Mad Gondola Knife

Today’s writing prompt and my response.

Day five of this week’s challenge. The story starts here.
Mad Gondola Knife: use these three words

He’d gone mad, Robert’s rational mind screamed. But he knew, some core of him understood, that the old man behind him was his grandfather.

The girl grinned and stroked the sleeping cat.

Robert turned, and found himself in a bear hug. When he could breathe, he managed a muttered, ‘How? Or don’t I want to know?’

Granddad laughed his big booming laugh. ‘You’ll know – or rather you’ll remember – soon enough, don’t need me to explain.’

‘Are you a ghost?’ Robert asked, although the bear hug had been physical enough.

‘No, no, very much alive. Even more so now.’

Gondola on a Venice canal

‘Then where have you been and why haven’t you aged in twenty five years?’ His grandfather’s skin was less wrinkled, his hair less white, than Robert remembered.

‘Mostly Venice,’ the old man said. ‘Pushing a gondola along the canals to entertain jaded rich Americans and English on their Grand Tours.’

Grand Tours? As in 19th century? While the turmoil, the presentiment of danger, didn’t go away, it was now joined by curiousity. His question, however, was forestalled by Minna.

‘We can catch up on the glories of Venice when everyone’s safe. You both have to believe me when I say there’s no time to lose.’

‘You always were the brightest one, Minna.’ Now it was the girl’s turn for a bear hug, which the cat bore with good grace. ‘If anyone could have found us, it was going to be you.’

Minna kissed the old man’s cheek. ‘I keep saying this, because it’s true. We have to leave now, please. You’re needed, urgently.’

Robert moved from foreboding with a hint of curiosity to annoyance. ‘Hey, I thought it was me that was desperately needed.’

Minna rolled her eyes. ‘This is going to take the two of you.’

She handed the cat to Robert. It gazed at him, twitched its whiskers and settled, giving every impression of reluctance.

Robert’s eyes widened when Minna pulled a long knife, in a leather sheath, from one of her coat’s many pockets. ‘Why the knife?’

‘Not sure what the welcoming committee will consist of. Best be sure. Now, for Time’s sake, let’s go.’

Robert’s sense of danger returned, stronger. He should leave them to it, whatever it was, certainly life-threatening. He should go home, get on with his peaceful life.

Granddad touched his arm. ‘No, Bobby. There’ll be no peace until this is over. Not here, not there, nowhere. Best come with us.’

His grandfather could read his mind? His supposed to be dead grandfather. Robert screwed his courage to the sticking point and sighed.

Minna led the way around the back of the church, to a small, ancient wooden door set into the base of the tower. It was padlocked, and the padlock was rusty. No one had used this entrance for years, and Robert couldn’t see how they could either. And why they wanted to.

‘Why don’t we go in the front door? I know where the key is, if it hasn’t been moved since I was a churchwarden.’

Granddad shook his head. ‘Won’t work. This is the only way.’

Minna made no comment, instead inserting the knife tip into the rusted lock. She gently twisted it, listening as if she was safe-breaking. The padlock popped out.

‘Good, now let’s see how stiff the door is,’ she said.

‘Let me.’ Robert felt he needed to be of use, to show he wasn’t going to be a mere passenger in this enterprise after all. He shoved at the door, it resisted before opening, silently. He stepped aside, eyeing the knife in Minna’s hand.

‘Ladies first?’ he said.

She gave him a grim smile and eased into the black opening.

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