There’s nothing like searching through rat-infested darkness for my best friend’s bones – with her in my head – on Halloween night. Ugh! This school house is no friendly House of Horrors.
Hurry up. I’m over there. In the teacher’s room.
‘Nadine, come on now, there won’t be anything left of you to find.’
They – the police – didn’t find my body. Those bastards did too good a job hiding me. Plus, my clothes will be there, and my locket. Remember how much you loved my locket? Well, you can take it now, I promised you in Year 10, remember?
I squeeze through the sagging front door. ‘I’d have to untangle your locket from around your neck. From your vertebrae.’ Just the thought makes me shudder. ‘No way, Nadine. You’ve got to give me a better reason than teenage lust over your locket.’
You wanted the scoop of a lifetime, to get that stubborn editor to see you as a career reporter.
‘Yep, that’ll do it.’
The schoolhouse is old, well over a hundred years or so. Rain has made an inroad on the mud brick walls. While inside, the floor is simply packed earth.
I hear noise. A rustling noise, up above me. My torch beam reflects from several pairs of beady eyes. Yuck, rats in the roofing!
You’d be wiser to watch out for two-legged rats.
‘Nonsense. Why would anyone else come in here? We’re the only ones silly enough to do this,’ I insist, but wave my torch beam throughout the decayed schoolhouse, just in case. ‘There, I told you. Now, you promised you’d tell me why you came out here with Eddie and Matt.’
Because it sounded exciting. Visit a derelict schoolhouse on Halloween. Don’t you dare say ‘I told you so.’
‘If only I’d not been such a clutch to fall down those stairs. That staircase was supposed to be safe.’
Not if you got pushed.
I step over the rotten boards of a school desk. ‘Pushed? As in on purpose?’ I stand still, my torch beamed downward. ‘Why would anyone want to do that?’
They reckoned you would stop me going through with the dare.
‘And if I had, you’d still be alive.’
Noise, the skidding sound of something bumped into comes from the corner room where the teacher’s study should be. Should I run, get out of here, say goodbye to a possible career? I shine my torch through the door space, to where the sound had emanated.
Alanna, listen to me! Run!
‘I want to know!’
A white blur shows up in my beam, about where a man’s face would be.
‘You!’ I call. ‘Out here.’
‘I’m coming, don’t shoot.’
Well, at least it’s a man, not a rat.
A two-legged rat.
‘Maybe.’ I – we – wait.
Long legs navigate the remnants of school desks. A man – almost 6 feet of him – steps into my light. I shine my torch up onto his face, to make sure I’ll be able to identify him if it becomes necessary.
Not bad looking.
Yeah, you’re right, but hold it for now, will you?
He stands there, in my light beam, waiting for me to speak. Finally, he relents. ‘See something you like?’
‘A pretty face bears no warranty.’
Alanna, you quoting your Nanna again?
He starts to reach down into his back pocket, pauses, ‘It’s okay, I’m a detective, just getting my ID out to show you.’
‘Uh huh.’ I wait.
He shows me.
‘So, Mister Detective, do you have a name?’
‘Zac Nolan. I’m out here investigating a cold case.’
‘And that would be what?’
Your name, silly.
‘Alanna Jones. I’m here haunting a memory.’
Zac’s head swings up. He stares at me. ‘Would this memory have a name?’
I shrug. ‘Nadine King. My best friend from Senior College.’
‘Six years ago, tonight?’ Zac asks.
‘How did you know?’
‘You were supposed to be with her, but you fell and broke some bones?’
‘How do you know?’
‘And the boys presumed responsible for Nadine’s death were never charged?’
‘Released on a technicality,’ I grind out bitterly. ‘They hid her body too well.’
There was a third one, a man.
‘A third one, you sure?’ I ask Nadine.
‘Who told you that?’ Zac demands.
Tell Zac that someone’s coming. A man. He’s looking through your car’s windows.
‘Someone else is joining us,’ I lower my voice. ‘He’s outside, near my car.’
‘How do you know?’
Arg! ‘Nadine told me.’
But Zac heard a branch crack under someone’s weight. Our lights switch off. Maybe Zac has gone, or at least I felt the movement of air as he passed.
I crouch. Should have taken more notice of the room. Where to go? Where to hide?
The screeching of aged timbers assails my ears, and then a strong light snares me. I stand up.
‘You’re not half bad, all grown up,’ a man’s voice growls. ‘You should have been here, that night, with the other one.’
It’s him, it’s him!
Nadine, hush now. I’ve got to concentrate.
‘She wasn’t all that much, not for the three of us.’
‘Three of you? Were you in on the plan together?’
‘Who do you think was going to drive? I wasn’t letting them wreck my car.’
Where are you, Zac? ‘And I wasn’t going to be letting Nadine get into your car anyway!’
‘Ha! So you’ve got yourself to blame for a few broken bones.’
Keep him talking.
‘You put Eddie and Matt up to it?’
‘They wanted a real Hallowe’en Treat. And what was better, than this here haunted Schoolhouse?’
‘Never heard of it being haunted before.’
‘Ha! It is now, isn’t it? You’ve got that girl in your head, ain’t you?’
I ignore his jibes.
‘So how did you know I was here?’
‘Saw your lights flashing, didn’t I?’
‘Devlin. Devlin D’angelo. Your farm’s across the road, isn’t it?’
‘Bitch! You’re too smart at that.’ He starts to lunge towards me. I step sideways, and trip over some blasted piping. I’m noisy going down, but I didn’t make all that racket.
Then come Zac’s blessed words.
‘Devlin D’angelo, you’re under arrest for the murder of Nadine King ….’