PREVIOUSLY:

You are at a dinner party that is far from what you planned. Instead of meeting Mr. and Mrs. Parsley—a prestigious couple who recently moved to a mysterious mansion on the outskirts of town—you found yourself witness to the abduction of Betty Cronk! You thought her assailant could be Mr. Parsley, but one of the other guests (Walter) adamantly assured you it is not.

Last time, you managed to hide from the mysterious abductor and avoid a fate like Betty’s. Now, the villain appears to be gone as you and Walter search the mansion for Walter’s missing spouse. You know there are other guests around here somewhere, but you have yet to make their acquaintance and have no idea what has happened to them.

Finally, your eyes have adjusted to the darkness as you stand in the grand entryway, Walter holding your arm. You see a staircase to the right and a hallway to the left…

 

“That way,” you direct, nudging Walter towards the long, ominous hallway. Without thinking, you find yourself positioned slightly behind him.

Your reluctant acquaintance objects, “I think we should stay put. It’s…safer.”

“We can’t risk it,” you explain. “Your wife is in danger!”

I’m in danger!” Walter declares. “What am I—your human shield?”

Realizing you’re now crouched behind the tall, gangly man, you straighten, removing Walter’s hold on your arm. “At least I had your back,” you whisper, trying to lighten the mood.

Walter huffs.

You move slowly, one hand padding the wall to your right. You feel the wooden edges of picture frames intermixed with portions of smooth glass. As you shift your weight to take another step, the floorboards creak.

“Shh!” Walter insists.

You frown, although you know he probably doesn’t see your expression. “I know!” You wish he would stop shushing you. It’s not like you’re trying to draw attention to yourself…that’s it!

You turn towards Walter who is standing at your side, quietly fumbling down the left wall. “I have an idea,” you mumble.

“My eyes hurt too…” answers Walter. “This is ridiculous!”

You scrunch your nose. “What? No! I have an idea…” you clarify.

“’Bout time,” the old timer crosses his arms and leans against a wall. “Let’s hear it.”

You move in closer. “I say we knock some of these pictures down, draw that guy out of hiding, then attack! Once we’ve got him, he’ll lead us to Betty and the others!”

Silence.

More silence.

This is no time for stalling. “Well?” you ask.

“It appears you’ve done it,” Walter starts. “You’ve managed to take a terrible situation and try to make it worse! Do you have combat skills I don’t know about? Do you know how to attack a black belt in karate?”

“Umm…” you don’t know why Walter’s comment surprises you. In the short time you’ve known him, he’s hardly been agreeable. Thinking for a moment, you offer, “I took a self-defense class.” Wait a minute! “How do you know he’s a black belt?”

Walter pauses, then with a scoff, responds, “Because he moves about undetected. Everyone knows only black belts do that!” He shakes his head.

Although disappointed, you understand Walter has a point. You hardly know anything about the villain. If he comes with a weapon, your idea could be the worst. Contented to continue searching the hall, you reach for the wall to guide you. In doing so, you knock over a silver vase that must have been perched on a side table. It makes a resounding clash as it hits the floor.

You and Walter exchange glances, frozen for a moment in time. Just then, you hear footsteps overhead.

“Quick!” you yell, hurrying down the hall towards the nearest door. “In here!” You pull on the handle. “It’s locked!”

“Let me try,” Walter insists. Stepping back, he runs towards the door. Just before he hits, the door opens, and Walter collides with an individual on the other side.

“Walter?” a woman’s voice exclaims. “You’re not supposed to be in here. You should be…”

Walter clears his throat. “Hello to you too, Miss Evergreen. Have you met our guest of honor?” He looks back in your direction as you stand, frozen outside the door.

Guest of honor? What does he mean? You look behind you in disbelief, then curiously point to yourself. “Me?” you ask.

Walter nods and motions for you to enter. “Hurry, before he gets here!”

“Close the door!” a barrage of voices call out.

Miss Evergreen steps forward. “I don’t understand. Why are you here? This isn’t the plan.”

“Theodore said to keep our guest company and follow their lead. That’s precisely what I’m doing!”

“Um hum.” Several candles in the room allow you to see the delicately painted features on Miss Evergreen’s face. Red lips, cheeks tinted with blush, and black mascara decorate her face. Even in the dark, you can tell she has a very good skin-care regimen.

Walter steps farther inside the room and surveys the other guests’ amused faces. “Chuck. Whit,” he acknowledges with a polite nod. He turns back to Miss Evergreen, “Tell me, are these candles part of the rules?”

The woman exhales. “You don’t expect us to sit here in the dark all evening, do you? It took three hours for Chuck to find Whit when he was new! We weren’t going to do nothing for that long.”

“I brought cards,” one of the other gentlemen adds.

Until now, you have been standing in disbelief. “Hold on. What’s going on here?”

Everyone freezes as their heads turn, eyes fixed on you. As the room fills with silence, there are heavy footsteps outside the door.

“He does this to everyone before inviting them to be a regular dinner guest—says it’s a test of character,” the woman’s voice explains.

The doorknob slowly twists.

“Quick, hide!” she instructs.

As everyone dives behind something to conceal their presence, Theodore Parsley thrusts the door open. He looks around, obviously noticing your failed attempts to hide fast enough, and laughs. Walking towards your position behind a potted plant, Mr. Parsley says, “I see you met my wife.” His voice is warm and friendly, unlike the eerie tone it held before.

Miss Evergreen stands, walks over to the man, and gives him a big kiss on the cheek. “Regina Parsley?” you ask.

The woman smiles. “That’s me.”

Mr. Parsley flicks on the light switch, illuminating the room and faces within.

“Come on in, Betty!” Mr. Parsley calls out, after which Mrs. Cronk comes bouncing in the room. “Boy, does it feel good to be with friends again!”

“Nice acting, sweetie,” Walter calmly walks over to his wife and gives her shoulder a squeeze.

As the others begin talking amongst themselves, Mr. Parsley looks at you with a tender smile. “Welcome to our home.”

“Thanks,” you respond. “Now, where can I find the coat closet?”

 

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About Caitlin Smith

Passionate Christian. New author. Loving wife. Exercise enthusiast. Secret guitar player. Really cool person.

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Short Stories

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