September 15th, 1942
Caroline Zimmerman crept softly up the old narrow wooden stairway. A few minutes ago she had been sound asleep, dreaming of the upcoming history test in Ms. Dunn’s eighth grade class, before being awoken by a loud thumping sound coming from somewhere above her bedroom. At first, she hadn’t been truly positive that it had indeed been a sound that had woke her up in the first place, or if it had just been some sleep induced echo from within her dream. She sat silently in her bed, listening to the darkness around her. But the only thing she could hear was the sound of her own breathing.
Deciding that the noise had just been a figment of her imagination, she sank back into the warmth of her bed and closed her eyes. That was when the sound of feet frantically scurrying across her ceiling told her that she hadn’t been dreaming. Something was going on upstairs in the upper level of the house. In the room that she wasn’t supposed to know anything about. Her best friend, James Woodworm, had told her what her own father had not, and she had promised James not to tell anyone that he had told her.
So, against her better judgment, she had climbed out of bed, slipped on her robe and quietly made her way to the very stairs that she was now tiptoeing up. Now, she had never actually been in the secret room before, or even climbed the hidden stairs leading to the room, so she had no idea what to expect. What she did know was that if her father caught her up here that he would probably ground her for a month, but still, her curiosity always got the better of her.
As she reached the top of the stairs, she could feel her pulse quickening. She looked down the dimly lit hallway and stared at the lone door directly in front of her. The hallway itself was only about ten feet long, so she knew that it would only take her a few strides to traverse the distance, but she suddenly wasn’t sure if she wanted too. The entire time she had been creeping up the stairs, being extra careful not to make any noise herself, she hadn’t heard a single sound coming from inside the room. Maybe, who ever had been in there to begin with had already left, she thought. But then why was the light still on, she wondered, seeing the room’s bright radiance seeping out from underneath the door.
She began to take a step toward the door, but froze when another loud thudding sound, like something heavy falling against the room’s wooden floor, could be heard coming from inside of the room. Caroline could not only hear the sound of someone running around the room, but she could also see it, as distortions of light flickered in and out of existence from underneath the door.
“George, are you alright?” a woman’s voice desperately asked from somewhere on the other side of the door.
George, that was the name of her father, but Caroline hadn’t recognized the woman’s voice. Her own mother had died while giving birth to her and her father had never remarried. And even though her father was always going away on business trips, leaving her nanny Mrs. Bradley to watch after her, Caroline couldn’t remember the last time her father had even been out on a date, let alone even talked to a woman.
“Let me have him,” came the voice of her father. So he was inside of the room. But who was he talking to? And who did he mean by him?
“Quick, he’s coming!” warned the voice of another man. A voice, that Caroline knew to belong to Lucious Woodworm, James’ father. “We don’t have much time!”
“Smash it! Smash it now!” shouted the panicked voice of James Woodworm.
Caroline ran to the door and grabbed the handle. Something was definitely going on inside of the room, and by the sounds of it they might need her help. She twisted the door handle, but found that it wouldn’t budge. She started to call out to her father, when another voice boomed into existence. It was a deep voice. One filled with power and authority. It was a voice that made the hairs on the back of Caroline’s neck stand on end.
“I give you my friendship,” the voice began. “Treated you with all of the hospitality the kingdom had to offer and this is how you repay me?”
“The hospitality of the kingdom was not yours to give,” responded the woman’s voice. “It was mine.”
“And judging by that child he’s holding, I’d say you did a royal job at offering him your hospitality,” the man hissed.
“You better hold your tongue if you know what’s best for you,” Caroline heard Mr. Woodworm say. “They’re both staying here with us.”
“Keep them,” the man’s voice responded coldly. “I just want what is now rightfully mine. Hand over the Archcon, and I shall let you all live.”
The next thing Caroline heard was the sound of a struggle. The woman screamed. The man yelled. Mr. Woodworm and James cried out.
“No!” her father yelled.
“Smash it!” ordered Mr. Woodworm. “Don’t worry about us! Smash it now!”
The sound of something glass being broken resounded throughout the room. When the sound faded away so did the sound of the struggle. All of the noise on the other side of the door had all but vanished. That was until the sound of a baby crying broke the eerie silence.
“Ssshhh,” Caroline heard her father say, his voice trying to comfort the wailing child. “It’s ok. Everything’s going to be all right now.”
“Father!” Caroline cried out. “What’s going on in there?” she asked, trying once again to turn the door handle, but as before it would not move. The sound of the crying baby stopped as abruptly as it had started, leaving only silence to answer her question.
Suddenly the door flew open, but only far enough so that George Zimmerman could escape into the hallway, with his body blocking Caroline’s view of the room on the other side of him.
“Caroline…, what are you doing up here?” he asked.
“I heard voices,” she answered. “What happened in there? Where are James and Mr. Woodworm?”
Her father looked over his shoulder, hesitating for a brief moment. “They’re…they’re not here. You must have been dreaming that you heard them. There is no one else up here but me,” her father lied.
“Then who’s that?” Caroline asked pointing a strong finger at the small baby cradled in her father’s arms.
“This…this is your baby brother…Allen.”
“My baby brother!” Caroline exclaimed. “What’s going on in there?” she asked again, this time a little more dramatically, while trying to look past her father and into the room that she had not been allowed to enter.
George Zimmerman quickly closed the door behind him. “Caroline Annabeth Zimmerman,” her father began. “Whatever you think you heard I want you to forget all about it. Do you understand? You are to never step foot into this room, ever. And you are to never talk about this night ever again, with anyone, is that understood?”
Caroline swallowed hard. If one thing was for certain, it was that whenever her father called her by her entire name, she knew better then to question him, or disobey him. “Yes sir.”
“Good. Now let’s go downstairs and get your brother something to eat.”