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Cracked windows mended by spider webs and a door off its hinge. This mansion wasn’t any more intimidating than a kitten. I stepped forward, cracking a branch while a cold breeze passed. Shivering, I closed the distance between me and the door. My anxious hand reached for the doorknob.
“Just gonna leave me behind?” A girl’s voice yelled as I jumped. I turned to see a huge grin on her face and hear some friendly laughter. A girl with long black hair and emerald eyes, with a slender but curvy body stood in front of me. Vanessa.
“Not at all, I was just, uh, scouting ahead.” I said, ruffling my hair. In one graceful move, she passed me by and opened the door, looking back at me with another grin.
“You aren’t scared, are ya?” I moved past her, taking in all of the dark room. Hardly any furniture, and whatever was left was either pillaged or destroyed.
“Nope.” I said quickly, hearing the door shut behind me. “If we’re ever going to find that necklace, we might want to get there before dusk.”
I looked back at Vanessa, who nodded in agreement. A light breeze touched her smooth, glossy hair. I grabbed her hand, and led her upstairs with a flashlight in my other hand.
At the last stair she let go, encouraging me to check on her. Vanessa’s cheeks flushed a light pink and her sparkling green eyes glowed in the dark.
“What is it?” I asked, quietly.
“Nothing, I was just remembering the last time you dragged me up these steps.” She smiled while I tried to remember.
We were both 8 years old, playing in the front room near the door. We were waiting for her mom and mine. Tag was too easy in the big room, but still fun.
“Tag, you’re it!” Vanessa laughed. I started towards her but she was always faster. I frowned and stopped while she giggled.
“Come on. Tired already?” A vase crashed upstairs causing Vanessa to shriek. I turned to the staircase, looking for a cause.
“Scared?” I said when I noticed her shivering. She just frowned at me.
“Your cat might have knocked it over. Let’s go see.” I grabbed her hand, making her blush, and led her up the staircase.
“Yeah, I remember that too.” I said as we started through the hall. It was so empty in here, making the mansion’s rooms look bigger as we checked out a few rooms.
“What if it isn’t here, Jake? Look how much has been taken.” It was true. Whoever cleared this place out didn’t do a half-a** job. I still wasn’t about to give up.
We got further down the long hall. A freezing wind blew by us. Vanessa was shivering beside me, goosebumps all over her arms. I sighed, taking off my jacket.
“Here, wear this.” I handed her my denim jacket. We stopped just to let her put it on, and I took a quick glance up and down, never before thinking that the jacket could look better on someone else. She must have noticed because her cat eyes gazed at me.
Something started clattering in a nearby room. Vanessa gasped and I chuckled, “Aren’t scared, are you?” Raising one eyebrow, I instinctively grabbed her hand to relieve my fears.
We walked quietly, listening for the clattering noise until we turned a corner.
“See, it was just a window.” A flashback consumed the rest of my witty comment.
The shattered pieces of a vase laid on the ground. A small black cat was running from the crime scene.
“See, Vanessa, it was just the cat. Nothing to worry about, alright?”
She half-smiled at me, meaning she didn’t quite believe that. Her cat scratched at the wall, all the way down the long, narrow hallway, out of sight.
“Let’s go get Salem. She isn’t supposed to be scratching the walls.” Vanessa pulled me forward, while we were still hand-in-hand.
The hall lights flickered and I squeeze my fear away with her hand. She didn’t seem to mind, I even caught a side glance and a smile.
“Come on Jake.” I was being led down the hall. I could see her curvy figure in the darkness.
“What’s the rush?” I asked, curiously. Not that I minded walking behind her. She glanced back at me and I grinned.
“I remembered where it might be. And I distinctively remember someone telling me to make it before dusk.” I chuckled, although she was right to rush. The last window we passed showed a late afternoon sun.
Something glinted before us, but before I could say anything Vanessa had already lost footing. She was face flat on the floor, and dragged me along with her.
“Oof. Get off.” I was probably crushing her so I rolled off and caught my breath from practically running this far. We were almost at the east end.
She got up and shook her head slowly while I smiled. I sat up and grabbed the flashlight, shining it at the object that tripped us. A diamond-covered collar.
“Salem. Salem. Pst.” Vanessa whispered in a cute, small voice, “You aren’t supposed to scratch the wall, silly.” We turned the corner.
“Ahh!” Vanessa shrieked, sobbing right afterward. A big raven was clawing the wall, one wing broken by Salem’s claws. Salem laid in a bloody mess.
“Shoo! Go away, stupid bird.” I shouted. The bird banged against the wrong window before turning around and trying to get out of the right one. It cawed and squawked in pain as it flew out.
Vanessa kneeled down by her dead cat. Blood was splattered everywhere. Even the diamonds on Salem’s collar were painted red.
“Why? Salem...” she cried. I placed my hand on her shoulder for comfort, tears streaming down my own face. I wiped them off before she could see, and begged her to get up.
“Come on Vanessa. We should go tell the maid what happened,” I said, removing my hand. She turned to me with red puffy eyes, sniffling.
“I know.” She got up, blood stains on her pants.
“Vanessa...” She was crying at the sight of the collar. I dropped the light and got up, throwing my arms around her. Tears dropped on my shirt as I patted her back, humming her mom’s lullaby without realizing.
“Thanks,” she sniffed. I smiled, moving back to see her while she was in my arms. Tear stained face, and red eyes, but she still looked pretty. She hesitated, looking at me like she was contemplating something.
I let go and picked up the flashlight, motioning her to follow. I got a slight nod and Vanessa trudged forward.
We turned to the master bedroom at the end of the east hall. I held my hand out for the knob. It was cold and dusty as I turned it, making me flinch a little.
The bed was still here, along with all the other furniture. Weird, how was this the only room untouched? Vanessa walked to the bathroom door. I sat on the bed, watching her.
Vanessa’s mom’s door was left slightly ajar. Vanessa pushed it open gently and walked inside. A queen sized bed hardly took up any room, and a few dressers and wardrobes were scattered throughout the room.
“Maria? Maria!” No answer. She opened the bathroom door. Vanessa stood there, hands down by her sides, speechless.
“Vanessa? What is it? Vanessa?”” I shook her, before seeing what she did. A pool of blood, a dead maid and writing on the wall.
‘We’ve been watching and waiting. Time for you all to join us in eternal death.’ written in Maria’s blood. I froze alongside Vanessa. Who was ‘we’?