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Where Did your Grandfather Hide the Treasure?: Yelled the Stepfather, Lock his Stepdaughter in the Barn After Her Mother Was gone. She Cried, and then She Heard a Strange Voice

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Where Did your Grandfather Hide the Treasure?: Yelled the Stepfather, Lock his Stepdaughter in the Barn After Her Mother Was gone. She Cried, and then She Heard a Strange Voice

Mr. Parker went down the stairs to the basement and unlocked the door with a big old key. As the flashlight cast dancing shadows of cobwebs on the wall, it looked as if tiny magical creatures were dancing. Suddenly, little Samantha became scared, closed her eyes, and hurried after her grandfather.

“What’s in here, Grandpa?” she asked, frightened and amazed. The old man pushed aside an old horse harness that had been lying there for who knows how long and shuffled his feet heading towards the wall. “Here,” he said, “turn into Samantha, do you see that spot on the wall?”

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Samantha held up the flashlight and saw that there was indeed a yellowish spot on the gray wall. Her grandfather scratched at the spot with his nail and soon realized that it was clay. “Something is hidden here,” the elderly man said. “Don’t tell anyone about it, understand?”

“What’s hidden there, Grandpa?” she asked, “and why can’t we tell anyone?” The elderly man smiled. “There’s a treasure here,” he whispered in her ear. “An old treasure left by the former owners, the Nobles. When the Army came to the Village to free everyone, they began to hide their treasure. They were very greedy for their treasures.”

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“When my time comes and I’m gone, and you grow up, you’ll need money,” the elderly man concluded, looking at the spot on the wall. “This treasure will help you stand on your own two feet.”

Mr. Parker picked up the hammer lying on the table, swung it, and then changed his mind about hitting it. He put the hammer down and smiled at his granddaughter. “Well, let’s go, Samantha. In general, you should keep quiet about this, understood?” Samantha nodded. “I understand,” she said, “I promise not to tell anyone.”

Mr. Parker stroked Samantha’s tussled chestnut hair and led her out of the basement. Once Samantha returned, she found her mother, Helen, sitting in the yard under a spreading apple tree. The woman was reading a book, swatting mosquitoes from time to time. She wore a black mourning veil on her head, and her early gray hair stood out from under it.

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Samantha approached her and sat down next to her. “How is Grandpa doing?” her mother asked, not looking up from her book. “Is he feeling okay?” Samantha shrugged. “Seems like it,” she replied, “but he’s a little sad, just like you.”

Her mother put down her book, turned to Samantha, and pinched her nose. “Don’t pay attention to that,” she said, sighing, and began reading again. Samantha understood everything. She was sad too. Not long ago, she found out that her father had died while working somewhere far away, and she would never see him again.

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Her mother told her that her father had gone to a better place now and that he was happy there, but Samantha did not believe it. Every night she awoke to the sound of her mother crying softly in the darkness and silence of the kitchen, and Samantha began to cry watching her as well.

The only thing that kept Samantha’s anxiety and endless sadness at bay was the anticipation of starting school. In just two and a half months, she would be going to first grade and sitting behind a desk while a young teacher taught her everything she knew. There would be other kids there too, of course, and Samantha would get to know them.

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Samantha’s best friend was the neighbor boy, Willie. They were always together, playing ball, sneaking into other people’s gardens, and flying kites. Willie had one flaw that Samantha tried not to notice. He was born with a short right leg, so when he ran or walked, his leg couldn’t keep up with him, and he had to hop, throwing his right leg forward. But otherwise, he was no different from the other kids. He rode his bike just as well as anyone else or went fishing. So Samantha never reminded him of his ailment.

The summer days flew by quickly, and before she knew it, the mint-scented July had passed, and the starry August was coming to an end. Samantha’s mother was getting her ready for school, and they went shopping together in the city to get a backpack full of notebooks, stationery, and, most importantly, a school uniform.

Someone forgot a backpack full of notebooks, stationery, and, most importantly, a school uniform. She often took a strict but beautiful dress out of the wardrobe, spread it on the bed, and carefully examined every stitch.

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In early September, Chris appeared at Samantha’s and her mother’s house. He was a tall man of about 30, the same age as Helen. “I’m here because of your late husband,” Chris said, entering the house. He greeted Samantha and Helen, sat on a sofa in the living room, and took off his backpack from his shoulders.

“Here are his things,” he said, pulling out a paper bundle. “I thought it would be better if they got to you.” He handed the bundle to Helen, and when she unwrapped it, Samantha saw her father’s wristwatch, comb, phone, and wallet inside. Helen opened the wallet, and a yellowed photograph fell out. “That’s me and my husband on vacation,” Helen said.

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“Smiled sadly, nodding at the picture. Ben laughed, taking me to Resorts. He never spared any money for that. The woman looked at the image of her husband with teary eyes and put the card back in his wallet. ‘Thank you,’ she turned. Her colleague asked, ‘Did you know him well?’ Chris lowered his head and remained silent for a long time, examining the floor. ‘He died in front of my eyes,’ he said finally, not raising his eyes. ‘I saw him fall into the river.’ Helen waved to Samantha, ‘Go for a walk, sweetheart,’ she said. Samantha hesitated for a moment, then went out the door and pressed her ear to the lock.

Ben was pushing logs into the river when he stumbled. Samantha heard Chris’s quiet story. ‘He slipped and fell into the water, and then all the logs flew down right on him, and I saw his eyes at that moment, oh, what a terrible look he had. Then the logs covered him, and I didn’t see him anymore. The divers never found his body,’ Chris spoke again. ‘Maybe the current took him away, or he got stuck in some pit at the bottom,’ he sighed abruptly, as if catching his breath after a long run. ‘And these things survived because they were in his jacket, which was left on the shore.’

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Samantha pressed her ear harder against the lock, hearing her mother’s quiet sobbing. She felt so sad, so unbearably heavy that she cried, sitting down on the floor by the door. Soon, the school that Samantha had been waiting for finally began. Every day she went to school wearing her brand new fancy uniform. For reasons Samantha did not understand, Chris never seemed to be in a rush to leave. Whenever Samantha returned home from school, she found him sitting with her mother in the kitchen, quietly talking and laughing about something.

One day, while Samantha’s mother and Chris were watching TV together, Samantha asked, ‘Mom, is Chris going to live with us now?’ Chris looked at her, called her over, and sat her on his lap. ‘And what about you? Are you against it?’ he asked, looking straight into Samantha’s eyes. ‘Don’t you like me?’ Samantha didn’t know what to say. She nervously played with the edges of her dress and searched for an answer in her head. ‘So, you’ll be my dad?’ she asked after much deliberation. Both Chris and her mother burst out laughing in response. ‘Smart beyond her years,’ Chris told her mother, ‘just like Ben,’ answered Helen.

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Time passed, and Chris never left. Samantha came to accept that he would always be there with them. Before Christmas, Chris went away for a couple of days and came back with many things. Samantha was fascinated by the gun traps, the head of a moose with huge antlers, and other hunting paraphernalia that he brought. ‘Oh, who’s this?’ exclaimed Samantha as Chris came home from the street and pulled out a small woolen ball from his pocket. The ball squeaked, jumped up on its tiny legs, and ran to Samantha. ‘This is Rex,’ Chris said, stroking the puppy. ‘I’ll take him hunting.’ Rex squeaked, licked Samantha’s finger, and became quiet. Someone took him in her arms and rocked him like a baby.

Four months later, Rex had grown a little, but it turned out that he was not suitable for hunting at all. Rex was difficult to train, he didn’t understand commands, ran around the house not seeing or hearing anyone but himself. Chris often got angry with him and pulled hard on the leash, hitting him with his hand on the back. Rex scared, cowered like a hedgehog, and whimpered, asking Samantha for help.

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‘Don’t hit him,’ Helen once said to Chris. ‘Why are you being so cruel? It will only make the dog worse.’ He’ll get angry.’ Chris glared at her and hissed, ‘It’s none of your business,’ then, as if feeling guilty, he hastily added, ‘Sorry, I’m just so tired of this fool, and I have no strength.’ He waved his hand at Rex, who wouldn’t respond to training, and spat, ‘Let Samantha deal with this glutton.’

Samantha, having received Rex as a peculiar gift, began to teach him in her own way. She taught the dog simple commands, rewarding him for every success with something tasty. Soon enough, Rex learned to sit, lie down, and bark on command from his little mistress. She also taught the dog to catch mice; he’d sniff out their holes, and Rex, digging with his front paws through piles of dry leaves, deftly used to catch the timid rodents hiding there. ‘They turned a dog into a cat,’ Chris said with annoyance as Rex brought home another mouse he had caught. ‘It’s a nature’s mockery, not a dog.’ He took away Rex’s trophy, disgustingly threw the mouse in the trash can, and kicked the dog. Rex, growing and snarling, crawled under the bed and only came out at Samantha’s command.

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Years passed; Samantha finished elementary school, then middle and high school, and was already in her last year. Her grandfather had passed away, and Samantha often visited his grave to reminisce about the old days. She sat by the grave and thought about her upcoming adult life. What will she be when she finishes school? What will she do? Samantha didn’t know and seemed to ask her buried grandfather for advice.

The girl liked medicine and helping people and wanted to go to the city to enroll in a medical school. She decided a long time ago that she would take biology and chemistry exams, and she would definitely pass them well to get into free of charge education. But she still needed extra money to live in the city, and so far, she had no plan for where to get it. Her mother had been ill for a year and a half, and relying on her help was impossible because Helen needed help herself. Samantha didn’t know whether to ask Chris for money; frankly, she didn’t like him at all.

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Chris was now too busy with his business, his small goat farm in which he invested all his money and strength. His business was going somehow; he took out loans, negotiated with some investors, and bought various goats. But the goats gave so little milk that it would be easier to slaughter them. But Chris, with enviable persistence, was looking for a golden vein, some kind of phantom chance, and for it, he put money into his business like a furnace.

Samantha sighed. Twilight had already thickened over the cemetery; somewhere nearby, hidden from prying eyes by thick foliage, a nightingale was whistling. Loud beetles flew from tree to tree, buzzing like air fighters. Samantha stood up from the moss-covered bench and looked at her grandfather’s grave once again. And then suddenly, memories of a distant summer day flashed in her head when she followed her grandfather down to the dark basement of his house. Right before her eyes appeared a yellow spot on the wall, on which her grandfather swung a hammer and smilingly told her about the events of the Civil War.

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Treasures, Samantha smiled. They were still there, inside the wall, behind a thin clay screen. She would get them out and put them into circulation, as her grandfather wanted. And these treasures, after many years, would finally benefit her and society.

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Samantha stood over her grandfather’s grave a little longer, then slowly walked along the path leading to the cemetery gates, trying not to stumble over the graves in the darkness. Entering the house, the girl took off her shoes and called out to her mother. There was no sound from the darkness that filled the house. Samantha went towards the couch, behind which was the switch. When she approached closer, she saw that her mother was lying sprawled on the couch, and one of her hands was hanging down. Samantha lifted her mother’s hand and suddenly recoiled; the hand was as cold as ice.

Samantha felt for the chandelier switch, clicked it, and when the room was filled with yellow light, the girl collapsed to the floor with an inhuman moan. On Helen’s pale face, her wide-open eyes sparkled with a glassy gaze, and a terrible thought struck Samantha’s brain like lightning: mom had died. She sat next to the cooling body, later her head on mom’s chest, and cried.

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After Helen’s funeral, Samantha closed herself off. She felt alone in the whole universe; her mom, dad, and grandpa had all died, and Willie went to study in the city. Chris didn’t care about her at all. Samantha was waiting for the end of this terrible morning spring to take her exams and go where Willie was now. She immersed herself in her studies, which were her only lifeline to forget the reality that tormented her soul.

One day, Samantha was sitting at the table and preparing for exams. Chris asked, ‘Listen, is it true what they say? That there is a treasure somewhere in the village?’ The news blotted it out today, and before that, I heard it from old Bernard at the store. ‘Do you think it’s a lie or not?’ It was like a shock to Samantha. If Chris found out about this, he wouldn’t stop until he found everything.

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And when he found it, he would definitely take the treasure for himself. ‘It wouldn’t be bad to find this treasure,’ Chris continued, screwing in a light bulb. ‘I would buy those Scottish cows, you know, the ones with the long hair.’ He dreamily whistled, and his whistle cut through Samantha’s ears. ‘Nonsense,’ she replied, trying not to show her anxiety. ‘What treasures could be here? Do we live in Treasure Island or what?’

Chris burst out laughing. ‘People are much more inventive than you think,’ he said with a squint. ‘Nevertheless, maybe there is something.’ Samantha, unable to bear it, slammed her textbook with a noise. ‘I don’t know,’ she let it out, ‘look for it if you like, but without me. I have exams ahead of me.’ And Chris started looking. He asked neighbors, old-timers casually, but listened to every word, recording every rumor. He heard that something was hidden in the basement of the late Mr Parker said Mrs. Blake, who lived on the next street, house, either an overseer or some merchant used to live. So he didn’t want his gold to fall into the other hands; he buried it somewhere. Then Mr. Parker’s father looked for it, searched, but never found it, or maybe he did, who knows?

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Chris, hearing this, changed his expression. “Thank you, Mrs. Blake,” he thanked the elderly woman. “An interesting story. My stepdaughter is writing a local history essay; it will be useful for her to know about this,” he shook the elderly woman’s dry hand and went home.

As he approached the house, a predatory fire lit up in his eyes. “Where did your grandfather hide the treasure?” Chris yelled, grabbing Samantha by the shoulders. “I know they’re in his house. He didn’t hand them over to the stable spend, did he?”

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Samantha was frightened, sobbing, and shaking her head. “I don’t know,” she exclaimed. “I don’t know anything about any treasures. It hurts me.” She tried to break free from her stepfather’s tight grip, but he clung to her as tightly as a hawk clings to its prey.

“You’re lying!” he hissed. “Your grandfather probably hid them for you. Hurry up and tell me, or I’ll make you.” He weighed his hand and slapped Samantha, tears springing from her eyes. “I don’t know,” she insisted. “I don’t know. You’re crazy. You have an obsessive idea. You’re insane.”

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Chris became completely enraged by her words. He hit Samantha again, then again, then grabbed her by the hair and dragged her out of the house and into the yard. “You’ll stay here, you piece of trash,” he hissed, dragging Samantha into the barn. “While I search your grandpa’s house for those damned treasures.”

Chris locked the door with a huge oak bolt, then shook himself, went back inside, and took the keys to Mr. Parker’s house lying in a box. He put them in his pockets, went outside whistling cheerfully as if he had already found the treasure and was now fabulously wealthy.

Chris searched every nook and cranny of Mr. Parker’s house, but he couldn’t find anything except junk and cobwebs hanging everywhere. He kicked a chair in frustration that got in his way. “It’s okay, I’ll come back here tomorrow,” he reassured himself, “and search everything again.”

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When he returned home, he first went to the barn. “I didn’t find anything,” he said to Samantha, who was sitting where he had left her. “But it’s okay, tomorrow will be another day, and the day after that, and the day after that. I’ll keep looking, and you’ll stay here. But if you decide to tell me where the treasure is, I’ll let you out. So what do you say?”

“You’re crazy,” Samantha’s voice came from inside. “You’re sick. Let me go. I’m scared.” She began to cry, and Chris kicked the door as hard as he could. “Scream all you want. No one will hear you,” he said and went home, leaving the barn door locked.

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Samantha sat in the darkness for an hour, two, three. She didn’t know what time it was; she had no clock or phone. Sometimes she peeked through the cracks, but they were so small that it was impossible to see anything through them. She tried to hit and shake the logs of the barn, but they were nailed down tightly, and none of them moved from her weak blows.

Having tried all possible options for escape and realizing that they were all useless, Samantha helplessly dropped to the earthen floor and cried. She was so deeply immersed in her grief that she didn’t notice how Rex crawled into the barn through a small hole in the corner and crawled up to her.

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“Rex!” exclaimed Samantha when the dog nosed her face. “Rex, how did you end up here?” The dog, as if understanding her question, ran to the corner and stopped near the hole. Samantha tried to dig deeper into the pit, but without a shovel, it seemed impossible, and unfortunately, there were no shovels or other tools in the barn.

Biting her broken nails, Samantha helplessly dropped to the floor and fell into an uneasy sleep.

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“Good morning!” Chris’s voice woke her up. “Eat some food.” He slid a pack of dried noodles and a bottle of water under the door. Samantha easily grabbed the noodles, tore open the package, and bit into the brick with her teeth.

“Well, have you decided anything?” Chris asked her through the door. “Will you tell me where the gold is?”

“I don’t know anything,” Samantha replied, her mouth full of noodles. “I need to continue my preparations for exams. Let me go.”

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But Chris left her reply unanswered, and Samantha heard his footsteps receding.

Samantha lost track of time and didn’t know how long she had been in the damp darkness of the shed. Realizing she couldn’t escape on her own and there was no one to help her, she decided to reveal her grandfather’s secret to her stepfather. Let him choke on these treasures, she thought, stroking Rex. “I’ll still put him behind bars for what he did,” with a grim smirk at the thought of revenge.

Somehow, she fell asleep again. In her dream, she saw Willie; they ran together through a field overgrown with flowers while a hot July sunset was coming towards them. Birds chirped around them, and crickets played an incredible soul-stirring melody. Willie shouted something, but Samantha couldn’t make out the words and laughed.

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Rex barked upon hearing Samantha’s laughter, but she didn’t wake up. Meanwhile, in her dream, Willie called her “granny,” and she reveled in his voice like music. When he shouted, “Hello, granny!” she woke up. She blinked, yawned, and then heard a muffled voice from outside the pine-boarded wall, “Have you arrived, my dear grandson?” the voice sounded muffled.

“Yes, granny, just five minutes ago!” Samantha screamed. It was Willie’s voice. She jumped up and ran to the pit Rex’s hole led to the street, right where Willie’s voice was coming from. She struggled to stick her head in the pit, and the same bright light hit her eyes.

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“Willie! Samantha shouted, not opening her eyes. “Willie, I’m here!” The guy who was nearby ran up to her and sat next to her. “Hello,” he breathed out. “What are you doing here?”

Samantha, wiping tears from her eyes, told him everything. “Wait a minute,” Willie said hastily, getting up. “Now, I’ll free you.” He calmly climbed over the fence, limped to the shed door, and removed the bolt. Then he opened the door and called Samantha, “We need to run to Grandpa’s house.”

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“Willie,” Samantha whispered, hugging Willie, “we have to get the treasure before he does.”

They rushed down the street, ignoring the passersby who looked at them. Samantha pushed the heavy gates, burst into the yard, and rushed to the cellar. It was quiet and damp in the cellar, just like in a cave. Samantha took the old lantern hanging on the wall, pressed the button, and lit it. Then she slowly started to walk along the wall.

When she reached the familiar room, she headed towards the gray wall in front of her, seeing that the hammer was lying in the same place as it was 11 years ago. Samantha couldn’t help but smile. Grandpa hadn’t been there since then.

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Samantha fixated her eyes on a yellowish spot on the wall and grabbed a hammer. She struck the stain, and clay dust flew into her face, but she wiped it off and hit it again. After five hits, the clay barrier broke, revealing a small hidden compartment inside. Samantha found a bundle containing tangled chains, 10 gold rings, pendants, and crosses adorned with small stones, as well as a tiara, a brass crucifix, and pages from an old book that had turned green from age.

She admired her find for a few seconds, then wrapped everything back up and tucked the bundle under her shirt.

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When he met Samantha at the basement door, Willy said, “I called the police; your stepfather won’t be able to get away now.” Samantha nodded and smiled. “I’m glad you came,” she said. “I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t.”

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Willy shrugged, unsurprised. “It’s good that I got sick and returned home,” he laughed, and Samantha laughed too.

That evening, they were sitting in Samantha’s house; her stepfather was being interrogated at the police station. Willie asked Samantha, “What do you plan to do?”

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“I want to go to medical school, to become a pediatrician, but I haven’t decided for sure,” Samantha replied without hesitation.

Willy wrinkled his nose. “It’s hard there,” he said.

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Samantha giggled. “It’s okay, and I’m a capable student,” she said, finishing her tea.

“I’ll go to sleep,” she announced, yawning. “The day was so complicated.”

Willie nodded and stood up. “Thanks for the tea,” he said, buttoning his coat, “and for the cookies.” He headed to the door, and Samantha hurried after him. “Wait,” she called out, grabbing his hand.

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“Take this,” he said and placed one of the rings she had found on Willie’s palm. Willie looked at her gift with surprise. “Wow,” he said, “thank you.”

He kissed Samantha on the cheek, and she, feeling his lips on her skin, grabbed his face with her hands and kissed his lips with her own. It was only now that she realized that Willie was more than just a friend; he was something bigger than just a boy from the neighborhood with whom she could have fun playing ball. Now they were grown-ups, and their childhood friendship had smoothly transitioned into adult love. Samantha knew for sure that they had a shared future ahead of them.

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Mr. Parker went down the stairs to the basement and unlocked the door with a big old key. As the flashlight cast dancing shadows of cobwebs on the wall, it looked as if tiny magical creatures were dancing. Suddenly, little Samantha became scared, closed her eyes, and hurried after her grandfather. “What’s in here, Grandpa?” she asked, frightened and amazed.

The old man pushed aside an old horse harness that had been lying there for who knows how long and shuffled his feet heading towards the wall, “Here,” he said, “turn into Samantha. Do you see that spot on the wall?”

Samantha held up the flashlight and saw that there was indeed a yellowish spot on the gray wall. Her grandfather scratched at the spot with his nail and suddenly realized that it was clay. “Something is hidden here,” the elderly man said, “Don’t tell anyone about it, understand?”

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“What’s hidden there, Grandpa?” she asked, “And why can’t we tell anyone?”

The elderly man smiled, “There’s a treasure here,” he whispered in her ear, “an old treasure left by the former owners, the Nobles. When the Army came to the Village to free everyone, they began to hide their treasure. They were very greedy for their treasures. When my time comes and I’m gone, and you grow up, you’ll need money. This treasure will help you stand on your own two feet.”

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Mr. Parker picked up the hammer lying on the table, swung it, and then changed his mind about hitting it. He put the hammer down and smiled at his granddaughter, “Well, let’s go, Samantha.”

“In general, you should keep quiet about this, understood?” Samantha nodded, “I understand,” she said, “I promise not to tell anyone.”

Mr. Parker stroked Samantha’s tussled chestnut hair and led her out of the basement.

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Once Samantha returned, she found her mother, Helen, sitting in the yard under a spreading apple tree. The woman was reading a book, swatting mosquitoes from time to time. She wore a black mourning veil on her head, and her early gray hair stood out from under it. Samantha approached her and sat down next to her.

“How is Grandpa doing?” her mother asked, not looking up from her book, “Is he feeling okay?”

Samantha shrugged, “Seems like it,” she replied, “but he’s a little sad, just like you.”

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Her mother put down her book, turned to Samantha, and pinched her nose, “Don’t pay attention to that,” she said, sighing, and began reading again.

Samantha understood everything; she was sad too. Not long ago, she found out that her father had died while working somewhere far away, and she would never see him again. Her mother told her that her father had gone to a better place now and that he was happy there, but Samantha did not believe it. Every night, she awoke to the sound of her mother crying softly in the darkness and silence of the kitchen, and Samantha began to cry watching her as well.

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The only thing that kept Samantha’s anxiety and endless sadness at bay was the anticipation of starting school in just two and a half months. She would be going to first grade and sitting behind a desk while a young teacher taught her everything she knew, and there would be other kids there too, of course, and Samantha would get to know them. Samantha’s best friend was the neighbor boy, Willie. They were always together, playing ball, sneaking into other people’s gardens, and flying kites.

Willie had one flaw that Samantha tried not to notice. He was born with a short right leg, so when he ran, his right leg couldn’t keep up with him, and he had to hop, throwing his right leg forward. But otherwise, he was no different from the other kids. He rode his bike just as well as anyone else or went fishing, so Samantha never reminded him of his ailment.

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The summer days flew by quickly, and before she knew it, the mint-scented July had passed, and the starry August was coming to an end. Samantha’s mother was getting Samantha ready for school, and they went shopping together in the city. Someone forgot a backpack full of notebooks, stationery, and most importantly, a school uniform. She often took a strict but beautiful dress out of the wardrobe, spread it on the bed, and carefully examined every stitch.

In early September, Chris appeared at Samantha’s and her mother’s house. He was a tall man of about 30, the same age as Helen. “I’m here because of your late husband,” Chris said, entering the house. He greeted Samantha and Helen, sat on a sofa in the living room, and took off his backpack from his shoulders. “Here are his things,” he said, pulling out a paper bundle, “I thought it would be better if they got to you.”

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He handed the bundle to Helen, and when she unwrapped it, Samantha saw her father’s wristwatch, comb, phone, and wallet inside. Helen opened the wallet, and a yellowed photograph fell out, “That’s me and my husband on vacation,” Helen smiled sadly, nodding at the picture, “Ben laughed, taking me to resorts. He never spared any money for that.” The woman looked at the image of her husband with teary eyes and put the card back in his wallet, “Thank you,” she turned her colleague, “Did you know him well?”

Chris lowered his head and remained silent for a long time, examining the floor, “He died in front of my eyes,” he said finally, not raising his eyes, “I saw him fall into the river.” Helen waved to Samantha, “Go for a walk, sweetheart,” she said.

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Samantha hesitated for a moment, then went out the door and pressed her ear to the lock. Ben was pushing logs into the river when he stumbled. Samantha heard Chris’s quiet story, “He slipped and fell into the water, and then…,” Chris paused for a moment, “And then all the logs flew down right on him, and I saw his eyes at that moment. Oh, what a terrible look he had. Then the logs covered him, and I didn’t see him anymore. The divers never found his body.”

Chris spoke again, “Maybe the current took him away, or he got stuck in some pit at the bottom.” He sighed abruptly, as if catching his breath after a long run, “And these things survived because they were in his jacket, which was left on the shore.”

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Samantha pressed her ear harder against the lock, hearing her mother’s quiet sobbing. She felt so sad, so unbearably heavy, that she cried, sitting down on the floor by the door.

Soon, the school that Samantha had been waiting for finally began. Every day, she went to school wearing her brand new fancy uniform. For reasons Samantha did not understand, Chris never seemed to be in a rush to leave. Whenever Samantha returned home from school, she found him sitting with her mother in the kitchen, quietly talking and laughing about something.

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One day, while Samantha’s mother and Chris were watching TV together, Samantha asked, “Mom, is Chris going to live with us now?”

Chris looked at her, called her over, and sat her on his lap, “And what about you? Are you against it?” he asked, looking straight into Samantha’s eyes, “Don’t you like me?”

Samantha didn’t know what to say. She nervously played with the edges of her dress and searched for an answer in her head, “So you’ll be my dad?” she asked after much deliberation.

Both Chris and her mother burst out laughing in response. “Smart beyond her years,” Chris told her mother, “Just like Ben.”

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Time passed, and Samantha finished elementary school, then middle and high school, and was already in her last year. Her grandfather had passed away, and someone often visited his grave to reminisce about the old days. She sat by the grave and thought about her upcoming adult life. What will she be when she finishes school? What will she do? Samantha didn’t know and seemed to ask her buried grandfather for advice.

The girl liked medicine and helping people and wanted to go to the city to enroll in a medical school. She decided a long time ago that she would take biology and chemistry Exams, and she would definitely pass them well to get into free of charge education, but she still needed extra money to live in the city.

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And so far, she had no plan for where to get it. Her mother had been ill for a year and a half, and relying on her help was impossible because Helen needed help herself. Samantha didn’t know whether to ask Chris for money; frankly, she didn’t like him at all. Chris was now too busy with his business, his small goat farm in which he invested all his money and strength.

His business was going somehow; he took out loans, negotiated with some investors, and bought various goats, but the goats gave so little milk that it would be easier to slaughter them. But Chris, with enviable persistence, was looking for a golden vein, some kind of phantom chance, and for it, he put money into his business like a furnace.

Samantha sighed. Twilight had already thickened over the cemetery. Somewhere nearby, hidden from prying eyes by thick foliage, a nightingale was whistling loud. Beetles flew from tree to tree, buzzing like air fighters. Samantha stood up from the moss-covered bench and looked at her grandfather’s grave once again. And then suddenly, memories of a distant summer day flashed in her head when she followed her grandfather down to the dark basement of his house. Right before her eyes appeared a yellow spot on the wall, on which her grandfather swung a hammer and smiling, told her about the events of the Civil War.

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Treasures! Samantha smiled. They were still there inside the wall behind a thin clay screen. She would get them out and put them into circulation as her grandfather wanted, and these treasures, after many years, would finally benefit her and society.

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Samantha stood over her grandfather’s grave a little longer, then slowly walked along the path leading to the cemetery gates, trying not to stumble over the graves in the darkness. Entering a house, the girl took off her shoes and called out to her mother. There was no sound from the darkness that filled the house. Samantha went towards the couch, behind which was the switch. When she approached closer, she saw that her mother was lying sprawled on the couch, and one of her hands was hanging down.

Someone for lifted her mother’s hand and suddenly recoiled; the hand was as cold as ice. Samantha felt for the chandelier switch, clicked it, and when the room was filled with yellow light, the girl collapsed to the floor with an inhuman moan. On Helen’s pale face, her wide-open eyes sparkled with a glassy gaze, and a terrible thought struck Samantha’s brain like lightning: Mom had died.

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She sat next to the cooling body, later her head on Mom’s chest and cried. After Helen’s funeral, Samantha closed herself off. She felt alone in the whole universe; her mom, dad, and grandpa had all died, and Willie went to study in the city. Chris didn’t care about her at all. Samantha was waiting for the end of this terrible morning spring to take her exams and go where Willie was now. She immersed herself in her studies, which were her only lifeline to forget the reality that tormented her soul.

One day, Samantha was sitting at the table and preparing for exams when Chris asked, “Listen, is it true what they say, that there is a treasure somewhere in the village? The naked blotted it out today, and before that, I heard it from old Bernard at the store. Do you think it’s a lie or not?”

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“It was like a shock to Samantha. If Chris found out about this, he wouldn’t stop until he found everything, and when he found it, he would definitely take the treasure for himself. It wouldn’t be bad to find this treasure,” Chris continued, screwing in a light bulb. “I would buy those Scottish cows, you know, the ones with the long hair.” He dreamily whistled, and his whistle cut through Samantha’s ears.

“Nonsense,” she replied, trying not to show her anxiety. “What treasures could be here? Do we live in Treasure Island or what?”

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Chris burst out laughing. “People are much more inventive than you think,” he squinted. “Nevertheless, maybe there is something.”

Samantha, unable to bear it, slammed her textbook with a noise. “I don’t know,” she’d let it out. “Look for it if you like, but without me. I have exams ahead of me.”

And Chris started looking. He asked neighbors, old-timers casually but listened to every word, recording every rumor. “I heard that something was hidden in the basement of the late Mr. Parker,” said Mrs. Blake, who lived on the next street. “His house, either an overseer or some merchant, used to live, so he didn’t want his gold to fall into the other hands. He buried it somewhere. Then, Mr. Parker’s father looked for it, searched, but never found it. Or maybe he did; who knows?”

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Chris, hearing this, changed his expression. “Thank you, Mrs. Blake,” he thanked the elderly woman. “An interesting story. My stepdaughter is writing a local history essay; it will be useful for her to know about this.” He shook the elderly woman’s dry hand and went home.

As he approached the house, a predatory fire lit up in his eyes. “Where did your grandfather hide the treasure?” Chris yelled, grabbing Samantha by the shoulders. “I know they’re in his house; he didn’t hand them over to the staple spend, did he?”

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Samantha was frightened, sobbing, and shaking her head. “I don’t know,” she exclaimed. “I don’t know anything about any treasures; it hurts me.” She tried to break free from her stepfather’s tight grip, but he clung to her as tightly as a hawk clings to its prey.

“You’re lying,” he hissed. “Your grandfather probably hid them for you. Hurry up and tell me, or I’ll make you.” He raised his hand and slapped Samantha on the burning cheek. With the blow, tears sprang from her eyes.

“I don’t know,” she insisted. “I don’t know anything. You’re crazy. You have an obsessive idea; you’re insane.”

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Chris became completely enraged by her words. He hit Samantha again, then again, then grabbed her by the hair and dragged her out of the house and into the yard. “You’ll stay here, you piece of trash,” he hissed, dragging Samantha into the barn. “And while I search your grandpa’s house for those damned treasures, you’ll stay here. But if you decide to tell me where the treasure is, I’ll let you out. So, what do you say?”

“You’re crazy,” Samantha’s voice came from inside. “You’re sick. Let me go. I’m scared.”

She began to cry, and Chris kicked the door as hard as he could. “Scream all you want; no one will hear you,” he said and went home, leaving the barn door locked.

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Samantha sat in the darkness for an hour, two, three; she didn’t know what time it was. She had no clock or phone. Sometimes she peeked through the cracks, but they were so small that it was impossible to see anything through them. Someone tried to hit and shake the logs of the barn, but they were nailed down tightly, and none of them moved from her weak blows. Having tried all possible options for a stake and realizing that they were all useless, Samantha finally dropped to the earthen floor and cried. She was so deeply immersed in her grief that she didn’t notice how Rex crawled into the barn through a small hole in the corner and crawled up to her.

“Rex!” exclaimed Samantha when the dog nosed her face. “Rex, how did you end up here?”

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The dog, as if understanding her question, ran to the corner and stopped near the hole. Someone tried to dig deeper into the pit, but without a shovel, it seemed impossible, and unfortunately, there were no shovels or other tools in the barn. Biting her broken nails, Samantha helplessly dropped to the floor and fell into an uneasy sleep.

“Good morning,” Chris’s voice woke her up. “Here’s some food.” He slid a pack of dried noodles and a bottle of water under the door.

Samantha easily grabbed the noodles, tore open the package, and bit into the brick with her teeth. “Well, have you decided anything?” Chris asked her through the door. “Will you tell me where the gold is?”

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“I don’t know anything,” Samantha replied, her mouth full of noodles. “I need to continue my preparations for exams. Let me go.”

But Chris left her reply unanswered, and Samantha heard his footsteps receding.

Samantha lost track of time and didn’t know how long she had been in the damp darkness of the shed. Realizing she couldn’t escape on her own and there was no one to help her, she decided to reveal her grandfather’s secret to her stepfather. Let him choke on these treasures, she thought, stroking Rex. “I’ll still put him behind bars for what he did,” with a grim smirk at the thought of revenge.

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Some of them later, she fell asleep again. In her dream, she saw Willie; they ran together through a field overgrown with flowers while a hot July sunset was coming towards them. Birds chirped around them, and crickets played an incredible, soul-stirring melody. Willie shouted something, but Samantha couldn’t make out the words and laughed.

Rex barked upon hearing Samantha’s laughter, but she didn’t wake up. Meanwhile, in her dream, Willie “Called her granny and she reveled in his voice-like music when we shouted hello granny, she woke up, she blinked, yawned, and then heard a muffled voice from outside the pine-boarded wall. ‘Have you arrived, my dear grandson?’ the voice sounded muffled. ‘Yes, granny, just five minutes ago,’ Samantha screamed.

It was Willy’s voice. She jumped up and ran to the pit Rex’s hole led to the street, right where Willy’s voice was coming from. She struggled to stick her head in the pit, and the same bright light hit her eyes. ‘Willie!’ Samantha shouted, not opening her eyes. ‘Willie, I’m here!’ The guy who was nearby ran up to her and sat next to her. ‘Hello,’ he breathed out. ‘

What are you doing here?’ Samantha, wiping tears from her eyes, told him everything. ‘Wait a minute,’ Willie said hastily, getting up. ‘Now, I’ll free you.’ He calmly climbed over the fence, limped to the shed door, and removed the bolt. Then he opened the door and called Samantha. ‘We need to run to Grandpa’s house,’ someone whispered, hugging Willy. ‘We have to get the treasure before he does.’

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They rushed down the street, ignoring the passersby who looked at them. Someone pushed the heavy gates, burst into the yard, and rushed to the cellar. It was quiet and damp in the cellar, just like in a cave. Samantha took the old lantern hanging on the wall, pressed the button, and lit it. Then she slowly started to walk along the wall. When she reached the familiar room, she headed towards the gray wall in front of her.

Seeing that the hammer was lying in the same place as it was 11 years ago, Samantha couldn’t help but smile. Grandpa hadn’t been there since then. Samantha fixated her eyes on a yellowish spot on the wall and grabbed a hammer. She struck the stain, and clay dust flew into her face, but she wiped it off and hit it again. After five hits, the clay barrier broke, revealing a small hidden compartment inside.

Samantha found a bundle containing tangled chains, 10 gold rings, pendants, and crosses adorned with small stones, as well as a tiara, a brass crucifix, and pages from an old book that had turned green from age. She admired her find for a few seconds, then wrapped everything back up and tucked the bundle under her shirt.

When he met Samantha at the basement door, Willy said, ‘I called the police, your stepfather won’t be able to get away now.’ Samantha nodded and smiled, ‘I’m glad you came,’ she said. ‘I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t.’ Willy shrouded unsurprised himself. ‘It’s good that I got sick and returned home,’ he laughed, and Samantha forced laughter too.

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That evening, they were sitting in Samantha’s house, her stepfather being interrogated at the police station, and Willie asked, ‘What do you plan to do?’ ‘I want to go to medical school to become a pediatrician, but I haven’t decided for sure,’ Samantha replied without hesitation. Willie wrinkled his nose, ‘It’s hard there,’ he said. Samantha giggled, ‘It’s okay, and I’m a capable student,’ she said, finishing her tea. ‘

I’m going to sleep,’ she announced, yawning. ‘The day was so complicated.’ Willie nodded and stood up, ‘Thanks for the tea,’ he said, buttoning his coat, ‘and for cookies.’ He went to the door, and Samantha hurried after him. ‘Wait,’ she called out, grabbing his hand. ‘Take this,’ he said and placed one of the rings she had found on Willy’s palm. Willy looked at her gift with surprise, ‘Wow,’ he said, ‘thank you.

‘ He kissed Samantha on the cheek, and she, feeling his lips on her skin, grabbed his face with her hands and kissed his lips with her own. It was only now that she realized that Willy was more than just a friend. He was something bigger than just a boy from the neighborhood with whom she could have fun playing ball. Now they were grown-ups, and their childhood friendship had smoothly transitioned into adult love. Someone knew for sure that they had a shared future ahead of them.”

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