Damien Cordelle opened the door knowing full well who was on the other side. It could be no other than Jason Traymont to whom he had sent a message that morning.
“I must admit, Cordelle, I was surprised by your invitation,” said Traymont as he proffered his hat. It was a rainy night and Cordelle seemed not the least perturbed to be playing doorman on such a night. Accepting his sodden apparel, Cordelle draped them over a nearby railing within drying distance of a floor grate. Leading the way to the parlour, Cordelle ushered him to a loveseat while he chose to sit in a well-worn easy chair across the way.
“Why Traymont, my dear sir, whyever do you say that?,” relied Cordelle, smiling his Cheshire smile that had always irritated Traymont.
“Because you’ve never voluntarily invited me before,” returned Traymont matter-of-factly.
“You do offend me, Traymont,” said Cordelle feigning hurt, “but I daresay it might have looked that way. Could I interest you in a glass of sherry perhaps? I’m sure you must be chilled to the bone,” he said, rising from his seat.
“Perhaps a little,” replied Traymont reluctantly, “but I’d as soon know why you’ve summoned me, Cordelle.”
“All in good time,” returned Cordelle smiling, “all in good time.”
Cordelle excused himself and left the room momentarily to fetch their drinks. As he did, Traymont took the time to familiarize himself with his surroundings. He did not consider any of the room’s trappings worth a second glance, but a stairwell across the open doorway did catch his eye.
Moving closer to the doorway, he perceived a most unusual sight – what appeared to be a circular staircase leading down to God knew where. He felt himself compelled to look down into its very bowels, but resisted the urge for fear that his host might come upon him at that most unfortunate of moments and he would not be able to explain himself.
Thumbing idly through a collection of nondescript books he found on a bookshelf, he turned at the sound of Cordelle’s return.
“”I see you’ve found my treasures,” said Cordelle smiling as he handed Traymont his drink. Traymont resisted the urge to laugh as Cordelle regaled him with a litany of his treasures' pricelessness. Traymont, of course, knew better.
The drink, Traymont found, was not much better than Cordelle’s taste in books, but he dutifully took a few sips before putting the glass down.
“Had enough already, Traymont? I’m surprised at you,” said Cordelle, eyeing the half-empty glass. “I would have thought it more to your liking than anything else I could offer you.”
“I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage,” lied Traymont, the bitter taste of the wine lingering long after he’d stopped drinking it. “My stomach is still weak from a bout of the flu recently. I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t finish.”
“Of course, of course,” replied, Cordelle, smiling disarmingly as he picked up the unfinished drink.
“Come now, Cordelle,” continued Traymont, advancing on him, “the evening is fast waning and you’ve yet to tell me why I’m here.”
Smiling sardonically as he returned Traymont’s glass to the serving tray, Cordelle turned to face him.
“First I must show you my most prized curiosity of this house. Surely it must have caught your eye at some point. Come, let me show it to you,” he finished, pointing to the staircase.
Traymont felt a momentary heart quickening at the prospect, but a deeper instinctive reluctance to trust Cordelle held him back.
“Not afraid are you, old fellow?,” chided Cordelle, in a way that he knew irritated Traymont.
“Of course not,” replied Traymont defensively, although a part of him knew that he was.
Making his way toward the stairwell, he could see that Cordelle meant for him to go first, and once more an inner voice warned him of imminent peril if he did. Drawing back, he glimpsed a look of disapproval on Cordelle’s face, though his soothing voice belied it.
“You first, my dear Traymont,” he cooed as he nudged him forward.
Stepping down onto the first step, Traymont felt a momentary twinge of vertigo as he looked below him. Shaking off the peculiar and totally alien feeling, he proceeded
down the stairway fully conscious of Cordelle breathing down his neck and making his hair stand on end.
“Come, come, Traymont, my little staircase doesn’t daunt you, does it? You seem to be going uncommonly slowly.”
“Of course not,” lied Traymont, fully sure now that Cordelle knew of his secret fear of heights.
Just as Traymont began to waver, he felt an unmistakable push sending him sprawling to the carpeted basement floor. The landing, though, padded, was no less severe and Traymont heard a distinct cracking sound as he made contact with the floor.
Gingerly he tried to rise, but he knew instinctively when his legs didn’t respond, that he wouldn’t be able to.
“A little clumsy weren’t we, my dear Traymont. Unable to get up now are we? Tisk, tisk, what a shame. Fortunately, you’re very light,” continued Cordelle in an irritatingly insipid voice that Traymont could do nothing about.
Picking him up as if he were a feather, Cordelle deposited Traymont in a nearby chair and fluffed him into place before settling in a corresponding chair.
“Now that I’ve got you where I want you,” began Cordelle, again in a voice that implied jest, but which Traymont was sure did not contain any, “I will tell you why I sent for you and why you’re not leaving.”
Rediscovering his voice, Traymont let loose with a wail that rivaled a banshee, but Cordelle quickly stifled it with his wadded handkerchief.
“As I was saying,” continued Cordelle as if nothing had happened, but Traymont wasn’t listening anymore. He had already decided that, since he was never going to leave this house anyway, it didn’t really matter why anymore.
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