by Mary Stojak
Tom found the green door under the pine paneling in his father-in-law’s house. It was a foot high and half as wide, six-paneled, with a knocker and knob of tarnished brass. He thought about trying the knob. As a child, his wife Elaine had a bedroom in this attic, and her father, seeing a mouse hole, might have covered it with a door to amuse her.
The attic was full of junk like the pine paneling he’d been prying off the walls except for some books he’d set aside including a first edition of Alice in Wonderland and an old trunk. Two leather straps crossed the curved wooden top, and the tarnished brass latch attached to a short strap was locked. The key to the trunk had not been on the ring of keys the lawyer had given him.
A spider appeared on top of the cracked leather. Not a big furry one that begged for killing, this one had long legs attached to a small reddish body. He brushed the harmless creature to the floor and smashed it with his foot.
Tom could almost hear Elaine urging him to open the trunk. She was always coming up with these what if scenarios, her blue eyes widening as she talked. Tom had loved her red lips and her smooth, fair skin that had been so soft. The door was perfect just like she’d been before she disappeared.
The attic walls weren’t thick enough for the small door to lead anywhere, not like the walls in his house. Elaine, wrapped and taped into a plastic sheet, had fit nicely into the space where he’d closed an extra doorway into the dining room. Opening it up again had been easy enough after he lost his temper with her. He’d driven her car into Dallas in the dead of night and left it in a parking lot before he reported her missing six years ago. The police had watched him for a while until they lost interest in her case.
His father-in-law had accused him of killing his daughter, but he’d still left him everything, including the trunk. Tom slid his screwdriver under the latch and popped it open. Under a bunch of frilly dresses, a small vial with a label that said “Don’t drink me” had rolled into a corner. This must have been another game his father-in-law had played with Elaine.
After Tom plopped down in front of the green door, he drank the vial’s bitter contents while Elaine whispered how much she’d loved him. He was still big when he tried to turn the door’s knob, but the world around him had begun to fade.
Mary Stojak received her Master’s in Fiction from Johns Hopkins University and has been published in a variety of journals and anthologies, both genre-oriented and literary. Her latest publications include a short story in the Sherlockian publication, The Letters, In Short Volume III, and a short story in the upcoming 2020 Chesapeake Sisters in Crime Anthology. She has also written an upper middle-grade book called “The Clan of the Crescent Moon”, and she is currently sending around an adult novel that she recently finished.