General Fiction posted June 12, 2023

This work has reached the exceptional level
Do you dare step through the Red Door? Some do.

The Red Door

by Barry Penfold

This Sentence Starts The Story Contest Winner 

The House was empty. Well, the townspeople thought so. The lack of repair and overgrown gardens certainly provided proof to back up the assumption.

As Tom Hart drove towards the house he could clearly see that it had been a grand home. It held a high position on a gently sloping block of land. It was overgrown, but still held a powerful presence. What had gone wrong? Surely, someone would have snapped it up, if it were for sale?Tom reflected on some of the answers given to him by townspeople he had already interviewed.

The favorite reason around town was that a baby had died and the whole family moved back to the big city. New York they supposed. The Lincoln family had millions according to rumor. They must be linked to Abe Lincoln. How could they not be with such a grand home at their disposal? Tom smiled as he tried to reason how people came to manifest different stories. His mission was just to check the house. Was there a clue, was there something left behind?

His editor was interested to see some copy as there was clearly a veil of mystery. Unknown to Tom his trajectory to the home was being watched. A pair of eyes honed onto him from the moment he pulled up.

Tom reached the rickety gate and unsurprisingly it resisted his first tug. His momentum broken, he viewed the home more closely. Some broken windows were evident on the second floor and the pealed and peeling paint gave it a shaggy look. However, its overall integrity looked good. Well built for sure. As his gaze moved back to the gate, he noticed a very slight movement of a window covering. Perhaps a rat or some other vermin. He did not fancy stepping inside but now he was here, he had to. What one does for a story, he thought. The logical thing was to go to the front door. A large one at that and he imagined that it was not secure. His hand reached out and the doorknob filled his fist. A twist to the right and then to the left indicated that it was locked.

Another door was nearby to his right, and within easy reach. This too was locked. A little odd he thought? A deserted home totally vulnerable at all times to intruders of all minds. He indeed was an intruder. Had no one broken the lock of the doors?

A rough paved path invited a further investigation towards the back of the home. Why not he thought. Must be an entry somewhere. His search revealed a smaller door, cobwebbed but not shy. It was red. Why on earth would the door have been painted red? Every other door was cream in color. Was this one a warning? Danger. Do not enter sort of door. His right hand hesitated but was encouraged by the smaller door handle. A comfortable grip and he turned and pushed simultaneously. A swirling whirlwind effect took hold of him and he was plunged into darkness. Unconscious darkness.

He was not sure how long he remained unconscious but when he woke he was clearly on the ground and his view was filled with two boot toe tips. They were close, so he resisted the temptation to quickly jump up. He need not have worried as a hand and a voice introduced his captor.

"Afternoon, Mister Hart. I apologise for your somewhat awkward entry. Let me get you up and see if I cannot make it up to you, just a little."

As Tom grabbed the assisting hand he became aware of the strength he was dealing with but was comforted by the smoothness of the voice. But he gasped when he met the face.

"My name is Hank Lincoln and I am not aiming to hurt you in any way Mister Hart."

" Call me Tom. I like informal Hank. Your welcoming skills may need some work though."

"Ha, ha Tom. I see you have a sense of humor but I do remind you, you were trying to enter my home without invitation."

"Sorry, but I believed the home to be empty. My enquiries and early inspection certainly confirmed I was on the right track."

"No matter Tom, but there are some things we must clear up."

Hank offered a cup of coffee which was rejected but a glass of water was made available. Tom figured it might be a long session. But it was only a feeling.

Hank spoke evenly and with no threatening undertones.

"Well I took the chance to find out a bit more about you Tom, when you were in noddy land. Seems you are a journalist with the Daily Globe. A good paper for the most part. Why would you need a story about this house?"

"Always after something new. Some intrigue. Mysteries of an abandoned house was a suggested header. Editors love a bit of a different angle."

"Oh, you will find something different here. Guaranteed."

Hank moved a book on the coffee table and reached for a rolled paper length. He laid it across the table and it was clearly a floor plan of a house.

"Move closer Tom. Prior to your full tour I will give you a bit of start up with this floorplan. "

Tom inched closer, but not too close, as he was still tentative about Hanks real intentions. Hanks rather deformed half face was not a help for his confidence. Hank commenced, noticing the stare of Tom.

"You wonder about my face? It was not a pleasant experience, that led to the deformity. An acid attack by a rather mixed up individual. But enough of that, let the tour begin."

This part of the tour was led by Hank's right hand index finger. Talking as he went Hank explained the age of the home and the identity of the builder. Apparently a local builder by the name of Tony Carberry. Hank clearly liked the work he had done as his name was mentioned on a few occasions.

Finally, Hank lifted his index finger from the map and emphasized,

"As you can see Tom, a large home, well built and ready for a rebirth. For six years I have been back here. I have used disguise and cunning to go undetected despite the fact that every two weeks I shop in the local supermarket."

Tom was puzzled, "Surely, someone would notice where you went to after you shop."

"Well, I misled them to believing I was living down the highway in Clinton. Due to work, I found it more convenient to shop here. Pay my bill and they don't ask any more questions."

"Seems you are bit of a psychologist," muttered Tom.
"Yes I am a bit, well I will say a whole lot. The red door provided some real opportunity to study people's reaction."

"So you watch all the time?"

"No No, my protectors watch all the time though. I know when someone or something is outside."

Tom was intrigued. "Your protectors?"

"Yes, watch." At that moment Hank snapped his fingers quite loudly and immediately a number of rats appeared and ran to his feet. Tom was uneasy. He hated rats. But that was not all. The sound of some sort of lumbering animal or person soon became the reality of a dog. A three -legged dog..Beagle cross. Maybe. Unusual- yes.

Hank smiled and explained,

"These six rats and dog are all I need. The rats are so effective in turning any intended intruder around. People see them in the windows and it puts them off, a lot. Bloodlust here does the rest. But not many people do come this far."

Tom was silent thinking of an escape route. He came up with a plan.

"Well perhaps I need to move my car Hank. I believe it is in a restricted hour parking zone."

The response was immediate and troubling to Tom.

"No worries, already sorted. The car is now undercover at the back of this property. You were out to it for over an hour. It will be fine and waiting for you when you get to go. Now for the tour."

Tom was now captive to Hank`s intentions, but he was also keen to find out more about the man and this house. A story there was and he was eager to make it a beauty.

Hank surprised him again:

"You will stay for dinner and the night. The tour could be a long one. There is much to see. I can guarantee Tom you will have plenty of things to write about. That is, if you really want to."

The uneasy feeling was giving way to one of both excitement and fear. Tom had never confronted anything like this.

Hank motioned to the door of what Tom believed to be the study.

"Please Tom, let us go, just to the left and straight ahead. You will not miss it."
Tom hesitated but followed the path directed and was surprised to see a door almost in front of him. It opened. A gentle scent flowed from the room. Totally enchanting. What was this ?.

"Let us begin Tom. An adventure awaits."

Tom stepped forward. He pressed the On button for his recorder, took a deep breath, and entered through the blue door.

This Sentence Starts The Story
Contest Winner



Rumors are often wrong. Reality is much more exciting.
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