A warm breeze strokes Elena’s cheek. Where she lies is hard and uncomfortable; she realizes she must have fallen out of bed. Her hands reach the floor, light piercing her closed eyelids, to find it isn’t the smooth wooden boards of her bedroom, but dust and crumbling rock. A hot breath hits her face. Her eyes snap open.
Two orange eyes glare down into hers.
The sound of a walkie-talkie burbles. Heavy footsteps. Elena feels her flesh tremble. Her eyelids lift to display dried mud, coated in pine needles.
“Here she is.” A flashlight swings round to her, making her wince as she tries to haul herself upright. The walkie-talkie burbles again. Strong arms encase her and the floor falls away.
“I need to know what you know.” the man’s tone is stern. Concrete coats the walls, floor and ceiling and the only furniture are the two chairs pulled up the desk at which they sit and the lamp providing the only light in the room.
“I – I don’t know anything.” Elena says.
“Are you sure? You were married to Mr Tanner for seventeen years and you know nothing?”
“Why am I here?” she demands.
“That’s irrelevant. I need to know what you knew about what he did and why he died.”
“They, the police, they said it was a suicide. It wasn’t.”
“That much is obvious.”
“He was happy as far as I knew,” Her voice cracks, “I don’t know what to believe. I don’t know what happened. I don’t want to be questioned. I just want to have him back.”
“I know, we do too.” The man’s attitude changes to one of sympathy. His features soften.
“I have these dreams,” he leans forward, so as to listen better, “It’s me, only not me. They told me that Jack can talk to me still, that he can contact me from the dead. Then I have to run. I run.”
Elena’s eyes cloud, her head heavy. “Jackal,” she whispers.
“Jackal!” the man is alarmed at this, “Okay, thank you Mrs Tanner. You can go now. Thomas! Thomas, can you take her back please? And fetch Wilson, will you?” he calls to the door behind her.
Elena swivels in her chair, finding that, to her surprise, the Thomas he had called for was Jack’s friend, Thomas Davenport. He takes a step towards her and she rises to greet him, glaring incredulously. Once they are out of the room she grabs his wrist.
“Care to tell me what’s going on?” she tries to sound intimidating, but Thomas signals that this was not the right place and they keep walking.
A thread-bare, blue carpet thinly covers the floor. The walls are cream with black skirting, doors are placed at intervals along them. Elena wonders what’s behind them.
At the end of the corridor is a sign indicating where the different departments are. They turn left, in the direction of the cafeteria, guest space and chromatography labs, she notes.
Rounding another corner, Elena attempts to memorise the way they’d come lest she might need it again. At last, Thomas turns to a door, unlocking it with a key he had drawn out of his pocket. He gestures for her to enter first, carefully closing the door inside her.
“You’ll stay here for a while. They’ll want to talk to you again.” He explains.
The walls are the same cream as outside, but here there is no carpet, only rough wood and a simple rug on the floor. A single bed is pressed against one wall, beside it stands a set of plastic draws. Two more chairs sit next to another door, which Elena presumes to be the bathroom. A bulb hangs forlornly from the ceiling.
“You won’t be here for long, with much luck,” he soothes, “It’s precautionary. Also, once you’re out, you’re in, so-to-speak. You’re part of this. You can’t tell anyone.”
“But why? Why am I here?”
“Sit,” he points at the bed. She sits. He takes a seat on one of the chairs opposite, “Jack worked here.”
“No, he worked for a computer company.” She replies, confused.
“As I said, it’s classified. He couldn’t have told you. He did research for us. There’s an organisation, Sabre, very dangerous. Here, we do all manners of research and they’ve been trying to infiltrate us for years. They’re an agency from the States, working to take over England.”
“Wait… why are you here? You’re a bartender.”
“The Three Monkeys is where a lot of the information is stored. No one suspects a crummy, English pub. There are so many around. I actually work here.”
“Who was that man in there?”
“He’s Carter. Important. He’s a good man, don’t get me wrong but he can be rather scary.”
“What has this got to do with me?”
“I’m getting round to that. Jack was researching things. He was one of our top guys – our top guy, in fact. He was looking into death. That was his area. To put it simply, he experimented with ghosts, a whole load of supernatural crap, and afterlife stuff. Too complicated for me. He found something. We’re not sure what it was, but something. That’s most likely why he, uh, yeah. It’s most likely to be Sabre that found out, the questions are, what did he find? How does it involve Sabre, if it does at all? And why was that reason to get rid of him? They think you might know the answers, and that’s why they’ve brought you here.”
“Wow, okay.” she blinks the information in. “I’m rather tired now, I guess.”
“Sure, I’ll give you some time to consider it all, and see if you remember anything that might be useful.”
He gets to his feet and leaves, locking the door. “Simply precautionary,” he mouths through the glass. Then he’s gone.
Curling up on her side, Elena remembers the dinner party just before it happened. That was the last time people were in the house. Who was it that came? It plagues her mind, but shortly, she’s asleep, tired from the pressures of the past few weeks.
For once, she doesn’t dream. When she wakes it’s dark. The lights are off.