I kept laughing in the darkness. Sharp, brittle laughter that I couldn’t stop. The line from the movie kept flashing through my head: “Have you checked the children?” I could picture some old Nazi, all withered up, maggots writhing in his eye sockets, whispering into the phone: “Haben Sie die Kinder C”
* knock knock*
It was a barracks room, I closed my eyes and visualized the copied map in my little green notebook in my pocket. Not the map, but where I was when I drew it, and what I was thinking when I drew it. It’s an old trick, but it works.
The room was unoccupied. Tandy’s room was on the floor below, my room was in the further back section, and the only other person on the second floor beside me was Mann and Smith. Mann’s was all the way at the end of the hallway, Smith’s was next to mine.
“Private?” Captain Bishop sounded nervous.
“Shhh,” I told him, ghosting by him. The flashlight beam was skittering all over the far hallway, throwing strange and menacing shadows. He started to turn toward me, but I was by him and resting my fingertips on the door as lightly as I could and still have contact.
* knock knock*
The door didn’t vibrate. The sound was coming from the room itself. Somewhere inside. I used the masterkey to slowly unlock the door, and waited, my hand on the lever.
I shoved open the door, and took four steps into the room, carrying myself past the bathroom and the built in wall lockers.
The sound was coming from in front of me, by the window.
I moved forward, stepping up and resting my fingers against the pipe leading into the radiator.
* knock knock*
The pipe shivered slightly with each sound.
“Private?” Captain Bishop shined the light into the room, and I wondered what he saw. Was it just me, or some twisted shape with a hand full of steel?
“Just the radiator, sir,” I told him, walking back out into the hallway and closing the door. I locked it. “Air in the pipes, probably.”
At the far end of the hallway, the crashing sounded again, and another moan drifted down the hallway. I sucked on my fingertip and stuck it upwards, feeling for the breeze. Nothing. I ducked down as the moan swirled around us and started to go by. There. A slight breeze.
On the floor? Interesting.
I unlocked the door again and opened it.
“Sir, when I close the door, please shine the light on the bottom of it,” I asked him.
“What are you doing, Private?”
“Seeing if there is a gap beneath the doors,” I answered, stepping inside. I closed the door, and knelt down.
I could see him pan the beam over the doorway. There was about a quarter inch gap at the bottom of the door. I stood up, opened the door, and came back into the hallway.
“Well?” I locked the door.
“There’s a gap, that gives air room to move, and can affect the air currents. Did you ever live in an old house?”
“If you did, you’d know that old buildings settle strangely, and that lets air in, and the air catches in places and makes weird noises. Kind of like water puddling.” I told him.
“How do you know?” He asked.
“My father told me,” I answered, with conviction in my voice.
In front of us, the crashing sounded again.
“And that? What did your father say about that?” He sounded honest, not like he was sneering.
“Run,” I told him, and started down the hallway. I was going to find out, once and for all, what the fuck classes they were teaching. Jew Strangling 101? POW Torturing 225? Medical Experiments 115? Stabbing 110? Whatever it was, I was going to find out.
With or without the Captain.
I could hear Captain Bishop moving behind me as I stopped in front of the door. According to my map, past these wide double doors was a fairly large open area, listed as a classroom on the map. I didn’t know what the crossed out German word meant, but I didn’t care either.
“What are you waiting for?” Bishop asked.
“Ssshh,” I replied, rocking back and forth on my heels.
I leaned back.
I slammed one boot against the center of the doors, putting everything I had into it. The heel of my combat boot hit between the door handles.
The doors flew open, and wind whipped around us. The light behind me flickered and went out, but I was already moving into the room, knife held low and ready. I took three steps into the room and stopped, turning in a slow circle.
Nothing. Not a fucking thing. The room was cold enough that I could feel my nose and ears start to hurt, and the knife felt like I was holding onto a chunk of ice.
“GODDAMN IT! I HATE THIS SHIT!” I yelled. Captain Bishop came in the room, and I could hear him dicking with the flashlight. I kept the knife low and pointed down in case he bumped into me.
I didn’t want to accidentally stab his ass.
“Almost,” Bishop said. I waited, keeping my breathing slow and steady, and feeling embarrassed for my reaction.
“There.” The light clicked on and he panned it around the room.
Closed windows on one wall, up toward the top. Three sets of double doors leading out besides the ones I’d kicked open. A set of bathrooms, and a single door. We unlocked each one in turn, and looked inside.
Jack and shit.
We stood in the main room, the flashlight illuminating my legs.
“What the fuck is making the noise?” Captain Bishop asked.
“Wait,” I answered.
We stood there silently, waiting.
“Why did you attack that cop?” Bishop asked me, out of the blue. “You damn near beat him to death. Why?”
“My sister,” I replied, straining my ears. Why did he have to choose now to make small talk?
“You’re sister? What, was he raping her?”
“Yes, sir,” I answered. He shut up. I figured he would, that’s pretty much how everyone reacted.
BANG, BANG, BANG!
It came from upstairs again. The third floor. It was louder in here, and echoed. There was something just before the crashing, but I didn’t catch it.
“Let’s head back. I don’t like the feel of this,” Captain Bishop said.
“Yes, sir,” I went over and unlocked the stairwell and pulled open the door. He waved me inside, and I waited for him on the landing.
When the door shut, we began moving down the steps. We were halfway down when the doorway above us, at the top of the stairs, crashed open. Captain Bishop jumped, but I’d been expecting it.
This was a little too repetitive to be ghosts. This was structural problems.
We went down to the first floor, and I unlocked the door. I could smell that Captain Bishop was sweating, and smell that acrid smell that fear made. I locked the door behind us when we went to the CQ area. I moved around the counter, sat down, stuck the knife into the sheathe tucked in my boot, then put my boots up on the counter.
“Well, sir?” I asked.
“Find out what you wanted to know, sir?” I asked. I had my own theories by this point.
“No. Someone’s fucking with us, and I’m starting to believe Cobb that this place is haunted,” he told me. At the far end of the hallway, the emergency lights flickered and went out again.
“Are you going to OK out here?” He asked me.
“Yes, sir,” I answered. He set the .45 on the counter, and turned away. “Come and get me if there are any problems.”
I chuckled to myself as he knocked on the door and waited for Stokes to open it.
Problems? What kind of problems could we be having?