Tom and Sarah hopped out as Hainsworth paid the driver. The campus was quiet. When Tom, Sarah and Hainsworth entered the Strand Building.
After the proper introductions, Hainsworth and Dr. Beagleswick chatted away while Tom and Sarah investigated all the fascinating pictures and lineage charts covering the walls. The diagrams looked like tree roots that started at the top with a royal name and branched out at every new name, then split off again, and again, and again — it was dizzying. Tom and Sarah concluded that they were certainly in the right place. After a few minutes, everyone found a chair and sat down.
“Queen Victoria died in 1901 and was succeeded by her son, Edward VII, bringing in the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, another German affiliation, but that only lasted nine years. His son, George V took over the monarchy and changed their last name to the House of Windsor —”
“Our current dynasty,” interrupted Sarah.
“Exactly! Now, around this time, the Britfields hoped to once again reclaim the throne. They tried to unite support, but World War I broke out in 1914 . . . almost conveniently.”
“Why does that matter?” asked Tom.
Dr. Beagleswick let out a sorrowful sigh. “Because the war involved everyone. It was long and brutal. So many innocent lives were lost. When it was finally over in 1918, it took Britain years to recover.”
“Then what happened?”
“Two decades later was World War II, even longer and costlier. But the country rallied, especially behind their King. People were proud of their British heritage. Although we finally won in 1945, the country was devastated. No one wanted any more fighting or controversy, especially over old claims about legal heirs.”
After a moment of reflection, Dr. Beagleswick resumed. “Still, the current dynasty never felt safe or secure having usurped the Britfield’s rightful claim to the throne, so they searched for any remaining Britfields. Their lands were confiscated, their houses ransacked, and their priceless artwork stolen. Anyone found alive was dealt with severely.”
“Severely?” wondered Sarah aloud.
“Murdered,” answered Beagleswick harshly, his voice growing intense.
* * * *
A noise came from the hallway.
“Lock the door,” exclaimed Dr. Beagleswick, frightened for his life.
Tom leaped up and rushed over, turning an old rusty key protruding from the lock.
Dr. Beagleswick gave Hainsworth a harsh glare as if to say, we should never have talked about this!
The door handle jiggled.
No one moved or spoke a word.
The handle shook again, followed by violent pounding.