"Stella, are you in there? Please knock three times for yes. We're waiting outside.
Will and Jimmy."
With bated breath they slipped the note beneath the door, pushing it as far in as they could. Now all they could do was wait for something to happen.
Seconds ticked by, and still nothing. Before long a full minute was up. Will felt his heart thumping against his chest, as though warning him of something bad about to happen. He let out his breath in a long, controlled sigh.
"Nothing's happening. You think she got it?"
"She's in there. I'm positive."
"Hey...wait if someone else got the note instead of her?"
"Well, then the moment we hear the door unlocking, we scoot off. Simple as that."
Somehow, Will wasn't so convinced. But seeing as they had nothing to go by but their blind faith, the two boys stayed put.
Two minutes. Three minutes.
"Man, I can't take anymore of this," Will said, beads of sweat lining his forehead. "Let's forget it and go back to bed."
"Darn," Jimmy cursed. "Maybe we didn't push the note far in enough. Tell you what - go get a long ruler from our room."
"You heard me. Go get a long ruler from our room! I'll wait here to keep watch."
Fearfully Will descended the stairs back to their room. Any moment now he expected Mrs. Banks to pounce out of a corner and burn her eyes into his.
Gulping hard, he turned the knob and entered the room. Somehow he'd manage to make his way back without anything going wrong. He picked up the metal ruler lying on the table, then hurried back out, making sure the shut the door behind him.
This was sheer madness, madness they didn't need to go through. Stella's words flashed back in his mind: "Will, I'm serious. I'm telling you this not as an adult, but as a friend. There were some other kids I knew who used to mess around too much with the Secret Room. All of them wish they never did now."
All of them wish they never did now. Stella and her friends were still being made to pay some "consequences" till today. Surely there was something more to that room than a place off-limits to kids. Mrs. Banks had to be hiding something truly sinister inside.
Ruler in hand, he reached the fourth floor. His watch read ten minutes to twelve. We're going to be back in bed by twelve. No later than twelve.
But wait a minute. Wasn't Jimmy supposed to be there waiting for him? Only the tattered notepad Jimmy always carried along remained in front of the Secret Room.
"Jimmy! We don't have time for this. Where are you?"
As he feared, he spoke only to the walls.
Heart racing, Will searched every nook and cranny on the floor. Up he went to the floor above, all the floors below, and even back to their room to be sure. Jimmy was nowhere to be found.
In desperation Will raced back to the Secret Room. Somehow he was sure Jimmy was in there.
"Jimmy!" he pounded on the door as loudly as the silence would allow. "I know you're inside! Scream! Knock the door! Pass a note! Anything! Just do something!"