Sunday, May 05, 2013
Mystery, 254 pages
Cover art by: Richard Stroud
While the almost castle crumbles around them, Alicia desperately searches for the answers she wants and needs. Every creepy room demands a thorough search. Someone is trying to kill her, and she doesn't even know why, let alone, who. Each room she searches is a challenge and each is either fascinating or horrifying. The huge cat now follows her everywhere, even into closed rooms. If she can discover his secret before one of the murder attempts succeeds, maybe she can find the answers she needs.
There was also a fourth floor. The stairs to this area were wooden like the ones to the third floor, but in much worse shape. We made our way carefully to the floor above. This level was one big attic area. There were some items stored here, but there was also a lot of open space. It was in disastrous condition. We disturbed several bats as we walked around. There were pigeon droppings everywhere, and in some places the roof had leaked and rotted everything underneath. The air seemed almost non-existent, and what was there smelled horrible. Neither of us had any desire to spend much time up there.
As we hurried back to the side of the room where the stairs were, Connie stepped on a portion of the floor that was rotten from years of leaking water. Her right leg went through almost to her hip. I was glad she was wearing slacks to help prevent scrapes. I walked up to the edge of the rotten area intending to reach out and pull her free when her other leg fell through. Now only her head and shoulders were above the floor level. Most of the floor around her looked bad, and she had to be terrified that she would fall completely through. Because of the tall ceilings in the rooms below, slipping through would definitely injure her or worse. I knew I couldn't pull her free, since I couldn't get close enough without risking more damage and causing her to fall. I turned and ran back across the room trying to watch for the dangerous areas. I was sure I'd seen a pile of junk containing some old rope. As I ran she screamed, "No, don't leave me. Please..."
I tuned her out and scrambled for the rope. I found it the first place I looked, grabbed it, and sprinted back toward Connie. Her eyes were huge as she watched me, but she didn't say anything. I dug a piece of the rope that I thought looked sound and long enough for what I needed out of the pile. I leaned out and tossed the middle section behind her back. She didn't dare move to help, so I carefully pulled each end tight to her sides under her arms. When I walked each end around to her back I had her contained. As long as I could hold the pressure on the rope, she couldn't fall. I braced myself and began pulling. She moved a few inches, so I increased the pressure and pulled steadily backward with all my strength. I thought we were almost home free, when another part of the rotted floor around her gave way. Now the only thing holding her was the rope. It was burning my hands, and I didn't know how much long I could hold her whole weight. Using all my strength, I inched backward. When I knew my strength was almost gone, I gave everything I had into one last pull. I backed up with the slack I'd created and bumped into one of the columns supporting the room. I hit it so hard it nearly knocked me unconscious. Sobbing with relief, I tied the ends of the rope securely around the pillar. Now she couldn't fall, and she could help lever herself out of the hole. It took three more tries, with more of the floor giving way each time, before together we had her on solid ground. We both lay on the filthy floor, panting and trying to catch our breath.
When I could almost breathe normally again, Connie rolled onto her side and said, "You saved my life. I didn't know if you'd even try since we've treated you so badly. I'm not sure why we have, since the one we should be blaming is our father. My brothers just don't seem to understand that. I don't have anything to offer you in gratitude except my friendship. I hope you'll accept it."