Secrets of Wendover Manor

Julie Tsoukalas

You aren't exactly thrilled with the recent turn of events. You and your mother are visiting wealthy relatives in the English countryside. You recently discovered that Wendover Manor has been passed down on your mother's side of the family for generations, and is her recently deceased great-uncle’s estate. You had never heard this family name before, and find it odd that you've been whisked away in the middle of your summer vacation to visit people you don't know. You suppose it should be looked at as an adventure, but for now you're convinced it will be filled with stuffy conversations and stodgy old men.
Your arrival was expected, and though you were greeted first by a butler, soon your mother's cousins Bradley and Belinda come in and greet you both warmly, with tight hugs. That is unexpected. They are both near your mother's age, and look as though they've been lifelong friends. Your mother's eyes shine as she is led to a room off the foyer, where a large hearth in the center of the far wall showcases an intricate fireplace. You follow behind, in awe of your new surroundings. 
You are not forgotten, and your mother's male cousin, Bradley, pats you on the shoulder, intimating that your mother and Belinda might be awhile in their catching up. He leads you to a cozy corner of the room, asking if you'd like to play a game of chess. You don't know anything about chess, and prefer to choose a book to read while you wait to be included in your mother's conversation.
Your cousin bristles for a moment, then leaves you to peruse the heavily filled shelves of books. You'd like to find something adventurous, or even comical, but most of the books seem to be scientific in nature. You turn to ask Bradley if the books are organized by category, but find he has left the room. Your mother and Belinda are still in close conversation, so you decide to explore a bit on your own. 
You cross the room to investigate the other shelves, hoping to find a book that might interest you. You're disappointed to see many books similar to the ones you've already found. One title in particular catches your eye. The Secrets of Wendover Manor seems to beckon to you. As you try to pull the book from the shelf, the top of it merely tips toward you, and you hear a faint clicking sound. The entire book shelf seems to have loosened from the wall. Wow! It must be a secret passage! No telling what could lurk behind the wall, but you definitely want to check it out. You glance at your mother, and she is still deep in conversation with her cousin, their backs to you. A quick look around the room shows you are the only other occupant. What could it hurt to explore a bit further?
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