She remembered a time in college when she was painting in the box office. The large window was uncovered, opening onto the lobby. Her current boyfriend, who had just become box office manager, went out of the room. She thought she saw him in the corner of her eye, standing in the lobby looking up at her, hands on hips, as if deciding whether she was doing a good job or not.
Losing her temper with him, she fussed for him to quit standing around and help her, only to have him respond from behind her that he was painting the base boards, and had been for some time. She never lost that sensation of being watched the rest of the evening, and into the late hours of the night. Walking back to Ronnie’s car, she’d felt as if dozens of eyes watched her, and could almost hear another set of steps behind them. She’d stayed spooked about that for weeks. She had the same sensation now.
The lamp next to her blinked twice and went out. Trapped in the dark, she stifled a scream. No one could hear her outside and it would only alarm Deacon if he did hear it. She was sure he was looking for a way out, maybe he’d called someone on his phone. She could only pray.
“Why didn’t we tell someone where we were going?” she whispered. “Because we’re bloody fools, that’s why. Bollocks.”
Disturbed by the silence and the dark, she started singing to drive the demons away. Singing one hymn after another, she felt a tiny bit better, but wasn’t comfortable until she wrapped Deacon’s sweater around her head and shoulders and sat on the floor with her back against a blank wall, the door and windows in plain sight.
Deacon sat down in disgust, sighing heavily. He reached for a cigarette, then decided against it. He didn’t dare light anything in this old, wooden building. He hadn’t let the crew smoke in here, he wasn’t about to break his own rule. Leaning back against the wall facing the door, he tilted his head back, hands propped on knees, and tried to relax and think.
How long had he been in here? What about Kacy? She must not have been able to call anyone. He was sure that if she were able to, she’d have been at the door, letting him out. All sorts of visions of her being murdered, or raped, or both, flashed in his mind like a macabre strobe light.
Surely he’d have heard if something was seriously wrong. But he knew that was stupid. A bomb could go off outside, they’d hardly have heard it. He could barely hear cars go by on the busy street a few yards away.
Resting his head against the wall, he gazed upward and stopped mid sigh. Of course! Banging his head on the wall, he looked around for something to climb on. The ceiling was a dropped acoustic tile, making the height somewhat lower than the one in the hallway. He figured it was probably because the air conditioner ducts were put in well after the building was erected. However, if air ducts could fit up there, so could he.
The idea of crawling around in the filth and dark wasn’t very appealing, but it beat being trapped all night in the bathroom, with Kacy across the hall afraid or hurt. He had to take care of her. He pushed the apprehension aside and found a broom. With it, he managed to knock a tile over the sink out of the ceiling, exposing a slit of utter blackness. Fingers of doubt tickled his spine, as he remembered how many nasty spiders liked dark attics, but after the tenting the exterminators had done, it was unlikely to be infested at the moment.
Popping the tile harder, he cracked it and was able to pull it free while standing precariously on the sink. It creaked ominously under his weight, but held. Grabbing the wooden beam and peaking through the hole, he hauled himself upward, gaining a purchase for his feet against the wall. His habit of wearing hiking boots paid off, the rubber cleats grabbed, and kept him from slipping on the wooden paneling. He levered himself through the hole, slithering slowly and cautiously onto the cross beams.
A glance out the hole to orient himself, he set off crawling on the beams, running perpendicular to the direction he wanted to go. Keeping himself at right angles to the beams, he should progress into the foyer and prayed he could get out on the other side. He wouldn’t let himself consider the possibility of being trapped in this dark and spooky space with no way out.
It was awkward crawling, holding a flashlight in one hand, so he set it an arm’s length ahead, crawled up to it, repeating the process until he got to the end. He saw a lot of old spider’s webs in the small space, but none of them were occupied. Judging by the number of crumpled forms he saw on the old insulation below, there were no current occupants. For that he was grateful.
Just as he feared, he saw the way blocked by a wall separating the bathroom from the lobby. Letting out a string of curse words, which would have set Mrs. Sanderson on her ear, he studied the wall carefully. From what he could tell, it wasn’t sheet rock, but plasterboard. His adept fingers felt the surface, searching for a seam. If he could find that, perhaps he could kick part of it free and climb out the hole, dropping to the lobby below. Dino wasn’t going to be very happy, but then he would rather not have his friends trapped overnight in the theater, either.
Luck was with him and he found a seam. There were studs here, but this hadn’ not been hammered into one, just stapled together. For once, Deacon was happy to find shoddy workmanship.
He leaned back on a beam, supporting himself carefully. Pulling his legs up in front of him, he grimaced. His sore leg had felt fine until now. Suddenly, it gave him a clear message that he was overdoing it. Ignoring the discomfort, he pulled his powerful legs back to his nose. Lying on his back as well as he could, he kicked both feet at the plasterboard wall. The noise of impact echoed sounding like a gun had gone off. He heard Kacy scream his name, but couldn’t stop to answer her. Again and again, he hit the wall with all his strength, until he had a hole he could fit through. It was going to be uncomfortable, but he would make it.
©2021 Dellani Oakes