Pieces of Nine: Part II – A Serialized Story

Pieces of Nine

Part II

A few weeks later, just before Halloween, Jerry and I worked each other up to a frenzied pitch with dares and double dares and even double dog dares. We both wanted the same thing. We were just dancing around each other to see who would crack first. Neither of us did. We decided we were going to investigate the old Captain’s house on our own, regardless of Granddad’s warnings and my brother George’s threats to tell my dad. We set the date: 31 October. We set the time: late afternoon, just before the trick-or-treaters came out in search of their quarry.

We went into my dad’s workshop right after we got home from school and stocked up on what we thought intrepid adventurers would need. We got a couple flash lights with fresh batteries. We got a little tool bag that my dad had and stuffed it with a screw driver, hammer, utility knife, some string, matches, and other miscellaneous items. We also went into the kitchen when my mom wasn’t in there and filled my lunch pail with some sandwiches, cookies, and a thermos of apple juice. The time was drawing nigh.

We dressed up in our trick-or-treat costumes, got our candy buckets, and headed out the door. My mother waved at us from the porch and told us to not go further than Indigo Street. She also told us not to eat so much candy that we got sick, like we did last year. Off down the street we went. Once we got to the little patch of woods between our street and Canterbury, we cut through the woods. There’s a clubhouse in there that is sort of community property of all the kids in the neighborhood. We went there and stripped off our costumes, underneath which we had stashed our tool bag and other equipment for our big adventure.

We came out of the woods near Canterbury. We walked south on that street for about 200 yards till we got to the old Captain’s house on the corner. It was just twilight. It was a cool evening. Jerry and I were both wearing our hooded sweatshirts and jeans. I had on my favorite pair of Keds high-top sneakers. Jerry was wearing his black Converse All Stars. The adventure was about to begin in earnest.

Earlier in the week, on one of our reconnaissance missions, we had spotted a broken basement window in the back of the house. It must have been broken after the town crew was out at the house doing maintenance earlier in September. They always fixed or boarded up broken windows when they did their twice yearly visit. That window was our planned point of entry. After waiting a bit to make sure that no one was watching, we trotted around to the back of the house and crouched down in the shrubs near the window. Jerry shined his flash light into the gloom.

The basement was surprisingly clean and tidy. Of course, it was also empty, with the exception of a few autumn leaves that had blown in through the broken window over the past few weeks. I reached in and unlocked the casement. It moved with ease, like it had been just recently greased. The window slid upwards with nary a sound. Jerry slid over the casement and landed on the floor in the basement.

“C’mon, Kevin. We don’t have all night.” he said to me.

“I’m coming. Hush up!” I answered, as I slid my butt over the window casement and dropped to the floor.

There wasn’t a sound to be heard. My ears were roaring with the silence in that basement. It was like all noise was being sucked into some sort of deep hole.

“What do you want to do first?” Jerry asked.

“Let’s explore the upstairs.” I said.

We went up the soundless wooden stairs and into the the kitchen area. You could just make out the huge hearth at the far end of the kitchen. Its dark and massive granite stonework dominating that end of the room. There was a layer of dust on everything, but here, as in the basement, everything was neat and tidy… nothing amiss. The cast iron pots and copper pans were still hanging from the rack above the center counter. There was even a large cast iron cauldron hanging from a hook in the hearth.

“Would you look at that witch’s pot!” Jerry remarked.

“Cook up a good batch of eye of newt soup in that thing, huh?” I said, shuddering at my own joke.

We quietly walked around the ground floor looking into the dining room, where the large table and chairs were still set up. There was even a complex candelabra sitting on the center of the table. It was all green and tarnished. There were spider webs draped across it in random fashion. There were plates and silverware setting on the table as well. We were both a bit surprised to see all this.

“How come no one’s stolen any of this, Kev?” Jerry asked me.

“Heck, Jer. I dunno. Strange though, huh?” I said.

“Damned straight it’s strange!”

“If yer mom hears you cuss like that, she stripe your rear end for you.” I ribbed him.

“Damned straight!” he answered, with a nervous little laugh.

We walked into the large den/library. The floor to ceiling shelves were still full of books. They had glass paned doors over the shelves. The books looked pristine. There weren’t any cobwebs or dust in those cabinets. They must have been nearly air tight. In later years, I would often wonder what the value of the books in that library would have been. There was also a huge desk in the center of the room with a big leather chair, its back to the bay windows facing the street. The front of the desk had an inlay of lighter colored wood in the shape of ship’s anchor.

The desk had papers, books, framed pictures, and an old oil lamp on it. Everything was covered in dust and cobwebs. We looked in the drawers. Nothing looked like it had been touched. There were scissors, paper clips, and other items in the top drawers. There were papers belonging to the lawyer in the file drawers at the bottom. There was even a gold handled letter opener in one of those drawers. I was again struck by the fact that no one had ever stolen anything out of this house in over 50 years. That just wasn’t normal, I didn’t think. Other abandoned homes in town were always vandalized and broken into repeatedly. Why not this one?

We were having to use the flash lights by now. It was full dark outside. We could hear neighborhood kids yelling “trick or treat” up and down Canterbury Road. Jerry and I walked up another flight of silent wooden stairs, these much more elaborate than the ones in the basement, and made our way to the second story where the bedrooms were located. The bedrooms were all dusty and cobwebby, but everything was untouched, just as it was downstairs. If it weren’t for the dust and webs, it would have looked as though the folks who lived here were just out for the evening.

“What now?” Jerry asked me.

“Back to the basement, I guess.” I said.

With that, we walked back down the stairs and into the kitchen. From there we went down the basement stairs and back into the basement. It was very dark down there now. The was no light coming through the small basement windows.

“How are we going to get out of here, Kev?” Jerry whispered.

“What are you whispering for?” I asked him.

“I dunno. Just don’t feel right to be loud. You know what I mean?” he asked.

“Yeah, I guess.” I said.

“So?”

“So what? I said.

“So, how are we going to get out? We can’t reach that window from the floor.” Jerry said, as he pointed to the window high on the wall that we had climbed down from earlier.

“We’ll have to get that stool that was in the kitchen and use it to stand on”. I said.

“Good idea! You go get it.” Jerry pointed up the stairs.

“You go get it!” I said.

“Nyuh-uh!” Jerry retorted.

“Alright. Alright. We both go get it. Happy?” I said.

We both walked back up the stairs and came back down in a few minutes with a stool that we had seen in the corner of the kitchen. The stool was just high enough to give us the boost we needed to climb back over the window casement and exit the house.

“You ready to go?” Jerry asked me.

“I dunno. You?” I asked back.

“Strange, ain’t it. Everything just sitting around. No one’s touched anything.”

“Yup. Strange. What do you think happened to the families that lived here, though?” I asked him.

“Heck! They probably just up and left, I s’pose.” he answered.

“You mean just leave without taking any of your stuff or anything. That would be strange.”

“Is strange. Ayuh.” he said, shrugging.

“Isn’t that the wall over there that your granddad said was where they saw them drag marks?”

“Yeah! We forgot about that. Let’s take a closer look.” I said with renewed excitement.

It was just a bare stone wall with a bare stone floor in front of it. The wall looked to be part of the foundation. That’s the way I remembered it in those drawings we saw at the library, too. To the left was a coal chute and a bin. To the right was our escape window. Behind us was the stairwell leading to the main house. I walked up and tapped on the wall. I stomped on the floor. All seemed pretty solid.

“Open Sesame!” Jerry whispered.

We both broke out into uncontrollable giggles and snickers. We heard a small grinding noise, like something big being dragged over a sandy floor. That shut us up immediately. We weren’t even breathing, I don’t think.

“What was that?” Jerry hissed at me.

“Heck! I don’t know. Sounded like… like…” I hesitated.

“…something big dragging across the floor.” Jerry finished for me.

We both shined our lights at the base of the wall where it met the floor. The wall looked like it had moved maybe just an inch or two inwards toward us. That’s not possible. You could see a section of the wall about four feet wide that was coming disconnected from the rest of the wall. A secret passage, like in the old castles I read about in the stories of knights and fairies? Nah… can’t be! Not here. Not in Connecticut.

“What made it do that?” Jerry asked.

“I don’t know. What were we doing just before it moved?” I asked him.

“Uh… we were laughing.” he said.

“Nah… before that.”

“I said ‘Open Sesame’.” he said.

The wall ground out another inch or two. We jumped back about five feet and held our breaths.

“That’s silly.” I said. “That’s from those Arabian Nights stories… Sim Sala Bim and all that.”

“So?” Jerry replied.

“Why would that open a secret…”

The wall ground out another two or three inches. We stopped moving.

“It happens when you say the first part of those two words, Kevin.” Jerry said.

“Yeah. It just does it when you ask it to, I guess.” I said.

“So? Ask it again.” Jerry nudged me toward the wall.

I planted my feet wide apart and looked directly at the wall and yelled “OPEN”. The wall slid back about three feet revealing a gently sloping tunnel leading into darkness beyond the limits of our flash lights. I looked at Jerry. He looked back at me.

“What do you think is down there?” he asks.

“How would I know?” I answer, impatiently.

“Let’s check it out?” he says, nudging me toward the opening.

“STOP!” I say. “Wait a minute, will ya’?” I plead. “Gotta’ think.”

We took a few tentative steps toward the opening.

©2008 V. T. Eric Layton (excluding images)

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Stay tuned… next Tuesday – Part III

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Comments

  • Securitybreach  On April 28, 2010 at 07:59

    Another nice edition to the story. Got me on the edge of my seat waiting on part 3.

    Thanks alot Eric.

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On April 28, 2010 at 09:55

      SB wrote: “Got me on the edge of my seat waiting on part 3.”

      HAHA! A comment from a reader that is every writer’s dream. Don’t slip off onto the floor, buddy. Part III coming next Tuesday.

      Thanks for reading!

      ~Eric

  • BambisMusings  On April 30, 2010 at 09:11

    Torture! Gotta wait till next Tuesday for the next installment. At least we don’t have to wait years for the next installment like with Star Wars movies. 😉

    Kevin, eh?

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On April 30, 2010 at 11:28

      Torture? Yes. That’s the idea behind serialized novels. Heh! Charles Dickens was a master of the serial.

      Kevin, yeah… I’m not at all sure where the hell that name came from. 😉

      Tuesday’ll be here before you know it… Part III

      ~Eric

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