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Chapter 1

The grinding roar of chainsaws ripped through the clearing on the third Saturday in February as workmen cut down the overgrown brush and trees surrounding the old summerhouse. A petite woman sat on the remnants of the mansion's concrete porch watching the men work.

Periodically, the puppy she had on a leash pulled and strained, trying to chase a limb the workmen tossed aside.

"Sherlock, sit," Trixie Belden ordered.

The dark brown and tan beagle mix tilted her head and looked at her mistress before turning in a circle and sitting.

"Good girl," Trixie praised as she turned her gaze back to the workers cutting away the overgrowth.

This Saturday morning the workers had been cutting the brush and limbs for almost three hours, trying to uncover the door and outer wall of the summerhouse at Ten Acres. The owner of the property and the love of Trixie's life, Jim Frayne, was overseeing the work being done while talking to the crew foreman. Trixie smiled happily as she admired her handsome guy. The sun broke through the clouds to shine on his deep auburn hair. As he pointed toward the summerhouse and spoke to his workers, his barn coat stretched across his broad shoulders. She sighed as her eyes traveled down to his narrow clad hips in well worn jeans.

Trixie's blue eyes darkened and softened as she continued to look at Jim. Reflecting that after eleven years of friendship, they had finally admitted to each other and everyone else that they loved one another. The past nine weeks had been full of shared fun and love for them. Their first Valentine's Day as a couple had been a romantic ride through the preserve, dinner and dancing. A contented sigh escaped Trixie's lips.

Sherlock's tug on the leash distracted Trixie from her musings. The puppy that she and Jim found at Ten Acres just after Christmas was nosing around the old foundation.

Standing, she gently pulled on the leash. "Come, Sherlock," she ordered as she walked toward Jim. Once at his side, she ran her hand over his back to let him know she was there. She listened quietly as Jim discussed the summerhouse and future house construction with their friend and crew foreman, Lester Mundy.

Silence fell on the clearing as the chainsaws stopped and everyone turned to look at the finally exposed structure.

No one spoke as they looked at what had once been a grand warm weather retreat and was now a sad ruin. The summerhouse had a slight tilt to its left and rotten wood along the northern side. A section of roof was gone and what remained was bowed and warped. The windows were all gone, victims of the bushes and trees poking holes in the structure trying to reclaim the place for the woods.

Trixie's eyes filled with tears. She placed her gloved hand in Jim's and squeezed it to let him know she understood his sorrow.

Glancing down at her with sad green eyes, Jim requested quietly, "Stay here for a minute, Shamus, while we get what's left of the door open and do a preliminary check from the doorway for unsavory occupants. Once we shine a light around and I know it's safe, you and I will go in and look together. OK?"

Trixie nodded her head, unable to speak.

The summerhouse held many memories for Jim and her. Jim had hidden there a few times when he came to Sleepyside while looking for his great-uncle and running from his evil step-father, Jonesy. He'd taken refuge there when Jonesy had set fire to the mansion and it had burned. When Jim left town to evade Jonesy, he left his Aunt Nell's diamond ring and a note for Trixie there as a thank you for helping him.

As Trixie watched Jim and Lester walk to the door, a single tear escaped from her eye. Wiping it away quickly so Jim wouldn't see, Trixie picked up Sherlock and cuddled her to her chest.

"I'm not sure we can save it," Trixie murmured sadly to the puppy as she scratched her ears.

Jim's steps slowed as he neared the decrepit building. I wish I would have thought to do something to save and protect it when Dad and Mother adopted me. Dad would have helped me keep it in good repair, Jim thought regretfully. I let it go too long.

Pulling the summerhouse key from his pocket, Jim moved beside Lester to look in the window frame beside the door. Birds' nests, leaves, twigs, broken glass, plaster from the ceiling and other debris littered the floor. Looking up, Jim saw what remained of the ceiling was bowing from the weight of the snow they'd had over the holidays.

Patting Jim on the shoulder, Lester said, "Jim, I don't think this old girl can be saved but we'll know better once we're inside. Let's open her up."

Jim smiled weakly and stepped to the doorway. The slight pressure of inserting the key in the lock caused the door to swing open. Taking hold of the handle of a rake Lester handed him, Jim turned to Trixie and called out, "Come on, Shamus. Let's have a look."

While Trixie made her way across the clearing, Jim requested quietly of Lester, "Give us a few minutes before you come in, please."

Lester nodded his head slightly before responding loudly, "You two look around for a minute while I get a crow bar." Handing a flashlight to Trixie as he passed her, he continued, "You probably won't need this but take it just in case."

Trixie joined Jim at the doorway and placed her hand with the flashlight around Jim's crooked elbow. Looking up into Jim's wet green eyes; she hugged his arm to her. "Jim, we just never thought about preserving it. I'm sorry," she said with tears overflowing her eyes again. "I wish we would have."

Wiping away her tears with his thumb, Jim caressed her cheek softly as he gazed into the depth of her blue eyes. "Trix, there are many bad memories associated with this summerhouse. Aunt Nell being bitten, me hiding from Jonesy and the fire; they were all bad." Jim squeezed her hand on his arm. "Lester doesn't really think it's salvageable but that's OK. You and I are starting a new life with each other. We need a new and strong foundation for us. A new summerhouse either here or elsewhere on the property will be a good thing." Placing a gentle kiss on her forehead, he smiled his crooked grin that melted her heart. "Come on, let's 'splore."

Laughing, Trixie held Sherlock close and stepped into the summerhouse. The laughter halted as they looked around and surveyed the decay of the structure. Jim used the rake to poke at the piles of debris and leaves to make sure there were no creatures in residence.

Once he was done checking for creatures, Trixie walked away from Jim and pressed at a rotten spot on the wall by the door with the toe of her boot. The wood disintegrated allowing her foot to go straight through to the outside.

She turned to see Jim using the rake handle to poke the remaining beams. Sawdust from decay rained down.

"Whoa, Jim, you probably shouldn't do that or the whole roof will come down," Lester remarked from near the doorway. "I'd hate to have to dig you out."

Jim leaned the rake against the east wall before placing his hands on his hips and looking around. He frowned as he advised, "Lester, I don't see that as a problem. Trixie and I have talked about it and we think you should just take it down to the ground."

Lester leaned carefully against the doorframe, crossing his arms across his chest. "I hate to say it but I have to agree with you, Jim. I hate to see the last tangible thing you had of the old Ten Acres go," Lester said sympathetically.

Jim straightened and said with conviction, "This is going to be a fresh start for Ten Acres and a beginning for me and Trixie." Glancing at Trixie and the loving smile she bestowed on him as she poked and prodded the wall with her hand and foot, Jim continued, "We're ready for the start."

An "ouch" and "yip" were heard from behind Jim as he talked to Lester. Turning, he expected to see Trixie sprawled on the floor after tripping over her own feet. Instead he saw Trixie sitting on the ground in front of a piece of paneling that had flipped out at a 45-degree angle from the wall. Trixie's booted foot was wedged tightly by the piece of paneling.

As Jim and Lester rushed to her side, Jim inquired, "Trixie, sweetie, are you OK?" Kneeling on either side of her; Lester worked to free her foot as Jim checked Trixie over. Since she hadn't answered him, Jim looked into her wide, startled eyes. "Trix?" he tried again.

Trixie pointed with her right arm as a squirming Sherlock escaped her left.

Jim turned to look and immediately plopped on his butt by Trixie, staring at the opening stunned by what he saw.

Lester finally moved the piece of paneling enough for him to free Trixie's trapped foot. Looking at Jim and Trixie's shocked faces, he asked, concerned, "Are you two OK? What's wrong?" When no answer came from the pair, Lester started to move in front of them and push the panel closed and out of the way.

"NO!" Jim and Trixie shouted together. Handing Lester Sherlock's leash, Trixie scrambled to her knees and grabbed the flashlight she had dropped when she fell. Turning it on and shining it behind the piece of paneling, Trixie's eyes widened in wonder before turning to send a brilliant, happy smile at Jim.

Jim's answering grin and bark of laughter made Lester look at him with concern. Jim gave Lester a reassuring look as he explained, "Lester, as you know, Trixie is a mystery magnet." He chuckled softly as he continued, "Well, my Shamus has found another secret compartment." Laughing, he reached out to hug her before gently moving her back from where she peered into the area behind the paneling.

"But, Jim," Trixie grumbled. "Let's get whatever this is out of here so we can find out what it is."

Tugging on his curl, Jim winked at his special girl before replying, "Baby, we'll get your treasure out in just a minute as soon as I can make the opening wider. Move back just a bit."

Once Trixie was out of the way, Jim positioned himself to swing the paneling open as wide as he could get it. Trixie, Lester and Sherlock all crowded around behind Jim to get a better look. The compartment was located in the south wall between two windows. The panel was three feet wide and four feet high. The inside was approximately eight inches deep and lined in discolored metal rusting out in the corners where the sides met the bottom.

Lester stood up and looked at the nearest window frame before spanning the window sill with his hand. "Well, I'll be damned," he said shaking his head as he turned back toward the opening. "I never would have noticed the extra thickness if Trixie hadn't popped open that panel with her foot." He knelt back down then took the flashlight from Trixie. "Let me hold the light while you two see what's in there," he directed as he positioned the light.

Trixie quivered with excitement as she looked at the contents of the compartment. There were three shelves inside containing two zippered binders, two medium sized boxes, a portfolio file and a tote bag.

Carefully, Trixie reached for the tote bag. The leather handles had dry-rotted and broke when she went to lift the bag from the shelf. She gently placed the cloth tote on the ground and unhooked the clasp, opening the tote and shining a light inside. The bright light scared the family of field mice that had taken up residence. Five mice shot out of the bag, startling the adults. Lester dropped Sherlock's leash, and the puppy, finding herself free, took off barking and chased after the mice.


"Sherlock, stop! Leave it!" Trixie commanded, regaining her focus and realizing the dog was loose. Sherlock, however, loved to chase things, tiddly frogs, her stuffed pheasant and random sticks. Objects that moved when she moved were more than the puppy could take. She didn't hesitate, didn't pause, she just shot through the rotten wood of the northern side of the summerhouse following the mice as they escaped. "Jim! Oh my gosh, stop her, she's going to get caught on something." Trixie stood up and followed Jim outside to try and catch the puppy.

When they reached the side of the summerhouse, Sherlock had somehow managed to wiggle through the brush and brambles and not get her collar or leash caught up in anything. She was calmly sitting on her rump, panting, and looking perplexed that her toys had disappeared. "Lose your new friends, Sherlock?" Jim asked, as he picked the puppy up to check her over, making sure she didn't get cut on her journey through the wall. "She's fine, Trix. But maybe we better collect up the things from the compartment and take them to the Manor House to examine. What do you think?"

Knowing that Lester and his crew would most likely be taking the remains of the summerhouse down and that would be difficult for Jim to see, she readily agreed. "That's probably a good idea. If we let her down again, who knows what Sherlock will find to chase."

They told Lester that they were going to get the items from the wall and take them home to look at them. Lester quickly found a box that would hold the items and he and Jim went back into the summerhouse to gather them.

"Lester, I know Trixie won't want to be here when you tear the summerhouse down, so we'll be at the Manor House if you need us," Jim told his old friend. "If you could pull this section out and keep it so we can take a good look at it later, I'd really appreciate it."

"Sure, Jim, no problem. Think you're good to go. I checked the tote out and it's critter free now. Let me know if Trixie finds another mystery in here, will you?" Lester handed the box containing the contents of the wall to Jim and followed him back out into the sunlight. "We should have this down to the foundation and cleaned up before we go home tonight."

Jim placed the box in the back of the SUV. "Thanks, Lester. I appreciate you and your crew making time to clear away the brush first. I knew it was a long shot that the summerhouse could be saved and a complete tear down would have been quicker." Jim stuck his hand out and shook Lester's. His eyes sorrowful, he clapped his left hand on Lester's shoulder. "It's sad to see the last piece of Ten Acres go."

"You're going to do good by Ten Acres, Jim. Your plans are amazing, making use of the land in the way they didn't years ago. It'll be something to see when we're finished," Lester said, walking with Jim back to Trixie and the puppy, where they stood looking down the hill toward Crabapple Farm.

"Moms always said they could see the summerhouse. You know, just after Brian was born they moved into Crabapple Farm; they used to come up here and visit with your Aunt Nell and Uncle James." Trixie sighed and leaned back into Jim as he wrapped his arms around her waist. "I wonder what would have happened if she hadn't died."

"We'll never know, Shamus. Things turn out the way they're meant to, I guess." Jim said, kissing her temple. "Let's get going so Lester and the guys can get to work, OK?"

Trixie turned in his arms and they sandwiched the puppy between them. She leaned up in his embrace and kissed him. "A man with a plan. I love it. Let's go. See you, Lester."

Jim took Trixie's right hand as she cradled the puppy like a football in the crook of her left arm. "How does she fall asleep so quickly?" Jim wondered aloud as Sherlock let out a little puppy snore. He opened the passenger door for Trixie and helped her into the vehicle. He walked around the SUV and climbed into the driver's seat. After buckling up, he started the engine and carefully drove away, lacing his fingers with Trixie's. Neither of them looked back as Lester and his crew began to tear down the structure of the summer house.

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Once they were back at the Manor House, they decided to look at the mysterious contents of the secret compartment in the den. Trixie settled Sherlock in the puppy basket Madeline Wheeler had purchased specially for her shortly after the New Year, knowing full well the dog would be a frequent visitor in her home. Maddie loved the little puppy but she couldn't wait for one of her children to get married and start a family. She figured Sherlock was a good start.

"Well, now that the mice have left, let's see what was in the tote," Trixie said with a smile as she sat down on the couch and Jim placed the box of items on the floor next to the coffee table. Trixie placed the faded plaid tote on the table and gingerly opened it, knowing there were no mice but still jittery. "Oh, Jim, I bet this was your Aunt Nell's knitting bag. The mice shredded all the wool up. Want to get me the trash can and I'll throw this mess away?" Trixie started to pull the chewed-up wool out of the bag as Jim brought over the trash can from the corner. She separated the knitting supplies from the destroyed blue wool. Once she had cleaned out the mess and placed various knitting needles on the table, she noticed a zippered side compartment. Trixie gently opened the zipper. "Look at this, Jim. It was inside the pocket."

Trixie handed Jim a tiny, delicate, and intricately made blue bootie. Jim held the handmade item in his palm, staring at it. "It's so small," Jim said with wonder.

"Babies come that way, Jim." Trixie said with a sweet smile, blushing, thinking about their babies. She looked down into the tote, making sure it was empty. Poking her finger through a hole in the corner, she said, "Here's how the mice got in."

"I wonder who Aunt Nell was making this for," Jim said softly, still looking intently at the small handcrafted footwear. He handed it back to Trixie. "Guess we'll never know." He picked up a knitting needle from the table and ran it through his fingers. "I think this is made of ivory."

"Most likely. It looks like your Aunt Nell was a talented knitter. She had quite a collection of needles, double-pointed knitting needles as well as crochet hooks." Trixie picked up needles and gathered them in a bundle. She looked over at Jim, who was sitting next to her with his mouth agape. "What? What's wrong?"

Jim shook his head from side to side and was smiling. "You know about knitting needles. Your Aunt Alicia would be proud," Jim told her, tucking her hair behind her ear and kissing her cheek. "What's next?"
        
She reached into the box on the floor and pulled out the two zippered portfolios, handing the larger one to Jim. She sat back and placed the smaller one on her lap and carefully unzipped the binder, revealing a photo album. Trixie turned the pages with extreme care. The photos were yellow with age and looked as though they could disintegrate at any second. Most of the black and white pictures showed people in old-fashioned clothing; men wearing boater hats and ladies in long skirts. She was enjoying flipping the pages when she realized that Jim had gone silent. She looked at the man she'd known since he was fifteen. She'd never seen him that pale. Trixie quickly set the photo album on the coffee table and turned toward Jim. "Sweetheart, what's wrong?"

"It's, it's my parent's." Jim was sitting transfixed; he couldn't look away from the color photo on the page. It was a young couple sitting on a glider. The man was broad shouldered, with wavy red hair and a mischievous smile. The woman was petite with shoulder-length blonde hair tucked into a wide headband. She was gazing up and laughing as if the man had said something that amused her. The man had his left arm around the woman's shoulders and his right hand was placed on her swollen belly. "And me," Jim said longingly.

Trixie snuggled closely to Jim to look at the photos. They turned the pages and watched as the seasons changed and the young couple was joined by a bundle in a blue blanket. "It's your Aunt Nell and Uncle James," Trixie whispered. The older couple was sitting holding a baby and smiling at the camera. Jim turned the page and Trixie was looking at a picture of her parents with a very young Brian. "It's taken at the farm. Moms said they would come down and visit before your aunt died. I only remember your uncle as the crazy old miser. He looks so happy in these pictures."

Sherlock broke the stillness of the room by waking up and padding over to Jim. She sat down and placed her paws on Jim's feet. This was Sherlock's way of telling them she had to go out. "I'll take her out. You stay and keep looking at these pictures." Trixie stood up and ran her hand through his hair, kissing him on his forehead.

Jim grabbed her hand and stopped her. He put the leather bound photo album on the table and stood up. He pulled her into a tight embrace and just held her there. After a few moments, he released her and looked down into her concerned blue eyes. "You found my parents. I only had a few school photos of my dad. Now I have my family. I love you, Beatrix."

Trixie reached up and wrapped her arms around Jim's neck, pulling him down to her into a passionate kiss, trying to express her tumbling emotions through the physical contact. "Jim, I adore and love you, but our puppy needs to go out, so I'm going to take care of that. But if you keep calling me Beatrix, I may have to hurt you," she said nipping his bottom lip before stepping away to clip the leash on Sherlock. "Come on, Sherlock, your daddy is spending time with his family."

"Hurry back," Jim called out as his girls left the den. He picked up the photo album again as he sat back down. He continued to flip through the photos, watching his aunt and uncle age slightly. Jim studied the photo of a young Helen Belden and saw many of the features he'd come to love. Trixie looks so much like her mother, Jim thought to himself.

One of the last photos in the album was of two young boys about three years old playing in a wading pool. One had black wavy hair and serious dark eyes. He was studying the other toddler as if he were trying to figure out what he was doing and why. The redheaded child was slapping the water and laughing as the water was spraying everywhere. Standing in the background of the photo were two couples talking. The men weren't much older than Jim was now and the women were standing close together as if sharing a secret. Jim's mother was touching Helen Belden's small baby bump.

The final photo in the album was one of his Aunt Nell sitting in the summerhouse in a rocking chair. Her knitting was in her lap and she was staring out the window, looking toward Crabapple Farm. She was in profile with a peaceful look on her face. Jim closed the album and put it on the coffee table. He shook his head at the thought that if Trixie hadn't been 'sploring' they might have lost these memories forever. He leaned across the couch and reached into the box to check out another mystery item. His hand touched one of the small boxes. He grasped it and sat back up.

Inside the box, Jim removed folded paper and looked inside. In the bottom of the box was a small bundle wrapped in a piece of silk. He unwrapped the bundle and found a delicate gold band engraved with flowers. Jim looked at the inside of the band and read the engraving, JWF~NGF 4/3/37. This was his Aunt Nell's wedding band. Jim wrapped the ring back up carefully and placed it in his pocket for safe keeping and unfolded the paper he had removed. It was a letter written in cramped tight script.


To whom it may concern,

I am writing this letter to explain why I have chosen to lock away all memories of my beloved Nell. I cannot go on without her.  She was taken from me in a most cowardly and craven way two months past.  No one was there for her when we needed them most and Nell was called home.  I cannot abide to have her cherished possessions around; therefore, I am sealing them in the wall compartment we used for storage in the summerhouse.  I have no need of these things as they will only bring me pain upon seeing them and a daily reminder that my beloved has been stripped from me.  I feel as though my heart was broken and my soul is gone from my body. I no longer wish to participate in this traitorous world. I will keep to myself, as no one was there for us in our hour of need; I am no longer having any requirement of anyone.  I will continue on this solitary path until it is my time and I can once again be joined with my adored.

Sincerely,

James Winthrop Frayne

Jim looked up as Trixie and Sherlock came into the den. "I've solved the mystery as to why this stuff was in the summerhouse," Jim said huskily, standing to hand Trixie the note. He unhooked the leash and got Sherlock's favorite Manor House toys out of the wicker basket in the corner.

"Wow, that's some letter. He was destroyed when your aunt died. How sad," Trixie said, folding the letter and handing it back to Jim. "Let's take a break. Want a snack? I can go get us something from Cook. It's my specialty when we're here." Trixie grinned trying to lighten the mood.

Jim placed the letter inside the photo album and stood up. "Let's both go. Then we can come back and go through the final boxes. They're probably just full of junk anyway."

"I don't know, Jim," Trixie said, taking his hand. "I think there's something mysterious in there."

"Shamus, you would think there's something mysterious in a box of cereal," Jim teased.

"Hey, if you grew up with Mart, you'd think disappearing cereal was mysterious, too!"

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Twenty minutes later, Jim and Trixie were back in the den cuddling on the couch. "I adore your specialty!" Jim said, kissing Trixie. "Umm, chocolate cake and spiced grape juice tastes good on you."

Trixie elbowed Jim in the side. "I'm supposed to be elegant and sophisticated. My boyfriend is the soon-to-be-headmaster of a fabulous boys' school."

"He's a very lucky guy," Jim said, nibbling on Trixie's neck. Trixie turned into Jim and moved herself on top of his lap, straddling him. She wrapped her arms around him and threaded her fingers in his hair, deepening the kiss. Jim ran his wide palms up Trixie's backside and under her royal blue fleece, loving the feel of her bare flesh against his hands.

The young couple was frozen in place by an "ahem" from the doorway. Trixie whispered in Jim's ear, "It's Miss Trask isn't it? Can I just die now, please?"

"So, are you two finding anything interesting in the items you found in the summerhouse?" Miss Trask asked with laughter in her voice. Trixie swung her leg over Jim's lap and sat down on the sofa, blushing furiously. She kept her head down and refused to look up at the kindly woman who had helped chaperone the Bob-Whites throughout their many adventures. "Trixie, you and Jim are adults and welcome to express yourselves anyway you choose. Just in the future, please remember you could always close the door," Miss Trask suggested with an amused smile.

"Umm, thanks for the recommendation, Miss Trask. We'll make sure to be more discrete next time," Jim continued with an embarrassed grin, remembering getting caught not too long ago in the stable by Regan. "We're sorry if we were upsetting to you. We know better, don't we, Trixie?" he asked, looking at her for agreement.

Trixie glanced at him with narrowed eyes and a smirk on her face. "Yeah, Miss Trask, we are sorry. We were just 'horsing' around," Trixie whispered to Jim. "That's how it went, right?"

Miss Trask wished them luck in their search. "Don't forget, you are welcome to stay for dinner. It will be served at six," she advised as she left them alone.

"We're getting good at this, oh, and at getting caught, too. We need to learn to lock the door," Jim reiterated, waggling his eyebrows at Trixie.

"Wait one minute there, Romeo. Half-time is over; we still have a few boxes to go through," Trixie said, putting a hand on Jim's chest. "Do you want to divide them and we each look at one or investigate together?"

Jim raised one ginger brow and leered at his girlfriend. "Together has a lot of possibilities." He reached out to pull Trixie back to his side but she slithered out of his grasp.

Trixie reached into the box next to the coffee table and pulled out the last paperboard box. "Put your hands around this, Frayne." She handed him the eight by ten box and sat down next to him to see what was inside. When Jim removed the top to the durable box, she leaned in closely.

Within the box they found a random collection of mementos. They pulled each one out and carefully set it on the table. Trixie picked up a pair of crocheted lace gloves made out of delicate blue silk. She placed them on her hands, comparing the petite size of the glove to her own hands. "Your Aunt Nell was very tiny, Jim," Trixie observed. "Even a small amount of poison from a copperhead would most likely have been fatal."

Jim found an old-fashioned hair comb set with blue, green and red stones in a floral pattern. "Do you think these are real?" he asked Trixie, handing it to her. Trixie took it and looked closely at the antique.

"I think this is celluloid and, if I'm right, they were usually rhinestones. But this one," Trixie said, reaching into the box to pick up a sterling hair pin, "I'd be willing to bet is real." The hair pin was approximately four inches long, u-shaped with a slight bends in each side. It was set in sterling with a single cream and taupe porcelain flower surrounded by a spray of diamonds to look like a blossom, antique silver leaves and cream freshwater pearls completed the fragile design. Jim took the hair pin from her and tucked it into her hair.

"Perfect."

The box also contained two leather-covered jeweler's boxes. One was long and narrow, as would typically hold a bracelet or watch and the other was larger and octagonal in shape. Jim slowly opened the first box and looked inside. Nestled in ivory silk was a platinum bracelet with delicate filigree work around a single square cut diamond sitting in the center of the bracelet, while two grass green emeralds accentuated the sides. "You were right, Trix, there really was treasure in the mansion all along. We just didn't look hard enough."

"Let's see what's in the other box," Trixie said as she pushed a tiny pearl catch to release the lid. It sprang up, revealing that the jeweler's box contained a sapphire and diamond choker. The stones were set in a wheat design along the chain with a central pendant of a marquis cut sapphire surrounded by diamonds in a sunburst.

"I have never seen anything so beautiful in my whole life," Trixie exclaimed. "It is so elegant and delicate. It is just stunning." After touching the stones reverently one last time, Trixie closed the box.

Remaining in the box were crumbs and dust, most likely the remains of a saved flower, as well as an old dance card. Inside, written in fine graceful script, were names of boys with whom Nell Grace Fitzgerald had once danced. Written on the card three times was James Winthrop Frayne. Trixie leaned her head on Jim's shoulder and sighed. "Oh, Jim, how sad to just seal up everything in the compartment and give up on living. Didn't your uncle realize that he had so much to live for?"

"My mom was kind of the same way, Trix. After dad died, she shut down and really wasn't herself. That's the only reason I can think of that she would ever agree to accept Jonesy," Jim explained. "What do we do with this stuff?" he asked, pointing towards the mementos of a courtship.

"Well, I think you should put the jewelry in a safe place and the other things like the gloves, comb and dance card…well, you might think this is weird, but I think we should ask Diana to do something with them, like make a shadow box," Trixie said, turning to look at Jim. "What do you think?"

Jim cradled Trixie's face in his hands and kissed her tenderly on the lips. "I think it's a perfectly perfect idea."

"One last portfolio to look at, Jim, and then we can lock the door," Trixie teased, winking at Jim.

"Bring it on. I should know you're not going to let it go until we look at everything. Too mysterious, right?" Jim took the portfolio from Trixie and untied the string. He reached inside and took out the papers, putting the empty portfolio on the floor. "Looks like all the legal documents we looked for years ago. Here's Aunt Nell's death certificate, their marriage license, and," unwrapping blue paper, "it's their last will and testament."

"Final mystery solved. Mr. Rainsford never did find the original will. It was in the summerhouse," she reflected. Trixie was startled by a 'thump' coming from under the coffee table. She leaned down to find Sherlock with her head inside the empty, now shredded, portfolio, shaking it from side to side. "I think my klutzy side is showing in our dog again," Trixie laughed.

Jim reached down and scooped up Sherlock, pulling the tattered portfolio away from the puppy and handing it to Trixie to throw away. She tossed it into the trashcan without another thought. There was a small clink that barely registered among the puppy yips and Jim's silly talking to Sherlock. The sound took hold in Trixie's brain and shot around her neurons, trying to get her attention. Finally it clicked.

"What was that?" Trixie wondered aloud and reached into the trash can. She rooted around until she found a piece of the portfolio. Taped to the portfolio was a small, unmarked, metal key. "I think this is a safe deposit box key, Jim." Trixie's blue eyes sparkled as she held her hand out to Jim with the key in her palm. "How mysterious!"

Laughing, Jim took the key from Trixie's palm to examine it. Kissing her sweetly on her lips, Jim said, "Baby, it sure looks like you do have a mystery. I think you should try to figure out what this fits. In the meantime, I'll contact Mr. Rainsford to see if there is anything we need to do with all these papers."

Sitting down next to Jim, Trixie looked at him with solemn blue eyes. Hesitantly, she said, "Sweetie, we need to take the pictures to someone who restores or can copy the pictures in the albums so they don't disintegrate any worse than they already have. I can check at work on Monday to see who can help us with that. I don't want you to lose them now that you have them."

Jim placed an arm around Trixie, pulling her against his side and setting Sherlock in his lap. He stroked Trixie's hair and then squeezed her shoulders. "Trix, I agree. I don't want them to get any more damaged. Dad should be home soon. We can go through everything with him and Mother after dinner. I want to share all the pictures with all of you. I wish Honey were home."

"Gleeps, Jim, Honey will be so excited. Maybe we can call her and tell her about it," Trixie said elatedly. Cuddling closer to his side, Trixie sighed, "I am just so happy you have something left of your family and a treasure from Ten Acres."

NEXT

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AUTHOR'S NOTES

Thank you to our editors, Pam, Mylee, Wendy, Bonnie and Donnis. {{hug}} Any errors belong to Jo and Jenny.

Special thanks to Bonnie. {{hug}}

Background and dividers are from All Free Backgrounds.

Header photo is of Jo's grandma.