I got up from the floor as quick as I could. Worried about Jade and Wei, I left the organ room, only to hear a familiar voice call out to me.
“Ram!” Ashley shouted. I could also hear another voice muttering something in protest.
“Over here!” I called to him. When he finally came into view, I noticed he was dragging a skinny teenager with him. “Well now, looks like we've found all the Dugalls.”
“Now tell him what you told me, Eugene,” Ashley said as he shoved the boy forward and crossed his arms.
“What for? It's not that importa- ouch!” Ashley kicked him in the shin. “Fine! Jesus...” the boy said as he stood up. I could barely see his eyes behind those bangs. “So before we came over, I saw my dad put some small, weird-lookiong bottle in his pocket. His coat is hanging in the hallway now, but when I checked, the pockets were empty. I really don't think it's that important, though.”
“And yet it was important enough that you mentioned it to me. Unasked, even,” Ashley said in a firm tone. I could hardly recognize him, he was completely different than usual. “Feeling guilty for your dad?”
“C'mon Ashley. It's not like you'll get anything else out of the kid anyway,” I said. “I really don't think he knows much more.” And even if he does, he sure as hell isn't telling.”Go and tell De Silva what you told us. This might be more important than you think.”
Eugene wasted no time in running for the stairs, nearly stumbling as Ashley stomped his foot just as he ran past him. With Eugene out of sight, Ashley turned to me. “You're not coming?”
“Actually-” I began, but Ashley interrupted.
“Wait, where's Jade? I thought you were going to show her the organ room.”
“About that... I lost her. Somehow. In the organ room. One minute she was there, and the next, she was gone.”
“What the hell?” Ashley growled. “How the hell do you lose a woman?”
“Alright, you know what? First of all, don't take that tone with me, okay? What's the matter with you? You've been acting weird for some time now!”
“I'm fine!” he said without lowering his voice.
“Whatever!” I yelled, throwing my arms in the air. “Be like that and see if I care!” I took a deep breath and continued with my explanation. “Secondly, the room was really dark and filled with trap doors, remember? The chandelier from there had squished a person just a couple of hours a-”
“Just get to the fucking point, okay?” Ashley's face went rend at the mention of squishing. Something didn't seem right.
“Okay,” I said quietly. I think this whole situation might be getting to both of us. It's really better that I keep my calm in this situation. ”I wanted to look for her, but that's when you came with Eugene. Oh, and I saw Wei.”
“Oh yeah, he disappeared in the commotion some time ago. Besides you, I was also supposed to look for him. Where did he go?”
“I have no idea. He was acting all funny, too... Like he'd seen a ghost. And he was saying something about a jasper or something.”
“Well then, what are we waiting for?” Ashley said as he started walking down the hallway. “We need to find them. De Silva asked me to round everyone up.”
“Really?” I raised an eyebrow, the air around my face moving as I broke into a brisk walk, following Ashley. “What for?”
“Hell if I know,” Ashley grunted. “It's not like anybody tells me fucking anything around here.”
I tried to ignore his foul mood, so the most of our search was spent in complete silence. There were a couple instances where I was certain that I heard footsteps from behind the corner, only to encounter nothing. After a long while of searching aimlessly, I realized that I had not gone to the bathroom since I'd come to Bauer Island, and I was starting to be painfully aware of my bladder. As our search continued, I made sure to check the doors for a bathroom. Luckily, there was one quite near, so I didn't have to wait long.
“Ashley!” I called somewhere into the hallway. “I'm gonna use the bathroom, you keep looking!”
“Okay,” his voice came to me as I closed the door.
I tried to turn on the light, but it was busted. Just like in the organ room. The window behind the toilet was wide open, with the fierce wind from outside blowing in. I used my phone as a flashlight and felt my way to the toilet. I unzipped my fly, ready to relieve myself. As the feeling of tension left me, I stared out the window. With a flash, a bolt of lightning appeared on the sky, illuminating a large tree right outside the window. I really, really wish it hadn't.
I tried to scream, but no voice came out. The pale light of the lightning bolt made his face look even paler than he was the last time I saw him, but there could be no mistake – Wei was on the tree, his limbs twisted in an unnatural position, his torso pierced with a thick branch, a thick, dark substance smearing his clothes.
Wei was dead.
I didn't even flush the toilet or wash my hands – I simply bolted out of the bathroom, wanting to get away from the terrifying view. As I burst through the door, I didn't even see where I was going. All tha was there was the deafening beating of my heart, and the sensation of every molecule in my body shaking, while at the same time being somewhere else than I was. I was pretty certain my legs would give way any minute, or that I'd vomit, and for all I know it might just have happened – I was in such a daze that telling what was real and what wasn't was impossible.
“Ashley!” I tried to shout at the top of my lungs, but I didn't hear anything. I wasn't sure if it was my throat that wasn't making a sound, or my ears that didn't register it. Nonetheless, I soon stopped shouting as I was quite brutally brought to my senses as I felt a cold piece of metal touch my neck. My mind became sharp once again and I knew that someone was holding a knife to my throat. “What the hell,” I whispered as a soft hand caressed my cheek, sending shivers down my spine.
“Shhh,” a voice said into my ear. I knew that voice.
“Jade,” I whispered. “What the fuck?”
“Now now, Rammy,” I heard a hint of a giggle in her voice. “You just tell me all I want to know and I won't hurt you. In fact, I can reward you wi-” she suddenly fell silent, as if she ran out of breath. I knew it wasn't that, however, as her silence came at the same moment that a resounding bang came from somewhere around where she was standing, and the knife was no longer pressing against my throat. I turned around – Jade was lying on the ground, unconscious, her thick brown hair sprawled on the floor, her glasses shattered. Ashley was standing behind her, heaving, holding a heavy-looking frying pan in his hands. He looked at me with concern.
“You okay?” he asked.
I tried to say something. Thanks for saving my life. How did you find me? Where did you get that thing? What the hell is even going on? But no words came. I just stood there for a moment, staring at Ashley with my mouth agape. I could only shrug. For some reason, that made Ashley laugh.
“Oh thank God,” he said. “I heard you call me. You sounded really terrified so I just ran all around the place. Found this thing.” He pointed at the frying pan. “Thought it might come in handy.”
“Yeah,” I said.
“So,” Ashley started as he put away the pan and cracked his knuckles. “Guess we found Jade.”
“And Wei,” I said. Ashley gave me a puzzled look. “I found him dead just outside the bathroom. It looked like he fell on a tree and got, uh... penetrated.”
“Oh man, no,” Ashley sighed. “I had so much I still wanted to tell him.”
“Never realized you two were close,” I said with a raised eyebrow.
“Oh no, it's... Nevermind now. So what do we do about her?” He pointed at Jade. “She might wake up any minute.”
“We could tie her up and interrogate her, and then we'd bring De Silva to see her,” I said.
“How do we do that, though?” Ashley asked. I did not have an answer ready. My eyes darted back and forth, up and down, until they landed on my belt, which was still undone from my journey to the bathroom. “Aha!”
We found a marble statue that looked sturdy enough and tied her hands up using our belts. I almost felt pity for her, being all tied up like some sort of war prisoner, but then I remembered the same woman was trying to kill me just minutes ago.
“Hey, Ram,” Ashley said as we sat with our backs against the wall. “Sorry for acting like a total dick before.”
“You, acting like a dick? So what else is new?” I snickered. A tiny smiled appeared on his lips but disappeared almost instantaneously. “So, do you intend to tell me what your deal is?”
Ashley took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He opened them as he started talking. “Remember how I told you what I was doing with Van before, uh... before she died?”
“Yeah.” How could I forget?
“Well, I wasn't really lying but...” He brushed his hair from his face. “Well, let's just say this wasn't the first time we've done it.”
“Good for you, I guess?”
“Let me finish,” he said, his face now burried in his hands. I heard him take in another deep breath and lift his head again. This time he faced me, looking at me with his brown eyes. “I've known Van for a couple of years. We had... a thing. I don't know if I was in love with her, but we would meet from time to time and I... I really liked spending time with her, you know?” I noticed a tear form in the corner of his eye, but he quickly wiped it away. He gave a sad laugh. “You know, I never thought I'd react like this. I thought I still had the time to talk to her about so many things and... Well, that doesn't matter anymore, really. To the point.” He took another deep breath and gave his cheeks a gentle slap. “So right before she died she told me that she had to tell me something really important. Of course, I never got to know what it was. But you know, there was one thing that made me wonder...”
And then it hit me. “That kid! That kid we saw in the organ room!” Ashley nodded. “I knew there was something familiar about him... But still, you really can't be sure it's your kid. Or Van's, for that matter.”
“I know, but...”
“Hey, stop right there,” I said. “There really is no reason to worry about that now. We've got a murderer on the loose here. Lighten up!”
I was going to give him a reassuring pat on the shoulder, but before I could, we both turned to face our captive. Jade was beginning to stir, a grimace on her face.
“Oh will you two just shut up? I think I'm gonna throw up...”