With the precious key in the pocket of her slacks, Ruby walked up the staircase toward her room. There was no need to look in on Lord Andrei to inquire if he needed anything because he was still downstairs with the guests, nipping brandy in the study after the meal she and Mrs. Reinhardt had prepared.
When she got to the top of the steps, she looked down the hallway toward the southwest wing, debating whether to test the key in the forbidden door’s lock or to take a nap. She had looked down the wing with Patty yesterday when the house was quiet but had never walked it more than a few feet. It was not that she wanted to begin investigating before she had gathered more information about the exact circumstances of Alan’s disappearance, but rather to see if the key actually worked. Instead, she decided to go back to her room where Patty would be either on the computer watching YouTube videos or shopping for a new book on Amazon.
The storm was still overhead as Ruby walked to her room. Through the window, a vein of lightning spread across bubbling clouds and then thunder cracked. Even though she knew the sudden sound was coming, it still made her jump.
It was late afternoon but seemed as though it was nightfall. She turned on the bedroom light and noticed Patties bag sitting in the corner, the same as it was earlier that morning. Where could Patty be? The bathroom was empty. Perhaps she was in Lord Andrei’s room cleaning.
Ruby walked out of her room and down the hall to Lord Andrei’s bedchamber. No one was inside and it appeared as though Patty had already tidied it up. She was not downstairs, at least as far as Ruby could tell. Nonetheless, she walked down the stairway and looked in the little parlor, the north parlor, and the living room; they were all void of people. She could hear laughter coming from the study, but she knew Patty would not be in there.
She walked into the small dining room where she had helped Mrs. Reinhardt clear the table and return dishes to the kitchen. No Patty.
Patty would not be outside because of the rain. Perhaps she went back to the cottage for some reason and was trapped there because of the storm. That was the only possible explanation so Ruby walked back up to her room to give her a call. She tried a couple times, but the phone kept going to voicemail.
“I hope nothing’s wrong,” Ruby said, sliding the phone into her pocket. She looked at the monitor and saw no indication that Lord Andrei had requested their assistance. Maybe she was walking the halls upstairs to get exercise; Patty had mentioned that she needed to get more physical activity. Of course, the desire to get in shape was most likely motivated by Lord Andrei’s rude comments about how tight her scrub pants were and how she must have been poured into them.
Ruby left the door open so that she could hear the monitor if Lord Andrei were to summon her and walked into the hallway. She crossed her arms as she walked at a slow quiet pace, listening for any movement.
“Patty, are you down here?” she said, continuing her walk past shut bedchamber doors and a low table with a vase on top until she reached the window at the corridor’s terminus. She moved aside the lace panel curtain and looked outside. Rain beat down on the garden below while streams of water flowed from the terrace.
Ruby turned around and began walking back from where she had come. There was still no sign of Patty so she dialed her again. There was still no answer, so she walked down to the other end, past the stairway and Lord Andrei’s room, until she got to the other window and the intersection of the southwest wing. She looked out the wet glass and saw a few glowing streetlights of Maryville down below the convent’s perch. But Patty’s house was dark and her car was still in the driveway.
That left Ruby with two possible explanations about where Patty could be; either in her cottage or down the dreadful hall. Ruby did not want to look down the forbidden wing but she considered that the most likely answer. Even though Mr. Miller had given her a key to pass from the wing and into the old monastery, she was afraid of what she would find.
She turned and looked down the wing’s length, to the door at the end. The open door with blackness beyond its threshold. Patty had somehow been able to go through it.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Ruby whispered to herself. “The monk that visits Lord Andrei probably forgot to close it.”
With the utterance of those very words she knew Patty was down there, somewhere. Ruby began walking toward the exit.
“Patty,” Ruby called out with a hushed voice. “Are you in there?”
Ruby stopped walking when she stood at the once locked barrier. She had wanted to go through the door, even before she got the key, but was not expecting the quest to begin so soon; she was not prepared. Ruby had wanted to find a map of the old monastery and the cathedral before she went into what she expected to be a labyrinth of tunnels and passages. But now it stood before her, beckoning her presence.
“Patty,” Ruby called as she dialed the phone once again. It connected and began ringing—ringing inside the illicit fistula.
Deep into the blackness she saw the pulsating light and heard the chime of Pattie’s phone reverberating down the passage toward her. Patty had gone inside and not come out.