The stiff air of the Hunter residence had been undisturbed by Lucy Hamilton’s arrival, her breath near non existent as she kept her presence to a minimum. Boards creaked under her athletic build, it as if she were waking up the home from a deep sleep.
Neil Hunter had been away for days on end since the escape of Eliza Soo - an event he’d tried so vigorously to avoid.
Gasps of terror and ghosts of fear lingered in the heart of the home, hints of a lonely man laced through the personality of the wood paneled walls and aged, uneven furniture. Worn images of times long past clung to the chipping plywood by crooked nails and dented hopes, faces unsettled and happiness unclear.
Lucy’s eyes flickered around her surroundings, a suffocation threatening at her lungs as she inhaled the life lived within the walls. A chill clouded around her ajar mouth, no typical evening fire burning warmth and no alcohol to simulate the ambiance, both of which were a must of the house’s owner.
The author did her best to keep her hands at bay, carefully making her way deeper into the space of twisted man. She couldn’t leave a trace of herself, for Vance Deveraux would know from ten miles away if fingerprint had found its way onto a wooden banister.
Echoes reached Lucy’s ears as she moved with utmost caution, fire logs lining a definitive path along the walls towards the space she was looking for.
Although she didn’t need to search for her location, as it was scarred into the back of her mind, she followed the oak to a flight of stairs that weaved beneath the earth.
Lucy leaned forward softly, eyes dilating with the darkness that stared back at her. She held little hesitation, stepping down into the cellar.
A sheer blackness draped itself over Lucy’s entire existence, a sleeve-covered palm gasping a pull string with no question in where it was, introducing yellow light over a murky, graying room with enough personality to kill the hopes of humanity.
Mounted to a steel plated loop bulging from the cement floor was a rusty chain-link that reached only as far as the bottom step, an everlasting wish for escape lingering in the build of a bolted cuff broken at the hinges. A lumpy mattress was unsettled in the farthest corner of the room, a beam of moonlight hinting on a torn quilt disheveled among a withered pillow. Few books remained stacked as a makeshift nightstand, it evident that many had been removed, either by Hunter himself of the FBI in pursuit of a DNA match to prove that anyone other than Eliza Soo had inhabited the gimmick of a home.
With focused attention on the shattered vanity placed across the room from the bed, Lucy came across polaroids with aged corners that idealized not victims of the home’s owner, but of the state it had been seemingly before the arrival of young souls doomed to either the psychological damage that escape provided, or death.
Neat drapes, delicate vintage furniture that looked newly purchased, and no less, a warmth and care to the air below ground.
Lucy was quick to note the outlines of pieces that had been hastily removed, likely made of use by occupants of the cellar to air in escape or physical harm to themselves or the man keeping them.
A dresser with the capability to offer a way to break a limb or the single window above the bed. Shelves that offered sharp edges and framed photographs that made wounds more probable.
The room had been altered into a prison, and for years, that was exactly what it served as.
Closing her eyes, Lucy could hear panicked screams of Emily Morrison and desperate requests for fresh air, unadulterated compliance in fear of losing her life and no less, the pursuance of knowledge in the long hours she remained awake, unable to sleep on account of Hunter’s appearances.
Wisps of a redhead passed as Lucy turned her head, the rattle of chains following Emily’s every motion. A book vaulted across the room in utter anger, tears littering supple cheeks among cries for a family that had no idea if she was even still breathing.
“Hang on,” Lucy softly said, staring after the quick moving nineteen year old pacing the excuse for a home. “You can’t do this.”
The redhead reached as far as she could, tugging on the chain around her ankle as she peered up the dark staircase. “Something’s happened,” Emily mumbled with cautious eyes. She let her attention dart from the mounted clock to the only window she’d had for seven years. “He always comes down at nine.”
Emily hastily darted from one end of her chain the to next, peering out the weathered window for any sign of headlights. She hadn’t heard him come home and she wasn’t sure if it was comforting or not. Her heart rammed in her chest, the echo of it bleeding through her ears as she let her ambition raise itself higher and her eyes fall on the oddly lumpy pillow on top of her makeshift bed.
Lucy’s eyebrows furrowed, unsure of what a pillow could provide in her panic. “Emily?”
But the teen saw no evidence of Lucy’s existence as she forcefully picked up the ruby square and flipped it over. She pulled the overlapping middle apart, revealing a collection of items accumulated over the years that had remained stealthily hidden from Hunter at all costs.
“I can do it now.”
Glancing over her shoulder to the staircase, Lucy somehow knew that Hunter was growing too close for comfort. “Emily, you shouldn’t. He’ll be here soon.”
Emily, however, couldn’t hear her.
The redhead was quick to remove a hefty screwdriver, her breath uneven as she went up on her toes and grasped the ledge of the window. She drew back her arm, wielding the handle of the tool she’d collected two years prior and slammed the sharp end against the window.
Both Lucy and Emily jumped as the glass shattered, the author impulsively looking above as if someone would emerge from the vacant floors above.
Emily took no consideration on her palm, pulling the remaining pieces of glass from the frame viciously and dropping them to ground around her bare feet. Although only momentarily, she allowed herself a deep breath of fresh hair, inhaling like she’d never be able to again. “Get it together,” she quickly told herself, suddenly on the move to use her stacks of books as a boost to get out of window.
It was only when Emily turned to Lucy that the room grew cold, fully submersing the writer like a tidal wave.
“Help me or he’ll catch us,” the ginger nearly demanded, putting the heaviest volumes at the bottom of the pile. “This might be the only chance we have.”
Lucy’s motive switched, immediately beginning to help Emily build the pile high enough for the two of them to climb out the high window.
But then there were headlights.
“No, no, no, this can’t be happening,” Emily wailed, still tied to the dead bolted platform on the basement floor.
“Keep stacking,” Lucy told her with hope in her voice, any other intention gone. Her heart was telling her that if they didn’t get out, she would die too. She bolted across the room, quickly hauling it up the stair to the first floor of the home. The moment she’d come across the bolt cutter she’d seen previously by the door, a band of yellow light crossed her face through the living room curtains, eyes widening to the size of the moon. She swore to herself, tripping over firewood on her dash to get downstairs. “Here!” she called in the quietest voice she could, running over Emily.
Lucy quickly snapped the chain from its clutch on Emily, dropping them to the side and helping the redhead gain her balance on the makeshift stool. “You have to do this now,” she said, eyes going upwards as she heard a door shut. “Now, Emily.”
The skinny figure of Emily wiggled her way out onto the grass she’d dreamed of touching for seven years. Her muscles were weak from lack of use, but she still made it.
“Run! He’ll catch you on the street, go to the woods!” Lucy jumped up onto the pile of books, able to hear a sudden commotion from above. “Go!”
But Emily wouldn’t take it, instead reaching down and grasping Lucy’s arms, helping to pull her through the thin window.
“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?”
Covered in dirt and fear, Lucy quickly jumped to her feet, hand in Emily’s. “Don’t look back. Now!”
And at Lucy’s word, the two bolted across the back of the Hunter property at the fastest speed humanly possible, fear in every inch.
The front door slammed behind them, Neil Hunter on the move.
“GET BACK HERE!”
Panting and covered in cold sweat, Lucy looked over to Emily as they ran for their lives. “You keep running. You keep running no matter what, okay?”
With fear embedded into her features, the freckle faced girl gave Lucy a nod, it the closest thing to a blood promise that they could reach.
Lucy could feel herself losing it, her stride growing slower. She let go of Emily’s hand, “Go! Keep going!”
“I-” But in the terror that reached Emily’s eyes when she looked back to Lucy while running gave away a whole story.
Hunter was behind them.
“RUN!” Lucy yelled through a struggled breath, falling behind but attempting to remain persistent in her escape. She was never one for running, but she tried to be a better self in the face of death.
It was only when the air shifted and a pang of a flying object caused Lucy Hamilton to stop dead in her tracks, a warmth of pain blossoming through her spine and overtaking her senses.
Lucy’s lips parted, the heat of pain soon being overturned by searing cold as she fell to her knees on the crumpled leaves, a wisp of blood dripping from the corner of her mouth.
The wind blew heavily, ruffling the leaves above Lucy’s eyes before vanishing into the sky. The pain flooded away and the night moved back into the calm, warm late summer air.
“Who’s out there?”
Lucy brought a hand to her face, any sign of blood gone from her lips. Reaching behind her, she felt for the axe that impaled her back but was only met with the soft fabric of her hoodie. She let out a wincing sigh, slowly rising up from the ground, seemingly in the very same spot Emily Morrison had met her end. The brunette brushed off her knees, only finding that she’d lost her cap when she’d gone to adjust it.
Lucy turned over her shoulder, half expecting Neil Hunter to be holding her ball cap and an axe.
However, Marina Phillips stood in wait.
The author shut her eyes as she recognized the FBI agent carrying her cap and a flashlight pointed directly at her. “Well, shit.”