“I’m investigating a missing person’s report.” I pulled out my file and opened it up.
“Her name’s Darcy Shaw, and she went missing about six years ago. Do you think I could look at your files and see if there’s anything I could use?”
Dimples frowned. “From that long ago, it’s probably downstairs in the dead files room. Come on, I’ll show you where they are.”
I followed him to the hall and down two flights of stairs to the basement. He opened the door to a room and flipped on the light. Wall-to-wall filing cabinets filled the room, and a stale, musty odor permeated the air. From the smell, I’d guess no one had come down here in a long time, kind of how I imagined it would smell visiting a mausoleum. It seemed colder than normal too, and I realized that all of the files belonged to real people who had disappeared and were probably dead, and no one knew why or how.
“Go ahead and take a look,” Dimples said. “They’re filed alphabetically.”
“Um…yeah, okay.” I hesitated, not wanting to venture further into the room. It was so cold and dank that it kind of gave me the creeps. But I only needed one file.
That wouldn’t take long.
“When you’re done, come on back up and I’ll fill you in on a case I could use your help with.” Dimples was thinking he was anxious to leave me to it, not because he had a lot to do upstairs, but because the room had kind of a weird vibe that he didn’t like.
“You’re leaving me here alone?” I blurted.
“What? You’re not scared are you?” He scoffed. “It’s just a room with files in it.
There aren’t even any guns or crazy killers down here.”
“Oh fine,” I said, still hesitating in the doorway and wishing I hadn’t heard that part about the weird vibe.
“You want me to stay?” He folded his arms and raised his brow in challenge.
“Of course not,” I said. “Like you said, I’ll be fine.”
“Good. Hey…if one of those files attacks you…I’m right up-stairs if you need me.”
He chuckled and left. I shook my head and hurried over to the cabinets. As I found the cabinet with “S through T” on it, the door clicked shut behind Dimples, sealing me in. It was deathly quiet. The only sounds in the room came from me. My breathing and the shift of my feet echoed from the walls, magnifying each tiny breath and movement I made.
An unexplained sense of urgency rolled over me. I was alone in an enclosed space that seemed to get smaller the longer I stood there. A sudden stab of dread tightened my stomach, and my hands shook a little. It was mostly thoughts of the lights going out and leaving me in total darkness that did it. If Bates knew I was here, I wouldn’t put it past him to do that to me, and I wanted out of this creepy place as fast as I could.
With renewed effort, I scanned the labels until I came to the right drawer and yanked it open. I quickly leafed through the folders and caught my breath to actually find the file. I swallowed with relief and pulled the bulky file out. Pursing my lips together, I set it on top of the other folders and opened it up checking to make sure it was the right one.
A larger version of the same picture I’d received from Tiffany stared back at me. Her eyes held a haunting mixture of sadness and foreboding, and goose bumps broke out along my arms. A sudden chill ran up my spine and my heart picked up speed. All at once, it felt like I wasn’t alone, and someone was standing right there beside me. I froze. I didn’t believe in ghosts, but I didn’t dare look either.
My mouth went dry and I hardly dared to take a breath. Glancing back down at the picture, I felt something cold and feather-like brush against my cheek. I inhaled sharply. It came a second time and I jerked my face away, hunching my shoulders to my neck with fear. “I…I’ll try and find out what happened to you,” I croaked. The chill intensified, then suddenly fell away in a cool breeze, leaving the scent of flowers behind, which I recognized as the distinct smell of gardenias.
With my heart racing, I grabbed the file and slammed the drawer shut, then raced out of the room as fast as I could. In my haste, I left the light on, but I was too scared to go back and turn it off. The smell of gardenias stayed with me all the way up the stairs, but disappeared as I entered the office. With my chest heaving, I hurried over to Dimples’ desk and sat down, rubbing my cold arms.