I stepped carefully into the corridor. It was a space about three feet wide between the interior wall, with the office on the other side, and what I assumed was the outside wall of the house. Not too wide. Enough to space to walk, but still easy to conceal. I was actually impressed. I had never seen a secret passageway before.
I took another careful step, the light from my cell phone and some reflected light coming in through the door letting me see enough to know I was not going to step into a hole, but not much else.
I took one more step, and suddenly there was a loud whirring and clicking sound that reverberated through the passageway. It sounded like it was coming from all around me. And then the door started to close.
I panicked, and dashed for the doorway, but the door moved quickly. Or I was too slow. I got to the door in time to push against it as it closed, but it ignored my efforts with an implacable ease, and closed with a click. I was glad my fingers had not been in the crack, it seemed like it might have taken them off.
Now it was even darker, and at that thought my phone screen shut off, and I was in complete and utter darkness.
Actually, not complete darkness. I blinked to make sure I was not imagining it.
Nope, it was really there, a faint blue-green glow, a faint phosphorescence. It looked like…a weird switch? I think it was called a knife switch, the kind that mad scientists use to close the circuit to wake up Frankenstein or whatever. Smaller though. Only about an inch long. It was just to my left, at shoulder height, on the wall.
I shrugged, and flipped it.
With a series of clicks, and a quiet fwoosh, a row of old-fashioned, wall-mounted gas lanterns lit up in a row along one wall of the corridor, and suddenly I could see again.
Now that was cool.
The passageway went about fifteen feet, and ended in a little room, maybe six or seven feet square. In the center of it was a wrought iron spiral staircase, big enough to take up the whole room. I started walking down the stairs.
When I first saw them, I assumed they went to the basement, but the stairs were much too long for that. They spiraled around five times, and by the time I reached the bottom, I was sure I was at least twenty or thirty feet below ground. The stairs ended in a little foyer-like room. There were two more of the gas lanterns on the wall, one on each side of a big wooden door. The room was otherwise empty.
I looked at the door for a moment before tried to open it. It was made of a heavy reddish wood, with a polished brass doorknob and keyhole that shined in the light of the burning lanterns. In the center of the door was the same life-sized embossing of a crow in flight, but this one was layered with brass, and the flickering light of the gas lamps reflecting from the polished yellow surface made it almost look alive.
I tried the doorknob, but it was locked. Damn. I had a key to the front door, but I did not think that it would work in this hidden door as well. But on the other hand, it was the same style of lock. It was worth a shot. I dug the key out of my pocket, and slid it into the keyhole.
There was a little spark of static electricity when the key touched the keyhole, but it went it with no problems, and it turned easily. There was a strange whirring sound when the key turned, and a few clicks, and then I heard the bolt of the lock slide open.
Sweet. I pulled the key out, slipped it into my pocket, and took a deep breath. I had no idea what I would find on the other side of the door, but it was almost certain to be interesting. And it probably held the family secrets I was hoping to find. After all, why would you build a secret room in your house if not to keep secrets in it? I grinned, and opened the door.