Mrs. Hall is usually up to no good. Because she IS no good. But oh, what fun comes from it. Just glad I’m working for such pros who know how to handle such a beast. (Writers actually work *for* their characters, no? I think we like to think it’s the other way around, but really. Who’s truly calling the shots?)
* * *
“Come in,” said Mrs. Hall with a grunt. It wasn’t the first time Luke had been in here. They walked through the doorframe and headed toward Mrs. Hall, lounging in a huge leather chair. Looking around, his eyes recognized the dozens of bookshelves organized better than anything Luke could imagine. Her sock drawer must be ordered by thread count. It wasn’t hard to remember why he loathed this place so much: besides housing Mrs. Hall, the room breathed structure and strictness. If Luke had his choice, he’d surely add some clutter.
Mrs. Hall glanced up from her book. She wore large glasses that made her look like an insect. A wrinkly insect.
“So detention again. You know I record every one?” She paused for effect. Luke might have been worried if this had been the first time she told them this. “So when someone comes looking for a kid to adopt he’s able to see what kind of mess he’d be getting.”
Adjusting her glasses, Mrs. Hall continued. “But, what age…oh silly, you’re both twelve.”
“Almost thirteen,” Luke said as calmly as possible. “And Mark’s fifteen.” He shot her a stare and saw her eyes widen for a moment.
“Thirteen? Mortifer, you’re late!” A laugh left her lips and for a second, she seemed in a right fit. She stared oddly at Mark, who just looked away.
A small hiss echoed from somewhere below, and she froze immediately. Standing upright at the foot of the chair was Sherlock, Mrs. Hall’s cat.
“What was I, oh yeah—already thirteen and fifteen, and no one’s come to take you both home. Doesn’t that tell you something?”
“That you dissuade everyone passing by with the story you’re home schooling twelve neighborhood kids?” asked Luke.
“Don’t get smart with me!” She leaned in inches from his face. He could smell her stale perfume. But he kept his face as expressionless as he could. Finally, she retreated back into her chair and began talking again. “You won’t be back in your room for several hours. I hope your homework’s finished. You know how Stanley doesn’t like late work,” she said.
Unphased, Mark lied, “Finished it two hours ago.” It took all of Luke’s willpower not to laugh as they followed her out the door.
* * *
To Luke’s utter surprise, she led them down the same corridor she had banned them from just days ago. The candlelight flickered shadows against the wall, resembling spider legs; dusty tables sat abandoned and paintings of old men and women hung crooked on the walls. And, like he had remembered, door after door lined the hallways. Obviously, Mrs. Hall rarely visited this corridor—she wouldn’t have stood for the filth.
As they twisted and turned further through the labyrinth of doors, she swung the lantern before her, trying to catch any loose spider webs. The ones she didn’t catch stuck to her hair and added a silver sheen to her head. It wasn’t like Mrs. Hall to appear nervous. However, the deeper they headed, the stiffer her shoulders became and the louder her mumbles grew.
Finally, they came to the end and turned the corner. For a fleeting moment, Luke thought she had led them straight to his door; however, as they stood before the large door, he realized with regret that his door, unlike this one, didn’t have a beautiful golden knocker.
“Hold this,” said Mrs. Hall as she stuffed the lantern into Mark’s arms. She moved her hand around a pattern on the door until a large thunk echoed around them. The door opened without even a push.
Inside, the smell of must was as strong as an outdoor forest. Mrs. Hall’s feeble lantern restricted Luke from seeing too much. But as she lit lamps along the wall, the room’s purpose became clear. It was a library.
“Unfortunately, you look happy,” she spat. Luke hadn’t even realized he was smiling. “You’ll be organizing this entire room. You’ll dust, you’ll stack, you’ll alphabetize—”
“Alphabetize?” asked Mark, who had, up until this moment, remained unnaturally quiet.
“By publisher,” she said, her eyes gleaming in the lamplight. Luke almost let his mouth drop open. She’s horrible. “I have a visitor coming, which is the only reason you’re down here. Got that? So don’t think I’m getting soft. You will do whatever it takes to get this room looking perfect.”
“What’s perfect?” Luke couldn’t help himself. Perfect to Mrs. Hall meant a white glove test to the millionth power.
“Up to my standards.”
She checked her watch. “Nine thirty. At midnight, the door will open and you can get back to your room. And you will do this every night for a week. If not, you can kiss your papers goodbye.”
“But how will—”
“No questions! I’m leaving and locking you in. Don’t try anything. I’ll know if you’ve left.”
She turned to leave and as he heard her pumps clomp back to the door, she yelled, “And don’t you even think about telling anyone about this room.” The door closed with a thud and the lock thunked back into place.
“She’s impossible,” said Mark.
“And completely insane! How in the world are we supposed to finish this in a week? Besides, doesn’t it seem weird that she took us back to the hallway she kicked us out of?”
“Must be some visitor.”
“Do you think the door we found leads to a room like this one?” The ceiling was at least as high as a cathedral’s. Bookshelves, crammed with books stacked every-which-way, soared to the top. Wooden ladders leaned against the shelves, and the entire structure of the room appeared oddly shaped.
Mark shrugged, picking up a book and checking its spine.
“I bet it does,” continued Luke. “And I bet she’s just too scared to come down here so she bans everyone else from it too. Typical. Well, if she thinks all we’re going to do is stay in this room, she’s nuts.”
“You doubted that before?” Mark asked, a grin inching up his face.
“Of course not. She’s always been nuts. But this isn’t like her.”
“Think about it,” said Luke, placing a book published by Helga Huff Books in front of one by Hector Hullman Publishing. “She’d never bring us back here, even if it was for detention.”
“Because if she did—”
“We’d be back at that door in a heartbeat. She knows us too well And even more so, we know her too well. Like I said, she may be nuts, but this, this is almost nice for Aberdeen.”
Mark looked skeptical. “So what are you saying?”
“She’s up to something.”
*pssst…..check out more HERE.