Dillon walked in beat, the wireless camera and transmitter in his hands. He bopped his head to the music from an MP3 player, tucked into the breast pocket of his flannel shirt.
The hallway outside the Kiley’s private suite was dead quiet, and unnerved him. The music player kept the silence at bay. Seeing the hat of a dead man in the suite didn’t ease his fears about the investigation, and though he tried to be light-hearted about it, it rattled him. He wasn’t precisely sure why, but he knew it was a harbinger of things to come. Bad things.
JD asked if he wanted to set up the camera in the Kiley’s old house, or the one in the room where the mirror message was. He opted for the latter. He didn’t want to be in that bedroom, in the presence of that ghost hat, unless his life — or someone’s life he cared about — was
at stake. It took all his willpower to even go into that room again, and act like he wasn’t afraid. He feigned a couple of yawns to make sure Wen and Jaded didn’t see his jangling nerves, the cold sweat pooling under his arms. He stuffed his hands in his pockets casually so they didn’t see them shaking. He forced his breathing to be quiet, slow, normal.
And the entire time, he was on the verge of panic, of running out screaming like a little girl, like a chicken-shit, like some horror movie bitch about to get whacked by the machete-wielding slasher.
But he fooled them. Again. They really didn’t seem to notice.
Which is exactly what he wanted. He was only here to make sure nothing got to Wendy and JD. He only came along because the dread, the positive, absolute assurance of something terrible happening to one of them, drove him to. He couldn’t bear the thought of one of them dying, horribly, painfully, while he could’ve prevented it … or died trying.
He tried not to think about it. He knew it was coming, but tried not to think about it. Not right now. Time enough for that crap when the chips were down. For now, he was focused on making sure they saw the normal, regular ol’ Dilly. He ate, even though he wanted to puke all the time. He forced it down, held it in, pretended it was good. He yawned and scratched his beard. He gave JD a bad time. He sold the normal bit as hard as he could.
He wasn’t. He was scared shitless.
He rounded the corner, headed for room 3126. He knew something creepy happened in there, too, but JD didn’t tell them what yet. He didn’t want to ask. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know. He’d find out, but he wasn’t going to look. Not in a million years. Not unless someone’s life depended on it. Because something awful was going to happen …
He shook his head and turned the music up louder. Stupid ass. He’d better stop thinking, or he was going to break down. JD and Wendy needed him, and that’s the end of it. He had to be together when the shit hit the fan.
Or someone might die. Would die.
A hand touched him lightly on the shoulder and he screamed hard, loud, strained his vocal chords, jumped violently, his innards and bones jellid, unable to support him. He whirled, fumbled and snatched with shaking hands jarred by a burst of adrenaline to catch the camera and transmitter. He slammed against the wall, a sharp pain shot through his shoulder, and he slid backwards over the textured wallpaper. His eyes fell on the intruder, and focused … finally.
Danae. It was Danae.
She covered her gaping mouth with both hands, her bulging eyes shocked and tear-filled. Her jaw moved — she said something, but he couldn’t hear over the music. He ripped the ear buds out, the tinny sound buzzing in the hall. He panted, tried to catch his breath and muster a smile.
“H-ey,” he stammered, and wiped his sweat-soaked brow. “Didn’t hear ya with … the music goin’. Sorry.” He held up the ear buds. His weak smile didn’t reach his eyes.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry, Dilly — Dillon.” She clutched her hands to her chest. “I-I didn’t meanta … I mean, I shouldn’a snuck up on ya like that.”
“Naw, naw, ferget it,” he waved a hand dismissively but his heart hammered on his breastbone like a carpenter driving a nail. “I jus’ didn’ see ya or hear ya or nuthin’, y’know? — on account o’ havin’ this on, and shi — stuff. It’s no big, really.”