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  • Writer's pictureThe Spartan Press

A Mystery Short Story: Doorbell Ditch

Updated: Oct 24, 2022

By Julia Paes '25

I sat on my porch and listened to the inharmonic music of windchimes as they clinked in the breeze. They were a housewarming gift from my superstitious mother. She got a matching one for herself 'to keep the pesky spirits out,' she claimed. Unfortunately, windchimes didn't help much to keep out the pesky people, otherwise known as the kids next door. They often played a game called Doorbell Ditch. They rang the doorbell, pretending to be selling cookies or whatnot, and right as I'm about to answer the door, they take off running. But this time these kids took their pranks too far. Another game my teenage neighbors have is throwing all sorts of things over our fence: scraps, toys, rubber balls, and so on. This morning my daughter, Kayla, found a weird note in the backyard. It read:

“Here’s how to play: the first ring will start the game, the second ring will announce when you should advance to the door, if you do not open the door by the third ring, you will lose that round of the game. Losing will cost you something valuable.”

While waiting on my front porch for my daughter’s school bus to arrive, I got anxious. I don’t know why, it might just be a parent thing, but that note freaked me out more than I was willing to admit. Teenagers always kind of scared me a little. Turns out Kayla’s bus was delayed, and I was just being paranoid.

In the evening, we were having dinner as usual when out of nowhere I heard the doorbell go off. I sighed. I knew I hadn’t invited anyone over and ignored it. No more than ten seconds later, the bell rang a second time.

Kayla raised her head, stopped chewing her food and said, “Should I get the door? It could be someone important.” I shook my head.

“Or it could be the neighbors like always.” Kayla resumed eating her dinner as the bell rang a third time. I waited for a knock or anything that would confirm the person outside was not one of my neighbors, but the only sound that came was the scuffle of shoes behind the door as the mystery person left.

“See,” I said, turning to Kayla, ”It was just some prankster as usual.” Little did I know that I couldn’t be farther from the truth.


On Tuesday morning, I went into Kayla’s room to wake her up for school -- like I always do. But instead found that her room was completely empty. On most days, I would have assumed that she went to the bathroom as per her usual routine but the window in her room gape wide open which was not normal at all. My heart dropped. That window was reserved for emergencies and hot days only. Considering the house hadn’t burst into flames and the temperature was freezing cold, I knew this was neither. My first instinct was to phone my mom. Despite her spiritualism, my mom had dealt with many hardships-- gangs, peer pressure, addiction and toxic relationships. So I knew she would know how to deal with this. I called and called. Finally, she picked up on the third ring.

“Hi, Jenny,” my mom’s voice said. “Mom, I think someone took Kayla,” my voice cracked with fear.

“What?” my mom exclaimed. My eyes pooled with tears and my hands shook as I grasped the phone tightly. I told my mom all about what had happened yesterday morning.

“Do you think...he has something to do with this?” she mumbled with a hesitant tone. Like my mother, I had inherited her knack of getting into toxic relationships. Kayla’s dad, Derrick Morrison, was the “he” my mom was referring to.

Two years ago, when Kayla was only seven, I filed for a divorce and gained custody of Kayla. Derrick didn’t take this well at all, and it ended with a restraining order against him.

“How could he be behind this? Doesn’t he live far away from me?” I asked. My mom went silent for a bit, as if hesitating to tell me something. Instead she told me to call the cops and call her back if something else happened.

After hanging up, I quickly called 911 to report my daughter’s disappearance. My stomach crippled with a sinking feeling. The dispatcher on the line did little to ease my panic by taking a description of my daughter with an impassioned tone. She said that it might take weeks for me to get a call back, but even so, I waited by the phone until evening.

At exactly 7:00 p.m., I heard the doorbell ring. I knew better than to not answer this time. When I opened the door, no one was there, and it took a while to realize. But then I saw it. On my front porch, was a note sat on top, “Answer the phone to find your daughter.” I recognized the handwriting right away.

Was this some kind of sick joke? I quickly rushed into my house. After a while of waiting, the phone rang. I picked up the phone, I heard a voice that seemed to be deep and distorted, like they were using a voice filter app. I could hear a distinctly familiar ruckus in the background.

“I have your daughter, Jenny. All you have to do to get her back is leave 400k on your front porch.” What is this cliche question? And why did they want my money? Were they not aware that I worked a poorly paid job?

“Wait, at least let me talk to her,” I pleaded. “You have one hour,” the caller said before hanging up.

Something was throwing me off about the faint noise in the background. Then, with shock, I realized why: it was the discordant sound of windchimes. My stomach turned as I went back out to my front porch and picked up the note with my ex-husband's handwriting on it. What was going on?

To Be Continued...

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