Chapter Three - Darkness and Death
I don't think I'd ever seen Jay move so fast. He had always seemed like the most laid back person I had ever met, and I didn't think he had it in him. He always moved at a steady, easy pace, almost dragging his feet. For someone who worked in a Dunkin' Donuts, and drank nearly as much caffeine as I did, he wasn't jittery in the least. Not jumpy, not even ever angry from what I've seen. Just this eternal, serene calmness. We'd joked that the world could be coming to an end, and he'd just sort of nod and flip the page of his book, while taking a sip of soda.
Yet, there was always something underneath, something in his eyes. Not quite paranoid, but his eyes were always darting around, taking in all the details. Not so much paranoid, just watching, making sure things were where they should be. I thought he was just looking out for customers, or maybe that was where his jitters manifested, but maybe not. But usually he was the picture of serenity.
But man, was I wrong. When danger came around, that guy could book. If I had blinked, it would have looked like he had up and disappeared. Next time I'm in a fight, I wanted this guy at my back. His facade of calm belayed something that I could only describe as a coiled spring waiting to burst. His movements had a certain fluidity to them, and I'm sure he could handle himself under most circumstances.
Circumstances that don't include shadowy dopplegangers, but he'd already surprised me once, so who knows? He could surprise me again.
I wasn't much farther behind Jay, and stumbled a little as I rounded the corner at the end the counter into a small seating area, and the doors to the restrooms in the back wall. My boots squeaked on the tiles, much like Jay's sneakers had earlier, but a lot louder, as one foot shot out underneath me. Grabbing the edge of the counter as I spun around that corner was the only thing that stopped me from going flat on my ass.
As a matter of fact, I was lucky to skid out like I did, as Jay did his own version of my own maneuver earlier at the library, and he didn't even bother with the door at the end of the employee area, and leapt over it. Instead of swinging his feet over it like I had with the counter, he grabbed it with both hands and pulled his legs up in a leap, and actually landed on top of the door, and it shook briefly from the jolt, but held in place, firmly locked in place, even if all a person had to do from this side was to reach around and unlock it.
He sat there for a moment, perched like a stone grotesque atop a building, guarding over his lair, and his eyes were on fire. They were darting everywhere, looking for Heather, shadows, anyone or anything out of place. It was like watching a hawk, or a cat stalking it's prey.
It only took a fraction of a second for him to survey the small area, and he leapt off, landing squarely on the tiles with a thud, one hand's fingers hitting the ground to steady himself, and he was off and running like a first class sprinter for the bathroom doors. If I hadn't stumbled, there was good odds that he would have run into me, but that was unlikely. He was in full alert mode, and he would have seen me before leaping onto the ground. Still, it was better to have not had the chance of that happening.
Jay bolted straight for the door to the women's restroom, and he running tackled it, shifting his momentum to his shoulder and plowed straight into it, and went in. I wasn't far behind, and as my hand touched the door to open it, being slightly more aware of what I was doing and not flying on pure instinct, Jay called out, "Don't come in here!"
I froze in my tracks, hand just inches from the door, uncertain of what to do or where to go. The door pulled open shortly afterwards, with Jason pushing past me, muttering at me to move, and stay at the same time. I slid to the side, getting out of his way as he ran past, and I could see he was shaking, and looked more frazzled this time than before, less focused. His eyes were darting around, but there was fear behind those eyes, not the cautious readiness from before.
He went back behind the counter, using the door as usual this time, and doing exactly what anyone would, like I said, and reached behind the door and unlocked it to let himself in. He disappeared from view, going from that small area behind the counter with the coffee machines, basic supplies, and doughnuts, and he went even further back from there and pushed his behind the door into the kitchen, and offices for the managers.
I heard nothing for several minutes, then came some sounds, muffled clattering and shuffling, metal clanging together, bouncing off the floor. After a few more minutes of that, Jay finally returned and came over to me. He had definitely gone from that quiet, calm predator I had briefly seen, and despite now looking afraid and shaken, there was still that hint of serene calmness creeping back into his face.
He nodded to me as he came back over, and I glanced at the door, then back at him, and he just nodded again, with a sadness and slowness to it.
I instinctively knew what I would find behind that door, at least the basics. I'd have to be a fool not to have a clue as to what would be waiting for me on the other side, once my hand pushed it open. Heather had gone away, not wanting to hear the story any further, there had been a woman's scream, and she had yet to turn up since we'd heard it.
I pushed the door open, holding it there for a moment and not stepping in.
As sick as it seemed, looking at the floor, my first thought was that the colour was different, and I found myself wondering when they had redecorated the restrooms with new tiles. My brain didn't want to acknowledge what it was seeing. The pool of blood covering the floor. Jay had been lucky he didn't run right into it, but it had yet to pool out across all of the floor. I took a deep breath and looked further up, further back into the room, and against the wall, laying in the corner made by the wall meeting the floor, was Heather's body.
It lay there, limp and lifeless, like a rag doll carelessly tossed away into the corner by an uninterested child who had moved on to a new toy. Her arms were twisted in unnatural ways; not broken, but not in any comfortable or natural way, as were her legs, and her head was lolling to the side, twisted slightly, still not broken, but limp and hanging awkwardly.
And her eyes.
They were gone. Ripped out, or crushed, or...or...I don't know what. What remained were empty sockets with nothing more than bits of flesh hanging around them. Blood streaked down her face, the source of everything that had spilled out into the floor. The flow had slowed considerably, but small rivers still stood out amongst the thick stains on her once-pale face, crimson tears sliding down her cheeks and dripping off the edge of her chin. In the clarity of the moment, as everything froze for a moment, I could hear the drops falling and hitting the puddle beneath her, each crashing like a thunderclap in my ears. Each splash they tossed up from the gathering ichor on the tiles, perfectly visible in my eyes, moving like flipping through time lapse photography of the most gruesome raindrops ever.
My mind took it all in, and somehow processed it, while at the same time denying everything it was seeing, hearing. I knew exactly what I was looking at, but my mind refused to accept it. I was seeing it, but I wasn't. Something in my brain had snapped, either for good or ill, and refused to let myself really wrap itself around what I was looking at.
It did eventually sink in, on some level, and I backed up, stumbling over my own feet, and the door closed, and I was greatful to have it hiding the remains of my best friend behind it.
"Oh...oh God..." My mouth had gone dry. I barely heard the words coming out of my mouth, and even speaking them was painful, both physically and emotionally.
Jay caught me as I stumbled backwards, trying to hold down my dinner, as the back of my hand came up to cover my mouth.
"Siobhan, you have to get out of here."
I shook my head, barely even hearing him, lost in what had happened. "I can't. I can't leave her..."
He turned me around and shook me, rattling me back, and focusing on him as I almost hit him for being so sharp, but also just out of surprise.
"You can't stay, the police are coming, and it will really be better if you're not here."
I glared, stepping away and hitting the restroom door, sending a shiver through me as I knew what I'd hit, and what another step would bring me into.
"The police," I almost shouted, questioning him. "How could you? We have to do something!"
He shook me again, and pulled me away from the door. "We are doing something! We have a...a." He stopped, he didn't want to say it, but he did anyways, rushing through the words. "We have a dead body there. I have to call the police in. They have to close off the scene, and do their thing. I have a job to think about here, and they have to do theirs, and try and catch who did this!"
"You and I both know it wasn't a who that did this, but a what. And that the cops aren't going to find a thing in there that they'll be able to track and find."
Shaking his head, Jay looked down. "That's not true. There was something in there, and if what you say is true, then it was essentially you. That's why you need to get out, and fast. I had to go and call the police when I went out of the room. They'll be questioning me on timing. But you have to get out, and quick. Please, Siobhan."
Damnit, but he was making sense. I hated when he did that.
I nodded, slowly. Reluctantly. "Fine, fine. I'll be gone when they get here."
Relief washed over Jay's face. He knew if they found anything in there, which I thought would be unlikely. I don't think my doppleganger would want to end the game by sticking me in jail, since that wouldn't be any fun. I know it's not what I would do, and this thing did think quite a bit like me. But on the offchance it left a trace, and I was standing here, then it was all over. And even then, another person would just mean more questions. Jay could cover things up if he was thought to be all alone here.
"And here, take this." Jay shoved something into my hands, and I saw it was a videocassette. I turned it over, and looked back up at Jay. "It's the security camera footage for the bathroom. If what we think happened did happen, we don't want the police to see it, because it either shows Heather being attacked by nothing which will be hard enough to explain, or else it shows you in there with her.
"That's why you didn't want me in there..." I started.
"Until I went and shut off the cameras.