Shadow Days Page 12

I took a step forward. The camera jumped in my hand. I swore as I dropped it. It clunked on the floor. When I picked it up and examined it, it didn’t seem to be damaged. That same steady crackle pulsed on the black screen.

I backed against the rail of the balcony’s landing and slid down until I was sitting. I’m not sure how long I was there, staring at the tall wooden doors.

He told me not to go in.

Screw it. I can’t live like this.

I left the camera on the cold floor and pushed myself up. When I tried the handle, I found the door was locked. No surprise there. I bent over, examining the door. Getting in wouldn’t be a problem; I could pick the lock easily. When I stood up to get what I needed to open the door, something else caught my eye.

At first glance it appeared to be decoration, an ornate carving that covered the thin gap between the two doors. As I examined the strange object, I saw that it contained some sort of bolt mechanism.

A second lock. And one I had no idea how to get open. I rammed my fist into the door, but swore to myself I’d find a way in. Maybe I’d invite my online pals to the first-ever battering ram building party of the twenty-first century.

When I got back to my room, my phone was buzzing. The clock on my nightstand read 7:00 a.m.

Must be Uncle Bosque.

I picked up the phone.

“Don’t.” The voice was almost too soft to hear.

“What?” I said.

“Don’t.” The whisper came once again before the line went silent.

I brought up my call log. No call had been registered.

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I put the phone on my bed and backed away from it like it was a hissing snake. Then I turned around and dug through the pile of laundry where I knew my sketchbook had been buried.


Smart girls Are Hot. Especially when their brilliance helps you break and enter. Rachel had the weird lock figured out the next day. More and more people were showing up on facebook—lots of girls. I must be cuter than I thought. Everyone wanted to know what was in the library, including me. That was good. I needed the encouragement.

A few people were worried, and I didn’t blame them. I wasn’t looking forward to facing the wrath of my uncle if he found out what I was up to. My online friends made some good points about staying out of forbidden rooms. But I also couldn’t handle trying to forget about the creepy night noises that kept me awake.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but life at Rowan Estate was slowly killing me. Victoria’s shouts of: “OPEN THE DOOR! OPEN

THE DOOR!” drowned out all rational warnings from my other friends.

I brought my laptop to the kitchen, reading through the latest comments while I made scrambled eggs. No good breaking family law on an empty stomach. What Rachel had discovered was unsettling, but not enough to rid me of an appetite.

Scarfing down eggs doused in hot sauce, I felt more alive than I had in days. I was going to get inside that library. I would know what had been harassing me ever since I got here. So what if the lock was the nine circles of hell. Dante was a great artist, his works labeled classics, and his depiction of hell was symbolic, not literal, right?

The Inferno theme fit with my uncle’s décor. The stairs leading to his office were set in an archway that was lined with sconces of the seven deadly sins. Put that together with the torture paintings and the maybe-demon statues and it might just be that Bosque had a medieval-hell fixation or something. And I could hardly put the blame on my uncle. What if this stuff wasn’t his at all? This was a really frickin’ old house. Any of this oh-so-precious but creepy junk could have been here from the time of its construction.

Sufficiently fortified by eggs and Tabasco, I headed to the to library doors. I had my sketchbook with me, where I’d copied down Rachel’s notes. I’d brought my camera along as well, though I har-bored serious doubts about its usefulness if I did get inside.

Squaring my shoulders and convincing myself one last time that this was indeed a good idea, or at least not a disastrous one, I began to turn the dial. Each one clicked as I moved them into the correct order. The circles of hell descending toward Lucifer’s abode. Limbo.

Lustful. Gluttonous. As I thought about the levels of torment, I shivered. Miserly. Wrathful. Heretics. The air around me grew colder like I was descending with Dante and Virgil to the frozen lake and the icy breath of Lucifer himself. Violent. Fraudulent. Traitors. Where do mis-behaving nephews belong?

The sound of clockwork gears turning sent me stumbling back two steps. A final loud click and the door was unlocked.

My fingers shook as I gripped the handle.

I had to do this.

I leaned forward, letting gravity push the handle down. The door opened, swinging inward. I slipped inside and closed the door behind me.

My breath stuck in my throat. After all the nightmares and references to hell, I’d expected the locks on the doors to be guarding something horrific. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The library was larger than any room I’d seen in Rowan Estate outside of the ballroom. It was also one of the most beautiful spaces I’d laid eyes on. Built-in bookshelves lined the walls on each side of me, stretching two floors up. A balcony ran along each wall, accessi-ble by identical, tight spiral staircases that rose from the main floor to the center of each balcony, giving access to the upper shelves of books. The wooden columns separating the bookshelves were covered in ornate carvings. Some symbols looked vaguely familiar; others I’d never seen.

The outside wall of the library was divided by an enormous fireplace. The mantel was at least two feet above my head and the fireplace itself was wider than three, maybe four of me put together.

A portrait hung above the mantel, and I didn’t want to look at it because I worried it was more of the grotesque art that lined the mansion’s walls. When I did finally force myself to stare at it, I was pleasantly surprised . . . for a little while.

This painting wasn’t anything like the others. It was a simple, if austere, portrait of a man standing behind a woman who was seated in the chair. They gazed at the empty library, solemn faced. Despite the lack of violence in the portrait, I found myself needing to look away. The picture turned my stomach as if I’d eaten stones for breakfast instead of eggs. Despair pressed onto my chest, stealing my breath. What was it with the art in this place? If it didn’t make you want to vomit, it depressed the hell out of you.

I didn’t look at the painting again, instead focusing on the jewel tones streaming in through the stained glass windows that lined the outside wall on either side of the fireplace. The colors captured sunlight and made it dance, washing the library with kaleidoscopic hues.

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