What would you do if you had a key that opened any lock? Would you only do good? Only bad? What would it be worth to you? And what would you sacrifice to keep it?
Tears rolled slowly down Elaine’s face making lines in her makeup. She was grateful to have had Granny Bea for 22 years of her life and was devasted to have lost her now. Granny Bea was her friend, her mom and dad after their passing, her mentor, her teacher. And now she was gone.
Elaine was her sole heir, she got it all. The old house in the woods, her money even her false teeth. Granny Bea always laughed when she said that. Elaine had moved back to the little village and into the house at the end of Granny’s life, to nurse and comfort her. Returning was tough, bad memories in her hometown and she was scared but her love for Granny Bea trumped everything else. It was emotionally draining but she would have done it forever if she could.
After the buzz of the small funeral and the constant stream of visitors slowed to a trickle, the house was quiet. Elaine sat nursing her hot tea just enjoying listening to the ticks and clicks in the house. It was familiar, and she loved it. Wondering around the old place Elaine tapped her ring on the vintage teacup, trying to decide what to do with it. Keep it? Sell? Rent? She wished she could pick up the house and move it elsewhere. Anywhere but in Covet Village. Elaine bargained with herself that she would make no decisions for 3 months “Get over the worst of the grief, then decide girl!” she said.
It was taking forever to clear out the cupboards. Each cardigan, gown, scarf – Elaine held to her nose breathing in the memories. Jasmine and lavender. Granny Bea had loved them and had sprigs of it everywhere, despite Elaine having insisted it was a fire hazard. She smiled at the thought, feeling sentimental.
3 slow weeks later she knew everything there was to know about Granny Bea. All the love letters from grandpa, held together with a faded blue ribbon were her favorite, Elaine knew how much they had meant to her. They went into the box marked treasures. Popping it into the basement, Elaine wiped her dusty hands on her jeans and stretched. Hunger pangs reminded her that the chicken pie was waiting patiently in the fridge for her to finish. 2 helpings later and half a bottle of Chardonnay, Elaine had had enough. After bathing in lavender bubbles she fell into bed and slept.
At first she didn’t realise it was a dream, it was so lifelike. Granny Bea stood next to her bed, smiling down at her. Elaine wasn’t scared at all, knowing that she would never harm her. “I miss you Granny” Elaine said quickly before she disappeared. Granny Bea stroked her hair, then indicated for Elaine to go with her. Jumping up she stuck her feet into slippers, the floor was icy.
Granny Bea led her downstairs to the dining room, seeming to float rather than walk. “Her back isn’t sore” Elaine realized with some relief. At the back of the room was an old dresser, Elaine remembered it always being there. The paint was faded from a mint green to a faded white. The drawers stuck often from not being used and the brass handles needed a good buffing.
“Granny Bea – why are you showing this to me?” she asked puzzled. But when Elaine turned she was gone. It was so strange. She decided to go through it carefully in the morning but wasn’t hopeful of finding anything, after all she had already cleared it out.
Forgetting all about her dream the night before she made tea and buttery marmalade toast and sat drinking it in the sunny kitchen. The kitchen was the heart of the home, Granny always said and Elaine agreed. Popping the last sweet bite into her mouth, Elaine remembered the dream and took her tea into the dining room. Staring at the cabinet Elaine wondered what Granny Bea was trying to tell her. She opened the squeaky drawers again and checked. Nothing. Moving it away from the wall she checked the back and lay down looking under it. Nothing. Taking out all the drawers she examined them one by one. There were no false bottoms, no strange markings, no dusty envelopes taped to the underside and Elaine wondered if it was just a dream.
Sipping on her now lukewarm tea, she stared at the shell of the cabinet and realised that the centre piece looked loose. Loathe to damage it with, say a crowbar, Elaine pushed and pulled on the front panel until it came off with a loud click. 3 shelves ran from front to back, dark and empty. What a disappointment! Elaine felt each shelf top to bottom, hoping for something exciting. At the back of the last shelf she found it. An insignificant brown paper packet. Tied with string, it looked old and unused.
Excitement ran through her giving her fingers wings. Quickly she ripped it open and found a key. Not just an ordinary key, this one was white, cool to the touch and full of engravings. “Oh wow!” Elaine exclaimed, wiping it off on her sleeve. This is magnificent. I wonder what it opens. The cabinet’s drawers had locks but this key was much too large to open them. Roaming around the house, she looked for somewhere that this could open. Every door, every cupboard, the locks were too big, too tiny, too different and more modern.
By lunch time the puzzle still wasn’t solved. Elaine munched her crisp, sweet apple and stared at the key. “Time to ask my friend Google!” she smiled. Several hundred entries came back and Elaine poured through them. Finally she came to a site www.bonekeys.com, she clicked on it. The first photo was a replica of her key. Reading the whole article, Elaine was shocked to her core. This was a Bone Key. Bone keys opened any lock. She laughed wondering how that was possible, there were thousands of different locks.
Jumping up, she tried it carefully in the back door, not wanting to damage it when it didn’t work. As she inserted it, it seemed to flow and change to fit the lock. Smoothly she locked and unlocked the back door with the bone key. Astounded she turned it again. And again. Running to the front door, she did the same. Open and closed. Locked and unlocked. The same happened with the closet door, which had never been able to lock, the old dresser and her jewellery box! Returning to the kitchen she collapsed into the chair staring at the key in her hand. “Amazing. Now what do I do with it?” she wondered.
But she already knew. Elaine allowed her mind to wander back to her childhood in Covet Village. Life in a small village is never personal, everyone knows everyone and everyone’s business. Three children had made her life hell – the Garret children. Brian, Sally and Bernice. Lanky Lainy they called her. That in itself wasn’t a problem but when they made it into a horrible rhyme – it had hurt her feelings.
“Lanky Lainy all alone
No mommy and daddy waiting at home.
Old granny can’t cook and Lainy don’t eat
She’s smelly and thin and has stinky feet.
Lanky Lainy. Lanky Lainy”.
It was just a stupid children’s rhyme and she got older the rhymes became crueller. They referenced her pimples, her long thin legs, big feet and worst of all – her mother and father. At 18 Elaine went to college. She was glad it was out of the village and had spent as little time here as she could once she was grown. Revenge wasn’t the first thing on her mind then, but now with the bone key… “What to do, what to do” Elaine tapped the key on the table forming her plans.
Brian was first. Elaine knew where he lived with his wife and manky dogs. They had a smallholding just outside of town. He worked at the local garage, they had no children, although they were apparently trying if the towns gossips could be believed. She, Marlaine worked at the local diner as a cook. Elaine made her preparations. 2 days later she was parked in the trees where she could see Brian’s trailer but was well hidden in the shadows. She watched as they left for work. Giving them time to get far enough away she got out and approached the dogs. As expected they barked at her, until they smelt the 2 large T-Bones laced with a mild sedative. Elaine didn’t have it in her to hurt animals. Only the human animal kind. “Poor things you look hungry” she mused. She was careful not to stroke them while eating, they didn’t look that friendly.
Elaine was prepared to break in but the trailer wasn’t locked. She wrinkled her nose at the feet smell, feeling a little sick, although it may have been her nerves. Quickly she took in the tidy but well-worn furniture and general trashy state of the home. Opening the fridge Elaine noted a large tub of yogurt, various sauces and some limp vegetables, nothing spectacular. Rifling through the cupboards, she found little to help her come up with her revenge. She kept going. Finally! A pamphlet for a fertility clinic in Barstead, 100 miles from their little town. So it was true – they were trying to have children. That got her mind working, she would have to do something about that.
There were only 2 doctors in town and one of them a Dr Liddich, handled all the obstetric and gynaecological issues. Elaine started there, late that evening. It was dark off the main road and she had no problem gaining entrance to the practice through an open window at the back. Switching on her torch she searched for the patient files. Pulling on the draw marked “G – I” she realised it was locked. “Damm” Elaine muttered and looked around for the key. With a snort she remembered the bone key and pulled it out to open the drawer. There were 3 files on Garret, she pulled out the correct one and started reading the spidery handwriting.
“No pregnancy in 3 years, one miscarriage 4 years ago. Problems maintaining erections, possible low testosterone.” There was more but the erections bit jumped out of the text and she now knew what she had to do. Cautiously she used her bone key to go out through the front door and lock it again, kicking herself for not gaining entry the same way.
At home, a steaming cup of hot chocolate next to her she started her research. Hours later she stretched cracking her neck, she had her answer. Cetoconazile. It was used for training hayfever and allergies and the side effects were lack of energy and being unable to get and maintain an erection. Elaine ordered some online along with Ginseng and Spanish Fly, ticking the boxes to say that she understood the risks. It was herbal – so there were no problems getting hold of it. She had two days until it arrived to finalise her plans.
Brian liked his whiskey of course. Elaine had seen a bottle of Jax Black whisky, one of the cheapest in town in the trailer. She bought the same brand. Grimacing at the horrible taste, Elaine spent ages, adding the bitter herbs and sugar to the whisky until it tasted almost exactly the same. She didn’t think that Brian would notice it being a bit darker than usual and wouldn’t notice too much else after a few tots anyway. She crushed the ginseng and Spanish Fly and added it to the container of yogurt, assuming that Marlaine would eat it.
The next morning she again visited their trailer with T-Bone steaks and 2 bottles of doctored whisky. Elaine replaced the full bottle in the cupboard and poured out the half-bottle on the sink, replacing it with her concoction. She then replaced the large tub of strawberry yogurt with hers, hoping that they wouldn’t notice that it had been opened. Elaine was careful to make it look as though it was new, but it wasn’t perfectly aligned anymore. She left, wishing that she could be a fly on the wall when all this went down!
2 nights later she couldn’t resist and took a drive out to the Garrets place but there was nothing going on.
The next morning in the diner, Marlaine served her breakfast. Elaine felt bad when she saw her red eyes and pale face, something was wrong. She hoped Brian was feeling much worse. Steeling her resolved she finished her breakfast and went home.
That evening at the Garrets was far more exciting than before. She could hear the yelling from down the road, they were having a huge fight. Elaine sat in her car with her eyes closed just enjoying the noise. It helped to soothe years of abuse by the Garrets, although she felt sorry for Marlaine. With a deep sigh of accomplishment, she went home, had a hot bubble bath and a glass of good red. That night she slept better than she had in a long time.
Now for the sisters. She knew that Sally and Bernice were both in relationships. Bernice was married with a daughter and Sally lived with her boyfriend. Sally was waiting for him to ask her to marry him, it would never happen, he was a commitment-phobe! Elaine spent some time watching and biding her time. Somewhere deep down she felt bad but couldn’t ignore the need to soothe her troubled soul with a bit of mean revenge.
Elaine used her bone key to get into Bernice’s house. It was neat and of a better standard than Brian’s. There was a newish lounge suite, covered with tasteful pillows in a fashionable mint, matching curtains and a large screen TV. Running her finger along the couch, Elaine searched for something she could use to destroy Bernice.
Getting better at it, she didn’t take long to find it. A prescription bottle marked B Murphy was next to the coffee, obviously placed there so that it could be taken in the morning, without fail.
Doing her research, Elaine saw that Flumoxanine was a mild antidepressant that took its time to work. Once it settled you – you had to maintain the balance and if you came off it, had to wean yourself off over a space of 3 months. If you didn’t, you crashed within 72 hours and usually had to be hospitalised to re stabilise. Perfect she thought. It would unsettle Bernice just enough to mess up her life for a bit which was her objective. Elaine hunted around for a sweet or vitamin pill that would look the same. It took longer than she thought it would, eventually finding a unique sweet shop online that stocked a mint that would do the trick. Elaine placed the order and turned to focus on Sally.
Sally’s house gave up nothing. No pills, no medical pamphlets, nothing. That evening Sally went through to the pub she thought the Garrets may frequent. They were there. She took a booth behind where she could easily hear their loud conversation, but they would have to walk right round to see her. 3 glasses of wine later she was bored with their arguing, loud bragging and repeated discussions. She was about to call it a night when Sally said “Ben, quit looking at the waitress’s ass.” They all laughed. “Sally don’t start, I wasn’t” Ben tried to placate her.
“Yes you were I saw you.”
“I was looking at her tip bag…: he tried to explain but Sally was having nothing of it.
“Her tit bags yes!” Elaine heard a loud slap and gasped in disbelief as Sally stormed out of the bar. The table behind her erupted into laughter.
“Sorry” Ben said. “Let’s get another round. Every time we are out…” he said and Elaine could imagine him shaking his head with a smirk.
“Got it” Elaine smiled to herself. She finished her drink, left the poor waitress a huge tip and went home to plan. Sally would be the easiest to destroy. Some lipstick, an empty condom packet and a few sprays of perfume would do it. Friday she finalised her plan for both Sally and Bernice’s revenge.
Elaine took the next day off plotting and visited Granny Bea’s grave. The leaves skittered in the cool wind and rain clouds chased each other across the sky. It was grey and dull, and the air smelt like rain. She hurried home and put homemade beef and veg soup on, enjoying the smells through the house. She missed Granny’s cooking and wished they could spend just 1 more evening together. Feeling sad she went to bed early.
Early the next morning she was up showered and ready for revenge. Her Flumoxanine look-alikes had arrived, she collected them at the post office. Then on to the chemist where she bought a box of condoms, ribbed, some cheap floral perfume called “Misty Roses” of all things and a bright red lipstick. Elaine herself wore peachy and nude colours so thought that the red would be gaudy enough.
She waited outside Bernice’s house long enough to ensure that there was no-one there. Using the bone key she got in through the back, grateful that there were no dogs and quickly replaced the tablets. She was careful to count how many there were and replace them with the exact amount, 3. Elaine had waited until there were 3 left so that the 72-hour breakdown could kick in. Smiling to herself, she let herself out, careful not to be seen.
Sally’s house was also deserted. Elaine went into the bright bedroom looking for the laundry basket. In it she found Ben’s pants. Taking the lipstick, she smeared it onto her own lips and then along the inside of the zip, careful not to make it too obvious. She then stuffed the open condom wrapper deep into the back pocket. Taking the perfume bottle, she sprinkled it under Ben’s pillow. Hoping that she had the correct side of the bed, according to the smokes and battered Western on the bedside table she did. She then found a two-day old work shirt, dirty around the collar and put a few drops onto it, carefully replacing it under the other clothes in the hamper. “Bye bye Sally!” she called gaily as she left, undetected.
The weekend was quiet, and Elaine potted around the house. By Monday morning she was craving some company and made her way to the diner for breakfast. She noticed that Marlaine wasn’t in, with a smirk. She ordered from a new waitress strangely called “Precious”. Sipping the hot, strong coffee she could overhear most of the chatter in the diner.
“Yes poor Marlaine, finding him like that, imagine!” an elderly lady said to her friend. “Apparently they were having difficulties in the bedroom” she sniggered. “But to hang yourself…” her friend said. Elaine froze. “She had to cut him down herself” the old lady tut-tutted. Elaine couldn’t believe it, what had she done? She only wanted to cause some problems not cause a death.
“And then his sister…” they continued. “Yes, yes. I heard. Sally caught her husband cheating and stabbed him, he’s in the hospital and they say he won’t make it.” Elaine started to shake uncontrollably, spilling the coffee over her breakfast. “And her in jail now. Unbelievable”.
“3 for 3” the old lady with her back to Elaine said.
“What do you mean?”
“Well now the other sister’s child, seems to have had some kind of breakdown. Probably due to the stabbing and her Uncle’s death”. Elaine was confused, the bottle definitely said “B Murphy”.
“Little Brenda has always been an anxious child. Been on medication for years. Now suddenly…” Elaine closed her eyes. The medication was for their daughter. She felt sick. Throwing money on the table, she blindly ran out of the diner fighting back her tears. Sitting in her car, she couldn’t drive. This wasn’t what she wanted. Revenge sure, some pain and suffering but 1, possibly 2 deaths and an innocent child hurt – never! Elaine opened her door and vomited onto the pavement.
“Are you alright dear?” a kindly voice said. Looking up Elaine realised in shock that she was talking to Mrs Garret, the children’s mother. She just stared, her mouth and voice not working. Elaine could see the despair in her eyes and how pale her face was. Mrs Garret took a tissue from her bag and gently wiped Elaine’s mouth then passed her a mint. She smiled kindly, squeezing her shoulder and walked away.
Elaine sat for a long, long time before she could drive away.