Chapter 2

Written by: Joe Labrum

“Uncle Ben… Are you in there?” Thomas pounded until his hand hurt. He stood, exhausted from running up three flights of rickety stairs to Benjamin Goodloe’s flat. The flat was located in the once stylish building of what used to be the theatre district. With the passage of time prosperity had moved on leaving this jewel of architecture in its wake. The Empress Arms was a place where a person who appreciated fine old-world craftmanship and mill work didn’t mind squeaking floors and groaning pipes could feel at home. The reason Ben lived there was simply that it was all he could afford. That was his story at any rate. The people that populated the art culture where Goodloe circulated said there was probably more to him than met the eye.

Thom gave the solid hardwood door a few more raps. Finally, as a last resort he tried the knob. The mechanism released, and the heavy door swung part way open but stopped with a thud. Thom leaned into the door as hard as he could but managed an opening only just large enough to permit his head access.  

“Uncle Ben,” the lad screamed out fearing the worst. Frantic, Thom leaned the package he had been protecting against the wall out of the way and concentrated on the door. The sound of another door at the other end of the hall opened then immediately closed with a bang. It startled him. But the escaping smells of frying garlic convinced him that it was nothing more than a curious neighbour.  Wedging his foot against the jamb he was able to get enough leverage to force the door open just enough to get inside. 

The nephew’s fear for the old man’s safety grew more urgent and added to that feeling was the disorientation of being faced with a scene that was unexpected, one that made no sense. Thom surveyed the living room of his uncle’s small apartment with complete confusion. He expected to find the room, perhaps the whole apartment, in a shambles. But except for an overturned bookshelf blocking the door, the room looked approximately the way it always did. If you disregarded the obvious, the place was relatively tidy, for Old Ben. He didn’t put a lot of stock in the adage “A place for everything and everything in its place”.

The kid mopped the sweat from his face with his sleeve as he tried to make sense of it. Stealthily Thom moved, picking up a knife from the kitchen on his way to the bedroom. Since it was the only possible hiding place left unsearched, Thom wasn’t startled when he heard the sound. The knob turning drew his eyes to the closet door. He stood poised as the door creaked open, then an involuntary exhale as the old man appeared grinning with relief. 

Remembering the painting, Thom spun on his heel and ran. 

“It’s gone,” yelled Thom from the hall.

Comments

Good work Joe. Your description of Ben Goodloe's apartment was great. I wonder why he was hiding in the wardrobe. Where does Thom fit in? Is he the boy running from the art dealer?
Thom is the conversant, the purchaser of the piece for his eccentric uncle. He is a bit paranoid and thought someone was trying to break in so he blocked the door and hid in the closet. The intruder believes Ben has might be in search of missing pieces of the "waterfall" set.