Jillian's quiet words to the other four that there seemed to be no-one within the mansion started an argument.
"That's so spooky!" said Mel immediately. "Where do you suppose they are?"
"Where who are? said Jake. "It's in the middle of nowhere, it's probably a retreat, people ain't here all year round!"
"How does anyone get here then?" said Travis quickly. "There's no roads, no landing strip for a plane."
"Maybe there's a helipad on the roof?" said Mel
"Maybe there's a helicopter on the roof!" said Jake. "We should get up there and find out."
"We'd see a helicopter, idiot," said Travis.
"Watch who you're calling an idiot." said Jake
"I can see damn well who I'm calling an idiot!"
Linus moved between the pair of them.
"You can call each other idiots later," he said. "I'm starving, and if there's a chance of eating something that isn't one of you two, I'm going to take it."
"But the house is all locked up," said Mel. "We can't get in."
"Of course we can," said Jake and Travis simultaneously, and glared at each other. Travis's hands bunched into fists.
"We can break a window," said Jake, raising his voice. "There's plenty of rocks in the japanese garden. I'll go and get one." He set off towards the lawns again without looking at the rest of the group.
Travis muttered something under his breath, and looked up at the mansion. "I can probably pick the locks," he said sounding calmer now that Jake had left the group. "Depends what the security is like."
"You can pick locks?" Linus looked interested for the first time since they'd crashed and found themselves lost in the wilderness. Travis shrugged, and went over to the nearest door.
It was a wooden door panelled with twelve small glass frames that led in from the swimming pool. The handle was a shiny brass lever, and the lock plate had a large keyhole.
"That's cool," said Travis crouching to look at it, "that's a mortice lock. This'll be a piece of cake." He stood up again, and fiddled with his belt buckle, pulling a slim metal case out of it. With it held in his hands it was obvious to the others that the case had made up the bulk of the belt buckle. He flipped the lid off the case, and took out some slender lengths of metal. Crouching back down again, he did something with the metal in the lock, then pulled the handle down. The door swung open.
Jillian realised she'd been holding her breath, waiting for an alarm to sound, and she let it out in a quiet sigh. Then it occurred to her that the alarm might be silent, and she swallowed hard.
Jake came back up to the group, hefting a rock that only just fit into the palm of his hand. When he saw the door open and Travis crouching just in front of it, he frowned.
"Travis picked the lock of the door," said Mel, giggling. "He's really clever!"
"How convenient," said Jake, letting the rock drop. "Who'd have thought Travis would have these hidden talents?"
Linus pushed past Travis. "Let's get in and find the food then," he said. "I'm not getting this far just to die of hunger."
The hallway beyond the door was sombre. The walls were painted blue, and there was a thin grey carpet. A mat just inside the door was clearly intended for people to wipe their wet feet on. Halfway along the hallway was a wall-mounted telephone with the receiver torn from the cord and smashed on the floor. All except Jillian ignored it as they hurried along to the mahogany-coloured door at the other end of the corridor. As they pushed it open, she paused by the phone, looking thoughtfully at the wreckage.
The door at the end of the corridor opened into a kitchen with a wide white tiled floor, an unsanded wooden table underneath a window and surfaces around the edges. A stainless steel hood overhung an Aga, and a huge double-doored Smeg fridge stood adjacent to a doorway that led visibly into a pantry. On the other side of the fridge was a second wall-mounted phone, also smashed into pieces that were scattered on the counter-top.
"Food!" yelled Linus dashing for the fridge.