It was the tones of the clock striking three that made the house creak.
Padma held her breath and waited. The first tone came slowly. The house groaned, then fell silent. She had run out of time. She started running for the door.
The second tone sounded louder, but it had to be because the grandfather clock was down on the first floor. Padma tripped at the bend of the staircase. Grabbing onto the railing, it broke (as she knew it would) and she fell down to the living room.
Padma felt more than heard the third tone. Three o’clock. She struggled to her feet and glanced over to the entryway. She could still make it out. She had to.
Then she heard the sound of the piano. The laughter. She slammed against the front door, opened it, and closed it behind her.
She was safe. Somehow. Padma listened, but heard nothing from within the house. Then she ran away as fast as possible.