“Julia dear, come quick! Your breakfast is getting cold.” Anne stood straight as though there was a ruler in her back, her dark, opal blue eyes glimmering. She set down a stacked plate of four golden pancakes paired with fruits and syrup as her sister cascaded down the stairs. She, too, was standing tall and straight and had blue eyes, though hers were somewhat lighter in color. They both inherited that feature from their parents, who had died in a motorcar crash. Now it was just them, their older brother George, and their Aunt Delia.
“I’m here now,” she said as she took a seat at the dining table. “Good morning.” She said, glancing at each member with an artificial smile plastered to her face. It was a reflex they had all built over the years. Oddly enough, today, their Aunt wasn’t like that. She seemed to be anxious, her thin shoulders a bit hunched. The family began to neatly and quietly eat their meals until a resounding knock on their front door made Delia jump, the clattering of her fork reverberating against the cream tiled floor.
George rose from his chair and, picking up his aunt’s stray utensil, said, “I’ll get the door,” and walked across their living room, opening the door to a man in a light coffee-colored sweater vest and a matching hat atop his graying head.
“Good morning, sir. What can I do for you?” George inquired at the man, smiling.
He hesitated. “I work at Edgewood State Hospital, and I am upset to inform you that… your grandmother passed late last afternoon. She was incredibly ill. I’m sorry.”
“My… grandmother?” George still bore the same feigned smile, but rather, with a trace of confusion.
“Yes,” the man responded, his voice soaked in sympathy. “She was overcome with a terminal illness and battled for so many months.” He took the hat off and held it in his hands, head hung down, so that his thin, gray hairs were exposed, shining like silver in the sunlight. “We shall give you and your family time to grieve, but know that she left you an inheritance in her will. Two hundred dollars each. You may go to the bank soon and collect it if you’d like.” There was a pause, and the man bid George farewell, leaving him alone at the doorstep.
“Who was there? Come back inside George, it’s getting much too warm for you to stay out in the sun for too long.” Anne demanded softly.
George shut the door, perplexed, but still maintained his smile. “Oh, it wasn’t anything of importance. Just a man coming to announce some news.”
“What news would there be to tell us?” Aunt Delia asked, fidgeting with her pearl necklace.
He was hesitant to speak and kept pausing to gulp as if there was a piece of food wedged in his throat. “Well, you see… our… grandmother passed away. The man told me that we had gotten some sort of inheritance. We each have two hundred dollars.”
“Grandmother? Why, you don’t have a grandmother, darling. Come now, sit and finish your food.” Aunt Delia responded rather quickly and laughed, but one of unease.
They consumed the rest of their breakfast in silence, the warm, luminescent sunlight filling their entire mansion.
“George, I think you ought to go and collect the inheritance at the bank soon,” Aunt Delia said the following day.
“Auntie, please, don’t be so naive,” Anne interjected. She walked over to stand in front of her aunt, her hands perched on her hips. “the man could have been lying to us. It could be a fraud, and you had said it yourself, we don’t have a grandmother!”
Her aunt kneeled to her niece’s height and grasped her shoulders sweetly, her voice coated in honey. “Darling, listen to me. I understand why you are skeptical, for you always are, but is there any harm in trying?”
“There could be,” Anne maintained a firm look, but her words softened, unfazed by her aunt’s typical method of sugarcoating her words to manipulate. “You’d best not go, George. It’s dangerous.”
“Alright, Aunt Delia, I’ll go early tomorrow morning if you two would just stop fighting!” George interrupted as the pair settled down. “But if I sense something is wrong like Anne says, I’ll go straight home.”
When George arrived at the bank the next morning, it was half-past nine.
“Good morning, sir,” he said to a man wearing a light blue shirt at the front desk. He ripped a sheet of paper from the checkbook and filled out his required information. Once he had finished, he handed it to the man.
He scanned the slip of paper and in return, gave George a typewritten record of his aunt’s account history.
George’s brows furrowed as he traveled down the list. Odd, he thought, no one’s made a recent deposit.
Seeing as there was no use in going to the bank, George went home, meeting Anne at the door.
“Did you find anything?”
“There was nothing. You were right.”
She whirled around to face her aunt. “See? The man lied.”
Delia sighed and walked away. “Okay, darling, you were right.”
Julia waited until her aunt had left the room to pull both siblings together. “What if Aunt Delia is hiding something from us?”
Anne rolled her eyes at her sister. “Don’t be silly, Julia.”
“Well, I think we should consider it.”
“Oh, please, our aunt isn’t a madman,” Anne replied with an accusatory tone.
“But what if she is? When George told us about… the grandmother, she seemed nervous! Is that not strange to you?”
“Stop it,” George mumbled. He hated fights.
Anne paused, ignoring her brother’s request. “Well, I think we should trust our Aunt,” she said forcefully.
Julia scoffed. “Alright, if you won’t hear my opinion, I’ll find out by myself!” She stormed off to her aunt’s bedroom.
Why won’t they let me have a say? My ideas are just as good as anyone else’s. She thought as she closed the bedroom door, careful not to make a sound.
She sat down on her aunt’s bed. I don’t need them. I’ll find what our aunt is hiding by myself.
She sat idly for a minute and scanned the room until she laid eyes on the closet. She rummaged through her aunt’s things but found nothing that could have been used as evidence there. She searched underneath her bed, in her vanity and her dresser, but found nothing.
Julia sighed and sat on the bed. I’ve been searching for thirty minutes, yet I’ve found nothing. Anne was right again. She was beginning to exit the room to tell Anne she had given up when she heard a small creak from one of the floorboards.
Julia paused. She managed to find it: the board had been marked with a thin scrape in the wood. She pried it open with a screwdriver she had found in her aunt's drawers.
Why is Julia taking so long? Anne thought as she talked with her aunt to stop her from heading to her room. If Auntie goes upstairs, Julia’s going to be in trouble. Oh, please, hurry up, Julia! I can’t keep this up any longer!
“George, why don’t you go upstairs to check on Julia? I think she’s in her room.” She said, turning to her brother anxiously.
Understanding his sister’s appeal, he replied, “Of course, I’ll call her down for dinner,” and went to Delia’s room.
“Julia, come downstairs. Dinner is ready,” he said, opening the door.
Julia was kneeling on the floor, a sheet of paper in her hand. “It’s… a will,” she said quietly.
George shut the door and kneeled beside her. “Our grandmother’s will?”
“I suppose so,” she replied, her eyes glued to her name, next to it, the number two hundred.
“Two hundred dollars…” George murmured, revisiting his conversation with the man two days prior. "We should tell Anne. Later, of course," he added nimbly.
"Yes, perhaps when Auntie goes to sleep. I'm keeping this for now." Julia replied, her voice dull.
"Hurry," the pair heard Anne shout from the floor below. "your food is getting cold,"
They quickly replaced the floorboard and rushed downstairs to eat their dinner.
"Anne!" George whispered from Julia's bedroom, an oil lamp illuminated at her desk. "Come here, make sure that Auntie is asleep."
"What's wrong?" She asked, walking over to stand in front of her siblings. She paused as she realized what had happened. "Julia, you found something, didn't you?"
Her sister nodded lamentably. "George and I think we found our grandmother's will."
Anne took the paper, scanning it underneath the glow of the lamp. She noticed faint writing on the opposite side and turned it over. She grew pale and stiffened. "Look at this..." she said, feeling as if all the air had escaped from her lungs.
"Kill Delia Robinson," Julia read aloud. She faltered and emitted a short cry, putting her hand over her mouth.
"That's why... that's why she hid it," George swallowed.
"We shouldn't do this anymore. Please, just put it away and forget it ever happened-" Julia pleaded, her lips quivering.
"No? George, are you insane?" Anne hissed, her expression distorted.
"I'll explain later, just get some rest. Please."
Anne and George headed to their rooms without a word when they heard a thud coming from their aunt's room that made the two stop in their tracks.
Their aunt emerged from her bedroom, holding what seemed to be a knife in hand.
The children's chests contracted, their hearts pounding like the fast beat of a drum.
"You... you found it," Delia staggered across the hall. "I'm so sorry that I have to do this, children, I truly am. If only you hadn't found the damn will," She was aggressive; they had never seen her in such a state. She stepped towards George. "I love you, darling," she said, but it wasn't sweet.
Towering over her nephew, she raised her arm, but a small gasp left her body. She fell limp to the ground, Julia holding the screwdriver she used to open the floorboards.
There was a long moment of silence. "What did I do...?" Julia whimpered. “Auntie, I’m so sorry...” The screwdriver fell from her hands, and she fainted next to the body that lay dormant on the ground.