"Stop being an idiot Mikey!" Ray hissed again as I continued to drag my heels desperately for some unknown reason, but he was stronger than me, a lot stronger, and he managed to get me to the door with far less difficulty than I was trying to create.
Frank threw the door open and immediately disappeared through it, his hurried footsteps ringing out against the walls for both myself and Ray to hear, we were still standing at the door frame. I was silently pleading with Ray not to make us follow. I couldn't form any words of explanation about why I didn't want to; I didn't actually know. It wouldn't have mattered even if I had said anything though, as he was dead set on ignoring me. He was in the process of walking through the doorway, pulling me forward.
That is, until we heard the scream.
One, single, sharp, loud scream that undoubtedly came from Frank's throat. Followed by silence. It -the howl- was short but still it stayed ringing in my ears for long after it was sounded. It was all I could hear as I turned to the deathly pale Ray beside me and gulped unconsciously while he mirrored the frightened action, his eyes glinting with terror and reflecting my identically horrified ones. The noise repeated countlessly as I watched him run through the doorway to the stairwell and then also as I followed him, running desperate, in search of Frank and the reason for his short pained cry.
We found nothing. Absolutely fuck all. The stairs were empty, abandon, dead. All five floors worth of stairs. No Frank. No noise. Nothing.
"What the fuck?" I stuttered in disbelief at our discovery, or lack of, as I caught my breath while leaning against a wall, my knees weak.
Ray held his hand up, signalling for me to be quiet, as he looked around the place -eyes flicking from the left to the right to the ceiling to the floor then back to the left, repeating the whole process. He might have looked somewhat comical if it weren't for the fact that our friend had just screamed loudly and then...disappeared. As it was, watching him, I held my breath so as not to break the apparently necessary stillness.
Then it happened.
The cold laugh, her cold laugh, Sally's cold laugh, cut through the quiet sickeningly. In fact, it was less of a laugh and more of a cackle than anything else. A cold, heartless, sadistic cackle like the one I always expected the witch hidden in the wardrobe, from all my childish nightmares, to have. Again, I gulped. Ray's head began snapping in different directions, his face fighting between looks of anger and alarm, his hair flailing about wildly, in search of where she was hidden.
"You know what you have to do if you want him back Mikey." -my heart stopped beating for a millisecond as her words hit me, along with confusion. Where the fuck was she hiding? I didn't have long to think about it...
The minute noise of the metal hitting off of the ground dragged my attention rapidly to the floor; where the ring had fallen or rather, been thrown down. Frank's engagement ring. The silver band sparkled in the dimly lit, brick lined interior of the stairwell, but my attention was grabbed more forcefully by the ribbon and, more importantly, the card attached to it. I looked to Ray, asking wordlessly about who would read it.
He nodded softly and, with a trembling hand, reached down picking it up. I watched as he slowly undid the neat bow holding the card closed tightly in a neat half, concealing the undoubtedly neatly scribed message. I laughed bitterly inside my head as I kept staring at the black ribbon, thinking how well it represented the theatricality my life had suddenly become plagued uncontrollably by.
The ring fell to the ground as Ray unfolded the card and began reading. I picked it up, slipping it onto my index finger, protectively. A flash of Jamia's face passed before my eyes and a dreaded feeling pulled at my gut; what would she do if something terrible happened to Frank? What would any of us do?
"It's a phone number." Ray said, clearly confused, breaking me from my troubled reverie.
"What?" I asked pushing off the wall and walking towards where he stood holding the card.
"On this piece of card," he waved the piece of card as if I were an idiot, "there is a phone number written down." His voice was irritable.
"Don't snap at me!" I defended, snatching the card out of his hands so I could study the number, "This isn't my fault." I read the card, "No police..." I murmured as I read.
"Whatever. We've got to go..." he shrugged and began descending the stairs, still being frosty with me. I couldn't understand why though.
"What about Frank?" I asked and he ignored me, he just kept heading for the exit of the hotel. I ran to catch up with him, "What about Frank?" I asked again, this time more forcefully, grabbing on to his arm and forcing him to turn and face me. I stared at him in incensed wonder, what was wrong with him?
"You heard the woman, Mikes." He snarled, meeting my angry gaze. "What was it she said?" he pretended to think, "Ah, yes!" he snapped his fingers and then proceeded to quote what Sally had spoken from, seemingly, nowhere, "You know what you have to do if you want him back Mikey." He started walking again, leaving me behind watching him in confusion.
"But I don't know what she meant by that." I sighed heavily, giving up and following him.
He laughed from ahead of me, "Yeah, I'm sure you don't!"
"Why are you mad at me, man?" I asked, again running to catch up with him.
We had reached the fire exit, the end of the stairway. I thought he was going to ignore my question and walk out the door. But instead, he smashed his fist into the wood powerfully and then clasped his hands over his face, muffling a screech of frustration.
"Fucks sakes Mikey, how much of an idiot do you think I am?"
I stood back against the wall, honestly a little scared of him, and most definitely more than a little mystified. He repeated his question as I stared on in shock. How did he expect me to answer that? Why was he asking me that?
"I don't think you're an idiot!" I answered honestly, sincerely.
"Bullshit!" he shouted and lunged forward punching the wall behind me, missing my face by a mere inch. My eyes locked closed in fright and I whimpered pathetically. I heard him sigh but still I didn't open my eyes, I didn't want to see the strong genuine hatred? in his eyes.
"Don't be scared of me Mikey.... please don't be scared of me." He pleaded, although there was still a roughness to his voice that unsettled me a little. I opened my eyes to see him standing on front of me looking sad and incredibly hurt. "I just don't like how all of you keep lying to me. I don't like being the only one that doesn't understand what's going on."
It was my turn to be angry, "You aren't the only one for fucks sakes man! I told you everything I knew that night outside the coffee shop," guilt hit me as I saw the remnants of his injuries from that night. They didn't look so bad since they'd been cleaned up but still he was bashed in pretty bad. I got back to my exasperated rant regardless, "I don't have a clue what's going on! Frank doesn't have a clue what's going on! Gerard doesn't have a clue what's going on! Bob-" he cut me off by holding his hand up.
"Yeah yeah, I get it, Bob doesn't have a clue what's going on! None of us have a clue what's going on!" he mocked my voice, but I couldn't be angry because I was too busy remembering what Frank had said about Bob...
"Actually, no." I said, staring at the wall behind Ray thoughtfully.
"Actually no, what?" he asked and I snapped my eyes away from the brickwork.
"I think Bob does know what's going on." I nodded to myself, "Well, actually, I know Bob knows what's going on." I corrected myself. "But what I don't know, is just how much Bob knows and...." I trailed off in thought.
"Wait wait wait!" Ray shook his head and pulled me out of my thoughts, "How do you know that Bob knows what's going on?" he asked and I had to refrain from giggling at the 'I know that you know that she knows that he knows...' resemblance his question shared. Why had giggling become my nervous reaction?
"Because if he didn't, why would Marley be after him?" I asked myself more than Ray, "he heard something that made Sally hurt him, remember he was injured before he got caught up in the fire?" I questioned, he nodded. "He heard something he shouldn't have. He was supposed to be dead and now that he isn't, they've come after him again."
"Right, well, we've gotta go then." He said suddenly, reaching for the fire exit's handle.
"Go where? What about Frank?" I asked as he walked through the exit and out into the bright parking lot of the hotel.
"We're going where Frank said we would go if he came to my room and knocked on it three times." He explained monotonously as if reading it off an autocue or a script, his voice still not entirely friendly, "and as for Frank, you can phone the number on the paper." He climbed into a car I wasn't familiar with.
I followed and strapped my safety belt on. As he pulled out of the parking space, I heard him mumble, "Maybe this time you'll have remembered to charge your phone..."
This chapter is dedicated to my plumber, because he saved my life dramatic damsel in distress type...action?
My carpet's buggered though sighs :)
This might be the last update for a week because I'm going away tomorrow on holiday to a small island called Islay and won't have internet connection. But I might try and write another chapter and post it later because I haven't been doing so great with the ol' updates as of late...but if I don't then that's it for a week....:)
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