You wanted it, you got it (just don't ask for a third! Haha). I think I've come up with a sequel that will not only be as fun, exciting, and adventurous as Another Clue, but maybe more. I've done tons of research to make this story historically accurate and enjoyable just like I did for Another Clue, and I've created another treasure hunt I know most of you will be intrigued to follow. Not just the treasure hunting, but the characters as well, are much more involved. I look forward to keeping you all on the edge of your seats, and you can expect this to be a quality story. Also note that Book of Secrets won't be referenced to too much, but in my universe it falls after National Treasure (obviously) and before Another Clue. I definitely suggest that if you haven't read Another Clue yet that you do it first or it'll be hard to follow this. Thanks again for locking me in a closet til I wrote this, lol. Updates may take some time though; I am a college student with a part-time job after all. Please leave a review if you loved it, hated it, have a question, or want to criticize – I respond to all my reviewers. It's only nice. Well, go on. Go read. I've kept you in suspense long enough.
Also check out the trailer for this story on YouTube! Link in my profile!
Dis/Claimer – You know what I own and what I don't. You can hug my characters and my plot, just don't kidnap them. I own nothing from/ related to National Treasure. Thank you.
x x x
. Prologue .
The dark stretch of road seemed endless in all directions. She sat under a single purple-blue light in the bus stop blind with anger, her muddy legs stretched out on the plastic blue bench aching somewhat. The rain picked up, and she pushed her things under the bench to better shelter them, including a canvas primitively protected by a thin garbage bag. The young woman twisted her damp hair, tucked it into the back of her jacket, and pulled the hood over her head. The rain pounded loudly off the flimsy aluminum roof above her while slapping into the glass violently. Her body was demanding rest, so she leaned her head to the glass and closed her eyes.
Some time passed. More rain fell. No bus had yet come.
She decided to try and walk further into the city when the rain let up a little, whenever that time came to pass. At least there was no thunder or lightning or hail – just rain. Carefully, she leaned over the bench to check on her things, adjusting the black trash bag around her latest unfinished oil painting. Her bag of secondhand supplies was fine, and so was the suitcase that had been roughly filled with any and all food and clothes that would fit. The blowing rain had reached them but not too much.
As she sat up, ready to ease her head back onto the cold glass again, her eyes caught sight of a set of headlights. They were not approaching alarmingly fast, but they grew brighter and bigger relatively quickly. A familiarity suddenly befell her, and she turned her head away rigidly but to no avail. The car slowed to a stop right in front of the tiny bus stop, its windshield wipers moving furiously back and forth. She glared over at the dark interior of the car, and the passenger window rolled down. Ultimately, she rolled her eyes and got up stubbornly, wrapping her arms around herself as she walked into the downpour and crouched before the window.
"What?" she yelled over the rain.
The man behind the steering wheel in his late twenties just looked at her. His silence intensified her scorn.
"I'm not trying to get you to come back," he said loudly, overriding her. "In all honesty, I'm as happy as a lark you've decided to up and go. I'm actually here to extend you a ride to the airport and pay your way to wherever your little heart desires to go. The farther, the better in my opinion."
The girl's lip curled as she made a sound of disgust. "Yeah, I bet Mum and Dad would love that. They tell you to do this?"
"No, I am the schemer of it," he assured her. "They probably don't even know I've gone. Pretty bold to make such a fiasco in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner," he then commented. "I don't even think I would've done it-"
"Why do you want to take me the airport?" she asked abruptly.
" I… thought it might be a nice parting gift for the both of us. Put all the distance between us as fast as possible. Eighteen… time to be out on your own anyway. I actually thought you'd leave sooner than this."
Her hard stare was softening somewhat as he met her eyes, but she kept her suspicions about her. "Why would I accept anything from you?"
"We both want it, Carolyn," he said, striking the truth within her. "You and I, we want this to end as soon as possible. A plane ticket is a small price to pay to make everyone happy, and I'm willing to do it."
She looked at the wet pavement in thought. The rain soaked through to her skin with driving force, but her mind was occupied more with a golden opportunity at the freedom she was out to obtain. Slowly she looked back up, eyes narrowed in defense.
"You'll pay for any flight? No questions asked?"
He nodded resolutely. "No questions asked."
She nodded as well and drew deep eye contact with him. Time to see if her bargaining skills were up to par, not that she had really ever practiced them.
"You're only going to drop me off at the terminal. No following me."
"Wouldn't dream of it."
" And since they're probably going to close off my bank account before I can get to an ATM, I get a flat one thousand," she stated sternly. "Covers my flight, food, room, and the rest is because you're a greedy self-righteous prick."
He gave a short laugh. "The rest is because you'll need it." She began shooting daggers with her eyes at that point, but he still wore a smile. "I'll give you another 500 on top of that just for the 'self-righteous prick' line. So come on." He opened the passenger door. "In."
Carolyn inwardly debated whether or not she was about to do the right thing as she stared at the car door; the voice of reason was drowning in her want to get as far away from them as possible. She hadn't exactly been listening to that voice for a while, though. She had been listening to herself.
And it was finally getting her somewhere.
Regrettably (though filled with anticipation), Carolyn walked back over to the bus stop and collected her things, throwing them in the backseat of the car. She got in and slammed the door shut with his eyes on her the whole time, but she never looked over at him. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction.
"All these years and you're finally doing something nice for me," she commented as they drove away from the bus stop.
"What are big brothers for?"
Carolyn made a sound of repulsion at his snarky reply.
"…and drive and drive. How much farther is this place?"
Carolyn sucked in a deep breath, pulling herself back into the present. Her eyes glanced up as she drove by the very bus stop she had sat in over ten years ago. Ten years had not shown it much care. Her heart gave a pang at the private memory as Riley's voice pushed it away.
"W-What?" she stammered.
"How much farther? It's getting late and we still have to drive back."
Carolyn took a deep breath to calm her darting eyes and anxious heartbeat, taking in her surroundings again. The fast-moving pavement was dry, much smoother than she remembered. It was as dark as the last time she had been here, and the air smelled exactly the same except colder. Nothing had changed, not even her uneasiness.
"Um…" She glanced at the clock on the radio (11:33!). "About ten more minutes," she said, hoping her memory served well. "There's a fork up here and then a straight road that will take us to the house. It's not much further."
Her fiancé didn't comment aloud; he had been quiet for most of the trip. Carolyn glanced over at Riley sympathetically as he yawned. His hair was still a groggy mess even in the dark, and he wore his jeans and hooded sweatshirt under a heavy coat. It was what he tended to wear when not dealing with the more numerous newspaper and TV specials now focusing on their recent escapade of Oak Island; she knew he got sick of the suits, ties, and cameras sometimes. He was simply a normal person sitting next to her right now, though. The sleepy, whiny, sarcastic, underestimated tech-savvy geek she had unexpectedly come to love.
She smiled inwardly. Super Geek…
Riley yawned again, tilting his head back into the headrest. Carolyn had an idea to possibly make up for dragging him out here at all hours of the night, but she knew he'd never agree to it given the circumstances. Though it was a hopeless endeavor, Carolyn struck up conversation as painlessly as possible.
"I know you're really tired," she began innocently.
Riley huffed out a hollow laugh. "Nail on the head."
"I also know you're… less than enthusiastic about the house," – Riley's second laugh reflected it fully – "but we could-"
"Ooooh no," Riley interjected, sitting up in his seat more. "I know where you're going with this. I am not sleeping in any bed Ian slept in. I'd rather drive the hour and a half back."
Carolyn sighed, trying not to be impatient. "You'll be sleeping in it next week anyway," she reminded him much to his displeasure. "Besides, we can sleep in my old bed for the night if it's still there. Or on the sofa. It's just an empty house now, Riley. It's big, it's nice, it's fully furnished, secluded-"
"It's Ian's," he stressed lowly.
"It's mine," she countered.
Riley mumbled something Carolyn could not make out.
"I will never be happy here."
She couldn't help but giggle at his childish behavior. "You haven't even given it a chance yet."
"Yeah, well I gave your brother a chance once, and we didn't exactly hit it off. He was always trying to kill me? Who's to say his house won't do the same thing?"
"Like I could sucked into a wall or fall through a trap door-"
"Riley! Are you listening to yourself?" she laughed. "This is not a haunted house. I promise."
"Haunted or not-"
"Alright! Alright, calm down," she said, taking his hand. "I understand. You don't want to live here forever, and we don't have to. But we have less than two weeks before the wedding, and we need to move out of the manor before that unless you really want to spend your wedding night there."
"We're spending our wedding night on a cruise ship to Barbados," Riley reminded her. "A nice big ship for five nights, then a week on the island, then five nights back! Just two more weeks and we actually get to go there instead of looking at tiny pictures in brochures and on websites!"
"God, I can't wait that long-"
"The house, Riley," Carolyn said evenly.
He sighed, rubbing his hands over his face. His attempt to revert to honeymoon talk had been a miserable failure, and he didn't know why. It worked all the time! She was just being too persistent about something she really wanted. He decided some time ago he could love her even more without this domineering trait.
"Yeah. The house," he drawled, voice peevishly monotone. "What about it?"
"Don't be that way, please?" Carolyn asked patiently. "It really is a nice place. Still, we don't have to stay. We can just use it to get us on our feet for a while. I promise."
Riley went quiet. Carolyn was ready to congratulate herself on pacifying him when he asked, "How long is 'a while?'"
She blinked uncertainly. "I… don't know. A few years-"
"Dearest." He took her hand in both of his, squeezing it with a plead. "We are rich, in case you forgot. We have… a hoard of money! A well-stocked supply of green, a well that will probably never run dry… and you just inherited more!" Riley exclaimed with animated gesticulation. "Listen to me: We – can – buy – a – bigger – and – better – house – whenever – we – want! That's the beauty of it!"
"We don't have time to do it right now," Carolyn said calmly as he fell back into his seat despondently. "With everything as hectic as it is, can't you be a little more grateful that a house has fallen out of the sky for us?"
"Only if it weren't Ian's and only if we were in Oz."
Carolyn thought better of it not to argue any longer. She was right anyway, and she knew he'd just need some time to adjust. They both would. Returning to this place was no more a torment to Riley than it was to her, and he wouldn't even have transparent memories following him through every room and doorway. An unkind, ill feeling began to build in her stomach as she realized how close they actually were.
x x x
The driveway was longer than she remembered, its path stretching into the darkness. Two rectangular stone pillars then appeared on either side of them, a large plaque on each reading 'HOWE ESTATE.' A black wrought-iron fence continued to line the driveway all the way up to the towering house afterwards. Riley leaned forward curiously as Carolyn slowed to a stop in front of the wraparound porch. She shut off the car eagerly, wanting to see all that had changed and stayed the same within the three story home of blue-gray brick. Riley gave a low whistle as they stepped out of the car, shining a bright flashlight on the property.
"Wooow… I'll give you one thing: it looks ridiculously expensive."
"It looks like crap," Carolyn said, walking around the car with gravel and dirt grinding under her shoes. Riley looked as if he wanted to call her crazy as she stopped beside him and did a hesitant scan of her former home. The house was an epic display if anything!
"All the rose bushes that go around the entire porch are dead," Carolyn said quietly, taking a brave step towards the house. "They used to look so wonderful. But Ian never really cared for Mum's green thumb."
Riley tried to relate, but he knew it was a futile attempt to even pretend. This was Carolyn's home. She knew it better than he ever would or cared to. He cleared his throat uncomfortably and reluctantly followed Carolyn up the white stairs to the smooth stone porch that ran the length of the front of the house and continued around its corners. The white paint on the windows was hardly
chipped or marked, and the glass was etched with small decorative borders. He even couldn't help but to admire the light over the large ivory front door. Everything outside looked perfect (except, according to Carolyn, the lack of rose bushes). Guiltily, he wanted to see more.
"I can't believe how good it looks for being unoccupied for over six months," he said, staring at the dark overhead light. Carolyn smiled grimly as she dug for the key the real estate office had given her.
"I can't believe it took them a whole six months just to get the house to me," she said as she unlocked the door while Riley repeatedly tested the rich chimes of the doorbell. "I know there was a lot to sort out, but at least we're finally getting to see it."
Riley quickly pressed the doorbell one more time before stepping into the dark, carpeted interior behind Carolyn. He held onto her shoulder and raised the flashlight apprehensively, but the entire room suddenly filled with light as Carolyn turned the dial next to the door.
"Ooo, bright," Riley groaned, squinting initially. When the intensity wore off, they stood in a large room themed with the same blue-gray and white as the exterior of the house. The carpet was thick and the color of a stormy ocean and covered the entire room. A polished walnut staircase, not quite as large as the one in the manor, wrapped up to the second and third floors with a thin white runner. A decent sized living room was to the right of the stairs with a finished fireplace, and to the left were the kitchen and dining room entrances, along with a hallway that extended beyond sight. Carolyn felt her nerves tickle her stomach as Riley stood slack-jawed with shining eyes of awe.
"Why did your brother have to live here?" he finally whined.
Carolyn sighed exasperatedly, walking away.
"It's perfect!" he called after her. "It's completely prefect! Except for the fact that he lived here! Hey, what's in there?"
"I lived here, too," Carolyn reminded him without a trace of temper. "This is the dining room." They peered into the dining room richly colored with dark browns and reds. The heavy rectangular table was surrounded by six lavished chairs of crimson, and the walls were paneled partially with dark wood stain and maroon wallpaper. A golden chandelier hung over its center and it illuminated beautifully when Carolyn turned it on.
When her mother had returned to the kitchen, six-year-old Carolyn picked up her dinner roll and heaved it to the other end of the table angrily, hitting Ian in the head spot on. Her brother slammed his book closed and picked up his own roll to return fire when their mother reentered the room.
"You little brat!"
"Ian!" She grabbed the roll from his hand as Carolyn quickly stuffed her triumphant smile with spaghetti. "What's going on?"
"She is throwing food at me," he explained. "I cannot adequately prepare for my SATs when I am having dinner rolls pelted at me from across the room."
"Moooom! He hid my Lily doll and won't give it baaaaack!"
"You know how important these tests are for your brother's future and he needs to study without interruption! Upstairs!"
She remembered Ian smirking and trying to take her plate with her but her mother forbade it. She told her she deserved to go hungry if she was throwing her food at her brother anyway. About four months later she found out Ian had caught Lily doll on fire with some friends one night and did not speak to him for a solid three weeks.
Riley, however, was already walking around the table to the kitchen entrance amidst her daydream. She hurried after him.
"Ooookaaay…" Riley smiled happily for the first time as he stood on the threshold of the rustic kitchen filled with relatively new appliances. It was spacious with dark beams crisscrossing on the ceiling and smelled of apple cinnamon, luring him in against his will. Carolyn laughed as she walked over to the wooden doors of the pantry. Figures his favorite room would be the kitchen.
"Am I winning you over yet, Mr. Poole?" she asked, seeing that most of the jarred fruit from years past still sitting in the dark corner of the upper shelves. She closed it and walked over to the window above the sink where Riley stood, pushed it open, and flipped another light switch that flooded the porch outside. Riley leaned over the sink into the February cold with interest as she smiled and continued her role play. "You'll see that the yard is quite large as well; perfect for large families, pets, outdoor projects, and parties. It can accommodate a number of people at one time and has a deck and swimming pool just on the opposite side of the house if I may persuade you to follow me in that direction..."
Riley looked over at her, sensing an undertone of seduction in her voice.
Two could play at that.
"Well, Miss Howe, I still need convincing before I can commit," he said as he put his arms around her slowly. "I'm quite concerned of what the previous owner did with the property. I need an updated list of booby traps and revolving library walls to look over for starters."
Carolyn laughed. "I'm afraid I've misplaced it. Come on, there's still a lot to see."
Riley seemed put out when she walked away, but she only smiled. "Hey, let's go! We still have two whole floors and five bedrooms to see."
"Yeah, big whoop-"
Riley then thought he saw her wink as she turned to go, a spark of intrigue igniting his tired mind. With an arched eyebrow, he left the kitchen with a little more liveliness in his stride.
"How many bedrooms now?"
"Five? That's a lot."
x x x
After another fifteen minutes of touring the house (five of which were spent ogling at the giant crystal chandelier at the top of the staircase by Riley), Carolyn led Riley into what used to be her room on the third floor. She snapped on the light gingerly as they went into the brilliant blue room, obscure angles of the roof forming a strange ceiling above them. A skylight sent moonlight onto the floor faintly amongst her bed, desk, bookshelf, wardrobe, and vanity. A cluster of other discarded junk and boxes were also in the room; things Ian did not want or need, she figured. In the pile lay her first art easel that her ninth grade art teacher had given her.
"All mine? You're sure?" she asked with a large grin.
Mr. Fowler nodded approvingly after emerging from the cluttered supply room. "All yours," he emphasized. "Besides, we're getting new ones over the summer. I want you to come back in the fall ready for the real thing. You've got great potential."
She smiled, glancing at her gift excitedly. "Thank you. I'll be ready."
"Don't forget I have a class at the Murphy Center Wednesday nights this summer, too."
"Already signed up," she reported happily. "You'll be stuck with me until graduation now, I hope you know that."
"Thanks for the warning," he joked as she left the room.
The next fall on a Tuesday in October, the principal announced that Mr. Fowler had suffered a heart attack and died.
Mrs. Vinn had been just as supportive and kind for the rest of high school, but she had always missed the man that had first introduced her to art. Carolyn knelt at the forgotten easel, touching its broken pieces sadly.
"Your room was very blue," Riley observed awkwardly. "Were your parents expecting another boy or something?"
"No, this was Ian's nursery," she explained, standing up. "They gave him his room on the second floor when he got older, and I got this when I was born. They told me they always meant to move me into the guest room or something, but then I started going against their grain, and it was enough of an excuse for them to keep me up here out of the way."
"That screams Hunchback of Notre Dame," Riley said, earning a chuckle from her. "Did you ring any giant bells? I wouldn't be surprised if there were several up here…"
Carolyn tossed her head from side to side indifferently as Riley followed her through the assorted junk. "Not so much."
"Let's just say you should be able to draw the conclusion as to why I don't particularly care for the color blue," she said with a mock smile over her shoulder. He paused in thought.
"Nice dress by the way."
Carolyn looked at him quizzically as they headed towards the Fourth of July celebration in the backyard. "You think so?"
"Yes. You… look nice in blue."
"Really? I think I look terrible in blue..."
Riley then raised his eyebrows, now looking around the room rigidly.
That had been the first time she expressed hatred for the color, and many, many more had risen in its wake during their relationship.
"Now it all makes sense…"
"The only thing… I liked about this room," – Carolyn walked up to a large glass window an opened it – "was that I had this little balcony right next to this tree," she said, leading Riley onto the stout ledge. A large tree branch was perfectly accessible to the left; Carolyn stepped up onto the small railing and transferred herself over into the tree with Riley's help. He smiled as she sat down on the thick branch and swung her legs absentmindedly. "I always went out at night when I could, and they never found out."
"Never?" he asked doubtfully.
"No one ever came up to the third floor to bother with me," Carolyn told him. "Though, if I hadn't had this tree, I would have lost my mind."
"See? You succumbed to psychological damages here-"
"God… you're insane!" she laughed.
"-so what makes you think I would want to live here?" he asked, leaning onto the railing towards her. "Expose my potential family to such harsh, foreboding conditions?"
Carolyn's eyes suddenly filled with delight. "Potential family?"
Riley averted his eyes briefly (he went and said it!) before smiling back up at her. "I'm not having this conversation yet."
"Oh yes we are-"
"Riley. Come on. It's just talk," she said. "A baby is not going to magically appear by mentioning it."
Riley felt a light flutter in his stomach at the taboo word. "No," he laughed with flaming red cheeks, "but let's just not talk about it for a while just in case… Besides, I did say 'yet,'" he added gently at her pout.
He held out his arm to her, playing up his loveable face as much as he could. A smile grew from her frown, and she rose from the tree branch to accept his help back to the miniature balcony. Once Riley set her feet back on solid ground, Carolyn was ready to continue the conversation he was consistently avoiding, but then a miracle occurred – his cell phone rang. Carolyn's words turned to air rushing out of her lungs, and he made a face of triumph as he pulled the phone from his jacket.
"There's still the ride home, Riley…"
"Yeah, okay… Hello?"
"Riley, it's Ben."
"Yeah, what's up?"
"Are you guys at the house?"
Riley made a face. "Yeah, it's okay, I guess." He heard Ben chuckle half-heartedly.
"Come on, Riley, I know Ian had it better than just 'okay.'"
"Everything's fantastic except the Ian part," Riley said as Carolyn rolled her eyes and headed back inside. Riley followed at half pace. "I'm trying to forget it for the moment, so how's Europe going? How was Italy? You're in Germany, now, right? Or wait. France?"
"Whoa, I missed the whole five days in Germany?! You didn't call! How was it?"
Riley nodded. "Granted, it's February… Well, France sounds fun. Still can't wait til you get back next week, though. I mean, you deserve a whole month off and everything, but we have so much to do like getting our tuxes fitted-"
"We're actually on our way back now," Ben said quietly to Riley's surprise.
"Now? Why?" he asked carefully, slowing to a stop. Carolyn motioned for him to come from the doorway, but he held up a finger. "You've only been gone three weeks."
"My dad called," he explained with a heavy sigh as Carolyn marched back over to him and hit the speaker button on his phone so she could listen, too. "Apparently my mother had a stroke this morning, and… she didn't make it."
Carolyn covered her mouth after a small gasp had escaped her, staring at Riley as she shook her head. Riley merely blinked, upset to know he had not misheard.
"Ben, I'm… I'm sorry," he stammered softly, hating himself for sounding so cliché. "W-We're on our way back home now; did you need anything?"
"Yeah," Ben murmured distantly as Riley led Carolyn out of the room and down the stairs hurriedly. "The funeral's going to be in Philadelphia, and Abigail and I are going to go stay with my dad for a few days. Could you watch the kids for us?"
"Of course," Carolyn said immediately.
"No problem," Riley agreed. "We'll be there in two hours."
"We'll get home around eight in the morning, drop them off. Abigail and I are going to leave in the afternoon if that's okay."
"It's fine, fine. We'll be there."
"Thanks, guys. Big help."
"Okay, take it easy. See you in a bit."
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