WARNING: Implied violent death and gore. You've been warned.
"Okay, I'll be in the next room if you need me."
"Fine." Alondra pushed open the door to the penthouse apartment. Dust tickled her nostrils as she swept her flashlight across the room. Nothing had been touched: the antique chairs, sat in the foyer, their cushions ripped and torn and never replaced. As she moved into the sitting room, it was as if she had crossed a barrier of time.
An old piano stood in the corner, its keys yellowed. Pictures still adorned the mantelpiece. Alondra reached out and wiped dust off one of them; an unsmiling schoolmarm glared back at her. A Tiffany glass lampshade sat on a writing desk. She pulled at one of the drawers, but it was locked. She glanced at the low marble table at the center of the room. A bottle of whiskey was surrounded by four glasses. 'Glenlivet 1874' read the label. Alondra's light paused on the tableau for a long minute before the realization hit her.
There was no dust on the whiskey bottle or the glasses. In fact, the ice in those glasses were still melting. She brought her flashlight on the floor; distinct footprints led from the table to a door leading into the bedroom.
That door stood ajar.
"What?" came his voice from the storage room.
"I think I found something."
He climbed down the ladder and landed in front of the open apartment door. Like Alondra, he swept his flashlight around the room as he came in. He saw the drinks, the melting ice, the footprints.
"Very recent," he murmured. "Maybe right before we got here. Damn waste of a fine Glenlivet, though."
Despite the situation, a smilled tugged on her lips. "Mind covering me?"
He nodded. "RIght behind you."
They approached the bedroom door and positioned themselves on either side. Alondra counted silently to three, then kicked the door open, sending more dust into the air. She burst in, but even her training didn't prepare her for what she saw.
A huge canopy bed was draped by curtains, white silk gone yellow. One dessicated skeleton lay at the foot, two others on the bed. Reddish-brown splatters painted the walls, and a shattered skull lay in a corner. A white candle sat on the bureau next to the bed with the faint odor of lavender.
"What the bloody hell--?" Owain whispered.
"Curiouser and curiouser," said Alondra, quoting 'Alice in Wonderland'. The hairs on the back of her neck stood straight on end as she approached the bed. The two skeletons were entwined together in a lovers' embrace, as if they had died making love. She shivered as she made a quick visual inspection. There was no sign of trauma, no broken bones.
"Well, the skull belongs to our friend here," Owain said, pointing to the skeleton on the floor. "Someone kicked it over there, someone very recently." He scowled at the stains on the wall and went over to the largest patch. His gloved hand touched it gingerly and came back red.
"This doesn't make sense." She examined the candle; her own finger left an imprint in the wax. "Owain, let's get out of here."
"Too right," he agreed. They backed out of the strange bedroom and into the sitting room, not stopping until they reached the outer hall.
"This is weird," she said. "No one's been in there for fifty years or more."
"No one we know of," he corrected her. "I think we've stumbled into more we can handle. Let's leave this one to the quantum experts, shall we?"
Alondra nodded and wiped sweat off her brow. "There were four glasses of whiskey and three skeletons--"
"The dead don't drink, even if it's good Glenlivet," Owain said with a touch of dark humor.
She chuckled. "You're right, but--"
A groaning noise cut her off. She spun around and found another door slightly ajar. Again, they approached this new door with caution. This time, Owain entered first.
A man lay sprwaled in a grimy, claw-footed tub, his eyes open, a trickle of blood from his mouth. This was definitely no skeleton; the smell of whiskey mixed with the smell of death.
Owain tapped his comlapel. "Team Three: we have a victim in Five-One-Five-Two."
Alondra swallowed her disgust and knelt beside the tub. She felt the man's forehead: cool, but not cold. A brief examination revealed a broken neck, possibly from falling into the tub, but that wasn't what bothered her. The man was sprawled in the same manner as the skeleton on the floor of the bedroom. His pants had been torn off him, and--
She turned away, gagging. Owain was at her side, holding her tightly until she recovered enough.
"There's our number four," he said grimly, "and apparently, something decided to do more than just break his neck and clip his manhood."
She took another deep breath; there was a job to do. "All right, let's secure this area for the quantum team, and--"
Owain felt her tense up. "What is it?"
"Owain, we aren't alone."
He looked over his shoulder to see three figures standing behind them, blocking their only way out of the room. And all three glared at them with malevolent eyes.