(To read from the beginning go Here.)
Whatever they did, they were going to have to be fast about it. Van Dyke and his minions had allowed them to see their faces, and if she knew anything from reading pulp fiction, it was that the crooks only let you see their faces if they meant to kill you.
“Of course!” Lacey Carew to the rescue.
“What is it?”
“Did you read the Lacey Carew books when you were growing up?”
“In The Mask of the Monkey Clan, she’s locked in a closet, but she escapes.”
“Okay?” Jilly was obviously beginning to question her sanity.
“Help me pull down the clothes rod. We’ll use it as a crow bar to pop the hinges and we’ll be out in a jiffy.”
They both stood and tugged on the rod, with no success. Anne gritted her teeth. This had to work. “Okay, we’ll do it together. Use all your weight, on three.”
“You got it.”
“One, two, three.” Anne jumped, pulling her legs up and hanging from the rod as if it were jungle bars and she were ten again.
The rod groaned and something splintered. An instant later, Anne was dumped in a heap as it came crashing down. The rod smacked her in the nose bringing tears to her eyes.
It didn’t matter. They’d done it!
Beside her she could feel Jilly scrambling to stand.
Anne felt her nose tenderly. “You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m good, kiddo. What about you?”
Footsteps pounded up the stairs. “What’s the racket? You two try pull any stunts and I’ll pop you here and now.”
Anne scrambled to her feet. Breathless she snatched the clothes rod and shoved it behind her back. Lord, don’t let him notice it was gone.
The closet door was flung open and she blinked. The guide seemed to have grown in the twenty minutes she had been in the closet.
Jilly half-stepped in front of Anne. “Sorry, I got a little woozy and knocked poor Anne over. I haven’t had anything to eat since breakfast. Could you bring us something?” She sounded pitiful, and even managed to look wobbly as if she might topple over again at any minute.
He sighed. “Have a seat then so youse don’t knock the house down around our ears. I’ll see if I can find something.”
He swung the door shut again with enough force that it was just this side of a slam.
Anne leaned forward, ears straining and irrepressible hope springing up like a weed. The lock scraped, putting paid to that notion and she slumped back.
Oh, well. Thank the Lord; they still had the rod.
“Jilly, if that were an audition, you would have earned the lead role for sure.”
“Yeah? Let’s get out of here so I can have the chance to do another audition. You got the rod?”
Together they wedged the end of the rod between the doorjamb and the door, near the bottom hinge. Pushing the bar as if it were a lever they pushed. The wood creaked and groaned its protest at the abuse.
Heart beating in her throat, Anne put a hand on Jilly’s arm. They stopped, listening for any sign that someone had heard them. The seconds ticked by, as if they were part of a funeral procession.
“We better hurry. I would die if he came back with the food I asked for, and caught us trying to escape.” Jilly whispered.
Did she know how true that sentiment might turn out to be? Swallowing hard, Anne nodded, and they set to work in earnest.
It took only five minutes or so of frantic effort, before they had prised the door free of its hinges and then wriggled it free of its frame. Each precious second that passed cost Anne as dearly as if it had been a diamond.
They had to get out.
Anne propped the door back against the opening. Maybe it would take him a few extra seconds to realize they were gone.
They tiptoed from the room, glancing both ways. Anne found her nose twitching as if she were an animal scenting danger.
“What now?” Jilly’s murmur seemed as loud as a gunshot.
It was risky, but the only way out Anne was sure of was the front door. Would it be better to take one big gamble, or waste time trying to find a different way out? “The front door.”
She led the way toward the stairs and hung her head over the banister to make sure no one was coming up. The pounding of her heart in her throat was nearly enough to choke her.
They crept down the stairs, backs against the wall as if they could disappear into the faded floral pattern. Anne’s fingers trembled as they brushed the wall.
The door beckoned to them like a mirage.
Six more steps.
She could hear the rumble of male voices in the room she’d been taken to first. Her slick palms slipped on the doorknob as she fumbled to open it. There she had it.
She pulled it open and motioned for Jilly to slip out past her. Just as she pulled the door shut she caught sight of the door at the opposite end of the hall as it swung open and the guide backed out, his hands full of a tray of food.
Whirling, she pelted down the front steps. “Run,” she hissed to Jilly.