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The Haunted Mansion

by Rob Warr

Part 2


Larry waited till the four were back in the living room before bringing up the subject that had been bothering him since he'd touched Jeff's soggy back. Billy and John had taken the couch, and Larry a wing chair nearby, but Jeff had chose to sit on the wide stone fireplace.

"I wish we had a fire," Billy said shivering a little.

"There might be some wood in the basement," John offered, "I thought I saw a wood bin when we were down there earlier. Of course it might be empty."

"Yeah, I could use a fire," Jeff said hugging himself.

"Jeff," Larry began, "you said you fell asleep on the couch and when you woke up we were gone. That's not how we saw it at all, and...why are you all wet?"

"What? I'm..." he said feeling himself and discovering what Larry said was true, "I...I don't know," he added looking frightened, "what's happening to me?"

With the help of the other two, Larry quickly outlined what had gone on upstairs, Jeff's sudden disappearance, their search, and all the things they'd discovered, and Jeff listened with nervous interest.

"So, this guy...this Robert Mason had a boyfriend," he sniggered, "and he croaked in a fire and the kid, this Robert kid, gave up on life and love, and all that and died a lonely old man. Kind of sad really. Not that I understand his being a fag and all..."

"Maybe he wasn't...a fag, I mean," John offered, "maybe he only liked Julius that way. Maybe he just loved him and no one else. Is it being a fag if you only love one person?" he almost pleaded.

"Whoa, slow down. I didn't mean anything bad by it," Jeff said.

"So, no idea how you got wet?" Larry tried once again.

"Nah...nooo, I mean...I don't remember going outside or anything," Jeff stammered.

"I saw you," Billy insisted, "you were walking across the lawn toward the house, but by the time John and Larry got to the window you were gone."

"Nope, nothing...don't remember being outside," Jeff said shrugging, "maybe we should get out of here, go on home or something."

"We can't, the cellar door is blocked, not to mention it's storming outside. I think we should stay here till the rain stops, that is if we can even find a way out," Larry said frowning.

"I say we see about that fire then," John said, "Billy, come with me and we'll see if there is any wood in the basement."

"Are you sure you guys want to go alone? Maybe we should all go," Larry said looking worried.

"Nah, we'll be fine, right Billy?" John insisted, "we'll leave the door open and you can hear us if we yell for help."

"Okay, fine...but if you're not back in 15 minutes, he said looking at his watch, we're coming after you."

"Come on Billy," John said standing, "let's do this."

"Okay, but if we get eaten it's your fault," Billy teased.

"I don't think there's anything gonna eat you," Larry chuckled, "according to John, it just sucks on it's victims."

"Shut up, I swear that was real," John said, a shiver going up his spine. Despite the pleasure the phantom had given him, it was still too weird to think about.

John led the way as he and Billy descended the stairs to the basement, their flashlights painting the way with their bright beams. The wood box was just where John had remembered, and thankfully was full, even if the wood was rather dry looking and would probably burn quickly.

"Do you think that's really Jeff?" Billy said suddenly throwing John off guard.

"What, why would you ask that?"

"Well, why doesn't he remember what really happened, and why was he outside? Maybe he's like...a spook or something."

"First of all, I don't think spooks can get wet, the water would pass right through them, and second, you hugged him, didn't he feel real?"

"Well, yeah...I guess. It's just weird that he don't remember."

"Maybe he got knocked out or something. Maybe he has temporary amnesia or something."

"Hmm...don't know. I was surprised about what he said about those two boys, that he thought it was sad or whatever. Even if he did bring up the fag thing."

John was looking around for something to carry the wood in, and finally found what appeared to be a wooden laundry basket. As he retrieved it he addressed Billy's concerns.

"Well, Jeff talks all tough and stuff, but I happen to know he's not as bad as he acts. He has a heart of gold even if he is an asshole sometimes," John laughed.

"Yeah, I sort of know," Billy said not elaborating. Billy knew there was a softer side to Jeff, and not only did Billy respect and like the older boy, he also had a little boy-crush on him. Not that he was gay, he thought, he didn't know what he was at the moment, but sometimes when he was around Jeff he found his palms got sweaty, his heart sped up, and he felt an itchy feeling in his tummy. Not to mention he often found himself with a boner. That in itself was enough to confuse and frustrate him, but it was the other feelings that really made his head reel.

John gave Billy a look that said, your secret is safe with me, and began to pile pieces of wood in the basket, "How long have you known him, Jeff I mean?"

"About two years...yeah, two years. I was twelve then, and he was my age now, 14. We met at the pool. He was with his older brother Jake, the one who got married and moved away last year."

"Yeah, I met him at school myself, but we hit it off right away. I guess he's known Larry the longest, what with them living so close together. Indeed they lived close together, in fact their backyards abutted each other, and since there was no fence between the properties, they'd had one big backyard to play in as they were growing up.

Jeff's dad had died when he was 10, and it was just him and his mom and brothers after that, the oldest brother, Jake, assuming the man-of-the house role then. Jake was only 16 then, but he'd grown up fast and became a stern overseer of his two younger brother's, Jeff and Wayne. Wayne was a year younger than Jeff then, but when he turned 12 he had died of food poisoning, and the boys' mother had never quite recovered from his loss. She'd blamed herself, even though the cause hadn't been her cooking, but rather a sandwich the boy had bought at a convenience store. With the help of the City County Health Department, they'd traced the poisoning to the store, and in the process discovered that Wayne wasn't the only victim of the tainted food, though all of the others recovered. An ambulance chasing lawyer named Nicholas Dyer had managed to get a small settlement for the family, but after Wayne's death everything had changed and Jeff suffered the most.

Already dealing with issues of self-esteem and loneliness, he'd considered suicide many times, and if not for his friend Larry he might very well have succeeded. Larry had talked him through his darkest moments, and he and his family had offered him shelter when he needed to distance himself from this mother and her mood swings, and his brother who was becoming more and more demanding as Jeff grew older.

Though he and Larry had done some messing around when they were younger, Jeff's feelings for his best friend were more fraternal than romantic. In other words, he loved Larry, but didn't have a crush on him, nor desire him sexually once they'd gotten older. However, he did have those feelings for another one of his friends, the youngest one in fact, but he had never acted on them, nor shared them with anyone till now.

"I love him," Jeff suddenly blurted out as a stunned Larry jerked his head his way.

"Who, you love who?" Larry said licking his lips nervously. What had gotten into his best friend all of a sudden, and what was he talking about?"

"Billy, I love him," Jeff said staring at his wet soggy shoes.

"We all love Billy, he's like my kid brother," Larry said in return, but he didn't think that was what Jeff meant.

"No, I mean...I love him, love him. Like," he sobbed suddenly, " that kid Robert loved the kid Julius. I can't help it, I don't want to be a fag, but oh...Larry, I love him so much I can hardly stand to be around him."

"Buddy," Larry said sitting down beside his best friend. It didn't bother him that Jeff might be gay, for he'd had some thoughts about other boys himself, but it worried him that he seemed so distraught, especially in light of all that had happened that night, "have you told him?'

"What? No way!" Jeff shuddered, "he'd hate me. No one likes a fag, and he's just a kid..."

"He's 14," Larry chuckled, "he has his short hairs and he has a big one too. I've seen it, heck we all have."

"Shut up," Jeff laughed between sobs, "but he's not gay...I can tell."

"Well, neither are you, right?"

"Huh, what you mean?"

"I mean, do you feel that way about me, or John, or any other boy? Or is this just about Billy?"

"Nah, not you, not John, but sometimes I think about some of the boys from school, especially how they look in the shower and stuff, but mostly it's just Billy." Jeff couldn't believe he was telling Larry all this, but he had to admit it was a relief to finally let it all out.

"Is that why you're always knocking gay dudes and calling everyone a fag?" Larry reasoned, "because you don't want anyone to figure you out?"

Jeff nodded, "Everyone would hate me," then raising his head to gaze into his best friend's eyes, he said softly, "do you hate me now?"

"Dude, you're my best friend, even if you are an asshole most times," Larry said grinning, "I don't care who you fuck as long as it's not me," he chuckled.

Jeff laughed softly, "Not like I ever fucked anyone, or done anything else for that matter...except, know, what we did when we were kids," he said blushing.

"That was fun, but it was just kid stuff. You didn't, uh...think it was more, right?'

"Nah, it was just something to do. Anyway, your dick is too small," he joked.

"It's bigger now, wanna see?" Larry teased.

"Huh, ah, don't tease me," Jeff sighed, "but seriously, what am I gonna do...about Billy?"

"Well...that's up to you, but if it was me...I think I'd try to get to know him better and kind of feel him out and see how he feels about you. He's a nice kid, and I know he likes you a lot. Heck, he likes everyone, but he stands up for you a lot when we talk you down."

"Gee thanks for that," Jeff teased, " think he might like me that way too?'

"I dunno, at his age he's probably still trying to figure things out. Too bad it's not John you have the crush on," Larry said before he could catch himself.

"What? Why? What do you know that I don't?"

"Oh, nothing, forget it," Larry said blushing.

"No, please. Tell me, I promise it will stay between us two."

"Well, I don't know this for sure...but I think John likes guys. I...I found some magazines in his bedroom that showed all these muscle guys. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe he was just trying to get in shape, but why would he hide them under his mattress, and...why were some pages stuck together with dried jizz?" he added chuckling.

"Oh man, John? Yeah, I can kinda see it. Man, I hope some of the stuff I've said didn't hurt his feelings too much."

"What's happened to you Jeff?" Larry said looking confused, "suddenly you're all...caring and...and...human."

Jeff shrugged, "I don't know," the older boy said looking away, "you probably think I'm pathetic, don't you?'

"No, I kinda like the new Jeff," Larry said slipping an arm around his best friend, "Well, at least you're drying off some."

In the basement, Billy was helping John load up the wood when suddenly he reached over and touched John's hand gently, "Can I tell you something...something that you can't ever tell anyone else?"

"Well, sure," John said trying not to think about the tingle he felt from Billy's touch.

"I...think I might...I mean, I'm pretty sure...I..."

"I know," John said letting the boy off the hook, "I think I might be too."

"You are? Oh...yeah, I kinda thought so, but you's not my business..."

John laughed, "Why are you telling me this though? You're not hot for me, are you?"

"Nooo," Billy blushed, "not you..." he said trailing off.

"Oh. Wait, but you do have feelings for someone, right? Is it someone I know? Oh my God, is it Larry, it's Jeff, isn't it?"

Billy's head sprang up and his mouth hung open, "How, how did you know?"

"It all makes sense now, I mean I just thought it was hero worship or something, but it's more, isn't it? You have a crush on tough old Jeff, don't you?" he chuckled, then sobering he said, "Oh man, this could be bad. You know how he talks about gay people..."

"I know," Billy said sadly, "but I don't think he means it. He's really nice to me, when we're alone," he blushed, "and I think he likes me...too."

"I don't know Billy. I just don't want you to get your hopes up or worse, get hurt. I just don't know how he'd react to that kind of news."

Billy sighed, "Maybe I should just quit hanging out with you guys."

"No, don't do that. I'd miss you, Larry would miss you, heck, so would Jeff. In his own way he loves all of us I guess, he's just been taught that you don't express those feelings. You know about his dad and his brother, right?'

"Yeah, he told me all about it. He talks to me John, really talks to me. Like I matter, and like he cares what I think."

"Of course, I'm sure he eats up the attention and hero worship. He's a complicated dude, but I really like him, despite all his problems."

"What should I do then?" Billy whined, "I can't stand it sometimes. I just want to touch him and tell him how I feel so bad."

"I don't think I'd do that," John advised, "at least not till you feel him out a bit. Not feel him up?" he added trying to lighten the mood.

"I wish I knew how he really felt about me," Billy said looking forlorn.

"Hey, just take it slow, okay? But right now we need to get this wood back up there before they come looking for us."

"Oh, yeah...sure," Billy stammered, "grabbing one last piece of wood and balancing it on the top of the pile in the basket.

Together they managed to tote the basket of heavy wood up the stairs and they were met by both Jeff and Larry as they emerged.

"One more minute and we were gonna come looking for you," Larry scolded, "what took you so long, were you playing footsy with the ghost of old man Mason?"

"Nah, we had to find something to carry the wood in," John explained. Not to mention have a heart to heart talk about being gay and Billy's crush on Jeff.

"You did good," Larry said looking at the basket of wood, "let's get it to the fireplace and get a fire going, "it's freezing in here.

As expected, the well-seasoned wood burned easily and quickly, but there was enough to get a good fire going and keep it going for awhile. Jeff took off his shirt and hung it from the fireplace mantel to dry and it was all Billy could do not to stare at his crush's flat stomach and well defined chest. He did manage to sneak a few peeks and discovered that not only did Jeff have a nice upper body, he was also completely hairless except for a little trail of dark hairs that led from his belly button down into his pants.

Billy had read this was called by some, the trail to paradise, and he thought nothing had ever been so true. Although his experience with sex was confined to some clumsy fumbling with a few friends and a cousin, he somehow knew that what lay at the end of Jeff's trail was exactly what he wanted. He'd listened with interest when John had described his experience and became aroused at the thought of getting off from being touched that way, even if it was a bit creepy.

"Earth to Billy," Larry sudden said, jarring Billy out of his thoughts.


I said, "Do you want to come closer and get warm?" Larry said scooting over to make room between him and Jeff.

"Uh, sure," Billy said, pleased to be invited to sit so near his crush, even if it would be harder to sneak peeks at his physique.

As he settled in between the two, he was surprised to find that Jeff not only didn't move away, but that he actually moved a little closer until they were almost touching. He could feel the heat coming off the older boy's body and smell his musky familiar scent, and it was both comforting and arousing.

"So, what are you guys gonna do with all that stuff you found?" Jeff asked, for lack of anything else to say.

"I think we should keep it. I'll take it home with me and you guys can look at it any time you want," Larry suggested. I want to read the whole diary from front to back once I have time, not to mention the newspaper articles. Plus, I bet we can find more info at the library now that we know when and what to look for."

"That kid, Julius, how old was he?" Jeff said looking thoughtful.

"Best I can tell they were both 12, maybe 13." Larry said.

"Damn, that's pretty young to be in love and all," Jeff said, not mentioning that it was gay love.

"Yeah, well...I guess when you have no one to love in your life, you're naturally gonna fall for the first person that shows you some interest," John said, studying Jeff's face closely for any sign of what he was really thinking.

"Never been in love myself," Jeff lied, causing Larry to clear his throat and look his way, "love is for saps."

"I don't think so," Billy said softly, then realizing he was contradicting the person he cared most for, he added, "I mean I guess it's okay for some people."

Jeff laughed nervously, "What do you know about love? You ever been in love?"

"Maybe," Billy said almost in a whisper. But the person I love doesn't love me back, he thought sadly.

Jeff's eyes went wide, "Really, tell us about it. Who was this girl?"

"I...I didn't say it was a girl," Billy said, then he looked at Jeff nervously, afraid he'd slap him silly at the implied meaning of that.

"Oh," Jeff mumbled, "anyone we know?"

"Yeah, I think so," Billy said sighing. Though his heart was beating out of his chest and goose bumps of fear had popped up all over his body, he thought it was now or never. Better to get it out in the open and let the cards fall where they might. If Jeff hated him afterwards, at least he'd be free of this damn crush and able to move on. That is: if Jeff didn't tell everyone he was a fag and ruin him.

Jeff chuckled and surprised Billy by slipping an arm around his shoulders, "It took a lot of guts to say what you just said. You're all right kid."

"But...I thought you, fags."

"You're not a fag," Jeff said smiling warmly at the younger boy, their faces only inches apart.

What's happening here? John wondered. Is it possible Jeff likes Billy that way too? This was certainly turning into a night to remember, and if he wasn't so worried about all the crazy stuff that had been happening, he might have thought it was the best night ever.

"I'm not?" Billy said searching Jeff's eyes for his true feelings, "but I like someone...a guy, isn't that gay?"

"I dunno," Jeff said finally looking away, "Who am I to decide?" he sighed, looking over at Larry, who just nodded.

Billy sat quietly for a moment and suddenly he stood and walked a short distance away before speaking, "Even if that boy I you?"

Jeff's eyes grew wide and then he looked down at his feet for a moment. Then raising his head he shook it in dismissal, "No," he said so softly the others could barely hear him.

"I'm sorry," Billy cried, tears filling his soft brown eyes.

"Hey, it's okay," John said walking over and rubbing Billy's back gently, "as long as we're revealing secrets here, you might as well know Jeff, I'm gay too," he said almost defiantly.

"Duh," Jeff chuckled, "we're not stupid. I think we all guessed that a long time ago."

"What?" John said in shock, "I mean, you called me fag and stuff, but you call everyone that. Why didn't you say something before now?"

Jeff shrugged, "Look, I might say that stuff sometimes, okay a lot, but that doesn't mean I don't like you John, just not that way," he chuckled, glad to get his mind off his real problem, what to do about his crush on Billy.

"Damn. You asshole," John laughed angrily, "do you have any idea how much I've worried about you finding out and ruining my rep, or beating me up?"

"Dude, relax. I'm not gonna do anything. I don't care who you get your rocks off with. At least you're getting some...aren't you?"

"Huh, no...of course not. I don't have gay friends if that's what you think. I don't know anyone besides me who's gay."

"You do now," Billy said looking up, "but I'm sorry, I don't like you that way."

"It's cool, I don't like you that way either, although you are pretty cute," John laughed.

"Hey," get a room," Jeff teased, but the truth was, he was a little jealous thinking the two might actually get together. He wanted Billy for himself, but he was convinced that would never happen, despite Billy implying that he liked him that way.

"Hell, no, not in this spook house," John shuddered, "once was enough for me."

"Look guys, we don't know how long we're gonna be stuck here," Larry said changing the subject, "I suggest we divy up the last of the food and eat it, and drink the last of the beers. We'll need our strength if we're gonna kick our way out of here later."

"Okay, but I hope it's not poison or haunted," Billy said looking stricken.

"Well, I'm willing to risk it," Jeff said grabbing a beer and popping the top, then taking a big swig, he belched, "God, I hate hot beer."

"Sorry your highness, next time we'll bring a cooler," Larry laughed as he passed a beer to the other two boys, then grabbed one for himself.

As they ate, they talked about everything that had gone on, but everyone's thoughts eventually drifted back to Billy and John's confessions.

"So..." Larry began, "Jeff, you haven't said much about the fact that Billy just confessed that he likes you, um...that way. Don't you have something you'd like to say to Billy?"

"Huh?" Jeff said blushing, "like what?" he said pretending not to understand.

Larry shook his head, "You know..."

"Maybe we should let them talk...alone," John suggested, "we don't have to go far, just in the dining room or something. We'd be just a shout away if something happened."

"No guys, it's okay..." Jeff objected, but John and Larry were already moving that way.

When they were gone, Billy looked at Jeff nervously and sighed, "I'm don't have to talk to me, it's okay."

"Who says I don't want to talk to you?" Jeff grunted.

"No one, I guess. This must be a big shock for you, finding out I like you and all."

"Kind of surprising really," Jeff muttered, "I'm not the nicest guy you'll ever meet."

"That's just it, you've always been nice to me. Ever since we met at the pool that day."

"Well, you're pretty easy to like..." Jeff said, then blushed.

"Really, thanks, but I know you could never feel like I do," Billy said letting out a dramatic sigh.

"Like what?" Jeff said, "You stuff?"

Billy blushed but nodded, "I like girls, right?"

"Course I do," Jeff said quickly, then seeing the look of disappointment on Billy's face, he quickly added, "I mean, yeah...but it's not like I've been with that many girls or anything."

"I had a girlfriend once, when I was 12," Billy said sounding amused, "she made me carry her books, and call her every night, and sit with her at lunch every day, and well...I finally got tired of it and broke up with her. It was too much work. Boys are easier to deal with."

"Yeah, girls can be a pain," Jeff agreed, "so...have you ever, you know, a boyfriend?"

Billy shook his head, "No, but I want to someday."

"Yeah? What would you do...I mean how does that work?"

"I don't know really. I guess we'd hang out a lot, and maybe hold hands and kiss to start..."

"And...?" Jeff said grinning.

Billy blushed deeper, "I don't know, I'm not very experienced in that stuff, but I want to try it...all of it...someday, with the right boy."

"Someone you like, right?"

"Yeah, that's important. I don't just want sex," Billy confessed, "I want someone who likes me like I like them."

"Were you serious when you said...that you might like me that way?"

Billy nodded, then looked away. "I'm sorry, it's just how I feel. I know you don't feel the same way too."

"What if...what if I did?" Jeff stammered, "don't you think I'm too old for you?"

"Nooo, not too old, just right," Billy assured him, "I like that you're older, and so cool."

"I am?" Jeff chuckled, "Yeah, I am! Cool I mean," he added, then looking at Billy, he blushed and looked nervous, "So...what would we do. How would this work?'

Is he asking me how we can be boyfriends? Billy thought as his heart pounded in his ears and his stomach did flip flops. "Uh, what do you mean?" he had to be sure before he answered.

"I mean, you and me...if we were, umm...a thing...boyfriends I guess, how would that work?"

"Well," Billy began, finding he was short of breath and feeling a little dizzy now, "I guess we'd work that out between us. I mean, you could lead and I'd do whatever you wanted, anything you wanted."

"Hey, it's not like I'm experienced either. You said you'd like to hold hands, and kiss, is that things we'd do?"

"Only if you wanted to," Billy said quickly, eager to please Jeff.

Jeff let out a long breath of air and reached down to find Billy's hand. At first it felt awkward to be holding another boy's hand, but he found it pleasant in no time flat, "Like this?"

Billy nodded, as he trembled with desire.

"Ah gee, I just thought of something," Jeff began, "I don't exactly know how to kiss. I mean, I've never kissed anyone...on the lips before."

"I have," Billy said smiling, "it was the one thing my girlfriend did that I liked."

"So...what do I do...?"

"They been in there a long time," Larry said glancing at his watch.

"Relax, these things take time," John chuckled.

"Did you know about those two...I mean, before?"

"Nah, didn't have a clue, then down in the basement, while we were getting the wood, Billy laid the news on me that he had a thing for Jeff. Boy, talk about a shock. I never suspected, but that was nothing compared to how Jeff reacted to the news."

"That's weird, cause while Billy was telling you all that, Jeff was spilling his guts about his crush on Billy to me. Man, can this night get any weirder?"

"Yeah," John teased, "us two could fall for each other."

"Yeah, right," Larry snorted, "I like you dude, but not that way."

"Pity, I've always thought you were super hot," John teased, or was he?

"I am super hot, just not in a gay way."

"What's the gay way?" John said moving a little closer and gazing into Larry's emerald green eyes. He'd always like those eyes, the way sometimes in the right light there was a fleck of gold in them and how expressive they were most times. It didn't hurt that Larry was cute as well, with dimples and just a spattering of freckles across his nose. And his body. What could John say about that? He was cut and fit, and he knew he was packing a nice piece, because he'd seen it in the showers at school and at the pool.

"You know," John said nervously, "guy on guy sex," he giggled nervously.

"It feels just as good as guy on girl sex, or so I've been told," John said grinning.

"Are you gonna rape me?" Larry teased.

"Nah, not into force, just busting your balls," John said moving back a little, "I know you're super straight, but I can't help but wonder, you're really close to Jeff and all, did you have any idea he might know, a guy's guy?"

"Well, not really. I mean, we did some messing around when we were like 10 or 12, but it was nothing serious. You know, most boys do that, right?" he added quickly.

"Yeah, it's pretty normal actually. So, apparently he doesn't like you that way, but he does like Billy that way. Weird how things happen," John said looking thoughtful, "he's not my type though, too macho."

"Have you ever...? You know, with a guy?"

"Just like you said, when I was a kid. Ever since I got my hair and stuff I've been afraid to start that stuff, heck even talk about it."

"Yeah, it could get you beat up or worse," Larry said nodding, " one you like that way, even if they don't know about it?"

"Nah, not really," John said, "but I'm open to suggestions," he said grinning.

"Whoa, I'm not offering," Larry chuckled.

"Are you tired? I'm beat," John said suddenly rubbing his eyes, then yawning.

Larry caught the contagious yawn, then replied, "Yeah, pretty tired, but I've been so hyped up till now that I hardly noticed."

"Yeah, we may have to sleep in shifts or something," John suggested.

"Why, do you think we're in danger or something?" Larry wondered.

"I don't know," John admitted, "but I'd sleep better if someone was watching over me."

"Yeah, I guess that makes sense," Larry said glancing at his watch again, "What are they doing in there, having sex?" he joked.

"I hope so," John teased, "I hope someone is getting some."

"How was that?" Jeff said pulling back from Billy's lips after their first ever kiss.

"Good, really good. Are you sure you've never kissed anyone before?"

"I'm sure, I guess it just comes natural or something," Jeff said grinning, "your girlfriend taught you to kiss really good."

"Yeah, want to try it again? Only this time maybe we can...hug each other too."

"Oh, okay, but what if John and Larry come back?"

Billy laughed, "So what? If we're gonna do this, then they need to get used to that stuff, cause I wanna kiss you a lot."

Jeff smiled, "Okay. If they laugh I'll pound em into the ground," he teased.

"They won't laugh," they're cool.

They kissed several more times, and each time the kiss was more intense and more physical. Wrapped up in each other's arms, they were barely aware when John and Larry returned. Larry cleared his throat to announce their arrival and John giggled.

"I see you two have worked things out," Larry joked, "I hate to intrude, but John and I were getting cold out there," he added throwing more wood on the fire then rubbing his hands in front of it.

"Sorry, we sort of forgot about you," Billy laughed as he climbed out of Jeff's lap. He gave Jeff a sly smile when he noticed the tent in his jeans, and he couldn't help but wonder what might have happened if they'd had more time alone.

"Kissing already," John observed, "that's a good sign."

"Yeah, well...don't go telling anyone, or I'll kick your ass," Jeff said gruffly, but they all knew his and Billy's secret was safe among the group.

Larry and I were talking, "We're getting tired, and I know you guys must be too, but..."

"We don't think we should all sleep at once," John finished, "maybe two of us could take a nap, then the other two when they're done."

"You guys can go first!" Jeff and Billy said almost at once, then they blushed and gave each other a shy smile.

"Yeah, and while you guys make out, the ghost will come and steal our souls," John laughed.

"Nah, we'll be good," Billy said shaking his head.

"Well, not here, as long as there are real beds upstairs, we might as well use them," John said then, you guys can drag a couple chairs in to sit on.

"That one room has a loveseat in it," Billy said quickly, then blushed, "I mean, couch or whatever..."

"Fine, we'll use that one," John said shaking his head, "Come on, let's do this. My butt is dragging."

"Looks fine to me," Billy giggled, earning him a curious look from John, and a jealous one from Jeff.

"Ugh, this bed is dusty," Larry complained as he and John stretched out on the old faded mattress. They supposed they were lucky there was any furniture in the old house at all, let alone a bed, but they'd have liked it better if there had been a blanket to cover up with.

"It's fucking freezing up here," John muttered, "Move closer so we can share our heat."

"Okay, but no funny business," Larry joked.

"What, like cutting your body open and crawling inside?" John teased, "I just want your heat, not your body."

"Okay, okay...don't be so touchy," Larry said actually snuggling in closer.

John was surprised when Larry spooned up against him, front to back, then threw an arm over him, "there, is that better?"

"Mmm, much, thanks," Then to the other two boys he said, "Two hours, give us two hours then wake us, okay,"

"Yeah, I'll set my watch to go off in two hours," Jeff said, "uh, goodnight...I guess," he chuckled.

John wanted to reply, but suddenly sleep overtook him and he was gone. He awoke sometime later and realized he was alone. Sitting up and rubbing sleep from his eyes, he was suddenly aware that someone was watching him.

At first, all John could see were two eyes that seemed to glow in the darkness, ripples of light playing across them like waves on the ocean. As his eyes adjusted he could see that those eyes belonged to a boy, perhaps a bit younger than himself. Despite the darkness, John could just make out what the boy was wearing, and it certainly wasn't the trendiest clothing he'd ever seen.

The boy wore a long sleeved button up shirt open at the collar, and over it what appeared to be a faded burgundy wool sweater vest. His pants looked to be made of wool as well, with pleats and cuffs turned up at the bottom, over what appeared to be black high-top shoes.

"Hello," John said moving his eyes to the boy's face now. The boy was handsome, but not movie star handsome, he decided. More like the boy-next-door good looks that many boys that age had. His hair was dark brown, his lashes and brows the same color, accentuating his emerald eyes, which as he'd noted earlier seemed to be glowing, "I'm John, what's your name?"

The boy merely stared, then after a moment he turned and walked over to the door and exited, leaving John to stare after him. For the first time since he'd awoke he wondered where the others were.

"Guys," he called softly, "this isn't funny. Come out, come out wherever you are," he said looking around the room, only to find it empty.

Jumping up, he moved to the door and stepped out into the hall just in time to see a door close at the far end of the hall. He was tempted to call out again, but since he didn't know who or what was on the other side of that door he remained silent. Oddly enough he felt fairly calm as he walked to the end of the hall, then stopped just outside the door he'd seen closing.

Then pressing his ear against the door, he listened for any sounds. Almost immediately there came giggling and whispers, definitely two voices, he decided, and both sounded young. One must be the boy he'd seen in the bedroom, the one with the strange eyes, but who the other boy was he didn't have a clue.

Then suddenly it all came tumbling back into his head. The pictures they'd found, the newspaper clippings, the diary, and his blood grew cold. Was it possible he was hearing the sounds of Robert Mason and Julius playing around on the other side of the door?

But where were the others? He wondered with despair. Why would they leave him alone knowing there were strange things going on in the house? Or had they been taken against their will, perhaps never to be seen again? One thing was sure, he had to get to the bottom of this mystery, and perhaps the two on the other side of the door had the answers to his questions.

Steeling himself for what he might find, John gripped the doorknob, and almost gasped when he felt the icy touch of the brass against his hand. It was as if the doorknob were made of ice and not brass, and to avoid touching it any longer than needed, he quickly turned it and pushed the door open.

The door opened silently, no rusty creaking hinges as one might expect, but beyond was only darkness. John fished in his pocket for his flashlight and switched it on. The beam was pointed at the floor at first and it lit up the immediate area beneath his feet, but when he raised it to survey the room, all the light seemed to be absorbed by the darkness, a darkness that seemed to hover as if it were a living thing.

The giggles and whispers grew louder now, but still John could see nothing but darkness. Then suddenly, as if a weak signal were being tuned in, faint images began to appear until they solidified into the forms of two naked boys laying upon a huge canopied bed.

"Oh, sorry," John said blushing, but the two boys seemed not to have noticed his presence as they continued to kiss and fondle one another.

The whispers were intelligible now, and John blushed even deeper as he heard the words describing the acts they were performing on one another.

"Uh, sorry again," John repeated, unable to take his eyes off the two naked boys. One boy was definitely the boy he'd seen in his room, and the other must be Julius, for there was no mistaking that blond hair, those pouty lips, those freckles that made him even cuter, "but I can't find my friends. They were supposed to be watching me while I slept..."

The action on the bed became more heated as John watched, feeling like a voyeur as the two boys performed intimate acts he'd only dreamed of. His eyes grew wide when the boy with the spooky eyes mounted the other boy and began to thrust into him.

"Yesss," Julius cried out, "Make love to me Robert. I want to feel you inside me."

"Uh, I should go..." John said, but his feet refused to move him away, instead he moved even closer, witnessing their coupling up close.

He was hypnotized by the sight of Robert's erect penis disappearing inside Julius, then reappearing at the other end of his thrust. There was a earthy, musky odor in the air, and the temperature seemed to have dropped since he'd first entered the room. In fact, he could see his breath now and he hugged himself in an effort to get warm. And still he remained rooted to the spot, watching the two lovers as they performed the dance of love, old as time itself.

"You umm...haven't seen my friends, have you?" John stammered, but still the two did nothing to indicate they were even aware of his presence, let alone could hear him.

Then suddenly Robert cried out and threw his head back and when he did so he turned to look directly at John. What John saw caused him to cry out as well and stumble backwards almost tripping over his own feet. For the boy's face was a mask of terror now, his eyes flashing menacingly, and his mouth full of sharp fangs dripping with blood.

Upon the bed, Julius lay prone, and as John watched in horror, he raised his head, shrieking as if in pain, blood dripping from his neck where apparently the ghoul that was Robert had buried his fangs.

"What did you do? What are you?" John said backing toward the door and fumbling behind him, trying to locate the doorknob, but to no avail.

Turning slightly, he cried out in surprise when he found the door was no longer there, only a solid wall from corner to corner.

"How?" he cried looking back just in time to see the boy with the fangs climbing from the bed and headed his way, ", get're not real, you can't be real...!"

The screams woke Larry and caused Billy and Jeff to break apart and jump up from the sofa where they'd been playing the quiet game while they watched over the two.

"What the hell?" Larry said shaking in terror.

"Hey, wake up buddy, it's just a bad dream or something," Jeff said shaking John who seemed to have calmed down some, and was now in a daze, staring blankly ahead.

" was so real..." John said in a whisper.

"How long were we asleep?" this from Larry who had calmed down some, but his heart was still beating almost out of his chest.

"About an hour," Jeff said glancing at his watch.

"I'm not going back to sleep," John said shaking his head, a look of terror on his face.

"What happened?" Billy said, not sure he really wanted to know.

"I...I saw them, Robert and Julius, and they were...they were...having sex," he said blushing despite himself, "then, Robert, or whatever that thing was, ripped Julius throat out with these huge fangs, and his eyes, his eyes, they were like glowing or something, and there was no door. I couldn't get out, and then he came for me..."

"Whoa, slow down, start at the beginning," Larry said, his head clearer now.

As John slowly recounted his experience, the other three boys gathered around him, casting nervous glances at the door, and each other. The room seemed colder now and there was a darkness beyond the beam of their flashlights that seemed to be lurking menacingly.

"It was just a dream," Larry reasoned, "you had that stuff on your mind, and it was natural you'd dream about it."

" was so real," John said staring straight ahead, "I could smell them, feel the cold, see my breath, and the blood...oh man, there was so much blood. But the weird thing was: Julius, or whoever, or whatever that thing was, didn't seem to mind that his neck was ripped open. He was grinning and looking at me with eyes that looked so evil, so cold."

"Well, I'm awake now," Larry said after hearing the story. Then rising from the bed and stretching, he added, "but I need to pee like a race horse."

"Why did you have to mention that?" Billy groaned, "so do I."

"Me too, Jeff said giving John what he hoped was a reassuring look, "we all need to, so why don't we all go and take turns? I'm not shy if you guys aren't. All I know is, I'm not going alone."

This time they used the bathroom off the bedroom that they'd discovered earlier during their exploration of the upstairs. It was a given that they didn't want to use the bathroom where Jeff had disappeared, even if Jeff had no recollection of what had really happened in there.

The toilet in this bathroom stood against the outside wall, a claw foot tub to the right, and a pedestal sink to the left. A small window over the tub had not been boarded over, but except for the occasional lightening flash, there was only darkness beyond it. The four found the sound of the rain on the window unnerving, like fingers tapping against it, as if something was trying to get in.

Larry went first as the others stood behind him, their heads turned away slightly to give him a bit of privacy. Jeff noticed a spider crawling up the side of the wall beneath the window, the first living thing he could remember seeing here, and watched as it disappeared into a crack beneath the window.

Jeff went next, then Billy, and lastly John, but the bowl maintained a constant level as the pee filled it up and pushed the excess down the trap. Then suddenly, as John was shaking off the last few drops, the bowl suddenly emptied completely with a strange sucking noise. John jumped back suddenly, causing the others to turn his way just in time to witness the phenomena.

"Whoa, weird, " Jeff said, "probably cause of the weather or something..." he said, trying to come up with a reasonable explanation.

"I don't know, let's get out of here," John said, finally managing to get his junk stowed and his zipper closed.

"Yeah, it's creepy in here," Billy said shivering.

Jeff chuckled, "It's creepy everywhere in this place."

"So, do you and Billy want to try to get some sleep now?" Larry asked once they were back in the bedroom.

Jeff looked at Billy and shrugged, "Might as well...want to Billy?"

"Sure, I guess...anything is better than sitting around here listening to the thunder and the rain. Is it ever gonna stop raining?"

"It has been raining...a long time, and a lot. I wonder...if there is flooding in town," Jeff said frowning.

"Who says it's raining in town?" Larry said in a somber voice, "maybe it's only raining here. I don't remember anything in the forecast about rain. I remember thinking it would be a perfect night for trick-or-treating."

"That's crazy," Jeff said.

"No, I think he's right," John said, finally speaking for the first time since he'd recounted his dream for the others, "nothing makes sense here. It's like this house is in a whole different universe or something."

Back in the bedroom, Billy and Jeff quickly stretched out on the bed and they wasted no time snuggling up together. Wrapped up in Jeff's strong arms, Billy sighed in contentment and was soon asleep. Jeff lingered a bit longer, but the ordeal they'd gone through that night had exhausted him and he soon followed Billy into slumber.

"You okay," Larry asked John after a while. They were sitting on the love seat, close, but not quite touching, their arms wrapped around themselves in an attempt to keep warm.

"I guess," John said glancing at the two sleeping forms on the bed, "it was just so real."

"Dreams can be like that," Larry said, "and being in this spook house doesn't help. It would be hard to dream about rainbows and unicorns here," he added, causing John to laugh.

"That sounds so gay," John chuckled, "you sure you're straight?"

"Pretty sure, never been tested, I guess..." Larry admitted.

"Wow, you've never, um...been with a girl that way?"

"Nope, and never been with a boy that way either."

"I thought you said you messed with your buddies..."

"Oh that, you know how that goes? You show me yours, I'll show you mine. And jerking together, maybe once or twice we touched each other, but we always finished ourselves."

"Hmm," John said thoughtfully, "never been tempted?"

Larry shrugged, "I guess I'm curious, but I'd really have to be comfortable with...with that person, and not have to worry about anyone finding out,"

John found Larry's statement almost suggestive, but this wasn't the time or the place to find out. If they survived this night however, he might be willing to pursue this line of thought if Larry was willing. He hadn't thought of Larry that way except in passing, but now that he'd opened up to him a bit, he'd begun to see potential there.

"Well, your secret is safe with me," John said smiling, "as long as you keep mine."

"You know I'm cool with you, right? And now Billy and Jeff, who saw that coming?"

"Yeah, Jeff really surprised me. Billy is young enough that he's still open to a lot of things, but Jeff, being the oldest, should have figured things out by now."

"I think he has, now. I've known Jeff a long time, and he's a complicated guy, despite what you might think. He comes across all macho and sure of himself, but inside, he's really a nice guy and not nearly as confident as he acts."

"Yeah, not to mention hot as hell," John said grinning, "wish I'd got to him before Billy."

"Really, you like him that way?"

"Truthfully, I don't think of him romantically, just sexually," John said blushing.

"Yeah, I guess I can see that," Larry said glancing over at his old friend, who was hugging Billy almost protectively now, "he's not a bad looking guy."

"And well hung too," John laughed, finding he was a little aroused now.

"Yeah, there's that. Is that a big deal, with gay guys, I mean?"

"With some, not me really. I like all sizes, but of course all I've done lately is look."

"Oh, and who you been looking at?" Larry teased, "were you peeking when I took a piss?"

"Nah, besides, you weren't hard, and it's hard to tell how big they are when they're soft."

Suddenly Billy mumbled something in his sleep and began thrashing around and John and Larry rose and went to the bed, ready to wake him if needed.

"Who are you?" Billy said staring into the eyes of the boy who had suddenly appeared before him. The boy's eyes were strange, ripples of light moving across them, giving him a sinister look.

"Hello Billy," the boy said grinning, "do you want to play with us?"

"Uh, us?" Billy said, then looking around, he noticed a second boy, this one stretched out on a huge canape bed, and the boy was naked.

"Play, play how?" Billy said staring at the boy with unbridled lust.

The boy was beautiful, his body fit and smooth, and as his eyes moved down lower to take in the boy's private parts, he discovered he was erect. Licking his lips, Billy turned his attention back to the first boy, only to find that he too was naked now. He was startled at first, but not nearly as startled as he was when he realized he too was totally devoid of any clothing, and just as erect as the other two boys.

"How...?" he started, but his words died away on his lips as he nodded. This was all just a dream, he reasoned, so why not have some fun? How often did you dream of two beautiful erect boys wanting to play?

"Come," the first boy said taking Billy's hand.

Billy couldn't help but notice how cold the boy's hand was, how pale his skin was, but he was too excited to worry about anything but his erection. He'd never been with a boy this way, let alone two, and even if this was only a dream, he wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to find out what it was like.

Leading him to the bed, the first boy waited while Billy stretched out beside the other boy, then climbed in and stretched out on the other side of him. Billy didn't think of it that way, but now he was trapped between the two boys, unable to get up without crawling over one or the other.

"Uh, what do we do?" Billy asked nervously, turning to the first boy for guidance.

"Oh, you know," the boy said grinning almost evilly, unnerving Billy even more.

"I...I've never..." Billy sputtered, then quickly added, "but I want to."

"Touch us," the other boy said suddenly, his voice soft and dreamlike, "touch us down there, make us feel good, and we will make you feel good."

"Uh, okay..." Billy said mustering his courage and reaching for the two boys' cocks. He was surprised to find that this part of their body wasn't cold however, and felt warm and firm in his hand. Both boys were uncut, which Billy found interesting, and he spent a while working the loose skin and marveling at the feel of their cocks.

"Put it in your mouth," the first boy said, "suckle my cock."

"I...I've never done that, but I'll try," Billy said enthusiastically.

"Do it now," the first boy said.

Billy nodded and scooted down a bit, weighing the boy's cock in his hand before giving it a perfunctory lick. He wasn't sure what he expected it to taste like, but he found it to be rather bland and tasteless and that surprised him. Like licking your hand, he thought, a little salty, but certainly not gross.

With this new found knowledge he was encouraged to continue. Pulling the skin down all the way to reveal a slightly darker mushroom head, he began to lick up and down the shaft and across the head. This time he did taste something slightly musky and salty, but far from being offensive, he thought it tasted delicious. He'd heard that some boys were natural born cocksuckers, and he supposed he might be one of those. It was a shame, he thought, that his first experience was in a dream.

"Take it in your mouth," the boy said in a lust filled voice, "suck it, suck my cock!"

Billy nodded and looked up to find the boy had closed his eyes, and the look on his face was one of pure bliss. Beside him, the other boy had rolled onto his side and was watching Billy closely, all the while working the loose skin on his cock.

Billy slowly took the boy's cock into his mouth, easing down until it filled most of his mouth, but not so far that he gagged. He knew instinctively to cover his teeth with his lips, and from all indications he was doing a good job of pleasuring the boy beneath him.

"Yessss," the boy moaned as Billy continued, "suck my cock, make me come...swallow my seed..." he cried out, and suddenly Billy felt the boy's cock expand and contract, seemingly growing in size to twice it's present girth, before returning to normal. Billy found it hard to keep his mouth on the gigantic organ, but what was worse was the volume of discharge it was producing, filling his mouth until there was no more room, the excess oozing from the corners of his lips.

"Take my seed," the boy said grabbing Billy's head and pulling him down on his still spurting cock, forcing the thick viscous liquid to go directly down his throat. Billy gagged and retched at first, unable to breathe, and ready to pass out at any moment, but suddenly the boy let him up and he came up coughing and gagging, the boy's seed going everywhere.

"Ah, yesss," the boy said suddenly sitting up, "now...lay down and Julius will fill you with his seed, at the other end."

"," Billy cried, trying to pull away, but the two were too strong for him, and soon he found himself face down on the bed, pinned by the second boy as he felt his hardness press against his rectum, "NOOOOOO!" he screamed as the hardness torn into him, feeling as if it was the size of a ball bat now.

"Whoa, wake up. Wake up?" Jeff said shaking the younger boy gently, "it's okay. It's okay, it's just a dream."

John and Larry were at their side now, patting Billy and reassuring him that everything was fine, but the look on Billy's face said he wasn't quite convinced.

"It was real," he gasped, "there were two of them. It was that Robert kid and the other one, but they never said who they were. They, they were naked, and they made me do stuff..." even though that was only partly true, and that he'd willing joined them at first, he felt justified in his statement because of what the second boy had done.

"Calm down, tell us everything, from the beginning," Jeff said soothingly.

It took a while to settle Billy down, but with a lot of blushing and stammering, he was finally able to tell all that had happened his dream. The others did some blushing as well, and in the beginning were a bit aroused, but once Billy got to the part about being raped, they were horrified.

"It was just a dream," Jeff said once more, rubbing Billy's back gently.

"Why only me and John?" Billy wondered, "why didn't you or Larry dream about...about them?"

"I don't dream much," Jeff said frowning, "never have, or if I do, I don't remember my dreams."

"I have to be asleep a long before I dream," Larry said, "an hour isn't enough...fortunately."

"It's weird that the boy in both our dreams had those weird eyes," John said looking thoughtful, "and the other boy, you're sure it was the boy in the pictures, Julius?"

"Yeah, totally sure, and the boy with the weird eyes, it was that Mason kid, Robert."

"Hmm...this is crazy," John said, "I wonder if it's still raining?" he mused, then as if on cue, there came a loud pounding on the roof as the rain poured down once again.

"I think that's a yes," Larry said, looking up as if expecting water to drip down from the ceiling at any minute.

"Damn, I wonder..." John said, "maybe we should work on a way out of here, just so we'll be ready...once the rain does stop."

"Might as well," Larry said yawning, "we're sure not gonna get any more sleep now."

"We can warm up by the fire too," Jeff said shivering a little.

"Yeah, come on," Larry said leading the way, the others close on his heels.

The hallway seemed warmer than the room, but not by much, and by the time they reached the long winding staircase the chill had returned. Even from the top of the stairs they could see the flickering of the firelight against the darkness and that at least was reassuring.

Once they reached the living room, they threw more logs on the fire and paused to warm their hands and backsides before the roaring fire. The rain wasn't as loud downstairs, but they could still hear the distant thunder and see the flashes of lightening between the cracks of the boarded up windows.

"So, window or door?" Larry asked once they'd warmed up some.

"I dunno, let's check around and see if we can find anything to use first. There might be some tools in the basement."

Billy moaned, not the basement again, he thought, but he wasn't about to voice his opinion and sound like a wuss, especially not in front of Jeff.

The boys proceeded cautiously to the basement stairs, and again Larry led the way. Jeff stuck close to Billy now, a protective hand on his shoulder as they descended the steep stairway. At the bottom of the stairs, they paired off, Billy and Jeff together, and John and Larry, as they searched for anything that might look useful for the task at hand.

"Hey, guys...look at this," Jeff said holding up a steel bar about three feet long, "maybe we can use it as a pry bar."

"Good, hang onto it," John said from across the room where he was digging through a wooden box partially covered by a canvas tarp, "bingo," he added holding up a wooden-handled hammer. The head was a bit rusty, but the handle seemed sturdy enough, "look what I found."

"What we need is an ax," Larry mused, "or a battering ram."

"Ax?" Billy said looking thoughtful, "maybe there's one by the wood box," he added heading that way.

Sure enough, leaning against the wall beside the wood box was a rusty ax with a hardwood handle. Billy couldn't remember seeing it earlier when they were gathering the firewood, but at the time he'd had his mind on other things.

"This should be enough," John said, "now...let's go back upstairs and find the best place to break out.

Suddenly, just as they were about to head toward the stairs, the unmistakable sound of a door slamming caused them to nearly jump out of their skin. It was followed by a shrieking dragging sound and then a thump as if something had landed against the door.

"Must've been the draft," Larry said ignoring the second sound, "come on, I'm sure that's all it was."

"You go first," Jeff teased, "here, you take the ax," he said taking the ax from Billy and handing it to Larry.

"Lot of good this will do if there's a ghost up there,"" Larry grumbled.

They ascended the stairs slowly, shining their flashlight beams ahead, Larry in the lead, John next, then Billy, and finally Jeff drawing up the rear. At the top of the landing, Larry looked back at the others nervously and licked his lips which had suddenly gone dry as the desert. Then grabbing the doorknob, he twisted it and pushed.

"It won't budge," Larry said putting his shoulder into it now, "it's like something heavy is holding it on the other side. It gives a little, but won't open. Help me guys, everyone help me push."

The other three joined Larry then, their shoulders against the door, and on the count of three they pushed. This time the door gave a little, but they'd only managed to open up a small crack.

"Again, something is against the door," Larry said gritting his teeth and pushing, and as the others joined him again, they made a little more headway.

Inch by inch, they finally managed to push the door open until a space large enough to slip through appeared. Licking his lips nervously again, Larry looked at the others, then wedged himself into the crack and shimmied through the door.

From the other side, the other, heard him gasp and then his head reappeared in the crack, "Hurry, come on out. You won't believe what's over here."

John was next, and by the time Jeff had stepped through and joined the others, he was as shocked at what he saw as they were.

"A fucking piano, where the hell did that come from? I never saw a piano in here before," Jeff said staring at the dusty upright piano.

"Maybe it was one of the things covered by sheets that we didn't look at," Larry offered, "but the real question is: who the hell pushed it up against the door, and how did they get it here?"

"I say we don't hang around long enough to find out," John said, "come on, let's check the front door first."

The front door, or doors actually, were located in a foyer just off the staircase leading upstairs. Though there were fanned, stained glass windows at the top of each door, it was obvious the doors were boarded up since no light filtered in through them.

Fortunately, the door opened in, not out, but unfortunately, they were locked.

"I wonder if this fits them?" Billy said producing the key he'd been entrusted with.

"Different kind of keyhole," Larry said bending low and peeking through the keyhole.

"Damn, these doors are solid wood. I wonder if we can pry them open," John said, attempting to work the iron bar they'd found into the crack between the two doors, but with no luck, "too thick, we need something thin, like a crowbar."

"How about the hammer claw," Jeff suggested.

"Maybe," John said swapping with Jeff, who'd been holding the hammer.

John had better luck this time, and actually got the claw part of the hammer in the crack, but when he attempted to pry the door open, the handle broke in the middle and the hammer head fell to the floor.

"Damn, handle must be rotten," John said picking up the hammer and surveying the damage.

"Maybe we can use the metal bar for a handle," Larry suggested, "if we can get the other part of the wooden handle out..."

"We could dig it out, I guess...if we had something a knife..."

"How about the knife in the kitchen?" Billy suggested looking sheepish.

They looked at each other nervously, but no one had a better idea, and they unanimously decided to retrieve the knife and give it a try. The constant din of the rain outside, the rumble of thunder, and the eerie fingers of lightening filtering through the boarded up windows were a constant reminder of what waited outside for them, if and when they managed to escape the house.

John led the way to the kitchen and walked over to the drawer where they'd seen the knife earlier and pulled it open slowly, "Guys...this was the right drawer...right?"

"Sure, what do you mean?" Larry said moving close enough to peer inside, but there was no knife, nor any sign that it had been there.

"What the hell?" Jeff said moving closer and seeing what the other two had.

Billy was last to approach and he shook his head in dismay, "Who could've taken it? There's just us four here, right?" he said looking around nervously, as if he expected some unknown assailant to jump out and began stabbing them with the missing knife.

"Maybe this wasn't the drawer," John said frantically pulling open drawers at random, but the knife was nowhere to be found. Finally sighing, he slumped against the counter and shook his head, "Guys we are so screwed. I've seen enough ghost movies to know we're in deep shit."

"Come on, we don't know it's a ghost. Maybe there's someone else in the house, a homeless guy, or an escaped murderer or something," Larry suggested.

"Oh, that makes me feel better," Jeff said sarcastically, "I'd much rather be hacked to death by a deranged killer than drug off to the spirit world."

"I'm so tired, "I can't think right now," John said, "if we don't get out of here soon, we're all liable to collapse in exhaustion, and then...we're all fair game for whoever, or whatever is in here."

"Let's try the back door," Larry suggested, not addressing John's concerns for fear of giving them credence.

"Hey, wait...those doors off the dining room, aren't they French doors?" Jeff said looking excited, "French doors have lots of glass in them and thin frames. I bet we could chop our way through those easily with the ax."

"Hey, good idea," John said brightening, "and I for one will brave the rain, even the lightening to get out of this fun house."

The doors in the dining room were indeed French doors, and through the dirty panes they could see that full sheets of plywood had been nailed up to cover them.

"Damn, they're not boarded up with planks like the front windows and doors, there are full sheets of plywood covering them, but we still might be able to pry them loose," John said surveying the situation.

The door consisted of six planes of glass with thin section between them and a panel about a foot wide at the top and bottom. There was elaborate trim on the facing and around the windows, and the doors themselves had cost a small fortune when the house was built.

"It's now or never," John said taking the ax and swinging it at the ornate French doors, sending a shower of glass and splintered wood across the floor.

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[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead