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.Unless you want to walk back to campus.”Aidan looked at Rachel inquiringly.“You up for a hike?”It was a nice night, balmy, with a star-sprinkled, navy-blue sky overhead.Rachel was tired, but the idea of just the two of them walking along the street alone was tempting.“Sure.Why not?”It wasn’t that far to campus.Rachel found herself wishing that Nightmare Hall was much further away.They began talking about the future.“Art is such a competitive field,” Aidan admitted as, holding hands, they darted across the street to campus.“Tough to make a living, but not impossible.The safest way is commercial art, like advertising.” He grinned down at Rachel.“You think I’d fit in on Madison Avenue?”“I think you’d fit in anywhere you wanted to,” she said staunchly.“Yeah?” He put an arm around her shoulders and gave her a quick hug.“Thanks.Paloma’s going to make a beeline for New York when she graduates, and Sam probably will, too.Sam would love the power of New York.But I think Joseph and I are going to head for sunny California after graduation, see if Disney Studios could use a couple of smart-aleck animators.Do the Mickey Mouse thing.Are you a Mickey fan?”“His ears are too big.But I’ve always had a thing for Tweety Bird.”“He’s not Disney.”“Does that mean I can’t like him anymore?”Aidan laughed.“You can like anyone you want to.As long as I’m on the list somewhere.”When they reached her room, he asked her once more if she’d like him to hang the painting before he left.“Aidan, it’s almost two o’clock in the morning.” She opened the door and peered inside.“Bibi’s not home yet, but you still can’t be pounding nails into the wall.”“Only one nail.But okay.Tomorrow, maybe.”Why was he being so insistent about that painting, Rachel wondered after he’d left.Deciding that she would never be able to sleep with it under her bed, she slid it free and hauled it over to the double closet she shared with Bibi, pushing the painting inside, against the rear wall.Then she closed the closet door and padded back to her bed.She got into bed thinking that of all the Saturday nights she’d spent on campus since late August, this one definitely was up there in the top ten.The day had started out so poorly, and ended so well.But as she put her head down on the pillow, prepared to burrow into it as she always did, her left ear landed on something small, cold, and hard.Rachel lifted her head.She had taken off her earrings before she’d undressed.Couldn’t be an earring.She reached over and switched on the bedside table lamp.There, on her pillow, was a tiny brass monkey, like a charm for a bracelet.It wasn’t hers.She had never seen it before.Its miniature paws were covering its eyes.Rachel picked it up.She sat on the edge of her bed and looked down at the small charm.She knew the symbolism of the paws over the eyes.Three monkeys.One with its paws over its eyes.“See no evil.” Another with its paws hiding its ears.“Hear no evil.” And still another with its paws covering its mouth.“Speak no evil.”The one she held in her hand was the “See no evil” monkey.How had it got into her room, onto her pillow?What was it doing here? What did it mean?Rachel shook her head as she thrust the monkey under her bed and reached over to turn off the light.You know, she told herself, sliding down beneath the covers, her eyes wide in the darkness.You know what it means.It means the same as “M.Y.O.B.” It means, don’t see what someone doesn’t want you to see.Rachel flopped over onto her stomach.She felt stiff and tense again, as if the relaxation of the party had never taken place.If someone didn’t want her to see certain things, why was he painting them into his art?She couldn’t help seeing what was there, could she?What was she supposed to do now? Pretend she didn’t see what she saw?She was grateful now that she hadn’t told anyone what she’d seen in the still life.True, they’d all seen her staring, and must have wondered.But she hadn’t actually said anything.Who had put the brass monkey on her pillow? What was going on?Sleep was a long time coming, and when it did, it was a restless, fitful sleep.Chapter 7THE HOUSE THAT HAD been ablaze with lights only a few hours earlier is dark now, a hulking, ominous shape looming up from behind the oaks towering over it.A deep, unnatural silence has fallen over the hill, and not a leaf stirs on the trees or the shrubbery flanking the front porch.Inside, the same, dark silence permeates the three-story house.But this silence is anxious, tentative, as if the house itself is holding its breath, waiting for something to happen.Something bad …The first sound to break the silence is the creak of a door opening somewhere on the first floor.Then footsteps going up the staircase, soft, whispering footsteps, like that of feet wearing socks or moccasins.The footsteps belong to a tall figure in flowing black.It tiptoes along the darkened hall as if it knows its way.A hand reaches out, turns a knob, opens a door.The figure disappears inside the room.The room faces the skinny, rusted fire escape running along the outside of the house from the ground to the attic on the third floor.It is a warm and balmy night, so the window is wide open, although no breeze stirs the white lace curtains.The figure in black moves toward the bed, where deep, even breathing sounds.The hand reaches out again, this time to shake a sleeping shoulder and whisper harshly, “Get up! There’s a fire! Hurry!”The dreaded word, “Fire” awakens the unsuspecting resident of Nightingale Hall.“What?” he whispers, the way people do in the dark, “what’s wrong?”“No time,” the voice whispers back, “no time to talk.There’s a fire! You’ll have to climb out the window to the fire escape.Hurry, hurry!”A sleepy-eyed, dazed Milo Keith, tall and skinny and bearded, jumps from the bed, instinctively grabs a pair of jeans lying crumpled on the floor and yanks them on.He reaches desperately for a notebook of his latest poetry lying on the bed, but the hand stops him.“No time.Go! Hurry!”Milo stumbles to the open window.With one last, reluctant look at his possessions, which he believes are about to be lost forever in a roaring blaze, he climbs over the sill onto the ancient fire escape.He sees no sign of flames, smells no smoke, but thinks maybe the fire has begun on the opposite side of the house.Before beginning to descend the fire escape, he turns slightly to say, “There’s no one else out here.Is everyone in the house awake? Are they safe? I can help …”Two hands reach out of the open window and push, hard.Caught off guard, an already dazed Milo loses his balance, and, too startled to cry out, topples backward.His skinny legs flailing wildly, he tumbles end over end down the unyielding metal stairs.He does cry out once, only once, as the back of his skull takes a particularly sharp and painful blow.Still he continues to fall, propelled by his own momentum, until finally he comes to a rest halfway down the metal stairs.No lights go on inside the house.After an exhausting party, the residents of Nightmare Hall are too lost in sleep to hear that single cry.Milo lies stunned, his legs dangling over one of the metal rungs.He fights to cling to consciousness.Blood trickles from his head.Above him, the figure cloaked in black makes a muted sound of satisfaction, whispers something, then turns and leaves the room, not rushing, not hurrying, walking calmly.Outside, the figure turns only once to look up at the fire escape at the side of the old, gloomy house.The hooded head nods at the sight of two legs dangling over the edge of a stair halfway down [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]