The kids weren’t supposed to be in the abandoned house out on route 99, but it was a sort of tradition for the local teenagers to dare one another to spend the night in the run-down old plantation house.
There were rumors in the county that the last owner, an ancient withered man named Walters, was a serial killer back in the early part of the century. Of course, Walters died a good twenty years ago and no one in the county knew him before he was a bent, crooked old man.
Every few weeks, another group of teens would gather on the dirt driveway in front of the gate, daring and double-dog daring each other to spend a full night in the house. The sheriff had tried padlocking the gate, but that wasn’t very helpful when the stone wall surrounding the house was crumbled and fallen in places. The trespassers simply went around the lock. Patrols in the area, although supposedly beefed up, were few and far between.
One of this weekend’s teens was a nephew of the sheriff, so he was confident that no patrols would come by. Or so he told the other teenagers.
The four kids who were brave enough to enter the manse were greeted with dusty air, dim moonlight, and the creaking sounds of an old building.
All boys, the group split in half, two by two, to explore the house. The sheriff’s nephew and his partner decided to explore the second floor and attic while the others went through the first floor and basement.
Cloth-covered furniture and spiderwebs were everywhere. The boys moved bits of cloth, peering underneath to see what lurked. Antique furniture wasn’t interesting enough and there were no bodies, so the boys kept moving.
The upstairs pair decided to knock on walls, looking for secret passages or hidden rooms. They got bored after an hour or so and began a knock-on-wood, Marco Polo variant game. The boys downstairs could hear the muffled shouts of the two above, but they diligently continued their search for anything to prove Walters guilty of being interesting.
The stairs down to the basement were rickety and rotting, but the braver of the boys picked his way carefully down, promising to yell if he found anything. The blonde who stayed behind agreed to the idea, grateful he didn’t have to navigate the death trap.
The boy in the basement found much of the same there as in the rest of the house. Cloth-covered bits and pieces, old gardening tools, and a rack of home-canned vegetables. Sighing at his bad luck, he picked up a jar of what looked like beets, stared at it for a few seconds, then started to put it back in its place on the rack.
But he stopped with his hand halfway there. The jar dropped from his hand, crashing and breaking with unnatural loudness. There, on the edge of the wooden rack in front of him, was a latch. He carefully unhooked it and pushed the hidden door open.
There was a glow inside the room. It came from a low-wattage bare bulb dangling in the middle of the room.
The boy was just processing that when a hand came from behind a shelf across the room. The boy’s eyes bulged, staring at Sheriff Walters, who held a still-bleeding heart in his hands.