John closed the door behind him and saw Steve sitting on the edge of the bed.
“Holy fuck,” Steve whispered. “He’s fucking insane!”
John dropped his bag on the bed and glared at Steve. “Shut up, Steve.” he said, “Maude’s down the hall.”
Steve stood up and walked to the door. “I don’t give a fuck where she is, that dude is seriously fucked up.”
John dropped onto the bed, “What are you doing in here?” he asked. “I thought you’d go to your room. Now you have to go back out again.”
Steve was listening at the door, his head pressed to the wood. He was quiet for a moment and then came back to the bed. “I was going to brush my teeth when I heard you start up the stairs. I ducked in here because I thought Harold was coming up after you.”
John laid back on the bed and closed his eyes. “God help me; I thought he was coming up after me too.” John lay quietly for a moment and then sat up on the edge of the bed. Steve was standing with his ear pressed to the door and his toothbrush in his mouth. “Steve, I’m gonna crash. You want me to wake you up at 6 or 6:30?”
Steve looked back at John and took the toothbrush out of his mouth. “Get me up at 6. I’m gonna want to shower tomorrow morning.”
John nodded and gave Steve a half-salute. Steve opened the door and stared back and John for a moment. He turned and was halfway through the door when he looked back over his shoulder, a big grin on his face, and said, “Sleep tight, Johnny boy.”
John got up and locked the door behind Steve. Not that it would do much good. It was the kind of lock that you could pick with a toothpick. John was tempted to move a chair under the handle, but there weren’t any chairs in his room. Maybe he should rest a bottle on the handle? John shook his head. What did he really think was going to Happen? Harold was weird and creepy, but surely he wasn’t violent? Right? I mean, Joyce wouldn’t have recommended this as a place to stay if Harold was violent. Right? John pushed the press-board nightstand in front of his door and then unlocked the window over the front porch roof. The table wouldn’t stop anyone, but maybe it would topple over if the door was opened and make enough noise to wake John up. Then maybe he could escape through the window… into the dark and the cold and the snow. Great. He shook his head at the absurdity. But after he changed into his pajamas, he packed his backpack, and put it by the window, just in case. He wanted to leave the light on too, but he’d never sleep. He flipped the switch by the door and crawled under the pale blue sheets with the little pink flowers.
John got the job from Stan, out of the blue. Stan was like that. You wouldn’t hear from for months, and then he’d call you with a job. And the jobs were always different. Once, Stan had asked John to help him out with a “special project.” “Bring the Sony,” Stan had said over the phone, “I just need a second camera. I got all the lights set up already.” John had packed up the Sony, a couple of lapel mics, a tripod and a few random filters. He’d taken the subway out to Brooklyn and Stan’s little studio. When he’d knocked on the door, Stan had answered wearing a skin-tight metallic gold leotard, giant black combat boots, and a purple wig. John spent the next six hours filming Stan as he stomped around his studio terrorizing a convention of naked Barbie dolls. John didn’t ask any questions, he just filmed the action as Stan directed it. At the end of the day, after John had dumped the footage onto Stan’s editing rig, Stan had given him a check for fifteen hundred dollars. Two weeks later, John got a DVD in the mail. It was a music video for the band, Freakshow. About halfway through the video were some clips that John had shot. Nothing in the video made any sense and the music sounded like chainsaws shredding metal. Three months later, Freakshow won a Grammy and the video John shot played during the awards show. It was the closest John had come to fame.
This job was little more… mundane. Stan was shooting a show on craft painting for the local PBS affiliate and he needed location footage of this little old lady in her studio. Stan had shot the interviews and a lot of the primary footage in the city, but now he needed b-roll stuff of Joyce in her studio. Joyce’s studio was in Vermont and it was February and since Stan wanted to go to Florida and sit on the beach, he hired John to go to Vermont and film Joyce paint pretty trees and flowers. John figured it would take a week to get all the shots that Stan wanted and he wasn’t thrilled with the idea of spending that week alone. Ever since Jill had gone, time alone had been rough. So John hired Steve to come up and be his assistant. Which was all fine; Steve was a friend and he needed the work.
The shoot was easy enough. Joyce was a sweet old lady and even though it was February and a little under negative sixty degrees outside, Joyce’s studio was bright and warm and cozy. The days in the studio had been tranquil and relaxing, even peaceful. The setup was simple enough that Joyce could paint, John could shoot, and Steve could track the timestamps of each shot and adjust the lighting as needed, without much conversation. Everything was quiet and relaxing. Joyce lived in rural Vermont, at least twenty miles from civilization. There was a giant picture window in her studio that gave an unobstructed view of miles of pristine countryside. Between the fresh coffee that Joyce’s husband brought to them every few hours and the pastoral setting, the week would have been idyllic.
Except for the nights… since the nearest motel was thirty minutes away, Joyce had recommended that the boys stay with a family down the road. A couple whose kids had grown and were left with a big house and two empty rooms that they sometimes lent out. Maude and Harold Crick. Joyce said that when her son-in-law’s family had come out for Christmas a few years back, his parents had stayed with the Cricks. They’d had a great time, in fact, Joyce believed that they still stayed in touch with Maude and Harold. It was perfect. Twenty bucks a night for the both of them. Just a skip down the road. Nicest people you’d ever want to meet. Convenient, cheap, cozy. And completely fucking crazy.