On the passing of the last brother-in-law, six retired sisters decide to pool their resources and purchase a suitable place where they can live out the rest of their lives together. They settle on an old deserted plantation home, Kettering Wood, on Lake Kentucky in Tennessee. The mystery surrounding the plantation is laced with memorabilia soaked with the deceased architect, Sir Charles LaTurrell’s, blood and evil deeds. The mystifying quest for answers takes the sisters to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C., then on the City of Lights, Paris, France. The plantation’s mascot Buford, a goat, and his co-conspirator Spats, a pet schnauzer, add a relentless hysteria to the puzzle ridden lives of the six strong willed sisters. The stolen memorabilia opens a Pandora’s Box that eventually brings them face to face with the mysterious Helanna Dreamlace, who lives alone in a cottage hidden in Little’s Cove across the Lake.
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For a few seconds there was pandemonium in the kitchen and that was scaring Eli more than his being lost. Netty was crying and shouting at her son to tell her where Jenny was hiding. Jay-Jay and Lori tried to quiet the mob, but finally Jay-Jay had to do something to get everyone’s attention so she dropped a large pan lid on the floor, and calmly said, “This hysteria isn’t helping a thing. Come to Auntie Jay-Jay, Eli. Let’s dry our eyes, and then we can get a glass of milk and one of Auntie Kelly’s cookies. Do you know where Jenny went?”
After a sip of milk and a bite of cookie Eli pointed to the pantry door. So Jay-Jay took the frightened baby into the long narrow room with its tongue and groove floor. Netty was clinging to Jay-Jay with red, swollen eyes watching her son point to the floor. Jay-Jay in her kindest voice said to the little boy, “I can’t see Jenny, where did she go?”
Eli took another sip of milk and a bite of cookie and looked Jay-Jay in the face saying, “The floor ett her up!”
Netty lost it, and began sobbing uncontrollably, so Lori ushered her to a chair in the kitchen, and said “Please Netty, we will find Jenny. Eli is a baby and I’m sure he knows where she is, we just have to take baby steps in getting him to tell us where she went. You know you don’t have to worry about the lake because she can’t get over the kitchen gates, or the picket fence. We have searched from the road to the lake. I promise we will find Jenny.”
Angie had been watching Eli as Jay-Jay talked to him and she had an idea, “Sis, put Eli on the floor here in the pantry.” Angie got on the floor with him and said, “Show Auntie Angie where the floor ate your sister.” Eli walked over to the wide bottom shelf and crawled under it, then reached up and pulled a lever, hidden from sight, allowing the floor, in the middle of the room, to fall open then close right back. The shocked sisters froze in their tracks leaving all of them horror stricken. Eli was the only one who could speak, “See, the floor ett her up.”
Marty was watching everything from the doorway, being the shortest one of the sisters, she crawled under the shelf, located the leaver, and a strap used to keep the door open. She said, “Jay-Jay, please take Eli to his mother and tell her we have solved the mystery.” She then reached back under the shelf and secured the trap door. The smell of mold and wet dirt floated up through the black opening in the floor causing the sisters to grab their noses. Jay-Jay
grabbed a flashlight off the top shelf and shined the light into the black opening discovering steps leading under the pantry. Angie motioned for Kelly to close the kitchen door leading to the pantry. One after the other the sisters lined up to enter the smelly tomb.
Four steps down they found Jenny setting in the dark, in what appeared to be shock. Angie helped the dirty child up the steps, out of the black hole, and carried her to the closed kitchen door, easing it open she passed the wide eyed child to Kelly. Angie whispered, “Please stay with Jenny and her mother, we fear she is suffering from shock. We’re going to explore the tunnel under the pantry. I’ll fill you in when we get back.”
The rest of the sisters stood in a line inching their way down the steps leading through the short, dark tunnel. The ladies inched their way along the stone wall when all of a sudden they were half-standing in a small round room with daylight spraying in through small horseshoe like breathing windows circling the ceiling. The half-moon holes were large enough that a person could peek into the rose garden and spy on everything that might be taking place.
The sisters knew exactly where they were. They were standing under the floor of the gazebo between the rose garden and the lawn leading down to the lake; if the day was really bright they could see all the way to the end of the old boat dock. On the other side of the room the girls could see outside all the way to the archway where Sue Ann parked her car and they had a perfect view of the barn and stables.
A small platform, made out of cement, circled around the edge of the floor one foot high and about eighteen inches deep, it was a perfect place to stand if you didn’t mind your back touching the ceiling. Stepping up on the cement platform the sisters were forced to bend over causing their backs to push against the gazebo’s wood floor and all at once the floor slid open allowing them to stand up. Another big step and they were standing in the rose garden, dismayed at what just happened. They examined the wooden floor where Kelly found a massive set of cogs that allowed the floor to swing open; she gently took her foot and pushed on it causing the floor to swing shut. Sue Ann then pulled on one of the gazebo’s posts and the floor slid open. Shocked she asked, “What in the world do you suppose this was used for?”
The sisters were heading toward the kitchen by way of the brick path and through the atrium. Once inside they had to scrub off the grit from the dirty rock walls and the spider webs that clung to their hair and clothes. Kelly entered the pantry and released the strap that held the trapdoor open, “thud”, the door eased into place never leaving a tell-tale sign that there ever was a door in the middle of the small room. Shaking their heads the sisters hurried to check on Eli and Jenny. Netty was towel drying Jenny’s hair while she was talking in a kind, low voice to the children setting on the edge of the sink. “Eli and Jenny are just fine; they are a little dirty but their ok. What do you think that trap door was used for? I can’t help wondering how Eli got out of that dungeon and Jenny couldn’t, he’s so small.”
Jay-Jay picked Eli up and shot a “what now” look at her sisters, they shot one right back. Sue Ann reached out and touched Netty’s arm and said, “We have been asking the ‘what for’ question ourselves, as to how Eli got out we can tell you that. We think he must have pulled that lever under the shelf causing Jenny to fall onto the step, and when he realized he was left out of the fun he barely caught the lever with the leather strap and went after his sister. I think Jenny was too scared to follow Eli down the tunnel, and once he saw the step in the round room, under the gazebo, he could easily reach the ceiling with his hands and with a little pressure the gazebo simply slid open and Eli climbed out.”
The happenings of the day brought with it a hoard of questions about the intended use of such a tunnel that included a secret room, with movable platform and a wrought iron gazebo attached. Why would the architect and owner of Kettering Wood build such a mysterious room with an underground tunnel leading out of the main house?
The sisters began wondering if the tunnel was the only hidden chamber on the plantation. Angie tried explaining every detail about the tunnel to Kelly when Marty and Lori came into the kitchen. Lori was flabbergasted saying, “Okay girls, this is something one might find on Halloween night in a haunted house, but not here on our plantation. The only thing I know about secret rooms is what I read in books, and none of it is pleasant.”