While tedious and often frustrating, being imprisoned had its worthy advantages, particularly for one who loved so to find information that would otherwise be kept behind closed doors. In this case, it was revealed to Charlotte, through the usual channels of malicious gossip and spite, that Kent did not build this forsaken house but rather, he’d put his touches on an aging piece of land that had a house already on it. It was something of a fuss when he’d first arrived, sans wife. If what she was told was to be believed, the house had previous occupants who, conveniently, were never heard from again once the wretched Master gained control of the deed to the house. It also just happened to be of additional convenience that no one in this backwards community could fathom a guess even at who this house used to belong to. Somewhat lost in the paper work, as it was, and even the poor wretches working for the brute were at a loss. It was said that the original house staff from before Vivian’s blessed arrival once knew but they had all taken their leave to go perform their final duties in the laundry. Everything prior to this, no one knew for sure and only certain people would speak of it at night in whispered tones. Kent had some mighty secrets that had started from the day of his landing and if she could only crack that open, she might find out why he was so keen on poisoning his wife out of the picture rather than simply strangling her or giving her a trusty hand off the railing of the third floor. Charlotte had wondered idly if murder was simply too difficult a task for either of them to grasp but it seemed that there was something more insidious at hand. How mundane but somewhat useful that it should have to do with real estate.

According to what she’d been told, acquisitions was one of his pass times when he wasn’t ruining furniture or being vile. This was of no real surprise to her. After all, what more was this house than a collection of his interesting treasures that he no longer had any use for other than to simply have them lying around. He did it with people as well as what passed for finery in his incredibly limited mind. Why should his lack of taste stay confined to the realm of human women and candlesticks when it could apply to a perfectly serviceable living space he had no need for? According to at least one of the poor dears in the kitchen, who had taken a shine to Charlotte and was clearly preparing for her to succeed Vivian’s unenviable position, he saw himself as a kind of restoration man. He found properties, usually under dead or dying ownership of a person who was scarcely younger than the property itself. Often times his money would allow him to purchase the crumbling lot with house but he seemed to have backup plans available should those fall through or the elder resident seemed more spry than originally advertised. He did nothing of the actual work, of course, and he had little to do with the actual transaction at all. According to what she’d pieced together, this house was acquired without him even being in the country, his busy schedule of murdering his first wife taking precedence. Alas, that was Kent to put it bluntly. He was just a man who made his money through some ventures or others and when the time revealed itself, he would find landowners to bully out of their properties and create new ones where they once were. It was all very curious, indeed, and only served to make Charlotte want to dig more into this tantalizing secret that the house insisted on keeping. Though patience was not one of her finer attributes, Charlotte’s was rewarded this time around when that same elderly lady from the kitchen revealed a means to get to parts of the house that few dared to go. It was also somewhat of a blessing that there were very few who even knew it existed.

From the kitchen, the elder woman had shown her a small hidden room at the back of a pantry that served to allow Juliette to store some manner of food for herself and, more recently, Charlotte. The girl and the kitchen maid had shown some sort of spark of curiosity as well. They discovered that the space initially looked like it might simply be like the storage that Charlotte had taken refuge in during Kent’s tantrums but was, rather, a landing. There was a passage into the basement but Charlotte was hard pressed to want to trouble herself to move down there, lest she ruin yet another pair of passable shoes. That said, it was suddenly obvious to her how her little darling Juliette had managed to secure such gifts of food for her without getting caught. The clever thing had even managed to disguise the passage to the stairs by dressing the place as a maid’s closet, filling it with all manner of cleaning supplies that would make the snob in Master Kent shudder at the thought of being near them. While all this was accessible from the kitchen on the first floor, Charlotte’s own explorations had helped her discover that there were other areas that the other two had not yet found. With some effort (and a troubling amount of damage to yet another pair of gloves), she had managed to open a small door that had once led to the main hall. The area itself was actually quite ornate and spoke of a time when the gaudy tastes of Kent were nowhere to be found. She imagined that it had been walled up to save time while the Master was away securing himself another victim that he would call a wife. This space did not open to the main hall, which meant that Charlotte alone knew of its existence. How marvellous that she should find a means to get that information she so craved. It wasn’t a guarantee that Kent would hold council there but it was certainly a lovely feeling knowing that should she get the ability, she could eavesdrop without so much as a threat of being noticed.

Though she kept her own discovery a secret, she was at least able to share her next one. The passage in the kitchen led up to the third floor where Charlotte was being kept and due to certain other renovations that had been a part of Kent’s design, they were blocked from the second floor, making their climb a relatively easier one than using the legitimate servant’s stairs that Kent had built. (There had been some reluctance to use that one since the body was discovered on account of the smell that lingered.) While Juliette had been most kind in showing her the means to find her way upstairs, unseen, the girl had been a bit faint of heart about finding anything else up the steps. She could forgive the dear girl a bit for her lack of curiosity on this one. The top of the passage that led to the third floor was blocked by an aging door that looked soft at the hinges. It also had a rather large, imposing yet old lock on it which hung like an insult at them. Juliette, still new in her life of disobedience, had seen it but assumed that if she dared open it, she feared Master Kent would find out and punish her for it. Though it was a slight struggle to keep from chiding her, Charlotte made herself behave more maternally in that moment and reminded her that Kent was an idiot whose method of keeping people away from those things he hoarded was through the use of brute force. He was not one to think so highly of his house staff. Besides, as she herself thought, that lock was far too old to have simply been there in the time that it took Master Reginald to settle here five or six years ago. There were secrets to be found there that even he did not know. Secrets, Charlotte thought, hungrily, that might bring out the chaos needed to end this little miserable nightmare.

The dear girl was far too nervous for such an undertaking, however. Alas, Charlotte was to find her way inside the small door alone. She could not complain about this, however. Half the fun of discovery was knowing something first and then deciding on whom she deemed worthy enough to share with. The night was the best time to explore, though it was only good fortune that managed to cover the business of her wrenching the door open. It was scarcely more than a day or two from the time that Charlotte had made the discovery of the hidden door to acquiring the necessary means to open it. Granted, the lock was a might bit more difficult to work with so the rotting wood around the frame was to be her intended target. It would just so happen that on the day that she knew would be the most perilous to getting caught, there was a gale force in the wind that blew a wretched storm at them. The sound echoed through the house covering her attempts to break the wood at the weakest points near the hinges. And her fortune seemed to smile even more as Kent had finally found something to scream about to someone and his hollering had increased to rival that of the wind. The echoes of her own damage were lost in the din and soon enough, she found a small, unassuming stairway that led not to the fourth floor, as she expected. Instead, it led her to a rather large set of rooms in the attic and even at first glance, she knew that this house was no ordinary one. Such secrets it had yet to tell her!

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