Ashes to Ashes Page 16


We turned to see a tiny video camera mounted just above the grand staircase that led to the upper floors. Big brother was watching. We didn’t have to voice it to know that we weren’t expected to go anywhere else in the building except for the first floor.

And I didn’t have to look at Dex to know what he was thinking. I could just feel it. He was already plotting ways for us to get around that camera. As soon as we saw Davenport get in her Lexus and drive off into the darkening fog, he turned to us and said, “There’s more than one way upstairs.”

Then he grinned impishly, the dimples sticking out on his stubble-flecked cheeks, and turned to head back to the nurses’ quarters. I looked at Rebecca and sighed. She shrugged, apparently not expecting anything less.

“Okay, so what exactly is your plan?” Rebecca asked as we followed him into our new bedroom.

He sat on the edge of my bed, his weight nearly lifting the whole thing, and looked up at us, completely devious. He really was something else when he was in this mode. His attitude was infectious, even when it proved to harbor a terrible idea.

“The way I see it, Custodian Carl is probably here for another two hours tops. I say while he’s here we film a bit of the first floor. I mean, that motion sensor camera is going to be activated anyway. Then when he leaves, we hunker ourselves down in the break room where I’ll whip up my patented mac and cheese and hotdog special, we break out a few contraband beers, relax a little. Then, when it’s dark as sin and we’re sure Carl and anyone else are miles away from here, we pick up the cameras and go upstairs.”

“By this secret other way that you know about?” Rebecca repeated sardonically.

He stroked his chin. “Yep. The one elevator in this building doesn’t work anymore. I saw it just past the washrooms. It’s boarded up, the power probably cut a long time ago.”

I put my face in my hands. “Please don’t suggest we’re climbing up an elevator shaft, because I’m not doing it.”

“Relax, kiddo,” he said. “This ain’t Speed.” I watched him carefully to see if he was going to launch into another Keanu impression. He didn’t. “Anyway, that normally would be the only way upstairs. But I’ve done my research, just like Becs here has done, and I know there’s one more way. We may have to search for it, but it’s there.”

“Hold on,” I interrupted. “Before I find out what this way is, what do you propose we do? Go upstairs and film? Alone? The three of us? Sure, we won’t trip the camera and it’s not like Davenport explicitly said we weren’t allowed upstairs but…you know she’s eventually going to see the footage. She’ll know we went up on our own.”

“So?” Dex said, looking at me as if I was crazy. “By the time this episode airs, we’ll be back in Seattle and she’ll be stuck down here with her Sharpie eyebrows and her shitty haunted school. No harm, no foul.”

Mmmhmm. I hated burning bridges, but he did have a point. It’s not like we were trespassing since we’d already been invited to stay on the property. “So what’s the way?” I asked with trepidation.

Dex wiggled his lips back and forth and looked at Rebecca. She stared blankly back at him for a few beats until she groaned. “Oh dear, I think I know what bloody way you’re talking about.”

“Bloody is right,” he said. “Unless the bodies had been drained already.” He read my puzzled expression. “The body chute.”

“The what?” I asked.

“Almost every sanatorium has a body chute. It was a way to get the bodies from the morgue or autopsy areas out of the building and into the hearses outside. Think about it…a hospital like this had at least five hundred deathly ill patients at a time. Thousands died, right here. How could you instill hope in people, the hope to survive, if you were wheeling out dead bodies in front of them on a daily basis?”

Shit. This was a lot bigger than I’d originally thought. Usually when we did a show, we went to where one or two people had died. Only in very few instances was it a group of people. I think the leper colony at D’Arcy Island was the largest amount, about thirty to fifty of them. But thousands of people—children—died here over the course of Sea Crest’s operation; right in the very building I was in. Thousands. This was so damn different from just one ghost. It was so different from just worrying about Elliot or Shawna or a few suicidal nurses. There would have been dead upon dead upon dead here.

“Perry?” Dex asked. “If you don’t want to come, you can stay behind.”

I nearly laughed. “Stay here? Alone in the room? And do what? Knit you guys some socks?”

“It might be less scary,” Rebecca offered. At that moment I kind of wanted to hit her. She was never scared, what the hell did she know about anything being less scary? She was barely even right. Yes, staying in the room seemed like a better idea than going up to the other floors, but being alone was being alone. I’d rather see horrendous gore with someone else by my side than hear the giggle of a child on my own.

“I’m good,” I said firmly. “So where do you think this body chute is?”

“I’d think there would have to be access on this floor considering all the nurses were staying down here. We just have to do our usual try every door and see which one is a winner.”

None of them are winners, I thought. “And this chute…”

“If I’m right,” Dex said, “it’s just a tunnel with a steep incline. Stairs on one side, a slab on the other where you can wheel the gurney.”

“You do realize I’d rather trip Davenport’s security camera and deal with the consequences tomorrow,” I said.

“And where is the fun in that?”

So we decided to go with Dex’s plan. While Carl—a quiet and small-eyed senior with the unruliest ear hair I’d ever seen—mopped the hall, we started filming the first floor. Rebecca operated the light while Dex filmed, and I tried to look both scared and pretty on film. Considering Carl was watching us at times, I’m not sure I succeeded at either.

Then when I ran out of interesting things to say and we’d filmed every single classroom, trying to find cold spots or weird sounds or unexplained breezes and coming up empty, we acted like we were done for the night and retreated to the lounge for Dex’s redneck special. Carl eventually got in his beater of a car and drove off into the night, leaving us feeling completely and utterly alone.

“So,” I said as I washed down a bite with a mouthful of warm beer. “It’s just the three of us.”

The isolation wrapped its cold arms around me. Outside, the fog was lifting but the sun had set and the sky was turning a purplish bruised color, darkening by the moment. Though the lights in the lounge and the outside hall were on, it still felt dark as hell. The only sound was from the hum of the fridge and from the clank of our forks against the plates. Everything else was quiet, deathly quiet. The kind of quiet that became a character of its own.

Rebecca gathered her frilled cardigan around her. “If I admit that the whole situation is a fair bit unnerving, will the two of you laugh at me?”

Dex took a swig of his beer before asking, “Do you want us to laugh at you? You know I’m always game.”

She glared at him. “Here I am, admitting that I’m borderline scared and you’re taking the piss.”

“Ignore him,” I told her. “I won’t laugh. This place is like its own entity. I swear if you listen hard enough, you can hear the walls breathing.”

“Perry,” she admonished, giving me a dirty look. “That was something I didn’t need to picture.”

It was true though. Even though the lounge was tastefully furnished, resembling a trendy waiting area for a downtown office more than a staff break room, there was something in the air that reminded you where you were: miles above sea level on the Oregon coast, locked in an old sanatorium where thousands of children died, spending the night and hoping to film at least one of the many ghosts who were rumored to live here. I was hit again with that overwhelming urge to flee. I guess that fight mechanism of mine petered out from time to time.

I glanced at Dex, who seemed to be acting normal, eyes dancing slightly in anticipation of the night. “How many beers did you bring, by the way, because I think I might need another,” I told him.

“I’ll have some tea,” Rebecca spoke up, pushing her plate toward us. “I can’t eat anymore.”

“Feeling sick again?” I asked her. I leaned in more to observe her face. Like earlier, she still looked more tired than normal, her skin taking on a lackluster bluish tone that looked vampiric against her dark hair and brows.

“Nothing tea won’t fix,” she said as she got up to put on a pot. Dex pulled another lager out of the fridge and handed it to me.

It wasn’t long though before he started cleaning up and suggesting we get ready. I know it was my job as host to look as attractive as possible, but when your face was filmed in grainy, green night vision and you were usually making the stupidest expressions, I’d learned it was kind of a lost cause. I brushed my hair back into a ponytail, added some powder to my nose and liner to my lids, but the jeans and Kyuss hoodie stayed and I was ready to go. Or at least ready as I’d ever be.

With Dex taking the small camcorder, Rebecca with the external light, and me with…well, me, we headed out the door and down the hallway. I was immediately creeped out. The hallway was completely dark down the wing where the classrooms were. Our wing was only lit by the occasional wall sconce, giving off a romantic but dim light. The whole place must have been on timers.

“Do you know if there’s power upstairs?” I asked as we slowly walked down the hall of the administrative wing, Dex and Rebecca peering at every door or wall paneling we came across.

“Probably not,” said Rebecca. She walked along the wall, her fingers trailing beneath intricate white molding. “There would be no point if no one ever used the space above. Which reminds me, we have no idea what the physical state of this supposed tunnel will be, let alone the floors above. What if some places are out of bounds for a reason?”

“Relax,” Dex said as he looked through the camera, aiming it around us. “We’re just going to the second floor for now. We’ll take a peek and if anything looks unsafe, we’ll turn around and head back.”

I licked my lips nervously. If we did have to turn back in a hurry, I knew I’d be sprinting down that main staircase, two steps at a time.

The thing about the building that made things extra eerie in the darkness was the way the floors were laid out. The main hall, where the nurses’ room was, the offices, the lounge, the showers, it was all one straight shot up and down. If you stood in the absolute middle of the building—where the staircase was—and looked down past Davenport’s office to the end, it looked like that was it, ending at a distant room. But the hall actually veered sharply to the left, so that if you were viewing the building from above, it would look like angular bat wings. We were almost where the hall turned down the wing when Dex let out a satisfied sigh.

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