As soon as it was 10 o’clock, Duncan told the teachers he didn’t feel well, so he would go home. Now he was just walking through the woods, with his two friends. After Nova had told him what had happened, he was quite shocked. There were a lot of questions about it all, but he had decided not to ask anything about it. Now he had no idea what he could expect. This made it all a little more exciting, especially since he was unbelievably curious. What made him a little anxious, though, was the thought of bumping into the Killer Painter. He was terrified of death, so he didn’t want it to happen yet. He wanted to die happily after having had a good life. He didn’t want to get murdered by some psychopath at the age of sixteen! Who would even want that?
‘We should stay alert.’ Nova said expressionless. ‘And try not to think of anything. Try not to think of what you’re going to do next. He can read minds.’
‘Just like you?’ Nathan said suddenly and she looked to think deeply.
‘Now you mention it.’ Nova mumbled and Duncan looked at the two confused.
‘Do we all have secret powers?’ he chuckled. ‘That’s cool.’ Nova was still thinking about Nate’s comment obviously, but Duncan doubted that it was just coincidence. It had to be, right?
It didn’t take long before they arrived at the old castle. And man, did it look awesome! Duncan followed his friend inside, to an unfamiliar room. When they entered it, though, there was some strange hole in the ground with a staircase leading to some strange, dark room. ‘Did you guys already go to here in the present before you even told me about it?’ he asked them disappointed. The two friends looked at each other shocked and shook their head.
‘No! Of course, we didn’t! We weren’t even sure if it would be still here!’ Nova said.
‘You think the Killer Painter is here too?’ Nathan mumbled, but Nova shrugged.
‘It might be, we should check it out.’
‘Yay!’ Duncan cheered. ‘Let’s go to certain death!’ Nova and Nathan looked at him with both a raised eyebrow, but didn’t say anything. Duncan sighed and they went down to be in a dark tunnel. There were weak lights that at least made them see a bit. The wall was dark grey and there were blood trails on the ground. The tunnels were long and there seemed to be multiple turns, which seemed to be better lighted. Without asking Duncan and Nathan where they wanted to go, Nova walked one of the hallways in and turned to the first right turn she could go to. The others followed her, to see a long hallway too, but with much brighter light and drawers hanging on the wall. There were strange jars with some disgusting organs in it. Kidneys, livers, gall bladders. Duncan tried not to look at it. He didn’t want to vomit. Never. The last time he vomited was when he saw his father getting shot. He had missed him so much, but every time he thought about puking, he thought about that specific moment. The blood coming out of his chest and the suddenly empty eyes. Nova and Nathan didn’t seem to have any problems with the organs, fortunately. But they seemed to hate the thought that those were stolen from people who had died. From people who were killed. Murdered in the most brutal way possible.
‘Disgusting.’ Nathan mumbled. ‘Why couldn’t he just choose for a, y’know, normal collection? Like collecting cards from football players or stamps? Why organs?’
‘It looks like he hasn’t just collected them.’ Nova mumbled. ‘Some of them seem to have been cut in half, like he was exploring them. Inspecting them. Like some surgeon would.’
‘He doesn’t sound like a noob in being a crazy scientist.’ Duncan chuckled. Nathan smirked and Nova sighed. They both startled a bit when they heard something fall. They looked to the place where it fell and saw glass shards laying just around the corner.
‘That’s not the Killer Painter.’ Nova whispered. ‘That would be too illogical. The person who let the jar fell must be the same person who let the door open.’ She stayed silent for a moment, before walking towards it. The stomach lay on the ground between the liquid and the sherds and it was really gross. Duncan swallowed loudly and at the moment Nova began walking towards it, Nathan grabbed her wrist and looked at her concerned.
‘What are you going to do?’
‘Duh, checking out who it is!’
‘Don’t do that, please!’
She sighed and smiled faintly. ‘Don’t worry, okay?’ She made him let her go, but he didn’t seem to like it.
‘Nova, what if it is the Killer Painter?!’ Duncan looked at the other jars around them, which seemed to float suddenly and Duncan laid his hand on Nathan’s shoulder. Nathan looked at him with angry eyes, but Duncan only pointed with his eyes at the jars. Nathan closed his eyes and tried to calm down, what made them fall back again. Nova looked thankfully at him and nodded, before going to the broken jar and looking around the corner in the hallway. She made that typical sound a mother would make after she had caught her child eating candy secretly. Nathan and Duncan walked towards her and saw Ari and Miles, looking a little awkwardly at them.
‘Ari?!’ Duncan was shocked. ‘What did I tell you? You should be at school?!’
‘And so should you.’ Ari said. ‘So what about you shut up about this? Then I won’t tell mom, okay?’
‘I think it’s a better idea that you two go back.’ Nova said to them calmly. ‘Duncan will bring you back to the stairs so you can return to school.’ They both looked at the ground guilty and apologized. Duncan nodded.
‘Okay, come on.’ he looked at the two kids and smiled at Nova and Nathan. ‘I will bring them home. You better come back soon too, okay?’ They nodded and Duncan left to the stairs with Ari and Miles.
Hannah looked at her friend with shocked and confused eyes. She sighed and shook her head.
‘That’s not possible, Iris. We both know that. You must have hallucinated.’
‘I know and I thought that too! Trust me, it took me a while before I realized it, but I know that it’s him! I mean, I barely recognized him, but I know it’s him!’
‘If you barely recognized him, how are you so sure about it?’
‘I don’t know, it’s just that my intuition tells me that I’m right! He has changed a lot, but I’m sure!’
‘Iris, no. I mean, how exactly do you think he is here then? We both know he is gone. It’s impossible.’
Iris sighed and closed her eyes disappointed. ‘I know and you’re probably right. Maybe I did hallucinate. But, I mean, Larry used to tell me that I should follow my intuition and I’ve done that. Besides, we aren’t sure if Andrew is really gone, are we?’ Hannah didn’t want to hear it anymore. She stood up to leave already with closed eyes. ‘I mean, you never found a body after all.’