Mel strode into the room just as the other four had gone silent with fear. Laughing at their silence, she said, "What's the matter? You all look like you've seen a ghost!"
And with this inconsiderate exclamation, she promptly walked right into the center of their stares. Jillian raised a finger out of protest and Mel sniggered. Then Mel put a hand on the knob of the door and Jillian spoke.
"Don't go outside," she whispered.
Her voice sounded eerie over that suspicious silence that the other three listened to so intently. Would the clawing return?
Mel made a funny face and turned to the others. "What?" she asked.
They didn't respond. Travis cleared his throat and looked to Jillian. Jillian stared at Mel's casual grasp on the door knob. And Jake frowned.
"Cheer up!" cried Mel. "And you've got a good reason to because I got in contact with the outside world!"
Jake snapped from the trance and asked, "Really? Who did you contact?"
"Well...he didn't give his name," giggled Mel, "But I could tell he was glad to hear from us. And he said he'd be here in ten minutes."
Travis raised an eyebrow. "Mel?" he asked. "What are you talking about? You sound like you were just on the phone with your boyfriend, and now he's gonna come pick us up in his convertible. Who did you call?"
Jillian stood up. "She didn't call anyone," she announced.
Mel threw her hand to her hip and cried, "I did too!"
Jillian blinked at Mel's response, and then ignored her as she addressed the others. "Mel only picked the phone up. Someone else called here."
"Well that's what happened when they called for Jillian. Which you haven't told us about yet, Jillian," said Jake.
Jillian frowned, and then, with all eyes on her, she searched for the right words. "When we walked around the outside of the house," she said, "there were no telephone lines and no satellite dish. I think the phones are connected directly to something else."
"Something?" asked Linus as before. He seemed to take some satisfaction in the idea, and he smiled as he asked.
Jillian blinked into the corner of the room as her thoughts jumbled about, and then she continued, "The voice on the phone...it told me that the Hounds were at the door. And it said that we would all be trapped here forever. It was..." Jillian felt her face go hot, and her voice began to tremble, "It was a cruel, wicked voice..."
None of the others moved to comfort her; their mixed reactions caused them to be slightly irritated with Jillian's apparent weakness.
"Jill," said Jake, "It was just a voice. And I don't know what you were hearing."
"Yeah!" agreed Mel, "His voice was so sweet!" She spun on her toe and then moved to shake Jillian from her concern.
Jillian shoved her away and sat down on the chair against the wall. Mel dramatically overreacted with an offended yelp, and turned to the others. She made an angry face and then strode from the room with an air of heated indignation.
Jake glared onward. "Jillian, you just need some rest and relaxation. Come on, let's enjoy the luxury of this place!"
Linus clapped his hands and said, "You'll find me in the kitchen."
The other three left the room, Jake completely forgetting his suggestion that Jillian ought to come, and Jillian remained, watching them go with eyes that threatened to overflow with tears.
And as soon as they'd left, the scratch returned to the door, and Jillian's heart, beating under stress, sent her angrily to her feet. She stomped to the door, suppressing her fear with a defiant passion.
Leaning against the window to look outside, she frowned. Nothing could be seen at the door. Maybe the others were right. Maybe she was overreacting. And, feeling marginally better, she left to investigate the rest of the mansion.
She found Jake and Travis playing pool in a long blue room with plump purple couches and colorful tiled floor. And Mel was bouncing around on one of the couches with a gleaming smile and a fistful of chocolate. Watching them in amazement, Jillian left to find a place of some resolve. How could they be playing pool as if this was a simple holiday?
And the little voice in Jillian's mind continued to declare that something was wrong.
And then, as she neared the kitchen, she heard a sound that made her blood go chill. She could hear Linus chatting pleasantly to someone. But wasn't he alone? Linus was a little odd, admitted a voice in Jillian's mind, but...
She should have paused to listen, but her fear pushed her onwards, and she rounded the corner with intent blue eyes and her lips in a thin line. And then she jolted to a stop with a single hand moving to her mouth.
Linus had found a cordless.