On the outskirts of Nottingham, England, there resides a very peculiar man of great ancestral wealth and prestige. Sir George William Oxley III, of the great Oxley Estate. The Oxley family has called that land home for 6 generations. Sir George’s wife, Elanor, beloved by many, passed away 15 years ago. She was the only one who would entertain Sir George’s stories of great mystery and folklore. Only his children, George II and Elizabeth are all who remain of his family. His children would rather not have to deal with their father and his infatuation with the bedtime stories of their childhood. Sir George’s children moved on with their lives and left the family estate long ago. Leaving him with the servants and alone with his thoughts. The head butler and old family friend, Baxton, noticed a decline in Sir George’s health and mental state. Baxton wrote to George II to inform him of his father’s condition and his concern for him. George wrote back to say, “Dear Baxton, please hire someone of known skill to tend to father daily. Whatever you need, I will provide. Baxton, only write to me again when he is nearing the end so that Elizabeth and I can handle all affairs. Sincerely, George.” After reading George’s response, he became heavy-hearted—saddened to see Sir George regarded in such a way by his own children. He thought to himself, “Lady Elanor would have never allowed such cold-heartedness to grow into this detestable treatment of their own father”. Reluctantly, Baxton wrote to the very renowned West Bridgford Mental Institution advising of the need for a skilled nurse prepared for daily assistance.
There was a kind young woman named Ms. Abigail Hamilton, who worked at West Bridgford as a transition nurse. Her job was to be with the elderly and care for them until passing. Just last summer, Abigail’s father passed away and since then she has been in mourning. Dr. Hemsworth, head of the institution, visited dear Abigail to advise her of a special assignment at the Oxley Estate. He pleaded with her as she was the best transition nurse they have had on staff. He went on to share how Sir George’s children want nothing to do with him in his current state. Nevertheless, Abigail declined, but just as Dr. Hemsworth was leaving her home, she stopped him. “Wait doctor…” she said as she sighed. “… I’ll do it. I’ll go”. Dr. Hemsworth walked back to the doorway where she was, smiled, and said, “This will be good for you, trust me”. She thought to herself, “Abigail, what are you doing!”
Two years into caring for Sir George, she grew quite fond of him. She learned his ways and thought it harmless to entertain his tales of treasure and the great mystery of centuries passed. Sir George addressed Abigail as Abby for short and when he was mad at her, he would call her Abigail. Such a kind old man. They would play chess and Piquet faithfully—every day, in fact. You see… the only way that she could get Sir George to take his medicine was if she played a game with him first. Sir George grew more and more stubborn, but Abby could never get angry with him. Abby soon inquired to have her own living quarters to be near Sir George. His health was beginning to a turn for the worse and with that, the delusions of grandeur. He became irritable and sometimes it did not matter if she offered to play a game with him, he would refuse his medicine.
In the Spring of 1909, his health dwindled to the point of grave concern. Any moment Sir George could pass on—at any moment they will no longer have each other. Abby’s spirits declined, as she couldn’t bear to see him slowly wither away right before her eyes. Abigail saw him as a father, so watching yet another father die right before her eyes was unbearable. She knew it was time to inform his children of his condition so that they can have their last goodbye. She wrote to both George II and Elizabeth pleading with them to please come as the time draws nigh. They never wrote back. Abby went to Baxton in tears to inquire why the children are so cold towards their father. Baxton explained to her that since the passing of their mother, things between the children and Sir George have never been loving or understanding. Sir George wanted his son to go off on wild adventures to find the treasure and keep the “secrets” he keeps babbling on about. She became saddened at this and vowed to never allow Sir George to die alone.
On one chilled September morning, Abby was sleeping on the window seat in his chambers when he called out to her, “Abby? My Abby!” She, disoriented for a moment, with haste, got up. The blanket she covered herself with while sleeping wrapped around her ankles, causing her to trip and misstep the entire way to the bedside of Sir George. She answered, “Yes. I’m here! I’m here!” He smiles, and asks, “Do you know of the hidden treasures?” She replies, “Yes, yes I do. You told me of these stories re-remember?” He yells, “No! No! No! It’s the book! It’s in the black book…” He went on mumbling, not making any sense. Filled with great sadness, she thought to herself that he must be very close to the end. She felt it best to entertain him so as not to further upset him. She says, “Why don’t you tell me of this black book”. Sir George grabs her arm and tells her, “All the secrets are in the book. Only the just, only the kind-hearted may know…” He stops to point his frail finger to her heart and kept saying “kind-heart” until He stumbled over his words while his eyes began looking off into the distance. Abigail rushes up from his bedside with her back towards him so he could not see her weep. She says with tears in her eyes, “Please Sir George, don’t leave me!” With a low trembling voice, he says, “Abby, dearest child. Come.” She came back to his bedside. His hand shaking struggling to lift from his side, he reaches out to her, “Dear Abby, you are the daughter I never—never had” he said smiling. “You are as a father to me”. Tears flow from her eyes as she takes his hand, kisses it, and presses it against her cheek. Sir George, with the other hand, tried his best to lift his arm as high as he could to point towards a painting in the far right of the room. Abby gets up to see what it was he wanted. She looked back at him for further instructions. But he just keeps trying to point to the painting. Finally, she looked behind the painting to discover a small rectangular-shaped object wrapped in brown paper tied to the back. She untied it and yelled, “Got it, Sir George! See, I…” She turned to him only to see that Sir George has passed away. In disbelief and shock, she dropped the package she found, fell to her knees, and wept. The entire household felt the heaviness of his passing. Abigail locked herself in her room for days, refusing to eat. The only instruction she gave was to inform Sir George’s children.
On the day of the reading of Sir George’s will, the children arrived to hear what he passed down to them. Abby was furious! She couldn’t stand to be in their presence knowing how they despised their father. Abby was packed and ready to go back home. As she was leaving the Estate, the lawyer for the reading of the will, stopped her and asked, “Are you the caretaker, Ms. Abigail Hamilton”? She responded, “Why yes, I am”. “May you please join us in the calling room”? The children, confused just as much as Abby, quietly waited for the lawyer to begin. The children steamed with pride as they knew of the riches they were about to receive. “I, Sir George William Oxley III being of sound mind and body, do here inscribe the terms of my last will in testament. First, ownership of the Oxley Estate will belong to my dearest caretaker, Abigail Hamilton”. The children abruptly stood up from their seats in utter rage and disbelief. George II yelled, “Impossible! She is just the caretaker! We’ve known you since our youth, Mr. Aleridge. Surely this must be a mistake!” Abby, fueled with anger, proclaims, “Why does it matter to you both? You cared nothing for him!” The lawyer asks them to please settle down, as there is more to read. They look angrily with disgust towards Abby as they all settle down. “To my dear friend, Baxton Hartfield, I leave the house in Leicester”. Baxton, filled with gratitude, stood silently. The children filled with much anger and resentment at this point. George II says, angrily, “Carry on! Dear God”! “A forth of my assets…” The children sit up with excitement as they know this is where they hear what they came for. “… I give to the Church of Her Lady Margret. The rest I give to Abigail Hamilton”. The children, stuck in utter disbelief, confused and with great rage, stood and accused Abigail of taking advantage of their father and coercing him to remove them from the will out of spite. The lawyer interrupts their bickering to inform them, “I can say with all surety, that Sir George of sound mind and of his own volition, came to me with these amendments. I am sorry. I will see my way out”. They continued to go on about yelling and refusing to stand for what they just encountered. Abigail swiftly walked out of the room to see the lawyer out. She asks, “Mr. Aleridge I agree with them. I must know, was he truly of sound mind? He would go on and on about these fairytales…” He stops her, “Ms. Hamilton, Sir George was a dear friend, and he spoke of you as if you were his own daughter.” He walks to his motor car, “Oh and I wouldn’t dismiss his stories just yet,” he says as he enters his car. Abby was astonished by his statement, “Wait! What do you mean? Wait!” she yelled as he drove away.
A week later, in the Oxley Estate, she sat in the calling room and finally opened the package she found on the back of the painting. To her surprise, it was a little black leather bond book, just as he said. She held it close to her, plopped down on the sofa, and became very sad. Poor Abby cried herself to sleep. Hours later, there was an abrupt knock at the door. Frightened, she answered the door to a package with no one in sight. She picks it up and closes the door. She unravels the package and inside is €20,000 and a note that reads, “Dearest Abby, you will need this to do what I ask. Let the ink-covered slabs, help you complete your task. Now, your next clue awaits. The time is now! Move with haste!” She yells out, “What is happening!” She puts her hand on her chest and shakes her head in utter confusion, chuckles, and mumbles under her breath, “You crazy, old man. What have you done?” Then she read the riddle again. “…ink-covered slabs. What are ink-covered”. Abby snaps her fingers, and with great determination runs over to the little black book on the coffee table and says, “It must be this! It has to be!” As she opens the book, a folded up ancient piece of parchment fell from the pages of the book. She slowly kneels down, carefully unfolds it and gasps, “It can’t be. It’s—it’s a…”. Could it be that the stories Sir Oxley told for all those years be true? Abby, filled with much excitement and quite confounded, whispered, “It’s a map! But what kind of map is this?” She carefully examined the map to determine what country or region it represented, but the names were very unfamiliar to anyone who has gone to university. Abby knew her questions could not be answered in Nottingham. The oldest and most respected institution was the University of Bologna in Italy, she thought, they can surely help. She ran up to her courters in excitement and began to pack. It was time-time to forsake all fear and uncertainty and press towards the unknown!
Loud chatter fills the station as everyone waits to board the train to Ireland. Standing amongst the hustle and bustle of the crowd, which Abigail hates, she can hardly notice as she is filled with much excitement. “All aboard!” the conductor proclaimed. “Well Abigail, last chance to change your mind”, she said to herself as she looked back towards the exit. She took a deep breath, “This is for you, dearest Oxley”, she said quietly as she boarded the train, ready to take on this wild adventure! Deep in the crowd of passengers boarding the train was a presence—a sinister presence, lurking, and watching. Abigail, while taking her first step into the car, she stopped as she felt chills run up her spine. She could feel something was wrong as if someone was watching her. She quickly turns around to see if she can spot anyone looking suspiciously towards her but its too many people boarding. Abigail shrugged it off and convinced herself its just nerves. She is then escorted to her cabin to put her things away. She takes a deep breath and tilts her head back on the seating. All she can think about is how her dear Sir Oxley is never coming back. She pulls out of her pocket the little black book and began to read the first page. “I, Sir Oxley, have discovered…” Suddenly, a knock at the door and folded paper slid underneath her cabin door. “Oh my!” Abigail exclaimed, “Is anyone there?” she asked, but no one responded. Terrified, she rose and knelt down to pick up the folded piece of paper. She unfolded it, began to read what was inscribed, and gasp in fear. She clutched the scarf loosely tied about her neck, trembled, and found it hard to gain her balance. “If you want to live, leave your cabin now!” the note read. Abigail couldn’t believe what she read let alone that anyone would want to harm her. She did not come from a prominent family, nor involved in politics. She couldn’t understand what anyone could be after her for. Then it dawned on her and she whispered sharply, “Good Lord! The map!” She pulled the map from a compartment in her dress contemplating whether this journey she embarked on was worth risking her life. As the train bounced and rocked, she held on to the luggage hold above her seating. She looked out the window watching the forestry zoom past from viewing. "Dearest Oxley, what would you have me do?" she asked knowing no answer will come in return. Abigail has never been outside of Nottingham. She has never seen the world let alone anything worth seeing or experiencing. She thought, "am I capable? Can I, indeed do something so dangerous?" Abigail quickly stood firm in her car, put the map back in the book, and returned it to her dress pocket. "Right then," she as she opened her carry-on luggage and only chose essentials to put into the smallest luggage for easier transport if she had to run for her life. The trainman approached her car door, knocked, and announced that we will be arriving in Bologna, Italy soon. She took a deep breath, stood firm, and nodded to herself. The train began to slow down to a stop. She held on to the side of car, breathing a little heavier than normal. When she opens her car door, will they be waiting for her? Was the threat real or used to scare her? She cleared her throat, held her head up high, put her hand on the latch as the train stopped, opened the door, and quickly left the car to find the exit off of the train. She walked briskly through the crowd, frequently looking over her shoulder. Her heart is racing! Regret, excitement, fear, so many emotions passed through her while she raced to be clear of the threat. Then suddenly someone snatched her in between two adjacent walls and covered her mouth and whispered, "You must keep quiet if you want to live." She thought to herself while struggling to break free and trying to scream for her life, how she will get out of this! Was this the assailant or someone who did not mean her any harm? He whispered again and said, "I know Sir Oxley. Please you must trust me! I am here to help you." Abigail stopped struggling and turned to look up at him and thought, "I just had to leave the mansion." He released his hand from covering her mouth. She whispered, "Right, then. What's next...?" She left her question asking for his name. He obliged her unspoken request and answered, "Iain. Iain Gilleasbuig. At your service."