Monday, 11 June 2012

Chapter Fifteen

Once, a few years ago, Jenny had had her drink spiked while at a club in her hometown. Nothing bad had come of it. Mark had been there to help her home and put her to bed, and they'd reported the incident in the morning. The only affect had been the deep and drugged sleep into which she fell that night as a result. Waking up in the morning had been like climbing from a deep, deep hole of sleep, every moment of wakefulness a struggle, every blink turning into another long nap.

That was how Jenny felt when she woke up in the hotel room. At first she just lay there, limbs too heavy to move, staring at the ceiling. She slept and woke again, slept and woke. When she had stumbled into bed last night she hadn't realised just how tired she was.

She rolled onto her side, and her arm flopped across the bed, expecting to feel the solid, reassuring bulk of Mark lying there beside her. There was nothing. He wasn't there.

What was more, the window was wide open and a cold breeze was invading the room. Sitting up (the weight on her shoulders felt like a backpack full of rocks) Jenny noticed that the heavy wardrobe had been moved from the corner of the room to directly in front of the door. Something was definitely up.

Unease fought with tiredness in her sleepy brain. Her body begged her to lie down, to return to leaden sleep, to wait until morning to think and move and do. But her brain was screaming to wake up, to pay attention, to work out what was wrong.

Jenny forced herself to her feet and started walking, pacing up and down the room. She rubbed at her eyes, slapped herself lightly about the face, took great whooping gasps of air. The dizziness of sleep wouldn't shift.

"Right," she muttered to herself, "nothing else for it."

She went into the bathroom, ran the sink full of cold water, took a breath and plunged her face down into it. When she emerged, she felt sufficiently refreshed to swear loudly for several minutes and flail around for a towel.

Sleepiness banished, Jenny got dressed and pulled on her shoes. She always felt less vulnerable when fully clothed. She took a drink of water from the tap, stretched, and rewound events in her head.

Last night she and Mark had gone to bed. Now, Mark was gone and there was a bloody great wardrobe in front of the door. Mark must have moved it, but why? And more importantly, how? He couldn't have done it from outside the room, and so he must have wedged the thing against the door while still inside the room. Which meant that he must have left through the window.

Jenny went to the window and peered down at the ground. To her it seemed like a pretty serious drop, but she had no doubt that Mark could have survived it. Besides, he wasn't there now, so he must have been able to walk perfectly well after making the jump.

"That's the how," she said to herself, quietly proud of her detective skills. "Now what about the why?"

Sweeping up the giant panda from the bed, she sat down and thought. The only sensible reason to wedge something up against the door was to keep someone out of the room. But who? The only other people in the hotel--as far as she knew --were Christopher and Winter, and the old man. None of them could ever do any harm to her or Mark. So... it must have been someone from outside. A wandering maniac. A serial killer, just like in the scary stories.

So, a knife-wielding maniac had come knocking on their door, and Mark had blocked it off with the wardrobe before jumping out the window to go fetch help. Simple enough.

Having reached her conclusion, Jenny got up and started shifting the wardrobe. There was no way she was going out the window, and there was no way she was going to stay trapped in the room all night with only a silent, stuffed panda for company. Serial killer or not, she was firstly going to go and pee, and secondly going to make good her escape.

Perhaps if she hadn't been quite so sleep-addled, Jenny would have thought twice about leaving the room. Perhaps, if there hadn't been quite so much tranquiliser in her system she would even have felt some fear at her situation. As it was, she was quite happy with her plan, and saw no way it could possibly go wrong.

Pulling the wardrobe yielded no result, and so after some experimentation she hit on the method of rocking it from side to side, gaining a few precious inches of movement with each rock. When there was enough space between it and the door, Jenny inserted herself into the gap and pushed with all her strength. The wardrobe slid clear.

"Yes!" She grinned and gave herself a brief, solo round of applause. She stumbled out into the corridor and headed down towards the door at the far end, muzzily trying to remember the route to the nearest exit.

Something scuttled across her path. Something too big to be a cockroach and too small to be a cat. She froze where she stood, her brain jumping immediately to thoughts of rats and mice. Jenny did not like rats and mice. Feeling her way clumsily along the wall she managed to locate the light switch. Her gaze fixed on the place where she'd last seen the scuttling thing, she flicked it.

Dim light flooded the corridor, and Jenny saw what it was that had crossed her. At the same moment the thing took off, motoring along on its many legs, coming right at her. Jenny leapt back, doing a weird dance as the fist-sized spider changed direction, zigzagging past her legs before worming its way into a hole in the wall and disappearing from sight.

"Ugh," said Jenny. "Bugs. Hate bugs."

Her brain was fogging over again, black mist creeping in, tiredness dragging down her limbs like concrete blocks. She shuffled on, and when she found the door at the end of the corridor locked she decided to sit down and rest for a minute. The fright she'd had with the outsize spider was already forgotten, and she sank down gratefully to the floor, head lolling forward as the drugs in her system tugged shut her eyes.

"Sleep first," she mumbled. "Escape later." And with that she was unconscious once more.

From the hole in the skirting board, eight tiny eyes watched her doze.

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