Chapter 17: A Path Through the Attic:


The pair stopped to look down at the skylight in the 3rd floor hall and then went back into the crawlway. 
They twisted and turned, and made it back to the attic hatch. 

Parker and Sophie headed down the trail to the attic hatch. They made it back, looked around  and prepared to descend. Suddenly, Parker noticed an old-fashioned hook on a wooden panel, that he first thought was a solid barrier. The wooden panel sat between the courtroom ceiling vault and an old brick chimney. The hook on the panel was like the one their grandpa had on their chicken house door. 

He didn’t see any hinges, but he undid the hook, and then pulled. Nothing happened. “Drat!” he thought, “Not again.” Then he pushed. 
It opened. It was a crude door, about 18” wide. When it opened, he saw a walkway of boards that went to a darker part of the attic. Parker looked at Sophie with one eyebrow raised, a pantomime, offering to explore a little more. 
Sophie grimaced and nodded, urging Parker to proceed. 

He shined his flashlight forward and went ahead while Sophie followed. The flooring planks went toward the center dormer of the courthouse. Between the dormer and the clock tower was an area, boarded up, that looked like a lean-to inside the attic. Parker and Sophie looked at each other; excited, curious annnnnd scared, all at once. 

They stopped where the planks ended at the wall, where another crude door made of rough lumber stood between them and whatever was inside. Sophie then grabbed Parker’s sleeve, and Parker froze. While they were both excited, they were both also scared of what might be in the room. 

Sophie has a recurring dream of being in an attic of a house that was somehow hers, but in reality, had never lived there. She would find herself in the attic of the house, outside a narrow door similar to this one. Then Sophie would get a creepy feeling; goosebumps would go up her arms and the hair on her neck would stand up. This is how she felt now.  In her dream, she never went in that room. But now, in real life, what would she do? 
She didn't think the 'symmetry-cemetery' joke was so funny anymore...

"What do you suppose is in there?” Sophie asked. “Anything or anyone living?” 

“Look at the tracks we’ve made on the dusty planks as we walked in.” Parker said. 
“There are no other tracks on the planks, so if anyone is in there, he isn't living.” 

Sophie nearly swooned. Not only did she dread finding a dead person, how would she tell anyone? 
They might go to jail, and she would lose her cell phone, her only way to stay in touch with her old friends. 
Parker said that if they found a body in there, they would go home and write a letter to the local newspaper. 
Sophie was already pale-skinned, but she was really white after this. 

It was noon and Parker suggested they eat. 
Parker wasn’t heavy, but he never let an emergency interfere with a meal. One time, while staying with their grandparents, his grandma had to take him to the Doctor’s office to get stitches in his left hand for a deep cut. In the doctor’s office, he pulled a sandwich out of his pocket and asked if he could eat his sandwich with his other hand while they were working. 

The nurse just stood still for a minute and looked at him, then asked, “Would you like ketchup with that sandwich?” 

Parker asked for mustard since it was a ham sandwich and Grandma almost fainted. 
The nurse shook her head and kept on with what she was doing. 

Anyway, Sophie wasn’t in the mood to eat, she was in the mood to run somewhere else as fast and as far as she could. 
Parker wasn’t letting on, but his offer to eat was a way to postpone what he knew had to be done next…go in the room. 
There were two sides of the lean-to showing. The other two sides were brick walls in the attic of the courthouse. 

Parker stalled for time by going around the corner to see if there was anything on the other side of the lean-to. 
When he got over there, he saw a small window in the wall. It was sort-of in the direction of the dormer window that let a little light in that part of the attic. That made Parker feel really creeped-out. 

This might be someone’s living quarters up here, away from everyone. He heard of people being found living in the attics of houses and stores. Parker decided not to tell Sophie that he had found a window. 

That might send her home; it almost sent him home. But then, they needed to see what was in that room. 

Eric J. Rose
middlegrademysteries.com
representative photo: http://idostuff.co.uk/blogs/2012/whitby-chimney-jenga/










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