I pushed off the door and bolted to the pantry, glimpsing back briefly to see the flame-haired mistress of the blade standing in the frame as the door swung open and hit the wall.
The pantry was bigger than I expected, a central corridor lined with shelves of food products—more like a mini-market than a larder. The old butler was beckoning from a shadowy open space at the end. I ran and dived in. He slammed the door shut behind me. It was black as pitch for a moment, until I heard the click of a zippo and a small flame illuminated his ghoulish features.
“We’re safe for the moment, sir,” he said. “I’ve locked it.”
As if on cue, the sound of knife striking woodwork. The butler jumped. “Just to be safe, perhaps we’d better move on.”
I got up, dusted myself off and looked around. The flame from the lighter didn’t provide much illumination. The corridor was the width of a small closet, and extended away into the darkness. Dust coated every surface, and cobwebs hung low from the ceiling. The smell of mould and wood rot assaulted my nostrils.
The sound of battering from the door ceased.
“She’s stopped,” I whispered.
“If I know the mistress, she’s thinking of another way,” he replied. “She’s always been quite dogmatic in her pursuits.”
“She does this often?” I said, looking up at him (still an imposing figure, even at his age). “Look, I’m sorry I didn’t introduce myself earlier. I’m John.”
He shook my hand warmly, a strong and faintly sweaty grip. “Pleasure to meet you, sir. I am Silas. I have been the butler of this residence for over fifty years. Mistress Junifer Vasilikov is the latest in the long line of tenants to occupy it.” A pause for effect. “And possibly the maddest.”
Silas smiled, and pointed down the murky corridor. “Now, I think we had better get a move on. I’m sure Mistress Junifer will be back soon.”
As he languidly hobbled away, I glimpsed back at the sealed secret door. Stuck in a dim, dank corridor with an old guy and a lighter. I guessed I wouldn’t be making a sale tonight…
To be continued…