Jordan and London march across the yard past an empty pool and towards a white barn. The grass reaches up to their knees. London glances over her shoulders and finds dozens of blue flowers up next to the house. The teen shrugs and hurries to catch up to her brother at the barn. The teen grabs one door and the brother grabs other. Grunting with effort, the barn doors roll back on rusty wheels. Inside is a small workshop.
Two dollhouses sit on a large bench. A third structure sits on the side, a half-finished castle. None of the models are painted and lie empty inside. A few half-finished wood carvings are arranged in neat rows between the houses. Tall blue flowers extend from cracks in the cement floor. The siblings stand still and smell the musty air.
Jordan grins as he steps over to the bench, “Remember when we were kids. We would just sit here and eat ice cream while he would carve a chair from wood?”
“I wonder who these are for?” London muses as she brushes the unpainted models.
“Who knows.” Jordan answers as he pulls on a chain.
Lights flicker to life throughout the room. Beyond the workshop are crates stacked along the length of the walls. A classic car sits in the far corner near a side door. Behind the car are a half dozen pieces of farming equipment.
“Wow. I forgot about the car.”
“He would love working on that thing. I think he loved working on it more than being with us some times.”
Jordan walks over and runs his hands along the different tools. He picks up a wrench and starts laughing. From above, his sister leans over the railing.
“What’s so funny?”
“Grandpa and his tool lessons. Trying to teach us which tools to use and what not. I could never remember the numbers and what they meant.”
London chuckles, “Yeah. He would facepalm so many times. I remember one time you got a flat head and a Philips mixed up and he had to leave the room. He was rubbing his temples in the kitchen for a good five minutes.”
Jordan laughs, “I remember that.”
London doesn’t answer as she peers around the loft. Small boxes are arranged on the tables. Most of the boxes are marked as Christmas decorations. A fake is wrapped up and leaning against the wall. A large water stain runs from the ceiling down the length of the wall, and onto the floor.
“I think we got a leak up here.”
“Yeah. Looks like something broke through the wall down here.”
Jordan kneels next to the hole in the back corner. Pieces of wood are scattered about. Old claw marks are carved into the dirt. He pulls his phone out and snaps a picture of it.
“I got mouse droppings up here.”
“Great.” Jordan sighs, “Why did I think that this was going to be a simple clean up job.”
“Hey! Jordan! London! You two still in here?” A voice calls from outside, muffled.
“Yeah!” Jordan hollers back, “In the back.”
“I’m up top.” London calls down from the loft.
Austin stomps in from outside. He blinks his eyes as they adjust to the darker interior. He walks over to the dolls houses.
“Great. Have you two seen Mr. Cooper? His car is here but I haven’t seen him anywhere.”
“Nah. Just dust and mice. And a whole lot of weeds.” He frowns, “Why are there so many weeds running around here?”
“We got a couple of repair jobs and we’ll need traps.” Jordan says as he walks out to the front of the barn, “What about the fence?”
“Found about a dozen lengths that need fixing. I already messaged Caleb and Hannah to start getting the wood. I’ll text them about the mouse traps too.”
“London, are you okay? You don’t look so good.”
“I don’t know. Paris and Sydney, I think.”
The teen heads back towards the house. She quickens her pace from a walk to a jog. Her brothers fall in behind her. A moment later they arrive back at the house. It is as silent as before. She goes around the house but she can’t find her sisters. Worry starts to gnaw at her. She hurries to find an open window but the house is sealed uptight. The sound of glass shattering draws the girl back to the front. She catches sight of Austin disappearing into the house.
“Guys!” She puts one foot on the window, “What’s going–”
“Stay out there!” Austin bellows.
A moment later, the boys carry their sisters out of the house through the window. The two girls are wrapped in vines with blue flowers. The three siblings work furiously to pull the vines free from their sisters. A moment later, the siblings stir and cough.
Austin helps them into a sitting position, “What happened?”
“I don’t know.” Sydney answers as she clears her throat, “We were on the stairs and suddenly we got dizzy. Next thing I know, we’re out here.”
Austin looks up at Jordan, “The gas might still be on. Either the stove or the heater.”
“I’ll go check.”
“Not alone,” London answers as she scrambles to her feet.
“No! You stay out here with your sisters. We’ll be back in a moment.”
Austin and Jordan quickly move the house. They are dim and neither of them notices anything out of place. Austin ducks down the basements and checks the heater and making sure the gas pipe is sealed off. His brother heads into the kitchen and does the same with the stove. A moment later, the two of them meet in the main hall. Jordan pauses and kneels down. A blue flower lies in the corner.
“Remember grandpa’s stories. About blue flowers?”
“Yeah…. I was just thinking about that.”
“Austin. You know what story I’m thinking of right now?”
“The one about the meat-eating plant. That would put unwary travelers to sleep before dragging them off to her lair?”
“Yeah. That one.”
“Yeah. I’m thinking about that one too.”
The two brothers step out of the house. Their sisters are standing by the jeep. To his eyes, Austin can’t see anything unusual with them. London is more worried than usual but that is to be expected.
“You have grandpa’s research journal, right? With you, right?”
“See if you can find anything.”
To be continued…