The tunnel felt narrower than it was. The walls seemed to squeeze against the sisters’ shoulders. Morgan, Mina and Marie walked forward in a single file line–the passage was only wide enough to fit one of them at a time–following the dark shadow ahead.
Marie reached back and gripped Mina’s hand, which was covered in a thin layer of sweat. After the door had closed and they had discovered it to be locked, a strange glaze had passed over Mayor Hunter’s eyes. The bookshelf behind him shivered lightly in the wall, and then it turned on its center axis, revealing a dark passageway.
Mayor Hunter didn’t say a word. Instead, he walked towards the hole in the wall and turned around to face the sisters. He motioned for them to approach, a gesture so casual that it seemed inviting. It was as if the door hadn’t strangely locked behind them, as if the lights had not suddenly dimmed, as if the hidden bookshelf door was to be expected, as if there was something interesting that he had promised to show the girls that was just behind the threshold of the hidden door.
Mina tugged on Marie and Morgan’s dresses. They were, as she guessed, conversing silently to each other.
Well, what else can we do? Morgan thought to Marie.
Are you crazy? Marie thought back.
What, are you going to wait for him to turn creepy and crazy on us, pull out a sword or something, and then obey? It’s not like we have any defense mechanism. Might as well play nice to throw him off.
There’s gotta be another way, Marie thought. She looked around the room, and without making a sound or looking back pulled a bobby pin from Mina’s hair–Mina was standing behind her) and tinkered in the doorknob. The mayor motioned again. The lock would not click open.
No windows, Marie thought. No possible weapon objects nearby either, added Morgan.
You may be right, Marie finally gave in. She smiled against her fear. “Would you like us to follow you, Mr. Hunter?” she asked, her voice sugar sweet and not betraying the panic that was slowly bubbling inside. The mayor nodded.
Alright, Marie thought to Morgan, Let’s go. Mina stays in between us. Keep your eyes open for possible routes of escape. Morgan stepped forward, Marie held Mina’s hand and led her after. The mayor stepped into the hole, which turned out to be another stairwell. Morgan stepped in behind him, followed by Mina and Marie. After Marie passed the threshold, the bookshelf slid back to it’s original position.
Where do you think he’s taking us? Morgan thought after a long stretch of silence both inside and outside their heads. They had reached the bottom of the stairwell, which was at least equivalent to five flights of stairs and spiraled deeper into the ground, and had been walking down the long tunnel at the bottom of it for at least ten minutes now.
I’ve been thinking about it, Marie thought.
And you haven’t been letting me in? Morgan shot back indignantly.
Sorry, sometimes I can think better alone. Anyways. I’ve been considering the options. It seems pretty clear by now that this is some fishy business, and most likely relates to Graham’s murder. So, either Mayor Hunter is the murderer–
Well DUH, Morgan interjected.
This is why I like to think alone. Fewer interruptions. Just let me finish. So, either Mayor Hunter is the murderer, or he’s accomplice to the murderer, or he knows something about the murder and wants us to get involved. What I mean is, maybe he knows who the murderer is and wants our help.
You seriously think he might still be on our side after all this fishy business?
Well, I just don’t want to rule out any options. So, if he is the murderer or accomplice to the murderer, why would he want to get us? It’s probably because–
Just get to the point already. Where do you think he’s taking us?
To Mara. Marie sighed, and the sound echoed off the damp walls of the tunnel.
Really? I hadn’t thought of that…I guess I just assumed he was going to try to kill us or something.
But he could have just done that anywhere. If he did kill Graham, he’s obviously very good at getting rid of bodies. And plus, why would he want to keep Mara hostage but kill us? It doesn’t make sense. My guess is that at this stage he wants information from us, not blood.
So what makes you think he’s going to take us to Mara if he just wants information from us?
If you’d only let me finish…If he’s on the side of the murderer, he has probably figured out that we’re trying to find the real murderer, and wants to see how much we know. He also probably then would want to figure out some way to get Ma to eventually give in, and so having all her daughters together as captives would be a good way to pressure her. Then, if he’s against the murderer, he’s probably still going to try to get as much information out of us as possible, maybe even try to help us. He then figures that we’ll be more useful together–that he can get Mara to trust him if we’re there…And besides, I was keeping track of where we’re going, even though we’re underground. This passageway leads East, towards the swamp. We’ve definitely walked at least a mile now, so that’s already leading us to the edge of the town. What else is out there but Mara?
Just as Marie passed her concluding thought to Morgan, the light in the tunnel seemed to glow brighter. Ahead, Marie thought she saw the outline of another stairwell form in the dark.
Morgan was uncharacteristically silent, still thinking on Marie’s logic, trying to decide if it made sense. Finally, she thought to Marie, I guess you are right that it makes no sense to take us away somewhere to hurt us, that more likely it’s just information he’s after. So…what do we do? What do we tell him?
What can we tell him that he doesn’t already know? We think Mara’s innocent, we don’t know who the guilty party is.
But about our powers. What if he asks us if we’re witches?
We’ll tell him the truth. That we have no more powers than anyone else. Marie fingered the jade bracelet around her wrist and knew that Morgan was thinking about it too. Remember?
They reached the stairwell and climbed up after the mayor, who remained silent as ever.