Whitby cautiously made his way down the stairs, the old boards groaning under his weight. Janefer held her breath, wondering what would be down there, if anything.
Whitby’s flashlight bobbed around as he shone it around the cellar. A waft of the old cellar’s smell caused Janefer to almost gag. It smelled between a mixture of rotten onions and bad morning breath. She plugged her nose and breathed through her mouth. Yuck. What is down there? A dead animal? Good grief, it’s horrible! Everything was quiet. Whitby was out of sight, and Janefer was anxious. “Whitby? Did you find anything?” No answer. She started to take a step down the stairs. The board creaked and groaned but didn’t break. “Janefer, stay back!” Celeste warned. Janefer stopped. “Mom, I can just go see if there is anything the matter! There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?”
Celeste put her hands on her slim waist, but just as quickly dropped them to her side. She sighed. “Janefer, please. What if there is something dangerous down there? I can’t bear to see you get hurt… or worse!”
Janefer sighed and took her mother’s hand and squeezed it. “Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.” She smiled reassuringly. She slowly stepped down the few remaining stairs. At the end, the last board cracked under her weight and Janefer stumbled, twisting her ankle. Crying out in pain, her mother called out from above. “Janefer?! What’s wrong?! What happened?” Janefer rubbed her ankle. “I’m okay. Just…mhm….twisted my ankle. I’ll be fine.” Whitby rushed over, looking surprised to see her, as if he was a little boy caught with a hand in the cookie jar. “What are you doing down here? What-what happened?”
“I was coming down to see…if you were all right! You weren’t answering, so… I just assumed that…well. . .” She looked down, embarrassed.
He looked away and sighed,”You shouldn’t have come down here. It could’ve been dangerous. I don’t much like little girls getting hurt.”
“I’m not a little girl.” Janefer managed to bite out. “I was just concerned, and you don’t have to get mad.” She sat up and rubbed her ankle again.
Whitby grunted as he grabbed her arm and tried to help her up the stairs. “Well, there was nothing down here it was empty. Seems that even if the burglars hid down here, they got away before we could catch them.”
That surprised her. “But, how could they even escape? They probably came in when Mom was sleeping, but they would’ve only had a couple of minutes because Mom woke up not long after I left. That would certainly not have been enough time to chisel the message in our table, run down here, and escape. It doesn’t make sense!”
He shrugged. “Burglars are usually quick, but thorough. Now, can you walk on that ankle, or do I have to carry you?”
She pulled out of his grasp, “I’ll be fine. I can probably walk on it.”
He moved aside as she slowly crept up the stairs on her ankle, careful not to put too much weight on it. It hurt when she put pressure on it, but thankfully, it wasn’t getting swollen, and would probably heal by the next day. He followed her up the stairs, clicking off his flashlight as they got nearer to the opening.
Celeste was at the top, waiting for Janefer to emerge.
Her mother squeezed her in a hug. “I’m so glad you’re okay. I know that you only twisted your ankle, but right now I get so worried that something worse has happened.” Janefer had to smile at her mother’s concern. “Thanks Mom, but I’m fine. Really. I just think I’ll go to my room for awhile to rest the ankle. Anything else you need me for, Detective?”
He looked around and focused on her again. “No, I think we’re okay. All we have to go on is the chiseling and the possible fact that the culprits hid down in the cellar. Not much. I’m sorry, but unless we have a solid lead I can’t investigate much further. For all we know it could’ve been a random vandalizing.” Whitby shook Celeste’s hand, tipped his hat to Janefer. Janefer wanted to protest, to tell him to look harder, but she knew it was no use until they found solid evidence to prove where the burglars had vanished to.
Hobbling back to her room, she felt useless. I’m just getting in the way. Besides, it’s not like I’m a professional detective or anything. Wait! If Whitby is a professional detective, then he would’ve searched thoroughly and wouldn’t have come up with a solution so fast. He did look startled when I came down the stairs, and maybe a bit embarrassed. Hmmm…. could he be in on it? Could he be the one? “I have to talk to Mel!”
Janefer plopped on her bed, and grabbed the portable phone sitting on her nightstand. She dialed the hospital’s number. “Hello? Hi. I’m Janefer Davis, a friend of Melanie Studd? Yes, she’s registered there? Wait a minute, she’s not there?” Janefer’s face turned pale. “Well, where is she? She was checked out 15 minutes ago? By whom? Her dad? What did he look like? It was a her? No!” She slammed down the phone and ran outside, despite the pain in her ankle, and drove to the hospital.