“So, you think your daughter might still be here?”
Jude’s voice rang through the darkness of the room. Caden could hear her scrabbling at the wall, looking for the room’s light-switch. The light from the hallway seemed to be dimming a little, and the door wouldn’t stay open long enough to let much of the flickering white glow through the doorway.
“Amber, yes, I still believe that she may be here; dead or alive.”
He kept his answers short and to-the-point, but there was a betraying edge of emotion to his voice.
Jude must have discovered the room’s light-switch, as a dull glinting radiated from an unshaded light-bulb in the middle of the ceiling.
“Oh my god!”
Caden looked to where Jude was pointing. At the other end of the room stood a faded metal trolley, like the sort used to transport unconscious patients to surgery. Atop that trolley was a rotting pile of flesh, surrounded by partially dried blood. There was more blood on the floor, and congealed vomit, creating ugly stains on the uglier green terracotta tiles. The walls were a yellow-white, sour-milk colour. There were crimson-brown stains splashed across those walls, and pictures drawn using what looked like sparkly hot-pink lip-gloss. The light made the lip-gloss drawings sparkle metallically with pink glitter.
Caden walked over to inspect the drawings. They were crude smears forming simplistic images of a stick-girl standing against a square (which may have symbolised a wall) with her legs spread, and her mouth a dark ‘O’ of shock, or frozen in a scream.
“Amber used to have that exact colour of lip-gloss. She wore it all the time and always kept two extra tubes of it, one in her handbag, one in the bathroom cupboard.”
He told Jude, tracing a finger over the picture. This seemed like an omen, an omen that Amber was somewhere in the building. But the pile of rotting flesh on the trolley and the splatters of blood seemed like a very bad sign. Maybe she was here, right in front of him, mangled beyond recognition.
“Lots of girls must have that lip-gloss, it isn’t that unusual.”
Jude told him, either trying to reassure him or be logical. Knowing Jude, probably both.
“Look over there!”
Jude exclaimed; sounding shaken, which was strange for her. She was normally surprised by nothing. Though she was considerably younger than him, she had more experience with the B.S.A.A (Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance) and her ‘been there, done that’ enhanced that experienced personality.
She was staring at the north wall of the room; her eyes wide.
On that wall, in big, looping letters, somebody, using the hot pink lip-gloss, had written the words ‘He STILL Hurts Me.’
Though the writing was smeared in every direction, it was legible and the basic form was clear.
“This is Amber’s handwriting. I know that it was deliberately written in big letters anyway, but Amber’s writing was huge. She also looped her letters like that! Amber wrote this, Jude!”
Caden could feel his blood start to run cold. He was trembling violently beneath the layers of Kevlar, pouches of ammo and grenades, and the other military paraphernalia strapped to his muscular body.
“Don’t go scaring yourself, Caden. She might be here, sure. But we don’t have any rock-solid evidence, do we? Now, let’s get out of here, the smell is making me sick, and we’re wasting time that we could be using to search the rest of this building!”
Jude tried to sound impatient, knowing that Caden would respond better to pressure than sympathy, but she couldn’t keep her voice from softening at the end of her words. She would hate to be in Caden’s situation.
“You’re right. Let’s get out of here.”
He agreed meekly; following her to the door.