Secrets of the Lighthouse
Frank tried to shake off the bad feeling as he followed his little brother the rest of the way up the stairs and through the trap door into the lantern room.
The brothers examined the lamp very carefully. It wouldn’t light up, that they knew. Puzzling over it, they noted not even a speck of dust was around. The place was obviously meticulously cared for. Frank continued to look at the fixture while Joe finally got to go out onto the gallery to look around. The wind blew through his hair as he stepped out onto the iron walkway. He put his hands on the railing and looked out over the ocean, imagining what it would be like with a ship coming in, during the dark of night, perhaps even in a storm, being led in by the friendly, lifesaving beam of light coming from the lamp.
A glance down broke his reverie. Whoa, what a drop. Nasty. On any side it would be a terrifying, deadly fall, but in this particular section, the sharp rocks past the edge of the cliff could be seen. Joe was on the upper walkway, the highest elevation for walking around the tower. Looking directly below him, he could see the gallery deck off of the watch room.
Yeah, enough of that, Joe thought, not really liking the height right then. He felt the perspiration on his brow and glanced behind him at the comforting sight of his brother, who was absorbed in figuring out the lamp. Glancing below again, Joe watched as some fantastic waves ripped in, breaking along the beach. He stood there for awhile, thinking on the case, and enjoying the scene. His brother spoke as he came and stood next to him.
“Pretty cool, huh?” Frank asked, standing with his hands in his pockets. Joe nodded, appreciating the magnificence of the sea. They watched for awhile longer before walking around the entire gallery that encircled the lighthouse. Coming to the iron ladder that led to the gallery deck outside the watch room, the brothers glanced at each other. Frank, who was first, climbed down carefully, making sure of his footing on each rung. Joe followed, just as cautiously. The wind blew strong at their backs as they went down.
This walkway was a little wider, and the brothers admired the spectacular view from this height as well. The waves breaking along the beach and shoreline were enthralling. Frank and Joe knew they could never tire of observing the waters, and again watched the mighty waves from out in the ocean roll in for awhile.
The brothers made a complete circle of this gallery as well. When they got to the stairs descending to the ground, Joe turned to his brother and grinned. “Race you down. You want the inside steps or outside?”
There would be more steps on the outside, since it wound around the exterior walls it would naturally be wider, but there was also the amount of steps to get to the circular stairs on the inside. Joe watched as his brother mentally determined the most advantageous route in seconds. “Whoever takes the inside stairs can go through that door to the watch room.” Joe motioned with his chin toward the wooden door near them.
“If I accepted I would take the inside, but since it would be even faster falling down the stairs than sprinting down them, and that is a possibility, we aren’t running. We’ll walk down and see who gets to the bottom faster. We’ll make it harder by agreeing to no running, which will be a huge test for you, just to see if you can do it.”
“Aw come on, Frank,” Joe started. Frank shrugged his shoulders.
“If you don’t think you can handle the challenge….”
“I challenged you!”
“Yeah, and I added another level!”
Joe agreed to it, and with thoughts of his brother’s doubt that he could actually keep from running down the steps following him, he set out to prove he could. His natural tendency to run on the steps was hard to curb, but he did, with much effort. His feet hit each step as he quickly walked down the spiraling stairs. Frank didn’t say he had to move at the speed of a snail.
Frank chuckled to himself as he made his way toward the inside stairs. Reaching the spiraling steps of the interior steps, his sneakers made very little noise as he also walked down briskly. He knew his brother would accept the challenge and Frank did think he could do it, he just didn’t think Joe knew he could do it.
Ahead of Frank, down the stairs a ways, a noise was heard. One he couldn’t quite place. An unusual plopping sound. He knew his brother couldn’t have gotten down the outside and part way up the inner stairs that quickly nor would he be making such a sound. Frank paused, listening to the unique noise. What was it? It was getting closer whatever it was, echoing through the tower as each step moved nearer to where Frank had stopped.
Silently, Frank began once more to descend the steps, wondering who was coming up the stairs. He thought back to his earlier feeling of unease and wondered if this had anything to do with that, but dismissed the idea as quickly as it had entered his head. As he got closer with each step to the noise, he tried to guess who he might encounter. Frank knew it wouldn’t be Margaret, since they had her key. More exactly, Frank had the key in his possession and the door was locked. There were likely several townspeople with keys. Whoever it was ahead of Frank had no problem advertising their presence. Frank had just reached one of several landings along the spiraling route when he was confronted with the source of the noise.