You are at a dinner party that is nothing like you planned. Instead of meeting Mr. and Mrs. Parsley—a prestigious couple who recently moved to a mansion on the outskirts of town—you found yourself witness to the abduction of Betty Cronk! Based on some hints from last time, you think her abductor could possibly be Mr. Parsley himself (though you’re not too sure). Because the power is still out on the property, you didn’t get a look at the man’s face.
Currently, you’re outside the dining-room window—a location to which you escaped last time after hearing heavy footsteps coming your way. You discovered that the footsteps belong to the abductor. He walked around the dining room in search of you and Walter (Walter Cronk is still hiding somewhere inside the room). When the abductor was about to leave, he heard your outcry as you discovered a lizard on your head. Now, the villain is approaching the window, carrying a candle in his hand…
As the illuminated mouth comes closer, you glance around. There’s a thick bush to the right. Without hesitation, you attempt to pull the window closed. It’s stuck. Forsaking the window, you run to the bush and leap behind its leafy branches. You gasp as your stomach hits the moist ground. You don’t want to move, momentarily paralyzed by the pain of a harsh landing. You’d like to roll on your back and breathe a little, but you can’t do that. Not only would the bad guy see your feet sticking out from behind the greenery, but in this weather, you could drown. Determined to shake it off, you crawl behind the bush, hug your knees to your chest, and wait.
“It appears our guest of honor has gone,” the baritone voice declares. “What a shame: such a perfect match, wasted. Oh, well,” he sighs. “Let us return to the others. Our prolonged absence would be rude.”
You hear creaking followed by a thud. Peeking around the bush, you decide the coast is clear. Just to be certain, you wait another minute before crawling back to the window. The formerly furious rain has now softened to a brisk drizzle, although it makes little difference to your wet back.
When you arrive at the window, you notice it’s closed. You stand and try to open it. Nothing. Remembering that the front door is locked—a fact you discovered earlier while fleeing the mysterious footsteps—you contemplate ways to get Walter’s attention. Who knows where he is. Perhaps he too is with the other guests. You should cut your losses, leave the coat you didn’t want to hand over in the first place, and get out of here. There must be a way you can hitchhike home.
You shake your head. No. You won’t leave Walter, Betty, and the other guests at the mercy of this man! Although you might not be trained in the art of smooth rescues, you can at least do something.
Cupping your hands around your eyes, you peer through the window. You can’t see anything, which means the candle man is gone. Gently, you tap on the glass.
“Cooo! Cooo!” You’re quite proud of your quail impression.
“Cooo!” you call, tapping harder this time.
The window abruptly opens, throwing you off balance.
“Stop making that absurd noise!” It’s Walter. He frowns. “Why are you sitting in the mud? This is no time for antics! Theo…” the adamant man clears his throat. “The others need us.”
He reaches through the window, but as you go to take his hand, he coughs at your muddy palm. Slightly aggravated, you smear the mud on your pants and accept Walter’s assistance as he helps you through the window.
“Who was that guy?” you ask, placing your feet back on the ground.
Walter releases your hand. “How should I know? The lights were out. Am I supposed to know everyone’s voice who lives within a 10-mile radius? It always comes down to me, doesn’t it? ‘Oh, Walter will know!’ Well, I don’t!” his sentences run together as he barely makes room to breathe. “Do YOU know who he is?”
You stand, surprised and a little confused by the passionate response of your acquaintance. “Umm…” you mutter. “He’s either the host, or certainly wants to be.”
You want to see Walter’s face–not because you miss it, but because you’ve quickly determined that conversations in the dark are unsettling.
“Hah!” Walter responds. “Well, I know Mr. Parsley, and that, my friend, was not him!”
You sigh. “Whoever he is, he could be…”
“I think I know my own friend!” he interrupts.
“Okay,” you try to refocus on the mission. “Right now, it doesn’t matter who he is. What matters is finding your wife and the others. Now, that man could be back any minute. What should we do?”
“Listen,” Walter offers. “If I know my wife—which I do—she’ll find a way to say something. Then, we follow her voice.”
“Good. That’s good. Take my hand,” you advise, not wanting to lose Walter. Searching for one missing Cronk is enough.
“I don’t want to hold hands,” Walter objects.
You huff. “Then grab my arm. We need to stick together.”
After some continued debate, and your agreement to wipe mud off your arm, Walter concedes. With the grace of cats on skates, you make your way out of the dining room, bumping into furniture along the way.
“You need to stop running into things,” he insists. “I can’t hear anything over all your racket.”
You would object, but you know he’s right, and before long, you find yourselves back in the large entryway.
“Maybe we should wait here and see if we hear anything,” suggests Walter.
You think for a moment. By now, your eyes have adjusted to the darkness, so you can vaguely distinguish your travel options. With the house door at your back, you notice a staircase to the right and another hallway to the left.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
Option A: Remain at the entryway and wait. You should hear something…eventually.
Option B: Take the stairs. After all, you heard someone on a staircase earlier this evening!
Option C: Search the hall to the left. You think the other guests are still on this floor!
Please cast your vote in the comments section below by midnight on Sunday, July 15, 2018. You can also vote on my Facebook post. The majority answer will dictate where the story resumes next time!