I wrote this story for Halloween. My original plan was to finish my 'Haunting Delusions' story first, but Time got in my way and I ended up writing and finishing this story instead.
Sooo, I am trying my hand on a little bit of horror and hope you will enjoy it.
The story will have two chapters and sort of starts after the happenings of Haunting Delusions. It made sense for me to do so, and it offers reasons for different behaviour of our favourite guys.
I am posting the final chapter tomorrow, on Halloween.
Hope you'll enjoy it!
Chapter 1 - The cabin in the Woods
"Mark my words, this is going to be marvelous," Face said for the 10th time that evening.
The van with the four soldiers of fortune was making its way through a rural area with many pine trees alongside the road.
B.A was at the wheel while Face sat in the front passenger's seat with a map on his lap, giving the gold-clad mechanic directions.
Hannibal, as always chewing on a unlit cigar that stuck from the corner of his mouth, occupied Face's usual seat while reading a book called 'The Art of War'.
Sitting next to him sat Murdock, slumped down with his arms folded over his chest. He was seemingly asleep with most of his face hidden under his baseball cap.
"This is supposed to be the top-notch cabin of the area. Built according to the latest trends in home décor!" Face went on while turning around to face his commander with much enthusiasm.
Hannibal smiled and lowered the book to look into the excited eyes of his lieutenant.
"The house is supposed to be provided with all the latest gadgets and luxuries a man can wish for.
It has a fully equipped modern kitchen, four big bedrooms, a dining room, two bathrooms (one with a jacuzzi!) and there's even a recreational room with a big-screen television, a video recorder, a pool table and supposedly a couple of arcade games!"
Murdock shifted slightly in his chair as B.A grunted approvingly.
"Ahhhh we are going to be living the life for a whole week long!
Such a pity I couldn't bring Jaqueline..." Face concluded with a sigh and a longing look in his eyes.
Hannibal nodded while taking his cigar between thumb and index finger.
"It sounds excellent Face... Almost too good to be true..."
Hannibal hesitated. "How did you find this cabin again?"
"My architect friend, Jean-Paul, owed me a big one," Face beamed with his trademark smile. "He said he would let us rent this apartment for a small price. Apparently, some famous actors have stayed there too..."
"I sure hope it's pet-friendly..." Murdock mumbled from under the brim of his cap which he'd pulled deeply over his eyes.
Face's slightly surprised gaze briefly met Hannibal's amused one. The conman rolled his eyes at the pilot and quickly turned around in his seat to answer B.A's bark (aka request) for directions.
Hannibal smiled to himself and looked out of the front window of the van at the idyllic scenery outside. It was a beautiful area, and Face's energy was starting to infect him.
The team sure could use some time off to recuperate from their latest 'little' adventure * (*See my other story: Haunting Delusions).
Their short stay at B.A's mother in Chicago had been abruptly interrupted when military police decided to show up in the area and give them a hard time.
Hannibal had to make a quick decision as the MP's where suddenly hot on their heels again.
They barely escaped, and B.A hardly had time to say goodbye to his mother; a situation that had made the man very grouchy and sullen.
Murdock and B.A were still recovering from their injuries, though B.A insisted on driving his van himself.
"Nobody gets behind the wheel 'cept me," he'd growled at his comrades after limping his way into the driver's seat.
The road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles had been long and very silent. And even though B.A didn't want to show it, he obviously wasn't feeling fit and needed breaks more often than usual.
His team members noticed but chose not to mention it around the large mechanic. They already danced around him on tiptoes as it was.
Fortunately, halfway their journey while crossing Colorado, Face approached the team with a proposal. Wouldn't it be a great idea to stay low in the countryside for a while instead of heading to L.A where they would surely meet up with more MP's on their tail?
The guys, even B.A, approved of the idea. The handsome conman made a call, pulled some strings, and voila; they had a new destination.
At these moments, Hannibal felt very grateful for the conman's skills.
Suddenly Face's excited voice broke Hannibal from his thoughts.
"There it is! Number 606. That's our address!" Face exclaimed as the van reached the entrance to an old property.
B.A heaved an inaudible sigh of relief. In need of a break, he was happy to have reached their destination.
With sleepy eyes, Murdock curiously lifted the brim of his hat while Hannibal leaned forward to have a better look at the place.
A dark silhouette of a house loomed up against the blood-red sky that was illuminated by the setting sun.
The path to the cabin was cast in the gloomy shadows of the tall pine trees. A lonely call from of a bird of prey could be heard from somewhere deep within the forest.
B.A parked the van in front of the rusty metal fence and got out.
Face, Hannibal and Murdock followed his example and the four men stood in front of the metal barrier with mild feelings of hesitation.
Face's smile had somewhat faltered as he observed the state of the garden and what he could see of the house. It didn't exactly look modern.
The property had a feeling of neglect about it. This didn't even come close to classy and trendy to his standards.
"Maybe they went for retro?" Hannibal suggested, correctly interpreting Face's disappointed features.
Face checked the metallic numbers on the fence again. 606, that was the address his friend had given him.
"Let's have a look, shall we?" He said with a somewhat subdued voice that lacked his former confidence.
As Hannibal and B.A followed him, Murdock casually strolled towards the front of the fence with his hands stuck deeply in his jacket pocket. His eye had fallen on something dark and orange-colored on the ground. He crouched down, picked it up and observed it with curious eyes.
It looked like something made of metal. The flat object had oxidized and was partly covered in dried-up muck and leaves.
With a little bit of scratching, Murdock managed to remove parts of the mud and revealed a shape that looked like a number.
B.A turned around.
"What're you waitin' for, sucker? What you got there?"
"Five" Murdock muttered thoughtfully while looking up at the numbers on the fence.
"Whaddaya mean five!? Don't go picking up dirty things from the ground, man!" B.A said with clear disgust in his voice. "Your gramma never told ya that? That's just nasty, man. Throw it back!"
Murdock got up from his crouch, shrugged and threw the metal number or whatever it was away. Uncharacteristically to the pilot, he didn't feel like playing with B.A's bad temper today. He just felt tired.
B.A grunted something incoherently before limping his way to the entrance of the house. Murdock following closely in his footsteps.
Face was already standing on the porch, almost feverishly looking for the key.
"Jean-Paul said it was hidden under the cherub sculpture. But I don't see one."
B.A and Murdock joined them and started searching the badly maintained front yard for a cherub too.
Hannibal frowned and almost instinctively reached out for the copper handle of the aged wooden door. The moment he touched it, it swung open with a heavy creaking sound. The older man blinked in surprise, then smirked
"Looks like we don't need a key after all, lieutenant."
Face looked up with a bewildered expression on his features and peeked over Hannibals' shoulder into the ghostly hallway.
The small entry looked eerily dark and not at all inviting. As Face took a step inside it was as if the house heaved a sigh of anticipation. The conman shivered involuntarily but brushed it off as a figment of his imagination and opened the door into the living room with building agitation.
It was like stepping into a time capsule. The team walked into a room that had the looks and feel of the seventies, but... creepier.
There were tall black-framed windows that let in the remains of the quickly fading sunlight. Everything seemed to be made out of deep-brown mohagony wood. The walls, the floors... even the furniture was brown combined with hues of orange. There were two big old-fashioned maroon colored sofas and in front of the fireplace lay a real bear rug with patches of fur missing from its back. It seemed to snarl at the men from its position on the floor.
Murdock eyed it suspiciously and quickly stepped behind B.A's broad back.
There were a kitchen and a dining table with rickety chairs at the end of the room. The kitchen with its olive green cabinets looked ominous and abandoned in the fading daylight.
"ArrrrgH!, I am going to KILL Jean-Paul!" Face exclaimed after making a quick evaluation of the house.
This didn't even resemble a fraction of the fabulous house he'd been promised.
Face checked his notes with the address again. He was sure it was cabin number 606, he just knew he hadn't made a mistake.
Hannibal found a light switch and turned on the lights of the dim-lit room. It swooped on with a low buzzing sound. The lights flickered for a second before burning steadily.
It didn't really approve the atmosphere but it was better than lurking around in the semi-darkness. Even the bear rug looked a bit more friendly, though Murdock would absolutely argue the matter.
"At least it has electricity," the colonel said with his usual optimistic tone of voice.
"And running water," Murdock stated after checking the water tap in the kitchen and filling a grimy glass he'd found in the cabinet.
"We might have to chew it first though," he remarked while holding up the glass and eyeing the yellowish water with interest.
"That's it!" Face snapped while making his way to the exit door. "This can't be the right place. I'm gonna call Jean-Paul from the van and see what he has to say for himself!"
With those words, he stomped out of the house and down the darkening dirt road toward the van.
Hannibal looked around the place with mild curiosity and walked toward the stairs that lead to the bedrooms.
B.A had already limped his way to the couch and settled down with a low grunt. He'd clearly planned on sitting there for the rest of the night. Folding his hands behind his head and carefully lowering his healing leg on the old and dusty coffee table, he closed his eyes to regain some energy.
Murdock decided to stay close to the colonel (to stay far away from the bear rug) and followed him upstairs to investigate the rest of the house.
Hannibal opened the first of the three doors that led into what looked like an old children's bedroom. There were a cabinet and a rocking horse in a corner, and against one of the walls he noted a bunk bed.
"Dibs on the top bunk!" Murdock howled enthusiastically as he rushed passed Hannibal, climbed the ladder and landed belly first on the dusty blankets which immediately prompted an impressive sneezing fit.
"It's all yours, captain," Hannibal chuckled as he turned around to examine the other rooms and leaving the captain alone with his new friend 'Mr. Bunky'.
The other rooms were, like the children's room old, dim-lit and dusty. The wallpaper had faded through the years and came loose around the edges. The beds and furniture were covered in dust, and the floors showed signs of rot.
While going through the rooms, Hannibal couldn't help but feeling slightly amused about the situation. The house was in bad shape and by the looks of it, Face had been the one being fooled for a change.
In the third bedroom, Hannibal paused at a wall that was decorated with antique frames that held old black & white and sometimes full-color photographs.
The old cabin was still covered with traces of the old family that used to live in this house that was so perfectly situated in the middle of nowhere.
Hannibal stepped forward and peered at the mounted pictures. There were multiple pictures of a family. A mother, father, and a young boy.
For some reason, one photograph seemed to interest the colonel in particular. It was the black and white image of an elderly lady that reminded him of his own late grandmother. The lady looked solemn and unsmiling which was typical for that period of time. Her white hair was fixed in a tight bun, her clothes looked impeccable, and for reasons unknown to Hannibal, she held an axe in her hands. Creepy...
Staring at the photo, Hannibal suddenly sensed a cold breeze that made the hair on the back of his neck rise. It was like someone was standing close behind him while blowing gently in his ear from behind. Hannibal whirled around to find... nothing.
The white-haired commander blinked for a second and then shrugged.
It must've been the wind. He figured the house ought to be rather draughty after years of neglect.
As he walked out of the room again, he thought he heard Murdock's voice talking animatedly with something or someone in the children's room.
"He's probably seeing his invisible dog Billy again," Hannibal shrugged.
As this was normal behavior for the pilot, he didn't give it a second thought and decided to go downstairs to check the rest of the house.
He'd discovered an old bathroom, and afterward, he checked the kitchen. At least it seemed fully equipped with all the cookery utensils a person could wish for.
Suddenly his eye fell on a black painted door hidden in the back of the kitchen. It seemed to lure him to open it as he approached it.
Hannibal put his hand on the handle and tried to open the door. It seemed to be stuck. The Colonel pushed harder, but the door still didn't budge.
Hannibal wasn't the person to give up so easily and pushed his shoulder against the door. It finally started to move. With some effort and a loud groaning sound of old wood, the door slowly jimmied open, revealing what was hidden behind it.
Again, it was as if the house was letting out a sigh and a shudder, and this time Hannibal was the person to notice this.
The room was pitch black. Hannibal searched the walls and found a switch. Turning on the light, the scene of the room gave him goosebumps. The windows were boarded up with old wooden boards, and the floor and part of the walls were covered with dark stains that reminded him unpleasantly of blood. On the walls, lined up in a row, he found a selection of axes, hammers and other woodworking tools. There was a clutter of broken furniture stacked away in a corner together with a pile of paint buckets, brushes, and bottles of brush cleaners. Hannibal figured this room was once used for repairs amongst other things...
Even though Hannibal wasn't a cowardly man, he didn't like the feeling it gave him. The colonel turned around, turned off the switch, and closed the door firmly behind him just as Face barged into the house again.
"This is outrage!" Face bellowed when he entered the living room with a furious expression on his handsome features. His face was slightly flushed from frustration.
"What's the news, lieutenant?" Hannibal said while leaning with his back against the kitchen counter.
Face stood there fuming with his hands on his hips and looked around at the colonel.
"It's bad, Hannibal. It's terrible!" he exclaimed while fiercely brushing a hand through his hair.
Hannibal frowned at the conman, knowing perfectly well that his lieutenant could be a bit over-dramatic at times.
Face started pacing the room while kicking a cloud of dust bunnies out of his way.
B.A, who'd opened his eyes halfway, followed his team-mate from his spot on the sofa with a slightly annoyed expression on his face.
"I tried to make contact with Jean-Paul," Face started. "But I couldn't make the call!"
"And you wanna know why?!" He asked, while his blue eyes looked back at the colonel who patiently waited for the conman to release his anger.
"Apparently, we are SO far from civilization that I can't even make a simple phone call to set things straight. The car phone is useless. I couldn't make a connection. And the worst part is that it's getting dark quickly. So moving on into the pitch black darkness in search for another place to stay would be out of the question in this area."
"Quite right," Hannibal nodded while noting the growing darkness outside.
He paused briefly while glancing at B.A and making a quick assessment of his condition. The big guy looked weary and needed his rest, though Hannibal was smart enough not to mention it to the sergeant knowing very well that the man would immediately deny it.
"Okay. I guess that settles it then." He finally said with an airy voice.
"It's too dark to drive through an area we're not familiar with. Which means we'll have to stay here for the night," He added while searching for his unlit cigar and sticking it back in his mouth again.
Face groaned while looking around the house in dismay. B.A simply grunted in agreement. He wasn't going to admit it to anyone, but he felt exhausted. There wouldn't be any more driving tonight if it was up to him.
Hannibal approached his frustrated lieutenant and placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
"I suggest we bring in the groceries and try and settle down for the night. I don't think this house has been habituated for a while. So we won't intrude on anyone's privacy, hopefully..."
Face made a scoffing sound but nodded while folding his arms in dismay and staring at the toes of his shiny designer shoes.
"Murdock, are you coming? We've decided to stay!" Hannibal bellowed from the bottom of the staircase to the lanky pilot who still seemed to be in conversation with someone in the children's room.
Hannibal could hear the pilot stop talking in midsentence.
There was a pause and then a: 'Comin' Colonel!" before the lanky man dashed out of the bedroom and rushed down the stairs.
"Who were you talking to?" Hannibal asked with mild curiosity.
"What are you talkin' about?" Murdock countered, avoiding Hannibal's gaze and pulling the rim of his hat over his eyes again.
Hannibal frowned at the lanky man.
Murdock looked embarrassed and even annoyed as if he'd been caught in the act of doing something he clearly didn't want to talk about.
But whatever could it be? They were used to him talking to things that weren't there. This wasn't anything different.
Hannibal scrutinized the pilot who obviously tried to ignore him and had settled himself on the sofa next to B.A. The bulky sergeant observed the pilot with wary eyes while mentally preparing himself for a lot of jibber jabber. But...
To his surprise, Murdock just sat down quietly while pulling a comic book from his jacket to read it. B.A looked up at Hannibal with raised eyebrows. In response, Hannibal raised his shoulders and shrugged at his sergeant to share his bewilderment.
Murdock was still recovering from a moderate head trauma, and although he seemed to be making quick progress, he hadn't been himself the last couple of days.
He'd been more quiet and forgetful than usual, and, even though he tried his best to hide it, he seemed a bit short-fused too.
The doctors had assured them that the headaches and mood swings were likely to disappear over time and that Murdock had been very fortunate indeed. But he definitely needed more time to heal.
Dismissing the uneasy feeling that was building in his chest, Hannibal decided to let it go and cut his captain some slack.
All was fine...Nothing was wrong...
Soon the team had taken the groceries and their duffel bags from the van and settled themselves into the old cabin.
Murdock claimed the top bunk bed in the children's room, Face and Hannibal both chose one of the bedrooms upstairs and B.A had volunteered for the couch since he didn't fancy staggering up and down the stairs with his painful leg.
Then Murdock cooked them all a meal which he called 'Murdocki's Spaghetti ala di meat-i-di-balla', and Hannibal had gathered some dry wood for the fireplace to warm up the cold room. To his great relief, they'd moved the bear rug out of sight because Murdock kept leaping and dancing around it with girly screams when he got too near.
Maybe it wasn't as luxurious as Face would've liked, but the conman had to (grudgingly) agree that it wasn't exactly uncomfortable either.
The gloomy appearance of the room seemed to have improved a little in the warm light of the fire.
With their bellies full, and their feet warmed up at the fireplace, the team finally felt relaxed.
Hannibal observed his men while peacefully smoking his cigar.
Face sat opposite him, staring sleepily into the fire, seemingly lost in deep thoughts while sipping from a glass of wine.
Murdock, who'd settled on the sofa next to B.A with his comic book, had fallen asleep and had slowly slumped down against the bulky shoulder of the mechanic who pretended not to have noticed while drinking a glass of milk and reading the manual of a recently purchased car radio for the van.
B.A rubbed his eyes and yawned, which caused Hannibal to yawn as well.
It was when Face almost dropped his glass of wine in a moment of dozing off that Hannibal decided it was time for all of them to hit the sack.
B.A carefully nudged Murdock awake. The pilot started with a whimper and opened his eyes in shock. He blinked hard and for a moment, his eyes seemed to lock onto something in front of him that only he could see. He followed it with his eyes and looked slightly flustered at its sight. It took him a couple of seconds before he realized that the guys were staring at him and he quickly composed himself while pretending to reach for his comic book which had fallen to the floor.
"Time to turn in, captain. Your bunk is awaiting," Hannibal said, frowning slightly at the pilot's antics.
Murdock gave him a quick glance, his eyes slightly widened in alarm.
Then, as if he was sleepwalking, he sluggishly stood up and without a word, made his way up the stairs into the room with his recently acquired bunk bed.
Hannibal watched him go with a thoughtful expression on his face but said nothing.
"He's just tired," Face said with a consoling pat on Hannibal's shoulder as he picked up his bag with toiletries.
"I guess..," Hannibal said pensively. He'd noticed B.A's eyes following Murdock too. The pilot had disappeared into his room.
"By the way, If you don't mind, I'm gonna wash up quickly," Face said.
Before waiting for an answer, he rushed into the bathroom and locked the door behind him.
Hannibal turned to B.A.
"I guess that means we'll have to wait a little longer. Are you in for some good ol' gin rummy, sergeant?"
"Only if you don't cheat," B.A grunted while repositioning his leg on a cushion.
"Ah come on, B.A! Do I ever cheat?"
B.A simply showed his commander a deep scowl which was as good as an answer.
Hannibal chuckled mischievously as he grabbed the deck of cards.
More than half an hour later, Hannibal made his way upstairs in his nightwear and ready for some serious shut-eye.
Face had finally vacated the bathroom (giving Hannibal and B.A the opportunity to wash up as well) and had retreated to one of the bedrooms upstairs.
B.A made himself comfy with a sleeping bag and some random pillows on the sofa and the colonel wished him goodnight.
Halfway the stairs, Hannibal suddenly heard voices again. He thought he recognized the soft sound of Murdock's voice. But he was sure he heard another voice as well. It sounded like ... a kid?
As Hannibal reached the landing the voices suddenly stopped. The colonel noticed that the door to Murdock's room was half-open. He knew the pilot preferred an open door when he slept alone, simply because he felt safer that way. And he always had a nightlight with him so he would immediately see where he was if he woke up.
Hannibal peeked around the door and saw Murdock's too tall frame lying on top of the bunk bed. His feet stuck out over the edge, and his sleeping face was ghostly illuminated by the small beam of the lit flashlight that lay next to his pillow. He was still fully dressed and hadn't even bothered to take off his shoes.
Hannibal shook his head in wonder. That wasn't Murdock's usual bedtime routine.
From his position at the door, Hannibal's eyes scanned the rest of the room, checking every corner and recognizing the silhouettes of the dusty old cabinet and the rocking horse. Except for the furniture and toys, the room was empty.
The colonel scoffed at himself. What was he thinking? Of course, Murdock was alone... How could there be anybody else in this house than his men?
Checking the room over once more, Hannibal slowly moved his gaze back to Murdock's face and almost jumped out of his skin.
The pilot's coffee black eyes were wide open and staring back at the colonel with intent.
"Sorry, did I wake you up?" Hannibal apologized while quickly recovering from his fright.
"Was I sleeping?" Murdock asked, seemingly confused.
"Who were you talking to?" Hannibal asked.
"Was I talking?" Murdock said hazily. He frowned and his eyes strayed away toward the rocking horse.
Hannibal looked at the horse again, then back at his captain.
"Never mind, kid," Hannibal said. "Go back to sleep."
Murdock closed his eyes again. Hannibal gave him one more searching look and then decided it had just been his imagination.
He was tired, and Murdock had probably been talking in his sleep just now. It wasn't that uncommon.
But when Hannibal turned around to leave the room, he didn't see Murdock opening his eyes again.
The lanky man stared after the colonel with a dark and dubious expression on his face.
The rocking horse started moving ever so slightly.