On his hands and knees, Victor reached out and felt along the break in the skirting board where the purple light shone. The cold air wafted through a narrow gap and brushed his fingers. He ran his hand up the wall above the light and soon found a small, rickety door knob; he turned it, feeling the latch click back, but the door would not budge. Victor stood and leaned his shoulder against the door, and tried again to open it, this time with an accompanying shove. Again, the door was uncooperative. With both hands on the door knob, he gave it a hefty shake, then another. On the third shake he tore the knob from the door. “Ah sh**.” He felt for the hole in the door to fit the door knob back in place; it fell back out each time he tried. Victor knelt and peered through the hole but saw only darkness. He poked a finger through the hole and pressed the back of the door knob on the other side; it popped straight out and fell to the floor with a sharp clunk. As a warm purple glow filled the hole in the door, he looked through again, and this time saw the light playing on the grooves and contours of a wall about two metres ahead, which filled his entire view. The wall’s large hewn stones gave it a medieval appearance.
Victor wriggled his finger about where the latch had come loose, but, though he could see nothing holding the door in place, it refused to give way. He stepped back, pushed the curtains behind him, and then slammed the sole of his shoe into the door with a powerful front kick. The door thundered and rattled; the noise echoed in the room beyond. “What’s going on?” he muttered. He sidestepped along the wall until he emerged from the curtains, not far from the table with the candles. He took one of the candlesticks and slipped behind the curtains again, shuffled back along the wall to the stubborn door, and then held the light up to examine it. “Ah, there we go,” he said, as the candlelight revealed a small keyhole below the hole for the door knob. He ran his fingertip across it, and then crouched and peered through it with one eye. “Locked. Huh. None of the other doors were locked. I wonder what’s in there.” He squatted back on his heels and set the candlestick on the floor, back far enough from the door to cast helpful light, but close enough that the curtains did not smother it. He stroked his chin. “There must be a key somewhere,” he said, after a moment of thought. “It could be anywhere.” He leaned forward and looked through the door knob hole again; the violet light inside faded to a gentler shade, with a tinge of red, and then, after a few seconds, returned to its rich original hue. Victor leaned back again and chewed his bottom lip. “Hmm. I could come back later, I suppose. Try another room first.” He took the candlestick in hand, stood up and traced the doorframe with the light. It was old-fashioned, quality work—solid timber, perfect joins made with precision and style—but there were hints of rot.
He paused where the hinges would likely be, and ran his fingers over the snug edge where the door and the jamb met. Setting the candlestick down, he stepped back and cleared the curtain behind him as best he could. With a determined stare he lined up the hinged edge of the door, and then kicked it at chest height. The door shuddered as it took the blow. Victor stepped back, and then forward again, grunting as he delivered another full-force kick. He repeated the process a dozen times, with the accuracy and power befitting his black belt. At last there came a short squeal and a crack: the grip of the top and middles hinges had weakened, and the top of the door had shifted back an inch. Victor picked up the candlestick and held it up to the door; a smile broke through the seriousness in his face. He set the light back down, stepped back and resumed kicking the living daylights out of the door. A few more strikes wrenched the top hinge loose, while the middle hinge’s hold was failing; the bottom hinge, however, was stuck fast.
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