Chapter Four

“Isn’t it a little early for haunted houses?” Madison was trying to piece things together.

“That’s not what this is.” Seth was starting to get a little anxious, but he would die before he let anyone see him sweat.

Two men, also dressed all in black, stood as tall and still as Buckingham Palace soldiers at the farthest corner. Across from them, a lamppost flickered. Beneath the strobing light, another group of people stood waiting. This group was less reserved… nervous.

“Who are those other people?” J. seemed disappointed.

“Other guests.” This from Seth. “Is there anything else you need from the car? Have you all turned your phones off and put them in the trunk? They’re going to check us so don’t try to sneak anything in.”

“This is so creepy, Seth.” Sarah removed the phone she had stowed in her shirt. She pressed the side button and handed the device over as the brand’s icon flashed on the screen, signifying its hibernation. No data was getting sent, received, or recorded tonight apparently. That thought terrified her. “I don’t want to do this.”

“Too bad. I paid a lot of money for us to be here. We are all going to have a good time and none of us are getting kicked out. Got it?” Seth was losing patience. He counted the other guests and knew they were the last group to arrive. Everyone was waiting on them. Funny though… he thought there would be only be a total of 10 guests there tonight. There were 5 people huddled under the flickering light.

“This is why you had us dress nicely tonight?” Sophie was starting to paint her own picture of things.

“There’s a dress code. Stop asking me questions.” Seth wished they would all just shut up and play along; he should have known better with this lot.

The crunching sound their feet made as they strode across the makeshift parking area strangely comforted Madison. She grew up in a house with a graveled drive. She remembered being able to hear the sound of her parents pulling up from almost anywhere in the house.

“Maddy, I’m sorry. I know how much you hate surprises. We’ve just been hearing for ages how killer Seth’s adventures are, and I couldn’t possibly resist the chance to get us in on a night we’ll never be able to forget.” Sarah said sidling up to her friend, batting her eyes- as if that would work on Madison. Yet, it did. No matter how strong Madison thought she was, she could never resist her beguiling best friend.

“I’m sure you’ll make it up to me,” Madison said with a heavy eye roll. She was the queen of those, Sarah noted to her self.

“You know, you are so self righteous, Madison Onane. I would have thought, by now, that you’d have seen how much trouble I’ve gone through to get us here.”

“Oh, this is for us, then? Not you? This has nothing to do with your decade long crush on Seth Banning? What do you think he’d say if he saw your little shrine to him?”

“I would hardly call a small folder a shrine.” Sarah looked around making sure no one was listening. They were just a few steps behind Sophie, and the last thing she needed was a cat scratch.  “Look, can we just agree to have a great time? We have always been boss at keeping ourselves entertained and having our own fun. Why does that have to stop now?”

“Ok. Whatever. Let’s just catch up with the rest of the group. I want to get out of the dark.” Madison allows Sarah to latch on to her arm as they join the party.

The strangers are talking eagerly about what awaits them. One of them has been here before but won’t reveal a thing.

“So this is something you can come back to… ” Sophie was clearly trying to trick them into letting slip a secret or two. At least I know we’ll survive, she mentally noted.

From the corner of her eye, Sophie noticed the men in black approaching. They carried stacks of papers and five clip boards.

“When we call your name, step forward and collect your forms, a pen, and a clip board. If there aren’t any more, just wait until someone is done with theirs. You do not need to read the forms right now. You’ll have time for that later. Just fill in your name at the top, and sign wherever you see a red X. Keep your form with you. After you’re done, we’ll collect the clip boards and pens.”

They did as they were told. The man who doesn’t speak collects the items and as he does, a black limousine arrives. His partner begins a new speech.

“You’ll find hoods on the seats. You may sit in any order you like, but once you’ve found your seat, you are to put on the hood.”

“Wait, I thought we were going to dinner?” Sarah screeches at Seth.

“SILENCE.” The man who doesn’t speak, spoke- or rather, yelled.

“You’ll find the events of the evening quite satisfying, we assure you.” His counterpart says, with a sinister grin.  “Now get in the limousine! Oh, and there’s only one way out of this… experience. Someone else will tell you what that is… muah ha.. ha ha… muah ha ha ha!” He opens the door and waves his arms around as though he were Vanna White.

This is the weirdest thing he’s ever participated in, and J. was loving every minute of it. People got paid to do this? Where could he sign up? How much did they get paid? He was the first one in the limo.

“Well, wait for me!” Sarah climbed in next, dragging Madison along, nearly causing her to bang her head on the door’s frame.

“I swear, Sarah, I’m going to kill you if we get out of this alive,” but Maddy was secretly eating it up. Her favorite movie genre was horror, and this really was right up her alley… Trying to convince Sarah to let her pick on movie nights was like pulling teeth. She was surprised Sarah wasn’t complaining about missing this weekend’s kegger… then again, Sarah felt like more of a stranger every day, and they were about to get in a limo.

“Do we really have to wear these hoods?” Sarah asked when they were finally all seated. That was more like the Sarah that Maddy knew.

“Yes, You do. Now!” And with that, the man dressed in black slammed the door shut and hit the side twice, signaling the driver. The car lurched forward.

“I don’t understand why we have to wear these hoods. Isn’t the house right there?”

“No talking.” The driver was listening.

Madison counted to 264… so they were about 4 minutes away from their cars. Weird… Where were they headed?