Last time our three friends found a strange clue in a book, a clue they hoped to lead them to a mysteries painting. After following this clue to a grave they realize they need to go a local antiques mall. Getting a ride from clarks brother, they head there.
Matt dropped us off at the building and sped away, saying he could pick us up in a couple of hours if we payed again.
The antiques mall was in an ancient building, an old brick mill. The building was long, red, and sat on a grassy hill. Because of the hill, some of its large many pained cobwebbed windows were a full story off the ground. The side we were on would have normally been the storefront but was currently an inactive construction site.
There were a couple of other buildings in the parking lot, but we gave them no mind. We started to walk around the antiques mall, not quite sure what we were looking for, maybe a nice little hole that said, ‘painting inside here, trespassers welcome.’
We didn’t find that, but there was an equal amount of strange things. On our way around, we came across a rusted old car, and a noticeable amount of lawn decor, nick nacks, and furniture. It was like someone had shaken the antiques mall and this stuff had just fallen out.
The closest thing to an entrance was a small metal door on the back of the building. The same weird stuff surrounded it, a chair with a missing leg, a strange artsy garden gnome/Russian-nesting doll, and a plastic yard deer statue.
“Locked,” I said, jiggling the door handle.
Kurt sighed, and we realized we had no real plan. Well, Nora didn’t seem to be realizing anything, she was too focused on the garden gnome. She was staring at it with her head cocked. “Whatcha looking at?” Kurt asked. Nora was easily distracted, but her distractions were normally interesting.
“Unlike the rest of the stuff around here, this doll statue thing seemed intentionally placed. I just thought that was interesting. Possibly a clue”
I looked at the statue for a moment, it was right next to the door, and it stood upright in the shadow of the building. It was the shape of a nesting doll; however, it was much larger than the average doll. It was painted red, but I could not identify its material, it seemed to be made of the color. The red seemed very... full, I had never seen a color that seemed full, but this one did. Everything was the smooth red except for a childish smiling face and a name painted on the bottom. Once my eyes had adjusted to the shadow, I was able to read it.
“Hey, it’s Little Amanda!” I exclaimed happily.
“What?” Kurt and Nora asked simultaneously.
“It was something Mrs. Pritchard’s dad made for her when she was little. She told me when she was on the phone. Did you know her first name is Amanda?” I said, pointing at the name.
They both shook their heads. “I only realized she didn’t live in the library like last month,” Nora jested.
I laughed and got down on my knees to look at it, momentarily forgetting why we were here.
“I think it’s stone,” I said. I noticed a seam running around the middle and realized it didn’t just look like a nesting doll, it was a nesting doll. I stood up and lifted the top off and set it in the grass. Inside of the bottom half of little Amanda was a key and a folded piece of paper. I furrowed my brow, then looked at the key, and to the door and back to the key.
“And the next clue has been located,” Nora said as if she wasn’t even surprised. “All because of me.” She added. Kurt laughed and gave her an affectioned shove.
"Don't forget you're the one who forced us on this adventure to begin with." Kurt said.
“Oh, she won’t,” I said, picking up the key and the paper. I unfolded it and read, “Be quick, don’t let the fire of hate stop you.”
"That's..." Kurt began.
"The line from the book!" Nora said, jumping up and down. "I was right! I was right! The painting's here!"
"Before we get too excited, why don't we try out that key." Kurt laughed. I nodded and took the key to the door. Sliding it in I found it fit, it turned with some resistance, but then the door clicked dramatically and slid open.
"Thank you so very much, Little Amanda," I said, placing it's top back on.
"So, Mrs. Pichard told you about her?" Nora asked, stunned.
"Yeah, wild, right?" I replied, my brain feeling around for an explanation, "Must have seemed like a good place to hide stuff."
"To Wylock?" Kurt clarified
"Or to whoever wrote in Wylocks book," I responded, sticking my head through the dark and small doorframe. As my eyes adjusted, I saw the door led into what seemed like a large crawlspace. The hill around the building caused it to be severely slanted, so one end of the room was twenty feet tall, and the other was one foot. The ground was gravel, and the ceiling was exposed beams and wood with pinpricks of light shining through. The area was cold, smelling of mildew, dust, and... smoke?
I stepped in tentatively, Nora and Kurt followed after. They followed me as I wandered with confidence, in faith that we would find something. And something we found. A painted metal ladder and crowbar up in one corner. Kurt lifted up the ladder, "What are we supposed to do with this?" I peered around the dark room, my eyes stopped on the ceiling. I furrowed my brow. "Turn off your lights," I said, turning off mine.
They did, and the light shining down from the ceiling became apparent. It peaked in through the cracks and holes.
"A trap door," Nora said in a sing-songy voice, pointing up at four clear lines of light in the shape of a square. Kurt and I didn’t waste time and dragged the ladder over to the spot beneath the trap door, Nora carrying the crowbar.
Nora handed the crowbar to me. I nodded at each of them, and then climbed the ladder, crowbar in hand. Somehow I had become the pseudo leader, and therefore I had to lead the charge.
I reached the top and stuck the crowbar in the crack, taking a deep breath. "Smells stronger up here," I muttered.
"What?" Kurt asked, staring up at me.
"Umm, the smokey smell is just stronger up here," I said, locking eyes with Kurt. 'You should really try shutting up sometimes Clark.' I thought. Kurt's eyes filled with understanding.
“Don’t Clark,” He said. He knew me too well, but he was also too kind. That’s why Kurt wasn’t the leader, he was just too nice to believe his opinion mattered more than mine.
“What?” Nora asked, looking between us. Nora wouldn’t be hard to convince once she realized what was going on.
“Clark thinks the building is on fire up there.” Kurt said, “And it’s a good guess.”
“Maybe it’s nothing,” I suggested. All I wanted was to get to the end of the mystery, see that painting.
“Smoke doesn't just come from nowhere, and you know that,” Kurt argued. His voice was steady, too steady.
I bit my lip, Nora’s eyes lit up. “The quote! Don’t let the fire of hate stop you! We can’t let this stop us! This is a part of the puzzle!”
A piece of advice: Never, under any circumstances, ever, enter a burning building. Call the fire department, and back away to a safe distance. Listen to Kurt, he’s a much better person than me. Just don’t break into burning buildings, it’s that simple.
I proceeded to break the trap door open and enter a burning building.