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May 5, 2010

Time to quit lurking and get in the game. Maybe I'll finally get an avatar out of this.

I'm in with "The Hidden Staircase."


May 5, 2010

The Hidden Staircase - 1274 words

Great. The door was locked. Albert was trapped in the bathroom. He pounded on the door.

“Hello?” he called. “Please help me. I can’t be late for the treaty signing.”

He pressed his ear against the door, but couldn’t hear anything in the hallway. He banged again.

“I’m not one of the diplomats, but I put important work into the section on grain tariffs and I think I deserve to see the fruits of my labour.”

He twisted the door knob again and again. Nothing budged. It was a lovely door knob. It was the kind of craftsmanship you don’t see too much anymore. Albert had been glad to wander through the old manor house, it was a welcome change from his drab office, but he now saw the down side: old doors stick, old knobs break, old locks fall into place on their own.

Albert spied a loose thread sticking out from the cuff of his blue suit jacket. When he was rescued, it would not be proper to be in shambles. The thread slipped through his fingers as he tried to grab at it. Perhaps there were scissors in the medicine cabinet. He turned around, away from the door and saw the toilet was still running with water spilling over the rim.

He made a mad grab for the lid of the toilet tank. He pulled on it. He pushed on it. He lost his temper and started slapping it. It wouldn’t give. Albert felt around the back of the tank and twisted the water cut-off value. Finally, the water stopped. He sighed in triumph.

As he dropped his hand from the value, it brushed something on the wall that felt like a button. He pushed it. There was a loud click and a section of wall slid away, revealing a hidden staircase.

Albert didn’t know where the staircase lead, but they certainly lead out of a locked bathroom. He followed them down.


A door was at the end of an unremarkable hallway. Light came from underneath it. Albert put his ear against the door. He could hear voices. He grabbed the handle and quietly opened the door a crack. The voices were louder, but Albert couldn’t understand them. He opened the door and slid inside.

He was in large room, like a drawing room or library, but the walls had charts, maps, and pictures on them. Albert recognized some of the people in the pictures as diplomats and government officials he had seen around the grounds. There were couches and end tables in the room, but all had been haphazardly pushed to the sides to make space for a large conference table. There was another door on the far side of the room. Albert was left with a sinister feeling. He saw a group of four men around the conference table so he ducked behind the closest couch.

Albert crawled to the end of the couch and saw a bookshelf close by that had not been pushed all the way to the wall. He looked around the end of the couch to check if anyone had noticed him. They hadn’t looked up from their conversation.

“Is everyone ready?” asked one.

“Yes,” said a second.

“I want to make sure we’re all committed,” said the first. “I don’t want anyone backing out now. There’s too much at stake.”

Albert crawled as quickly as he could to the bookcase. The space to the wall was narrow, but it was enough for him to fit. He folded his shoulders in as much as possible and went behind the bookcase. He could still hear the conversation.

“No one is backing out,” said the second. “We’re going ahead with this. We just need to make sure we shoot him before anything is signed. That way…”

“The treaty will be cancelled,” finished the first, “and we can go ahead with the coup when we return to our country. Come gentleman. Let’s have a drink before we begin.”

Albert heard the scrapping of chairs and footsteps. Reaching the end of the bookcase, he looked towards the table. The conspirators were walking to a bar at the far end of the room. Albert was able to get a clear look at everyone’s face. He’d have to hurry to tell security about this plot. No time to hang around, someone’s life and the whole treaty were in jeopardy now, even the grain tariffs.

When the conspirators finally turned their backs, Albert made a break for the door. As quickly and as quietly as possible, he went into the hallway.


After a few wrong turns, Albert found his way back to the main state room, which was being used to sign the treaty. He hoped his lost wanderings hadn’t made him too late. He spotted a security guard sitting at a desk a few feet from the entrance.

“There’s a plan to assassinate one of the diplomats!” said Albert.

“What?” asked the security guard, “Which one?”

“I don’t know.”

“By who?”

“I don’t know.”


“I don’t know.”

“Oh,” said the security guard, “okay. I’ll keep an eye out and will absolutely report this. Don’t you worry.”

The guard went back to his paper work. Albert felt defeated. If he couldn’t get the guards to help, what could he do? He’d have to do this himself. Albert went into make shift conference room.

There was a long table at the front of the room where the diplomats were seated. There were a few rows of chairs arranged facing the table. Sitting in the chairs were various reporters, military personnel, and government workers.

Albert spotted two men talking to each other and recognized them. They were the assassins. Albert quietly moved through the crowd and sat in an empty seat next to them.

Albert was not sure what to do next. He needed to disarm these men, somehow. He starred at them, trying to see any hidden weapons. But how could they have gotten any passed the guards? He was so preoccupied with his search that he didn't see one of the assassins staring back at him.

“Do you mind?” the assassin asked.

Albert froze in a mixture of terror and embarrassment. “I'm sorry,” said Albert. “I was curious about, uh, your watch.”

At the mention of the watch, the assassin's face went pale. He turned to the other assassin and said something that Albert couldn't hear. The second assassin's face went pale as well. They both looked at Albert. Albert smiled weakly back.

The assassins got up. The second assassin circled around the back of the rows of chairs, as the first slowly walked towards the front.
Now, Albert thought. They're doing it now.

But which one is going to take the shot? Or are they both?

The watch! The first one went pale when Albert mentioned the watch. It must be the key. Albert stood up and went after the first assassin.

An explosion went off in the far corner of the room, near the second assassin. Smoke was billowing everywhere and people panicked. Albert kept his attention on the first man. He was raising his watch arm and pointing it like a rifle towards a diplomat.

Albert leapt and tackled the assassin to the ground. As they fell, Albert heard a popping sound. He knelt on the assassin’s back pinning him and looked at the wall behind the diplomat. A few inches from the diplomat’s head was a hole.

The guards descend on both Albert and the thwarted assassin. Albert had a lot of explaining ahead of him, but the treaty and the grain tariffs were safe.

May 5, 2010

Thanks for critiques everyone.

I'm in for the next round.

May 5, 2010

Let's try this again - I'm in.

May 5, 2010

I am bowing out.

I am also going to think long and hard about my inability to write a thousand word story when I've written longer emails.

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