Chapter 5: Candi...
No lights. No fucking lights. It’s all I can think about. There hasn’t been any more noise from upstairs since the lights went out. Rationally, I know it’s only been a minute or two. But, it feels like hours have passed. Forcing myself to snap out of it, I crawl back towards where I think the table is. It takes a while, but I finally bump into it. Reaching up, I feel around until I find my phone.
I try calling out, but there’s no signal. There’s a flashlight app on there, though. I had the guy at the phone store add it on there because I really am afraid of the dark. Obviously. Look how bad I’m panicking over being in the dark right now. My hands are sweaty, but I finally manage to find the app and get it turned on.
The first thing I do is stand up and slowly start up the stairs. There’s still no noise. It sounded like whoever it was left as soon as they plunged me into a waking nightmare down here. When I make it to the door, my fears are confirmed. I’m locked in. I try to knock it open with my shoulder, but all that does is make my arm and shoulder hurt.
I start banging on the door with the side of my fist, screaming “Somebody help me!” at the top of my lungs. I stop after my voice goes hoarse. I turn around and slide down the door, sitting on the top step. From here, with my little bit of flash light, it looks like an abyss down there. Now all I can think about is that damn doll. It was only slightly creepy before. Now I feel like it’s sitting down there at the bottom of the steps… staring back… waiting for my light to go out.
Was that eyes? I just saw a glint of something down there. I blink my eyes a few times, trying to make sure they’re clear. I’ve been staring down into the dark so long they’re starting to water. I don’t even bother to wipe away the tears that are streaming down my cheeks. Just keep staring into the darkness. I don’t see anything else, so it must have been my eyes playing tricks on me.
Every creak of the house settling makes me jump. Then something else makes me freeze in terror. There’s whispering. It sounds like little kids whispering. Coming from the basement. I can’t make out what they’re saying. The temperature has been steadily dropping down here, so I’m shivering, with my arms wrapped around my middle, with one hand facing out, shining the light down the steps.
That whispering just keeps going. And then there’s a sound. Almost a rustling sound. Like someone is trying to move around all that crap down there. Oh God! I’m gonna die alone… in this creepy ass basement. I’m freaking out even more now, trying to get my breath.
Something warm brushes my cheek. I start flailing and almost go rolling down the stairs. Shining the light around, there’s nothing there. Then it feels like a hand is lightly running over my hair. I just close my eyes and try to breathe, not moving a muscle. Maybe if I’m really still they won’t hurt me.
My light starts to dim and I look down at my phone. What the hell? I charged my phone this morning. It shouldn’t be going dead already. But, there it is. The battery indicator is in the red. Suddenly I’m plunged right back into total darkness.
I swear I hear a whispered “oops” from below me. The thing that was brushing over my hair goes back to what it was doing. I keep hearing “It’s ok” whispered over and over. Have I lost my mind in the dark? It almost sounds motherly, that voice. Regardless of how motherly it is, it’s totally not helping right now.
It’s barely daylight when I pull up to the house. The Mustang is parked out front and there are no lights on at all. I tried calling Chris about an hour ago, but no answer. He’s probably still asleep. I’m an idiot for not thinking of him sooner. He has a key. He could’ve came out and actually went inside to check on her.
I let myself and immediately start calling her name, going room to room. Once I’ve covered the entire ground floor, I head upstairs. Her bed doesn’t look slept in. I’m cutting on lights as I go, so the house is completely lit up. There’s no way I would miss her if she were up here.
My phone rings in my pocket and I don’t even say hello, “Chris! Is my sister with you?”
“Huh? No. Why would she be with me?”
“Fuck! She’s not home.”
I hear him moving around, probably getting out of bed, “What do you mean, not there? Where the hell would she go? And what are you doing back so early?”
I take a minute to explain my night, in short, to the point, sentences. He says, “I’m on my way.” And hangs up.
I don’t know what else to do, so I go back to trying her phone. It’s still going to voicemail. So, I start looking a bit closer around the house. Going back outside, I check all the doors and windows, searching for anything out of the usual.
Nothing. That’s exactly what I find. No scratches on the window seals or around the locks on the door. It just looks like she got in a car with someone and left. And the driveway is covered in gravel so I can’t even look for tire prints.
I must have been out here for a while, because Chris comes barreling up in his red truck and skids to a stop beside the rental truck. He steps out and asks, “Anything?”
I shake my head and tell him everything I’ve looked at and done since I got here. We both go back inside and he stops in the doorway, turning to me and saying, “The basement?”
“You named off all the rooms in the house… except that one. Did you check the basement?”
When my eyes go wide, we both take off running for the basement door. It’s locked from the outside, so it’s highly unlikely she’s down there. But I’m not leaving anything to chance, so I reach out and open the door.
We both jump back out of the way when something falls backwards. It’s her!! She lays there for a minute, staring up at us. Her eyes are completely glazed over. I’m knocked out of my momentary shock when she blinks, draws in a deep breath, and lets out a blood curdling scream, trying to crawl backwards away from us.
I reach down and pick her up, sitting down with her in my lap, trying to hold her still and calm her down. She’s thrashing so much, I’m starting to worry about her hurting herself.
I start yelling, “CANDI, IT’S ME! CANDACE! CANDI STOP! IT’S YOUR BROTHER!”
That finally makes her stop and look at me. She’s breathing like she just ran a marathon and I can still see the panic in her eyes. It takes her a minute, but she finally collapses against my chest and starts sobbing.
I’m holding her tight and rocking back and forth when I look up and see Chris still standing there. “Dude, snap out of it. I’m not holding you, too.”
He looks at me and whispers, “Her hair.”
He clears his throat and, a little louder than before, says, “Her hair… look at it. What the fuck happened to her?”
I look down and see what escaped my notice before. Her hair is completely white. She finally stops crying and I start asking questions.
“What happened, sissy?” Fuck, I’m reverting to the baby stage. When we were little, we called each other “sissy” and “bubba” because we couldn’t pronounce the real titles or our names properly.
She takes another shuddering breath, leans up and says, “Locked downstairs. Someone… someone was in the house. They locked the door and turned off the light.”
I don’t even have to hear anything else. She’s always panicked when the lights went out. “What about your phone?”
“It died. And there’s a creepy doll. And whispering. And something touched me.”
When she starts sobbing again, I pull her head back down to my chest, run my hand down her hair and whisper, “Shhh, it’s ok now, you’re out.”
You’d think I just told her I was planning her murder, with how quickly she scrambles away from me, crawling backwards. “Candi, what is it? What’s wrong?”
She starts shaking her head, really fast, “Don’t say that. Don’t say that. Don’t say that.”
I yell, trying to be heard over her mantra, “Don’t say what?”
“It’s ok. You’re ok…” She lets out another sob, “That’s what the whispering voice was saying.” She’s shaking like a leaf, so I try to reach for her again, but she jumps up and runs to Chris.
Fuck! She’s never pulled away from me like that. It shatters me to see her scared of me right now. She’s standing there, arms wrapped around his waist, with his hands running up and down her back. I stand up and slowly walk over towards them.
Holding my hands out to my sides, I say, “Candi, it’s just me. I’m your brother, remember? I’m not gonna hurt you.”
She sniffles, nods, and starts backing away from Chris, turning towards me. Then I look down at her fisted hands.
“Jesus! You need to go to the hospital.”
She starts shaking her head again. “No. I don’t want to.”
I motion to her hands, “Candi, your hands are in shreds. And your shoulder…”
She looks down at her hands, opening them up and turning them this way and that. She looks shocked when she sees it. Her hands look like she was beating them against something and there’s a huge bruise running from her shoulder down to her elbow.
She walks over to the basement door, pulling it open, and looks at the inside. When she sucks in a breath, I walk over to see what she’s looking at. There’s blood all over it. Her blood, apparently.
“What happened? What did you do?”
She looks back up at me, “I couldn’t get out. I didn’t know I banged on the door that hard.”
I run my hands down over my face, “Ok. We need to get you looked at.”
She shakes her head again. “I don’t want to.” She holds her hands up, “Look, it’s not that bad. I’ve got some peroxide in the bathroom. I’ll just bandage them up. It’ll be fine.” She looks back down into the dark basement. “Can someone see if there’s somebody down there?”
“You were down there all night. Wouldn’t you know if somebody was down there?”
She looks back up at me and I see the fear coming back, “I told you. Somebody touched me. And there were whispers.”
I look over at Chris, standing behind her, “Stay here with her.” And I turn on the light, going down into the basement. There’s nothing down here but a bunch of crap. When I get back upstairs, she’s standing there with her arms wrapped around her middle, staring at the door.
“Candi, there’s nothing there. Are you sure you heard someone?”
She nods, “Yes. It was when I was sitting on top of the stairs. It got worse when the light on my phone died.”
I blow out a breath, “Honey, I think you imagined it.”
When she looks at me with indignation, I hold up a hand and continue, “Just listen. You’re scared of the dark. You got locked in and the lights went out. It probably put your mind in overdrive. You imagined the voices and the touch.” I reach out and grab one of her dreadlocks, holding it up in front of her face, “Hell, you were so scared your damn hair turned white.”
She nods, reluctantly, and turns towards the foyer. I’m going upstairs to shower. Somebody can help me with my hands when I’m done.”
As she walks out of the room, I look over at Chris, “Somebody was obviously here.”
He nods, “The door was definitely locked from this side and the lights turned off. I don’t see her willingly going down there in the dark.”
“So what the hell are we gonna do?”
“Well, for one, we call the cops.”
I remember the older sounding cop from last night, Matthews, and pull out my phone. When I get through, I ask for him again and I’m immediately transferred. I relay everything that happened when I got here and he promises to be here as soon as possible. That done, I look back at Chris.
“There’s no sign anybody broke in. I checked every door and every window before you got here.”
He nods, “It’s possible she forgot to lock the door.”
“Fuck. Yeah, it is. I noticed there was a bunch of new stuff in the kitchen, so she went out by herself and brought it back by herself. Which means she probably didn’t lock the door after she brought it in.”
A knock on the front door interrupts or speculations. I walk over and jerk it open and immediately I’m suspicious. There’s no way in hell this is the cop. This dude barely looks older than us.
“Who the hell are you?” I bark at him.
He backs up in surprise, “Umm… Hi. I’m Kieran. Is Candi home?”
My eyes narrow. My first suspect. “How do you know her?”
“Oh! I met her yesterday. I helped her bring her stuff inside and get it set up.”
I take a step towards him, reveling in the fact that he backs up two steps to my one, “And after that?”
“After you helped her… what did you do then?”
His eyes go wide. “Dude, I didn’t do anything with her. You’re her brother, right? She was talking about you. I left. She invited me to dinner but I already had plans last night. I was just coming by today to see if she wanted to go get some breakfast.”
He looks too terrified to be lying, so I back up into the house, letting him inside. “She’s not going anywhere this morning. Cops are on their way here.”
He sucks in a breath, “What? What happened? Is she ok?”
I shake my head, “Someone broke in last night, locked her in the basement, and turned off the lights on her. We didn’t get here until this morning.”
“Damn it!! I knew I should have cancelled and stayed here.”
“I had a bad feeling when I left her alone last night. That’s really why I’m here this morning. I wanted to check on her.”
Closing the door behind him, I cross my arms back over my chest. Yeah, I’m doing my best to be intimidating. I’m not oblivious to how I look. I’m a big dude. These arms are the result of hard work. I may be a trust fund baby, but I look more like a biker, in my opinion. When Candi wanted a full sleeve tat… well… we may be fraternal twins, but we ARE twins, nonetheless. I went with her and we put two artists to work at once. Hers looks like a jungle scene, with flowers and salamanders and all that shit. Mine? Mine looks a little manlier. There’s some fire in there, with a few other designs. The designs side by side are beautiful. And that was the whole point. We’re not mirror images, but our tats pretty much are. Her water to my fire. Beautiful creation and destructive flames.
Dude is not small, either. He’s not muscled up or anything. But he’s decent sized. Still… I got him beat. It does my heart good to see the fear in his eyes. He damn well better be scared. Especially if he’s trying to get with my sister. Don’t get me wrong. I know she’s not a virgin and I’d be a hypocrite if I tried to keep her from getting some play. BUT… she’s my sister. And she already had a son of a bitch treat her like dirt. I won’t be letting that happen again. Not anytime soon.
I break off my stare to glance upstairs when I hear Candi yelling, “I’M NOT GOING AND THAT’S FINAL!!” There’s a mumble from Chris and then she comes stomping down the stairs, stops at the bottom and turns back to him, standing right behind her, “I DON’T NEED IT! I TOLD YOU I’M FINE. JUST LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!”
Figuring it’s about time to step in, before this escalates, I walk up to her and clear my throat, “GUYS!” When both their heads snap my way, I continue, in a more normal voice, “What’s the problem?”
Candi narrows her eyes and points at Chris, “This asshole won’t leave me alone.”
I raise an eyebrow at Chris and he rolls his eyes, “Dude, she needs to go to the ER. Have you looked at her shoulder?”
I look down at the very visible bruise she’s sporting. She put on a red tank and some stretchy black pants… I think they’re called yoga pants or some shit… and the bruise starts at her shoulder and runs down to her elbow. Taking my inspection a little further, I grab her hands and look at them. They look better than they did earlier. Most of it must have just needed to be washed off. They’re scraped and busted open in a couple places, but, for the most part, they look fine.
I look in her eyes, seeing the pain in there, “Sissy… you know I won’t force it. But, you probably need to get that shoulder looked at. It looks pretty bad.”
She yells “UGH!!” and throws her arms up in the air, “I can’t believe you’re taking HIS side over MINE!” Well, she obviously has a decent range of motion in the shoulder, if she can throw her arms like that without even a flinch.
“I’m not. Just… you scared the shit out of me, ok?” When she looks down at the floor, I continue, “Just promise… if it gets worse… just promise you’ll go. I won’t push you right now, but if it gets worse…”
She looks up at me, with tears in her eyes and nods, whispering, “Promise, Bubba.”
The voice coming from behind me has my whole frame stiffening back up, “Hey, you ok?”
She looks startled to see that fucker standing there, but recovers quickly. “Yeah, I’m fine. What are you doing here, Kieran?”
“Oh! I was just coming by to see if you wanted to go for breakfast. But, um… you’ve got a lot going on. So…”
She shakes her head, “No, I don’t wanna go out anywhere. You’re welcome to stick around for a bit, though. I’m sure I can get something together for breakfast.”
“No… no, you… you shouldn’t be cooking. I’ll… um…. I can eat later. You wanna… maybe watch a movie or something?”
Fucking pussy. He looks terrified, glancing between me and Chris, so I take a second to look back over my shoulder and damn near ruin it by laughing. Chris has taken up the exact same stance as me… arms crossed, feet planted shoulder width apart, scowl in place… right behind Candi on the stairs.
She obviously gets that we’re not having this shit, though. Because after a quick look between the two of us, she says, “Maybe later. Right now, I just want to lie down for a bit.”
He nods, “Yeah, ok. I get it. I’ll stop by and check on you later.” And he turns and leaves. Finally. Stupid fucker. He needs to quit sniffing around my sister. I’m still not totally convinced it wasn’t him that locked her downstairs last night.
Another knock at the door has me scowling and muttering, “Jesus, Grand Central Fucking Station.”
It’s Officer Matthews, though. And he brought a female cop with him. Now this? This is the company I can get behind. Literally. Behind her, holding that bun she has her black hair up in, making her scream my name. Shit… sister… traumatized…
I reach my hand out, “Thank you for coming. I’m Camden.” I motion behind me, “This is my sister, Candace, and a friend, Chris.”
He nods, “And Candace is the one that was locked in the basement?” When I nod, he walks over to her, putting a hand on her uninjured arm, “I’m so sorry sweetheart. I should have found a way in here and checked further for you last night. I’m so sorry I didn’t know you were down there.”
She smiles at him, “It’s not your fault. But thank you.”
The fuck hot cop steps forward, holding her hand out to Candi, “Hi, I’m Cassie. We’ll need to get some pictures of your injuries for the report and we thought it’d be easier with me than him.” She throws a thumb over her shoulder towards the older man.
Candi nods and leads the way to the downstairs bathroom. Damn… officer hotness has some ass on her. Again, I’m a big guy. Tiny girls don’t do it for me. That girl, though? She’s got ass for days and her uniform top was straining against those big…
Matthews clears his throat, reminding me to stop looking at her ass. “Camden, if you can just fill me in on exactly what happened once you got here, and show me where you found her… that would be a lot of help.”
I nod and lead the way to the kitchen… and that damn basement.