We made it to the floor access. The iPhone torch light reflected off the shiny ladder, floating dust motes and hanging cobwebs.
“We’re going down there?” said Aisha. Her face wrinkled in dismay. “I don’t know. It’s bad enough I’m in a dark passage with some stranger…”
I slapped my forehead. “Oh, sorry. I’m John. Forgot to introduce myself.”
“That’s because you were too busy screaming like a little old lady.”
“Yes, well we can’t all be heroes, can we?”
“You’re also a hog.” She snatched the cellphone away and shone its light down the ladder recess. “So we have to go down there?”
“It leads to the pantry and further down to the basement. There may be a cellar door we can get out.”
“And who made you the leader?”
I rolled my eyes. “I just want to get out of this house.” I sighed. “All I wanted to do was sell a vacuum to the lady.”
Aisha guffawed. “You’re a vacuum cleaner salesman? What, you couldn’t find a real job?”
“I’ll have you know I’m pretty good at my job. Now if you’ve finished humiliating me…”
She wiped tears from her eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m in sales, too. I sell make-up packages.”
It was my turn to laugh. She crossed her arms and frowned. “I make a good living, thank you very much.”
On cue, I stopped. “Well, I guess we’ve both been put in our places.” An uncomfortably pregnant pause followed while we assessed the state of our lives and our current predicament.
“This Vasilikov woman must be luring salespeople,” said Aisha.
“Maybe,” I said. “But something doesn’t feel right. I only away because Silas—the butler—led me here. Then he disappeared. Plus, the ladder is stainless steel, but the butler said the passages and the house were here since the Civil War, so the original ladder much have been replaced at some point. It doesn’t add up.”
“The butler helped you? I had to find my own way through this freak show house. If I hadn’t run upstairs and hid under the bed, I don’t know what would have happened. That butler was gone as soon as Vasilikov came at me with the knife.”
“Like I said, it’s suspicious.” I pointed to the top of the ladder. “Going down?” Aisha nodded.
“Ladies before gentleman,” I said.
“You’re no gentleman,” mumbled Aisha as she climbed down the ladder, iPhone in mouth.
To be continued…
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