Eventually, they acknowledged that it was impossible to force the door. Carl had thrown himself at it, shoulders first, over and over, until Jean worried that he would cause permanent damage to his body. He kicked it, but his soft cycling shoes were simply not man enough for the job. They had hoped to smash the frame, or the lock, and neither of these showed any sign of giving under the battering. The rusted old bracket, which was their only tool, was too thick to use as a lock pick, and too fragile to use as a jemmy. They gave up the pointless battle.
They took it in turns to chisel away at the wooden covering over the window, but once they had removed a fair sized piece of it they could tell it would be far too small to allow either of them to climb through. Anyway, as far as they could see, there was no way to open it. Nevertheless, the additional light in the room was a comfort. There was an orange glow from a nearby streetlamp and so at least they were near to civilisation of some sort. With the reduction of soundproofing, they could hear the quiet rumble of traffic in the distance. Carl lifted Jean so that she could peer out through the dim and dusty glass. “Well, there are houses, in the distance, I can’t see what’s next door. There’s a yard and a fence, it doesn’t tell us much I’m afraid. I don’t know where we are.”
Carl wanted to smash the glass, “We could wave something out of it. We could shout.”
“But there’s no-one around, it’s raining and horrible out there.” Though there was still no sound in the rest of the building, Jean was terrified of their captors coming back, finding the damage, and taking out their anger on either herself, or Carl. “Let’s just wait. We’re both free now, we can see much better, and they don’t know that. Let’s bide our time, we have surprise on our side, and a weapon.” She glanced down at the rusted metal in her hand, “Well, sort of.”
They sat together on the floor, backs against the walls. Her hair felt sticky and dirty but though Jean was warmer, she was stiff and sore and still suffering the effects of her ordeal.
She tried to put the physical discomfort aside, “You know Carl the more I think about all this, the more puzzling it is. What can that poor girl possibly have told me, if she had been alive? I mean, if these people.” She waved a hand in the direction of the door, “If they are the ones who killed her, then what difference could it make what she said?”
“Well, I suppose they could be worried that you’d tell the police.”
“Yes, that was my first thought, but it just doesn’t gel. If that were the case why not just tell me to keep my mouth shut, or,” she hesitated, “they could have silenced me for good, couldn’t they? I was in the water, I was,” she paused again. “I was drowning, Carl, they must have saved me – so why?”
“Shit – Aunty Jean, don’t say that.” Carl reached out and grabbed her arm as he spoke.
“Well it’s true. Really, do you think they are going to make a judgement? If she only told me her name, or asked me to save her, then they’ll say ‘Oh, okay then that’s fine.’ No, I don’t think they’ll do that, will they?”
“But, she didn’t say anything?” Carl asked again.
Jean shook her head, “No, nope as I said, she was already dead. I didn’t speak to her, but of course they don’t know me, they don’t know that I talk to myself all the time, and from what they saw, they think there was a conversation.”
“Well, the main thing is to get away and then it’s all a pretty moot anyway, eh?”
Jean sighed, laid her head back against the wall. Carl reached and pulled her closer she leaned onto his shoulder and closed her eyes in the gloom. They were in deep trouble, there was no use pretending, but she had faith that in the end, it would all come out alright, and at least she knew that Carl was okay. At least she could try to protect him.
She began to drift away, the emotion and physical trauma had left her exhausted. She felt vaguely unwell and surely if she slept for a while she’d be stronger, more ready for whatever was to come.
Her dreams when they came were terrifying, water, and violence, and death. Normally Jean didn’t mind dreaming, even nightmares gave her ideas for her writing, but she jerked awake now, choking and gasping with Carl rubbing at her hands. “It’s alright, you’re okay. I’ve got you, you’re okay.”
She wiped her hands across her face and took in some deep breaths. For a moment, she was overwhelmed with tiredness, fear, and a lowering feeling of sadness. She pushed herself stiffly to her feet. Surely there was more they should be doing.
It was only as she walked towards the faint light of the window that she thought about the broken, metal bracket. When she turned back she saw that Carl, standing watching her, had it gripped in his fist. He had taken it from her while she slept. She moved back towards him.
“Carl.” she reached out a hand. Though she hadn’t said it, she wanted more than anything to protect him from the repercussions should someone be hurt. More than that, she wanted to be the focus of attention in any violence that she was sure, must be coming. He just shook his head.
“You’re not well. I’m bigger, stronger. You know it’s best if I have it.”
She was about to argue but they were both silenced by the faint sound of footsteps in the room outside. The rattle of the locks sent them across the room. Carl took up a position, Jean stood at his side, but he reached out and gently pushed her behind him.
A blade of brightness shot across the floor as the door was dragged open