We drove for about ten minutes, and I wondered how the boy got to and back in less than five. Miss Durant parked her Karmann Ghia across the street from what I assumed was her brother’s house, and we made our way in. This area of the city was younger than where Miss Durant lived, but it was still somewhat old, the buildings had the suburban glamour of the seventies. It was all somewhat familiar actually. Maybe an uncle we visited in my early childhood?
The door was kicked in, as the boy had said, and it seemed as though it had gone through some resistance from the inside as it was bent inwards instead of hanging on a hinge, from the porch we could smell whatever was inside: sour and old. But beyond that there wasn’t much that could be assumed about the state of the house: all the lights where all off and neither damage nor cleanliness could be spotted. It was a dark hole of possibilities. Did we really want to go in there? Why not call the police?
“Right, here is how we will proceed: I will walk in front and you are to follow my every step. Keep to the walls, but very mindful of the exit. You are to carry this shield while I move with my rifle. Not a word unless you are asked a question, are we clear, miss Gladstone?”
She handed me a slightly heavy shield made out of what I thought out was stone, but it seemed lighter than possible for anything made out of stone to be this big. Then she handed me a flashlight and she turned on her own. I tried as best as I could to carry the shield with my left arm and the flashlight in my right hand. The balance was awkward, but I managed.
“Yes, Miss Durant. Um, will this get very dangerous? Should I even be here?”
“I assure you, no harm shall befall upon you.”
Even though she meant to be reassuring, I felt anything but reassured for my safety. Still I we went in, I was already here anyways. Miss Durant stepped over the door and walked in with her flashlight leading the way. She took three steps in and took a pause, listening to her surroundings and searching the area for any signs of life. This house seemed more suburbanly distributed than Miss Durant’s elegant house: the hall was a Swiss cheese of a hall, entrances to all the rooms without any doors. I kind of liked it this way, if felt more inviting, and from what I could make out mid-darkness the colors where warmer, too.
From what I could make out, the house was mostly well kept, but there were damages here and there as if children had chased inside the house: a tilted painting, a table out of place and the objects from it on the floor, the carpet was shriveled, a flowerpot also on the floor and it’s contents mostly scattered. Miss Durant didn’t seem panicked, but she was alert of everything. I was very nervous of whatever had happened here, I knew nothing of this family, but I felt bad to say ‘no’ to Miss Durant, almost as if I owed it to her.
We turned to the first room on our left, a living room, and everything seemed equally moved out of place. Miss Durant scanned everything with her flashlight, seemed satisfied with what she found, and moved on. Through an arch in the living room we crossed to the dinning room, and from there we went trough an already open door to the kitchen. The cupboards seemed to have all been opened halfway and the pantry was fully open with a few boxes on the floor.
We heard a shuffling upstairs, and Miss Durant ran towards the bottom of stairs through the kitchen door. I followed as quick as I could, but in my attempt to balance the shield I ended up knocking down a few things and dropping my flashlight. By the time I reached the bottom of the stairs, Miss Durant was already halfway up. A piercing shriek sounded from upstairs and I tried covering my ears when Madame Durant shouted at me:
“Miss Gladstone, your shield!”
I put my left arm forward and kept myself behind the shield, loud and heavy footsteps sounded and they were getting closer to the stairs, and by the time they were at the top Miss Durant shot her first slug. A loud bang echoed throughout the house, but the slug went straight into the wall, missing its target. Miss Durant loaded, then something big, dark and hairy made a jump from the stairs and dived towards her. She shot again, this time appearing to have made some damage on the thing. I kept my shield up and stuck to the wall as the creature fell down the rest of the stairs, the dark making it impossible for me to figure out what it was. A bear, maybe?
Once it hit the bottom it jumped back up, turned around, and made it’s way upward. Miss Durant had already left the stairs and was probably searching the second floor for her brother. The creature ignored me completely as it rushed through me, and I followed as quick as I could. When the creature and I were on the second floor I heard Miss Durant:
“Miss Gladstone on the floor!”
By the time I reacted it was too late to dive, Miss Durant shot at the creature, and then multiple shots from some other gun followed. The creature fell and I fell under it. As it began struggling with the shooting and trying to stand, it hit me in the head and everything went black.