Chapter 6, The Locked Room
“Huh?” Did I hear him correctly? He can unlock that door? “How?”
Todd grins like the Cheshire cat, rubbing his paws together – OK, his hands…but it brought to mind…Anyway, he clearly has a plan, “There is a key on the floor just inside the door.” He actually squeals. Maybe he has no concern for my mental wellbeing. Maybe I should have concern for his. Haha! I laugh to myself. His face becomes puzzled.
I shake my head in hopes he ignores the laugh. “Wish I’d have thought to look through the key hole, or even under the door. I could have saved a ton of time…” Especially his, though I keep that part to myself. Of course, if that had been the case he would not be here with me now, involved in solving a very bizarre mystery of which I have no idea how much I’ve shared or what the mystery truly is. Sigh.
“OK, so you see a key. How do we know it’s the key? And how do we get our hands on said key in order to unlock the door?”
He holds up one finger, “Hold that thought,” then scrambles down the stairs two at a time in a childlike manner. I find it adorable and am relieved he is too preoccupied to notice how I watch him. I am definitely calling Stella tonight. I can hear her now if I do not: “Ivy, you were terribly remiss in keeping this to yourself.” Something else skitters across the edges of my mind. I am vaguely aware of the series of events leading up to this moment. I prayed for a way. Todd believes he has a way.
Minutes later, Todd barrels up the stairs slightly out of breath, grin still intact. I cover my mouth to prevent an insubordinate chuckle. His face is speckled with beads of sweat, yet to feel the weight of gravity. He is holding a metal hanger. Where did that come from?
Cleary this question is written all over my face. “I had dry cleaning in my car.” He shrugs, beginning the tedious task of straightening out the hanger, except the hook. I move out of his way to allow him the room to contort his body on the steps. Todd slides the hanger under the door, tilting his head in an attempt to see through the crack, in order to align the hook with the key head. I watch him struggle. He is very persistent. I think about how he should be out on rounds, but choose not to say anything. This is for a selfish reason…Or two. And he is an adult capable of making his own decisions of how to spend his time.
“Got it!” This took some effort to say, seeing as how the steps are crushing his diaphragm. After an awkward rise to his feet, Todd presents an aged brass key holding it before my face, while still grinning like that Cheshire.
I stare at it. The head of the key has three curves, similar to a clover. The stem is short with two teeth at the bottom. The history emanating from this one key is palpable. All I see is the key and the hands that have touched it, the number of turns it has taken within the lock.
I finally remove the key from his hand, delicately placing it in the keyhole. I close my eyes and inhale deeply. I remember to pray this time: OK Lord, Your will.
Eyes still closed, I slowly turn the key counterclockwise. Time has stopped – at least for me. I am no longer aware of Todd. All of my focus is on the door and what is behind. Then I hear the precious sound I have desperately wanted to hear upon my ears since this morning: Click.
I open my eyes. The door, owning a mind of its own, sways open. An imperceptible movement at first, creaking with age as if in agony, though gaining momentum halfway with a sigh of relief to be freed.
I see nothing beyond the open frame, greeted with darkness and hot thick air. Apprehension bears down on me, hairs on my neck stand to attention. I find it hard to breath. I close my eyes, but that is a mistake. The room begins to spin. What happened here? I open my eyes to sparkling dust floating around me. The curtains have been opened. Who did that?
“There, that’s better,” he said.
He? I look around, confronted with the sheriff. I start to wonder where I am, having forgotten all that transpired minutes ago. What is happening to me?
“Well, these look like the bookshelves you painted, though much older and dingier.” He was thoughtful, taking in every detail of the shelving to my left. I followed suit taking in the room, not sure what else to do. I feel a bit numb. The door to my back, I look straight ahead at a window, and then to my right another window. I walk to my right toward the window overlooking the driveway. The sheriff’s vehicle is next to mine. It was after noon by now. Turning around I study the bookshelves.
They were eerily similar to my painting. Or, better said, my painting is eerily similar to the bookshelves. The odd thing, the shelves are to the east, same as the pergola. I abandoned Todd, running down the stairs outside to retrieve my canvas.
“Where’d you go?” I lifted the canvas. “Ah, good call. I’m going to search for a light switch.”
All I could muster was, “Thanks.” I held the canvas in the light by the front window, looking from it to the bookshelves. There were details I captured that were a part of the scene before me: vases, placement of books, knick knacks. It scared me. The walls of the room began to close in on me. My chest tightened, grip locked on the painting. My eyes glued to the shelves as my vision focused on the minute details. Details I have affected in my painting. But how?
I finally find my voice and a thought, “How could I have painted this?” The question is rhetorical, but that doesn’t keep Todd from answering, “You must have been here before.” There is awe in his voice. Disbelief…I can hardly believe it myself.
I cannot take anymore. I stalk out of the no longer locked room, bee lining to my car. Todd is close behind clipping after my heels, “Wait!”
I begin to open my car door unaware of my actions, for thought does not matter. He intervenes, forcing my door closed. It renders me out of my stupor long enough to look up into his glass eyes with a question. I have no idea what my question is.
“I’ll drive. Let’s take my car. I have a couple of rounds to do. You can ride along while you gather yourself.” He gently took hold of my arm, gently guiding me toward his cruiser.
~ ~ ~
“I’m kind of surprised you brought me back here.” Todd looks at me quizzically. I expound, “After yesterday’s interesting turn of events…I wasn’t sure I’d see you again, let alone you bring me back here.”
The sheriff brought me back to Overlook Pass after he completed his rounds. He was still decked out in his uniform. I do not mind. I think I have decided that I have no preference of how he is dressed. I simply enjoy looking at him in any form.
He takes a moment to make sure I am paying attention before he responds, “I know we just met. I know we don’t know each other yet, but…I like you. Yes, yesterday was…shall we say odd? But you didn’t scare me or run me off. In fact, you fascinate me. I don’t know what it is about you, but I am drawn in. I want to know you – all of you.”
I look away. We are leaning against the railing, the river calm. The river is very blue.
He continues, “I wanted a do over, an added memory in this place.”
I understand the chance he took in sharing that with me, strengthening my resolve to reach out to him. I touch his right arm with my left hand, gently squeezing it. It is a small gesture, but there is much meaning behind it. I find his face again.
“I think I am losing my mind. I am confused at what I see. I feel like I am losing time. Except…” I am not really sure how to finish. Best course of action? Stumble through it, “I believe I am where I am supposed to be, though I have no idea where that is. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s not. I don’t know. I do know that when I am with you, something works…”
The wind picks up, throwing my hair across my face. Todd tucks the stray strands behind my ear. His eyes twinkle. Those beautiful glass blown eyes draw me in. His hand cups my face. My heart begins to pick up speed, my cheeks burn, and my mouth dries. I try to swallow. I look at his lips, really seeing their fullness. I want those lips on mine. His left arm wraps around my waist pulling me in. I am reminded of our time on the bike when he pulled my body against his. A shiver ripples through my body as his lips crash into mine, sending waves of emotion from head to toe.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Was Ivy in the locked room before? What is to transpire between Todd and Ivy?
Think you know? Have any ideas? Share your thoughts!!!