The Red Barrel

Submitted into Contest #89 in response to: Start your story with a character taking a leap of faith.... view prompt


Crime Thriller Mystery

-Somewhere in London, 1829-

  The darkness of the forest started to recede, losing to the fire and torches of the town. As he sprinted away, his steps were hushed on the stone roads, rather than the twigs of the woodland that would crack under his bare feet. His shoes were down by the pond, where he had taken them off to try and stifle his footfall, however he regretted not bringing them, as his skin was

now cut with small rocks and covered with splinters.

  Pete, was his name, was relieved of not having to carry anything as he ran, bearing the bags of money no longer. Somehow, someone had known of their plans, him and Ida, and had tipped off the bank to alert them of the couple's intent. This is why instead of them being together, with the money, quietly leaving town on a carriage, they were seperated, the money hidden and both on the run. Pete had no idea where Ida was, but he knew exactly what to do. Just as they had discussed.By this time, he was out of breath and his legs were in pain, but he felt a rush of adrenaline, and he continued until he made it to his destination. 

  It was a small old tower, that was composed of a door to go in, a tall staircase, yet another door, and finally a rather minute room. As he entered the tower, and locked the door with a key hidden in the unprepossessing shrub just outside, he quickly ran up the cold stone steps, and set foot in the room. It was a messy place, with papers bearing writing and drawings on them, mainly of one particular building, the bank. However he paid no attention to this, and instead took a piece of blank parchment, a quill and some ink. He then began to write as fast as the wet ink would allow him. 

To My Lovely Bonnie:

 -I write to you in sorrow, as I will not be able to visit you this week.

 Realisation fell upon me that I came down with a sickness, and I shall not be able to leave my home for a bit of time.

 Even though I want to see you once again, I wish to keep your health safe more.

 Do not bother worrying however, since- But he then stopped writing when a sudden loud banging came upon the door at the bottom of the tower. He heard incomprehensible shouting, and the knocking grew louder, till a tumultuous banging took place. The Peelers, those who guarded the banks, found him. This did not terminate his original intent however, hoping to have enough time to finish his letter and throw it out the window, in aspiration Ida would obtain the simple piece of parchment. Even if it meant getting caught, resulting in his demise.

-since I do not think it will be too bad, and I'll be fine in a few days time. 

 Beatrice is doing well (on a side note), and seemed to be happy enough with the adjustment. The food is splendid and the forest is a congenial place for walks.

 And she will be thrilled to see you once more! 

 Rats have started to come through the interstice in the wall we were trying to fix last week. I filled it in with stone, so hopefully they won't come in anymore.

 Every day is always filled with joy here, with the sunshine and very friendly townsfo- But then Pete heard a few muffled yells and the knocking then ceased. His heartbeat quickened, and he set a chair below the doorknob to block whoever would try to enter. A droplet of sweat fell onto his nose, so he took a rag thrown aside and wiped his face, then sat back down. He had to make sure Ida had a way to find the money and live her life, with his existence only a mere memory. He stopped and thought that was not what he wanted at all, but realised it was better for her to have it than anyone else. So the Peelers would not have the satisfaction of catching them. 


Lots of love is sent from I and Beatrice. 


As these last words were jotted down, he perused the letter, to ensure it would have any meaning to only her. He grinned as he read it however, and thought I don’t even know a Beatrice, which was indeed accurate. 

  You see, this letter was for Ida, and Ida only. The young couple had chosen two random names to use in letters, in the event that they would get seperated. Bonnie and Clyde. 

  They did not discuss however where one would hide the money, as Pete had to, in case they got seperated. So, once Pete had the bags of money and Ida took care of the additional Peelers, he ran away, which led him into the woodland near the edge of town. As soon as he set foot on the damp moss, he knew where to hide the money. 

  It was a week before their heist, and after reviewing their plans, the lovers went out to the edge of the small town, into the immense forest. With no particular destination in mind, they wandered all day, until they came upon a small pond. It had a giant fallen tree above it, closer to the side, that they used to sit on. It was only when Pete almost fell over they saw that behind it was a partially destroyed barrel. Upon closer observation, Ida noticed it was a very old wine barrel, and that some of the wooden planks on the top had fallen in. It also happened to be a bizarre colour of wood, instead of the usual brown, it was an almost blood red barrel. As they observed it, they never thought that would be the last time they would set their eyes upon it while feeling content, during the halcyon days before the heist.

  However, when Pete was running in the forest, looking for the place to hide the money for Ida, he passed the pond, and sighed in relief. He had found his hiding place. The red barrel. Carefully placing the money on a plank of wood inside the ‘carcass’ of the barrel, he ran. The feeling of wind caressed his face, transporting him to a different time, a different place, with a different plan. Something he did not like. No, not at all. Improvisation.

  And that is what brings us back to the room, the room in the tower, the tower in the village, the village outside the gloom and shadow of the tree’s. He had finished writing this letter filled with utter nonsense, but that held critical information, of where the money was. Pete knew he could not risk writing it plainly in the letter, in case it fell in the wrong hands. And Ida was probably the smartest person he ever knew, smarter than him, and at only 17 years young too. So this was why he wrote a code. If she found the letter, addressed to a girl named Bonnie from a guy named Clyde, she would know it's for her. And then she would figure out that it's a code. A simple code, but even if someone else figured it out, they would never know that it's for money. Because once you read the first letters of every paragraph -try it you'll see- it says RED BAREL, or red barrel. Now in the message it was in fact just one phrase with R, but he knew Ida would know what it meant. 

  Pete could imagine her smiling when she figured it out, running with the letter in hand into the woods. And it was at that thought he came back to his senses, by taking a deep breath, and praying no one was outside the door waiting to kill him. He could hear the cicadas outside, and a few shouts in the distance, but the rest of the town seemed so calm. How he wished he was one of those kids sleeping in a nice bed, only worrying about school and the next day's weather. He slammed the door open, and rushed down the stairs two at a time, almost tripping twice. But as he spiraled down the staircase he knew something was wrong. The crisp breeze was drifting in from outside and the smell of campfire was also to be noticed. But right before he took one more step and would be able to see the door, he stopped dead in his tracks. He had never smelled anything quite as horrid, horrendous, grim as this smell. The smell of blood. He closed his eyes so firmly shut they started to water. 

  He took two more steps down, and opened his eyes. As he correctly guessed the door was opened, and there was blood on the ground. The latter of which was from a gruesome scene, with four visible bodies laying, dead on the ground, weapons astray, their bodies blemished by scratches of various sizes. He slowly walked out into the middle of this act of pure wickedness. There was one more body sitting against the wall, held up by a spear going straight through him and seen on the other side in between two bricks. Two of the men had arrows sticking out, one had two on his arm and stomach, the other had one going straight through his head. Pete felt like he should puke, but he had not eaten in hours, depriving him of the feeling of being a normal human in this situation. He closed his eyelids once more, not on purpose this time, but of fatigue. He put his hand against the wall, transferring some of his weight off his bloody and sore feet.  His notice was soon afterwards attracted to the last two bodies however, mainly out of curiosity. He turned around, and saw them. Several large scratches littering their skin, with one man having an axe sticking out of his stomach, the other had no presence of a weapon beside him. Pete let out a sound he never thought he would have to in his life, a whimper. Bizarrely, he only had one thought in his head, in fact a word. Clyde, his made up name. I am Clyde. I am Clyde. He repeated to himself, for no particular reason. The letter for who he now thought was only Bonnie and no more, was crumpled in his hand, after gripping it so tightly his knuckles were white.  A presentiment of death came upon his thoughts, washing away what little hue of red and bronze from his face, turning it as white as snow. Instead of running back in the street where he could hear people coming, but in the tower. Clearly he was not thinking straight, as they would link the bloodbath to whoever was in that tower, but in the moment the thought never crossed his mind. He raced back up the stairs, while simultaneously trying to calm down. But a horrible, horrible image crossed his mind. He stopped with no hesitation, on one of the flat landings beside one of the large and dark holes acting as a window. 

  He turned to face the descent of the stairs. Whoever opened that door… Well he had definitely locked it. And the lock was not broken when he went down. Whoever had opened it… Had a key. And whoever opened it… Must be in the tower. No. he thought. It can't be. She wouldn't. “SHE WOULDN'T!” he yelled to try and convince himself. To try and rid that thought in his head. That it was- That it was all… Bonn- But was quickly cut off from a dagger coming out of his chest.A shadow stepped out of the opening. The blade retracted, and as Clyde fell onto his knees, his hands held his wound as the letter drifted harmlessly to the floor. While falling flat onto his stomach, he leaned and was able to face his attacker. He gaped in shock while staring at the beautiful face he once loved. Bonnie. She smiled as she held the bloody dagger, and said “Sorry baby, but I need to make a livin’.” while looking at the weapon. She cocked her head towards him, and said. “You will be dying soon, but I still have the time to make your life hell. Before you go back down.”. Her smile faded. “So where did you hide the money?”, repeating it twice in a sweeter voice then natural, twiddling the dagger with her finger. 

  Betrayal. That was what he felt. Betrayal and loathing. How she must have used him this whole time. He would die before letting her know. He let the blood flow from the wound in his chest, while the hole in his back also seeped blood out in the cracks of cement. He slowly moved his hand towards the fallen letter, in hopes of hiding it. He managed to grab it between his fingers, but she very quickly saw what he was doing and snatched the parchment. “And what would this be?” she said teasingly. Opening the piece of bloody paper, she saw the random phrases, and realised what it was. Clyde felt woozy, and knew he lost too much blood. However, just as Bonnie chuckled and muttered something about how it was too easy, Clyde smiled. While grabbing it, he had managed to smudge half of the first words, deleting the code.

  Bonnie did not appear to realise this, and she walked down a few steps and said “Bye Chief.”, a nickname she had given him when they first met. Clyde watched as the figure of the person he once knew walked down the stairs, smiling at the thought that she would never get the money, but it was for the next adventurous couple, or little kid wandering by the barrel to find.

  And then, without another thought, he then slipped back into the darkness of the woodland he once came out of.

April 15, 2021 23:19

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Svara Narasiah
03:03 Apr 22, 2021

A good plot! If I may add some criticism—there are a few grammatical errors (punctuation, things like that) and the descriptions need to be just a little bit clearer. Overall I liked it :)


Hugo Millaire
12:00 Apr 22, 2021

Awesome thanks! Is it possible to edit a story after it's submitted?


Svara Narasiah
12:40 Apr 22, 2021

Unfortunately not :(


Hugo Millaire
15:26 Apr 22, 2021

Ok well I'll edit my own copy but thanks anyway!


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