Written by Cynthia L. Sperko
Editor’s Note: This is an ongoing work of fiction set around real Marietta landmarks. For previous chapters, visit MariettaTraveler.com.
The old mantle clock stood on the thick walnut stained shelf above the wood fireplace in
the living room. It was antique black with same-colored Roman numerals and had a
cream colored face. There was something else about the clock that intrigued Sylvia and
After their Aunt Maxine’s death, the young ladies found themselves in the midst of
another mystery. A letter from their aunt, along with a sketchbook, several photo albums
and prints, and a skeleton key were their guide. The old mantle clock was now their latest
Sylvia thought back to when her sister and herself brought the clock home. It was
wrapped in craft paper and upon removing the protective wrappings and laying it on the
mantle, they did a double take. The four rings were engraved on the face of the clock.
According to the shop owner, their Aunt Maxine insisted on having the engraving done
as part of her final wishes.
“What does this all mean?” Sylvia said out loud. Claire, who was sitting on a chair, got
up and gave Sylvia a hug.
“What was this for, Claire?”
“Just giving you a little love for encouragement.” Claire answered.
“Thanks Claire. You always seem to know what I need and when I need it.” Sylvia told her sister, returning the hug.
Both girls decided to use the living room as their makeshift treasure hunt space. All of
the clues, including recent photos of the mantle clock, were laid out on a large coffee
table, as well as the carpeted floor.
Letting go of Claire, Sylvia rummaged through the items on the table and grabbed the
sketch book. Then, she sat down on the chair that Claire was sitting on and flipped
through the pages until she found the drawing of the clock.
Curious, Claire stood behind Sylvia, anxious to know what she was looking at. Then, she
quickly walked to the table and reached for the photos of the clock to leaf through them.
“What are we looking for?” Claire asked Sylvia.
“I suppose anything that looks out of place.”
Sylvia thought back to the last time their Aunt Maxine visited. Her mom didn’t know, but
Sylvia overheard a conversation between her mom and aunt. Time was running out and
Doctor Grant did everything they could. Her Aunt Maxine’s cancer was taking its toll.
Two weeks later, she died peacefully in her sleep.
Sylvia closed the sketch book. “Maybe we’ve been looking at this all wrong” said
Sylvia. “Aunt Maxine was very sick. Maybe the four rings have something to do with her
Claire sat down on a chair next to Sylvia and placed the photos of the clock back on the
coffee table. “Okay, I’m listening.”
Facing her sister, Sylvia continued on with her thought process. “You were probably too
young to remember, but I don’t think that this was the only time Aunt Maxine was sick. I
remember way back when she wore scarves over her head often. She stopped wearing
them, until recently.”
“I suppose you could be right, but I really don’t know.” Claire responded. “Maybe mom
“Maybe mom would know what, Claire?” asked their mother who entered the room with
a tray of sandwiches, snacks, and drinks.
“We were wondering if this wasn’t the first time Aunt Maxine had cancer” answered
Another thought entered Sylvia’s head. She reached for the pile of photos that Jonathan
had given them and looked through them until she found the old photo of their Aunt
Maxine. The print showed their scarf-wearing aunt wearing a gold chain necklace with
two familiar rings attached, and the same much larger insignia of the four rings in the
Showing their mom the photo, they pleaded with her for answers. Their mom set the
tray on the living room table and sat on a small sofa.
“You’re correct, girls. The first time, her illness was at Stage Two. Life saving surgery,
praying for a miracle, and months of chemo placed her in remission for nearly ten
“Mom, do you know anything about the necklace she was wearing in the photo or the
four rings on the door?” asked Sylvia.
“As I recall, Maxine wanted a memento of what she’s been through. She found a jeweler
to create something special, but not only for herself. For friends she met on her journey,
and to raise awareness.”
“So, I was right. The four rings have something to do with her illness” exclaimed Sylvia.
“Yes, but there’s a lot more to it than that, and I have to go back to the shop. This is also
your mystery to figure out.”
After their mother left the room, both girls pondered what she told them.
The next morning, while all four teens were waiting at the bus stop, Sylvia and Claire filled Kurt and Edwin in on what they discovered.
“We should try to find out who the jeweler is or was. Perhaps he or she can help us fill in
the blanks” said Edwin.
“I’m going to talk to Jonathan. I would like to learn more about the Railroad House Inn,
too” announced Sylvia.
Sylvia thought it best to ask Jonathan more questions about this whole treasure masquerade. She suspected that he knew more than she thought.
Much to Sylvia’s dismay, Jonathan wasn’t at school, so questioning him would have to
wait. Or would it?
Upon opening her locker, a folded piece of lined paper fell out of it. She picked it up,
unfolded it and read it.
Meet me at the Railroad House Inn after school. Bring the skeleton key with you. I’ll wait
for you at the gazebo.”
It was signed with the letter J.
The school day was finally over. Sylvia quickly walked to the Railroad House Inn to
meet Jonathan. She assumed it was him who wrote the cryptic note. Upon her arrival,
she saw him at the gazebo and greeted him.
“Sylvia, thanks for meeting me here. Did you bring the key?” asked Jonathan.
“Yes, I did.” Sylvia answered as she took it out of her pocket and gave it to him. Then he
showed her a similar skeleton key. “Your Aunt gave this one to me the last time she was
here. Ever since I gave you the pack of photos, I’ve been trying to figure out where the
keys fit in.”
Jonathan sat down on a bench at the gazebo and motioned Sylvia to do the
same. “Your aunt told me about her plan for Claire and you. She didn’t go into any
specific details, but she asked me to offer my assistance. To be your guide, of sorts. I
was more than willing to participate.”
“I don’t understand. How are you supposed to help us in all of this?” Sylvia asked
“Well, for starters, I know this place better than the back of my hand. I also think I found
something very useful. That’s the main reason I wanted you to meet me here, at the
Jonathan stood up and beckoned Sylvia to follow him. He approached another bench at
the other side of the gazebo and lifted the seat up. Then, he showed her an
unremovable locked box with two keyholes.
“My key fits the one on the left. I believe yours will fit the one on the right. I also believe
that we have to unlock this apparatus at the same time.”
“What are we waiting for? Let’s do this.” exclaimed Sylvia.
Both teens unlocked the box at the same time. Then, Jonathan reached his hand inside
it and pulled out a small, unfinished wooden box. He gave it to Sylvia who opened it
Inside the box was another skeleton key.
To be continued in the next edition of the Marietta Traveler.