"Are you sure?"
"Of course I am."
"But it's pitch-dark in there and..."
"That's half the fun. Besides, I did bring a flash-light."
A pair of worried blue eyes traveled from the building that was hovering over them to the small group of silent companions. Tamara swallowed hard and took a deep breath. She didn't want to be a spoilsport; after all, she had been the one who had brought up the subject, but as soon as she had stepped out of the comfortable, safe confinement of the car, her grandfather's stories had resurfaced with a vengeance.
"Come on, Tam," Dan spoke. "It will be fun. I promise we'll stick together."
"Yes, Tamara," Tom added. "Besides, this is Mineral Wells, Texas, what could possibly happen?"
Tamara O’Neill looked at her friends and suppressed a sigh. They were right. What could possibly happen? Hundreds of people had visited the old, abandoned Baker Hotel and she had never heard about anyone getting hurt or worse...
"If you don't want to go in, we'll go back to the car and wait for the boys to come back," a soft voice sounded near her ear and immediately Tamara felt better. Especially, when a gentle hand wrapped itself around her arm to give it a comforting squeeze.
"No, I'll be fine," Tamara sighed, sending the slightly taller woman who was standing close to her a small smile. "But, thanks, Kit, I appreciate your offer. I know how much you want to go inside."
"Only if you want to go as well," Kit Frazier answered.
"I'll go," Tamara nodded. She reached out a hand and grabbed the flashlight Kit was holding. "Come on, let's see if the stories are true."
Dan and Tom high-fived each other and started to climb the steps that would lead them to one of the four majestic front doors, eager to go inside and explore the building that had once been the lively center of the small Texan town.
"The door is locked," Tom mumbled with audible disappointment.
"Of course it's locked, idiot," his friend snorted, thumping him against his arm. "What did you expect? Open doors, a string quartet and a red carpet?"
"I've heard that was exactly what they did in its glory days," Kit added, stepping back a little and glancing up at the sculpted ceiling. Due to the darkness, it was hard to see the details, but even the weak beam of the flashlight emphasized the impressive architecture. "This place is awesome," she finally said. "I'd love to see the inside."
"We'll have to force open the door," Dan sighed, searching his pockets for the small Swiss army knife he usually carried around.
"No, we don't," Tamara spoke, stepping around her friends and heading for the side of the building. "There's a door here and I know it's open."
"Does this lead to the garden?" Tom wondered, seeing the unkempt rosebushes and tall trees.
"No, it’s the pool area," Tamara explained. "They used to have an Olympic- sized pool here. It's a pity nobody maintains it. My grandfather took me there when I was little. It was great."
Tamara's three companions silently followed her inside what seemed like a narrow, high-ceiling passage way and, to their surprise and delight, it lead to a door that was slightly ajar.
"It's open," Tom whispered.
"We can see that, Einstein," Dan answered, his voice suddenly loud, echoing against the thick brick walls. "Why are you whispering?"
"To enhance the suspense," was the whispered response. Both Kit and Dan chuckled, while Tamara carefully opened the door.
"This used to be the lobby," she explained, stepping inside. She tried not to shiver when the darkness enveloped her like a thick, musty blanket.
It was mainly at night, you know, that we could hear the voices in the lobby and the sound of the orchestra playing in the dining room. They never stopped. Not even after the hotel had been closed for a long time.
"I wish you were here, Paddy," Tamara spoke softly.
"What?" Kit's voice sounded unexpectedly close and Tamara almost jumped.
"Oh, um...nothing, really," she stammered. "I wish my
Grandfather was here. He knew every corner in this building."
"It's huge," Dan spoke, stepping further into the room, while aiming his flashlight at the ceiling and the majestic, painted pillars. "This place must have been something else. I wish I could have seen it back then."
"They say Bonnie and Clyde stayed here," Tom said. "And a whole other bunch of famous people."
"That's what Paddy told me," Tamara nodded, making sure to stay close to Kit, who grabbed her hand and laced their fingers together. It was a gesture that made Tamara's heart skip a beat. Ever since Katherine Frazier's path had crossed her own, she had felt an attraction for her she had never experienced before. None of her highschool boyfriends had ever made her feel the way Kit did. When she had started college in Stephenville, Tamara had promised herself notto get involved with anybody. It was too complicated and absolutely not worth the energy. But then Kit had stepped into her life; short, black hair, intelligent green eyes that always seem to radiate amusement, and a ready smile. The very first time their eyes had met, Tamara's heart had skipped a beat and when the smooth voice with the distinct Southern twang had filled her ears, asking if the seat next to hers was taken, Tamara had only been able to shake her head. When she had finally found her voice, Tamara had hesitantly started a conversation with her new class-mate, who had rapidly become the best friend she had ever had. They had never really discussed their feelings for each other, but, if Tamara was not mistaken, the looks Kit sometimes sent her were indication enough. There had also been some tentative touches and smiles, but this was the first time Kit had actually grabbed her hand. And Tamara loved it. She did not care what the implications were, or how her family would respond; during the past few months she had discovered the truth about herself, which had given her a peace she had not known for years.
"Tamara...Tam?" Kit's voice sounded a little worried, interrupting Tamara's musings. Startled, the red-head looked aside, quickly squeezing the larger hand that was still wrapped around her own.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "Did you say something?"
"I was asking you if this was alright," Kit said, lifting their intertwined hands.
"More than alright," Tamara smiled, feeling her heart rate pick up when Kit returned her smile.
"Hot damn!" Dan's voice suddenly interrupted their quiet moment. Kit immediately turned around, but she made sure to keep hold of Tamara's hand.
"What?" she asked, aware of the tension in her voice.
"Don't tell me you didn't see that?" Dan exclaimed, raking his fingers through his short hair, making it spike.
"See what?" both Tamara and Kit spoke simultaneously.
"It...it was like...like..."
"Like a light," Tom explained. "It was so cool, Kit, you should have seen it. It shot across the room over there, near the staircase. And when it did, it kinda made the air cold. I wonder what it was."
"I don't," Tamara muttered. She let out a nervous chuckle when she heard Kit's soft laugh. Her friend made her feel so much better about exploring the old hotel in the middle of the night.
"I bet it was a ghost," Dan decided, his voice thick with barely veiled excitement. "Maybe it was showing us the way."
"The way to where, Tex?" Tom snorted. "The first level of hell?"
"Don't say things like that, Tom," Tamara whispered, nervously looking around. Her Grandparents had been devout Catholics and, although Tamara did not share their beliefs, she did not want to be reminded about anything that had to do with devils and demons.
"Come on, Tam," Tom teased. "Where's your sense of adventure? Besides, it's Halloween. We're supposed to talk about scary things."
"We don't have to talk about it, we're living it," Tamara sighed, which earned her another soft laugh from Kit, who did not seem to be scared at all. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea at all, I..."
Tamara paused in mid-sentence when she heard the telltale sound of an old door closing. The soft creaking noise of protesting rusty hinges sent shivers down her spine and she had to suppress a yelp when all of a sudden the door, through which they had just entered, closed with a loud bang, rattling the old glass window. Kit's hand closed even tighter around Tamara's while she pulled the red-head closer.
"Don't worry, it's just the wind," she reassured her friend.
"Really? How'd you know?" Tamara breathed, feeling her heart pound in her chest.
"I just do," Kit spoke full of self-confidence. "It was quite windy when we drove over here. Didn't you see the dust in the air?"
"I guess I did," Tamara answered, feeling incredibly silly about being so jumpy, while her friend seemed so cool, calm and collected. "I'm sorry for being such a baby, I..."
"Don't be sorry," Kit smiled, lifting up their entwined fingers and kissing the back of Tamara's hand. "I like you just the way you are."
"You do?" Tamara whispered.
"I do," Kit smiled, wishing Tom and Dan were not standing just a few feet away, staring at them with big, amused grins.
"What a place to take a girl on a first date," Dan grinned. "You're a real romantic, Kit."
"Shut up, Farm boy," Kit shot back, good-naturedly. "From what Tom has told me, your first date can be found in the Guinness book of records as the biggest date-disaster in history"
"Oh, ha ha," Dan responded, thumping Tom against his shoulder. "You just had to spill the beans, didn't you? Remind me never to take you out to a bar again."
"It's alright, Dan," Tom laughed. "It wasn't your fault -- you didn't know it was one of those all-leather bars. Those guys really liked your pretty shirt, neatly pressed Wranglers and shiny boots. You were the belle of the ball!"
"Yeah, right," Dan snorted. "Is that why that hairy guy kept grabbing my butt?"
Tamara chuckled and pressed her face against Kit's shoulder to smother a laugh. She loved Dan and Tom, who had been her friends for as long as she remembered and she was happy they had taken an instant liking to Kit from the first time they had met. They teased each other like they had known one another for years and all three of them could receive as well as they dished out.
“Stop laughing, Tam, it wasn’t funny,” Dan rebuked, but there was a smile in his voice.
“Actually, it was,” Tom added, quickly stepping aside when Dan tried to backhand him in the stomach.
“Are you alright?” Kits asked softly, using Dan’s and Tom’s lack of attention to bring her face close to Tamara’s, gently stroking her cheek with the back of her hand.
“I’m fine,” Tamara whispered. “It’s a little scary, but it’s Halloween, right? Besides, it’s also exciting to walk around here in the dark.”
“Good. I want you to have fun,” Kit smiled.
“I am,” Tamara assured her. “Just don’t let go of my hand.”
“I won’t,” Kit promised, giving Tamara’s hand a gentle squeeze before turning around and facing her friends.
“Are you two love-birds done bickering? Good, let’s head upstairs,” she suggested.
“Are you sure, Kit?” Tom asked hesitantly. “I mean, I’m not scared or anything, but...um...don’t you think we need to check out what that white thing was?”
“It’s probably a bird or something,” Kit shrugged. “We disturbed it when we came in and it flew up.”
“What about that cold draft?”
“Just air, buddy,” Kit chuckled. “Did you want to wait for us in the car? It’s no big deal, I can...”
“No way,” Tom interrupted his friend. “I can’t let you guys have all the fun. Let’s go.”
“That’s my boy,” Dan teased. “We’ll make a man out of you yet.”
“Sure, Yoda,” was Tom’s response and the girls laughed.
The four friends slowly continued their journey through the dark, crossing the huge lobby on their way to the staircase. Even though Tamara was nervously looking around, she tried to imagine what the place had been in its glory days.
It was beautiful, Lass, the place was full of life and the Gentlemen and Ladies were always dressed up, looking their best from the moment they stepped into the lobby, until the moment they left. Everybody was treated like Royalty and, I can tell you, some of the guests had more wealth than a Royal family could ever dream of. Most of them expected to be treated like Princes and Princesses and so we did. Until that one night, when we saw what some of them were really like...cowards and animals...I tried to tell people about it, but they didn’t believe me...I knew it was too late...
Tamara had been thirteen years old when her Grandfather had spoken those words, but she remembered the conversation like it had happened just a few days before.
“What happened, Paddy?” she had asked.
Her Grandfather had scratched his chin and his dark eyes had looked at her pensively. After a long silence he had shaken his head, while patting her on the shoulder.
“It’s too horrendous for a young girl to hear, my lass. We should let it rest in peace.”
“But, when did this horrible thing happen, Paddy?”
Again, her Grandfather had scratched his chin, while bending forward and casting a quick glance at the window.
It was the night of the Bleeder’s moon...
“Bleeder’s moon,” Tamara spoke aloud when she was climbing the stairs, making sure to stay close to Kit who was right in front of her.
“Bleeder’s what?” Dan echoed from the front.
“Bleeder’s moon, that’s what my Grandfather called the night something had happened here.”
“Like what?” Tom asked.
“I don’t know,” Tamara answered. “He never told me anything about it. All I know is that he said it was too horrendous for me to hear. He told me some of the guests turned into cowards and animals, but I don’t have a clue about what was going on back then. I don’t even know when it was.”
“When did your Grandfather work here?” Kit asked.
“He ran away from home when he was twelve,” Tamara answered. “He just jumped on the first train that headed South and after traveling for a few weeks, he ended up here, in Mineral Wells. The manager here took pity on him and made him a bellboy. Through the years, he worked his way up and when Paddy retired he was a manager. This bleeding moon stuff must have happened between the time he was twelve and sixty-five.”
“Long period,” Kit mumbled.
“Hey, Kit, you think somebody got killed here?” Dan asked, turning a corner and heading for the next staircase. Before Kit could answer, Dan, who had been looking over his shoulder, stumbled over a loose piece of carpet and immediately stretched out a hand to blindly reach for support to prevent an embarrassing fall.
“Crud! Shi...” he exclaimed before it became absolutely quiet.
“Dan? Are you alright?” Tom called out, aiming his flashlight at the spot where he had last seen Dan. But where his friend had stood, just a few moments before, was nothing but empty space.
“Quit being such a clown, Dan,” Tom called a little louder this time. “We promised Tam to stick together, so stop being a jackass.”
His words echoed loudly in the darkness, bouncing off the walls in muffled tones. The three friends stood very still, tilting their heads to the side in an unconscious posture of concentration. They stood like that for what seemed to be an eternity and it stayed eerily quiet.
“Dan?” Kit called out, her voice tinged with worry. “Dan? Where are you?”
Kit stepped further into the dark hallway, very aware of Tamara’s hand that clenched around hers convulsively. She really wanted to turn around and pull the slightly smaller redhead into her arms, to hold her close and tell her everything would be alright, but right now she needed to find out what had happened to Dan. One moment their friend had been there and the next he had disappeared.
“Dan?” she called his name again, but just like before, there was no answer. “Tom, come over here and shine your flashlight on the floor and the wall.”
“What are we looking for?” the suddenly nervous student asked.
“Clues,” Kit answered while her eyes scanned the floor in front of her. “Although I’ve no idea what kind of clues. But I know one thing; it’s impossible for Dan to disappear off the face of the earth like this. There must be something here that explains what happened.”
“Stop, Kit,” Tamara suddenly spoke, leaning forward to peer at a spot on the ground. Both Kit and Tom used their flashlights to provide as much light as they could, while Tamara knelt down and examined the spot she had her eyes fixed on a little closer.
“See this?” she asked, pointing at an area where the carpet had a slightly different color. It was nothing more then a smudge and hardly visible.
“Good eye,” Kit mumbled, impressed by Tamara’s eye for detail.
“What is it? What do you see?” Tom asked impatiently, frustrated by the fact he was unable to figure out what Tamara was seeing.
“The wall,” Kit mumbled, shining her light on a barely visible crack in the wooden panel. “I bet it moves when you push it a certain way.”
“How do you know?” Tom asked, puzzled by her explanation.
“Look here, Tom,” Tamara pointed at the junction of the wall and the floor. “See this smudge here, on the carpet? Something disturbed the layer of dust and see this? It looks like a footprint.”
Tom frowned and leaned a little closer. He peered at the spot and slowly shook his head in bewilderment.
“The footprint ends at the wall, like...Oh, my God, are you telling me Dan is somewhere behind this wall? How the heck did that happen?”
“I guess he stumbled, leaned against the wall for support and triggered some hidden device or something,” Kit mused, using her hand to press against the wall in a few different places. Nothing happened though and she tried again, without success.
“I don’t get it,” Kit muttered. “Where’s the trigger?”
“Maybe speed had something to do with it,” Tamara suggested. “Dan is about six foot tall, he stumbled and probably reached out his left hand for support.” Tamara stood up and her eyes scanned the wall again, this time a little higher. “My guess is he pushed the wall right...here,” she said stepping forward and pushing hard against the wallpapered panel. Immediately the wall moved and Tamara quickly stepped back, feeling Kit’s arm protectively slip around her shoulders.
“Wow,” Kit whistled. “Good job, honey.”
“My Grandfather told me there are a lot of hidden rooms and hallways here, but I had no idea it could be like this. It’s creepy.”
“Especially when you wonder why they are here to start with,” Kit nodded.
“Exactly,” Tamara responded, suppressing a shiver.
“Dan? Dan, are you there?” Tom called, sticking his head around the opening, peering into the dark.
The answer was a low, rumbling noise and Tom quickly stepped back, ready to make a run for it if anything else but Dan would appear.
“Dan?” Tamara called, listening intently. “Shine in there, Kit, maybe we can see something.”
Kit did as Tamara asked and aimed her flashlight into the darkness. What they saw made them both take a step back. The opening was so narrow it amazed them Dan had been able to squeeze through it. The hardwood floor showed years of dust, recently disturbed by tennis shoes, leaving large prints in the gray-colored material. But that was not what had them spooked. That had been the picture on the wall. A portrait of a hollow-eyed person who seemed to stare straight into their souls. The dark, almost black eyes, seemed huge in the pale face. Expressionless, yet haunted.
“Talking about creepy,” Kit whispered, feeling torn between the urge to run away and to study the secret hallway closer.
“Hey!” a loud voice made then a jump. “Look what I’ve found.”
“Dan?” Tom answered. “Dan, is that you?”
“Who else?” Dan answered, stepping into the beam of light that was radiating from Kit’s flashlight. “This place is awesome.”
“Didn’t you hear us call you?” Tom asked with a touch of annoyance.
“Well, I answered, but obviously you didn’t hear,” Dan shrugged. He turned towards Kit and Tamara and sent them a relaxed grin.
“Don’t tell me you two were worried about me too?”
“Don’t count yourself so lucky,” Kit mumbled, grinning when she heard Tamara chuckle. “What did you find?”
“You’ll have to see this,” Dan repeated.
“What is it?” Tamara urged. “Dan?” she asked again when her friend didn’t answer.
“Oh, nothing to be really concerned about,” Dan answered, stuffing his hands in his pockets, looking like a little boy.
“Spill it, Daniel,” Tom added.
“It’s just a skeleton, a bunch of bones.”
“A bunch of...”
“Did you say; ‘skeleton?’
“Yup, I did. But the owner is dead, so, no need to get upset.”
“Oh, really?” Tamara muttered.
“Come on, guys, I’ll show you where it is. Somehow I think somebody has been left to die a long time ago. Judging by the clothes, I think it must have been somewhere in the twenties. I’ve seen pictures of my Grandmother in a dress like that. Follow me.”
“Of course, Mr. Forensics,” Kit grimaced, increasing her grip on Tamara’s hand before she followed Dan and Tom into the narrow opening.
Tamara tried not to look at the face on the wall, instead she stared straight ahead, wondering why she had the eerie feeling that she was being observed by a pair of empty, penetrating eyes. It made her shiver and unconsciously she stepped closer to Kit. The narrow opening lead to an equally narrow hallway that was only wide enough to allow two people to walk closely together.
“Where do you think this leads to?” she whispered.
“I’ve no idea,” Kit answered. “I hope Dan won’t get us lost.”
“Don’t scare me,” Tamara sighed. “This place is getting creepier by the minute.”
“I know,” Kit nodded. “I’ve got the feeling I’m being watched.”
“You too?” Tamara asked in surprise. “Don’t get me wrong, but that makes me feel a little better.”
“Good, I aim to please,” Kit whispered in Tamara’s ear, pausing long enough to let her lips brush against her cheek, It was a fleeting touch, but enough for Tamara to suck in a breath in surprise. “And I’m really looking forward to leaving this place later, with you,” Kit added.
All of a sudden, Tamara felt a lot better. Even the thought of the scary eyes following her did not bother her that much anymore. Until a loud, screeching noise filled the room. It was so high-pitched, it hurt their ears. It faded as fast as it had started and the sudden silence made them catch their breath.
“Holy Moses, what the heck was that?” Dan asked, his voice extremely loud in the silence.
“I want to get out of here,” Tom’s voice was shaky when he knelt down to pick up the flashlight he had dropped. “And I do mean right now! I’ve had enough of this...this...all this.”
"You might have a point," Kit replied in a hoarse voice. "Maybe we should leave."
"Good idea," Tamara added, vigorously nodding her head. "Let's go."
But, before they could take one step towards the secret entrance, they heard the sound of a panel sliding back in place.
"You must be kidding," Tom whispered. "You freaking got to be kidding. I don't believe this. Move, Kit, let me get back to that door, we need to get out of here. Kit! Tamara! Move!"
Letting his panic getting the best of him, Tom lunged forward and pushed against Tamara, who had nowhere to go, but slam into Kit, who reacted by wrapping her arms around the red-head to prevent her from colliding with the wall.
"Whoa," Kit exclaimed. "Get a grip, Tom! Tom!"
But her friend did not respond. He somehow managed to squeeze past them in the narrow passageway and frantically banged on the wall, searching for a way out.
"Tom!" Dan called out, hoping he would be able to calm his frantic friend. "Take a deep breath, man, we'll find a way out."
"I want out now," Tom answered. "This place is freaking me out and I really don't want to be here anymore."
"Then calm down," Kit shouted, still holding Tamara in the circle of her arms. "Stop waving that flashlight around like a crazed lunatic and aim at the wall, maybe you can actually see where we came in."
"Yes, Tom," Tamara added in a slightly quivering voice. "That's how we found this panel to begin with."
"Yes, and we were at the other side of the wall," Tom answered in a raised voice, but he did sound a little calmer. "I just don't think that..."
The dimly lit hallway suddenly lost the soft illumination of the flashlights and turned into a pitch-dark tunnel, where sense of direction ceased to exist. The darkness closed around them like a tight, suffocating blanket that, for a brief moment, robbed them of their breaths. The sound of four heartbeats, strong and fast, almost bounced off the walls in the silence that had followed the dead of the light.
"Kit?" Tamara whispered, pressing closer into the other woman's body, feeling the reassuring pressure of the arms around her increase.
"Yes?" Kit whispered in Tamara's ear.
"What's going on?"
"I wish I knew," Kit answered, straining her eyes in an effort to see something...anything, but the world remained black.
"Guess we'll have to feel our way around," Dan's voice sounded with a touch of amusement. "I apologize in advance, Ladies. If I happen to, accidentally, touch...anything, um...inappropriate, I..."
"Shut up, Dan," Tamara let out a nervous laugh, glad for her friend's sense of humor. Behind her she could feel Kit chuckle and with a smile she leaned back her head, pressing her cheek against Kit's.
"Is it the darkness?" Kit whispered in Tamara's ear. "Would you have dared to do that in the light?"
"I was gathering courage," Tamara confessed, aware of her increasing heart rate when Kit rubbed her cheek against her own. The cool softness did strange, but interesting things to her stomach and Tamara sucked in a breath when a pair of lips found a sensitive spot behind her ear.
"Turn around," Kit whispered.
Tamara did not need more encouragement. Without hesitation she turned, letting Kit's arms guide her.
"I can't see your face,"Kit's voice was barely louder than a breath. "But I know where your lips are," she continued, while her hands cupped her cheeks.
Tamara could not see anything, but she could feel Kit’s face come closer and she swallowed hard, knowing what was about to happen. It was something she had secretly dreamed about, but not even her wildest day-dreams could have prepared her for the situation she was in now. It was Halloween, they were trapped inside a secret passageway in a haunted hotel with her two best friends within arm’s reach and Kit was about to kiss her.
Tamara thought her heart would beat its way out of her chest when Kit’s lips finally found hers in the softest of kisses and she let out a soft moan.
"I've wanted to do this ever since I took that seat next to you in class," Kit confessed, bringing her face closer for a second, more solid kiss.
It was weird, Tamara thought. They were surrounded by darkness that was so thick, it was disorienting, yet, when Kit's lips brushed against hers, Tamara could have sworn she saw a burst of light. An explosion of colors that slowly disappeared until the only thing left was a fading spot, an aura of orange and red that was slowly taken over by the overpowering darkness.
"Bleeder's Moon," Tamara whispered against Kit's lips.
"What?" the other woman asked, still dazed by the softness of Tamara's lips.
"Kiss me again,"Tamara urged.
"I'm...sure," Kit replied in surprise. "I'd be glad to, but...what..."
"I'll explain in a minute," Tamara whispered. "Come on, Kit, do it again."
Kit chuckled and put a hand on the back of Tamara's head, bringing their faces together for another slow, tender kiss.
As soon as their lips met, the explosion of colors happened again, but this time Tamara was focused on the red spot, a huge bright spot that moved across her line of vision, until it set in the corner of her eye.
"Don't move," Tamara whispered, stretching out a hand in the direction of the area where she had seen the red spot last. She was hardly surprised when her fingers touched a spot in the wall. It was a small ridge that gave way when Tamara carefully pushed against it.
The sound of stone grinding against stone suddenly filled the silence and while Tamara held her breath, her eyes fixated on a spot just behind Kit's shoulder. For a moment she thought her eyes were playing a trick on her when they noticed a sliver of light. It was so tiny, she had to blink a few times to focus her eyes. It was like a wisp of smoke against the black background. But it was there.
"Kit, look," Tamara urged.
Kit obediently looked over her shoulder and whistled in surprise.
"How did you that?" she asked and Tamara could hear the smile in her voice.
"Just luck, I guess," she shrugged.
"Tamara, you're a Goddess," Dan grinned, leaning forward to look closer at the wall. "But what now?"
"I've no idea," the red-head dryly replied. "But I guess we'll find out."
Stretching out a hand, Tamara's fingers pressed against the tiny opening in the wall and again the sound of grinding stone filled the stale air of the passageway. This time the sound did not stop until another opening was revealed. It was impossibly narrow, but with some perseverance and willpower even Dan would be able to squeeze his tall body through. The light became brighter and Kit squinted her eyes against the assault on her senses. She needed a few seconds to realize it was not daylight they saw, but an old fashioned gaslight.
"Do you see what I see?" Tom's voice sounded behind them and both Kit and Tamara nodded their head.
"It's...um...different," Dan commented. "Shall we proceed?"
"I don't know," Tom whispered. "What if...what if...if..."
"The bogey-man will come and get you? I'll protect you," Dan joked, but there was an undertone of tension in his voice.
"Yeah, right," Tom snorted. "I...Kit, what are you doing?"
"I'm going in," Kit calmly answered. "I don't want to stay here and wait for the wall to open up again. I've got better things to do." She glanced at Tamara and winked, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. "Are you coming?"
"Absolutely," Tamara answered, intrigued by the events. She was amazed that, basically, Kit's kiss had opened the way out of the darkness. She did not really want to think about it too much, but deep down inside she knew the meaning of it was significant. Somehow, her Grandfather's mentioning of 'Bleeder's moon' tied in with Kit and the attraction they were feeling for each other. It would be very interesting, and frightening to see what would happen next.
Kit pressed her body through the narrow opening, making sure to keep a hold of Tamara's hand and as soon as she was on the other side, she turned around to help the other woman through.
"Are you okay?" she asked as soon as Tamara stood next to her.
"Yes, strangely enough I am, actually," Tamara breathed. "So, what's this?"
Kit stepped aside, pulling Tamara with her, so Dan and Tom could wrestle their way into the newly discovered room. They both took in their new surroundings with wide, inquisitive eyes. They were in a small, windowless room that was sparsely decorated with a narrow bed, one chair and one table. A mirror that had once adorned one of the walls, lay shattered in a corner, its mangled silver frame a silent witness of long lost glory. The fancy gaslight that hung from the ceiling seemed hopelessly out of place.
Tamara's eyes traveled through the room and she gasped when she noticed a narrow bundle that was huddled in the corner.
"Is...is...?" she stammered.
"Yes, it's a skeleton," Kit nodded in a quiet voice.
"Another one?" Dan's surprised voice sounded behind them.
The tall student appeared next to Tamara and stared at the dusty bones in the corner.
"That's weird," he mumbled.
"What?" Tamara asked, feeling a sense of loss and sadness while staring at the remains.
"I'd swear the skeleton in the passageway is in exactly the same place, just on the other side of the wall. You think there's a story to that?"
"Ouch, I swear I must have ripped off half my thigh," Tom mumbled, finally joining the other three. "What story? What's going on? I...Oh, my goodness, a...a...is that a mummy?"
"No, idiot, it's a skeleton and, judging by the clothes, it's a woman, or rather, was," Dan said somberly. "It's a mirror image of the other one, on the other side."
Kit stared at the form in the corner, a pensive expression on her face. She was lost in thought and Tamara had to nudge her twice to get her attention.
"Kit, what do you think? Is it a coincidence?"
"What do you think?" Kit answered softly.
Tamara leaned closer into the woman next to her and immediately felt Kit's arm settle around her waist.
"I...Maybe I'm just overly romantic, but I've got the feeling those two women were, somehow, separated, against their will and...," she swallowed hard, before continuing. "I've got this sad feeling when I look at her and I really think they wanted to be together."
"Maybe we should look for clues," Tom suggested. "Maybe she left a message, or something."
"Or something," Kit echoed, stepping forward, pulling Tamara with her. Her eyes had fallen on an area next to the skeleton and she bent down to pick up a piece of old, yellow paper that had been covered in dust.
"I think she did, leave a message that is," Tamara spoke softly, looking down at the paper that Kit was holding up.
"What does it say, Kit?"
"It's kind of hard to read, but I'll give it a try." Kit cleared her throat and, after casting another look at the skeleton, she looked down on the paper, concentrating on the words that were scribbled close together.
Lost track of time, how long has it been? A week? A year? Two? Ten? Sometimes I can hear her, I think, but maybe it's my mind playing tricks. There are moments I can hear the music, far away. It's torture; it's so close, yet so far. Tantalus...
I wonder how's she's doing? Is she still there? Did her suffering end? Part of me hopes it did, the other part of me screams at that...I never wanted to lose her...
Our last night together, we went to the Cloud Room and watched the moon. The dust had made it red; a Bleeder's Moon...I should have known...Damn them...Damn him...I know the boy knows, the little Irish lad. I hope he'll send someone...but this place is so big, so many passages and rooms...
My Liz...I knocked on the wall until my hands were bleeding...I didn't hear an answer...Liz, are you...? I can't say the words...It scares me
We'll be together again, in death. One day someone will find this piece of paper...they'll know. They'll have to find it, I'll leave the light on...
Help...Liz and me to be together, no more walls...no more barriers....I need a Bleeder's Moon...
The end is near, thank God.
Irish lad, don't give up on me...remember me, remember Maggie...
Kit had no idea about her tears, until a salty drop fell on the paper she was holding. Next to her she could Tamara sniff and a quick glance aside showed her both Tom and Dan were swallowing hard. Their eyes were moist.
"How incredibly cruel," Tom spoke in a hoarse voice. "What kind of jerk would do something like that?"
"I've no idea," Tamara answered in a soft voice. "It's horrible, she...they must have been so scared and sad."
" We need to bring them back together," Kit decided, carefully folding up the piece of paper and sticking it in her pocket.
"How?" Dan asked.
"We must take that wall down," Tom decided, eying the barrier with a critical eye. Years of neglect had left it in a bad shape and he did not think it would be hard to bring it down with a few well-placed kicks.
"Let's do it," Dan nodded.
"No, wait," Tamara suddenly spoke. "There's another way." She stretched out a hand and pulled Kit towards the wall.
"Maggie mentioned Tantalus, y'all know what that means, right? The eternal torment?" Tamara saw her friends nod and she continued. "There must be something close that could have brought them together, but at the same time it was out of reach. She mentioned 'Bleeder's Moon' and I think I know what she meant."
Tamara looked up and in Kit's eyes she saw the understanding dawn. Her eyes shone with pride and admiration and Tamara felt herself melt under their gentle gaze.
"Kiss you?" Kit asked and Tamara nodded.
Without hesitation, Kit bent down and with rapidly growing confidence she captured Tamara's lips in a slow, tender kiss. It was hard for the red-head to focus. Kit's probing lips almost robbed her from all logical thought, but with a lot of determination she managed to stay focused, while still enjoying the kiss. What she had expected, happened. Colors exploded behind her closed eyelids and when they finally started to fade, a round-shaped red spot appeared n her line of vision. With her lips against Kit's, Tamara stretched out her hand and touched a spot on the wall. She smiled and pressed the wall, immediately hearing the now familiar sound of moving walls.
"Hot damn!" Dan shouted, while Tom could only watch with wide eyes.
Kit laughed and pulled Tamara in her arms, savoring the feel of the other woman against her body.
"You're incredible," she said softly, kissing a shapely ear. "Just amazing."
"No, that would be you," Tamara returned the compliment. "I really think that...ooh..."
With wide eyes, Tamara saw a light emerge from the dark passageway behind the wall. It had a greenish tint, but as soon as it entered the space they were in, it became brighter, more yellow. It hovered in the air for a few moments and then dipped down, towards the skeleton. It disappeared for a second, but when it emerged again it had doubled in size. Silently, it floated towards the middle of the room where it went completely still. Breathlessly, the four friends watched as the outline of two faces appeared. It was hard to see where one began and the other ended. They had merged together in a soft light that was soothing to the eyes.
Tamara did not know if she had really heard the words, but when she looked at Kit and noticed the small smile on her friend’s face, she knew she had not imagined it.
"You're welcome," she whispered. "Be happy."
The sound of something that resembled a happy laugh echoed off the walls, making the friends smile. Then, all of a sudden, the light disappeared and when it did, the gaslight slowly died.
"Oh, boy," Tom moaned. "Back to the darkness again,"
"No, look," Dan chuckled, nudging his friend.
Tom looked around and a bright smile adorned his face when he noticed the secret panel in the passageway had opened up again, while their flashlights had been mysteriously turned back on.
"Thank you, Maggie!" he yelled, pumping his fist.
"Yes, thank you, Maggie," Tamara repeated. She glanced up at Kit and smiled. "Are you ready to go?"
"More than ready," Kit nodded, grabbing her hand. "Let's get out of here. I can hear a cold beer call my name."
"And mine," Dan and Tom responded simultaneously.
Within minutes they were out in the hallway, hearing the panel slide back in place behind them. They did not look back when they descended the stairs and only when they had stepped outside into the chilly night air, they finally spoke again.
"This has been one incredible night," Dan sighed, looking up at the fourteen story building.
"Amen to that," Tom mumbled.
"It was amazing," Kit smiled, wrapping an arm around Tamara's shoulders, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek. "But I have one question though."
"What's that?" Dan asked, grinning at his friend.
Kit turned to Tamara and brought their face closer, so she could look her in the eyes.
"When can I meet your Grandfather?"