Matheus counted fourteen paces lengthwise and ten paces widthwise. He lay on the bed; nine tiles by six. Sketching sums onto the blanket, he tried to work out the length of each tile. He gave up after half a minute. The digits kept switching around on him.
He stood up, then made the bed to military perfection. He flicked a piece of lint across the room. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Matheus rocked back and forth, tapping his feet on the floor. The tile in the far corner had three, dark, coffee-colored spots arranged in a pyramid shape. Matheus dragged the bench beneath the tile and climbed up. He pushed up the tile, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkness.
A leaky pipe to his right explained the spots. He hopped off the bench, and brushed the dusty spider webs out of his hair, grimacing as they clung to his palm.
Three hours since sunset. Three hours trapped in the same room with not so much as a cereal box to read. Nothing to do but sit and stare at the rolling fields of pre-industrialized England. Matheus took the painting off the wall and set it on the floor. He ran his hand over the paper backing, but there appeared to be nothing hidden inside. Matheus sat back on his heels and scratched his neck. He shrugged. He didn’t expect to find a set of lock picks or the map to a secret passageway, but something to do, anyway. Matheus had just torn through the backing when the lock clicked. He tensed, still gripping the paper between his thumb and forefinger. Maybe his father had changed his mind, and decided Matheus didn’t make the cut for saving.