Professor Collins heard the sound again.
He stood from his desk and studied the shelves of his seedy study. He closed the book he was reading, folding a page to serve as a bookmark and followed the direction where the sound had came from.
He drew toward the stairwell that led downstairs to his apartment, pausing at the topmost step.
The space below was dark and quiet.
He reached around the bannister and flicked a switch.
He tested it again, without success. Something was wrong.
A bachelor, he loved the peace he found in his solitude, always glad for the relative privacy it offered.
The sudden intrusion was new. And unwanted.
Somewhere off in the darkness below, the sound came again.
He bounded onto the steps, taking them three at a time, careful not to announce his presence.
There was light leaking from his apartment onto the bottom stairs. He
looked at the two doors he was faced with and wondered which would be
easier for an intruder to access.
One led to his strongroom, the other to his apartment.
He thought his apartment best and started gently for that door. Shattering glass sounded from the other room behind him.
He turned instantly, dashing toward his strongroom.
He tested the door’s knob. It yielded.
And the first wave of fear swept across his face as he worked the door half-open. It squeaked, surely giving away his presence. The room was unlit and everything else was just the way he kept it.
Except the window.
Dim moonlight streamed in through a jagged opening in the middle of the glass of the lone window in the room, catching on the surface of the tiles below.
A wishy-washy gleam at the far end caught his attention. He trailed it with his gaze, stopping where it stopped.
Right at his feet.
He knelt slowly, testing the liquid with a finger and bringing it to his nose. He frowned as the pungent scent of fuel assaulted his nostrils.
Ahead, a movement distracted him. He looked up.
A tiny gleaming matter whirled through the air in an oval orange at the far end of the room. It dropped into the distant darkness. Then, suddenly, the room came aglow as a mass of bright orange tinged with mild blue leapt into the air, sweeping along the gleaming trail, approaching him.
His eyes widened as he recognized it for what it was.