Note from Jim:
I’m going to try to get back into writing mode, so from time to time I’ll put a story up here for your perusal. Comments appreciated – if you like the story, if you don’t like the story, leave a note 🙂
He had almost dozed off when he heard the voices again. The bedroom was dark and quiet, there were no sounds coming from outside, no air conditioner racket, nothing. He held his breath, waited. After a bit he relaxed, felt sleep drifting over him, almost asleep… There it was again. Two men talking in low voices, strange accents. It was English, but somehow foreign, perhaps archaic.
Slipping quietly out of bed he went to the window, opened it slowly and leaned out. The summer night held only the noises of insects and the occasional rustling of nesting birds, restless in the branches. He leaned out as far as he dared, but could see no one. Living in the country as he did he hardly expected to see anyone out there. He lowered the window, returned to his bed and tried to find sleep.
Furtive whispering, “Mayhap he’s on the old Post Road. We can look for him on the morrow.” Then the other voice, “Yes, that’s it! We’ll grab ‘im, then Bob’s your uncle!”
That did it; up he jumped and flipped on the light, then grabbed the revolver from the night table. Someone had to be in the hallway and he was going to confront them. He went to the door of the bedroom and opened it halfway. He peered into the dark hallway. So far, nothing. He opened the door the rest of the way and warily stepped through, half expecting to receive a blow.
The entire house was quiet, nothing moved, there were no strange men in the hallway or anywhere else. He waited for his wildly beating heart to slow as he leaned against the wall, taking deep breaths. He went back into the bedroom, placed the gun back in the drawer, and turned out the light. Sleep finally came, followed eventually by sunlight streaming in the window.
Saturday morning, at least he didn’t have to work today. It would be hard to face the traffic into the city feeling as bad as he did. Very little sleep and he felt like someone had thrown him down the stairs several times during the night. The temporary work assignment to Vermont was an interesting change, but this problem with the “night visitors” was getting to be a major annoyance. The old house he was leasing was comfortable enough, but apparently, it held secrets. Well, he had the whole weekend to unravel this particular secret.
He decided to go into the village to the library – maybe he could find the original plans to the house and get some answers that way. One possibility was that there were secret passages that would allow the owners of those voices to prowl the walls of his bedroom. He wasn’t scared, he was mainly just irritated, and if this was a prank it was a damned poor one.
The librarian was also an amateur local historian, and she pointed him to the precise volume he needed: “Architectural Plans of Historical Homes in Bennington County”.
He was able to go directly to the plans for his old house, and then it was no problem to find the layout of the second floor bedrooms. The bedroom he occupied was described in great detail in the plans, with annotations alongside the drawings. The house had been re-done early in the 20th century and some significant changes had been made in the process of adding modern conveniences like bathrooms. Although interesting, the plans didn’t seem to be yielding many secrets. He was about to throw in the towel but then he noticed an addendum referenced at the bottom of the page. He flipped to the end of the section and found some builder’s notes that mentioned having to shorten the main closet to avoid the problem of the last window on that side of the house. The window was awkwardly placed, and it certainly wasn’t needed in a closet, so they just hid it behind the closet wall. Ok, now he had something to pursue.
He left the library and headed home. He wasn’t a carpenter or contractor, but just maybe he could do some poking around and figure this out.
Now inside his bedroom he opened the closet door, removed all the hanging clothes and laid them on the bed. He went inside the closet and decided to just sit on the floor for a bit and listen. It was still daylight, but who knew what the rules were here? After two hours he gave it up and tried moving slowly around the closet walls, tapping along, trying to find an area that was somehow unusual. Nothing.
Bedtime again, but this time things were going to be different. He left the closet door open and laid down on a pallet just outside the closet. He felt foolish, but felt he needed to at least try something.
He tried to stay awake, but was so tired from last night’s loss of sleep that he quickly dozed off. Sometime in the night he awoke suddenly with the feeling that he’d heard a noise. Yes, there it was, the same voice, “We’ve come a cropper, mate. ‘e didn’t show up after all.” The second man, “Blimey, wot now?”
He jumped to his feet, then stood stock-still, listening. The conversation continued, but it was more of a murmur now and he couldn’t make out the words. He stepped into the closet, moving his ear along the walls until he came to a point in the middle of the back wall that seemed to be closest to the source. He tapped on the wall, then stopped and listened again. The voices kept on without interruption, still too low to be understood.
The garage doubled as a workshop, and he needed a saw. He crept from the room and made his way to the shop, found his saw and returned to the closet. With as little noise as possible, he began to saw a line in the closet wall, making a right turn at the bottom and continuing over. He continued until he had described a rectangular cut, approximately four feet high and two feet wide. With his pocketknife, he pried at the left cut until the section of wallboard dropped to the floor and then he was able to set it out of the way.
Behind the exposed section there was some kind of dusty fabric, like canvas. Using his knife again he slashed at it to get it loose. After thirty minutes, he was able to pull the stubborn old rags out of the hole and saw that the old forgotten window was now accessible. He stopped again. He could no longer hear the voices.
The glass was still in the window but it was so old and stained it was not possible to see anything through it. He pried and strained, and was finally able to get the window to move upwards a bit. With much squeaking and complaining, he pushed it up to its limit.
There was a chill wind blowing, and snowflakes were now coming in. But it was summer, how could this be? He squinted his eyes against the cold and snow and leaned out.
It was at this moment that he lost his balance and fell out, falling and sliding down the slope of the roof until he catapulted over the edge and fell with a thump into a loaded hay wagon.
Red-uniformed soldiers carrying muskets quickly surrounded the wagon. He held up his hands in surprise and surrender. What was going on here? Was there a re-enactment outside his window? He shivered in the cold. This was all wrong, all wrong.
The officer commanding the men shouted, “Another damnable spy hiding on the roof, eh? Hang him with the others!”
As they led him to the tree he realized he was about to get more rest than he bargained for.