Short film - Part II
“We’ll take you to the address as soon as backup arrives…”
“But she’s in danger! She –”
“Miss, our priority is finding the guests who disappeared,” the officer said, disappearing back into room 402.
Oh. They don’t believe me. I looked at the napkin, crumpled and sweaty in my hand. For all they know, I wrote this note, and there never was a blonde woman.
I sighed, turned on my heel, and walked briskly down the hallway.
The chatter and blips of radios faded to a low hum. I glanced at the doors, shut tight; as far as I could tell, there were no broken locks, no blood smears, no evidence of the disappearances at all. Leather Jacket’s face flashed through my mind; his intense stare, his smirk as he held Blondie against him, with no regard for her terror…
The door to room 429 was ajar.
I looked down. A rolled-up magazine had been stuffed between the door and the frame, keeping it open. Beyond, the room was pitch black.
Go back downstairs. The words pounded in my head, as steady as my heartbeat. But I felt the irresistible pull of curiosity, the call of the unknown.
I slowly took a step forward. Silence filled my ears, punctuated by my own muffled footsteps against the carpet and the ticking of the clock down the hall.
With a deep breath, I pushed the door open.
Light spilled into the dark room; it appeared empty. I reached for the switch, and flicked it on.
My heart sank.
Toys scattered the floor – a little blue police car, a stuffed elephant, a toy fireman’s hat.
A family had stayed here, with a child.
And now they were gone.
I stepped into the room. In the bathroom, crumpled towels lay on the floor. Toothbrushes were set out across the counter, some still bearing dried bits of paste. The beds were rumpled and tangled messes, dangling onto the floor.
I stepped forward.
“Ow!” I grabbed my foot; it throbbed angrily. Something small at tan lay in the middle of the burgundy carpet.
I bent over and picked it up.
It was a miniature, plastic teddy bear. No larger than a dime, and much heavier than I’d expect for such a small thing.
Wait a strange toy.
And then I heard the voice, calling loudly from down the hall:
“Anna? We’re ready to go.”
I slipped it into my pocket and headed into the hall.
The directions led us down a narrow, gravel road. Officer Jingwen sighed heavily, as clouds of blue-gray dust kicked up behind us. “Had to be a gravel road,” she muttered. “Can’t stand that damn crunching sound. It’s like someone’s eating rocks.”
But I wasn’t listening to her banter. Blondie might be dead by now – or disappeared, like the rest. I looked out the window, watching the orange rays of dawn peek through the trees.
The house rolled into sight. It was little more than a shack, standing among overgrown grass and fallen branches. The windows were black, and at first, I thought it was just dark inside; but then I realized some sort of black paper had been plastered to the glass.
“Stay in the car.”
“This could be a dangerous situation,” she said, her hand reaching for her holster. “Wouldn’t want to be responsible for killing a child, first week on the job.”
I balked at her. “I’m not a child. I’m eighteen.”
She shrugged. “You aren’t an adult until you can knock back ten shots. Legally.” She smirked. “Without blacking out.”
I just stared at her.
“Okay, look. I’ll secure the house, and as soon as I give the signal, you come in, alright?”
She disappeared down the cracked stone path, and into the house.
I waited. Five minutes went by; then she poked out of the door and gave me a thumbs-up.
I shot out of the car, sprinted across the grass. I yanked open the door; it groaned back with a loud creeeaak.
The house was messy. No, that was an understatement. The house was a wreck.Empty beer bottles, soggy pizza boxes, and crumpled tissues littered the floor.
And then there were the figurines.
Hundreds of them, covering every surface. Like the miniature warriors that guys paint for strategy games – except instead of ogres and superhumans they looked like ordinary people. I reached out, to grab one.
“Don’t touch anything,” Jingwen barked, starting up the stairs.
The figurine in front of me was a man – no more than two inches tall, dark eyes no bigger than birdseed. To his left stood a brunette woman; to his right, a blonde. Both were wearing black lingerie, that made them almost more indecent than being naked.
I shrugged and walked further into the house. In the kitchen, the swarms of figurines grew sparser. A few stood in a shallow puddle, near the sink; several were scattered across the floor. A whole family stood on the kitchen table – the father chasing after a toddler son, the mother looking at a rice-sized smart phone. A dachshund stood in the center, no bigger than a button.
And then I heard a shriek from upstairs.
I raced up. Jingwen was standing in the gray shadows of the bedroom, staring at something past my field of vision. I ran in, panting like a wild dog, and followed her gaze.
From within the shadows of the closet, Blondie was staring at us. Her eyes were wild, her hair tangled and frizzed, and she was still crying.
“Is this your girl?” Jingwen said, stepping towards the closet.
I looked at her. One hand was bound with thick string to the closet door; the other was clenched tightly around one of the figurines. When her eyes met mine, she broke into a fresh sob. “I’m so sorry,” she choked out.
“No, no, everything’s okay,” I said. “Do you have a knife, Officer? We need to get her out of here –”
“I’m so sorry,” she continued wailing.
“Why – why are you so sorry?”
“He said – he said he’d bring her back,” she choked. “As long as I brought you here. I’m so sorry, I didn’t –”
Officer Jingwen and I looked at each other. “What are you talking about?!” she said – half-defiant, half-afraid.
Blondie shook her head, the tears spilling onto the floor.
And that’s when we heard it –
The sound of a door, creaking open across the hall.
Continues to Part III…