Chapter 32 – Descent
A quick glance into the living room revealed the eldest of the wives, hard at work. She was dusting the mantle, and fortunately faced away from us. I held up a finger to remind Bobbi to be silent and snuck down the stairs making for the dining room.
The dining room was empty and clean. It almost seemed sterilized, so thoroughly it had been cleaned. Not one grain of dust seemed out of place, and the air was deathly still and silent. Making a note to thank whatever deities might remain in this twisted world for carpeting, as it served to muffle our steps more than hardwood ever could. I could hear Janice’s cleaning filter through the foyer and further masked our movement. I took a deep breath and held it as I paused outside the kitchen door. Two accounted for and a third unseen. The redheaded wife could be behind this door, making its opening a worrisome thing.
I glanced to Bobbi as I reached out to grasp the door firmly. She waited expectantly for some cue from me. A nod put her instantly on guard. She was ready for a scuffle, if it proved necessary. Fortunately, it seemed that Bobbi hadn’t lost her trademarked aggressiveness entirely, even if it was hidden and tempered now. I continued to hold my breath as I slowly pushed the door open and peered through the widening gap.
Through the door, I saw a meticulously clean kitchen which resembled something out of an old kitchen catalog. Most of the room was polished chrome. The stove, refrigerator, sinks, and more all shone brightly in the sunlight which filtered through a small window over the sink. Where there was no chrome, instead there was bright white tiling. Countertops shimmered and gleamed, awesome in their brightness. I saw not a single red hair anywhere, let alone a redhead.
I sighed with relief and slowly oozed through the doorway as quietly as possible. A heartbeat later I motioned for Bobbi to push Rick’s pack through and, once I had a grip on it, she followed shortly behind it. Still on high alert, I braced myself for Elizabeth to come from anywhere in a moment. I stood stock still for a moment and motioned for Bobbi to do the same, but nothing happened.
I looked around the room, seeking an exit in hopes to find the dor which lead to Rick. I saw four doors arranged in a rough circle around the room. The door to my right had a small window which revealed the green grass of Alexander’s back yard. The door to my left seemed likely to also lead back outside, and the one directly opposite where we stood had no door to mask the pantry beyond. That left only the one ahead and to the right. I guessed, simply by elimination, that would be our way into the basement and to where they were holding Rick.
I glanced to Bobbi and she shot me an awkward thumbs-up gesture while nodding. As we krept closer I considered what we may find down those stairs. If Elizabeth was not anywhere upstairs, it seemed likely that she would be downstairs. It was an unsettling thought. The danger of being discovered breaking into an expressly forbidden place was frightening. Knowing that we would enter an enclosed space with a loyal and certainly dangerous enemy was terrifying. We couldn’t leave Rick behind though, so we had no choice but to proceed.
Taking a deep breath, I slowly opened the door. All I saw below was a gloomy basement stairwell. There was no handrail. The steps were steep and descended quickly. A faint light shone in the darkness below, but did little to disrupt the gloom of the stairwell. The steps were concrete and narrow. At the bottom, a stone wall loomed menacingly over a small landing before the steps veered to the right and into the basement proper. We would be blind as we turned that corner. An inopportune glance at the stairwell would reveal us and give anyone below a few precious seconds to react before we would even know we were in danger.
I glanced back and nodded for Bobbi to carefully pull the door shut behind us. We didn’t want anyone above to suspect anything was amiss below. Unfortunately, that meant closing off the most opportune escape route, but there was nothing to be done. I took another deep breath and carefully descend the stairs.