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Skeleton Key

Skeleton KeyFamily cottage, West Shore of Keuka Lake
Monday June 27th 1870 5:45AM

It was very early and the birds were not yet awake. Clara Kingsbury was up before anyone else in the cottage had stirred. She was all of eleven years old and had just celebrated a birthday a couple of weeks go. Her family had been coming to the Keuka Lake every summer as long as she could remember. She did not particularly like coming to the cottage as she had few of the same comforts that her home in Knoxville, NY offered, but she did like the water, especially boating. She loved taking long turns around the lake with her brother at the oars. Her parents had warned her not to go out to the boat dock by herself and she knew that if someone saw her she'd be in a lot of trouble. But what harm could there be in just stepping into the boat and spending a little time with her doll "Mattie"? Mattie was the porcelain doll she had been given several years ago. Clara and the doll were inseparable. They went everywhere and did everything together. "What do you think Mattie?" she asked out loud. Mattie stared back in mute approval. So she set Mattie down on the dock and stepped backward down the ladder. When she thought she had descended far enough to reach the boat she extended her leg toward the boat and lowered herself down only to find that the boat had moved during her decent. Instead of stepping onto the seat, she had stepped onto the very edge of the gunwale. As she let go of the ladder rung she found her arms pinwheeling in the air as she fell toward the water. The shockingly cold water rushed in to cover her as her dress and petticoats filled. Mattie lay on the dock with her painted on smile, staring straight up into the brightening morning sky as the last bubbles rose to the surface.

October 27th 1870 7:00PM

Lillian KingsburyLillian Kingsbury was depressed. Everyone who knew her understood the source of her depression and thought it understandable. She had lost her youngest daughter Clara to an unfortunate accident at the lake cottage four months ago. People closest to her were concerned though. This depression seemed to go beyond typical mourning over the loss of a loved one. Ever since Clara's funeral and her burial in the family crypt, Lillian refused to see anyone, ate barely enough to keep a bird alive and slept little, often mumbling incoherently to herself most of the night. She rarely had spoken to her husband Jonathan since the accident, and at least partially blamed him for her daughter's death. After all it was him who insisted that they purchase the lakefront property several years ago. While no form of depression can be considered healthy, Lillian's situation went beyond the norm and was taking a serious toll on her mind and body. Most people thought that it was about time that she should "snap out of it" and come around to a more normal social behavior. Some of the house staff speculated that if she continued like this much longer she might just end up joining her daughter in the family crypt.

Lillian had been awake since yesterday afternoon. She had not slept last night. She had made a decision. The pain she felt not being able to gaze upon her daughters face could not be born any longer. She had to see Clara one last time no matter what the consequences. She knew there was a key. She knew that Silas, her husband's factor, kept the key in his suite at the south end of Kingsbury Manor, she just didn't know where.

Clara KingsburyThe manor was quiet. Most of the servants were resting. A few were cleaning up dinner in the kitchen. Jonathan and Silas were in town at the Corning Opera House and would not be back for some time. She went down the hall, lantern in hand, and crept up to Silas' door. She turned the handle and went inside…..

The room was dark and smelled of tobacco smoke. After what seemed an eternity of rifling through his roll top desk she found the key in a small cleverly concealed side compartment. Key in hand, she quietly left the room and proceeded down the back stairway.

Nearing the crypt, Lillian saw that the brass handle on the front door was rather shiny as it glinted in the glow of her lantern. She would have expected it to have a dull green patina from lack of use. She turned the key in the lock and the door swung open on well oiled hinges. Stepping inside she found the niche containing Clara's coffin. A cold chill covered her and she choked off a sob in the back of her throat as she steeled herself for what she might see. She lifted the lid and stared in astonishment. Just then a cold hand with viselike fingers grabbed her shoulder and threw her to the ground. The last thing she remembered was the sound of clinking of coins…………