In its Penetralia
ONLY THE CREAKING OLD building dared make a sound in the darkness of late night. Five old geezers emerged from the elevator on the first floor, checked up and down the corridor, and then followed White Feather to the locked door to the basement. Somewhere in the distance, the faint bells of an old clock struck eleven times. The crafty old Indian pulled his cell phone from his pocket and found the flashlight app. Frank held the light while White Feather tried the key he had purloined from Nurse Nujent’s desk drawer.
The key unlocked the door with a little jiggling but the door itself took both White Feather and Frank to break it loose. As White Feather led the Sleuthkateers down the dark stairway, the boilers came on and belched a cloud of steam that filled the narrow stairway, startling the intruders. Monty squealed, “Gh-Ghosts!”
“Steam cloud, idiot,” corrected Ralph.
Cautiously, White Feather led the anxious coterie down the sweaty stone steps to the sticky dirt floor of the basement. To the right, there was a dim flickering glow, and to the left, utter darkness. White Feather led the group to the right through an arch to a large room, dimly lit by the fire in the boilers glowing through the mist in the center of the dank, gritty smelly and oppressively hot basement room.
As the steamy cloud subsided, White Feather moved his light across the floor illuminating a distant archway where the faint image of dozens of dark rounded mounds could be seen.
“C-Creatures!” Monty declared. The four old men stumbled over each other attempting to flee back to the safety of the stairs.
They stopped when they heard White Feather call out, “Mrs. Dawson?”
“Elizabeth?” Albert questioned.
“Just checking," White Feather explained.
The boilers belched again filling the room with steamy clouds.
Albert commented from the safety of the stairwell. “Like ghosts who’ve regained their lost ubeity.”
Ralph left a parting comment before heading back upstairs. “You’re losing it, Stein.”
Monty chased after his cantankerous friend leaving White Feather, Albert, and Frank to explore the foggy cavern. Albert and Frank followed the glow of White Feather’s cell phone light as the fog began to clear once more.
White Feather flashed the light around the room again, revealing the empty room to the south and to the left of the boilers where they found dozens of shallow holes beside the mounds of dirt. “Lizzie has been digging?” Frank questioned. White Feather trained the light back on the floor around the holes and then proceeded forward.
There was a stairway on the south wall. To the west, there was another room where decaying folding doors hung ajar.
Inside they could see a concrete floor cluttered with debris surrounding a rusting and decrepit operating table in the center. The three brave sleuths explored the dark creepy room behind the folding doors. An old surgical light dangled from the ceiling. Rusting metal file cabinets lined one wall. The drawers had been forced open and old file folders were strewn across the floor. A line of metal cabinets which probably once held surgical supplies was corroding along another wall with a double sink in the center. Fat rats scurried away from the light.
White Feather backed out and searched the dirt floor around the stairway. His light stopped on foot prints. Albert speculated. “Elizabeth’s footprints.”
White Feather shown his light on a shovel propped against the wall next to the stairs. He bounded up the stairs and disappeared behind the switchback. Frank and Albert clamored after him. They found White Feather at the top of the stairs pulling open a half-door, like a Dutch door, and stooping to exit through it. It led to the south hallway where Elizabeth had mysteriously disappeared leaving her dress behind. The cooler air of the hallway prompted the hot air from the basement to condense, forming a thick cloud surrounding the old Indian. When it subsided, Albert explained the obvious, “The wainscoting hid the secret door.”
Then Frank had an idea. “Let’s go see what she dug up.”
White Feather stopped him. “The holes are empty.”
Frank was not satisfied. “But, you didn’t search all of the holes. How do you know that they are all empty?”
White Feather answered matter-of-factly, “She is still searching.”
White Feather closed the secret door to the basement and then opened the door leading from the hallway into the corridor on the first floor. He stopped to chuckle. Albert and Frank peeked around him curiously. They saw Monty and Ralph cowering at the door to the basement beside the elevator looking down the dark stairway. White Feather tiptoed toward them with Albert and Frank stealthily following, trying desperately to keep from bursting out laughing.
White Feather managed to get right up behind them without being detected before casually asking, “See anything down there?”
“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!,” the two screamed as they leaped into the darkness and tumbled down the stairs.
For you, my last incomium,
to sing my amative requiem.
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