You should stay home during a power outage.
|Beams of flashlights swam through the pitch blackness. Michelle led the way, and Scott followed like a lost puppy. Michelle smirked; her boyfriend was muscular and could scare birds off a roof with a single glare. But Scott’s intimidation only worked when he was reminded of it. It made him the perfect thug wrapped around her little finger.
“You sure the lights aren’t gonna pop back on any minute now?” he asked, hesitant.
She didn’t answer. She fetched a key from her father’s key-ring and jammed it into the doorknob’s keyhole. The door creaked open and their beams lit the way.
“Misha,” Scott whispered. “C’mon, we really gonna do this?”
She turned to him as water dripped down a pipe somewhere in the shadows. “Power’s knocked out most of the state. It’s not coming back anytime soon. Trust me.”
Agitated, she brushed back three loose, wavy strands of copper hair.
Scott sighed. “Think it was a terrorist attack?”
“Dunno, but whoever did it did us a solid. We clean out Daddy’s office and blow town before the lights click back on? We’ll be sippin’ Margaritas down in Mexico before anyone knows what’s what.”
“I don’t know much Spanish, Misha.”
“Déjamelo a mí, imbécil.”
“Leave it me,” she said, then followed the light down the hallway.
The old man had better not of moved shit around. The last thing Michelle wanted was to leave empty-handed and sit out in that old rusty jeep they called home, praying for the electricity to come back. Animals were strange when the nightlights didn’t work. They got curious–daring even–as they scurried around the jeep. Another night like that and a bear might come along and gnaw her face off. Scott was strong, but not suicidal.
“Down here,” she whispered. She stepped through a tangle of spider webs without so much as a flinch.
Hopefully, Daddy repaired the stairwell. It was ancient and scared her when she was little. Every time she laid a sneaker-clad foot on one of the steps, they would squeak like a wounded puppy. Her adult heels had the same result, the metallic squeal was even sharper.
“Watch your step,” she warned. “Old bastard’ll dish money out on china and voodoo dolls but he won’t fix a damn staircase. No wonder why everyone hates him.”
Scott remained close, too close for comfort. His hot breath steamed her back and the soft pants made her shiver in anticipation. The dumb fool must be looking for an excuse to scream.
Deeper they went. Michelle felt she should be more at home down here. She'd spent most of her childhood summers in the lower levels of the factory, her legs dangled off her father’s desk while she inhaled expensive chocolates he kept in a candy dish. Not a moment too soon and Scott’s hot breath warmed her back as the humidity above ground shriveled away and the cold frost took its place.
“God, he loved working his men to death–but he couldn't handle the heat for one second. That alone should keep him away from the Southern Border.”
“Misha, slow down,” Scott whined. “Lemme catch up.”
Hot steam rose from her nostrils like an angry bull’s. If she alluded her fright too, it would only make the big man shrink in his smelly boots. Once her man caught up, they continued down three-flights of stairs. What sweat they worked up from not having indoor plumbing and the humidity outside had dried up and coated their skins with an uncomfortable stickiness.
Dust particles floated in the dry air as Michelle unlocked another door. It screeched worse than the steps.
“We’re almost there. Just down the public offices and we’re as good as golden, Scotty.”
Through the book keeper’s offices, old pieces of paper crumpled underfoot. About a few hundred time cards were stapled across a myriad of message boards. Michelle stopped in her tracks. Her flashlight’s glare focused on a picture of a little red-haired girl, who sat on an old man’s knee. His beard long and white, like Santa Clause if Santa was a complete asshole. She ripped the picture from the tack and stuffed it in her pocket.
“Was that your Dad?”
“Uh-huh.” She didn’t elaborate; seeing Daddy made the ordeal too real. She still wanted to keep some farewell gift from him that couldn't be sold.
Two french doors stood at the end of the room. The copper plated design of a phoenix glinted like gold in the light. Michelle rammed the final key into its lock and turned it with a sense of greed that shocked her. She opened the doors and dropped the keys to the floor.
The sudden metallic clang made Scott freeze up–evident by how his shadow shook. Michelle didn’t say a word, she grabbed his light and sat it on a filing cabinet that faced the office’s entrance. She ordered Scott to clear out the oak wood desk as she started to gently wrap fragile antiques in dirty washcloths. She tucked each trinket into her worn-out backpack. Money bags danced in her head.
Behave Like You Are Watched. read on a black over the desk. As Michelle wrapped up a diamond-cut statue of a robin, she took a moment to stuff one of the expensive chocolates into her mouth. The stale taste made her cough; he must not have filled it since she ran away.
Scott stuffed a Rolex in his back pocket. He was hot, his hair slicked-back like James Dean. Maybe, just maybe this crazy dream would work out after all.
“SHIT!” he yelped and dropped what appeared to be a ring box on the floor, slamming his back against the bookshelf.
“What the hell was that?!”
Michelle shined the light on a dried-up dead mouse. Its width was shorter than a pinky finger. “That’s just Wrath, Dad got him at some weird shop. Supposedly he helped bring the Bubonic Plague. Last I heard, it was rats that led the fleas there.”
“I kinda’ doubt fleas get real picky whose back they’re riding on.”
“Don’t get smart with me." Michelle smirked.
Scott pushed himself from off the shelf. A book caught his sleeve and tilted forward, but stuck in place like a lever.
The room shook while unforeseeable gears turned and the bookshelf swung open like a coffin lid. It revealed a staircase down a dark corridor.
Michelle blinked. All these years and that asshole couldn’t have mentioned he had a special hideaway place?!
“We’re going down there.”
“Fuck. No. Michelle.”
But there was no point, Michelle went down into the black depths and a mortified Scott soon followed.
Split stone lined the sides as the two burglars ventured deeper. The stairs lead to a stone door. Michelle hoped she could get it opened without a key. Scott placed a cold hand on her shoulder and guided her to step back. He rammed the door once, twice, and the third time it crumbled.
The flashlights died. Scott stumbled, cloaked in darkness. Michelle whispered for him. A shriek of pure agony exploded; a sound where a man sounds more like an animal than a human.
“Scott? Scott?!” she yelled back. Fear swelled in her belly as she fetched her lighter and sparked a flame.
Cloaked figures stood around her like statues. Behind them, Scott laid in a pool of blood as his entrails poured from his ripped stomach. Red and pink intestines glistened in the soft light. He looked like a piece of art with all those black scythes and sickles sticking out of his pale body.
Michelle opened her mouth to scream–and a hand clamped over it.