There were five shots. By the fifth, the dining room was empty and everyone was on their way up the stairs. They had each produced a weapon from somewhere. Mostly they were knives and knuckle dusters, but Freddy's voluminous sleeves had concealed a pair of antique derringers which he now waved dangerously.
Freddy was first through the bedroom door. He took in the sight of Todd on the floor struggling to pull his trousers on and Crystal reloading her snub nosed revolver and looking stern, then swung to point his guns at the opposite corner of the room. Terri was right behind him, brandishing a Bowie knife which almost qualified as a broad sword. She surveyed the room then stepped back and looked around again, puzzled. "Where's the body?"
"He got away." Crystal admitted as she angrily flipped the revolver's cylinder back into place. "I missed him."
The revelation was met with a shocked silence. Crystal never missed. Freddy eventually summoned up the courage to ask, "How....?"
"Someone," Crystal jerked her head in Todd's direction, as if anyone didn't know to whom she was referring, "came too soon." Todd reddened. "I was compensating for the thrusts, keeping the pistol steady, when captain short strokes here shot his load and stopped moving. Just as I pulled the trigger. Made me fire high. By the time I got the dead weight off me the target had disappeared."
"Well I'm sorry," Todd blurted out angrily, "I didn't know I wasn't supposed to come until you told me to."
"That's all you have to do! Just keep on pumping away until we've enticed the killer out and I've put a few rounds in him! The horny teenagers is our best trap. When I did it with Jason he could just keep humping me like a metronome until I was ready to pull the trigger. We got three slashers with that trap."
"Yeah, well Jason's not on the team any more, is he."
Crystal didn't respond to Todd's remark, but her glare made him think again about saying anything else. She found her underwear and top and started dressing.
Loomis had been looking at the corner of the room. As well as five bullet holes in the wall he had found something on the floor which piqued his interest. "You didn't miss him." he told Crystal, "There's blood splatter on the wall and a trail on the floor." He pushed against a section of wall. "It ends here and disappears under the skirting."
Freddy was nodding recognition, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"Secret door and passageways between the walls."
"Just like that hotel in Buffalo."
"Okay." Terri sheathed her knife, "How about you two try to find a way to open the secret panel. Everyone else, eyes peeled. Crystal, can you give us a description?"
"Weapon of choice was a long pole with a sharpened end. Probably not a javelin or spear, more likely something makeshift. Clothes were black or dark brown, something with a hood."
"Of course. It was a plain white oval with just two holes for eyes. I didn't get a long enough look to be able to tell you anything like eye colour though."
* * *
The blood trail on the floor told them a lot about the hidden door. When the door had been opened several spots of blood had been smeared in an arc across the floor. From this it was easy to work out that the door hinged at, or just beyond, the corner of the room. Now they just had to find the other end.
Freddy started by tapping the wall, moving away from the corner every time and waiting for the sound to change. It didn't. "The wall must be hollow all the way along." Loomis suggested. His method was to press his face against the wall and stare along it, away from the hinge, as he pushed hard against it. After a couple of goes he spotted the discontinuity where the edge of the door pushed in. He pointed to it and Freddy nodded.
"Now we just got to find the...." Freddy trailed off as he and Loomis stared at the nude Loomis' face had been pressed against. The left nipple wasn't just painted to give an impression of depth, it actually stood a little proud of the wall. Freddy reached out and pressed it.
The nipple slid into the wall, taking Freddy's finger with it. There was a light click as the door unlatched. Freddy found he could hook his finger around to pull the door open. "Hold on." Crystal commanded. She moved to Freddy's side and raised her gun so she could shoot anything which leapt out at him. "Okay."
Freddy pulled the door back with a flourish, and Crystal thrust her gun forward. She was threatening an empty space, with nothing more dangerous to see than a nail half hammered into the tongue and groove panelling of the rear wall. Crystal lowered her gun, "Well, that was an anti-climax."
"You should be getting used to those." Freddy managed to deadpan.
"I see more blood, up there." Loomis observed, pointing at a section of wall just out of Crystal's line of sight. "And a whole passageway. Has anyone got a light?" A multitude of small but powerful torches were offered up. He took two and used them to illuminate the space. "This is easily wide enough to walk along, and there's a ladder at the end."
Terri joined Loomis, "Well that explains how he got around. Okay. Let's work our way around these passageways and see if we can flush him out whilst he's still off balance. Teams of two."
* * *
The rooms in the walls went up and around and there were crawl spaces between the floor and ceiling. Soon enough the teams were confused and unable to track exactly where they were in the structure.
Tiffany and Sam had found a room down a dead end. They stared at the decorations on the walls "You think he painted these?" Tiffany wondered.
"No, Tupac. Of course the killer, who else could I mean?"
"They look like two people fought over each of them. There's someone with a bit of artistic skill does a bit and then a kid comes along and scrawls on it."
"We should keep them, sell them to some gallery. They're full of shit like this." There was a giggle in Tiffany's voice.
"What's this one? Is that a deer getting butchered?"
"Could be, but what's that in the background? Is it a tent?"
"A dozen campers have disappeared in the woods in this area since Prisoner 1392 went on his rampage. Mostly couples." Terri's head had popped out of a hole further up the wall. "The local Police have blamed the disappearances on animal attacks, accidents and just getting lost, but no evidence has ever been found of what really happened to them. Now, are you two done with your art critique? Can we get back to our jobs and finding the masked lunatic and putting him down?"
Tiffany studied the picture for a while longer. That definitely wasn't a deer strung up between a pair of trees. "If we don't find him on this sweep maybe there's a clue in these pictures."
"Okay. Bring them with you."
Sam and Tiffany tugged the pictures down from the wall and laid them out with the largest on the bottom. Then they rolled them up and Sam did his best to carry them off without tearing them to shreds.
There was further clunking, creaks and curses as the teens clambered through the rest of the house, then a roll call of negatives. "Okay, back to the library!" Terri called.
The noises of movement receded and eventually the walls were empty again. In the space which had been a gallery a section of the wall silently slid out. A dark figure emerged from the hiding space within the hiding space, adjusted their blank white mask and stared at the empty walls.