Everyday life has a way of weaving itself into my stories. A friend bought and renovated a bar in Malta just in time for the virus lockdown. With sanity slowly resuming, attempt number two was made to launch the grand opening, only to discover the electrics kept cutting out although they had previously been no problem. Guess where the idea of a hidden, secondary fuse box came from?
If you want the story to make sense it would be worthwhile checking out parts 1, 2 and 3 first to see how we got here. 😀
I’d only known Zelda for around ten weeks but ours were special circumstances. That wasn’t even her real name, and she eventually admitted she was actually called Judy, but had adopted the more exotic name as part of her need to preserve her privacy. Since I’d answered her advert for a live-in handyman to renovate her secluded property, I’d had no contact with any of my old friends. Apart from Judy and the members of her staff, I’d spoken to no one except delivery guys.
Don’t get me wrong. It hadn’t felt at all like being a prisoner. I’d been well paid and enjoyed the freedom of using all the skills Bill had taught me, including problem solving. The work was going well and I knew if he was still around, he would be proud of the way the restoration project was proceeding. The basement was now unrecognisable, having been turned from a junk heap into a clean and open modern space.
Although I hadn’t left the estate since the day I arrived, Judy had explained how her alter-ego Zelda sometimes needed to go off for a few days at a time. Even though we’d become close, she never said where she was going, but in the early days I’d noticed a helicopter landing in the far fields, or seen a shadowy figure through the tinted windows as the limousine drove past the security gates.
‘Frank, I won’t be around for a while, but when I get back we need to talk. I owe you that much, and I don’t mean just for the fantastic job you’ve done here. You’ve come to mean a lot to me but soon your contract will finish and you’ll be free to go your own way.’
‘Judy, I know we’ve only known each other a few months but how long does it take to fall in love? I want…’
‘Shush,’ she said as she gently kissed my lips. ‘Save it for when I return.’
I’d nearly finished all the electrical work when by chance I discovered a secondary circuit. To make sure everything went according to plan, I’d need to go down to the lower basement. It hadn’t been part of the original job spec, but was necessary to ensure everything was safe. The next day I carried on with my allocated tasks, so it wasn’t until the third day I was able to take the lift down to the lower basement for the first time. Although it was clear of junk, it was obvious no one had been down there in a very long while. Despite its size, as the solid metal lift doors closed behind me it felt quite claustrophobic, and I was grateful for the heavy-duty torch I had taken down with me.
The surroundings were pitch black, with only a tiny flicker of light showing through a tiny crack in the far corner ceiling visible from the main basement above. I made my way gingerly across rotted floorboards until I could track the wiring, and discovered the doors of the small cupboard which housed the secondary circuit board. The wiring in there was a disaster and would need to be totally replaced. Deep in thought it took me a minute to register the sound of the lift door opening, and blinded by the glare of light I assumed Judy was home and had come to find me. How wrong could I be?
‘Good evening, Frank. Fancy seeing you here. I can’t say I’m surprised but your audacity is exceptional. I suppose you’d do anything to get your grubby little hands on my father’s inheritance.’
The voice was unmistakable. It was Arnold, Bill’s son, but what on earth was he doing here and what had this to do with Judy? Although I was taken aback, I had to respond to the sneering in his voice. This man got under my skin like no other, and turned me into someone not very nice to know.
‘Arnie, old chum, I could ask the same of you, but then I’d never get a straight answer so I won’t bother. I was employed to do a job here, but I’m surprised you were allowed in. I thought they had security to keep out the riff-raff.’
Despite the distance between us I could feel his anger as he spat out his venom, and his next actions proved the man was seriously unhinged.
‘You think my whore of a step sister can save you? Think again, Frank. I’ll be waiting when Zelda or whatever she calls herself these days returns tomorrow, but she should have warned you there’s no escape from the sub cellar apart from the lift, which unfortunately will become out of order. Enjoy your final hours.’
I heard the sound of the doors closing but by the time I was near enough to stab at the buttons to take me back to civilization, he had returned to the ground floor and blocked my only means of exit. I was trapped. Would anyone investigate or wonder where I was? Would Judy’s staff assume I was staying in the apartment until her return? Would this sub-basement become my tomb?
Final, final, final part next week. Thanks for being here.