Allison waited at the counter of the city permitting office. The office took up a retail space that had, over the decades, housed a doughnut shop, a fast-food sandwich vendor, and a non-profit that supported physically challenged artists. The linoleum was worn and the harsh florescent lighting illuminated every scuff and stain.
She’d put in her request to see the ownership history of her house. When she’d bought the place, Allison had cared not one whit about the people who had lived in it before her. She only knew that it called to her, insisting she move in, settle in, and devote her spare time to making it beautiful again. The house’s age rooted her to the past, and that was enough. She’d focused only on its future as her safe, warm, home base.
Now, though, the mysterious barrel of concrete awoke her curiosity. Who would pour concrete into a barrel in a corner of a basement, and why? Since Leo had shown her the barrel, Allison had let the puzzle take over her late-night musings. She’d shared her fascination with Kassandra at the coffee shop, as the barista joined her on a quick break.
“Maybe it’s a dead body,” Allison said.
Kassandra’s eyes widened. “Do you think so? That would be so awful.”
“No, I don’t really think so,” Allison reassured her friend. “I think it’s far more likely someone had leftover concrete, and dumped it in a barrel just to get it out of the way.”
“Oh. Well, that’s nicer. But not as interesting.” Kassandra grinned. “I think it’s buried treasure. Like gold, or something. And the person was hiding it from horrible relatives who wanted to steal it. So they put it in an old barrel, covered it with concrete, and figured they’d go back and get it when the coast was clear.”
“Horrible relatives, yes,” Allison picked up the thread. “They were going to declare her as insane, just to get her fortune. Before they could lock her in the asylum, she hid her gold away.”
“No, she got her lover to do it!” Kassandra added with a giggle. “Her lover was the local handyman, far below her social station. That’s why her horrible relatives wanted her locked away, before she could marry him.”
“Yes! And all he had to help her was his strong back and his ample supply of unused concrete.” At this, Allison and Kassandra dissolved into gales of laughter.
“We’ve both been reading too many nineteenth century novels,” Kassandra gasped, when she caught her breath.
Under the harsh florescent lights of the permit office, Allison giggled to herself at the memory. “Miss? Here you go,” the clerk pushed a bundle of papers across the long counter.
Allison flipped through them quickly, back to the original building permit. The name on the permit caused her to gasp.