Play Things

"How…how did this happen? It's just…just like in the dollhouse," Doris choked, leaning dizzily against the kitchen wall for support. Her eyes, however, remained frozen on the horrible corpse across the room.

"Oh my God," Mable fanned herself with her hand, woozily trying to keep her balance. However, she apparently had lost the battle, and fainted into Harold's arms. Looking down at her, Harold frowned, uncertain of what to do.

"Come on. Wake up," he moaned, shaking the unconscious woman. However, that seemed to accomplish nothing. "Ew. She's drooling on me."

"Oh…hush, you," Doris whispered, wearily walking over. "Somebody find the smelling salts…"

"Aunt Gwen…what have you done?" Dennis asked, clutching a nearby countertop. He pointed at the body weakly, but nausea forced him to look away.

"Me? I didn't do it!" the old woman croaked, shaking. "I didn't, I tell you! I'm innocent!"

"You were the only one down here," Harold turned to face her as Doris set about reviving the fainted Miss O'Brien.

"That doesn't mean anything! Any one of you could've done it. We were all locked up in our rooms. You could've snuck down and killed him and nobody would've known!" Gwen retorted.

"Why? I never met the man before in my life!"

"Well, neither have I!"

"Then, why were you down here in the first place?" Harold asked. He apparently fancied he was a detective or lawyer, and was exaggeratedly pacing the room and stroking his chin.

"I was hungry, and thought I'd sneak a midnight snack, if you must know."

"Likely story!" Harold shouted.

"Stop accusing each other," Doris called as Mable's eyes slowly blinked open.

"Well, one of us must've killed him," Dennis decided. "There's nobody else in the house."

"How do we know that for sure?" Harold asked.

"I…I. don't know," Dennis stammered. "You don't think there's someone else here, do you?"

"Please! Everybody just shut up! I'm calling the police," Doris said, heading for the door. "Where's the phone?"

"I don't know," Harold followed her. "But we'll find one."

"Why are you following me?" Doris asked, glancing over her shoulder with obvious suspicion.

"To help you find a phone," Harold said as the two walked through the dark dining room. The chandelier twinkled above the table, refracting eerie slits of light across the walls.

"I don't need you to help me…Just…Just go wait in the kitchen with the others," Doris pointed, turning around to face him.

"What's wrong? You don't think I killed him, do you?" Harold asked.

"Of course not," Doris shook her head.

"Then why are you backing away from me?"

"I'm not," Doris defended, although she was indeed wearily stepping backward.

"You think I did this!"

"Well…you were the one who said the dolls in that awful house moved. I mean, you could've moved them."

"Why?" Harold narrowed his eyes. "Why would I kill him?"

"I don't know! To cash in on his part of the treasure…Yes, that's it," Doris decided, backing into the shadowy main hall.

"Oh, come on. I could say the same for you. Besides, how do I even know there is a real treasure?" Harold frowned, grabbing her wrist. "You know I didn't do this."

"Don't you touch me," Doris tried to pull away.

"What's going on?" Dennis asked as he, Mable, and Aunt Gwen filed out of the kitchen and into the dining room.

"Nothing. Help us find a phone," Doris said, yanking her arm out of Harold's grasp.

"I think I saw one in the sitting room," Dennis cleared his throat, walking across the room and into the entry hall. Doris nodded and hurried after him, wondering how she was managing to remain so calm and collected. Perhaps, she decided, it was the sheer ethereal atmosphere of the whole evening. If she had been anywhere else, with any other people, or in any other circumstances, she decided she would be screaming and running around like a wild animal by now.

"This is crazy. It's not happening. It simply can't be happening," Mable muttered as she followed at the rear of the group. She shook her head, mumbling the same words over and over to herself, causing the others to question what was left of her sanity.

"Calm down, dear," Doris walked over, and placed a comforting hand on the woman's shoulder.

"I can't calm down. There's a dead body in the kitchen! And one of us did it!"

After those words, Doris noticeably shivered. She knew Mable was right. They were all walking down the hallway, with a murderer in their midst.

"Here we are," Dennis cleared his throat, pushing his way into the dim sitting room. Thankfully, its unchanging dust and clutter had become a comforting symbol of normality in a world that was seemingly descending into madness.

"Where's the phone?" Harold asked, shoving his way into the room. He looked around, before noticing the antique table phone atop one of the end tables.

"Thank God," Aunt Gwen breathed, lunging for the phone before Harold could grab it. She brought it to her ear, her facing turning a sickly pale white.

"What? What is it?" Doris asked nervously, disquieted by the sudden silence.

"It's dead."

"What do you mean it's dead?" Harold asked, walking over and yanking the phone away. "Give me that."

Dennis bent down to the floor, standing back up with a cord in his hand, "The line's been cut…"

"Cut? You mean…somebody did it on purpose?" Doris's eyes widened.

"That's exactly what I mean," Dennis nodded darkly.

"This is crazy. I'm getting in my car, and going home," Aunt Gwen snapped, storming out of the room.

"Me too," Mable nodded. She and Doris exchanged suspicious glances, before stalking out after Gwen.

"We can't just leave the body here," Dennis sighed, chasing after the three women.

"Then we'll drive into the nearest town and go to the police. We can't just sit here," Doris said. She stepped into the main hall, still barefoot and headed for the front door. Unfortunately, rain was still pounding against the house outside.

"Why don't we all wait until the rain stops, and then go for help?" Dennis asked.

"Because by the time the rain stops, we all might be dead!" Aunt Gwen croaked.

"Well…there's always that, if you want to be a pessimist," Dennis sighed.

"I'm sorry. I'm leaving," Mable shook her head, pulling open the door and running out into the rain without her shoes. She was determined to get as far away from that awful house and that awful corpse as possible.

Her feet splashed through the puddles, soaking her dress and skin. However, she didn't seem to particularly mind it. Despite the risk of giving herself hypothermia, Miss O'Brien ran for the cheap, broken-down car across the courtyard. Fishing her car keys from her bra, she pulled the door open and slid into the vehicle.

"Well, I guess we should all leave too, then," Dennis said. "I'm going to get my things."

"Wait…" Doris looked at him. "Something's wrong."

"What do you mean?"

Mable emerged from her car, her wet hair sticking to her face, and yelled "I can't move!"

"What do you mean you can't move?" Doris yelled, although her voice was barely audible over the downpour.

"I don't know!"

"I'll check it out," Harold sighed, running out into the rain. He splashed his way over to Mable's car and bent down.

"Well, what is it?" Mable asked, her makeup running down her face in long black streaks.

"Somebody's slashed the tires!"

"What?"

"Someone doesn't want us to leave," Harold yelled, his face and undershirt drenched. He ran over to the nearby blue automobile, Aunt Gwen's, and bent down. "This one too. All of them. The tires are cut."

Doris shivered, staring out at the rain, "We can walk, can't we?"

"Not unless you want to hike through the woods at night in the rain," Dennis frowned, as Harold led the drenched Miss O'Brien back into the house. Harold shook violently, sneezed, and gently closed the door behind them.

"So, what do we do now?" Doris asked. "We're trapped…like rats in a cage."

"I think we should try to find out whoever's doing all this….The killer," Harold sneezed again, his wet clothing leaving puddles on the dirty floor.

"First treasure hunts and now hunting for killers! This is insane!" Aunt Gwen snapped.

"It's like a bad movie," Doris sighed, looking at her feet.

"Well…what do you suggest, then?" Harold asked.

"I think we should go lock ourselves in our rooms until morning," Doris suggested. "Mr. Macmillan was killed just like his doll….Who's next?"

"I forgot about the dolls," Mable sneezed, still dripping wet. "You think they're predicting who gets killed?"

"Only one way to find out," Aunt Gwen frowned grimly, starting for the stairs. Harold looked around, deciding to keep silent about his earlier discovery of Miss O'Brien's doll. The last thing he wanted was more suspicion drawn to him.

"This can't be happening…I can't be in some godforsaken house waiting for someone else to be killed," Doris moaned, walking slowly up the stairwell.

After a few minutes of aimless wandering, the group found themselves back in Monty's abandoned bedroom. Everything seemed to be in order, except for the red headed doll lying on the floor near the window.

"It's my doll. Oh God," Mable whimpered. "Why isn't it in the house with the others?" She looked up at the tiny porcelain figures, all sitting around the tiny sitting room.

"Calm down," Doris said. "Maybe…maybe it just fell."

"Yes…You're right," Mable nodded, placing her doll gingerly with the others.

"Well, I think we should all get back to bed. In the morning, we'll gather ourselves and walk to the next town," Dennis said, starting for the hallway.

"Not so fast," Harold said, moving to block him. "I think we should split up and at least comb the place over. I don't think any of us have the backbone to kill, and that means that there's somebody else doing it….hiding in the shadows, waiting."

"Like who?" Gwen snapped. "Who died and made you Sherlock Holmes, young man?"

"Monty," Doris said aloud, wishing she had kept that thought to herself. The others turned to face her, their faces mystified. "Stop staring at me. Everyone was thinking it, anyway. What if he just invited us here to kill us off one by one?"

"That makes no sense," Mable frowned. "You're crazy. He's dead."

"None of this makes sense!"

Everyone silently stared at one another, distrustful and confused. The awkward quiet was suddenly broken by Harold, "Well, it's settled. Let's all try to freshen up a bit and we'll meet in the hallway in fifteen minutes to search the place. Agreed?"

"Agreed. It's better than sitting in my room, waiting for some masked man to come through the window with a butcher knife," Doris sighed reluctantly. Dennis and Mable looked at each other charily, but soon nodded in agreement. Aunt Gwen, however, was staring around with wide eyes.

"Split up!" the old Gwen shouted. "So whichever of you is the murderer can pick the others off one by one?"

"None of us are the murderer," Harold cleared his throat, sneezing. "We have to trust each other. Pointing fingers won't get anyone anywhere."

"Change of heart, boy? Weren't you the one trying to pin all the blame on the innocent little old lady?!" Gwen snapped.

"Just stop fighting. Mable, go dry off. You too, Harold," Doris snapped. "We'll meet outside our rooms in fifteen minutes, split up, and search the place. What harm can it do?"

"We could all end up dead!" Aunt Gwen reminded, her patience wearing thin.

"Then you can wait here, by yourself," Harold said, walking out into the hall. "Remember, fifteen minutes," he called, his voice echoing throughout the empty home.

"Fifteen minutes," Dennis nodded. "Come on, Aunt Gwen." He pulled the tiny woman out of the room, despite her protests and warnings of the impending death that surely awaited them all.

"Well, you'd better go dry off," Doris said, looking at Mable. "You wouldn't want to catch a cold."

"I'll go in a few minutes," Mable said, shivering as she stared down at the dollhouse. Her doll stared mockingly back, its tiny emotionless face glaring with eerie premonition.

"Come now….You'll be fine. Nobody's going to let anyone kill you," Doris tried to be reassuring, but was doing a rather poor job.

"You're right. This whole thing's silly, isn't it? I feel like I'm in a bad dream, and I can't wake up," Mable shook her head, walking for the door. "Fifteen minutes, remember." She disappeared into the dark hall, seemingly vanishing around a turn in the corridor.

Doris slowly crept into the hall and closed Monty's door, her bare feet sliding across the floor. In fifteen minutes, they would all have to search this godforsaken place, looking for a murderer in the shadows. As silly as it sounded, Doris was silently praying they would find indeed find some homicidal maniac in the far corners of the darkened rooms. If they didn't, that could only mean one thing. They had all already met the killer, face to face, and he was laughing on the inside, ready to strike again at any given moment.