Welcome back to another exciting Fiction Friday!
This week it’s Part 2 of Balancing the Books. Next week will be the concluding chapter, and if you’ve enjoyed this, there should be an eBook available on Amazon in time for Halloween. Until then, turn down the lights, and enjoy the story.
The path down beneath the floor was unstable. The wood in most of the room was rotten. It was dark, but with each move he made, more of the floor crumble away and yielded to the moonlight. Eventually, he decided on the staircase.
“Hurry,” said the woman.
A small strip of plaster and exposed metal supports lined the wall to the staircase. He pushed his back to the wall and inched, slowly nearer the stairs. They were as rotten as the floor, but the supports had held their shape as they’d fallen. Now it was almost as if the stairs had always gone down into the black pit. His heart beat loudly in his chest, and he scared himself. Against it all, he was enjoying it. Only the woman spoiled his good mood. If she was here, if she wanted it to, then he would have to do something about that. Maybe she could be reasoned with, oh but if she ever told anyone else. He scared himself again. He didn’t know he had it in him.
He sidestepped slowly along the wall, once or twice he slid his foot a little too quickly, and plaster crumbled out from underneath him, but before long he was gripping the ornate bannister of the staircase. He couldn’t tell how far the flow below was, perhaps he could have jumped, but he wasn’t going to risk in.
The old bannister has separated from the wall, but ornate wooden supports fixed it to the stairs. It trailed down into the darkness like a snake. The rotten wood could not take him, but if he gripped the rail tight and kept his feet between the supports, he could probably go to the bottom safely.
Once again, Walker descended deeper into the house. His footing felt unsure, but now he had something to hold on to, he kept a tighter grip of his sanity too. Even as he dropped beneath the floorboards and the only light was the night sky above, his iron grip on the rail was like a beacon of shining light. Once or twice, a childish urge struck him. That this would all go so much faster if he straddled the rail and slid to the bottom like he had done as a child. He resisted the temptation. One bad decision was enough for now.
“Are you here?” Said a voice.
“Nearly.” Walker shouted. “How far down is the floor?”
“Oh not far,” she said, sounding further away than she had before. “I’m in the next room, follow my voice.”
Walker reached the end of the rail. The woman’s voice was distant now, he didn’t want to lose her. Gently he lowered his feet, but they touched nothing. He stepped around, trying to find some trace of the stairs but there was nothing around him. He was suspended, gripping the remains of a bannister and a trail of plaster and iron struts. The biting urge to retreat came to him again, but he didn’t dare. The climb had been bad enough, and the woman. She got down there somehow, she knew another way out. He was certain of that.
Walker let go of the rail.
The floor could only have been inches from but the drop felt huge. He lost his footing as he landed in the rubble. He braced himself, but felt a sharp pain in his shoulder. He could feel a trickle and blood. He ran his hand inside his shirt, the blood was bad but the cut didn’t feel deep. Nothing he had to worry about. Once on his feet, he stared at the darkness around him, ahead was a pale light. The woman had to have gone that way, or else stumble into the dark.
“Hello?” He called out but there was no response. He felt his way with his hands until he came to the edge of the room. There was a clank of bottles. The wine cellar? He was close. She had known the way. The light was coming from a doorway up ahead.
“I’m hear. He hear the woman whisper but he still couldn’t see her. “I thought I heard someone.”
“Yeah,” Walker dusted himself off and entered the next room. It was lighter in here, the was a window that led to the surface, this had to be the cellar under the gardens.
“No, someone outside.”
“Shit.” He followed her voice. “Did you tell anyone you were here?”
“Nobody.” She said. “Let’s hurry, it’s this way.” Footsteps shot off in the darkness, he tried to remember the plans. She was heading exactly where he thought she would.
“Here,” she hissed. “It’ll take two of us, if we find it quickly we can be out before they find us.”
Walker saw the woman for the first time. She was in the corner of the room, a little light came through the window but she only caught the edges. She was tall, young, but she hid her face. He saw a hint of scarring. Another of the family’s victims? He felt a little sorry for her. Not sorry enough. He’d worked too hard to share.
“It’s down here.” She slipped into a gap beneath the bricks.
“What’s back there?” He shouted, but there was no answer.
He braced himself. Fished the lighter from his pocket. It started first time and he got a good look around him for the first time since he pushed open the gate. The gap in the bricks was old, it led to a short passage. He couldn’t see the woman, she must have gone on ahead. He closed the lighter, if she could make it without the light, there was no point wasting the fuel. He slipped off his jacket. The shoulder of his shirt was stained with blood. The colour made his stomach turn. He placed a foot inside the gap in the bricks and pushed through being careful of his shoulder. He thought he heard her footsteps ahead but he couldn’t be sure. Placing his hands on the side of the passage, he went to claim his prize.
That’s all for this week, tune in next Friday when it our tale comes to a close.