Red Writing Hood: Mystery Man

This week’s Write on Edge prompt was to use this line as our opening line of a 500-word story: “It was a rainy night in Dusseldorf…”

I chose to write a fiction piece, but in the process, learned a lot of nonfiction about Dusseldorf!


“It was a rainy night in Dusseldorf when we met the man who saved the church.”

These words began Sissy’s letter. I smiled. Of my four sisters, she was the most dramatic, but my favorite. She and John were on their wedding trip.

I missed her desperately and eagerly awaited her letters. Sitting at the window seat where the light was better, my eyes strained to read Sissy’s penmanship.

“We had stopped at St Lambertus Basilica, even though it was night. Thunder crashed around us, spooking the cab horses. Emmie, I was scared, but determined not to show it. In the rain and lightning, the church was spooky with its tall Gothic tower, but you know me and churches. Even if I don’t deserve to be in them, I can’t resist them.”

Laughing at Sissy’s words, I didn’t hear Sara bring my tea. The closing door startled me, but I didn’t touch the tea.

“Looking at the church, I saw a man standing in the rain. Lightning lit the sky, giving me a clear view of him. He was tall and muscular, but not a gentleman given his dress. That didn’t stop him from staring straight at me! His stare was so direct, Emmie, I shivered even though I was wearing the warm rabbit coat John gave me.”

As if I was with Sissy, I shivered, tucking my shawl tighter, before continuing.

“The man boldly stepped up to the cab door and implored John to leave immediately. He said lightening was going to strike the church! In the light of the cab’s oil-lamp, I saw his eyes were as dark as the night sky. They held me in a trance. Oh, Emmie, he looked deliciously dangerous! His untied black hair flew about his face as he told John I was in danger and to take me away! John puffed up, declaring the man a fool and a rude one at that, but he banged on the roof for the cabbie to drive on. Through the back window, I watched the man disappear.”

I sipped my cold tea. The cup rattled as I put it down. Sissy’s letter beckoned me back.

“We made it safely to the hotel, but my story doesn’t end there. The next day as we breakfasted on the terrace, John spotted the article in the paper. Lightning had indeed struck the church, starting a fire! No one could find the church key. The town locksmith, Josef Wimmer, unlocked the door and saved the church. There was a drawing of Mr. Wimmer. He was the same man we’d seen in the rain!”

Sissy’s last words were crammed in the paper’s margin. I struggled to read them.

“John and I stared at each other. I asked how this man had known lightning would strike the church. John had no answer. Emmie, do you suppose he knew of the future? Well, we’ll never know, but it is a good mystery, don’t you think? We leave for Egypt soon. — Sissy.”

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While I made some creative changes, this fiction story is loosely based on a true event in Dusseldorf.