He’d been working on the kitchen for a week now. Everything was panning out great, and by the upcoming week, they would have a new kitchen to cook their meals in.
But when he dragged the cabinet aside to fix it, he noticed a peculiar handle on the wall. Although everything within him warned him not to get close, he couldn’t help but pull the handle. What he and his wife found made them step back.
Jack and Melissa moved into their new home a few months after getting married. Looking to spend the rest of their lives together, they’d hunted down a beautiful two-bedroom fixer-upper house in Houston, Texas.
The young couple spent their first year turning the house into their dream home. Everything was going according to plan until they got to fixing the kitchen.
Jack and Melissa’s house was more than half a century old. Despite its age, the house was among the prettiest in their neighborhood. Its previous owners had done a remarkable job keeping it in good shape.
The fixes Jack and Melissa did on the house were necessary ones. For one, they wanted to make their home baby-friendly, as they were expecting their firstborn soon. They had no clue how much the renovation would impact their lives.
Jack spent a better part of his teenage and early adult years as a handyman. As such, he did most of the renovations by himself, which Melissa told him was very cute.
A year had passed, and the rest of the house was as beautiful as Jack and Melissa envisioned when they moved in. If the kitchen’s renovation mirrored the other rooms, the couple would have the home of their dreams.
Jack took his mallet and set to caving in the kitchen parts they didn’t need. He redid the tiles, cupboards, counters, and island.
Standing firmly against the wall was a broken antique mahogany cabinet. It’d been among the items that made Jack and Melissa fall in love with this house. Jack couldn’t destroy it. He dragged it away from the wall to figure out how to fix it. Then he saw what was hiding behind it.
Once Jack had moved the old cabinet away, he noticed something in its place — a circular notch on the floor. There was a handle on the item on the floor.
It seemed like a giant plug built into the floorboards, but why? He pulled hard on the plug to reveal something that had been hidden for a long time.
When Jack pulled on the metal ring that had been built into the floor, a square-shaped panel of floorboards came away. He peered into the space and spotted a safe!
Jack tugged the safe’s handle, but it wouldn’t budge. He took a step back, wondering why one of the previous families left a locked safe when they had moved out.
Jack grew up reading fantasy books about entire worlds hidden behind cabinets and closets. What he was staring at was better than anything he’d ever read.
Unfortunately, the safe was sealed shut. After trying to get it open by guessing the passcode and randomly turning the safe’s dial, he decided to try and open it by force.
Jack rubbed a hand down his face as he studied the safe. He realized it was at least a decade old, given its design and chapped paint.
“Lisa,” he called out, and Melissa came running in. “What is it,” she asked. Jack pointed at the safe. Melissa’s eyes widened. What she did next left Jack slack-jawed.
Melissa stormed out of the kitchen, leaving Jack alone. He was about to rush after her when she returned, one of her bags in hand. She rummaged through it, producing an old poker card.
“What’s that?” Jack asked with a quizzical look. “I’m not sure yet,” Melissa answered, a broad smile plastered on her face. She waved the card before Jack’s eyes and said, “This thing has given me sleepless nights.” She turned the card over, and Jack saw what she was referring to.
“Two, sixty-five, fifty-two,” Jack read the final numbers penned into the card’s back. Melissa entered them into the safe for the dozenth time. They were about to give up when something inside the metal door clicked.
“I found the card while we were doing the main bedroom,” she chirped, “it was behind the old medicine cabinet!”
As the safe that had been set into the floor’s door slid open, Jack held Melissa back. There was no telling what secrets hid inside the safe for all these years.
What could be so important that it needed to be protected and hidden from everyone? Well, Jack couldn’t wait another minute to find out. “Water?” he exclaimed, perplexed. What was this?
Jack was perplexed to find an inch of old, standing water at the bottom of the safe. Then, he suddenly remembered that the realtor had told them that a pipe had burst in the house many years before and flooded a lot of the ground floor.
The water from the burst pipe must have flooded into the safe. But thankfully, it didn’t seem to have damaged what lay inside.
Jack pulled out a plastic bag and rummaged through it, revealing an entire time capsule. One of the first things he found was a coin book from 1937.
The outside of the book was damaged, but thankfully the layers had protected the coins inside from the water. In fact, they were almost in pristine condition. It was as if they had just been placed in there.
The old coin book wasn’t all that was in the safe. Jack soon discovered a variety of coins that had been dumped into the bag, along with a collection of water-damaged dollar bills.
Although many of the coins were standard issue versions, many pieces in the collection were rare coins. It turned out that even the standard finds could still have a high collector’s value if the couple decided to sell them. And it kept getting stranger.
The safe revealed more of its secrets to Jack and Melissa. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing. There were stacks of dollar bills, and bottle of 1959 bourbon.
Time seemed to stand still as the couple stared at the strange items. Then, Melissa moved her hand to reach into the bag, but Jack stopped her.
With his hand on Melissa’s arm, Jack yelled: “Don’t! It might be boobytrapped!” Startled, it took Melissa a few seconds to realize that Jack was joking.
They both laughed for a few seconds. Then, Melissa noticed something else and they both fell silent. She reached in, picked it up, and turned it around in her hands.
The item in the bag in the safe that had piqued Melissa’s interest the most was a tattered, slightly water-damaged novel published in the sixties.
The hardcover book was aptly titled “A Guide for the Perplexed,” written by E.F. Schumacher. Melissa flipped through it, her brows furrowing at what hid in its pages.
Melissa pulled a map of Houston from the novel. The map was old and leached of color. It had an X marked on one of its many neighborhoods.
As Melissa studied it, Jack realized that the map wasn’t the only thing marked. He took the book from her, seeing that a few folded pages had their paragraphs underlined in pencil. What was going on?
An old photo was wedged between the last few pages of the book. As Jack took it from Melissa, it spilled out onto the floor, along with a few other pieces of paper.
On the back of the photo was a note. Jack read it aloud: ‘Alan, I have a book you must read. I’ve underlined a few key passages. Your friend, Vincent.’
The more Jack and Melissa studied the enigma before them, the more interesting it got. They’d found more old photos of a family inside the novel, along with something that looked like a bookmark.
The bookmark had quotes from the book penciled in that seemingly hinted at a treasure hidden nearby, somewhere in the city.
The underlined passage of the chapter in the book titled, ‘On Philosophical Maps’ reads: ‘One way of looking at the world as a whole is by means of a map, that is to say, some sort of plan or outline that shows where various things are to be found.’
Another black and white photo of an old house was placed right underneath another passage that read: ‘There yielded such fruitful results.’
On the back of the old photo of the house, the words ‘Where one tree becomes three’ were written in pen. Jack and Melissa were incredulous.
Was any of this true, or was someone playing a cruel trick on them? Whatever the truth was, they were determined to get to the bottom of it.
Inside the book, there was also an old Bingo card that was frayed and yellow on the edges. Three numbers on the card were circled in pen – 66, 3, and 54.
It wasn’t lost on the couple that the safe they had just opened also had a five-digit passcode. Could this possibly be the combination for another safe?
Jack fetched their laptop, joining Melissa on the kitchen table. Through Google maps, they ascertained where the place marked X on the map was: Hyde Park, Houston.
But they had no way of knowing where the photo of the old house had been taken – which was obviously a vital clue. Then, Melissa had an idea.
Melissa scanned and uploaded the photo of the house – along with the other clues they had found in the book – and posted everything on Reddit.
Surely, there would be someone who would be able to identify the location of the old house, and maybe someone online could even decipher some of the other clues.
Of course, as soon as Melissa made the post, the first question on everyone on Reddit’s lips was how much money had been in the safe.
Melissa and Jack had counted the cash inside the safe and found out that they had a staggering fifty thousand dollars in their possession. But there was one problem.
The money left in the safe was too much for someone not to return for it. The details in the novel and the map were also well thought out.
What if the young couple used the money and landed themselves in big trouble? Jack decided to share his worry with Melissa. She suggested something that made his lips part.
“Let’s move the money to a safety deposit box,” Melissa said. She pulled out another small note that had been wedged at the end of the novel.
It read, “Dear Alan, glad you’ve found this next batch. Hope it makes up for all those years I wasn’t around. Please read the book I’ve left for you. Love, Richard.”
“There were a series of these safes around the city, I think,” Melissa added. “Let’s keep it safe for him until Alan or his family comes to look for it.”
Jack looked at his wife, seeing the calm and resolve in her blue eyes. He nodded with a smile. Being with her was the only treasure in his life.