Shocking secrets hide within a simple cover
Vance descended into the cellar. He found the light switch. They entered the space where the Biedermeier desk had stood. Quickly, he walked into to the wine cellar. He passed by the empty barrels. His hand searched for the handle behind the paintings. He pulled it and the hidden door opened with a click. Fumbling in the semidarkness, he made sure that the lever remained hidden behind the old paintings. He switched on the light in the secret room. He retraced his steps and made sure that he hadn’t left any footprints in the dirt of the wine cellar. He turned off the basement light, reentered the room, and pushed the door shut behind him. After hastily opening the cans of food, he switched off the light in this room too, as he was afraid that it might spill into the night through some hidden shaft. Vance drank first and then allowed the hound to drink. They ate their food in the darkness, the dog wolfing it down hurriedly. Vance ate a can of cold peas, which was not very tasty but at least rich in calories.
After that, they stretched out on the damp sand. Vance was exhausted and he shivered uncontrollably. Obviously his body was trying to get rid of some substance, some poison – a drug. He tried to recall how to combat withdrawal symptoms, but under the circumstances, he could only think of drinking a lot of water. In a way, he had been lucky. His stomach had been upset the last few days and due to that, he hadn’t eaten much and had mostly turned to drinking plain tap water. The amount of drugs in his bloodstream must have gone down and as a result, his head had slowly cleared.
The pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place. He began to realize that the occurrences of the last weeks were all interconnected. The rococo table, Darwin’s letter, this mansion, the religious sect, Enrique and the fake heaven – they were all interrelated like threads that stick out of a ball of wool. He felt that if he would follow just one of those threads, he would arrive at the core of the ball. Again he imagined that an instigator was waiting there, waiting for him. An individual, pulling all the ropes, manipulating the lives of many people, the perpetrator that had organized Vance’s ordeal.
Who had been in the car that had driven away as he had arrived at the house? What had this visitor been up to at this mansion? He was almost certain that this person had seen him, possibly even recognized him. Had this been the mastermind behind the entire affair?
With that question in his mind, he fell asleep, exhausted.
His sleep was filled with nightmares. He was hunted by wild animals, lions, and tigers. He tried to escape by climbing up a tree, but its bark was wet and slippery and his hands could not get a hold. A male lion came closer and closer, staring at him, both evilly and indifferent.
Eugene woke him up. The dog trembled and growled softly and Vance quickly put his hand on the animal’s snout. They listened. After a while, Vance could hear sounds. As he had suspected there was a shaft or a pipe leading from the ground level down into the cellar. It ensured that fresh air could reach this hideout, even when the door was closed. Now, that shaft transported the sounds from the outside world down to him. A car approached slowly, its wheels grinding on the gravel of the driveway. The engine was almost inaudible. Vance imagined that it was a big vehicle.
Was this the same car that he had seen departing earlier? The car stopped and the engine was switched off. Absolute silence followed, only interrupted by the ticking sounds of the cooling motor. Then several doors opened. Feet stepped onto the small stones. After a few seconds, three doors closed softly. Vance strained his ears. Slow footsteps approached, toiling on the gravel.
With his eyes closed, Vance imagined three, perhaps four men. He imagined that they were going towards the back door. Suddenly it was silent again. Eugene stirred. Vance stroked the animal’s head and went sssh. They waited. It remained silent for a long time. Vance thought that half the world must be able to hear his breathing. He opened his mouth wide to reduce the sound as much as possible.
A man’s voice could be heard, whispering, but unexpectedly clear. They must have stopped very close to the exit of the shaft.
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