I turn the rusty, antique knob to the heavy, mahogany door, noticing the intricate engravings. I remember Percy telling me about the door, it was a "gift from an international colleague". Another colleague I’ve never met. Amin told me I was crazy for trusting him. He said “men will be men Amara, he’s cheating on you. You’ve never even visited his workplace.” Amin's a great brother, however at times, he can somewhat overbearing. It's not his fault, he's used to it. Our parents passed away when he was 12 and I was 5. He's raised me ever since.
Maybe that’s why I’m so close with my in laws. My friends are always surprised at the relationship I have with Percy’s mother, but she’s practically my own mother. When we got engaged, she bought matching diamond bracelets for us. Her and Percy were never close, so she was anxious to parent someone.
"He’s no good for you" Amin always says,
I tell him that I trust Percy, he’s never given me a reason not to. Plus, he’s such a romantic. I remember earlier this morning when he surprised me with this trip.
“I know I’ve been really busy with work lately, so I’ve borrowed a cabin from my boss. He’s letting us stay there for a few weeks.”
I remember looking at him weirdly, my eyes filled with questions. Why would his boss let us stay at his cabin, I’d never even met him, and why was Percy allowed so much time away from work. He was a businessman, weren't they supposed to always be working?
Sensing all of my concerns, he said,
“I’ve been working really hard, and my boss acknowledges that. He knows how hard it’s been for you and me to be apart for so long. Think of it like a reward for the best employee.”
I was still confused, but anxious to spend some time alone with Percy, I agreed. Suddenly, I had an epiphany and I remembered that we were supposed to have dinner with his parents tonight,
“What about dinner?”
He looked down at his black shoes, gulped and said,
“They won’t be expecting us tonight”.
“Okay” I said, beaming, knowing that it would have been the same as every other night. Percy's father would whisk him away to a dark room and I would be sent home alone. I didn't think anything of the averted eye contact, as Percy and his parents had always been distant, but lately tensions had been high.
He was coming to the cabin straight after work and told me to come by myself earlier to get settled in. I took the bus so we could drive back together, but it only goes so far. I had to walk over a mile in the snow to reach the isolated cabin. I was annoyed at first, but it was so beautiful outside, that I enjoyed my time walking, slowly, alone, humming to myself while quietly contemplating life, not a sign of breath anywhere, except the visible puffs coming from myself.
I thought about life, friends, family, Amin. He’s been so secretive and busy lately. I miss him.
I saw the cabin ahead and sped up. It was grand and breathtaking. As I walk in, I glance up at the high ceilings, the spiral staircase, and breathe in the luxuriousness of the aura. The interior looks warm, and yet, I feel a shiver course through my body. The cabin is sprawlingly spacious, odd for an interior so woodsy. I struggle to close the heavy door, questioning if there was another material present, and glance down at my watch. 5:30. The long walk had delayed me by half an hour, I only had 30 minutes before Percy got here.
I feel goosebumps creeping up my arms and decide to find the heating dial. My icy fingers sweep the smoothly, cold logged wall, and I finally brush against it but turn the knob in vain, for I remember something Percy had said earlier,
“It’ll be so perfect. Just you and me, no distractions.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, the cabins been in my boss’ family for generations. When he inherited it, he didn’t want to change anything about it.”
I looked at him, questions forming on my lips. Exasperated, he reluctantly told me,
“Well, there’s no electricity”
He looked at me, hesitantly, scared I would react. I just looked into his piercing blue eyes and gave him a quick peck on the cheek.
“You’re not upset?”
“Of course not, why would I marry you, if I didn’t want to be with you. It’ll just be us and no distractions.”
He gave me the biggest smile of relief, his dimples coming out of hiding, and I could see the love in his eyes. I can't wait to see him, my one, my love, my only.
I look back down at my watch, 5:35. The cabin is huge, rustic. Beautiful brown wood every way my head turns. I decide to hold off exploring until Percy gets here, it can be an adventure for both of us, and I instead try to find our room.
I walk up the creaky stairs and go to the door directly ahead, it’s exactly like Percy described. A four poster bed with maroon sheets and oak furniture. A floor length mirror with a gold frame and a palatial lamp on the nightstand table. I put down my bags on the dark wood floor and look at the planks, perfectly straight. Except for one.
I almost miss it, but my analytical brain won't let me. I bend down and look at it, a weak gasp leaves my mouth. It’s slightly raised. I know it’s probably nothing, but I bend down and try to lift it.
It comes up, and behind it, a hollow space. It’s too dark to see anything so I take out my phone and swipe for the flashlight. I turn my head parallel to the floor and drop down to peer inside. I find nothing. Just like I thought, why would there be anything?
My passion for adventure and mystery tells me to double check, so to be safe, I sweep my hand across the bottom of the space. My fingers graze against a small smooth surface, different from the wood backing. A slip of paper. I take out the inch long scrap of paper and there’s nothing except a singular black dot right in the centre.
How odd, I think, but it's obviously nothing. Just a scrap of paper that fell, who know's how long ago. I raise my hand to look at my fingers and there's a barely noticeable stain. Nothing, it was nothing, ink transfers even when it's old. I shake my head to rid it of the wild thoughts circling around inside, drop the plank down and head to the kitchen. I open the cupboards and find them filled with food, same with the fridge. I decide to make a surprise romantic dinner and get started. I tie up my hair, wash the greens, chop them up, and turn the oven on. I soon get lost in the rhythm of cooking and the next time I check my watch, it’s 6:20.
Percy was supposed to arrive 20 minutes ago I think to myself. Maybe he got caught up at work, but in my heart I know it's not true, he was impatient to get here, to get away. I look anxiously toward the table and know that if he doesn’t show up soon, the food’s going to get cold. I go look for a window before I remember that there are none. Percy told me to not get freaked out by that, but it’s weird. Why wouldn’t a cabin have windows? I look solemnly at the 100 pound door I’m going to have to open and make my way there. I open it and look outside. The frigid temperature scares me and my ears sting with the piercing sound of the wind. When suddenly, none of it matters.
For then, I see Percy. Lying there in front of me, with a single black hole in the back of his head. I scream out and drop to my knees. Terror courses through me, with so many questions in my head, I feel as though I’m about to burst.
How? He was a businessman. Who would shoot him? Why?
Through the terror and confusion, somehow my mind becomes perfectly clear. I look back at the clues, everything I ignored,
"Wait, so does Percy work with his father?"
I asked after a late night at Percys parents, when him and his father were working for hours in a locked room. It was the first of many identical nights I would experience, but at the time, I wasn't aware.
"Percy works with a friend of his fathers. They're practically partners. It's like he's working in a department of his father's business"
"Remind me what they do again..."
"Oh honey, I couldn't tell you. He doesn't bore me with that stuff, and I advise you to not let Percy either."
I think back to the times I'd enter a room filled with Percy's colleagues and at once, conversation would cease. The constant locked doors and rooms I was told to stay out of. Acting secretive and annoyed whenever I would ask about the family fortune. Dinner parties at a colleague's house that would end with me leaving alone, accompanied by a chauffeur so Percy could continue working late into the night. But, I ignored it, everything. I knew he loved me, there was never anyone else and that was enough.
Mysterious people I'd never heard about showing up to our house for meetings. Calls from across the world after he'd hopped on another unplanned flight. Everything was always right in front of me, but that never changed how I felt about him. Nothing could. I loved him, and now he was gone, leaving me defenceless and alone.
I look behind me at the open door and know that I have to get inside. But I can’t leave him out here. I need him with me.
I try to drag his heavy body back with me, but I can’t. Those never-ending days at the gym amounted to nothing, nothing when it really matters. I continue pulling and I finally get him inside. But I know, I still have to close that behemoth of a door.
I stand up and push against it with every ounce of strength left in my body, but not before I hear a whizzing sound. Pain. Sharp, excruciating, boundless pain. I look down and there’s a gaping hole in my thigh. Sickeningly bright, red blood rushes out of me, like lava out of a volcano, and I know I don’t have long. I push with all my might to close the door, but not before I feel a fresh shot of agonizing discomfort. I look down and there’s a new hole. Right in the middle of my stomach.
I collapse to the ground, over Percy, my body unable to support me any longer. I hang on to every second I can, and reach over to look into Percy’s sharp blue eyes during my final seconds. I’m quickly losing all senses, when I hear footsteps. I see a familiar hand, small, petite, and ornamented with something shiny.
“You idiot, she wasn’t betraying us. She didn’t even know what he did.”
I hear the woman with the hand retch out a great big glob of spit, and see it land on Percy.
“But boss, you said no loose ends”
“That doesn’t mean to kill everyone you see. She was... different” My mind races trying to figure out who is speaking. I use my last ounce of strength to lift my head up and see.
My heart races when I finally realize who it is.
"WHY? Oh honey, you couldn't possibly understand. See, Percy, he, well, he became deranged god rest his soul, he put you before business and well, that's not how it works. All he talked about was getting out for you-
For me. My heart suddenly overwhelms with passion and I know that I am ready to go, for I have fulfilled my purpose here. I found my one, and he found me. Everything else is insignificant.
-and so, he slipped up. Oh sweetie, why did you look up? I liked you, you were sweet, the daughter I never had, but now I have to finish you off.”
I see her wrinkly hand raise a cocked gun aimed at my head when suddenly, I hear a loud sound.
The woman in front of me, my own husbands mother is falling. Her neck is covered in thick, red, liquid, eyes bulging in shock as her soul leaves her body. Another loud bang, this time accompanied by a weasel shriek before a light thud.
I hear a man agilely make his way through the snow. Every step bringing him closer. When finally, after what feels like an eternity, the man plants his feet beside me, and lifts me into his arms. My face is hot with tears and my clothes are stained with blood. But he doesn’t care. With eyes full of compassion, understanding, and hurt, he gruffly whispers,
“Well, little sis, I did tell you Percy was no good for you, if only you would have listened,”