(301 Words)

There is a passage that runs from the library to the tower (24 steps) and one that winds up the central column (46 steps). Little alcoves open into each room, hidden trap doors (7) with spyholes concealed by various means. One of the rooms (#4, the middle room) is a study; the trapdoor is set into a bookcase (77 books, 463 total in the room), the latch concealed under a shelf (#3 from the top, #4 from the bottom). She has put a copy of John Bellairs’s The House With a Clock in Its Walls (192 pages) beneath the latch, to guide her fingers. The lawyer and her aunt are meeting there, conspiring. She is supposed to be locked in the library, but they don’t know about the secret passage, don’t know about the trapdoors or the spyholes. They are her secrets, and hard earned.

“It’s a very touchy subject, Miriam,” the lawyer is saying. “The loss is so recent, and you weren’t close to your sister. The courts will take a dim view of it.” (26 words 3 sentences)

“Damn it,” says her aunt, (2 words 1 sentence) and behind the bookshelf she smiles. “Don’t tell me why it can’t work, tell me how it will. You can tell she can’t be trusted!” (20 words 4 sentences)

The lawyer coughs. “She’s strange, I’ll admit, and unfriendly, but that could be…” (10 words 1 sentence)

“Strange!” snaps Miriam. (1 word 1 sentence) “She’s incapable, Charles, and if she isn’t taken properly in hand she could destroy the estate, and, and…” (18 words 1 sentence) Go ahead and say it, she thinks, why stop now? (8 words 1 sentence) “… and herself, and I won’t let either of them be ruined! I owe Sarah that much.” (12 words 3 sentences)

The lawyer makes soothing noises, but in the passageway she is already making plans (3).