The Mice in the Kitchen (Part 10, page 1 of 3)

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Part 10

Chapter 8

‘Come in.’

The lid of the bathtub hid most of the duchess's body. It was basically just her head which stuck out, with her hair cascading almost to the floor. The maid left the towels on the easy chair and picked up the clothes that the lady had taken off.

When she got to the laundry room, she realized that among the clothes was a pendant: a black velvet cord with a key. She would return it immediately, but she decided to arrange the clothes into appropriate piles first, before going back.

The prince's nursemaid appeared at the door.

‘What did you do in the duchess's room?’ she asked, languidly. Oda knew very well that the Bosfor woman did not need much provocation to find a reason for complaining.

‘Nothing’, answered the girl, turning pale. ‘I just took the dirty clothes.’

‘Well, she's looking for you. She has us all looking for you. She was ringing that hand bell like mad.’

‘I... was just about to give this back to her. It was among her clothes. Maybe this is what she wants. Does she think I stole it?’

Oda gazed at the key the girl showed her.

‘Give me that. I'll take it to Her Ladyship.’

The maid looked at her with gratefulness in her eyes. The thought of being scolded by the duchess made her knees tremble.

‘And don't worry’, said the old woman, turning her neck when she was already leaving. ‘I'll explain that you took it by mistake. She should just be more careful with her things... or wash her clothes herself if she becomes so annoyed by someone else touching her belongings.’ The last part was mostly muttered to herself. All her life, Oda had always been extremely discreet –which had earned her a position of great trust at the court–, but lately –possibly due to her old age– she was starting to be rather fed up with a lot of things.

She knocked on the bedroom door, but it was not answered. Just as she was hoping for. She had expected the duchess, in view of her urge to solve this incident, to have decided to go and handle things personally.

The fact that the location of the laundry room was, in all likelihood, unknown to her, would give Oda a little bit of time.

She opened the door very carefully. Yes, the duchess was not there. She scanned the room in search of any clues provided by the lady's rush.

One of the chest drawers was not closed as tight as the rest of them. Oda walked a few steps and opened it slowly. Inside, there was a locked metal box. She had been right to think that, as it was a key that the Duchess was missing, she would have gone to check what this key opened, in case she had left it in the hole.

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