all still wondering the same thing.
“Why don’t you tell me?” Came a familiar voice, which echoed through the crypt.