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“You DO know where we’re going, don’t you?”
Diana said this as she peered out the window from the passenger seat of the little car as it struggled down a country dirt road that probably wasn’t on any map printed.
From the driver’s seat, her best friend Andy shrugged as he too peered out the windshield, trying to see anything through the dark September night that would give him a clue as to where they were going. “Sally said this was the road, it’s on the map there.” He indicated the small slip of paper that Diana had pinned to the visor for easier viewing.
“I’m beginning to wonder if she was sober when she wrote them down,” muttered Diana balefully. “What’s this party supposed to be for, anyway?”
“I don’t know any more than what Sally and Greg told both of us,” Andy replied, slowing down as the headlights indicated a sharp right turn up ahead. “Some kind of mystery thing, everyone pairs up.”
Diana nodded, remembering the conversation she’d had with Sally about that. Within their circle of friends, created in college and strong ever since, she and Andy were the only two who remained unattached. Everyone else had either married or had been dating the same person for over a year now. So usually Andy and Diana paired up if neither had a date to bring to a party.
But since Andy and Diana had been friends since childhood, they never minded being paired up together. They had been close friends for many years, confiding in each other and leaning on one another. It was actually Andy who introduced Diana to the college crowd he ran with, having known her since grade school, and they had all accepted her in enthusiastically. Any friend of Andy’s was a friend of theirs.
Andy and Diana could talk to each other very easily, and occasionally have a pretty good argument as well, but in general they got along so well that they almost took one another for granted. If there were any deeper feelings on either of their minds regarding one another, they were never expressed. Andy had dated his share of girls in the past, and Diana herself had also had an active social life. Many a night she had cried on Andy’s shoulder after a bad breakup, which was how most of her relationships ended, in part due to her fiery temper. And Andy himself could recall many times he had kept Diana up all night, venting his emotions on her willing ears. There just wasn’t anyone else who could listen in silence and understand with her eyes, as Diana could do.
“Look,” Diana said, pointing up ahead. Andy saw it almost as soon as she spoke. The road dead ended in a driveway up ahead. As Andy’s car got closer, his headlights fell upon the house they were supposed to meet the gang at, and first his jaw, and then Diana’s, dropped open in astonishment.
The house they were looking at could only be called a mansion. At least three stories, not counting what could only be an attic, and spread out into two different wings. It rose tall over the manicured lawn and gravelled driveway. Looking up, Andy could see bars on all of the windows. The huge stone house looked exotic and creepy to him. To Diana, staring at it through the windshield, it looked like an English nursing home.
Andy stopped the car behind a group of other cars belonging to previously arrived guests, most of which he recognized. It looked like he and Diana were the last to arrive. He turned off the engine, but neither he nor Diana made a move to get out of the car. They both continued to stare at the house, wondering if they were at the right place.
“Do you recognize this place?” Diana asked, turning to look at Andy. In the moonlight, her ice green eyes looked doubtful and apprehensive. Andy saw it clearly and wondered, as he had many times before, if Diana ever really knew how expressive her eyes were; she could hide so little.
“I know I’ve never been here before,” Andy said, thinking that Diana could have been right about Sally being drunk when she wrote the directions down for them.
Diana shook her head, her pale blond hair, done in a French twist for what had been described to them as a black tie affair, glinted in the moonlight. “I don’t remember this place being mentioned by anyone in the gang before. How did Sally and Greg find it?”
Andy shrugged. “Greg’s pretty good at finding what he wants to find. This mystery party was his idea. We’d better go in.”
They both got out of the car. Diana took a quick moment to pull down her black sequined cocktail dress, which boasted spaghetti straps and a very short skirt, showing off her lean body and long legs beautifully. Andy waited patiently and watched her. He always liked to watch Diana, though he had always avoided thinking about why.
They both started toward the huge house, Diana stumbling a little on the graveled drive, which was not easy to navigate in high heels. Andy reached out and steadied her. It was the least he could do, after she had had the good manners not to laugh at him when he had shown up at her house in a tuxedo.
Diana bahis firmaları accepted his arm thankfully. They continued down the long drive until they came to a small porch in front of large double doors that sported a lion’s head knocker.
Andy rolled his eyes when he saw it, and Diana held down the urge to laugh. As good looking as he was, especially in his tuxedo, he was still the same Andy, a regular guy trapped in a monkey suit.
Andy reached out to grasp the knocker, but before he could touch it, the doors swung silently open on well-oiled hinges, making both of them jump. They were confronted by a tall, very thin man dressed in what Diana recognized as a butler’s uniform. The man was as pale as death, with thin, pale hair to match, and his colorless eyes regarded them both disdainfully.
Andy was struck speechless, but Diana, as usual, was not. “Good evening,” she said, picking up the manners she had been taught in childhood but only used when necessary. Only someone who knew her so well, such as Andy, could hear the barely contained laughter beneath her velvety tone. He had to bite his lip to keep from laughing himself.
“You are…?” The butler blocked their entrance, standing ramrod straight, his eyes on Diana, who had spoken first. Diana gave him their names.
“You are expected. Please follow me.”
“We are expected,” Andy muttered under his breath, loud enough for only Diana to hear. Diana rewarded him with a sharp poke in the ribs, as they followed the walking ghoul into the house.
Both Andy and Diana stopped in their tracks, gazing in awe at the foyer that they stood in. Diana’s entire house could have fit easily into it. Marble flooring stretched before them, even up the massive staircase right in front of them. The walls were hung with expensive artwork, and the foyer was well lit, and completely silent. It looked like something out of a movie about very rich and very weird people.
“Jesus,” Andy muttered. Diana said nothing.
The sound of a voice being cleared broke them of their inspection of the front hall, as they both remembered their butler escort, who was now standing impatiently in the hall that led to the right of the staircase, waiting for them. Andy flushed, and Diana returned the butler’s glare as they continued to follow him. They headed down the long, well-lit hall, Diana’s heels loudly announcing their approach on the marble flooring. The butler’s pace did not permit pause to view the expensive art hanging on the walls.
Finally they came to a set of double doors, which the butler ceremoniously swung open, then stood aside for them to enter. Andy gave their escort a nod of thanks. Diana ignored him completely. She had not liked the butler’s response to her polite treatment of him.
They found themselves in a library. Every wall held shelves of books, all leather bound, and judging from the freshness of the leather scent, probably never taken down and read. In the center of the room, there was a large stone fireplace, in front of which there was an assortment of comfortable looking chairs, all of which were occupied by their friends.
Everyone turned to stare at them. Diana and Andy slowly halted their approach toward the fireplace. The seed of doubt that had already been planted in their minds now blossomed into a full flower of apprehension. Their close college friends, the people they had gone to parties with and bars with, were staring at both of them as though they were strangers. No one said a word of greeting, no one stood up. No one smiled. They just looked at them both in an expectant way, as if waiting for one of them to sprout a second head.
A chill ran down Diana’s spine, and she took a step closer to Andy, looking up at him in confusion. His dark blue eyes returned her gaze with the same confusion. Whatever they had been expecting, it was certainly not for their closest friends to treat them as though they were strangers.
The voice came from directly behind them. Diana, whose nerves were beginning to grow raw, jumped, whirled around, and very nearly swung a fist at the man who now stood behind them. He had approached them in silence, and Andy quickly grabbed Diana’s elbow. With a visible effort, she regained her composure.
The man who had spoken was not the butler who had escorted them in. This was a tall, very regal-looking gentleman with snow-white hair, dressed in a dark black suit. He smiled at them, the first friendly gesture they had seen since arriving. Andy relaxed a little, but did not let go of Diana’s elbow. He knew the smile would make no difference to her. Her guard was solidly up now, and it was clear she did not like this entire affair so far. Neither did he, but having known the group of people in front of the fireplace a little longer, he was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Vaguely he wondered if Diana trusted anyone except him.
The tall man who had spoken gestured toward the two remaining empty chairs, set a kaçak iddaa little apart from the others, but Diana made no move toward them.
“Who are you?” she asked, piercing the man with those ice green eyes, giving him what Andy liked to call “the iceberg stare” that she was famous for. And even on this cool, elegant stranger, it worked. He looked at her and flinched. But he recovered quickly.
“I am Edward St. John,” he replied calmly. “I own this house, and I have been asked to host this affair. Please, make yourselves comfortable.”
Obviously unsatisfied, but aware of the expectant stares of the others, Diana warily moved to one of the chairs and seated herself. Andy took the other and moved it closer to hers, knowing she was growing increasingly upset, and hoping he could keep her calmed down. He was beginning to worry. No one knew Diana’s temper like he did, and this sort of game was just the thing to set it off. And when she lost her temper, she did not care what she did or who she did it to.
Everyone was still staring at them, and Sally and Greg, who had arranged this whole thing, were now smiling at Andy. It was becoming obvious to both Andy and Diana that they were the focus of this whole party, but neither of them could think of why. Neither had a birthday coming up, or any other reason to be thrown a party.
Mr. St. John stood in front of the fireplace and cleared his throat. “Thank you all for coming,” he began. “As you are all aware, this party has a mystery theme. But it is not a murder mystery, staged for you to solve. Rather, we will call it the “personals mystery.” When you all recieved your invitations, you were told to bring a significant other or a spouse.” His eyes came to rest on Andy and Diana. Andy squirmed in his chair a little. Diana’s cold glare suddenly turned smoking, and she treated everyone in the room to it except Andy.
“The theme of this party,” Mr. St. John said, “is that each couple has been given a task to complete, and assigned a room in this house to complete it in. Each couple has a different task. The instructions and everything you need to complete the task are in your assigned room. When your task is completed, you will return to the library. It will then be the time to determine who completed their task, and who did not. Now, I will read off the names of the couples, and Munroe will escort you to your assigned room.”
Andy glanced around and saw the butler standing in the doorway, waiting. So his name was Munroe. As Mr. St. John began to read off names from a sheet of paper, Andy wondered what task had been assigned to him and Diana. Greg was the one who organized this party, and Greg had a reputation for doing out of the ordinary things. Andy hoped they wouldn’t be required to kill anything.
“Andy and Diana,” Mr. St. John read, when Munroe returned from escorting Heidi and Alan. Andy and Diana looked at each other. They saw Munroe move toward the door, clearly expecting them to follow him. Andy shrugged and got out of his chair. Diana wanted to stay and throw a few people around until she got a few answers to her questions, but she also rose, and together they followed Munroe out of the library.
The butler silently led them up the marble staircase to the second floor. They went down a long hall done in dark red trim and carpet, until they finally stopped at a door to the right. The butler fished in his pocket and came up with one key, Diana recognized it as a skeleton key. He unlocked the door, and stepped aside for them to enter.
They stepped into a bedroom. And the minute they were inside the room, the door slammed shut behind them. Diana whirled around and grabbed at the door handle, but it was locked. She tugged in vain at the heavy wooden door that was too heavy to break down.
“Diana, take it easy,” Andy said, as she pounded on the door in rage. “Why don’t we find out what our task is?”
Diana turned to glare at him, and her anger melted at the look on his face. Poor Andy. In spite of his past relationships, he was very naive. She had no idea what their task was, but she had a strong feeling she would not like it.
“I don’t think I want to know,” Diana muttered, stepping a little further into the room to look it over. As bedrooms went, this one was magnificent. It was enormous, but the only furniture in it was a huge bed, four poster, that easily could have accomodated five people. It had curtains around it, which were drawn open. The room was quite dark, because the only light came from two tall standing candleabras, each holding thirteen candles.
Beside the bed was a rolling serving tray that held two envelopes, a pitcher of water, and a knife.
Diana went over to the rolling serving tray and looked at the envelopes. One had her name on it, written in spidery handwriting, and the other had Andy’s name. She picked up Andy’s and held it out to him. “These must be our instructions,” she said.
Andy took the envelope from her and went over to the opposite side of the kaçak bahis bed, to read by the candlelight of the candleabra, while Diana remained on the other side by that candleabra, near the rolling tray. He wasn’t too worried about what they would have to do. Probably find their way back to the library through a bunch of mazes behind the walls, he thought as he opened the envelope.
When he finished reading it for the second time, and was realizing that he did not know his friends as well as he thought he did, he looked up at Diana. Her face had gone completely white, and she stared at the sheet of paper in her hand in complete disbelief.
“We’ve been set up,” Andy said quietly.
Diana’s heart pounded. She looked up at her best friend, who now looked like a stranger to her. Yes, they had been set up. But by whom? And why? Never in her life had she thought of doing some of the things written on that paper. It wasn’t exactly gross, it was just… bizarre. And the most bizarre thought of all was the thought of doing them to her best friend. Of course, she had wondered, what it would be like, but an idle occasional thought was quite different from actually doing something like this.
“Who?” she said in a whisper. “And why?”
Andy shook his head sorrowfully. “It has to be Sally and Greg,” he said. “Diana, I never wanted to tell you this, but every time either of us breaks up with someone, they’ve been pushing me to go out with you as more than a friend. I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t know how you would take it. And neither did they. But they knew how I felt about you.” He added a piercing stare to his last comment, which Diana met with shock. “We never took the bait,” he continued, “and now they’re forcing us to take it.”
“No one is forcing me to do anything,” Diana said in a dangerous tone of voice that Andy knew all too well. She stood up and flung the sheet of paper to the floor. “I am NOT going to do this.”
“They haven’t given us much of a choice,” Andy replied logically. “The door is locked.”
Diana hated it when Andy got logical on her. “The windows–“
“–have bars,” Andy finished for her. “Besides, we’re on the second floor.”
“There has got to be another way out of here!” Frantically, Diana began searching the room from top to bottom, looking for another door, a window, a secret passage, even a crack in the wall. Andy watched her in silence, knowing she would find nothing. He was not as upset as she was about what they had been told to do. In fact, the details of his sheet had intrigued him, and excited him, especially since it was Diana who he was to do them to. Idly he figured that made him a true pervert. So be it.
Diana finally had to give her search up. She sat on the opposite side of the bed, away from Andy, and stared into space, trying to think of what to do, of any way out of this situation.
“Why are you so upset about this?” Andy asked. “Do I make you sick or something?”
She looked at him in shock, hurt that he would say such a thing. “How could you say that?”
Andy shrugged. “You’re acting like we’ve been ordered to sacrifice a chicken.”
Diana shuddered. “Close,” she muttered.
Andy shook his head. “Not unless you look at it that way.”
She picked up her sheet and gestured toward him with it. “Some of these things are bizarre, Andy. It sounds like devil worship or something.”
“There isn’t any pentagram on the floor,” Andy said. “We’re not worshiping the devil. Try to look at it like it’s a medical procedure or something.”
“You need professional help,” she replied, staring balefully at him.
He returned the stare. “And that’s not why you’re upset. I know it isn’t. You aren’t the squeamish type. It’s because it’s me you’re partnered with. I can tell.”
Damn him for being able to read her so well. “It’s not that I’m not curious,” she murmured. “It’s just that I.. never.. considered going that way with you.”
“Well, I have considered it,” Andy replied bluntly. Again, she stared at him in shock. “And if you’re worried about hurting me,” he continued, “don’t be. You don’t know me as well as you think you do.”
“Maybe I would rather not know you that well,” she shot back. “Maybe I like things between us the way they are.”
He stared at her for a full minute. “I don’t think so,” he said finally.
She looked at him, seeing his thick, dark hair, his deep blue eyes, and wrenched her gaze away. Suddenly realizing that she was about to give in to doing something she had not planned to do, she said, “Let’s just wait, Andy. They have to let us out of here sometime.”
With a start, she knew he was right. There was no reason for whoever had staged this to let them out of this room anytime soon. There was no phone in the room, and no way out. They could be kept in here for days. While Diana doubted their friends would take it that far, it was quite possible they would be locked in here all night long. The gang had pulled worse pranks before.
But this was more than a prank, and Diana silently vowed that if she and Andy got out of that room, she would break the face of every person in the house, including Mr. St. John and that corpse of a butler.
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