by Brenda Stephens
I arrived by taxi at a three-story white house that had two tall, smooth pillars supporting a balcony. The driver left after I paid, making no small talk whatsoever. It was like he knew that some kind of evil was at play and he wanted to vacate the premises post haste. Once he was gone, there was nothing left but me on the outside of the Holstadtler home.
I stared at the house, examining its structure. One light was lit on the third floor, two on the second, and the whole front end of the first. If the girl’s room was one of the dark ones, she would be lost to us, but, if her room was the one with light, then I knew I could save her.
The outside was normal enough. The driveway was icy and lined in snow-covered grass. The porchlight was on. A wreathe hung from the dark red door. The black trim around the windows subdued the stark contrast of red and white.
I proceeded up the driveway carrying my leather medical bag, steady on my feet, my senses sharp. Once I stepped onto the low porch, I sprang around, grabbed inside my coat pocket, and peered into the darkness, watching, waiting for the Master to appear before me. My breathing was deep, intense; my heart thumped as blood coursed through my veins. I peered into the darkness and listened a bit more. A creaking sound from the neighbor’s swing set was the only sound on the air. The smell was of the cold, nothing more. After a minute or so, I released my grip on the silver crucifix from inside my pocket and rapped on the door loudly in succession.
A maid opened the door, bowed, and stepped back so I could enter. As I did, a man in black dress pants and a maroon velvet jacket was walking down an elegant winding staircase with wrought-iron details. He blended into the night sky that shone through the six thin arch windows behind him. His black hair turned brown as he descended the stairs, coming into the bright light of the chandelier overhead. He stopped near the bottom and stared at me. His eyes were cold, defeated, like the eyes of a man who just lost everything. He stood there, like a statue on display and did not move. I could feel the sad song that his heart sang as he observed me.
He finally turned and the maid gestured me to follow. I walked up the gleaming marble staircase and, step by step, left the light for darkness. The closer to the second floor I climbed, the darker the view became. Coldness overtook me, and a shiver ran down my spine as the light I loved so much bled into night.
The second floor was drenched in darkness, the hall devoid of lights. I wondered how anyone would navigate the hall without any illumination, but the man had no trouble walking forward with only himself as a guide. I eyed him deliberately, watching for signals and gestures that would indicate the way. We passed several rooms, but he did not pause; rather, he continued until we arrived at the last room on the left.
The man stood facing the door. He would not move. He did not speak. It was as if he were scared, debilitated, ashamed. His constitution weakened, life draining from him as if death itself were leeching off his soul. A few moments passed and yet he still did not move. I was about to say something when he finally spoke.
“She’s my only daughter, Mr. Kade.” His voice was shaky, his lip no doubt quivering. The tears in his eyes shone brightly in each word he spoke. “Do whatever it is you need to. Just save her.”
“What’s her name?”
“Sara. She’s only thirteen.”
“I’ll do as I can, Mr. Holstadtler.”
The man moved his head to a right profile, his eyes downturned but focused on nothing in particular, and nodded ever-so-slightly. Bringing his gaze to the door in front of him once again, he took a deep breath, slipped his long, thin fingers slowly around the door knob, exhaled an empty lonesome sigh, and pushed the door open.
What will they find on the other side of the door? Is it too late to save Sarah? Be sure to join us again for Chapter 1, coming June 9th, 2022.