"Wait a minute, who said anything about separating?" Gwen demanded in an imperious voice.
"Divide and conquer, baby," Dan said with a leer. He shared a high five with surfer-dude as Gwen rolled her eyes.
"You're the only one of us who has been here before, Tess. You have to show us the cool stuff," Althea said with a suggestive lift of her perfectly plucked brows.
One of the boys broke out of the shadows and stepped towards the group. "I've been here before, too. So I could lead one of the groups, Gwen."
Gwen shone her flashlight rudely into the boy's face, illuminating his pale features and spiky black hair. "And just who are you?"
To her utter surprise, Alice spoke up for him. "His name is Paul Chen. He's in my art class. He's cool."
Paul smiled at her, his eyes crinkling at the corners in a disconcerting way. "Hey, Alice."
"Hey," she said back and flushed, glad that she was mostly concealed in darkness.
"Well, that solves it. Paul will lead us to the attic, and you guys can go 'divide and conquer,' or whatever you want to do." Tess placed the flashlight in Paul's hand. "And you can lead us up the stairs. These should lead straight up to the attic, right?"
"I know a better way."
Tess cocked her hip and smiled at him. "Lead on, gallant knight."
Paul led them through a dilapidated living room and towards what appeared to be the central stairwell. It was roped off by yellow police tape. He passed nimbly beneath it and held his hand out to the girls.
"Whoa there, partner, these stairs have been cordoned off. They're probably not safe," Tess protested.
"They're perfectly fine. I was here just last month. There's a room I want to show you before I take you to the attic."