“Locked in?!” Daisy sobbed, pulling away from Carmen only to throw her head back into the Latina woman’s shoulder.
“Okay, define ‘locked in’.” Harper requested, stopping his pacing to stand directly in front of Rowan who looked flabbergasted.
Rowan threw her hands up in the air like she had tossed up confetti. “We’re ‘caged’ in.” she restated. “’Barred in’… whatever you want to call it.”
“But the door’s open…?” Carmen her eyes glancing between the hole in the door and Rowan’s face, her right hand petting the back of Daisy’s head.
“It’s the porch.” Rowan replied simply.
“Okay, no, this is ridiculous.” Harper pushed by Rowan and nearly ran into Oliver as he came back in. Still curious, Harper stepped through the hole - the busted door was only broken through on the right side of the double doors - the gap only tall enough that an adult could fit through by ducking their head while simultaneously stepping over a part of the door that still stood via connection with the hinge. Harper disappeared behind the door and investigated the outside cage. He watched Carl with concern to the man’s attempt of escape, but remained silent.
“Well the whole place can’t be locked down!” Matthew shouted to get everyone’s attention before they could go off on another uncontrollable shouting match.
Harper returned with a grim look on his face but stood beside Matthew, nodding his agreement while looking to everyone individually. James dropped his hand away from his face to stuff it in his hoodie pocket.
“Yeah, there’re other doors, and windows we can check.” Harper pointed out and before anything could be said about it, the group disbanded and ran to find other ways out.
To the right of the stairs was a large double door, closed tight. Carey and Calley tried to break it down by taking turns in running to kick down or running to slam their shoulders into the inside of the doors.
Louis and Aidan went upstairs with Carmen and Daisy, checking the rest of the doors. Louis suggesting they start back in the room they started with while Carmen and Daisy started by trying to open the doors on the right side.
“That window had been awful bright, and I don’t remember seeing any bars… so…” Louis shrugged but the woman, Aidan, only replied with a subtle nod. “I don’t think I ever heard you name…?”
“I don’t know it.” She replied curtly, her voice rather low for such a thin woman.
Louis nodded and gestured with his hand towards her arm, “Well, I know… but what’s your arm say?”
There was a pause and Louis shook his head, assuming she was refusing to reply when she finally spoke up, “Aidan.”
“Aidan, I’m Louis.”
“So you think.” Aidan replied, pushing a handful of long braids over her left shoulder. “but your arm said ‘Lu’…”
They turned into the last door on the left, where they’d all woken from- dirt still trailed into the room. “What are you expecting to find in here?” She questioned.
“A way out?”
“From the second floor? I don’t think you’d make it.” She admitted, looking the brittle man up and down.
Louis looked at her angrily but remained silent.
Matthew ran after Rowan who’d run down the hall to the left of the stairs and made a quick left turn into an immaculate kitchen. “Window,” Rowan pointed to a small, double hung window that was directly above the kitchen sink, to the right of the room, center of the wall. Matthew nodded and started to pull drawers open to find something to shatter the glass with – Rowan helped search but she often looked over her shoulder at the loud bangs coming from Carey and Calley.
She slammed another drawer shut when it only revealed spices and went down the next drawer to her left, silverware. Matthew was opening and shutting all the cabinets, both the ones below and above the laminate counters. He shifted to the pantry that was positioned farthest from the hall entrance, to the left of the fridge, finding nothing. “Anything?” He asked, barely turning as he questioned her.
When she didn’t reply, he turned to look but didn’t reiterate as he too remained silent as Carl, silently walked into the kitchen, grabbed a knife from the knife block on the kitchen island, and walked out just as wordlessly.
After Carl had disappeared back into the hall, Rowan turned to Matthew with a confused look. “What the hell was that?” She tossed a pointed thumb over her shoulder, in the direction Carl had left.
He shrugged animatedly, “Carl’s crazy.”
“Crazy Carl!” She laughed.
Matthew chuckled and reiterated his last question to her, ‘Find anything?’
Just as she was about to reply, she opened the drawer of the island in the center of the kitchen and smiled. She pulled out a meat mallet and revealed it with grandeur. “Yup,” They shared a smile and he took it from her.
“Okay, stand back.” He ordered and she walked around the island and backed up towards the archway to the dining room.
Carl, knife in hand – the tip pointed up towards the vaulted ceiling – walked calmly passed Carey and Calley in the hall and ducked through the front door. They both shared a concerned look as they’d watched him pass but said nothing as they went back to battering against the door.
Harper, barely noticing Carl, ran into the living room, which entrance mirrored the one with closed doors that Calley and Carey were trying to beat down. James came up behind him but made no indication he was there, not that it was needed – the brunette knew of his presence.
“Window,” Harper pointed at one of the three large windows in the room – unaware that two rooms over that he’d echoed Rowan. The neutral room was relatively large; there were two large archways that led into the room, one from the foyer, which was not centered but more to the left of the wall, and one to the dining room which was adjacent to the foyer entrance – directly center of the right wall.
“So, uh, what do you wanna use?” James asked, coming to stand in front of a white stoned fireplace that was center of the far wall from the foyer with two custom, colonial windows on either side of the mantle.
Harper looked around, coming to stand behind a cream-colored couch that sat parallel of the fireplace, his hands resting on the backrest. “I dunno,” He looked to his left and looked through the large bay window, and the mini bar directly in front of it. “Maybe, throw the bar through it?”
James laughed heartily but when he made eye contact with Harper again, his smile fell. “-Oh, you’re serious.” He looked at the fully stocked mini bar and stepped towards it, stopping at the edge of a loveseat that matched the couch and lounge chair, which was to the right of the couch. “Well, can we at least take the, uh, bottles and stuff off?” He gestured to it exaggeratedly.
The older of the two men chuckled before he ran his right hand up and down his rough stubbled cheek, making a scratching sound. “Yeah, alright.” He backed away from the couch and started to walk towards the bar, James also heading for the bar with wheels but they both stopped dead in their tracks at the sound of glass shattering.
Cutting through the dining room, through the large archway, they ran into the kitchen- Harper nearly running Rowan over in his haste. “Hey!” She recoiled her shoulder and sidestepped away from him.
“Sorry,” he held his hands up in defense but seeing her attitude he changed from sincere to dismissive. “-What was that?” He looked to Matthew who was in the process of tossing the mallet into the porcelain sink, glass rattling and breaking with the contact to heavy metal.
“Now we just have to break the bars down.” Matthew indicated behind him, with his thumb tossed over his shoulder, to the window.
The four were soon joined by Calley, Carey, Aidan, and Louis who came running at hearing the commotion.
“What- who are you?” Carey pointed at Aidan.
She stared blankly at him, uninterested in replying. Louis replied for her, “Her arm says, ‘Aidan’.” She glared at Louis in response but remained silent.
“Whatever,” Carey waved his hand dismissively then turned to Matthew who still stood by the kitchen sink, “What are you doing?” he pointed at the broken window.
Rowan gestured to it. “We can push the bars from the wall and get out.”
Louis laughed and gestured animatedly, “Has anyone thought to look for another door out?”
“What do you think we’ve been doing?” Harper crossed his arms and pivoted to face the eldest man.
Oliver laughed bitterly and gestured at the old man aggressively. “Are ya kiddin’ meh old man? Do you not see all the locked doors and bars e’where?” He gave the man a dumb look despite his eyes being lit with irritation.
“Did you just call me ‘old man’?” He challenged Oliver with a look only a seasoned man could give a younger man. The ‘ruggedly handsome’ man shrugged dismissively. “I prefer ‘experienced’.” To which Oliver laughed but was silenced by the auburn haired woman who continued the conversation.
Nodding subtly she looked to the white haired man, “There’s not exactly an exit sign anywhere.” referring to his comment about ‘another door’. Louis just shook his head and stuffed his aged hands in his pockets. “Whoever locked us in here… had intentions of keeping us here.” She finished, looking between everyone in the room.
Matthew broke the silence that fell over the group, “Everyone should keep looking for other doors or windows to get out of.” He suggested in an authoritative voice. After a few moments of hesitation, the groups broke off again and continued to explore the mansion for ways out or anything of use.
“We shoulda got a guy ta come with us…” Daisy mumbled as they checked another, what they could only presume was a bedroom door – locked, just like the others. They’d gone upstairs and missed the commotion and impromptu meeting in the kitchen.
Carmen laughed bitterly, “No, we don’t need them.” A look passed through her eyes as though she was surprised by her own comment- her words an instinctual reaction as opposed to one of malicious intent.
“I would just, like, I’d feel, like, a lot safer…” Daisy muttered under her breath and shook her head in mindless effort to make a point. “Ya know?”
“Trust me, you wouldn’t.” Carmen muttered with a faraway look in her eye.
Daisy’s head snapped to her left to glare at Carmen, “How do you know how I feel or how I dun’t?” Carmen lowered her gaze and sighed softly but didn’t respond, instead she tried a door and was surprised when it opened effortlessly and without so much as a small squeak. “What I wouldn’t give for a cigarette right no-” Daisy had continued to walk forward, not realizing Carmen had stopped to try another door but she stopped midsentence when she heard the door and Carmen’s surprised gasp.
Back tracking as fast as possible she pushed between Carmen and the door frame to peer inside. After discovering what was inside, the blond smiled brightly, “Oh thank God!” She ran inside and squatted on the toilet without even bothering to close the door or say anything more.
Blushing at Daisy’s forwardness, Carmen turned her back and watched for any men coming by. No longer than a few seconds later the toilet flushed.
Calley walked into the dining room, which separated the kitchen from the living room, where Louis and Matthew were mid-discussion about Oliver.
“I don’t like his attitude, he’s violent and loud… disrespectful.” Louis had to look up slightly to meet Matthew’s taller height. “And Aidan is no better…”
“What’s wrong with her? I haven’t heard her say a single word…”
“Well I have and it wasn’t so appropriate.”
“Appropriate?” Matthew laughed but Louis stood his ground, he didn’t like either of them. “and that guy, whatshisname, is just a city slick with a bad attitude. You could tell that just from the way he’s dressed… and the hipster guy, uh…” he snapped his fingers.
“Harper.” Calley interjected while looking around the rest of the room absentmindedly. Painted a wine red, with a high ceiling and a single, large, black chandelier hanging directly above the center of the long, cherry oak table - the chandelier was lit in low lighting, the room seemed perfect for a romantic dinner.
“Right, him… he’s probably spot on with the ‘addict assumption’ too.” The salt and peppered haired man finished and shrugged, referring to Harper’s previous comment- deeming Louis’ judgment irrelevant.
“I’m more concerned with how we got locked in with him.” Calley commented as he walked up beside the other two men, briefly looking up at the exquisite chandelier hanging from the raised ceiling.
All three men fell into silence, Louis and Matthew as they considered the reasons for being locked in the house.
Harper came up to stand beside the front door, nodding at Aidan who stood in front of the double door that Calley and Carey had previously tried to kick down but failed. The slender woman stared coldly before turning her back to him. His eyes went wide with amusement at her attitude before stepping closer to the front door.
Seeing Rowan standing out on the porch, Harper greeted her. “I feel like a trapped animal…” he stepped over the splintered door where it still lay in shards of broken wood. Rowan jumped at the sound of his voice and spun around. “Oh, shit… sorry. I really, really didn’t mean to scare you.” He held his hands out in defense as he ducked through the hole in the door and came to stand by Rowan on the white stone porch.
“Who’s ‘scared’? I was just turning to look at you.” She covered her look of fright with a passive roll of the eyes as she turned back around to face the acres of field in front of her. It’d been hours but the harsh light of midday still lit the sky.
Harper turned his head down and to the left to look down at Carl who was crouched in front of the bars, sawing a single bar near the bottom. The gray metal bar was rubbed white with the friction and dust lay in a pile at Carl’s feet.
Rowan smirked and shrugged exaggeratedly, catching Harpers staggered look, before turning to look back out the front of the house.
There were three steps down following the landing but they couldn’t descend them. Around the landing was a cage, the bars cut into the stone bricks, disallowing any sort of escape but their distended placement permitted at least four people to stand outside the house – to get some fresh air.
Rowan took a deep breath through her nose and, in a meditative release, breathed out through her pursed lips. Though they were at the front of the house, there was no driveway whether gravel nor paved, only grass, wild flowers, and a tree line miles from the house- just acres and acres of empty fields.
“It’s so quiet…” She sighed, her brows knitted with concern. “Where are we… and why are we locked in… there’s not even a gate!” She motioned to the front of the cage where a well-placed gate would be ideal.
Harper rubbed the back of his neck and huffed, “I dunno.”
“I just don’t understand,” she commented dejectedly. Harper rose a hand to her shoulder, in attempt to comfort, unseen by her, but didn’t touch down- simply hovered awkwardly before stuffing his hand back into his jean pocket. “The sun hasn’t moved and there is no sound… no wind, no bugs, animals… nothing.” She continued and crossed her arms in a closed effort of comfort to herself.
“Listen,” she shushed but didn’t turn to him, just stretched her neck out further, “You hear that?”
“I don’t hear anything.” He admitted after a moment of silence.
Louis pulled at his bowtie, the knot coming undone and he let the ends of the tie hang loosely around his neck. “I’ve never heard of somethin’ like this, have you?” He asked and both Calley and Matthew pulled themselves from their own thoughts.
“Nothin’ that I’ve ever seen.” Matthew replied and stuck out his lower lip while shaking his head subtly.
“I’ve heard about it, but more tongue n’ cheek… nuthin’ that ever made it into the news, or nuthin’.” Calley remarked.
“Could you be any more vague?” Louis looked to Calley bitterly from over his glasses.
“I’m ju-“ Calley stopped midsentence at the sound of water rushing through pipes overhead. “-was that…?” he pointed up at the ceiling limply.
They paused and listened closely, their eyes staring at different spots around the room as they relied on the sense of hearing. The sound happened again and Matthew smiled, “Toilet.”
“Oh, hallelujah!” Calley exclaimed and lead the race out of the room, leaving through the living room entrance.
As they passed through the living room, they ran by Carey who was at the minibar, pouring himself a drink. At seeing them run by; Carey capped the whiskey bottle, grabbed his filled glass, and ran after them- nearly running into Harper and Rowan who were coming in through the mangled, front door from the caged porch.
“What’s goin’ on?” Harper held his hand out for Rowan to take as she stepped through, which she took while lifting her gray pencil skirt higher on her leg, with her other hand, so she could lift her leg over the splintered wood. “Are you drinking?” He released Rowan’s hand and stared at Carey in a mix of shock and disapproval.
“Yeah, and?” The blond asked and as if to make a point, took a swig from his glass.
Aidan continued to watch each person as they spoke, her eyes darting to each face in turn.
Harper shook his head and looked to the other three men who’d stopped in the middle of the foyer as well, “We heard a toilet flush.” Matthew announced.
The red head made a face as she straightened out her skirt, “Did anyone even see a bathroom?”
Silently, the group looked at one another in turn, waiting for someone to confirm seeing a bathroom or knowing where one was. Oliver came from the kitchen, wiping his mouth of water, with James closely behind. Calley pointed at the tall, bearded man, Oliver, idly. “Wait, where are the ladies and that uh- Carl?” he asked.
“Well, Crazy Carl is on the porch trying to saw his way through the bars…” Rowan informed.
They all looked up the stairs to the second floor, when the girls were still unaccounted for, and in unison all made a break to get to the top of the stairs first. They all gathered around the bathroom door, where Daisy was standing guard- staring at her pink painted nails- just as Carmen came out, looking relieved. “Oh, hey, guys…” Daisy greeted with a brilliant, white smile. “We found a bathroom.” She motioned to the door behind her with her thumb. The two women barely got out of the way in time to avoid being trampled by everyone as they pushed and shoved to get to the porcelain throne first. Carey was the first in, his glass of alcohol still in hand.
After Carey had gotten in the rest of the group fell into a line; Oliver first, followed by Louis, George, Matthew, Aidan, James, Rowan, and finally Harper.
“I feel like I’m back in grade school…” James whispered back to Rowan who smiled.
“I’m just glad there is a bathroom.” Matthew commented.
“Right, ‘cus I was just about to piss in a corner.” Oliver agreed in his way which only earned not so subtle eye rolling from everyone who heard.
Harper, figuring he was already last, stepped out of line to question the two women who’d found the sacred room.
Carey came out, glass of alcohol now empty, and Oliver went in after a bitter comment of; ‘what the hell took you so long’.
“So,” Harper started and stood beside the women who were now leaning on the wall across from the bathroom door, talking. “The bathroom was just… unlocked?” as he said the word, ‘unlocked’ he uncrossed his right arm and gestured with his hand before re-crossing it.
Carmen nodded and Daisy shrugged, “Yeah I guess.” The blond replied, uninterested.
“But all the other rooms were still locked?” He looked to Carmen, dismissing Daisy’s attitude.
Calley came out, nodding at Matthew as he went in – Harper shrugged as he realized he hadn’t seen Oliver or Lu come out. Casually he looked up and down the neutral painted hallway, searching for the two men, as he listened to Carmen explain, step by step, what the two women had been doing when the door opened.
Matthew exited and Aidan stepped into the bathroom.
“So,” he was still looking across the hall, his eyes on Rowan as she watched him with narrowed eyes. “All the others were locked except this one?”
Carmen frowned and crossed her arms at being ignored but she confirmed nonetheless. “Yeah.”
“Okay, thanks, Carmen…” He turned and made eye contact once again when she finished her story, and she nodded- her short hair bobbing with each head movement.
He made his way across the creaky hardwood floor and stepped up beside Rowan who gave him an ornery look, “No cuts.” She declared and he smirked but shifted his gaze around the stretch of doors in the yellowing hallway. Her smirked dropped in reaction to his strange look. “What’s wrong?”
“The door unlocked itself…” He shook his head incredulously and shrugged, “Apparently every other door in this hall is locked except the bedroom and this one.” He pointed to each door accordingly.
Rowan shifted her weight from one leg to the other, the boards creaking with her weight shift. Her voice was soft when she spoke, “No time changes or wind, no animals,” she said, referencing the conversation they’d had while on the porch.. “-doors that unlock themselves… what’s going on here?”
The bathroom door opened and James stepped out. “I don’t know…” Harper kept his voice low and nodded at James when the younger man motioned to the, now, empty bathroom. Shrugging when neither person moved for the toilet, James straightened his hoodie and descended the stairs.
Rowan looked around the hallway and realized they were alone, Carmen and Daisy had both left to follow everyone else back downstairs. “Personally…” she turned her gaze back to Harper just as he brought his gaze back to her, “I really need to use the bathroom.” She let out a nervous laugh and he laughed in return.
“O-kay…” she drawled and took a backwards step towards the bathroom before finally closing the door behind her. Once the door was shut, Harper chuckled to himself.
In the bathroom, Rowan stared at herself in the mirror as though she’d never seen herself before. She turned off the water and turned her head around so she could see the front and both profile sides of her face. Her face was freckled but mostly below her eyes on her cheeks. She had, almost, unusually round, green eyes and a dainty nose that upturned, and full, pale lips. Her unkept bangs swept across her forehead, hiding her eyebrows which were naturally curved but plucked to keep them neat, unlike Daisy who waxed to keep them thinner. With skeptical satisfaction of her face she turned away from the mirror to look around the room.
Fully furnished it had; a cabinet filled with towels, a vanity filled with toothbrushes, toothpaste, and razors. With her lip curled in disgust, she threw the door open and stepped forward so she stood in the doorway.
“What’s wrong?” Harper asked, still waiting outside to take his turn, his brows furrowed with concern at her expression.
“The bathroom is fully stocked.” She shifted her gaze and Harper nodded once then started shaking his head, unsure of what to say.
Rowan looked at him cynically, “Whoever brought us here…” She hesitated as she remembered what was already said in the kitchen. “Really was prepared to have us stay…”
Downstairs, the two of them stepped into the foyer and looked around. Rowan moved into the mini hall that stretched to the left of the staircase and connected the foyer to the kitchen and the only way to two locked doors – assumed to be a lower level bathroom and a basement door.
Harper pivoted on the hardwood flooring, his shoes squeaking, and took three long strides to follow behind the wavy haired red head. Rowan stood rigid, staring at the angled wall the staircase side provided. “Rowan…” he started as he walked slowly up beside her, no reply. “Rowan…”
She stood with her arms crossed and wrapped around her slender middle, “Were these always here?” She asked, pointing with her right index finger to thirteen pictures that hung on the wood paneled wall. When Harper looked, she dropped her hand and wrapped it around her waist again.
The pictures were hung in frames and positioned like ones you would see in a proud grandparents home, matched frames but no particular order nor in straight rows.
However, the pictures in the frames were far from warm and fuzzy; there was a close-up of a brown eye, an empty pill bottle, a kids shoe with blood spatter on it, a fire engine with truck number 415, a leather case filled with empty syringes, the mouth of a cave on a water front, a line of burned down houses, a car that was nose-dived in a river, an empty kitchen, a hotel room door with door number ‘323’, a road sign with the street name; “Maple”, the front of a church, and the only normal looking photo was a school picture of smiling teen.
Slightly disturbed by the eeriness of each picture, Harper shuddered from a chill. “I don’t remember…” he finally answered her question.
“There’re thirteen...” She pointed to one of the pictures, ‘Maple Street’, then to the photograph of the fire engine. It wasn’t so much the pictures themselves but the glass that covered the photos, both were cracked in a spider-web-like pattern.
“Did you break them?” He asked, looking down from the frame to meet her eyes.
She looked at him offended, “No, I didn’t even know they were here. Why would I break them?”
“I was only…” He tried to backtrack his comment but wasn’t sure what he’d said wrong to get such a defensive stance from her. Sighing, he shook his head, “I don’t know what any of this means…” he diverted his attention back to the strange photos on the wall and he was relieved when she did the same, her face changing back into curiosity.
A piercing scream interrupted their discussion and they both turned to run back towards the front of the house. The library - where the crying was originating from - which was now opened, was to the right of the main door, directly across from the living room with an identical archway. Daisy could be heard screaming and crying – again. Sharing a look, Harper and Rowan stepped through the archway and observed, for the first time, the library and the scene it held within.
The library was lined with bookshelves floor to ceiling on every wall, including the wall bearing the entrance to the largest room in the house. A single, floor to ceiling, arched window, sat centered on the far wall to the back of the house, revealing the woods that circled the mansion. Parallel with the large window, in the center of the room, sat an office desk with a plush, tan chair. The large wooden desk was littered with; papers, books, pens, and other office supplies with a single reading lamp, sitting at the corner. Seated at the desk was a middle-aged man dressed in blackest black suit, dress shirt, tie, slacks, and shined dress shoes – dead.
The well-dressed man was leaning back in the chair, his head hanging back over the backrest and his arms sprawled out at his side, a blood covered pen held loosely in his right hand. The blood came from the gaping hole where his right eye used to be.
“When do you think he died?” Matthew asked, standing closest to the man dressed in all black - everyone was circled around the front of the desk in a crescent shape, staring at the body.
Calley clicked his tongue and looked at Matthew in disbelief, “That’s what you’re concerned about?”
James narrowed his eyes as he looked at the face of the dead man. The kids face worried his brow and chewed on his thumbnail in concentration, a thoughtful look on his face.
“Listen,” Matthew squared off to face the black man, “We all woke up around the same time but this door was locked until now. The door didn’t break down but suddenly it is open and there’s a dead guy inside? Yeah, I’m concerned about when but I’m also concerned about how!”
Calley smirked, “Isn’t it obvious, Matt?” The mustached man made a sour face at the ‘nickname’ but remained silent, “The body was here all along and the door magically opened just like the bathroom.” His comment was harmless but it was enough to make the mustached man turn red in the face and neck.
“Uhm, who’s to say that he didn’t wake up before all of us and then, uh, just lock himself in here...?” James interjected, his eyes still lingering on the dead man’s face.
“Okay, but then who re-opened the door?” Calley countered and James turned to hold the black man’s gaze as they discussed the possibilities.
The kid shrugged, “Well he could have unlocked it and then killed himself.”
“No he’s been dead way longer than that-“ Carey said, but everyone was shocked to have to turn towards the body to look at him, he’d slipped behind everyone while they were talking and was now standing behind the body with his glass of whiskey in one hand and the other hand stuffed in his pocket.
“I- what are you doin’?” Matthew nearly choked on his surprise as Carey started to look into the void where the dead man’s eye used to be.
“Nothing.” The blond haired man stood up straight, having been bent over and examining the gouged eye. “But he’s been dead for more than a ‘couple hours’… no way did he unlock the door and then get his eye gouged in less than an hour…” he said, referring to the theory that after Calley and Carey gave up on breaking it down is when the black suited man was killed.
“Okay, everyone out.” Matthew demanded, impatience and irritation etched in his face. Carey shrugged and walked away from the body and rejoined with the group in front of the desk.
“Who made you tha boss?” Daisy, who recovered from her initial panic of seeing the body, quirked an eyebrow, crossed her arms, and leaned back.
“Yeah!” Oliver joined and glared at the older man.
“Whoever doesn’t leave, is the one who killed him.” Matthew stated.
“How do you figure?” Calley chucked and crossed his arms.
While everyone erupted into shouts, accusations, and demands, the alcoholic of the group simply swilled from his glass, not bothering with the argument unfolding in front of him.
Daisy stopped rubbing her crucifix and crossed her arms, “Who said you coul-“
“There’s no reason to-“ Louis tried to diffuse the situation calmly.
Dropping the string of his hoodie from his mouth, and diverting his gaze from the dead man’s face to the current situation, James tried to join in with Louis. “Now wait a second, guys-“
Oliver jabbed a finger in his the kid’s direction. “Shut up, Kid, no one as’ed you nuthin’!”
“Man, what is your problem?” James turned on Oliver defensively, starting a secondary argument to the one already taking place between the others.
“I dun’t like yer face!”
James guffawed, “How is that even relevant?!”
As everyone continued to shout and fight over who was in charge, Rowan moved around the crowd and started rifling through the papers on the desk, periodically looking up to make sure no one was looking at her. “What are you looking for?” Harper whispered to her from behind and she jumped in surprise.
“Clues.” She turned her head enough to show her comment was light hearted, smirking at him.
”Okay, detective…” he winked and brought a smile to her face. When she turned her head to keep looking for ‘clues’ he continued to watch her instead; her red hair as it fell out from its place behind her ears, her emerald eyes darting back and forth as she skimmed each piece of paper, her tongue as it poked out the corner of her plump lips in concentration.
“Look at this!” She held a file out for him to look at, and he quickly diverted his gaze from her face to the papers – hoping she didn’t notice he’d been staring at her the whole time.
Just as the file went into his hands Matthew turned around, “What are you doing?” He stared at Rowan angrily.
“You need to chill out, Matthew!” She put up her right hand gestured at him with a ‘calm down’ movement her palm facing out. The whole group was silent then, curious to what she’d been doing. Rowan took advantage of the moment. “We need to stop accusing one another! We’ve all been buddied up the whole time, so unless two people managed to get the door open while Calley and Carey weren’t beating it down, then killed this guy...”
She stole a quick glance at Harper and was pleased when she saw he’d hidden the file behind his back, folded and tucked in the back of his pants.
Everyone looked between one another, considering her argument. Realizing that they would need to suspect two people not just one, they all submitted. “Fine, then what do we do about him?” Carmen spoke up, her hand outstretched, palm up, gesturing to the body that was still positioned as though he was free falling.
Rowan’s eyes darted back and forth as she considered their options, “Someone needs to pull a blanket from the bedroom we woke up in… we’ll cover him up… and keep searching for ‘magically opened doors’.”
“Daisy,” Oliver motioned the blond woman, “C’mon, we’ll go get a sheet.” She nodded and followed the towering man upstairs.
Matthew blinked slowly and sighed, “Alright, everyone out.” He looked around then made a face, “Where’s Crazy Carl?” He asked and everyone looked around animatedly in search of the crazy eyed, man of few words, Carl.
“Last time I saw him was on the porch,” Harper offered and Matthew nodded before turning and leaving the room.
Everyone else continued to loiter in the library and, James, the kid, stared at the face of the dead man in the chair. James was thoughtful as his eyes studied the features of the once handsome face.
Suddenly, Matthew burst in with a bloody knife and Carmen shrieked and jumped behind the cover of the men around her. “Dude, what the hell?!” Calley shouted and stood in front of the group, falling into a defensive stance.
“This was on the porch.” He commented and held it limply in his hand to show there was no threat from him.
“Well where’s Carl?” Rowan called from behind the desk, still standing beside Harper by the body.
Matthew nodded solemnly.
“Well we better go find him… make sure that blood… we just better find him.” Louis commented and pushed by Matthew to lead the search party. The rest of the group followed behind him begrudgingly.
Bringing up the rear of the group was James, the kid, who groaned exaggeratedly. “I’m hungry…”
After James had disappeared from the line of sight, Harper turned to face Rowan who was already looking at him expectantly, her hand held out to him. Harper smiled wryly, “high five?”
She scoffed and tried to hide her amusement by rolling her eyes. “The file.”
Still smug, he pulled it out from under the back of his shirt and produced the folded, crinkled paper file. “Left me hanging.”
“You’ll live.” She snatched it from him and tossed the opened file on the desk. As she leaned over it to shuffle through the stack of papers, she pulled all of her long red hair over one shoulder to keep it from creating a curtain of hair around her while she tried to read.
The top page was a rap sheet with a thumbnail photo of the dead man in the chair. A handsome man with chiseled features and dark, medium length hair parted down the middle. The name at the top of the paper, “Nick Greene”.
Behind the rap sheet and the paper clipped photograph were following 28 different case reports concerning an ‘un-sub’. The first case started in 1993 ending with the last case in early 2015.
Rowan skimmed the pages, her eyes darting left to right rapidly. Without too many details, she focused in on key words and concluded that each case entailed mention of the un-sub, supposedly the man ‘Nick Greene’, who stalked and murdered girls on their ‘sweet sixteen’ birthday. Each file had a picture of a victim paper-clipped in the top left corner- pictures of pretty girls smiling with enthusiasm at their life ahead of them.
At the back of the file were pages typed up “Cold Case”. Each case a few pages long but had post-its, with “Possible Victims” scribbled on them, stuck to the middle of each page. Including ‘Possible’, there were over 50 cases the ‘un-sub’, Greene, was involved in- or suspected of being involved in. The police sketch, at the front of the file, of the suspect looked identical to the dead man and picture at the front.
“Harper, this guy… killed over fifty sixteen year old girls.” She whispered, tucking her hair behind her ears.
“Seems like a stand-up guy…” He said looking down at the vacant face of the suspected serial killer. The man’s remaining, hazel eye was opened wide and staring back at him. Uncomfortable, Harper diverted his gaze to look back at one of the cases that Rowan had handed him. His brow knitted in confusion, he narrowed his eyes as he tried to read it. He slowly brought the paper closer then held it out further away from him, blinking rapidly and making a strange face.
“What’s your problem?”
“I think I’m far sighted.” He grumbled and dropped the paper down on the desk.
She laughed softly and shook her head before standing back to look down at ‘Nick Greene’. “…it looks like he committed suicide…” She pointed out the ‘murder weapon’ still in his hand.
Harper nodded and shrugged, “You’re right, but why would he kill himself? Did he even try to get out or did he know we were here too…?” He trailed off and he too stepped back to look down at Nick.
“Still doesn’t explain how he got in here in the first place.” Rowan stated, her green eyes burrowing into his temple until he turned his head to the right to meet her gaze.
“Ladies first,” Oliver offered a charming smile and held both his hands out for her, his right low enough to guide her by touching the small of her back, while the other was raised higher to guide her attention up the stairs.
She’d been fingering her cross to calm her nerves and stopped to fold her hands behind her back, “Thank you…” She smiled at him, though her cheeks didn’t flush her smile implied a shyness. As she stepped up the first few stairs, Oliver’s gaze fell down to her behind, watching her as she walked ahead of him.
When they reached the floor he bent down so his lips were right beside her ear, whispering. “We hafta stay tagether,” tucking a strand of long blond hair behind her ear, then letting it slip through his fingers as he rested his hand at the base of her neck. “It’s safer that way…” he continued, as he pulled away, his voice still low but above a whisper.
Daisy had stopped walking and turned to face him, her face raised slightly to make eye contact with him. “Nothin’s safe… not here.” She whispered, tears in her eyes.
“I can keep ya safe… I can protect ya.” Oliver sweetened his offer by brushing the side of her cheek with the back of his fingers. “I may be pretty as an angel, but I sure as hell ain’t one… I’m not afraid ta do what needs ta be done, know what I’m sayin’?”
“I’d do anythin’ to feel safe again…” she continued to whisper, leaning her face in his hand.
Blinking slowly, Oliver nodded and took her hand in his – leading them to the bedroom.
Calley, Carey, and Matthew all stood in the foyer, having come up empty handed in their search for ‘Crazy Carl’. “Where could he have gone?”
“Maybe he found a way out?” Carey mumbled, talking around the edge of his drinking glass.
“And didn’t tell us?” Calley growled with irritation though there was doubt in his voice.
Carey scoffed and lowered his glass to stare, dumbfounded at the black man. “He was crazy. Crazy people don’t think right.”
“Neither do drunkards.” Calley shot back, impatience clear in his voice and stance.
Again, Carey scoffed and swilled from his glass.
“Anyway,” Matthew interjected before the two could argue any further, “If Crazy Carl can find a way out, then we can too.”
They all nodded in agreement until Carey made a small noise in the back of his throat, one of new found realization. “What if,” he gestured in Matthew’s direction with his liquid filled glass, “Crazy Carl… killed-the-man-in-black.” He stated as though he’d just “cracked the case”.
Despite the obvious disdain towards the blond drunk, both men went wide eyed with surprise- knowing he could be right, though neither would admit it.
Carmen fidgeted in her place on the couch, the only woman in a room of men, she felt uncomfortable and avoided eye contact with all of them. She pulled at the sleeves of her blue blouse, pulling them down lower and holding the hems of her shirt in her fisted hands, nervous and distrustful of the men around her.
“So Carmen-“ Calley attempted to make conversation with the restless woman but his voice startled her into blurting the excuse she had prepared in her head.
“I’m going to see if there’s any food!” Her voice was louder than she intended but without another word she stood and turned to her right to go through the dining room and into the kitchen.
“Aw, yes!” James pumped his arm, having already mentioned he was getting hungry – it was about time someone brought up ‘food’. Louis smiled and winked at the younger boy and James smiled back.
Louis stood and made an excuse for following after Carmen. Once he joined her in the kitchen he cleared his throat gently and remained in the archway that united the two rooms. “Everything okay?” He asked and she slammed the pantry door, a box of uncooked rice in her hands. “Other than being trapped in a weird house with a bunch of strangers, that is.” He offered a gentle wink and adjusted his glasses on his nose.
Sighing, Carmen shook her head but replied nonetheless. “I’m uncomfortable.” She admitted, setting the rice on the counter gently.
“No, it’s not.” She clicked her tongue and tilted her head to the side in a timid sign of irritation. “If I knew who I was I could know how to adjust…” she was frustrated, not with the people in the house but with not knowing how to cope.
“Dear,” he began and stepped closer to the woman, Carmen looked up and blinked rapidly a few times before tucking her short hair behind her ears. “We’ll figure something out and we’re all going to be okay.”
“Tell that to the man in the library.” Her Latina accent grew stronger the more she discussed the topic. “Or to Carl…” She sighed and covered her face with both of her feminine hands. “What if Carl killed the man in the library… what if he’s going to kill more of us?”
Louis lowered his gaze as he considered his next words, “We’ll be okay.” He assured, however hollow they sounded due to his true understanding of their situation.
Harper filed the last case back into the envelope and set it down on top of the other papers and files. “Where are they with that damn sheet?” He asked and turned around towards the window where Rowan stood adjacent to it, looking past the bars and into the scenery outside, her arms crossed against her chest. When she didn’t reply, he continued, “Maybe we should go help look for Carl.”
“The sun still hasn’t moved.” She stated and shook her head.
He paused, at her side step to his comments but humored her digression. “Still?”
They both looked to the tree line a few acres out, watching the tree tops for birds or wind passing through the leaves – nothing. Feeling a chill running down his spine, Harper decided to change the topic, for both their sakes. “So, what happened to your lip?” He gestured to his own lip as a mirror and indicator of what he was referring to.
She slowly looked away from the window to meet his gaze once more, “Tried to break up a fight between the kid and Mr. Tough guy…”
“What is that guy’s problem?” He laughed it off but he couldn’t be more serious about Oliver’s temper.
Rowan closed her eyes and slowly shook her head in exaggerated disapproval, “I have no idea.”
Both Daisy and Oliver stepped out of the bedroom, with no sheet or blanket, both of them silent. As they took a few steps down the hallway, Daisy straightened her dress out with one hand and smoothed her mused hair with her other. Abruptly, Oliver stopped and turned to face his left – instinctively, Daisy did the same.
What they saw caused them to also look the opposite direction, to the right of the hall. They shared a look and then, as if on cue, they both turned investigate separately; Oliver to the left and Daisy to the right. Both ran up to the doors they were looking at and peered into the brightly lit rooms. After a few moments of looking inside, they both turned back to face one another and then proceeded to look in the other three quarters that were now opened to them.
Starting from the stairway to the right of it, were three doors that were all, now, open, all of them bedrooms; two rooms with two beds parallel to one-another and one room with one bed. To the left of the stairs were three rooms, one full bathroom – the one they’d discovered opened already – and two bedrooms, one with two beds and the other – the original room they’d all awoken from – with only one bed. All of the bedrooms were plain with hardwood flooring, and furnished with plain, three drawer dressers at the foot of each twin bed in the room, with matching comforters and one pillow each.
Reconvening in the middle of the hall, they shared a wide eyed look and ran back downstairs and into the library – finding only Harper and Rowan standing by the window.
“There you are!” Harper exclaimed, exasperated but then looked confused when he saw that neither of them carried a sheet or blanket after taking so long to get one.
“The other rooms!” Daisy gasped, her baby blue eyes wide with a mix of excitement and fear.
“’The other rooms’, what?” Harper asked and Rowan turned and stood beside Harper with curiosity shining in her eyes.
“They’re open…” Oliver replied, his left eye twitching momentarily.