My whole body was covered in goosebumps tight enough to make my skin ache. My boots clomped on the old concrete, and I stepped into a puddle of water that had seeped in. I was trying to control my breathing, and even though I was dressed in a parka, cold weather pants, field jacket, and winter BDU’s, I was freezing.
I was also sweating at the base of my spine and between my shoulders.
My flashlight caught something, and curious, I moved over to it. Crates. Dozens of them, they stretched out into the darkness.
“FOUND SOMETHING!” I yelled.
“HEY! I found something!”
“YOU FUCKERS BETTER NOT HAVE LEFT ME! I SWEAR I’LL KILL YOU!” I yelled.
“We’re right here, Private Monkey, calm down,” I heard SFC Vickers tell me. His pale face loomed out of the darkness, and he bore a striking resemblance to the hero of The Thing and it gave me the chills. “What is it?”
“Didn’t you... you know what, I don’t want to know,” I stated. “It’s crates, lots of them.” I flashed my flashlight on the side, showing the old emblem that was still visible despite its age.
An eagle. A swastika.
“Holy Jesus,” Stokes breathed, thumping up next to us.
“Jesus doesn’t know about this place,” Tandy replied.
I shrugged, and looked at the lid of the crate. SFC Vickers slapped a bayonet into my hand, I started prying on the lid. The lid gave with a screech, and Cobb giggled, a sharp, brittle sound. The crate contained boxes, all marked with the same emblem that was on the map of the building.
“Open one,” SFC Vickers ordered. I shrugged, grabbed a box, and tore it open.
Sheathed knives fell out. Four of them.
“Holy mother of God,” Stokes whispered as I bent over, picked one up, and lifted it.
It was an old Nazi SS dagger. The crate must have contained hundreds of them.
SFC VIckers shined his flashlight around, and draped on one wall was the Nazi flag.
Our flashlights chose that time to die. I bent down, tucked the dagger in my boot, and dug out my last set of batteries. When my flashlight came back on, I swept it over everyone’s faces.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here,” SFC Vickers said, and I grunted in agreement. I had to lead the way, and we slung the trapdoor back over. We headed back to the door at a quicktime, and all laughed nervously when SFC Vickers locked the door.
“Monkey, did you keep that dagger?” Stokes said, pointing at my boot.
“Yeah. I wanted proof. If we get upstairs, and there’s nothing wrong with it, then this place isn’t haunted,” I replied, almost challengingly.
We walked back to the CQ area, and found out that Mann and Carter had gone to get us lunch and dinner. While SFC Vickers made his report to Captain Bishop, I pulled the sheathed dagger out of my boot and tossed it on the CQ counter.
“Where the fuck did you get that?” Smith asked.
“Sub-basement. There’s a shitload of crates down there,” I answered. “One of them had these in them.”
“Aw man, this is fucked,” he said. “We’re in a goddamn haunted building.”
“You wanna know what’s worse?” I asked, grinning.
“What? What could be fucking worse?” Smith asked.
“You’re black,” I told him. He stood there, staring at me for a moment.
Then he started laughing. I was laughing with him, and vaguely aware that Tandy had gone into the bathroom. Smith handed me a bottle of Jack Daniels, and I took a deep hit off of it.
“This is just fucked,” Smith said. “I don’t know whether I feel better or worse that the CO doesn’t seem to care we’re drinking during duty hours.”
I took another hit off the bottle and passed it back.
“Who fucking cares. This is bullshit,” I replied.
Mann and Carter came in the doors, carrying two mermites each. Everyone bustled around, and we passed around the bottle and ate a hot lunch.
“Private Monkey?” Captain Bishop asked, looking at me over his mess kit.
“You have CQ tonight. Sergeant Vickers tells me you aren’t afraid of that furnace room, so it will be your job to keep the furnace running.” WHAT! GIMME A BREAK!
The rest of the day went with us gathered up in groups, talking about the banging from upstairs. We were sitting eating dinner when I noticed something.
“Hey, where’s Tandy?” I asked. There were only 19 of us sitting there.
“Who?” Captain Bishop asked.
“Private Tandy. He’s missing,” I said.
“Has anyone seen Private Tandy?” SFC Vickers asked.
Nobody had. I brought up that I’d seen him go into the bathroom.
“Come with me, Monkey,” SFC Vickers ordered. I set down my dinner, stood up, and together we went into the bathroom.
“Private Tandy, are you in here?” Vickers called. “All you all right? Do you need assistance?”
“YOU BETTER BE BEATING OFF!” I yelled. Vickers looked at me with a grin, and we stepped around the small corner. Two stalls, two urinals, two sinks.
A shaving kit was scattered on the counter between the sinks, and I stared at it as SFC Vickers checked each stall.
“He’s gone,” I said. SFC VIckers turned and looked at me. “They got him.”
“Bullshit. We’ve all been drinking today. He must have gotten drunk and wandered off,” Vickers answered.
“And left his shaving gear?” I asked.
“Hell, I got drunk and left my wallet in a Korean whorehouse,” Vickers answered. I nodded. “Anyway, he’s not in here. Let’s go check his room.” We left and Captain Bishop looked up.
“He’s not in there, we’re going to check his room,” Vickers told the CO.
“All right, everyone, split up. Stokes, you’re here with me. Everyone else, go looking for Tandy,” Captain Bishop ordered. “Monkey, Sergeant Vickers, the two of you check the furnace room.”
“Yes, sir,” SFC Vickers said. I stayed silent, but made a point to reach over the counter and grab the SS dagger. Fuck the dumb shit, I’m not going down there unarmed.
We walked by the groups opening rooms and checking inside, through the double doors, then into the stairwell.
“Jesus, Monkey, do you think he came down here?” Vickers asked, wiping his mouth.
“No. I think they got him,” I admitted honestly. I didn’t know who, or what, they were, but I was seriously beginning to believe we weren’t alone in the building. I was seriously beginning to believe something was wrong in this building.
When SFC Vickers opened the door of the furnace room, I could see the cherry glow from the furnace at the far end. I’d never seen that before, and it made a chill run down my back.
The wind howled, and the door slammed shut behind me, cutting off the light from the stairwell. I clicked on my faithful OD Green flashlight, drew the SS Dagger, and ventured deeper in.
“Tandy? TANDY! You better not be fucking with ME!” I called out.
The breathing of the water heater answered me.
I’d taken a step, and my boot came down on empty air, and I fell forward, dropping the knife and my flashlight as I plunged forward. I went through wood, and slammed onto concrete, knocking the wind out of me and filling my vision with stars. The thick parka saved me from any real injury, but my breathing was painful.
My flashlight was laying about 10 feet from me.
And I’d fallen through empty air and into the sub-basement, smashing the steps as I fell.
“Tandy?” I called out softly, rolling over and crawling to my flashlight.