http://www.deviantart.com/art/key-62685439, Key by chunkygummybears
Ying Lee hurried along the sidewalk, high-heels clicking a staccato beat, her briefcase tapping against her skirted thigh. She rehearsed her presentation as she traveled. If she could land this account, that would put her in the running for partner. She felt good about this. She’d been emailing her potential client, sending him freebies, making friends. Today it was time to close the deal.
A glint from the sidewalk made her step stutter. She backed-up, causing the man behind her to bump her shoulder. “Sorry.” He glared but went on. Ying stopped and stared at the grubby junction between the building and the cement sidewalk. Crouching, she studied the key that lay in the dirt. It didn’t look shiny now. It seemed old—an ancient skeleton key, like in some story book.
She reached out and picked it up. It had an elaborate, curlicue bow, but no key ring or cord attached to it. The shaft had four cuts of different lengths and widths. She couldn’t imagine what kind of lock the key would open. Standing, she pulled a tissue from her purse and rubbed off some of the dirt. Ying felt a little dizzy. She took a breath and thought, stood too fast. It’s pretty. She wrapped it in the tissue and put it in her purse. Ying checked her watch and continued to her meeting. I’ll go to a locksmith after the meeting and ask what kind of key this is.
Ying was pleased as she left her client’s office. The contract was bigger than she expected. She grinned all the way out of the building. Take that, Clint Baker. I’m going to be the next partner. As she went along the sidewalk two mothers with strollers blocked her way. She stepped into the nearest doorway to let them pass. An old man in a Veteran’s ball cap rode by on a motorized chair. Ying glanced in the window of the shop. A display of keys, old ones, caught her eye. Her found key leapt to mind.
Opening the door, she went inside. Antiques, she realized. The store had classical music playing in the background. Everything was displayed elegantly, dusted and expensive looking.
At the counter an old woman sat, a gilt-edged book open on the counter in front of her. “May I help you?”
Her voice was firm, a surprise. Ying expected a weak, quavery voice. “Umm, yes.” She reached into her purse and pulled out the tissue. She placed it on the counter and unwrapped it. “I found this a little while ago. What can you tell me about it?”
The old woman put a ribbon in her page and closed the book. “I’m Eleanor. I own this shop.” She pulled a magnifying glass out from under the counter and examined the key. “Interesting. Where’d you find it?”
“Just up the block. I saw it glint.”
Eleanor descended from her stool like a queen from her throne and turned to the wall of research books behind her. She studied the spines then selected a book with a spine so old, faded and broken, Ying couldn’t read it.
Eleanor opened the book and turning the pages with care, stopped on a page near the middle. Even upside down, Ying could see that the illustration looked exactly like the key she’d found.
“Interesting.” Eleanor adjusted her glasses. Circles sat in such a thin gold frame it was nearly invisible. The frames were attached to black ribbon that went around her neck. “It’s been over a century since this key has been seen.”
“What do you think it goes to?”
“Originally, the study in a castle in France. A famous alchemist of the time owned the castle. At least that’s the rumor. The last report of it was from before World War I. A young Frenchman found it and apparently met with much success despite the war.”
Ying pushed down her impatience with such an unbelievable story. “Okay. Really?”
“I can see you don’t believe the story.”
“Well.” Ying shrugged. “I’m a practical person. I succeed because I work hard. There’s no magic.”
“The history of the key is quite clear.” Eleanor ran her finger down the page and turned it. “Every owner, that we know of, has had remarkable luck. Each owner said the key was responsible.”
A small snort escaped Ying. “I’m sorry, Miss. I didn’t mean to be rude.”
“Let me ask you a question,” Eleanor smiled. “Did you meet with some success this morning?”
Ying’s eyebrows rose. “I did. But I was prepared and I landed a new client.”
“Did it surpass your expectations?”
“The contract was bigger than I had anticipated.” Her eyes narrowed. “But I seriously don’t think it was because of a magic key.”
Eleanor shrugged. “Perhaps it was your hard work. Take the key. Keep it with you for a month then come back and tell me what you think.”
Ying eyed the key. “So, what? I rub it or something?”
“Is that what you did this morning?”
“I, uh, I just…” She remembered rubbing dirt from the key. “Yes. Yes I did.” She nodded to herself. “Can I wash it? It’s really dirty.”
“Try it.” Eleanor smiled again. “Thank you for stopping in. Do come back and tell me how it goes.”
“Ying re-wrapped the key in the tissue and put it back in her purse. This whole thing sounded crazy. “I, uh, I will.” On the way out the door she chastised herself. Why’d you promise to come back? I don’t have time for fairy-tales. Get back to the office and fill out the reports.
Thinking about her new client and the benefits the account would bring to her cheered her up. Her steps grew more definitive until her heels made a staccato beat on the sidewalk. No one or nothing is responsible for my success but me. Her chin rose. Poor Clint won’t know what hit him.
Part I: 989 Words