Junior is true to his word. Immediately after purchasing his ticket, he has charmed and sweet-talked his way to the front of the tour group, while you fidget nervously in the back. During the long, agonizing tour, conducted by a weary-faced woman in a rumpled pantsuit, Junior keeps up a patter of surprised exclamations and wry comments about every glass ashtray, vinyl-covered armchair and stretch of tired shag carpeting that the group pauses to observe.
Of course this is a ruse to keep all eyes firmly fixed on himself, and it is working. Finally, as the crowd dutifully exits the Graceland kitchen in single-file, you pause long enough to linger by a completely uninteresting bit of cabinetry, utterly alone in the room.
“Now if you’ll all gather around this glass-topped end table –” drones the tour guide from the adjoining room, and then, suddenly, a gasp erupts from the crowd.
“What’s the matter with him?” bellows a man’s voice.
“He’s havin’ a conniption fit.”
“Oh, mercy! What if it’s the sugar-diabetes?”
You sprint across the kitchen, utterly forgotten by the tour group, and wedge a shoulder against the door to the locked closet that Junior had pointed out on the floor plan. Inserting the crowbar into the crack between door and jamb, as close to the doorknob as you can get, you strain until you feel the wood start to splinter. Muffling the sounds with your body, you jimmy at the door until the deadbolt pops free of the ruined wood that anchored it. You suck in a breath, swing open the door, and carefully ease it shut again behind you.
Hitting the stairs that descend down into the basement, you’ve never been so glad to encounter motion-sensitive lighting in your life. At the bottom of the stairs you pause long enough to look around, panicking now because you’re truly in unknown territory. When your heel rocks backward on an unevenly laid block of parquet flooring, you kneel down and insert the pry bar into the gap. The parquet block comes up easily, revealing a recessed pull-lever set into the concrete sub-floor beneath.
You tug on the lever, and immediately the entire wall concealing the bit of space under the stairs swings away with metallic a squeal of protest. Crouching in the dark area, you shine a mini flashlight into the little room, and a wild laugh catches hysterically in your throat.
Through a square of darkness sunk into the floor, your beam slides over the dull, reassuring surface of an immensely heavy safe just below you. In an instant you’ve wriggled through the hole and you’re shining the light over the combination dial.
With the paper clutched in your hand, you make recreate the tiny, precise movements as instructed. Finally, the door handle turns in your hand and the heavy safe swings open to reveal…
A small, plain black velvet jewelry box, and nothing more.
After shining the light around to the far corners of the safe, you nod to yourself and secrete the box into one of your zippered pockets. There is no way you are letting this thing slip out of your grasp.
Just then, you hear the sound of footsteps above your head. Someone’s discovered the splintered kitchen door!
You’ve got to think fast; there’s another exit through the Jungle Room, but who knows what might be waiting on the other side of that door?
Make your choice:
You try to bum-rush your way up the kitchen stairs.