Actions

Work Header

No More Secrets

Chapter Text

xxxxxx

CHAPTER 1: The Legitimate Ectoplasm

xxxxxx

Holtzmann remained silent as she sat in one of four chairs, between Erin and Abby, across the table from a rather excited woman explaining to the group all about her experience with what she believed to be several ghosts haunting her former house.

The client - a woman by the name of Erica Moss - was speaking very quickly - so quickly in fact that Holtzmann wasn't sure when she was finding time to breathe. She seemed entirely relieved to finally have someone seemingly sane listening to her. Holtzmann didn't know if she believed the woman's story or not. Of course, she knew as well as anyone that the existence of ghosts had been proven... She dealt with very real ghosts on a near-daily-basis, but that didn't mean every claim was valid. Some people really were just crazy or seeking attention - or even just misinterpreted something normal for being paranormal. Ghosts were real, but not all ghost stories were real.

The four women were mostly just letting the lady go on and on without interruption for now. It would have been difficult to get a word in even if they wanted to considering how excited the woman was. She barely paused to breathe between sentences. Strangely, that gave her a certain degree of credibility. If none of it were real, why get so excited? Unless she was one of those weird ghost-buster fanatics and was just excited to be talking to them at all... Of course, those types usually asked more inappropriate personal questions. This lady didn't seem interested in anything other than getting her story out to listening ears.

"So I lived there for six months. I know that's not long, but it was more than long enough. I'm not sticking around after the shit I've seen. I saw Poltergeist. I know not to mess with this stuff." Erica rambled and offered a nervous laugh. "Right? I mean things start flying around, ghosts start threatening you? I'm not staying."

Holtzmann glanced back and forth between her colleagues. They were all keeping just as quiet as she was this time. Normally every single one of them was more vocal with their clients - asking questions, making suggestions or offering possible explanations... But Erica just wasn't giving them the time to say anything back.

"I tried... I mean, I'm still trying, and I don't even live there." Erica went on. "It's a real problem, and I'd hate for someone else to move in and end up getting hurt. That's why I'm still hung up on it. I got out, but those ghosts were scary, and I don't want someone going in blind and ending up getting killed or something."

Abby opened her mouth to say something, but Erica was talking again within half a second, causing Abby to snap her mouth closed again and stare back.

"You're gonna have to ask the realtor or somebody if you want to see the house though, because I'm not going back there. I couldn't let you in if I wanted to though, I guess... It's not my house anymore." She laughed nervously. "I know it seems weird for me to contact you about a haunted house when I don't even live there anymore, but you're not the first people I've tried to tell about this. I went to a psychic, an exorcist... even some lady claiming to be a witch. I went on online ghost forums, but I think most of the people there were just role playing. I tried a lot while I lived there, but just because I moved doesn't mean it's not still haunted. Someone needs to do something." She continued. "If anyone else moves in there, those ghosts are just gonna harass them too. It was scary. Can ghosts kill people? I think they wanted to kill me."

Holtzmann glanced over toward Abby, who usually took the lead on conversations with their clients. The older woman opened her mouth again, but before she could get a single word out, Erica started back up. Abby exhaled tiredly, but let the woman go on.

"I'm serious here. These ghosts aren't exactly nice. I mean, I don't know if there are such things as nice ghosts, but if there are, it's not these ones. And the neighbor is weird and probably won't talk to you. I don't know if his side of the house is haunted or not. Seems like it would be since it's like one building-"

"Wait." Abby finally interrupted, holding her hand up as an additional cue for Erica to stop talking for a second. "It's two houses in one building? Like an apartment?"

"I guess. Kind of. It was one big house and at some point some walls got built down the middle. So it's still one building, but with walls separating it into two rentals. Maybe he owns his half. I don't know. But he's not gonna let you in there. Not if you tell him you're looking for ghosts. Probably not for anything else either, but I know he acted like I was nuts when I told him the things I saw and heard. I think that's why he was so weird any time I tried to talk to him." Erica answered. "He wouldn't even let me come in and talk for a minute. He cracked his door like an inch and acted like he thought I was gonna break in and kill him if he opened it any further. Maybe he's like one of those paranoid old men, you know, like on tv or in movies? Where they're up to something so they can't ever have anyone over to their house. Maybe he's got a meth lab."

Holtzmann smirked. Maybe he just didn't want to let this woman in his house.

"I think he is up to something, because he was supposed to let me use half of the attic and basement and he didn't ever let me. Anytime I saw him and tried to ask when would be a good time to come over to store a couple boxes, he'd rush off and pretend he didn't hear me ask. Technically, I was renting half of both too, and I never got access to them." Erica noted.

Holtzmann narrowed her eyes. That was suspicious. He could be hiding something... Or he could just value his privacy more than following the rental agreement. Letting your neighbor into your house to use part of the basement or attic didn't exactly sound appealing, especially if you thought she was crazy. If this guy hadn't noticed anything odd and Erica ran up to him talking about ghosts, it wasn't surprising that he didn't want her passing through his house in order to get to the attic or basement, even if he didn't have any secrets to hide.

"It's gotta be a meth lab." Erica nodded. "Or maybe he's breading illegal lizards or something. He never let me in. Even when I told him exactly what I saw in my half of the house. You'd think he'd be worried that the house is haunted. Do you think the ghosts just stop because of one wall?"

"Tell us more about the ghosts. What exactly did you see, Erica?" Erin asked, bringing the conversation back on-topic.

"And hear?" Patty added.

Erica exhaled. "So much. I've seen two different ghosts, and heard so much without seeing it that I couldn't say how many there actually are. Not without guessing. I saw two, and I saw each of them more than once. But I heard them too, and how could I be sure it was the same ones when I didn't actually see them?"

"What did the ghosts do or say?" Erin asked.

"Well, the first time I saw one of them, she just stood in my hallway, staring at me. At first I thought she was lost, like she came into my house by mistake. She had this weird, blueish glow to her, but it was night time. The moon was full. I thought it was just moonlight coming in from the window making her look like that. But she was so normal looking otherwise, like a regular lady, dressed like regular people dress. She wasn't floating or going through walls or anything. She looked normal. The only thing was that she had blood coming from her mouth and nose and a black eye. Her clothes were kinda messed up. I thought she either got in a car accident or was drunk... Either way, she seemed disoriented. I asked her what had happened or if I could help her. Tried to tell her she was in the wrong house but that I could call someone or an ambulance... She kinda seemed to look right though me and then disappeared." Erica explained.

"I called the police and everything. Told them some woman I didn't know was in my house. I described her and told them that she looked beaten up and scared. Had them look for car accidents... We live kinda in the middle of nowhere... lots of country roads, fields, woods... They didn't find anything. All my doors and windows were locked..." Erica frowned. "The police were nice, but I could tell they thought I was crazy."

"I thought maybe I really was just tired or dreaming or something after that first one... until she showed up again the next night, standing at the foot of my bed, just saying 'leave' over and over again. She sounded more scared than mad, but that's all she would say. I think she was warning me about the other ghost."

Hotzmann raised her eyebrows. This was where the story might get interesting. She leaned forward slightly in her chair and waited on Erica to elaborate.

"The next one was another young woman... and I heard her before I saw her. All she did was scream... Like a terrible, pained, simply horrible scream. It sounded like she was being murdered. I thought someone was... But then I saw her, just standing downstairs, screaming and knocking things off of shelves... I didn't know what to think. She demanded that I leave too, but didn't sound scared. She sounded pissed. She was screaming and swearing. 'Get the fuck out!' and like 'Leave, now or you'll be sorry!' Really threatening, angry stuff." Erica closed her eyes and exhaled. "She even threw things at me. Like, not with her hands, but somehow things came off of my shelves and flew through the air toward me. None of it hit me, but I think she was trying to hit me."

"Did you leave right away?" Abby wondered.

Erica shook her head. "No. Well, I did that night. I went to my mom's house. But I brought her back with me the next day and everything seemed normal. I made her stay the night. She thought I was crazy... I was kind of starting to think I was crazy. The ghosts didn't show up again that night. Or the next... I think my mom was ready to check me into an asylum.. and I was kind of wondering if I should let her. But then four days in, the ghosts both showed up. The more calm one was crying in the corner of the guest room - where my mom was sleeping. She ran down the hall screaming, and I was like, 'yeah, mom. I know. That's what I've been telling you!' And then the mean one showed up and kinda seemed to try to corral us toward the front door - like trying to chase us out."

"So we got a hotel and just came back in the day time and brought all the ghost hunters and stuff. Nothing worked. Anyone who didn't seem crazy themselves seemed to think we were... And so I finally just moved. But the house is still haunted, and I think you should take a look." Erica explained.

Erin nodded. "Well... That's what we do."

"With the realtor's or owner's permission." Abby added. "We can't go without permission from whomever owns the house, because we can't guarantee there won't be any damages incurred and we don't accept responsibility if there are. I'm sure you know as well as we do that ghosts can be destructive, and to someone who doesn't believe in them, it looks like we're the ones who were destructive. We can't risk being held liable."

"Of course." Erica nodded. "I've already talked to her - Carrie Bell - the realtor. She's expecting a call from you guys. Her number is on the paperwork." She nodded toward a large stack of papers she had given to Abby when she walked in.

Abby looked down at the pile, shuffling through papers and photos. "What are these?" She asked of the stack of photos.

"The damage the one ghost did. She broke a bunch of stuff. And I found this weird green stuff on the floor, like between the floor and wall, like the ghosts sunk down through the corners of the hallway and left slime behind. I found slime in nine different places in the house - most of it was in one single spot - the same spot every time, but I found smaller amounts in the eight other places. There's pictures of that too. I took pictures of like every single weird thing I could. When you're treated like everything you see and experience is fake and like you're crazy, you start to document everything, and I put a sample of the slime in there near the bottom of the stack."

Abby grimaced and moved the papers around more carefully until a ziplock bag containing what looked to be ectoplasm was unburied.

"Nice." Holtzmann shot her hand out and grabbed the bag, immediately taking it over to her work bench. She loved it when clients brought in ectoplasm samples. This was the only thing they needed to tell if this woman was nuts or not. She had devices created specifically to detect whether something was real ectoplasm or a hoax. And she had seen more than her fair share of fake ectoplasm. Most of it was obvious though - the color or texture would be visibly off. Someone once brought them what she was pretty sure was school glue with green food coloring. Someone else brought maple syrup. No extra coloring or anything. Just syrup.

Erica's ectoplasm sample looked legit so far. Holtz just needed to test it for all the usual properties to be sure.

She ignored Erica's perplexed expression and pulled on some rubber gloves, lowered her glasses down to her nose and set to work. The very simplest of her ectoplasm analyzers - the basic one that just told her whether it was from the spirit realm or just some school glue and food coloring - only took a few seconds to read and basically offered a yes or no answer without getting specific or detailed.

"Well... We'll do some tests on the sample and give the realtor a call-" Erin's voice droned as Holtzmann began tuning out the conversation.

She put the sample into the chamber of her device and input the code to do a basic read on the substance. Staring at her invention, she waited about ten seconds. It beeped and she smiled.

"It's real." She noted, glancing up toward her colleagues with a smile.

"I told you guys!" Erica groaned.

"We believed you." Abby assured her. "We've just always got to run the tests to be sure."

Holtz held up the ziplock bag and looked at Erica. "Can I keep this?" She asked.

Erica frowned. "I guess..."

"Thanks." Holtzmann nodded and transferred the ectoplasm into a sealed vial. She marked it with Erica's name and the date. She might want to run further tests later and needed something more sturdy than a plastic bag to store it in until then.

"So it sounds like you've got a legitimate ghost on your hands." Abby noted.

"Ghosts. There's more than one." Erica interrupted.

"Right." Abby smiled. "We'll take on your case, but we do have a list of other clients and it may not be immediate. Since you don't live there anymore and these ghosts aren't an immediate threat - they aren't disrupting anyone's lives or work, I wouldn't exactly consider this urgent."

"But the ghosts are really angry, and Alvin - the neighbor - he does still live there. He could be in danger..." Erica protested.

"If he's worried about that, he can give us a call." Abby reminded her. "You're the one complaining and you live somewhere else now. You're our client - not Alvin. We'll investigate this. I promise. We have a very high success rate. You've come to the right place."

"Alright..." Erica seemed a little disappointed. Maybe she expected them to jump up and deal with this right now. Holtzmann wouldn't have minded, really. Things around the office were so damn boring today. She could use a little excitement right about now.

"We'll be in touch soon." Erin stood and gestured toward the door. "I'll walk you out."

Holtzmann fought the urge to roll her eyes. Erin always showed their clients the way back out, even though they all knew exactly where the door was. She just wanted to be the one to walk past Kevin and give him any contact info or future appointments to schedule - plus whatever extra flirty bits of conversation she felt like tossing in.

Abby smiled as she watched Erin lead Erica out of the room. Holtzmann leaned against her work bench and noticed Abby and Patty share a look which Holtz interpreted as meaning neither of them really wanted to go on this call. Holtzmann felt her shoulders slump as she silently observed her friends. Why didn't they ever want to do anything? This one sounded cool! An angry, violent ghost not afraid of breaking things? A neighbor who didn't notice or didn't care...? Sounded interesting to her. More interesting than all the fake stuff they'd wasted their time on this month.

"Should we just add this one to the end of the list?" Patty wondered.

"It doesn't really seem urgent." Abby noted. "Just two pretty typical ghosts - nothing huge. The lady doesn't even live there anymore."

"But the weird neighbor does." Patty remembered.

"He doesn't care though. Erica said he acted like she was crazy when she brought it up to him. No one who currently lives there or uses the building cares that it's haunted." Abby went on. "If the neighbor came in instead, maybe this would take priority over some other cases, but it's practically a non-issue. The side of the building that's haunted is vacant. If the other side is haunted, the guy doesn't even give a damn. I'm not jumping all over this when the only living person still affected by it doesn't care."

"I can go." Holtzmann suggested.

"Not alone." Abby shook her head.

"One of you can come. Or Erin." Holtzmann shrugged. "I've got time right now."

"We've got too much to do here." Abby frowned. "We've got appointments lined up all day. The next one's in like twenty minutes."

"We don't need four of us here for that." Holtzmann noted. She could have easily sat out from the appointment they just had. Abby did most of the talking anyway. They could easily get by just having one of them here for it. "I could just pop out for a couple hours and come right back. It'll save us time in the long run. Erica's place won't have to lengthen your list... We'll have it done, get the appointments done. Divide and conquer. You don't need me here anyway."

"We do though. We're each a part of this team for a reason. What if they bring in more samples? The guy coming in at two specifically said he was bringing some." Abby reminded her.

"You know how to use my analyzer. You helped me build the prototype." Holtzmann grumbled.

"Holtzy, if you go, you're gonna have to take someone with you. We can't afford to send half of us out in the field when we've got so much going on here." Abby explained. "We barely have time to breathe between appointments as it is."

Holtzmann pouted, crossing her arms over her chest. "Well, I've been breathing fine during the appointments since I'm just sitting here and analyzing one ectoplasm sample every hour or two - or, more accurately, one random gooey substance sample every hour or two and one ectoplasm sample every six or seven hours. Most of the people are crazy or making things up anyway. That second sample this morning was lime jello. And the first one, though it smelled heavenly... was green apple scented shampoo. You're forcing me to stay here all day to test samples of soap and gelatin."

"Right, but we wouldn't have known what it was if you weren't here to test them." Abby reminded her. "You being here is really helping weed out the crazies a lot faster."

"Maybe I could go later in the day? When things slow down?" Holtz suggested.

Abby shook her head. "We have appointments literally all day - remember? We're working late because of it. It's not gonna slow down until Halloween is over. Sorry, Holtzy."

"And you can't spare Erin and me for a couple hours? All four of us have to just sit here while you talk to these nutjobs?" Holtzmann slumped down against the work bench. "I could even take Kevin instead if you don't want any essential staff gone. You know how to work the analyzer, Abby, and Kevin doesn't know how to work anything. You won't miss him."

"The whole point of not going on calls alone is so we can watch each other's backs. Taking Kevin is worse than taking no one." Abby grumbled.

Holtzmann exhaled loudly and dramatically as she looked up at the ceiling. She was so tired of these appointments. They were so boring. So many of them weren't even real ghosts. Erica's story seemed legit. There was finally something real to do and she was stuck here analyzing bags of jello and glue instead.

With an exhale and a frown, Abby raised her eyebrows and stared at Holtzmann. "I'm not gonna tell you no." Abby said, staring at her with a look on her face that reminded Holtz of a disappointed mother. "Okay? You don't ever have to ask for permission from me to do anything, and you know that. I assume you're just asking for an opinion here, and I've given you mine. You're an adult. We're all equals here. I can only make suggestions. I'd like you to stay here. I think we should put the house at the bottom of the list. Have Kevin call the realtor when he gets through the contacts we met with first. It's only fair. Going on calls alone is reckless and we need you here... But again, it's up to you. I'm not your boss."

Holtzmann frowned. She didn't know if Abby had intended on making her feel guilty, but if so, it had certainly worked. Of course Holtzmann knew she could do whatever she wanted. Abby wasn't her boss... But she was kind of acting like she thought she was, and Holtzmann knew the older woman would be mad at her if she didn't take her advice.

Holtzmann sighed and dragged her feet back toward her chair. "Fine." she exhaled, sinking into the chair and staring up at the ceiling. This call would just have to wait... For a few hours at least.

xxxxxx

Chapter Text

xxxxxx

CHAPTER 2: Road Trip

xxxxxx

It had been a rather long, boring, uneventful day. For hours on end, the four Ghostbusters interviewed people who claimed they were experiencing ghost-related issues in their lives. It was October thirteenth, nearly Halloween, so of course most of them were not genuine inquiries. The spirit of the holiday made everyone more jumpy, and more likely to create stories our of paranoia and fear - or worse, for fun or attention rather than because they actually needed the Ghostbusters' help.

Holtzmann was kind of annoyed Abby had guilt-tripped her into sticking around for it all. Out of about twenty-five potential clients, probably three had a legitimate ghost on their hands.

Since the appointments they had today were mostly crazy people and attention-seekers, Holtzmann had taken the liberty to quietly and secretly text the realtor of the house Erica had told them about that morning. She decided if the realtor would agree to show her the house tonight, she could get her way and give Abby hers as well. Holtzmann wouldn't have to miss any of the appointments, but could still go investigate the house on her own time. Win win. And win for Erica too - since she had some degree of personal investment in the situation. Win for everybody!

The realtor apparently didn't like working past five o' clock, but agreed to leave a key in the mailbox. So all Holtzmann had to do was take her gear over there and bust the ghosts herself. It sounded like there were only two - and they were seemingly rather typical ghosts - not any sort of mad scientist or even genius sorts - just regular ghosts who were maybe angry about being dead or having to share their space with the living. She was confident she could handle it on her own if no one else wanted to participate.

Now Holtzmann was lingering in the lobby of the firehouse, just waiting on all of her colleagues to leave so she could take the car and head not toward home, but toward Erica's former house. At this point, she kind of felt like she shouldn't tell anyone what she was doing, even though it was only her own time she was using for it now - not the group's. Maybe Abby wouldn't like that she'd gone ahead and contacted the woman without discussing it with the rest of them. The older woman specifically said they shouldn't ever go on calls alone, and Holtzmann generally agreed, but if everyone was going to get in a bad mood over it, she'd just have to risk going alone. She wasn't about to tell anyone and end up having them complain until she couldn't go without feeling bad, and she certainly didn't want someone who really didn't want to be there to accompany her. If Abby was going to be grumpy, Holtzmann would just have to keep secrets.

"That printer really didn't want to print today, huh?" Kevin exhaled as he stood and pushed his chair up against his desk.

"Kevin, honey, it's not plugged in. You moved it from the other table and didn't plug it back in." Abby frowned.

"Plug it into what?" Kevin glanced toward the printer with his brows furrowed.

"That's why I told you not to move it. There's no outlet there." Abby noted.

"But it fits better on that table. It hangs slightly over the edge on the other one by the outlet. What else could I have done?" Kevin frowned.

Abby shook her head. "Moved the tables instead of the printer?" She spoke in a flat voice.

"And how would I have done that with the printer plugged in?" Kevin's eyebrows rose as he crossed his arms over his chest and offered a satisfied smirk. "Where would the printer go while the table's gone?"

Abby exhaled. "You unplug the printer and leave it on the table. Move the whole table. Put the other table in its place, and then move the printer onto that one. Then plug it back in."

"So..." Kevin narrowed his eyes as he looked from one table to the other. "Move the table... with the printer still on it?"

"Yes." Abby stared at him. "Oh my god, Kevin. It's not that hard."

Holtzmann glanced toward Kevin, wondering if he was going to notice Abby's tone. Sometimes he didn't notice when people were very bluntly mean to him.

It didn't seem like he was taking Abby's words personally. He nodded carefully. "Maybe I'll try that tomorrow."

Holtzmann smirked as she glanced toward Abby, who still looked frustrated. She was lucky Kevin didn't notice she was being impatient with him, because whether what he had done was dumb or not, he didn't deserve anyone talking down to him. He tried his best. They all knew when they hired him that he wasn't quite normal and it wasn't fair to expect him to be someone he wasn't.

"I'll help you, Kevin." Holtzmann offered. He'd probably need it, and she was gonna be bored tomorrow anyway if it went anything like today.

"Thanks, Jillian." He smiled and then shrugged. "Anyway... See you girls tomorrow afternoon."

"Tomorrow morning." Abby corrected.

"What's the difference?" Kevin frowned.

Abby stood with her mouth hanging open, clearly not sure how to even begin to explain that in terms Kevin would understand.

"Just come in two hours earlier than you did today." Patty suggested. "You gotta start being on time, man."

"I can't time-travel." Kevin frowned.

"No..." Patty shook her head and exhaled. "You know how each day has twenty four hours?"

"It does?" Kevin looked over at the clock.

"Oh my god..." Patty exhaled and closed her eyes. "Nevermind, Kevin... Just get here when you get here."

"Oh." Kevin nodded, looking totally serious. "Okay. I can do that."

Holtzmann looked across the room at Patty and smirked. Patty didn't smile back. She looked frustrated.

"Night, ladies." Kevin nodded and made his way toward the door.

"Goodnight. Love you." Erin said quickly, almost drowned out by Patty's, Abby's, and Holtzmann's good nights, but not quite.

"Huh?" Kevin turned toward her.

"Good... um... Goodnight..." Erin stuttered with a nervous laugh. "I, um... I said goodnight... and s-see you... Like see you tomorrow..."

"Oh... Right. See you." Kevin smiled and nodded.

Holtzmann could see Erin's shoulders slump as the woman pouted as soon as Kevin left. "Was that totally inappropriate?" She whined with a nervous laugh.

Abby nodded. "Yeah." She answered very bluntly.

Holtzmann glanced across the room at Abby. The older woman seemed to be in a bad mood today. Maybe it was because she knew all the Halloween crazies were going to be wasting all their time but didn't have the heart to turn people away until she was sure.

Erin frowned and shrugged her shoulders. "See you guys tomorrow morning."

"Night, Erin." Holtzmann pouted, feeling kind of sorry for the other woman. Abby had the tendency to let her frustration rub off onto the people around her, and unfortunately for the rest of them, Abby wasn't having a good day.

"Want to get a coffee or somethin'?" Patty asked, clearly trying to help bring Abby out of her state of gloom.

Abby shook her head. "Nah. Sorry I'm so grumpy." She exhaled. "I think I'm just tired. These Halloween crazies are really wearing me thin. Coffee's just gonna make me anxious. I think I'm gonna go to bed early tonight. Tomorrow's another day."

Holtzmann nodded. She certainly wasn't going to do the same though. Holtz was probably going to be exhausted tomorrow, coming in early after spending her night investigating Erica's former house. It was late already - she probably wouldn't get there until nearly midnight, spend a couple hours there, drive back. There wasn't going to be much time to sleep tonight. Now that she thought of it, she hadn't slept much last night either. She was already tired. She just forgot since she was so excited about seeing Erica's house.

"See you tomorrow, guys." Abby grumbled and made her way out the door.

Holtzmann waved and then leaned back against Kevin's desk, waiting for Patty to follow the lead of the others. The older woman glanced back at her and frowned.

Holtzmann offered a smile, complete with raised eyebrows and a slight nod, silently telling her friend everything was cool and that she didn't have anything else to say, but that Patty needed to be the one to leave the building first.

"We should walk out together." Patty suggested with a half-shrug. "Since we're the last ones here. It's not safe walking around alone at night."

Holtzmann pouted. "Uh..." She frowned.

"What?" Patty frowned too.

"Well... I mean, it's not that far of a walk..." Holtzmann mumbled.

Patty narrowed her eyes. "What are you up to?"

With a shrug, Holtzmann laughed. "Nothing."

"Holtzy..." Patty stared her down with a stern scowl.

"I'm not up to anything." Holtzmann lied, raising her hands in defense and laughing again.

"Then why can't we walk out together?" Patty raised her eyebrows.

Holtzmann shrugged. "I just wanna stay here for a little bit."

"Why?" Patty frowned. "We've been working overtime all week. We've been here almost twelve hours. You should go home and get some sleep. I could tell you were tired today."

"I was, but I'm not now." Holtzmann told her. "If you get tired enough it circles back around. I'm fine. Just gonna stay maybe another hour."

"Why though?" Patty asked again, looking and sounding increasingly skeptical.

"To work on my inventions." Holtzmann lied.

"Which ones?" Patty asked, crossing her arms over her chest and staring as though expecting Holtzmann to slip up and somehow prove that she was lying.

"Any of 'em. I'm gonna give them tune-ups. Polish up their weak aspects. I've been meaning to do it for ages." Holtzmann quickly improvised a response. It wasn't even too far-fetched. She did need to tune up some of her inventions.

Patty exhaled. "Holtzy... Are you going to that house?"

Holtzmann blinked. How did Patty guess that so quickly? Holtzmann really needed to work on her lying skills...Did her facial expression give her away? Her tone? Her body language? Maybe Patty was starting to know her too well. "No... Which house?" Holtz stammered, her eyes wide.

Patty stared at her with raised eyebrows, but said nothing more.

"I don't know what you're talking about, Patty." Holtzmann lied.

Patty sighed and shook her head. "I'm not letting you go there alone."

"I'm not!" Holtzmann lied. "I'm fixing inventions."

"Okay. Do it then. I'll stay too and keep you company." Patty shrugged out of her jacket and hung it back up on the hook by the door.

Holtz exhaled loudly, her shoulders slumping as she looked up at the ceiling with an exasperated groan. "Fine. You got me, Patty. I've been texting Carrie... The realtor. She left the key in the mailbox and I'm going over there tonight. You can't tell Abby unless I'm 100% successful though. She's already mad at me and everyone else on the planet."

Patty frowned. "She's not mad at you, Holtzy. She's mad at Halloween making everybody crazy."

Holtzmann shrugged. "Whatever she's mad about, let's keep this between us for now."

Patty made a face. "Don't you think that seems needlessly reckless? Going to some haunted house in the middle of the night and not telling anyone?"

"I did tell someone though. I told you." Holtzmann offered a small smile.

Rolling her eyes, Patty exhaled. "I'll keep quiet for right now, but we're gonna go down the list of people and get down to Erica eventually. Abby's gonna need to know we already covered it."

"I'll tell her if I catch the ghosts. If I don't, we'll just pretend I never went. It's really only my own time I'm wasting if it doesn't work." Holtzmann assured her.

"Well, I have to go with you though... and I really don't want to." Patty grumbled. "This is gonna eat up my whole night. Normal people sleep, you know."

"Yeah, but-" Holtzmann started.

"But nothing." Patty interrupted. "If you insist on doing this, I've gotta get myself involved. You leave me no choice. I'm not letting you go off meeting weird strangers in the middle of the night by yourself."

"I'm not! Nobody's gonna be there." Holtzmann defended her decision.

"Even worse, Holtzy. If you get hurt no one's gonna be around to help." Patty frowned. "I have to go with you."

"You don't have to, Patty." Holtzmann frowned.

"Well, I'm going to." Patty disagreed. "I wouldn't be able to sleep knowing you're driving around the middle of nowhere looking for haunted houses at midnight anyway."

"I could text you updates." Holtzmann compromised, looking down at the floor. "If anything happens, you'll know... so it'll kind of be like I'm not there alone."

"Unless a ghost throws you down the stairs and you get knocked out. How you gonna text me then?" Patty frowned. "I'm going with you. End of story. I know you're gonna go no matter what I say, so I have to go too."

"Alright." Holtzmann frowned. Now Patty was making her feel guilty too. Catching ghosts was what they all loved. Why didn't anyone actually want to do it?

"I'm not mad. Your timing's just not great." Patty exhaled.

"Really?" Holtzmann raised her eyebrows. "So you're not going to be grumpy the whole way there?"

"I'll try my best." Patty nodded. "Ready to go?"

Holtzmann grinned, slinging her duffle bag over her shoulder. "Yep."

"Did you have that down here the whole time?" Patty frowned, nodding toward the bag.

"Yeah." Holtzmann answered. "I had Kevin bring it down. He doesn't ask questions. Or at least he doesn't ask the right ones."

Patty laughed. "Come on. I'm driving."

Holtzmann rolled her eyes. "Fine." She agreed. Patty didn't seem to like the way Holtzmann drove, even though they always got to their destination faster.

The two women made their way out to the car. Holtzmann tossed her duffle bag into the back seat, unzipped it and pulled out a file folder with all the information they needed, and climbed into the passenger seat.

"Address is here. It's about an hour drive according to google maps." Holtzmann told Patty, holding up a sheet of paper with the house's address printed at the top. "It's in the middle of nowhere, so it's probably good you're coming with me." She laughed. Holtzmann wasn't stupid. She knew going on a call so far away all by herself wasn't the safest-sounding thing to do... And she was honestly really happy Patty was going to join her now. She would have gone alone if she had to, but she preferred to be safe if no one made her feel guilty over it.

"Holtz..." Patty frowned, pulling her seat belt on and starting the engine. "I shouldn't have had to drag this out of you. You should have just told me. You were seriously going to do this all alone? You know better..."

Holtzmann shrugged. She didn't think these ghosts were really going to be dangerous. Not if Erica and her mother made it out unharmed, and not if the neighbor either didn't notice or didn't mind them.

"Put your seat belt on." Patty ordered.

Holtzmann looked over at her friend with a smirk. Patty wasn't going to put the car into drive until Holtz complied. She stretched the belt over her chest and clicked it in place.

"I can't believe you talked me into this." Patty grumbled as she put the car into gear and pulled away from the curb.

"You talked yourself into it." Holtzmann pouted. She didn't make Patty come with her. She was going to go alone since obviously no one else wanted to. She never told any of them they had to go with her.

"Yeah, but you didn't really give me a choice. I can't let you go into a haunted house in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, all by yourself. You know that. What kind of friend would I be if you told me you were doing this and I just shrugged it off? I'd be worried about you all night, unable to sleep anyway. I had no choice here." Patty explained.

"Aw... Come on, Patty. You said you weren't gonna be grumpy. It'll be like a fun road trip." Holtzmann shoved the older woman's arm playfully. Why was everyone in such a sour mood today? This was exciting. So many of their clients had been crazy or purposefully lying. They finally found one with a good story that seemed pretty real... and no one wanted to pursue it?

Patty didn't answer. She stared out the windshield as though already bored out of her mind.

Holtzmann frowned and crossed her arms over her chest as she leaned back in her seat. "Why don't you just let me go by myself then?" She grumbled.

"I already told you." Patty answered.

"Because you think I'm incompetent?" Holtz raised her eyebrows and stared across the seat at her friend. "You don't think I can walk through an empty house by myself without getting killed?"

"No." Patty shook her head. "We don't go on calls alone. That's always been the rule. We're dealing with spirits - who could be angry or violent. And we're dealing with people - who could be angry or violent too."

"I'm sure I could handle it." Holtzmann looked away, staring at the passing buildings and street signs out her own window.

"You probably could." Patty agreed. "But there's always that chance, and I'm not ever going to take it."

"I don't mind taking chances." Holtzmann focused on her own reflection in the window. Her friends were really bumming her out lately. Everyone was so grumpy. She was trying to stay positive, but it was hard to do with them all determined to bring her mood down to their level.

"I know you don't." Patty exhaled. "That's why I had to go with you. I knew you wouldn't agree to just not go..."

"Would you forgive me if I buy you a sandwich?" Holtzmann glanced across the seat toward the older woman.

Patty glanced toward her for a second and then looked back at the road ahead.

"Please?" Holtzmann pouted, sticking her lower lip out and opening her eyes wide. Patty could rarely resist her puppy-dog eyes. "And chips?"

Patty all but ignored her.

"Patty?" Holtzmann kept her lips in a pout and blinked her eyes. "I'll get you a soda too."

With a sigh, Patty finally looked over at her. Holtzmann felt happy to see a smirk forcing its way through Patty's less-than-enthused expression.

Holtzmann stared back, raising her eyebrows. "So?"

Patty smiled and shook her head, laughing softly. "Alright. I guess that might help."

Holtzmann smiled too. Patty never stayed annoyed with her for long.

"This is probably actually gonna be kind of fun. It's hardly ever just you and me, and to be honest, I think we're the most fun out of the group." Holtzmann rattled, totally excited that Patty had agreed to lay off her grumpiness.

"Well, maybe you are." Patty laughed. "I'm not fun. I prefer safe over fun."

"Then we're perfect partners. You keep it safe and I'll keep it fun. It's a good balance." Holtzmann nodded.

"Match made in heaven." Patty spoke with a hint of sarcasm in her tone.

Holtzmann didn't mind the tone. Patty had a way about her where she seemed to almost have an expectation of herself to take things too seriously and never have any fun on purpose. She could always tell that Patty secretly enjoyed when Holtzmann mixed things up a bit from the safe, orderly way Patty always seemed to do things.

Holtzmann squinted her eyes in the darkness as she tried to read the stack of papers she had in her lap, with only the light from passing street lamps to help her see. "Did Erica mention this?" She nodded down at the paper. "One of the ghosts threatened to murder her?"

"What?" Patty groaned.

"Well, maybe. She wrote here that the wording was confusing and she was panicked and might be mis-remembering. The one ghost - the more calm one, she said something about having been murdered and told Erica that she was gonna be next."

"Are you kidding me?" Patty frowned.

"No. And it says... and this is a direct quote: The more calm ghost said 'She tried to warn me. I didn't listen. Now I'm warning you.'" Holtzmann read. "So maybe the mean ghost killed the nicer ghost? And the nicer ghost was trying to warn Erica so she wouldn't be next?"

"Man... Holtzy... I don't know about this..." Patty complained. "Maybe we oughta go do this in the day time with all four of us."

"You said we could if I bought you a sandwich." Holtzmann reminded her, closing the file folder and holding it down with her hands, almost wishing doing so would suck the information she'd just let slip out of Patty's head and back onto the paper.

"You didn't buy me one!" Patty all but yelled.

"Then pull over somewhere and get one and I'll pay... But actually you have to pay because I forgot my money. I'll pay you back." Holtzmann shrunk down in the seat with a nervous smile.

Patty exhaled and rolled her eyes. "If I get killed I'm haunting you... and you're not allowed to do anything about it."

"I'd let you haunt me anytime, Patty." Holtzmann grinned.

Patty shook her head, but kept driving. "This is gonna be a long night."

xxxxxx

Chapter Text

xxxxxx

CHAPTER 3: Patty Meets Maria

xxxxxx

"Holtzy!" Patty growled as she reached across the seat and slapped her friend's arm. The younger woman was the one who had insisted that they had to drive all the way here after dark. Patty was the one who told her she was tired while Holtzmann behaved like an alien who had never heard of sleep... And here they were now, pulling up to this dark, probably haunted house, in the middle of the night, and Holtz had the nerve to fall asleep during the drive over here?

"Wha-?" Holtz sat up straighter, blinking and yawning. "Hi, Patty." She smiled as she looked over at her friend. "We here?" She asked, looking out her window in confusion.

"Yeah. We here." Patty repeated sarcastically.

"Cool." Holtz immediately unbuckled her seat belt and swung her door open. She slammed it back shut after climbing out and then opened the back door to retrieve her bag.

Patty opened her door and stepped out, closing the door more carefully before whispering a seemingly needed reminder to her friend. "A guy lives in the other half of the house, Holtzy. He's probably trying to sleep."

"He's not gonna be sleeping when the ghosts get all riled up anyway." Holtzmann shrugged as she slammed the back door closed. "Besides, I'm hoping he'll let us in to see his half of the house. He might. Erica was kind of... eh... I mean, not to be rude, but I could see this guy not wanting to talk to her, but willing to talk to us. We're more credible at least."

"Are we?" Patty grumbled, tempted to reach out and take Holtzmann's duffle bag for her since it was so big and looked like it probably weighed just about as much as she did. It was Holtzmann's own fault she had to lug it around though. Patty didn't even want to be here. She chose to head for the mailbox and retrieve the key instead.

"So let's check out the vacant side first. See what we can find. Then we'll see if we can talk to the neighbor. If we can solve this without having to ask him, maybe we won't have to." Holtzmann suggested.

"Do we know anything about the neighbor?" Patty frowned. "Or are we just going up to a random guy's house at eleven o'clock at night, knocking and asking him if we can check his house for ghosts?"

Holtzmann smirked. "I know his name is Alvin Mills. I know he's in his forties, and lives alone. That's it. We'll just ask him. What's the worst that could happen?"

"He could get pissed and call the cops. Or shoot us on sight?" Patty grumbled. "Normal people don't expect strangers knocking on their door at eleven pm. And the second we mention ghosts, he's probably gonna slam the door in our faces."

"We can hold off on asking him, Patty. Maybe we won't have to." Holtz compromised. "Let's just check the other side of the house first and then decide."

Patty shook her head, but followed the smaller woman up toward the house.

Holtzmann raised her knuckles up to the door, but then laughed and shook her head. "Guess we don't have to knock." She shrugged.

Patty rolled her eyes and jammed the key into the lock, turning it and then swinging the door open. She held her arm out, silently gesturing for Holtz to go in first. This was her suicide mission. She could lead the way. That was fair.

"Look!" Holtzmann whispered immediately upon entering the house. She rushed ahead, kneeling down by the wall and staring down where it met the floor.

Patty walked up beside her and furrowed her brow as she looked down. Green ectoplasm seemed to have pooled down into the crack between the floor and wall, and it wasn't just in that one spot. There were several spots of the glowing green fluid down the length of the wall. None on the other side though.

"Why do you think it's only here by this one wall?" Holtzmann looked up at Patty.

Patty shrugged. "Maybe they tried to clean it up and it kinda got stuck there. That'd be a harder place to clean."

"Yeah..." Holtz nodded, but her eyes looked far away, like she had a different idea.

"What are you thinking?" Patty asked.

The younger woman shrugged. "This is the wall that separates the house into the two units. I wonder if there's ectoplasm on the other side. Maybe the ghosts travel between the two locations through this wall."

Patty shrugged. "Maybe. But we should look here first. I don't want to bother that man if we don't have to. We've got unlimited access to this half of the house without pestering anyone."

Holtzmann frowned and looked the wall up and down. "It's only at the bottom." She noted.

"Maybe the ghosts aren't just going to the side. Maybe they're going down too. Doesn't the house have a basement?" Patty wondered.

"The floor plan did have one. But it's only under Alvin's side... So we can't look in it without asking him." Holtz raised her eyebrows and offered Patty a tight-lipped smile.

Patty shook her head. "We'll check around here first." She turned away from the wall and headed toward a set of stairs.

"Do you think this place has a bathroom? I've gotta pee." Holtzmann spoke up.

Patty exhaled. "Holtzy... You're like a damn child. Of course it has a bathroom. It's a house. Give me your meter and don't take forever. I want to get this done. I'll start upstairs and see if anything registers on this." She grumbled as she took Holtzmann's P.K.E. meter and turned back toward the stairs.

She glanced over her shoulder again at Holtzmann while the younger woman started checking various doors along the hallway downstairs.

Shaking her head, Patty held up the meter as she made her way upstairs and down the hallway. She wasn't sure if she wanted anything to register on it or not and was kind of taking her time making her way through the hall so that maybe if there was anything to find, she wouldn't find it yet.

On the one hand, she wanted to find the ghosts and get this done so they could go home, and so they wouldn't have to ask the neighbor for access to his house. On the other hand, she didn't really want to find the ghost while Holtzmann wasn't with her. There was a reason they didn't go on calls alone, and if Holtzmann spent the whole time screwing around in other parts of the house, it defeated the whole point.

Patty stared down at the meter as she walked slowly down the hall. It wasn't making any indication that there were any ghosts anywhere nearby. Maybe this whole thing really was a hoax. She wondered if there was a way to fake ectoplasm so that it wouldn't be read right by Holtzy's invention. What did the invention even test for? Surely someone could fake it if they knew.

Placing her hand against a door that was almost closed, Patty pushed it open and peered into a dark room. She flipped the light switch. Nothing happened. Frowning, she looked up at the light in the middle of the room's ceiling. Whatever fixture had covered it was gone and the bulb was broken. She wondered if that was the work of a ghost, or of someone breaking in and vandalizing the place. Erica hadn't mentioned any broken light bulbs... But the rest of the house looked relatively in order. A few pieces of furniture had been left behind and they seemed to be in good shape. No windows were broken. The place didn't have any litter lying around.

Patty inhaled a sharp breath as she suddenly noticed something shiny out of the corner of her eye. She frowned and exhaled as she turned toward it. It was just a mirror. She frowned further. It was a mirror with something written on it. She walked up closer, holding out Holtzmann's meter. Was she not using the thing right? Because there was writing on this mirror - in fog that was quickly disappearing. Someone had just written this...

She grimaced as she read the words: 'Go Away.'

Patty looked around the room. Nothing else seemed amiss. She turned back toward the mirror. The fog was gone. Maybe she had imagined it. Either way, she decided to exit the room. She couldn't claim it was a bad idea to listen when a ghost asked her to go away... If it even was a ghost and not just her mind playing tricks on her.

"Uh oh..." Patty whispered to herself when her meter began to beep as soon as she made her way out of the room. She turned left and the beeping decreased in speed. Grimacing and swallowing, she debated with herself whether to purposefully distance herself from the source of the meter's read. She didn't want to run into a ghost until Holtzmann was there too. This is why she'd forced herself to come here - so there would be more than one person doing this.

But she knew why she was here, and it wasn't to ignore the spirits they came here to find. If she didn't deal with it while the opportunity was there, maybe the spirit would hide and not come back out. This might be her only chance. So she turned back around and followed the lead of the meter as it started going off more wildly.

She made her way toward a bedroom on the far end of the house, feeling a bit of excitement, but mostly dread. For some reason she still never really felt comfortable in this job. Maybe because she kind of fell into it more than the others had. Patty never studied ghosts. She wasn't a scientist. She didn't have a particular interest in ghosts... She just kinda fit in with the other women and her knowledge of the city's layout was helpful. She wasn't sure she'd ever go search out ghosts and not feel nervous about it.

Slowly, she opened the bedroom door, sucking in a breath and freezing as she observed the room, which almost seemed to vibrate. A strange rattling noise filled the air, and she most certainly wasn't alone in here.

In the corner, cowered down as though frightened, stood the ghost of a young woman with long, wavy brown hair. Her pale eyes were wide and terrified as she stared at Patty as though the older woman were the one who was a ghost here. She wore a dress that looked like a modern design, short and maybe a light purple color - like something someone would wear to a bar. The dress was torn and dirty. She had bruises and blood on her, and as Erica had described, she looked like she had been in a car accident or had gotten violently mugged. Maybe she had. Maybe someone robbed her and killed her nearby and she ended up in this house because it was the first place she found after her death.

Patty didn't have the heart to use her proton pack just yet. Her logical side told her to just trap the ghost and not ask questions. Her emotional side begged her to find out why this ghost seemed so different than others she'd met in the past.

This ghost wasn't really scary. She barely even seemed like a ghost. She seemed like someone who was utterly lost and devastated. It kind of broke Patty's heart. Ghosts weren't just monsters to be defeated. They were people who had died... and this one had died young, and seemingly violently.

"What happened to you?" Patty blurted in a soft voice.

It felt like an entire minute passed before the spirit reacted at all. For such a long silence, she and Patty simply stared at each other. It was so long, in fact, that Patty was beginning to wonder if the ghost was even really there. Maybe after such a long day Patty had finally lost her mind and was hallucinating.

"Hey... You really there?" Patty finally spoke up again, taking a step forward and narrowing her eyes.

The ghost blinked back and almost looked like she was shaking. Surely the ghost wasn't scared of her... Wasn't it usually the other way around?

"I'm not gonna do anything... I mean, I'm just a regular person... No offense, but you're the one who's a ghost here... I'm just asking a question." Patty frowned. "I don't know if you're scared of me or what..."

The translucent woman sucked in a very labored-sounding breath as the fear in her eyes turned into something almost angry.

Patty hesitated. Maybe the sad, lost girl look was a trick. Maybe she was about to see the side of this ghost that had scared Erica off.

"Get out." The ghost growled.

"Why?" Patty whispered, inching her fingers toward her proton gun.

"You have to leave." The young, ghostly woman continued with a shaking, yet somehow echoing voice. Patty couldn't tell if she sounded more scared or more angry.

"Just tell me what happened. How did you die?" Patty went on. "How many ghosts are here?"

"It's not safe. Leave." The ghost spoke in a breathy voice. "Take your friend and leave."

"Why? The other ghost?" Patty asked. "Is the other ghost dangerous?"

The spirit seemed annoyed with her, but was slow to answer.

"You gotta tell me... If you're tryin' to threaten me or warn me... I don't know. Either way, you're not doing a good job." Patty frowned.

"Get. Out." The ghost spoke more slowly, and with an increasingly angry tone.

"If you're tryin' to tell me something-" Patty started.

"It's not the dead you have to worry about." The woman interrupted in a low voice before closing her eyes and disappearing into the floor.

Patty grimaced, wondering what exactly that meant. Why did ghosts have to be so cryptic? Why couldn't she just say exactly what she meant?

"Damn it." Patty grumbled to herself as she stepped forward and looked down at the puddle of green goo the ghost had left behind. She should have just zapped her when she had the chance. She knew better than to ask questions. What did it matter how the lady died? It wasn't like Patty was gonna time-travel and save the woman from her death. Now she'd have to find her again, and now that the ghost knew Patty was looking, it would probably be much more difficult to trap her a second time.

"Holtzy?" Patty called out, trying to be loud enough for the younger woman to hear her, but not loud enough to disturb the neighbor. They should have been sticking together this whole time.

Patty frowned as she listened to the compete and utter silence. Now she was getting worried. "Holtz?" Patty called out again, a bit louder. "Come on, Baby..." Patty grumbled softly. She hoped her friend was just being scatterbrained or otherwise irresponsible and that nothing bad had happened.

"Holtzy!?" She yelled even louder. "You still down there?"

When her friend didn't answer, Patty exhaled and made her way back downstairs, noticing Holtzmann's duffle and proton pack were piled at the bottom of the stairs. Patty frowned, looking first down the hallway where she had last seen Holtzmann. "You down here?" She called out.

No one answered.

She gasped softly and looked over her shoulder as she heard a breeze that sounded almost like she was outside.

When she looked behind herself, she realized the front door to the house was wide open. She and Holtzmann hadn't left it open. Maybe it was the ghosts' way of asking them to leave. Maybe Holtzmann had gone outside and just left the door open. Why would she go outside though?

Patty shook her head and started to turn back around, but something caught her eye in the breeze. A newspaper was laying right in the doorway. That hadn't been there when they walked in, and it certainly hadn't been laying open with its pages fluttering.

With a frown, Patty walked over toward the door, staring down at the paper, which though fluttering in the wind, remained open to what seemed to be a very specific and purposeful spot.

She narrowed her eyes as she looked down at a photo of a very familiar face. It was the young woman she'd just seen upstairs. Or at least, she thought it was. In this picture, the woman was smiling. Her hair was neatly curled and her makeup was carefully applied. She looked like she could win Miss America. The girl upstairs had looked awful. Still pretty, but her hair was unkempt, her makeup was smudged, and she was covered in various grime and injuries... She looked like she had been through a lot, but Patty was pretty sure it was the same woman.

Patty knelt down and picked up the paper, reading the headline: "Still No Sign of Maria." She skimmed the article quickly, noting that the woman had gone missing four months ago and that her family had not given up hope. The article mentioned that they had questioned several persons of interest but had made no arrest and then went on to speculate that the girl's disappearance may be related to a similar disappearance of another woman a year before. A smaller picture of a pretty blonde was further down the page. Her name was apparently Susan Blair.

That was two missing young women in the area... And two young women ghosts in this house. Ghosts typically stayed close to where they died. Patty didn't need to be a mathematician to add that up to something nefarious.

Swallowing nervously, Patty peeked out the front door. "Holtzy?" She called out. "You out here?"

Still, no answer.

Maybe this was a case better left up to the cops. If this girl was missing, and her ghost was here... That could only mean one thing. She was killed nearby. The ghosts' demands that people leave weren't threats. They were warnings. Warnings Patty and Holtzmann probably needed to pay attention to.

She knew Holtzmann wanted to investigate this house and find and catch the ghosts, but they couldn't risk their lives for it. At the very least, Patty figured they should leave and let the cops know that they might want to check out the house and yard for any clues of the missing women.

But Patty couldn't leave just yet. She had to find Holtzmann first.

xxxxxx

Chapter Text

xxxxxx

CHAPTER 4: Holtzy Meets Alvin

xxxxxx

Holtzmann shook her hands to get the water off of them before finally settling on wiping them on her pants. She should have guessed that a house with no one living in it wouldn't have hand towels.

She made her way out of the bathroom and back down the hall toward the stairs. Just as she was prepared to grab her bag and proton pack and head upstairs to meet back up with Patty, her attention was brought to the front door, which was slowly creaking open.

She widened her eyes and frowned as she craned her neck to see who was opening the door. She didn't see anyone. That meant either they had left the door slightly open on accident and the wind was moving it... or somebody who couldn't be seen was opening it. Somebody who couldn't be seen had to be a ghost.

Holtzmann headed toward the door, peaking out with furrowed brows and a frown. The ghosts in this house seemed a little creepier and quieter than usual. Most ghosts she had dealt with in the past were more feisty and mean upfront. These ones were so subtle. She wasn't sure how she felt about that. Though more blunt ghosts were scarier, they at least made themselves known pretty clearly and didn't keep their intent or motives mysterious. Holtz didn't much care for the slowly opening doors bit.

But then, maybe she spoke too soon. Just as quickly as she thought about the ghosts being subtle, a newspaper flew up off the ground, smacking her square in the chest, hard enough that she coughed and stumbled back a step.

"Ow." Holtzmann grumbled, looking down at the folded up paper and kicking it back out the door. She frowned as it flipped open and seemed to land very deliberately on a certain page. She took a few steps forward and leaned over to see the page it was opened to. With narrowed eyes, she stared down at the page - a story about a local farmer whose chickens kept hatching twins. She laughed softly as she stared down at the paper in a sort of confused amusement. Was this incident the work of the ghosts or not? Why would they want to show her this?

Furrowing her brows, Holtzmann looked out into the darkness. Was that the ghosts trying to say something or the wind just being wind. It would have had to have been a pretty strong wind to lift the entire folded paper up off the ground and hurl it against her chest. But if it wasn't wind... what were the ghosts trying to say? That she should go check out the twin-chicks farm? It didn't make sense.

As she was looking out over the front yard, she noticed movement out of the corner of her eye and turned in time to see a curtain fall back in place over the neighbor's window. He knew she was there... He was definitely awake already. Maybe now would be a good time to ask his permission to look in his house for ghosts...

She took a step out onto the porch and toward the other front door, but stumbled forward when the newspaper smacked against the back of her head.

"Stop it!" She grumbled to either an unseen spirit or an oddly vindictive gust of wind.

She put her hand against the back of her head and looked down at the paper as it flew back up, fully unfolded, practically wrapping around her body. She almost felt like it was pulling her along with it back toward the other door.

Holtzmann grumbled in annoyance as she shrugged away from the paper, stumbling backward toward the building's other door just as someone opened it a few inches.

"Hello?" A low voice spoke, so quiet she could barely hear it.

Holtzmann swatted the paper down with her hands until it landed against the porch near the first door and then exhaled a tired breath as she turned toward the other door.

"Alvin?" Holtzmann breathed. "Alvin Mills?"

"Yeah?" He still kept the door mostly closed. She couldn't even see what he looked like, but could tell he was tall, and seemed a bit paranoid judging by the fact that he still had only opened the door about an inch. "Who are you?" He asked.

"Jillian Holtzmann." She held her hand out toward the small opening between the door and the frame. He hesitated, but finally slipped his hand out and grabbed hers, shaking it in a firm grip. She noticed his hand was large, cold, and a little rough-feeling. She also noticed he held on a little longer than a normal person would.

With a frown, Holtzmann pulled at her hand, almost having to pry it out of his fingers before he'd let go.

For a moment, the two of them stood and stared at each other. Holtzmann could only see a very small, very shadowy bit of his face. The lights in his house were all turned off. His porch light was on though... so he could see her fine. She wondered if she should just drop this whole thing. The length of time he held onto her hand after shaking it was a little weird... But then, a lot of men got weird when shaking hands with people. They used it as some sort of show of power. Maybe the guy was trying to show her he wasn't going to be made a fool of. A lot of people got weird about anything dealing with ghosts. The world told them they were crazy for seeing what they saw or experiencing what they experienced, so the mere mention of the subject often had people acting defensive. She'd just have to prove to him that she wasn't going to judge him, that she was a professional in this field.

So she cleared her throat and held her head high. "I work with a team called 'Ghostbusters.' You may have heard of us. We specialize in...you know.. busting ghosts... Like getting rid of them for people. Getting 'em out of your house. I've been told you may be affected by ghosts that were seen in the area, and I was wondering if I could come in for a minute and take a look around." Holtzmann asked, giving the man her most charming smile.

Alvin kept the door mostly closed, but stared down at her with narrowed eyes. He was taking a long time just staring, like he was judging whether or not she was worth his time. Maybe she should have worn her uniform. Maybe it would have looked more professional. She could see him a little better now since he had opened the door another inch or so as he stared her down. Only half of his face was visible though.

"Ghosts?" He frowned, finally breaking the awkward silence.

"Yeah. Spirits." She clarified. "You don't have to believe it... A lot of people don't, and I take no offense to that. It's hard to believe. I get it... And I promise I'm not any kind of fraud... I can help you... We're totally professional."

"We?" Alvin repeated.

"Uh... Yeah. Well, me for right now, but we're a whole team..." She explained. "My associate and I drove down here tonight. She's at the neighbor's... We've got permission to be there. We spoke to Carrie, the realtor. You don't have to let us in to your residence, but I'd sure appreciate if you did. I'd just like to look... I won't stay longer than I'm welcome."

She stared up at him as he hesitated for a moment.

"You won't regret it." She went on, forcing a small laugh. "No one ever has... We've busted all sorts of ghosts. Everyone's always happy after, and I've never met a ghost we couldn't take down, so I promise I'm not wasting your time."

"You really want to come in?" Alvin furrowed his brows. "It's almost midnight..."

"I know..." Holtzmann frowned. "I kinda had to get other stuff done before finally coming over here, but I'm here now, and I'd really like to come in if you don't mind. I'll try not to make a mess or anything... I mean, ghosts, right? Sometimes messes happen. If you've been dealing with these ghosts, you've probably seen a bit of green goo, right? That's called ectoplasm. And of course sometimes things get heated and stuff gets knocked over, but you know... I'll help you clean it if that happens. We're not exactly liable for damages, but within reason, I can help repair anything..." She forced herself to stop when she realized she was rambling to the point of potentially scaring him off. "I'll mostly just be looking. Taking notes, taking readings with a meter that detects spirits... We'll see where that takes us and go from there."

Alvin narrowed his eyes and smiled very slightly. He looked like he was considering her offer.

"So...?" Holtzmann raised her eyebrows and smiled as she shrugged. "Can I come in?"

"Alright." He finally pulled the door open the rest of the way.

"Really?" Holtzmann grinned, looking back toward the other door for a moment. She wondered if she should go get Patty first... but then, she felt kind of like it was a miracle that he'd agreed to let her in so easily. Maybe bringing a second person would make him retract his invitation. He already seemed kind of jumpy and paranoid. Holtzmann didn't seem threatening to most people. Patty was a little louder and sometimes a little meaner. The older woman made it clear she didn't want to be here doing this, and that might be off-putting to this guy. She might get them both kicked out if Holtz got her involved.

"Well, come on. It's late... I'd really like to get done whatever you're looking for so I can get to bed." Alvin frowned.

Holtzmann nodded, glancing down at the newspaper by the door as the pages flipped back and forth wildly, landing on the same page as before, closing very slightly, and then slamming forcefully back open, as if to punctuate that this was the page she needed to look at. Now. She narrowed her eyes as she looked at the other side of the open paper - the page opposite the one with the story about chickens.

Maybe that's the one the ghosts were trying to show her... She leaned toward the paper as it caught her attention more fully. How had she missed that before? Right there... A story about a missing young woman. Her photo was at the top. Was that one of the ghosts? Maybe she was trying to show Holtzmann some clue about who she was. Holtzmann leaned closer, tilting her head slightly as she focused more on the photo.

"Come on." Alvin grumbled, grabbing her arm and pulling her back.

Holtzmann gasped as he tugged her backward. She stumbled in through his door as he closed it behind him and stood between her and the exit.

Swallowing, Holtzmann stared up at him. She was beginning to regret her decision to leave Patty out of this interaction. Patty always said they didn't go places alone... and the weird, aggressive kind of behavior this man was exhibiting was one of the reasons for that. She knew she'd asked to come in... And he told her she could. Her next action was going to be coming inside anyway... but he didn't have to grab her and pull her through the door himself, and it worried her a great deal that he felt entitled to do so.

"So you gonna look around or what?" Alvin asked as he crossed his arms over his chest and stared down at her. He looked kind of mad. "I don't have all night."

"I need my equipment." She noted in a breathless voice as she stared nervously back. It was true... She'd left her duffle bag of equipment in the hallway by the stairs, and Patty had her P.K.E. meter. She didn't even have her proton pack on. She'd left it all in the other half of the house, not expecting her quick investigation of the possessed newspaper to take this sort of extended detour.

She also kind of wanted to get out of here long enough to let Patty know where she was... She didn't like how Alvin and grabbed her and pulled her into his house. She really didn't like how he was standing between her and the door. Now that she thought about it, every bit of his behavior had been off. The way he'd grabbed her hand for so long and just stared at her... She needed to find a way to leave this house, now.

"I've gotta go get my stuff." She repeated after he made no response to her the first time.

"Do you really need it?" He shrugged, not budging from his spot between her and the door.

She felt her brow furrowing as she took a small step back. "Yeah. I really do." She answered.

"You can go back for it later if you find anything interesting." Alvin smiled, putting his hand on her shoulder as if in an attempt to lead her further into the house.

Holtzmann frowned and shook her head as she shrugged down away from his grip.

"Come on. I've seen weird ghosty stuff in the basement before, and I didn't have any kind of equipment. We can check there first." Alvin suggested, reaching out toward her arm again as she winced and took another step back to avoid his hand.

Holtzmann felt her heart pounding in her chest. She'd screwed up. This was a bad idea. This guy was being weird. She had to get out of here, and quickly.

"Uh... Actually, now that I think about it, this might be the wrong house." She forced a laugh. "Tell you what - I'll go double-check my papers and come back in a couple minutes..."

"No. It's not the wrong house.." Alvin shook his head. "There's definitely ghosts here. My neighbor's probably the one who told you. She got all worked up over it. Finally moved."

"Well, they don't seem to bother you so much, so I think I'll just let it go this time." Holtzmann breathed as she backed up against the wall and began inching toward the front door.

"You said you wanted to look for ghosts..." Alvin laughed. "Let's go look." He reached toward her arm again.

"No." Holtzmann instinctively slapped his hand back down as she scowled up at him. "Nevermind. Like you said... it's late. I'll come back in the morning."

"Well, you're already here now, Peach." Alvin smiled, reaching out with both hands and grabbing her upper arms.

Holtzmann grimaced as she tried to pull her arms free. He was holding onto her so tightly. "As inviting as this invitation is, I'm afraid I'm gonna have to ask you to get the hell off of me." She demanded, trying to sound more mean than scared. "Now."

"Not until you see the basement." Alvin insisted with a smirk and a quick wink.

"No!" Holtzmann screamed. "Get off of me!" She tugged at her arms as he pulled her rather effortlessly down the hallway. She was forced to stumble after him as he practically dragged her across the floor. "Let go!" Holtzmann screamed even louder as she thrashed under his grip.

"Shhh..." Alvin almost seemed to laugh.

"I didn't come here alone." Holtzmann breathed as he dragged her along. "I'm here with a friend. We don't ever go places alone because it's not safe - because of shit like this..." She breathed an angry, frightened breath. "I told her I'd only be gone a minute and if she can't find me, she's probably gonna call the police."

"Then I'll have to make sure she doesn't." Alvin offered a sinister-looking smirk as he spun Holtzmann around and pulled her close against his chest, crushing his hand over her mouth before she could scream for help.

xxxxxx

Chapter Text

xxxxxx

CHAPTER 5: Peach

xxxxxx

Holtz brought her hands up toward her captor's arm, trying to pull his hand off of her face as she let out a muffled cry. His arm was so thick and she could feel his muscles tensing as he kept her body crushed firmly against his own. She couldn't move his arm at all, no matter how hard she pulled and clawed with her own hands. She should have yelled out to Patty sooner. Now what was she going to do?

As Alvin dragged her toward a door and down some stairs, Holtzmann struggled to thrash out of his grip. He was so strong. For all of her struggles, he barely seemed inconvenienced.

She whimpered as he turned on a light in the basement, shedding light on what honestly looked like the set of a horror film. In the center of the room a heavy wooden chair was literally welded to the floor. There were chains attached to it, along with cuffs on the ends - two for wrists and two for ankles, like Alvin had kept someone tied down to the chair with them.

Holtzmann choked out a muffled plea as she struggled harder, and as her captor gripped her tighter and tighter, in an increasingly painful hold. There were chains and ropes on the floor as well, and a few hanging from pipes and support beams. How many different places to chain someone up did one guy need? Her heart felt like it was beating out of her chest as she quickly and frantically looked around the room. Every detail she noticed made her more scared. She could swear a large, pale, brownish stain near the wall had to be blood. It looked like he'd tried to clean it, but gave up. Had someone died there? What else could it be?

She could feel herself shaking as she clawed at his hand covering her mouth. The newspaper had been a sign from the ghosts. It had to be. They were showing her the story about a missing woman, warning her that the guy who killed them was here. They were desperately trying to convince her to leave. That's why they'd told Erica and her mother to get out. They were trying to save them.

Alvin finally let go of her, shoving her so that she stumbled backward and landed against the basement's floor with a panicked wince.

"Patty, help!" Holtzmann screamed as Alvin quickly closed back in on her, grabbing at her arms in an effort to keep her still.

"Get off of me!" Holtzmann demanded as she struggled to free her arms. She managed to get one free and punched out against the man's face as she continued screaming. "Patty! The neighbor's a creep!"

"Shut up!" Alvin growled, slapping her rather hard across the face and letting go of her arm.

With a pained whimper, Holtzmann fell back against the floor, putting one hand up against her cheek as tears stung her eyes. She quickly scrambled backward, crying out shakily and desperately for her friend. "Patty! Help me! I'm in the ba-" She was cut off when Alvin slapped her again, even harder.

Before she could bring herself to call out again, Alvin hit her hard in the ribs as well, knocking the breath out of her lungs as she coughed and sunk down, blinking back tears. Her attacker hauled her up off the ground, dragging her toward the chair in the center of the basement. He easily forced one wrist down against the arm of the chair and wrapped a hard metal chain around her forearm, cuffing her wrist and locking the limb down tightly before reaching for the other.

"No!" Holtzmann screamed as she regained her breath enough to focus on fighting back again She gritted her teeth together and yanked her free arm away from him.

He reached toward her again as she pulled her arm back, balling her hand into a fist and punching him against his jaw as hard as he could. "Don't touch me!" Holtz demanded.

It took him half a second to hit her back much harder than she'd hit him, right against the side of her face. He hit her hard enough that she saw spots before her eyes and for a moment, she wondered if she was going to pass out.

She whimpered and squeezed her eyes shut as she let out a shaking plea. "Stop..." She whispered breathlessly, pulling her arm away from his grip one last time before he punched her hard in the stomach and grabbed her wrist, squeezing it much harder than necessary as he slammed it roughly down against the chair's other arm.

She choked out a shaking breath as she tried to fill her lungs enough to be able to speak again.

"Don't scream or I'll break your fucking fingers." Alvin growled as he grabbed her hand and started bending her pinkie and ring finger backwards.

"Stop!" Holtzmann gasped, squeezing her eyes shut as she tried to pull her hand away. The chains around her wrists were very secure. She could feel them bruising her skin as Alvin slowly bent her fingers further back. Holtzmann let out a sharp wince and squeezed her eyes shut. "Please let go..." She begged in a breathless voice. "I won't scream if you just stop. I promise... I'm trying to listen to you here, man... But if you break my fingers, I'm definitely gonna start screaming... Just let go... I won't scream if you let go." She promised, her voice shaking.

"Good idea." Alvin smirked, letting go of her hand and staring down at her with unblinking eyes.

Holtzmann exhaled a shaking breath and squeezed her fingers into fists so he couldn't change his mind. She stared back at him, waiting for what he was going to say or do next. But he just stared at her with narrowed eyes, as though trying to read her.

"Our other friends know we're here." She lied in a tiny voice that was almost a whisper. "They're gonna be expecting us back and if they don't hear from us soon, they're gonna get worried and report us missing. We told them we wouldn't be gone long. Someone will come looking if we don't go back soon."

Alvin ignored her and knelt down in front of her. She knew she could kick out if she wanted to. He was close enough that her feet would reach. She could probably kick him pretty hard too. She could hurt him... But she also knew that wouldn't solve anything. She'd just make him mad. Her wrists were very firmly chained. If she kicked out, he'd probably hurt her back and her arms would still be locked down.

She was in no position to fight back in a way that would do her any good, but she knew what he was going to do next. The chair had chains attached down by her legs too. He was going to chain her ankles down just like he had chained her wrists.

"Please don't chain my ankles..." Her voice shook as she pulled her legs away from his hands. The thought of being even more trapped than she already was made her feel nauseous. "Please! I won't fight back. I won't try to get away... I promise..." She rambled, feeling sheer panic bubbling up in her chest.

Alvin shook his head. "Stop moving." He ordered.

Holtzmann swallowed and stared up at him. "Listen, you seem like a nice guy." She paused as he stared at her with a smirk and raised eyebrows, almost as though he knew for a fact that she was bullshitting him. Obviously he wasn't nice... But Holtzmann knew flattery could go a long way, so she kept going. "A nice, reasonable man... I know I won't hold a grudge... This has been an interesting visit, and I mean... It's been totally great meeting you and taking the tour... The basement looks fantastic..." She shook her head and shrugged what little she could. "I've really enjoyed myself, okay? We can still leave on good terms. I mean, it's been weird, but I'm okay with weird. I won't judge... I'm totally fine to just head out from here and forget it ever happened."

Alvin laughed and shook his head. "Won't be that easy, Peach. I can't just let people go after taking things this far."

"Why not?" Holtz stared with wide eyes. "You wouldn't believe the sort of crazy stuff I get into on a daily basis. In my line of work? I've dealt with crazier people than you-" She stopped herself with a sharp inhale as she realized her word choice might not have exactly been flattering. "Not that you're crazy. You seem totally sane. Maybe just a little clingy-"

"Alright. You can shut up now." Alvin instructed. "Keep your legs still."

She shook her head and pulled her legs as far away from him as she could. "I won't try anything, Alvin! I promise! I get really uncomfortable when I can't move, and just... Just please don't..." She heard her voice shaking again as her chest filled with panic.

"Peach... I need you to pay attention, because this is important." He responded with a slow, even voice as he stared intently into her eyes. "Hold still. Keep your legs still so I can chain them to this chair. If you kick me, I'm going to slit your throat."

Holtzmann felt her eyes widen as she snapped her mouth shut and stared at him. She didn't know what to say in response to that, so she simply stared at him as he knelt down in front of her and started wrapping the chains attached to the chair around her lower legs.

He chuckled and shook his head slightly as he chained her ankles down while Holtzmann forced herself not to kick him. She really wanted to kick him... But she also really didn't want her throat to be slit.

Holtzmann felt her lip trembling as her crest grew tight. "I won't tell the police anything if you let me go... I'll tell Patty I didn't find anything. She didn't want to be here anyway. We'll just leave. I don't know anything... We won't bother you again. I-" She stopped herself in mid-sentence as she noticed Alvin pulling at a piece of duct tape off of a roll. Why couldn't he just stop? She was already chained up... All he had to do was chain up one wrist, or one ankle. Why go this far? She already couldn't escape...

Her eyes wide, Holtzmann started shaking her head. "Don't... Don't... Please don't..." She whimpered in a shaking voice. She assumed the tape was for her mouth, as it would be redundant to tape up her arms or legs with them already tied down. Now he was aiming to shut her up. But her words were all she had left. If she couldn't physically fight back or try to escape, the only defense she has was her wit. It was also the only freedom she had left at this point. Not being able to move was frustrating and scary. She didn't know if she could handle having her voice taken from her too.

Alvin smiled and cocked his head slightly to the side as he reached out and ran one of her curls between his fingers. "You gotta shut up, Peach. You talk too much."

"I will..." She begged. "I'll shut up. I won't say anything else. I promise. Please don't tape my mouth..." She felt her hands clenching into fists as she turned her head, trying to keep his hands - and the tape - away from her as he brought the tape up toward his mouth and tore it with his teeth. "I'll be quiet! I promise!" She went on, lowering her voice to a whisper. "Listen... I'm not screaming. I'm being really quiet. No one's gonna hear me..." He made no move to stop as he tore the strip of tape completely off the role.

"Please! I won't be able to breathe. What if I start crying and my nose gets stuffy?" Holtzmann's voice shook as her chest filled with fear. She realized she was talking even more now, but she was so panicked. She tried to turn her head even further away as she whimpered a shaking breath.

"Look at me." He demanded. "You've gotta stop being difficult. Don't think I won't hurt you. Look at me... So I don't have to get rough."

Holtzmann pouted as she turned her head back toward him. "You don't have to do this..." She felt her lip trembling as her eyes stung with tears.

"Hold still." He ordered.

"I won't scream..." Holtzman whispered, shaking her head slightly as she stared up at him with wide eyes. "I promise."

"Don't move. If you make this hard, I'll hurt you. I'm not kidding." Alvin threatened.

Holtzmann felt tears in her eyes as she stared up at him, forcing herself to remain still. She really didn't have a choice. He'd already showed her how capable he was of causing her pain, and how willing he was to do so if she didn't cooperate. Either she could listen to his orders or fight back and end up getting hurt a lot worse with her mouth taped shut anyway.

She flinched as he brought the tape toward her face, pressing it firmly over her lips.

"That's much better." He smiled calmly as he knelt down in front of her.

Holtzmann whimpered and flinched as he put his hands on her thighs, rubbing slowly up and down her legs. She shook her head and let out a muffled noise under the tape he'd so easily silenced her with, trying to tell him not to touch her. Was that why he had insisted on the tape? Because he knew she wouldn't be able to keep quiet through what he was about to do? It had taken him mere seconds to start putting his hands on her where they certainly weren't invited... and now she couldn't even call for help or beg him to stop.

She felt like such an idiot right now. She had made so many mistakes tonight - sneaking off here without telling anyone but Patty (and only telling Patty because the older woman all but dragged the truth out of her...) and then splitting up and going with this man all by herself... She felt even worse that she had barely fought back. Why hadn't she screamed and kicked and clawed immediately? Patty might have heard her if she called out when she was still upstairs by the door... And maybe she should have kicked him and screamed before her legs were chained and her mouth was taped. Maybe the fear of being hurt had caused her to give in too soon. He had barely even had to try, and she was down here with all four limbs chained down and tape over her mouth. Why didn't she fight back more?

Sure, he was strong. He had hit her and threatened her... But she really felt like she hadn't tried hard enough. She should have screamed for Patty the second he pulled her through his door. Was she that caught off-guard? Was she that scared? She could have been screaming for Patty's help this whole time... He'd gotten her to lower her voice so easily. Why did she listen to him? Because he said he'd hurt her? What did she think he was going to do now? Be nice?

She felt so disappointed in herself. Back when she was in school and bullies picked on her, she was much easier to control. She was scared enough to be compliant without much convincing. She didn't think she was like that anymore, but maybe sometimes she was. It wasn't like she got into situations like this all too often. She thought she was stronger than this now.

Holtz inhaled a shaking, tear-filled breath through her nose as she felt her lips trembling under the thick strip of tape covering the lower half of her face. She stared at Alvin through tear-brimmed eyes as she noticed him staring back, taking his sweet time letting his eyes rake over her body, and not bothering to keep his hands to himself either.

She shrunk down as much as the chair allowed as he placed his fingertips near her collar and ran his hand down her sleeve, all the way to her wrist. He pinched the material of her shirt between his fingers and frowned, then stared at her chest for a long few seconds before reaching out and unbuttoning the shirt's top button.

She whimpered and shook her head, trying to sink through the chair as she could only offer a muffled cry in protest. She pulled uselessly at her trapped arms as her attacker unbuttoned a few more buttons. She wore a tank top underneath, but she still didn't want his hands anywhere near her.

"I think I've got a dress that would fit you." He remarked.

Holtzmann frowned under the tape, swallowing nervously as she stared back at him. She sure as hell wasn't going to be putting on any dress.

"I don't like what you've got on, Little Peach. I've got alternatives though. We'll make you beautiful, even if you don't want to be." Alvin smiled softly and placed his hand against her cheek. "Your skin is soft." He noted in a quiet voice.

Holtzmann felt her breaths growing more frantic as her heart pounded in her chest. This guy was fucking weird. More than just scary and threatening. Why couldn't he have just been a regular murderer? Why did he have to want to dress her up and pet her face first?

"You know what my favorite parts of a woman are?" Alvin mused, moving his hand from her cheek and brushing some hair behind her ear.

Holtzmann stared back, trying not to look as scared as she felt. She really didn't care to learn the answer to that question.

"Right here." He noted, pulling her shirt open and sliding it down to her elbow, exposing one of her arms. He ran his fingers up over her arm and across her collar bone and down slightly toward the top of her breast.

"Here of course." He added, letting his finger trail down her breast, over her tank top and in two soft circles around her nipple before cupping her breast in his hand.

Holtzmann flinched down and whimpered.

"And your eyes." He stared into hers until she squeezed them closed and turned her face to the side.

Alvin laughed. "And right here."

Holtzmann's eyes shot back open and she tried to scream and flinch away as he suddenly slid his fingers down the inside of her thigh, forcing his hand between her legs.

With a whimper, Holtz tried to squeeze her legs close together as she shook her head and pushed herself back further against the chair.

Alvin stared into her eyes, looking sickeningly excited as he refused to move his hand. "I knew that'd pique your interest."

Holtzmann shook her head and breathed a shaking breath, trying to speak even though she knew the tape would prevent it. All she managed was a muffled, shaking noise.

Alvin licked his lips as he stared intently at her, pushing his hand further up between her legs as she tried and failed so shrink away from his fingers. "Do you want me to fuck you before you're dead or after?" He breathed.

Holtzmann couldn't help but to let out a frightened sob. This had all escalated so quickly. It had literally been less than five minutes since she was out on the porch, talking casually to this guy, to now... Five minutes from her feeling perfectly safe, to her feeling more frightened than she'd ever felt in her life.

"You're pretty small." Alvin noted as he squeezed her thigh. "I'll have to go slowly unless you make me mad enough to want to make it hurt." He raised an eyebrow as he stared down at her, keeping his hand uncomfortably between her legs, slowly rubbing his fingers back and forth over the inside of her thigh. "I guess it won't matter if you're dead though."

Holtzmann shook her head and breathed in a shaking breath as she squeezed her eyes shut and tried to shrink away from his hands. She offered another muffled, unintelligible plea as she blinked her eyes back open and pulled uselessly at her ankles and wrists.

"Do men show an interest in you very often, Peach?" Alvin wondered as he narrowed his eyes and continued staring.

Swallowing, Holtzmann stared back. She couldn't exactly answer him with her mouth taped shut. She didn't want to answer him either.

"The way you dress..." He trailed off with a chuckle. "I bet most of 'em don't notice you're actually kind of cute. I didn't notice at first."

Holtzmann closed her eyes and turned her face away from him. She didn't want him to see her anymore, and she certainly didn't want to see him.

"Holtzy?" Holtzmann sniffed back her tears and whimpered a muffled noise as she looked up toward the very soft sound of Patty's voice, along with what was surely the sound of the woman knocking on Alvin's front door. She could barely hear her friend's voice down here, but it was definitely her. "You in there, Baby?"

She wanted to scream, to tell Patty to run and get help. She didn't want Patty coming down here and getting herself into the same danger Holtzmann had fallen into. But she couldn't say anything. She could only whimper and offer quiet, muffled warnings that weren't going to do anybody any good. Patty probably couldn't hear her. Holtzmann could barely hear the older woman and Patty's voice wasn't being blocked by tape.

"Guess that's my cue..." Alvin exhaled and stood. "Now I've just got to decide if I should kill her first or make her watch."

"Mmmpff..." Holtzmann whimpered, shaking her head and staring with wide eyes. She wanted to tell him Patty would give up and leave if they just stayed down here. She wanted to tell him that she'd promise to stay quiet no matter what he did if he just left Patty alone... But she couldn't. Of course, it wouldn't do her any good to be able to speak here. He wasn't going to listen to her, but it made her feel so powerless to not even be able to beg.

"Shhh..." Alvin smiled and petted her hair. "I know... You were enjoying that weren't you?"

Holtzmann sniffed back a shaking sob as she stared up at him.

"Don't worry. I'll come back." Alvin smirked, patted her shoulder, and headed back upstairs.

Holtzmann breathed shakily through her sobs as she pulled her legs close together, closed her eyes, and shook her head. She was glad he wasn't touching her anymore, but she knew where he was heading - upstairs to deal with Patty. She didn't want him to do anything to her friend. She couldn't even beg him to leave Patty out of this. She had no control here whatsoever, and that terrified her.

xxxxxx

Chapter Text

xxxxxx

CHAPTER 6: Sweetheart

xxxxxx

With a tired exhale, Patty pounded on the door with her fist for the third time. She was starting to get both frustrated and worried. Holtzmann wasn't in the other half of the house, though all of her equipment was. She wouldn't have gone back to the car or otherwise left the property. She had to be at the neighbor's. The longer it took for the guy to answer, the more Patty was tempted to break the door down and head in uninvited. The fact that the man wasn't coming to the door right away had Patty pretty worried. Holtzmann almost definitely was inside...

"Hey, open the door, man." Patty called out as she banged on the door again. "Or I'm gonna call the cops!" She threatened.

She wondered if she really should call them. Maybe she should have done that before knocking. The worst that could happen would be a couple cops would be angry at her for a false alarm. She had good reason to be suspicious here, and she'd rather be safe than sorry.

Just as she started reaching into her pocket for her phone, the front door of the house opened, revealing a tall man, who smirked back at her and stared with narrowed eyes. He looked like he was hiding something, but was for some reason amused to see her here right now.

"Hey." Patty breathed with a frown, not knowing whether his cheerful demeanor was something to be worried about or not. "Alvin, right?"

He nodded. "Can I help you, Sweetheart?" He smiled and cocked his head to the side.

"Did my friend come over here by any chance? Little blonde girl - well, blonde woman - with a weird hairstyle that's somehow both a mess and carefully styled at the same time... About this tall?" She held her hand about five feet off the ground to indicate Holtzy's height. Alvin narrowed his eyes and started at her, so Patty continued. "Would have been talking about ghosts... Probably said something vaguely sarcastic so you weren't sure if she was being offensive or not."

"Oh." Alvin laughed softly and nodded. "Yes. I think I know the one."

Patty's shoulders slumped. "Well... Is she inside or what? Can I come in?"

"Oh, yes. Please do." Alvin opened the door wider, revealing the fact that he was holding a handgun.

Patty sucked in a sharp breath, totally at a loss for words as she stared down at the gun. She honestly didn't expect that, and wasn't prepared to respond to it.

"Give me your phone." Alvin ordered, holding out his other hand.

Patty's eyes quickly scanned what little of the house she could see from the doorway. Nothing seemed out of place. It didn't look like there had been any sort of a struggle. She couldn't see or hear any sign of Holtzy. All the lights were off...

"Is she in here?" Patty frowned.

"Give me your phone. Now." Alvin demanded, ignoring her question.

Swallowing, Patty nodded, grabbing her phone out of her pocket and handing it over with a shaking hand. "Did you hurt her?" She spoke in a low voice.

Alvin blinked slowly and shrugged. "A little."

Patty felt like her heart had stopped as she exhaled and couldn't bring herself to inhale again. "Where is she?" She breathed.

"I'll take you to her... but first, put that down." He nodded toward the meter she held in her hand. "And whatever that is." He nodded toward her proton pack. "Then keep your hands up where I can see 'em."

Patty swallowed, but complied. "What did you do to her?" She asked as she shrugged out of her proton pack and let it fall to the floor.

"Hardly anything, Sweetheart." Alvin smiled. "She's barely hurt... And she would have been fine if she hadn't fought with me. I had to hit her a couple times. But I did hold back. She's just a little thing. I hit her hard enough to get her to listen, but not as hard as I could have."

Patty furrowed her brow. She really didn't know what to do... Obviously this guy might shoot her if she tried anything... and she had no idea where Holtzmann was or in what condition. For now, she had to be cooperative.

"Lead the way." Alvin stepped to the side and gestured down a hallway.

Patty swallowed, feeling anger bubbling up inside her as she had no choice but to do as he asked.

"Second door on the left." He ordered.

Patty opened the door and looked down at some stairs that led into the basement. There was a light on down there. The only light on in the whole house, apparently. She glanced over her shoulder at Alvin, who smirked and nodded, silently ordering her to make her way down. Everything in her brain told her not to go down those stairs... But everything in her heart demanded that she do so. If Holtzy was in danger down there, Patty had no choice but to go.

She stepped down the first step rather reluctantly, but didn't have to be forced to go any further. As soon as she could see what was downstairs, she rushed down the rest of the steps on her own, barely even noticing that Alvin shut the door behind her. She did swear she heard what could only be the sound of a heavy deadbolt sliding and locking into place, but couldn't bring herself to worry about that just yet.

At the bottom of the stairs, in the middle of the floor, Holtzmann sat on a heavy wooden chair. She seemed to be tied down to it somehow and had a strip of duct tape stretched over her lips. Her eyes were wide with fear and she was visibly shaking. As soon as she saw Patty, she began to cry muffled sobs.

"Oh my god, Holtzy..." Patty breathed, quickly making her way over to the younger woman. "Baby, are you okay?" She asked as she knelt down in front of her.

Holtzmann made a muffled whimpering noise and shook her head no.

Patty exhaled as she pulled the tape carefully off of Holtzmann's mouth and then looked down at her wrists, frowning when she noticed Alvin had welded what looked to be some sort of cuffs at the ends of the chains he used to wrap around her arms. Her wrists were locked tightly in place. This wasn't something she was going to be able to untie. It was definitely locked and looked like it required a key.

"He's gonna kill you, Patty." Holtzmann spoke as soon as she was able. She sounded completely out of breath. "You have to get out... Leave me here. Go get help."

Patty shook her head as she ran her fingers along the chains wrapped cruelly around Holtzmann's arms. They were so tightly wound around her limbs. There was no wiggle room whatsoever. It looked really painful. "I'm not leaving you here." Patty whispered.

"You have to!" Holtzmann's voice shook. "Go get help. Send someone back for me. Otherwise we're both gonna die. He'll kill you, Patty. He told me so... I don't think he wants me dead just yet, so I've got more time. You've got to get out."

Patty shook her head again as she examined the chains around Holtzmann's legs. They also had cuffs at the end, locked securely around her ankles, securing her legs in place. The chair itself was bolted to the floor. There wasn't going to be an easy way out of this.

"We'll both get out." Patty assured her. There was no way in hell she was leaving Holtzmann here.

The younger woman shook her head and sniffed back tears. "He's going to kill you, Patty. If I have to watch him kill you-" She stopped as tears choked up her voice. "Please just get out while you can..."

"I'm gonna get you outta here, Holtzy. We're both getting out, together. Don't panic." Patty promised, though she really wasn't sure how that was going to be possible.

"I'm not panicking!" Holtzmann all but screamed as fresh sobs wracked through her shoulders. She leaned forward in the chair, pulling desperately and uselessly at her arms and legs as her crying became more and more frantic. "I just don't wanna be tied up..." She whimpered, groaning in pain as she tugged and tugged at her arm. "Patty, I don't want to be here..." Her voice shook with tears as the cuff caught on her palm, but she continued pulling at her arm, harder and harder.

"Holtzy, calm down! You're gonna break your wrists." Patty put her hand carefully on her friend's arm to try to keep her from hurting herself. Patty furrowed her brows as she tried to look her friend over with more scrutiny. She frowned when she realized Holtzmann's shirt was unbuttoned and open, pulled all the way down to her elbow on one side. Had Alvin done that? Was it something that happened on its own in his struggle to get her chained up down here? Or had he been starting to undress her when Patty knocked on the door.

Patty swallowed as she carefully pulled Holtzmann's shirt sleeve back up her arm and closed the front over her chest. As soon as she did so, Holtzmann stopped struggling and looked down at her chest, almost as though she had forgotten her shirt was hanging off of her until Patty fixed it.

The younger woman looked up at Patty through tears and her lip trembled as short, shaking breaths made their way out of her mouth. Patty could tell she was about to lose any ounce of composure she had left.

Patty didn't ask Holtzmann to calm down this time. Instead, she leaned down and hugged her friend as best as she could as Holtzmann began to sob uncontrollably. Patty inhaled a nervous breath as she slid her arm behind Holtzmann's back and pulled her close. She had never seen Holtzmann this upset before. She wanted to say something, but wasn't sure what to say, and didn't think Holtzy would hear it over her own sobs anyway.

"Baby, I'm sorry... I'm sorry he hurt you. I'm sorry I let you out of my sight." Patty finally spoke in the most comforting voice she could manage.

Holtz continued to sob as she leaned into Patty's chest as much as she could.

Patty didn't really know what else to say. She'd already made a promise that she wasn't sure she could keep. She didn't know how many times she should promise Holtzy that she'd keep her safe and get them both out of here when she was very unsure if she'd actually be able to deliver on that promise. She supposed the best thing she had to offer at the moment was comfort and support.

"I'm here, Holtzy." Patty spoke in a soft voice as she ran her hand carefully up and down her friend's arm. "You're not alone. We're going to figure this out together. I'm gonna do what I can, Baby. Try not to be scared."

After her few moments of seemingly much-needed sobbing, Holtzmann began to calm down. Her tears dissolved into sniffs and shaking breaths, but she kept her head leaned against Patty's chest and didn't say anything.

"What did he do to you?" Patty finally asked.

Holtzmann shook her head, but didn't answer.

"Holtzy..." Patty used a more stern voice. "What did he do?"

"Nothing." Holtzmann breathed as she finally pulled back and looked up at her friend. "He hit me and made some pretty fucked up threats... It's fine... I'm okay..." She looked straight at Patty's thighs once the woman had stood up, clearly not wanting to look in her eyes. Holtzmann always avoided eye contact when she was uncomfortable, felt guilty, or was lying...

"You sure?" Patty frowned.

Holtzmann nodded, but finally looked up and exhaled. It was an indication to Patty that she was ready to offer a more full and truthful version of her previous answer. "He didn't do anything that bad yet. He didn't take off any more clothes than that part you already saw... He couldn't really keep his hands to himself, but at least he didn't get under my clothes, right?" She laughed breathlessly. "I mean, sure, he's probably gonna rape and kill us in a couple minutes..." She forced another nervous laugh and shook her head. "But he didn't yet." She looked up at Patty with raised eyebrows and shrugged. "So we're all good, I guess."

Patty exhaled and frowned. "He's not gonna do that, Baby. I won't let him."

Holtzmann shook her head and looked down. "It was so easy for him to get me down here. He barely even had to try... and he got you down here just as easy. I'm locked down pretty securely, and you don't have the key. How the hell are you gonna keep him from doing whatever he wants?"

"I don't know, but I will." Patty told her. "I promise you, Holtzy."

She wasn't sure how she was going to deliver on that promise, but she was determined to. She wasn't going to let this man hurt Holtzy like that. Patty knew this wasn't going to be easy. The guy had already hurt her, and she couldn't take that back, but she was for damn sure going to make certain he didn't get take this as far as Holtzmann seemed to think he planned to.

xxxxxx

Chapter Text

xxxxxx

CHAPTER 7: Patty Fights Back

xxxxxx

Patty knelt down next to the chair Holtzmann was chained to as she searched it for any weak spots. It was a chair, not a prison cell. Surely there was a way to loosen bolts on it, break some part of it or another - to somehow take it apart. Maybe she couldn't pick the lock on the cuffs, but perhaps that wasn't the only option here.

"You doing okay?" Patty asked as she pushed and pulled at one of the chair's arms, trying to loosen it. It was unfortunately a very well-made chair.

Holtzmann exhaled tiredly and shook her head. "You should just try to go while you still can." She spoke in a small voice. Patty could tell she was on the verge of crying again. "There's no reason we both have to die down here."

Patty breathed out and stood up. "We're getting out of this together. Just stay calm."

"Yeah." Holtz scoffed, rolling her eyes and shaking hear head. "That'll be fun. I'll just stay calm." She leaned her head back against the chair and exhaled. "Can't wait to just stay calm through all this. I'll just stay calm while he rapes me. Maybe I'll try staying calm while he kills me too. Are you gonna stay calm while he makes you watch? That'll solve everything."

Patty frowned. "Freaking out's not gonna solve it either, Baby, and you know it. I know you're scared. So am I..." She grabbed the chair and tried to slide it or lift it. If she had to, maybe she could carry the whole fucking chair out of here. It didn't budge, not even a millimeter. "Shit... It's welded to the floor..." She grumbled, more to herself than to Holtzmann. She had forgotten about that detail.

"Now what?" Holtzmann breathed, sticking her lower lip out in a pout as tears shined in her eyes.

"I don't know..." Patty looked around the room. There had to be something she could hit the guy with... She didn't see anything though. Holtzmann was right. This did look pretty bleak... But they couldn't just give up.

"You were right Patty..." Holtzmann stared up with huge, wet eyes as she shook her head slowly. "We shouldn't have come here... And we sure as hell shouldn't have talked to this guy." Her lower lip trembled as she sniffed back tears.

Patty stared down at her. She didn't want to agree with that statement and make Holtzmann feel worse. Of course, Patty had been right. Coming here wasn't a great idea. The others didn't even know they were here, and wouldn't be looking for them until morning at the earliest. Gloating about being right certainly wouldn't do anyone any good though, and it would be a bit hypocritical considering Patty had agreed to come here without telling anyone too. Holtzmann chose to do something dumb, but Patty hadn't stopped her. She barely even tried. Had she tried? Maybe she just kind of complained, but didn't ever really say no. She had been just as reckless here.

"He's gonna kill us both... I think the ghosts Erica told us about are other people he killed, Patty... We're screwed." Holtzmann shook her head.

"We're not screwed." Patty disagreed. "We've just gotta figure this out. I'm not gonna let him kill you."

"You can't keep him from killing me if he kills you first, Patty." Holtzmann frowned. "He killed those other ladies. The ghosts were moving this newspaper around... Practically attacking me with it. God..." She closed her eyes and shook her head. "You'd think I could take a hint at this point... The paper had a story about this missing girl, and I'm pretty sure they were trying to show me. But I'm so damn dumb..." She rolled her eyes. "I was looking at the wrong page."

"You're not dumb, Holtzy. You're one of the smartest people I know." Patty frowned.

"The ghosts were very blunt about showing me that exact article... I stared at the opposite page instead, like a moron. I guess the twin chickens stood out more than the missing women... I mean, I saw it eventually - last minute after I'd already talked to the neighbor and got him all worked up, I guess. I was just talking to him, right? Asking him if I could come in and look around. I guess he took it wrong. I can't believe I let this guy grab me and pull me into his house." Holtzmann looked down at her wrist, balling her hand into a fist and groaning. The younger woman looked around the basement until her eyes settled on a heavily stained, very disgusting-looking mattress in the corner. "Oh my god... We're so fucking screwed..."

Patty let out a breathless, stressed laugh. This wasn't funny in any way, but she was relieved Holtzmann was talking again instead of sobbing uncontrollably. She was also kind of amused by how much the younger woman was swearing. Holtz didn't normally swear this much. Of course, they'd never been kidnapped by a serial killer before. Patty kind of felt like swearing right now too.

"You've gotta try to attack him... Or just try to get away, any way you can." Holtzmann suggested. "I'm welded to the chair." She shrugged, tugging at her trapped arms again. "So you're gonna have to do it... I don't know if you can attack him though. He's pretty big."

"I think I can take him on. As long as he doesn't have that gun with him again." Patty frowned.

Holtzmann shook her head. "He's really strong though. I mean, you can try, but you've got to be careful. I could barely move earlier. He grabbed me against his chest and dragged me down here... I wanted to fight back... but I just couldn't. I actually couldn't move... Not just because I was terrified half to death, but I literally couldn't move. That's how strong he is."

Patty forced a smile as she looked down at her friend. Sometimes Holtzmann seemed to forget that she was so tiny. Alvin had easily overpowered her not because he had super-strength, but because she was so small. It wasn't unrealistic that Patty might be able to gain the upper hand in a fight against him when Holtzmann could not.

She wasn't sure when would be a good opportunity to attack the man without getting shot though... and she wasn't leaving Holtzy here alone. Maybe getting herself and only herself out was the smartest move at this point. One of them surviving was better than none of them surviving, and Patty being free long enough to get help might spare Holtzmann too... But she simply couldn't leave her here. Patty knew what Alvin might do, and Holtzmann obviously did too. If Patty left the house and wasn't here to protect her friend when she needed it, and Holtzmann ended up seriously hurt or dead, Patty wouldn't ever be able to forgive herself.

But she had to do something, and that something was probably going to be risky. Obviously playing nice and doing what the man said to avoid suffering his delivery of any threats was only going to work for so long. If what she suspected was true, Alvin had already murdered at least two women in this house. If Patty and Holtzmann cooperated, it was only going to save them from pain for so long, and would lead them straight to their deaths.

She glanced up the stairs. She was pretty sure she had heard Alvin lock the door behind her... but maybe it would be a good idea to check... If she could get out of here long enough to find a phone and call the cops, she could sneak back down before Alvin knew she was gone and try to stall until the cops got here.

"Where are you going?" Holtzmann breathed as soon as Patty started toward the stairs.

"I'm gonna check the door... See if I can sneak out and find a phone." Patty answered. "Don't worry. I'm not leaving you here."

"Okay." Holtzmann whispered. "You can leave though... To go get help. If it's unlocked, you should try to get out... Just send help back."

Patty shook her head slightly but didn't bother explaining her reasoning out loud. She just needed to sneak out for literally a couple minutes. She'd never leave the house - just find a phone, call the police, and come back before Alvin had a chance to do anything to her friend.

She quietly made her way up the stairs, but sucked in a breath and immediately stepped back as the door creaked open.

"Sorry to leave you waiting." Alvin smiled as he stared down at Patty, who slowly stepped her way back down the stairs. She looked him up and down. As far as she could tell, he didn't have the gun anymore. She figured if she timed it well, she might be able to overpower him.

"It's not too late for us to just forget this." Patty told him

Alvin laughed. "I don't just forget things."

Patty swallowed. "Well, you don't have to... But we will, if you get what I mean."

"I get what you mean. It's too late." Alvin disagreed. "You're saying you won't go to the cops if I let you go. I don't care about that. You won't go to the cops if I don't let you go either. We're doing this."

"As far as I can see, you haven't done anything too bad yet, Alvin." Patty went on, trying to make sure the guy didn't see her as a threat. She figured she could try reasoning with him first - both because of the slim chance it might work, and because it made her look like she wasn't preparing to attack him. "If you just give me the key to these cuffs, we'll leave and never look back. You won't risk getting caught. You won't have committed any crime - not that I'm gonna say anything about. Just give me the key, and we'll go. You'll never hear from us again."

Alvin laughed. "I'm not unlocking her." He refused. "But I do have some chains for you as well, Sweetheart." He nodded toward a support beam several yards away from the chair Holtzmann was chained to.

Patty swallowed nervously. "Why?" She breathed.

Alvin laughed and shrugged. "Control?" He scoffed. "Why else...?"

"That's not necessary... We won't try anything, right, Holtzy?" She glanced back at her friend.

Holtz nodded quickly, her eyes wide. She said nothing, clearly knowing well enough that a sarcastic remark at this point would only make things worse.

"You won't try anything now." He laughed. "But I doubt you're gonna just stand there while I'm having non-consensual sex with your friend... and killing her after."

Patty felt like her heart stopped in her chest as she glanced toward Holtzmann, who simply pouted and glared at the man as though this threat was old news. Of course, Holtzmann had told Patty already what he had threatened to do... She just somehow guessed that the man had implied it instead of just coming out and saying it in the harshest way possible. No wonder Holtzy had been so frantic and panicked when Patty found her.

The man couldn't have gotten any more blunt. His threats cemented the thought in Patty's head that she had to fight back - and fight back hard. If she didn't overpower him before he tied her up, what was she going to do? How could she possibly protect Holtzmann from what he just threatened her with?

"Please just let us go..." Patty pleaded. "You don't have to do this... You're attractive-"

"Ish." Holtzmann interrupted with a shrug and a frown.

"Shut up, Holtzy." Patty hissed. Was she trying to undermine what Patty was attempting here? Alvin wasn't necessarily attractive, but that didn't mean he couldn't believe he was. He wasn't ugly, and wasn't the most gorgeous person in the world either, but that wasn't the point. If he thought he was above average looking, if he got a little confidence boost, maybe he wouldn't feel like he had to rape people for sexual gratification. "You are attractive, Alvin. You could get women to date you without resorting to this..."

"I know I could. I do it all the time." Alvin smirked.

"Then go do it..." Patty frowned, feeling her shoulders slump. "You don't have to hurt people. I'm sure plenty women would feel lucky to be with you."

"I know." Alvin stared at her. "And that's great. But I want her." He nodded toward Holtzmann, who stared back with wide eyes as she shrunk down into the chair she was chained to. "And something tells me she's not gonna go for it without a little force."

Patty scowled at him.

"And I'm betting you're not gonna just sit back and chill while I fuck her... While she cries and begs me to stop... While she can't help but quiver with pleasure she didn't ask for and doesn't know what to do with..." Alvin stared back, not blinking, seemingly waiting for a reaction.

Patty swallowed and shook her head. She honestly didn't know what to say to that.

"So go over to the post there." Alvin nodded toward the support beam. "I'm gonna lock you up so you won't be tempted to try anything while Peach and I are having our fun. Don't make it difficult or things are gonna get uncomfortable for everyone. Understand?"

Patty glanced toward Holtzmann, who looked positively heartbroken and disgusted as she shrunk down and stuck her lower lip out in a pout. She looked like she was close to throwing up. She was shaking slightly, and was clearly rendered speechless by everything Alvin was so blatantly threatening her with.

"Alvin, please..." Patty breathed. "You can't do this..."

"Sweetheart, if I have to force you, I'm gonna hurt you... And then I'll lock you up anyway, and make you watch while I hurt her." He threatened, sounding increasingly agitated. "If you don't make this easy for me, you'll regret it. I can be reasonably decent about this, or I can be overly cruel. If you give a damn about her, you'll regret fighting with me. I guarantee that."

Patty exhaled, but nodded. She was definitely going to make it difficult at the very least, but Alvin didn't need to know that. She stepped cautiously toward the post, keeping her eye on Alvin as he made his way over.

"Put your hands behind you, with your arms around the post." Alvin ordered.

Patty did so, and held still as Alvin walked up to her.

As soon as he was close enough, Patty felt a growl in her throat as she reached out and punched him across his cheek, clearly catching him off-guard. She reached up with both hands and grabbed his hair, pulling his face down and preparing to bring her knee up to break his nose.

But Alvin was fast, and strong - just like Holtzmann had warned her about. He was quick to hit Patty right back, knocking the breath out of her lungs as he punched her in the stomach. She stumbled back, putting her hands over her stomach and blinking back tears as she tried to inhale a breath

Patty coughed and doubled over as Alvin reached for her arm, hauling her back up just to punch her again. Patty gritted her teeth together and grabbed out at his arm, bringing her knee up between his legs and hitting him pretty hard. He stumbled backward and let out a sort of growling sound as Patty kicked out at his legs. She wasn't going to stop here... She was gonna make sure he stayed down. She couldn't get out of here until she got the key to the cuffs he'd locked Holtzy up with. That meant it wasn't enough that she might be able to run for it right now. He was clearly pissed off. She couldn't afford to leave him down here with Holtzy. Not even for a few minutes. Not even just long enough to find a phone and call the police. He could really hurt her in those few minutes. He had all but promised to. Patty couldn't run yet. She had to get Holtzmann out too.

"Stay down, you sick bastard!" Patty growled as she kicked him while he was down. She was so mad he thought he had any right to do this to people. Seeing Holtzmann tied down to a chair with tape over her mouth and tears in her eyes and hearing Alvin talk about what he wanted to do to her was enough for Patty to actually want to kill this guy.

He seemed to growl back as he grabbed at her leg, effectively pulling her off of her feet and down to the floor with him. Before she knew it, he was climbing on top of her, raising his hand up in a fist.

Patty grimaced and moved one arm over her face as she reached out with her other hand in an attempt to grab his. He grabbed at her arm covering her face and pulled it back as Patty thrashed under him in an attempt to throw him off.

"Get off of me, you fucker!" Patty screamed, balling her hand into a fist and swinging it up toward his face. She exhaled a disappointed breath as he leaned back just far enough that she missed hitting him.

"Patty watch out!" She heard Holtzmann's frightened voice just before Alvin's fist connected hard with her side of her head.

xxxxxx

Chapter Text

xxxxxx

CHAPTER 8: Hands

xxxxxx

Patty saw stars as she felt her attacker's hands on her arms. A sharp pain shot through her head as she blinked, trying to get her eyes to work properly. She was just disoriented enough that Alvin was granted the few seconds he needed to haul her up to her feet and push her back against the post he had tried to tie her to before. He proceeded to pull her arms back behind the support beam and cuff her wrists together.

With a frustrated growl, Patty pulled at her arms and kicked out as Alvin walked in front of her.

He offered a dry laugh as she dodged her foot. "You fucking bitch." He breathed, kicking out at her leg hard enough that Patty couldn't help but groan in pain.

She grimaced as she stared at him. He looked really mad. Unfortunately, her efforts were unsuccessful and seemed to have only made things worse. A large part of her wished she hadn't fought back... but then, if she didn't try, she'd feel like an idiot for being so docile. She didn't have any other choice.

Alvin balled his hand into a fist and swung out, punching Patty in the stomach so that she doubled over and coughed painful breaths. She looked up in time to see him raising his fist up again.

"Stop!" Holtzmann begged from the chair.

Alvin offered a dry, angry laugh as he hit Patty again, in the ribs this time. She groaned and slumped forward. Judging by the pain, she wouldn't have been surprised if he cracked one of her ribs that time.

"Alvin, stop!" Holtzmann screamed. Patty could hear tears in her friend's voice, but couldn't bring herself to open her eyes to see her at the moment.

"And you..." Alvin turned toward the younger woman, breathing quick, angry breaths. Patty had clearly pissed him off, and it looked like he might be ready to take out his anger on Holtzmann too.

Patty breathed out a pained, shaking breath as stared past Alvin and toward her younger friend. Hotlzmann's eyes were wide as she seemed to try to shrink down into the chair she was tethered to.

"Leave her alone!" Patty demanded.

"Why?" Alvin turned back to Patty with a wild look in his eyes. "You didn't listen to me. Why should I do what you want? I told you that you'd regret it if you fought with me. I made myself very clear."

Patty shook her head as she exhaled tiredly. "She didn't do anything to you. I'm the one that was fighting... If you're mad, take it out on me..."

"You're not in charge here." Alvin reached his hand out and shoved Patty roughly against her collarbone and then turned back toward Holtzmann, quickly closing in on her. "I've decided what to do with your buddy now, Peach." He noted as he bent down in front of her and as she shrunk back. "I was gonna show her some mercy and just kill her quickly... but she changed my mind... She's gonna have to watch now."

Holtzmann whimpered and flinched back as Alvin reached out and cupped her cheek in his hand. "Don't touch me!" She cried out, turning her face to try to escape his fingers.

"I'll bet..." Alvin started, moving his hand from Holtzmann's cheek, around her neck, and toward the back of her head. "That if you lean forward just right..." He grabbed a fist of her hair and shoved her head down as Holtzmann let out a pained wince. "You'd be at the perfect level to give me a blow job."

Holtzmann let out a shaking breath as she tried to shake her head. Patty could see her hands were clenched into fists as she pulled uselessly at her arms while Alvin held her head down.

"Alvin, please..." Patty breathed, feeling her heart pounding in her chest. She was in no position to protect Holtzmann from this man. What could she do at this point besides beg him for mercy?

Alvin glanced toward her, but then looked back down at Holtzmann as he pulled her hair back, forcing her to look back up at him. He put his hand on her chin, slowly moving his fingers up toward her lips as he stared down at her and she stared back. "You look so young." Alvin noted. "A lot of them do when they're scared like this though. Do you know how to give a good bow job?"

"I'm not giving you a blow job." Holtzmann growled, staring up at him through her tears. She looked scared, but she also looked absolutely pissed off.

"I think you will." Alvin glared back, but smirked.

"If that thing comes near me, I'm biting it off." Holtzmann held her head high and breathed in a shaking breath. "If you value your dick, you'll keep it far away from my teeth."

Alvin narrowed his eyes as he continued staring down at her. He ran his fingers over her lips again. "Really?" He looked almost ready to laugh.

"Yes, really." Holtzmann stared.

"Alright." Alvin laughed and moved his hand off of her face. "Fine. I'll just have to stick it somewhere that doesn't bite then."

Holtzmann breathed an angry, frustrated huff and tugged at her arms again, but she had nowhere to go.

"Don't, Alvin." Patty spoke up again as she pulled at her wrists behind her. The cuffs were so tight. She could feel them bruising her skin even when she wasn't violently tugging at her arms. "Please just stop. You haven't done anything that warrants us going to the cops yet-"

"Oh, I haven't?" Alvin laughed as he looked over at her. "So I'll let you girls go, right now... After I chained you both up and wouldn't let you leave. After I groped all over this one." He nodded down at Holtzmann. "Hit you both - more than once... You've seen the chains, the mattress... the blood stains... But yeah. I'll just unlock you and you'll just go home and forget about it all. You're fine with all this?"

Patty swallowed. "Yes. I mean, I don't like that you've done this much... But I'm willing to make a deal with you that if you just stop now, it'll all be forgiven. Call it a compromise. We won't say a thing to the cops, won't bother you about the ghosts or anything. We'll just go. No one will be in trouble. We'll all just pretend none of this ever happened."

"Sounds fun, but I'd rather do this." He nodded down toward Holtzmann. "Sorry, Sweetheart." He glanced back toward Patty with a smirk and raised eyebrows.

He leaned down close to Hotlzmann as the woman shrunk back against the chair with a soft whimper.

"Don't you fucking touch me." Holtzmann breathed, her voice tiny and shaky. She was clearly terrified. Her words were angry, but her tone was scared.

Alvin laughed as he leaned down even closer, running his hands down Holtzmann's chest. The younger woman thrashed as much as the chains allowed as Alvin practically climbed on top of her. Patty couldn't tell where exactly he was putting his hands anymore at this point, but she could tell Holtzmann didn't like it at all judging by her reaction.

"Don't!" Holtzmann screamed, her voice shaking with unshed tears.

"Get off of her!" Patty demanded, feeling anger bubbling up inside her as she yanked painfully at her trapped hands.

Alvin just laughed as he seemed to be trying to bring himself even closer to his captive, leaning against her as his hands remained where they were. Patty couldn't see much of what was happening because Alvin's broad back blocked her view. Poor Holtzy must have been terrified. He was so much bigger than she was.

"Please stop!" Holtzmann whimpered. "Don't touch me!"

"Shhh." Alvin cooed as he leaned down closer to her, running his hand down toward her waist. "It doesn't have to hurt... Not this part. I should make it hurt - since your friend over there pissed me off. I warned her. Didn't I warn you?" He looked over toward Patty with a raised eyebrow.

Patty shook her head and breathed out a shaking breath.

Alvin looked back down at Holtzmann and continued. "I should hurt you on purpose." He whispered. "I should, but I won't. I'll be kinder to you than she was to me." He ran his hand down toward the bottom of her shirt and slid it up under the garment.

"Stop it! Get off of me!" Holtz screamed. Patty could see the younger woman's hands clenched into fists as she tugged hard at her trapped arms. She was going to break her wrists if she didn't stop... but how could Patty advise her friend to stop fighting right now? She was doing the same thing... They both just wanted so desperately to get free.

Patty felt like her blood was boiling as she pulled uselessly at her arms. She frowned, narrowing her eyes as she tried to hear what Alvin was saying. He was leaning down close to Holtzmann's ear, whispering something that made the younger woman scoff and turn her face as far away from him as she could. She looked disgusted.

"Bet that'd make you wet, huh?" She heard Alvin whisper as he leaned further back and squatted in front of Holtzmann. "If I tickle you with my fingers first." He laughed, putting his hands on her knees and running them up her thighs.

"Don't you fucking touch her, you pervert!" Patty growled, pulling against her restraints so hard that her wrists throbbed under the chains.

Alvin smirked as he glanced over at Patty, moving his own body enough so that she could see what he was doing. "This is for you, Sweetheart. I'm doing this because you punched me. I told you not to fight... You didn't listen. Now you get to watch while Peach and I have all the fun."

Patty felt her mouth twitch. She wanted to scream. She wished she could kill this guy just with the amount of anger raging inside her. She knew she had enough that if anger alone could kill someone, he'd be dead ten times over.

He put his hand against Holtzmann's face, running his fingers down over her neck, between her breasts, across her stomach, and toward the front of her pants. "How many fingers do you think I could fit in there?" He laughed, sliding his hand down the front of Holtzmann's pants and pulling the garment toward him.

Holtzmann choked out a shaking whimper and squeezed her eyes closed as she tried to shrink down against the chair. "Please don't..." She sobbed.

"Get off of her, you son of a bitch." Patty demanded in a low, angry voice. Clearly she had no leverage here... But what else could she do besides get mad and be demanding? Begging wasn't working. Trying to escape was futile.

"It'll feel good, Peach... Get you excited for the real thing." He laughed, sliding his hand further down the front of her pants. "Should I do two fingers, or three?" He glanced back toward Patty. "She's little... Might start with two and then squeeze in more and more until she breaks. Might even have to start with one. I've got big hands." He laughed as Holtzmann started crying harder.

Patty breathed in and out quick, panicked breaths. She had to stop him... But how? She didn't know what to do, but she couldn't let this happen. She couldn't bear to stand here and watch him hurt her friend. "Alvin, please stop. Don't do this. Please don't hurt her, Alvin." She breathed. "Please... I'm begging you."

Holtzmann wasn't even pleading with him anymore. She had closed her eyes and shrunk down as much as she could. She was shaking and crying, but wasn't saying anything. Maybe she had given up.

"Alvin... please..." Patty whispered, feeling tears choking her up. She was trying to be calm, even though she didn't want to be... She wanted to call him every vulgarity in the book. She wanted to threaten to kill him... But she decided to play nice instead. "Please don't do this... Please stop..."

"I don't see why I should, Sweetheart." Alvin shrugged, pulling further against Holtzmann's pants, forcing her hips to move closer toward him. "Oh man... I'll bet you're so fucking tight." He breathed.

Holtzmann sobbed harder, no longer able to come up with any words as she shrunk down, closing her eyes tighter and turning her face away from both Alvin and Patty. Her breaths were frantic and she was visibly shaking. She was clearly panicking at this point.

Patty didn't know if she should plead with the man more or not. What did he want? If she just shut up, would he stop? He seemed to be trying to prove a point here. Obviously screaming at him and calling him names wasn't going to help, no matter how much Patty wanted to. Maybe she needed to try a different approach. Show him she knew he was in control here - show him she realized he was going to do what he wanted and that she was wrong for fighting back.

"Alvin, please stop... I'm sorry I fought with you. I really am..." Patty finally breathed. "I understand why you're mad, but take it out on me - not her. Please... She's been cooperating... Give her motivation to keep cooperating. Don't punish her for something I did. I was wrong, okay? I should have respected you and I didn't..."

Holtzmann shook her head and sniffed back tears. Her hands were pulled into fists and Patty could see her tugging uselessly at her trapped limbs, probably hurting herself in the process, but clearly not caring.

"If you've gotta hurt someone, hurt me." Patty went on. "Please..."

"Would you prefer that, Peach?" Alvin breathed, leaning close to his captive. "Maybe I can give you a choice here... You want me to stick my hand all the way down there and slip in a couple fingers, or should I break Sweetheart's hand? I've got a hammer upstairs. I can just smash her hand the fuck up with it instead. Won't touch you... I'll just crush her hand. How about that?"

Holtz whimpered and shrunk down, trying to move herself away from his hand, which he still had down the front of her pants. Patty didn't think his fingers could reach far down from where he was and considering how his hand was grabbing the garment, and with Holtzmann sitting down. It seemed like he was just gripping and pulling at the front of her pants, with his fingers almost in a fist. He hadn't hurt her yet... He was just threatening to. It seemed like Alvin was holding off on the worst part - trying to scare both of them more than anything else for now.

"What'll it be, Peach?" Alvin asked.

Holtzmann shook her head and closed her eyes as tears dropped from them and rolled down her cheeks. "Please don't do this." She sobbed.

"So you want me to break her hand instead?" Alvin's eyebrows rose.

Holtzmann shook her head softly. "No." She whispered.

"So you want my fingers then." Alvin laughed.

Holtzmann choked out a sob, but didn't answer.

"Holtzy, baby. It's okay. It's just my hand." Patty pleaded. If the man was really going to make Holtzmann choose - if he was serious here... There was an obvious answer. Patty would rather have both of her hands broken than have to watch this man sexually assault her friend. A broken hand didn't come with quite as much emotional trauma as a sexual assault either.

Holtzmann squeezed her eyes shut tighter as she shrunk down and turned her face away, seemingly so Patty couldn't see her. The younger woman had a habit of sort of hiding her face when upset. Patty could see her chest rising and falling rapidly as her breaths were becoming more and more panicked.

"It's just my hand." Patty said again, hearing her own voice shake. "Just do it, Alvin. She's too upset to choose. I'll choose for her. Break my hand instead."

"Patty, no..." Holtzmann choked out. "Don't hurt her..." She still wasn't looking at either of them. Her eyes were squeezed closed and she was breathing quick, frantic breaths.

"It's my hand, Holtzy. That's not the end of the world. Let me do this for you, Baby. Please. It's only my hand." Patty insisted, feeling tears in her eyes as she realized Holtzmann wasn't going to allow herself to make that call.

"I don't think she cares about your hand, Sweetheart." Alvin shrugged. "I guess she wants mine. Can't say I'm surprised. I'm pretty good with my hands. I think you'll like it, Peach." He added with a whisper.

Holtzmann let out a heartbreaking sob as she pulled uselessly at her legs.

"Just tell him he can break my hand instead, Holtzy." Patty felt the tears in her eyes overflowing and falling down over her cheeks. "I won't be mad, Baby. I promise."

"Isn't that sweet?" Alvin mocked. "I should kill women in pairs more often... Get a couple of friends down here and they'll each beg you to do whatever you want to them. Who knew it'd be that easy?" Alvin laughed, but finally slid his hand up out of Holtzmann's pants.

The younger woman blinked her eyes open and stared up at Alvin as she tried to speak through shaking, tearful breaths. "Please don't hurt my friend..." She begged, shaking her head as she blinked her wide eyes.

Alvin smirked down at her, moving his hand toward her legs again so that she choked out a frightened whimper as she cowered down.

"Calm down." Alvin instructed with an amused laugh, drawing his hand back and reaching up to pet Holtzmann's hair instead. "I won't do it yet. That was just to remind your friend who's in charge here... And to show you both that I can do whatever the fuck I want, whenever I want. If I wanted to fuck you just then, I would have. I could have. I could'a pushed my hand down further, pried your little legs apart, shoved my fingers up in you. I could have made you suck my dick. I could've told you if you bit me, I'd cut your friend's throat, and you would have done it. I can do whatever I want to you, and you fucking know it. There wasn't anything either of you could have done to stop it, and now you know that. I'll give you a moment to compose yourself before we continue."

Holtzmann blinked as she breathed shaking breaths and stared up at him.

"I've gotta make you pretty first anyway, Peach... I want you to look perfect before we get to the good stuff. I'll be back in a few minutes." Alvin straightened himself back up and stepped toward the stairs. "See you soon." He winked and then headed back upstairs.

"Oh my god... I'm so sorry, Holtzy..." Patty breathed as soon as he was gone. "Baby, I'm so sorry. I tried... I tried to get away. I just wanted to hurt him enough to get us out of here. I didn't know he was gonna do that. I thought I was just risking myself. I would have never fought with him if I knew he was gonna do that."

Holtzmann stared back at her. She was shaking, had tears in her eyes, and her lip was trembling. She looked utterly terrified. "It's-" She spoke in a tiny voice, stopping herself when tears cracked through her words.

"Are you okay?" Patty frowned. She felt so heartbroken for Holtzy's sake. The younger woman looked so scared.

Holtzmann forced a very fake-looking smile, nodding quickly, but not speaking, probably because she was on the verge of tears and knew trying to speak might be her breaking point.

"If he does that again - makes you choose... Just let him take out his rage on me. I don't mind." Patty forced a smile.

Holtzmann shook her head. "I can't." Her voice was tiny and still shaking.

"He was just gonna break my hand, Baby. I can get something like that fixed. I'd rather him do that than what he was gonna do to you instead." Patty frowned.

"I can't do that, Patty." Holtzmann frowned. "And you know it."

Patty set her lips into a tight line. She understood that, and honestly wouldn't expect Holtzmann to tell the man to hurt Patty instead of herself. Patty couldn't do it either. She knew Holtzmann would take any amount of pain herself to spare Patty, just as Patty would do for her.

"He didn't hurt you, did he?" Patty swallowed. "He didn't... get his hand-" She trailed off.

"No." Holtzmann interrupted, shaking her head and looking down. "He didn't even get under my underwear. He was just pulling at the front of my pants. I think he was mostly trying to scare you... But he scared me too." She let out a nervous, breathless laugh. "I guess he was bluffing the whole time, but I didn't know that..."

Patty frowned. Alvin had definitely succeeded in scaring both of them. Patty wasn't sure she'd ever been more terrified in her life, and things didn't look like they were going to get better any time soon. Alvin had told them the whole incident was to prove a point - to show them he could do whatever he wanted and they couldn't really fight back. It made her feel nauseated to acknowledge that he was completely right. He could have taken that a lot further, and neither she nor Holtzmann could have stopped him.

"What are we gonna do when he comes back?" Holtzmann whispered as she stared across the room at Patty. Her eyes looked so big. There was absolutely no trace of her usual humor in her expression. It was a side of her Patty had very rarely seen - purely scared. Nothing else.

Patty opened her mouth, but quickly closed it again. She didn't have an answer to that.

"I wish I would have listened to you and Abby." Hotzmann frowned. "This was supposed to end in me being right - in me just doing the whole case by myself since no one else wanted to. I was gonna show you guys you were wrong to put it off... but you weren't. Not only should we have put this case off - we should have never taken it at all. Erica came right out and said it seemed like Alvin was hiding something. There's ghosts of young women around and a forty-year old freak who acts like he's hiding something. Put two and two together, right?"

Patty swallowed. In hindsight, Erica's story did lead right into this explanation, but they couldn't have known. Lots of people were weird and reclusive without having committed a crime. If Erica thought the guy was that creepy, she could have alerted the police herself.

Holtzmann shook her head and closed her eyes. "Man, I really screwed up here."

"We're gonna figure this out, Baby." Patty promised. "We've been through too much to have it all end like this. We're not gonna die here."

Holtzmann breathed in and out a shaky breath, but nodded and forced a smile. "Yeah..." She agreed, her voice trembling. "If I'm gonna get murdered, I want it to be a by a really awesome ghost."

Patty laughed, feeling tears in her own eyes.

"I'm sorry I got us into this, Patty." Holtzmann added.

Patty felt her shoulders slump. She didn't want Holtzy to feel guilty about this. It had been her idea to come here, but Patty hadn't exactly made smart choices tonight either. "It's not your fault, Baby... We screwed up together, and we'll fix it together. Just stay calm... We'll figure it out."

xxxxxx

Chapter Text

xxxxxx

CHAPTER 9: The Mystery Galaxy Girl

xxxxxx

Alvin had told them he was coming back in a few minutes, and though those few minutes ending up being a lot more than a few was quite welcome, Patty wondered what he was doing up there that was taking so long. It felt like they had been down here for at least twenty minutes by now and Holtzy seemed to be becoming more and more pessimistic with each passing minute.

"What do you think it's like to be a ghost?" Holtzmann mused as she and Patty had no choice but to sit in the increasingly chilly basement.

Patty shrugged as she shifted her wrists behind her. Alvin had put the cuffs on her very tightly and she had pulled against them so much earlier that she could feel bruises forming. It was really starting to hurt.

"Well, we're probably gonna find out." Holtzmann laughed, shaking her head and rolling her eyes. She was clearly losing hope fast. She didn't seem as scared anymore. She was able to speak without being obviously on the verge of tears. She wasn't physically shaking... but she clearly wasn't hopeful that they were going to make it out of this.

"We're not gonna find out what it's like being a ghost. Not any time soon, Holtzy." Patty frowned at her friend.

"Maybe it won't be that bad." Holtzmann shrugged. "I mean, the actual death probably won't be very fun. I'm sure that's gonna hurt, and it's gonna suck a lot for whichever one of us has to die second... I really don't want to watch you die, Patty. I think he's gonna kill me first though. He said you're gonna have to watch, but maybe he's not talking about that part. I'm really not looking forward to him raping us first-"

"Stop." Patty glared at her friend. "He's not going to kill you. And he's not going to do anything else to you either. And I sure as hell don't plan on dying tonight. You don't need to worry about any of that, because it ain't happening."

"I appreciate you trying to be hopeful, but we've gotta be realistic here, Patty. He made his intentions really clear..." She shook her head softly. "Really, really clear." She added with narrowed eyes. "We're very literally trapped down here... He's threatened to rape me like more times than I want to try to think about to tally up. He's gonna do it. Neither of us can stop him. It's what he wants to do. Why wouldn't he do it? And then he's gonna kill me; you're gonna have to watch it all. He straight up said it. More than once. How do you think we're gonna make it out of this? Like... realistically... I think we're screwed."

"You need to stop saying that." Patty frowned. "I don't care what his intentions are. I'm not letting him get what he wants."

"What are you gonna do, Patty?" Holtzmann raised her eyebrows and stared up at her friend.

Patty shook her head. "I don't know yet."

"Well..." Holtzmann offered a dry laugh. "I can't wait to see whatever miracle it is you're gonna work. I mean, I want out of this as much as you do, but come on... I can't go through these cuffs until I'm dead, which I'm sure I will be soon, but that defeats the point of the whole conversation."

Patty glared at her. She wanted to get mad and tell Holtzmann to shut up, but she also realized the younger woman was right. How on Earth was Patty going to save them when they were both literally chained down? If Alvin came back downstairs and started hurting Holtzmann, what could Patty do? Nothing, that's what... Holtzmann knew it. Patty knew it... Patty just didn't want to speak it out loud.

The last time Alvin was down here was a preview to that. He was forcing his hand down the front of Holtzmann's pants, telling both of them exactly what he was going to do... They were both angry and scared... and they couldn't do anything about it. They weren't going to be able to do anything the next time either.

"Why don't we talk about something else." Patty suggested. If they really were doomed, there was no point in dwelling on it. They needed to take their minds somewhere else. "What's the craziest thing ever to happen to you?" She asked.

Holtzmann shrugged and laughed. "Maybe this."

Patty frowned. "Tell me something I don't know about you. Maybe something crazy... Not this. Something fun and interesting. Something you never told me before."

Holtzmann looked up as though she was thinking. "You already know a lot about me..." She mused.

"I can't possibly know everything. Tell me something I don't know yet." Patty repeated.

"I'm pretty straightforward." Holtzmann laughed. "I don't really keep secrets. I mean, not about me in general. I guess I kept a secret about wanting to come here... But I didn't keep it from you." She added with a small smile.

"You would have though." Patty frowned. "I had to all but drag it out of you."

"Sorry." Holtzmann looked down with a frown.

"How about your first kiss. Tell me about that." Patty suggested. Something light. A good memory. Something to take their minds off of this.

"Oh..." Holtzmann's eyes widened as she nodded. "Yeah... That was crazy."

"It was?" Patty frowned again.

"Yeah. And it was kinda like this." Holtzmann nodded.

Patty felt her shoulders slump. On the one hand, anything 'kinda like this' wasn't going to be the light, happy subject she was hoping for... But Holtzmann had captured her interest. She had to know the rest. "Well... Go on..." She frowned.

"It was complicated. I told you before I was younger than a lot of kids at school, right?" Holtzmann told her.

"Yeah..." Patty grimaced. This story was getting more and more troubling with each additional word.

"Okay, so I was like thirteen, freshman in high school... There was this older boy - a senior, named Michael. I think he was even an adult. He might have even failed a grade, so like eighteen or nineteen." Holtzmann went on.

Patty stared over at Holtzmann, who didn't seem bothered by this story yet. Patty was though.

"So he was just a bully, really. A big, mean bully. Not anything too terrible at first. He just called me names... He wasn't very clever, but I guess he thought 'Jillian' was a dumb name, so he started calling me Jellian, or Jelly, or Jellyfish. I think Jellybean a couple times. I don't know. I mean, if you've gotta be called something by a bully, it could get a lot worse than Jellybean, right? It's kinda cute." She laughed and shrugged. "I never got the joke, but he and his dumb friend thought it was hilarious."

Patty nodded. She didn't get the joke either. Probably one of the boys called Holtzmann that and judged her reaction - noticed she didn't love it, and ran with it. Bullies didn't need to be clever or witty to successfully harass someone.

"He also bumped into me on purpose, shoved me against lockers, tripped me, knocked my books out of my hands. Just normal bully stuff like that." Holtzmann shrugged.

"That sucks, Holtzy." Patty frowned. Holtzmann was still tiny right now. She had to have been itty bitty as a thirteen year old up against an eighteen or nineteen year old man.

"Yeah. It did. But he had this girlfriend. She was a junior, and she was actually really nice. Gretta Gill. People called her Gigi. I called her Gretta though. She seemed to prefer it. I think I was the only one who used her real name besides a couple of the teachers. You know how all the pretty, popular kids all date each other even if they don't actually like each other? Just as like a reputation boost or something?" Holtzmann asked.

Patty shrugged. "I guess. Like cheerleaders and football players?"

"Yeah. Kinda. Gretta wasn't a cheerleader, but she played tennis. Not in a dumb brute jock way either. She was smart and precise. She was good at sports because she noticed every detail and reacted quickly - not like her boyfriend, who played football just because he was a yeti and plowed through everybody else like a bulldozer." Holtzmann frowned and rolled her eyes. "Gretta was with him for appearances, I think. She was really quiet and nice, but her family had money and she was pretty. She dated him because he was cool and she was cool and they looked good together - or so everyone said. But I could tell she didn't like him as a person."

"How's that?" Patty wondered.

"She wasn't usually around when he was being mean to me, but one day she was. He had walked up behind me and ran into me really hard - very obviously on purpose. He made sure I ran into this spot by the door where there was a corner wall. He slammed me right into it - really, really hard. As soon as I felt his hands on my back, I knew what was coming, so I braced myself and caught myself with my hands, and I think I was really close to breaking my wrist. It hurt a lot. I tried not to be a baby about any of this, but I was thirteen, and it hurt, really bad, and I was kind of scared he might do something else, so I sunk down to the floor and curled up and started crying, and Gretta was there, and she yelled at him."

"Well good. I'm glad someone stood up for you." Patty frowned. There had to have been other kids around all the time while this bully was picking on her. Why didn't anyone else help?

"She took me to the nurse after and found me in the hallway the next day and asked if I was okay." Holtzmann told her. "And she started talking to me more in the hall and stuff, sat by me at lunch a few times. I think Michael noticed and didn't like how well we got along. He didn't like that Gretta looked happy and laughed when I made jokes, as opposed to her looking annoyed and offended when he did. She liked me better. She and I were more compatible, because she was smart and a decent person, and he was dumb and rude."

Patty nodded. That wasn't surprising. A lot of people really liked Holtzmann if they gave her a chance.

"And then Michael started escalating... He didn't like Gretta spending so much time with me, so any time she wasn't around, he and his friends were even meaner. One time I was walking down the hallway and one of them shoved me into the boy's bathroom and blocked the door so I couldn't leave. They didn't do anything else. I was kind of scared that they would because they had started getting in the habit of sorta sexually harassing me - like making gross comments and gestures. One of them tried to lift up my shirt once. So when they had me locked in the bathroom and no one else was there, I really did think they might do something, but they didn't. They just didn't let me go. They made me late to biology, and I got in trouble, because I wasn't about to tell the teacher the truth." Holtzmann frowned.

Patty shook her head. She could see this memory still made Holtzmann feel bad, and that made Patty want to go back in time and punch the kids who hurt her. How dare they?

"Then another time Michael grabbed my books out of my hands and threw them all down the stairs. Then he started dragging me toward the stairs making some joke about helping me get down there to get the books... It seemed like he was going to shove me down the stairs. I think he really was going to, until I grabbed the rail and held on for my life and started screaming. Like loud." Holtzmann laughed nervously. "Really loud, really shrill - like scared for my fucking life screaming."

Patty grimaced. "I would have too, Baby. He could have really hurt you."

"Yeah." Holtzmann agreed. "But he didn't. I think my screaming scared him. He didn't want that kind of attention. He got scared and put his hand over my mouth. Told me to shut up or he'd really do it. He just kind hugged me against him so I couldn't move. Still had his hand over my mouth, threatening to really follow through if I screamed or said anything. I don't know how long he held me there, but it felt like a long time. Long enough for me to calm down and stop trying to scream. He made me promise to keep quiet about the whole thing. Then he left. I think that's what turned the whole thing really personal to him, because even though the teachers either didn't notice, didn't hear, or didn't care, word spread around the school that Michael almost threw a freshman down the stairs... Gretta heard. She knew it was me. She asked me about it, and since I knew she wouldn't call the cops or my parents or tell a teacher without me saying she could, I told her the truth." Hotzmann explained.

"She didn't tell anyone either then?" Patty frowned. She hated stories like this - kids being tormented and not realizing that their abusers could face real legal trouble if they just spoke up. Both Holtzmann and Gretta should have told an adult about this, but she couldn't blame either girl for not knowing what to do. They were just kids.

"No. I told her not to." Holtzmann shrugged. "So Michael and his friend - I can't even remember his name anymore. Maybe I never knew it... One day I had convinced Gretta to come to my science club after school. There were only four kids in the club and we were all kinda... I don't know - just not the kinds of people she normally hanged around. She wasn't really that into it. Science wasn't her favorite thing. I could tell. But she agreed to come anyway. I guess Michael found out we were both gonna be there, and he and his friend waited for us. Gretta had broken up with him a couple days before, and he was more mad at her than at me, but he was clearly mad at me too. He and his friend forced us to go down to the boys' locker room with them. They had a knife."

Patty swallowed and frowned. "What did they do?"

Holtzmann exhaled. "Remember, I was thirteen during this... I was just a baby." She laughed nervously.

"Yeah." Patty nodded. "You were."

"I didn't know what they were gonna do, so I was really upset and I was crying." She explained. "Remember, I was only thirteen, so I wasn't brave or strong... I was just scared. They hadn't hurt me or anything. Just made me and Gretta go downstairs - and they had the knife... That was enough for me, as a thirteen year old kid, to get really, really upset. He had tried to throw me down the stairs earlier in the week. I didn't know how far he'd take it. I wasn't sure if he really might kill us."

"Well, he sounds like he was really fuckin' nuts, Holtzy. I'd have been scared too." Patty reminded her.

Holtzmann nodded and continued her story. "Michael was saying awful stuff like that he was going to do things to me since Gretta wouldn't do the same things with him anymore - like if she wouldn't have sex with him, he'd have to find someone younger - implying that it'd be me. His friend was laughing the whole time and like grabbing his crotch and making gross gestures and comments... I didn't even know for sure what it all meant, but I knew it wasn't something eighteen or nineteen year old boys were supposed to be saying to me."

Patty exhaled slowly, hoping Holtzmann was going to turn this story around soon. So far, it sounded one thousand percent terrifying and sad. She hoped the senior boys hadn't hurt thirteen year old Holtzy like that. It was one thing to be bullied, pushed around, and made fun of, but this sounded like something far more serious... Nearly throwing her down the stairs, threatening her with a knife, implying they would sexually assault her? That was so far from okay.

"Gretta was trying to calm me down, but I was really scared." Holtz continued. "I remember just kinda cowering down and hiding my face while Gretta kept her arms around me. She did all the talking for both of us and I just cried and tried to disappear, but I was listening to what they said even when I had my eyes closed, and they said a lot of really awful things. People had bullied me before - threatened to hurt me in some way or another - but at that point, no one had ever said things like that to me - or about me. Not to that extent. Not in that much graphic detail. Michael's friend was really vulgar."

"They had no right, Holtzy." Patty frowned. "No man should ever say shit like that to anyone, much less a thirteen year old little girl."

Holtzmann sort of shrugged as best as she could. "Gretta was really mad too. I could feel her shaking as she held onto me. She was threatening them back too - like saying if they did anything, she'd go to the police or tell the football coach and they'd lose their spot on the team. I don't think they believed her though, or else they thought the threat of them doing more, worse things was gonna make her stay quiet. I just kept my head down and tried to not be noticed. I wasn't gonna tell anyone, and they knew it - because I hadn't told anyone about all the other stuff they did. Gretta was more assertive than I was though. I think one of them reached out and grabbed at me at some point because I felt somebody's hand on my shirt, and then I felt Gretta move and heard what I think was her slapping their hand away."

Patty shook her head and waited for the rest of this increasingly nauseating tale. Just the thought of little teenage Holtzy having to deal with this sort of thing made her feel sick.

Holtzmann exhaled and forced a small smile as she seemed to notice Patty's uncomfortable expression. "So Gretta was hugging me and being comforting and protective while the boys threatened to do all that... And I think that made Michael more mad - seeing her being nice to me and trying to make me feel better when his favorite thing was making me feel like trash." Holtzmann explained. "So he started ranting and ranting, implying that Gretta and I had some kind of secret relationship and making fun of the possibility that we were gay. She said we didn't have a romantic relationship and that we were just friends. She insisted on that, and it was true... I had flirted a little - maybe she did too. I was thirteen. I couldn't tell for sure... But Michael was still mad, and was either convinced we were secretly dating or just wanted to embarrass us, so he said since she liked me so much, she had to kiss me while they watched. I don't think he really ever thought we were together like girlfriends. I'd guess he was just trying to embarrass both of us. Punish us both for being friends with each other and for agreeing that he sucked to be around."

"And she did it?" Patty frowned. "She was your first kiss?"

Holtzmann nodded. "He said if she didn't, he'd do it. That if she wanted him and his friend to not do something instead, she had to. So we kissed, just a quick kiss on the lips... But he said it wasn't enough and that she had to use her tongue. She kept saying she was sorry and asking if it was okay, and I said it was, because I trusted her and knew she wouldn't hurt me like they would. I knew I'd rather have her kiss me than let the boys do whatever they wanted to do... But I was still scared, and I kept crying. I hadn't ever kissed anyone before - especially not with tongue, so I didn't really know what to do and I kinda just closed my eyes and froze, and I think it made Gretta feel really bad, even though she wasn't the reason I was crying. The boys did tell the truth though - they didn't hurt us after we kissed. They left us down there... Gretta made sure I got to my mom's car, and that was it. She didn't really talk to me much after that, and then she moved to a different school."

"I'm sorry, Holtzy." Patty exhaled. "That's really awful."

"It wasn't that bad." Holtzmann shrugged. "I mean, when you think about all the stuff other women and girls have been through... And men too, I guess. Of all the ways to be sexually harassed or assaulted, I got off easy. All they wanted was a kiss, and they let it be from someone I trusted. It could have been a lot worse... And if they knew I went to that science club every week..." She shook her head and exhaled. "My mom was always late picking me up. I waited all by myself after that club almost every time. If they waited around for me when Gretta was there, they could have easily waited when she wasn't. Can you imagine how bad that could have been?"

Patty frowned. Yeah. She could imagine. Those boys could have taken little Holtzy down to the locker room with no one around to stand up for her. They could have done whatever they wanted. Holtz probably wouldn't have even told anyone. She had clearly grown more brave and assertive over the years. It seemed like she had been pretty skittish and meek as a child. She probably would have just covered her face and hidden while they hurt her as long as they promised cooperating meant they wouldn't hurt her more later. Bullies picked on her because they knew they could. Those boys probably knew they could have gotten away with more. Holtzy was lucky they chose to hold back for whatever reason.

"They could have done worse. But they didn't." Holtzmann laughed softly. "It wasn't that bad. As far as lasting emotional trauma goes, I'm not that bent out of shape over it."

"It's still bullshit." Patty noted. "Whether or not you kissed anyone - even someone you trusted - that should have been your choice - not theirs. And you made a good friend and those assholes fucked it all up."

"Yeah." Holtzmann forced a smile. "I really liked her too. I'm not sure what our relationship was exactly. I mean, she was older than me. She was seventeen, I think. I was thirteen. I looked up to her like an older sister, but I maybe had a bit of a crush on her too. She was really nice, and I appreciated that she stood up for me, and that she was there in the locker room to make sure they didn't do anything to me. But I think she just felt really guilty about the whole thing. One of the few times we talked after the locker room, she said something about me being so young and that she took advantage of me or something... But I knew it wasn't her fault. She didn't have a choice. She couldn't get past it though."

Patty nodded. She could understand why the older girl would have felt guilty and awkward in that situation. "So did you tell your parents or a teacher? Did they get in trouble?" She asked.

Holtzmann let out a loud laugh. "No. They didn't do anything like that again though. They actually didn't bother me again at all. It was kind of weird how much they ignored my existence when all year it had been a constant problem. I think Gretta had something to do with it though. I heard Michael and Gretta yelling at each other at the end of the hallway one time after everything. Maybe she threatened to tell on him. Looking back, I see that what he did was really serious. It didn't seem that bad at the time - I mean, I was scared, but I was always scared when he confronted me. I didn't really mind Gretta kissing me. It would have actually been nice if the boys hadn't been there watching and laughing. But I'll bet Gretta reminded Michael that he was an adult and I was a kid and that he'd really fucked up. I mean, that's gotta be some kind of sexual assault - and against a child. He could have been put on a sex offender registry and it could have ruined his life. She probably told him that, and that's why he backed off. That would be my best guess."

"I'll bet she did threaten to tell on them." Patty guessed. "She clearly cared about you and probably wanted to protect you in any way she could before she moved to the other school. The situation was just complicated, like you said."

"Yeah." Holtzy agreed. "My second kiss was better." She added with a smile.

"How'd that go?" Patty wondered.

"Some girl at a bar." Holtzmann laughed. "I went with some people from university. I wasn't twenty one yet, and they wouldn't serve me alcohol, but I just had this random guy buy 'em and pass them off to me while no one was paying attention..."

"How old were you, Holtzy?" Patty frowned.

"Seventeen." She smirked. "Like I said, I skipped grades... I got into university early. By then, I knew better than to tell anyone how old I was. I learned the hard way that a lot of people don't feel good about people significantly younger than them being in the same class or grade. I told everyone I was nineteen. Anyway, I got pretty drunk and shared a really sweet kiss with some girl in the bathroom. She was in there doing her makeup and I was in there looking for the front door... I got really confused and turned around. I was trying to leave because my friends left me there."

"Your friends left you there?" Patty frowned. Why did everyone Holtzy knew as a teenager fail her so spectacularly. It was an unspoken rule among women to never leave their drunk friends anywhere alone. That's how bad things ended up happening.

"Yeah." Holtzmann shrugged. "Maybe they forgot I was with them. Or maybe they were so drunk they thought I went with them when they left."

"Maybe..." Patty exhaled. She was glad Holtzmann had better friends now. She deserved to have friends who would watch her back.

"So anyway, this girl in the bathroom... She looked like a damn angel. At least that's how I saw her in that moment. Like I said - I was drunk. She was too. At the time, I thought she looked absolutely gorgeous. I can't remember entirely what she looked like now, but at the time, she was the most gorgeous image I'd ever seen. I remember telling her over and over. And she noticed this tie I was wearing and was really zeroed in on the pattern on it. I think it was just like stripes of some kind. She said it was 'like the cosmos.' When she noticed I was wearing suspenders too, she nearly lost her mind. She kept running her fingers up and down them saying they were as smooth as radio waves or something. There was no sense to it, but it made sense to me at the time."

Patty smiled. She needed to get drunk with Holtzy sometime if they survived this. They had had a few drinks together before, but it occurred to her now that she hadn't ever seen Holtzmann completely drunk. It would probably be really funny.

"I told her I liked her lipstick - that it looked like cobalt chloride - because it did. She asked if I wanted to wear some too, and at first I was like, 'nah,' but then I realized she meant... you know, wear some of the stuff that was already on her lips, so I was like, 'yeah...'" Holtzmann smirked and nodded.

Patty laughed. She was so glad to see Holtzmann in a better mood. Just telling this story had brought a glimmer of happiness into Holtzmann's eyes.

"I think she was on something." Holtzmann added as she looked up toward the ceiling and narrowed her eyes. "Everything seemed to look like stars to her, which I don't think would come from just alcohol consumption." She laughed, shaking her head. "She stared into my eyes, like intensely... for a really long time, and told me they looked like the entire galaxy, and I mean... They're just regular eyes, so..."

"You've got pretty eyes though, Holtzy." Patty told her. She wasn't surprised that a drunk girl would latch onto Holtzy's eyes as a focus point.

Holtzmann smiled. "Thanks, Patty. So do you."

Patty laughed and rolled her eyes. "Thanks. Like dirt."

"No." Holtzy frowned, looking over at Patty with narrowed eyes. "Like delicious dark chocolate. Or really strong coffee - the good stuff. Dark eyes are beautiful, Patty. And yours are perfect. I can see a big difference in people's eyes when they're mad or annoyed with me versus when they think I'm funny or actually like me. Your eyes are kind. They make me feel okay being around you. Your eyes accept me, even if you do look at me like you think I'm crazy sometimes."

Patty laughed again. "You noticed?" She raised an eyebrow. "I love you, Holtzy, but you do act like you're crazy a pretty large percentage of the time."

Holtzmann shrugged and offered a tight-lipped smile. "So yeah... Second kiss was good." She circled back around to their previous topic of conversation. "First kiss wasn't bad. Just kinda awkward and scary. It wasn't the kiss's fault - just the creepy men who demanded it happen right then and there. But my second kiss was really fun."

"Sounds like it." Patty laughed.

"There was tongue too." She added with a smirk. "From both of us."

Patty let out another laugh.

"I don't know if it was really a good kiss or not. We were both so drunk... Someone sober looking on would have probably been disgusted, but for me and the mystery galaxy girl, in that one drunken moment, it was amazing." Holtzmann smiled and stared off in front of her, clearly remembering the memory fondly.

"So you never saw her again either?" Patty wondered.

Holtzmann shrugged. "I don't know if I would have recognized her while sober... I'm okay with it just being that one moment though. It was a good moment. Sometimes you've gotta take moments over a whole big thing... Maybe if I had gotten to know her, we wouldn't have even liked each other. Maybe we would have dated and argued all the time. Or maybe she was totally straight and the kiss was just drunk-gay. Maybe we couldn't have dated. Maybe if I knew who she was and asked her out later, it would have been a hard, embarrassed no from her and it would have ruined the whole thing. I don't know how it would have worked out if we met while sober - but as drunk girls in a bar bathroom, we did great."

"I guess I can understand that." Patty nodded. And if Holtzmann was only seventeen and the other girl found out - that could have ruined it too. Who knew how old this other person was? If they were both drunk, she could have been thirty or forty for all anyone knew.

Holtzmann exhaled and leaned her head back tiredly. "Hopefully this isn't how we die." She spoke.

Patty frowned. It didn't take long for Holtzy to go back to that. "It's not gonna be how we die, Baby." Patty promised.

"Yeah." Holtzmann forced a smile and looked over toward Patty. She didn't look confident though.

"It can't be, Holtzy." Patty went on. "It just can't. That's all there is to it. The universe can't work out that way in the end."

"I don't think the universe is really on our side, Patty." Holtzmann noted. "We wouldn't be here right now."

"Well... Maybe the universe is just fucking with us for fun, but'll ease up when it counts." Patty hoped.

"Yeah." Holtzy laughed. "I guess we'll see..."

xxxxxx

Chapter Text

xxxxxx

CHAPTER 10: Ghost Story

xxxxxx

As they were forced to wait uncomfortably down in the basement, Patty felt herself growing very tired. It had to have been past midnight by now, and she had been tired all day. Ever since about three o' clock, she had been thinking about going home and sleeping. She sure couldn't sleep here though, not while she was forced to stand up and her wrists were throbbing from the tight cuffs pressing into her skin.

The obvious looming threat kept her awake too. Alvin wasn't going to just let them go. They had to do something... but what? It seemed like their best bet was going to be to wait until he was ready to do something terrible... and then act at the last minute. He couldn't do much of the terrible sexual things he had threatened to do with Holtzmann tied up... He'd have to unlock her. Of course, Patty wasn't sure Holtzmann could fight back hard enough to get away. Alvin had easily overpowered both of them before they were hurt and exhausted. It would be even harder to fight back at this point.

She looked across the basement and stared at her friend, who was looking blankly at the stairs in front her her. She looked bored of out of her mind. She also looked small and vulnerable - like someone who wouldn't be able to fight off a six foot three man who was determined to hurt her.

Patty frowned as she continued staring at Holtzy. This was such bullshit. They had lived their whole lives up until this point, just doing their own thing, not bothering anyone who didn't deserve it, being kind, decent people. Holtzy had a hell of an education. She had invented all sorts of crazy scientific stuff Patty couldn't even begin to understand. Along with their friends, they had captured real life ghosts and helped to save the entire city. And then this asshole came along and just decided he felt like torturing and killing them.

It wasn't fair. Alvin had no right to do this to people. Holtzmann was such a great person. She didn't deserve this shit... Of course, no one did. Maria and Susan hadn't either. It wasn't fair when Alvin did this to them. One unremarkable nobody had hurt so many people, taken so much that he had no right to take. Patty didn't feel like she could understand that this could possibly happen to her, to Holtzmann. It just didn't seem possible. It didn't seem right. But she realized it was indeed very possible. It seemed too insane to imagine because it was her. Because it was Holtzy... But it wasn't insane. it wasn't impossible. Alvin was in a position here where he could do whatever he wanted, and it seemed pretty unlikely that he was going to fail.

Patty didn't want to think about it, because it was painful to even just acknowledge it... but maybe she really was going to be forced to watch this man rape and kill her friend. There didn't seem to be any way out here.

She closed her eyes and swallowed. Her throat felt so dry. She didn't know if she was going to be able to bear that possibility, but what choice did she have? Alvin was probably never going to unlock Patty. He might unlock Holtzmann just to assault her, and the smaller woman was no match for him. How were they going to escape this nightmare?

"You okay, Patty?" Holtzmann spoke up, breaking a rather long series of silent minutes.

Patty opened her eyes and looked over toward her friend, who stared back with a worried expression on her face. Holtzy's eyes looked so big as she frowned toward Patty.

"Yeah." Patty forced a smile, trying to appear more optimistic than she felt. "I'm okay. Are you?"

Holtzmann shrugged. "As okay as I can be."

Patty nodded.

"Patty..." Holtzmann frowned as she seemed to be distracted by something new. Patty noticed the younger woman was staring up toward the basement's ceiling.

"What?" Patty furrowed her brow.

"I think one of our ghost-friends is coming down to visit..." Holtzmann noted.

Patty turned her head and stared as a greenish glow began to show itself up near the ceiling. If she remembered the house's floor plan right, that was the same spot they'd seen the ectoplasm in the hall while they were in the other side of the house. The ghosts were indeed traveling between the basement and the other floor.

She felt her heartbeat quicken as the ghost slowly made her way into the room. She had almost forgotten about the ghosts at this point. She had been so hung up on Alvin and his threats, on the fact that she and Holtzmann seemed completely trapped, but there was another factor here.

"I told you to leave..." The ghost, who Patty was pretty sure was Maria, immediately growled as she appeared.

"You did not!" Holtzmann jumped in with a pout. "You smacked me in the head with a newspaper. How am I supposed to know what that means!?"

"I told you to leave." Maria repeated as she nodded toward Patty and ignored Holtzmann.

"When?" Holtzmann gasped.

"Holtzy, shhh..." Patty grumbled as she looked up at the ghost, Maria if she really was the same girl from the newspaper article. Maybe this was their ticket out of here. The ghosts were clearly capable of influencing things around here - to an extent. They had to be able to do something. "Can you help us somehow?" She asked.

"When did she tell you to leave, Patty? I was under the impression that this was all my fault, but if you and the ghosts have been having secret meetings, holding back information that seems pretty relevant to the situation..." Holtzmann rambled.

"Like forty-five minutes ago, Holtzy. Damn. I was gonna leave, but I couldn't find you." Patty frowned.

"I can't help you." The ghost spoke in a breathy whisper.

"Why not? Surely you can possess him or throw something at him so he gets knocked out... You can move papers and doors, so you can move other stuff... See if you can find the key to these cuffs and bring it to us." Patty pleaded. "Please, Maria... You tried to help us before. You've been warning people to get out... I know you don't want what happened to you to happen to anyone else."

"I don't, but I can't help. I'm dead... I'm a spirit. I can't kill people or fight with them... I'm not even a solid mass. I can't help beyond the warnings I thought I was pretty clear about. I don't know how." Maria sounded and looked sad.

"You can try, Maria. From what I see, you're the only person in this room who has any chance of doing something about this. We're very literally tied down. We can't do anything. You can." Patty felt herself growing frustrated. Why wouldn't Maria want to help them? If Alvin had done all of these terrible things to her, why would she be content to sit back and allow it to happen to other people without even trying to intervene? "Please help us, Maria..."

"I tried..." Maria went on. "It's not like the movies. The biggest thing I've been able to accomplish is writing on the mirror... And that was hard. I had to make the air really cold first... This stuff isn't easy. You don't just die and turn into this amazing house-haunting monster. I didn't gain superpowers. I'm just dead. I basically just exist in here, unable to do much of anything. All I can do now and be here for you... Welcome your spirit when it joins mine..."

Patty shook her head. "No. My spirit ain't goin' nowhere. Now I'm not trying to be demanding here, but you've gotta find out a way to help us. He locked us down here... Even if we get outta the cuffs, he dead bolted the door. There's no windows..." She looked around. "You can go through walls... You won't die if he shoots you... You've gotta try to learn some new tricks, and if you've tried and it didn't work before, try again. Try harder."

"Ghosts can possess people." Holtzmann joined in. "I've seen it happen. Just try to possess him and then throw yourself down the stairs when you're in control of his body."

Maria shook her head. "I couldn't begin to guess how to do that."

"You have to figure it out." Holtzmann urged, her eyes wide and her brows furrowed. "It's possible. I've seen ghosts who died really recently do it. It can't be that hard... You've got to try. He's gonna kill us if you don't help. You have to."

"I can't." Maria shrugged. "I've tried to do all the ghost-stuff ghosts in stories do. I can't do it. I can't possess people. I can't possess objects. I wanted to scare the hell out of him by possessing a doll or other toy... He has a few in his attic for some reason." She shuddered and shook her head. "I don't want to know why... But I can't possess anything or move objects through space. I can create a sort of breeze. I can make curtains or pages in a book move very slightly. I can make the air around me cold and move condensation droplets enough to write on a mirror or window. That's all I've been able to do. That won't help you, and it won't scare him away. Believe me... I've been trying to do anything I can think of to hurt or scare him, and I just can't. It's not that I'm not trying, because I am. I have. I'm incapable."

"Unlock the deadbolt then." Holtzmann suggested. "Can you do that? You opened the front door to the house... That was you, wasn't it? Just bring us the key to the cuffs and we'll do the rest... Or find Patty's phone, or go next door and find mine in my duffel bag..."

"No." Maria answered. "The door and the newspaper wasn't me. I've been unable to move much of anything heavier than single sheets paper or thin bits of fabric, and even that is only enough for people to wonder if it's a light breeze... I can't even pick things up. Susan can... Susan can do a lot but she's more angry than I am... She's been trapped in this house for over a year. I've just been here a couple months. Susan is so angry... Her anger makes her powerful, but she might not being willing to share that power." Maria shook her head.

"Why the hell aren't you angry?" Holtzmann stared. "I fucking am. This guy raped and killed you! You're not pissed off about that?"

Maria glared. She looked almost hurt by that statement.

Patty exhaled. "Maria, I'm really sorry about what happened to you. You didn't deserve any of it... No one does... Which is why you need to dig down deep and figure out how to stop this guy before he does it again. If you can't help us, and you know Susan can, then convince her to do it. Surely she doesn't want him to get away with this and hurt more people."

Maria shook her head. "Susan doesn't help people. If she wanted to help people - to keep Alvin from doing what he did to her to anyone else... She would have saved me. She didn't. She's angry - at everyone and everything. Maybe she figures no one saved her, so she's not gonna save anyone either. I don't know... I just know she's very angry, all the time."

Patty swallowed. She didn't blame the other ghost for being angry. She'd be angry too if someone murdered her and her spirit was stuck lingering around her own murder-scene for more than a year... But if Susan had the ability to help them and chose not to because she was angry, that wasn't fair.

"Could you get her down here so we can talk to her?" Holtzmann asked.

"I don't know." Maria frowned. "Sometimes I can find her. Sometimes I can't. And I certainly don't have much luck telling her what to do."

"Well, go try. Tell her we say please... for the love of god, please... Tell her we're sorry about what happened, and that maybe we can help her too... We know all about ghosts and if you're trapped here because it's where you died, we might be able to find a way to get you out." Patty looked over at Holtzmann. "Right, Holtzy?"

Holtzmann nodded. "Probably... I'd have to work on it for a bit in my lab..."

Maria narrowed her eyes. She looked skeptical.

"She's not kidding." Patty went on. "She's a brilliant scientist who focuses completely on things relating to ghosts. That meter that was going off when you showed up in the bedroom upstairs - she made that. And our proton packs - which you'll remember I didn't use by the way." She added as an extra note. "If anyone can help you guys break outta here, it'd be Holtzy here."

"She's a scientist?" Maria raised her ghostly eyebrows as she looked Holtzmann up and down.

Holtzmann pouted. "Yeah. I am."

"Aren't most scientists kind of eccentric?" Patty defended her friend. Most people didn't know how to interpret Hotzy right away.

"I guess..." Maria frowned.

"So go see if you can get Susan to help us..." Patty suggested. "Tell her that we might be able to help her too. Don't forget that part. If she's mad that she's stuck here... We really might be able to do something about it. For you too, Maria."

"I'll see... Don't hold your breath... And don't let him put that dress on you." She stared down at Holtzmann.

"What?" Holtzmann's eyes widened.

"Just don't." Maria repeated as she disappeared back the way she came.

"Wait!" Holtzmann called after her, staring with her mouth hanging open at the empty spot where Maria had been for a long few seconds. Holtzmann stared over toward Patty with a frown and worried eyes. "He said something about a dress earlier..." She said in a small voice.

Patty shook her head and swallowed.

"He said he had a dress that might fit me..." Holtzmann added in a whisper. She looked like she was ready to panic over this, which didn't make much sense to Patty considering all the very terrifying threats the man had already made. What difference did it make if there was a dress involved?

"And he said something about making me pretty first... Oh my god, Patty..." Holtzmann's lip trembled as she looked up at the stairs. "He's gonna bring that dress down here, make me wear it... Do all that awful shit he said he'd do..."

"Calm down, Holtzy." Patty urged. "This isn't over 'til it's over. Don't panic."

Holtzmann shook her head and pulled at her arms again with a small groan. "Maria's been through all this already... She knows that dress is bad news, and Alvin mentioned it to me... Oh my god..." Her breaths increased as she squirmed in the chair.

Patty frowned. Holtzmann looked so nervous, and was clearly beginning to truly panic. "He said a lot of stuff, Baby. Don't worry just yet. Maybe Maria and Susan are gonna be our way out of this."

Holtzmann shook her head and whimpered. "Maria said it herself - she can't do anything. If she hasn't figured it out yet, why would she now?"

"It's more urgent now." Patty reminded her. "People find themselves capable of a whole lot when they're forced to do or die. Don't give up hope yet."

"Maria's already dead. We're the ones that need to do or die, but we're tied up. We can't do anything." Holtzmann pouted.

"We have two ghosts lingering around here. Two ghosts who fucking hate this guy." Patty reminded her. "Maria's gotta learn how to possess people and move stuff eventually, and now seems as good a time as any for her to figure it out. She wants to help us, Holtzy. She's just gotta figure out how. Maybe she'll figure it out."

"Maybe..." Holtzmann frowned and looked down. She didn't look convinced.

xxxxxx

Chapter Text

xxxxxx

CHAPTER 11: Princess and Love

xxxxxx

Holtzmann groaned as she tried to move her wrist even just a tiny bit under the chain wrapped securely around her forearm. She could see her skin was becoming discolored under it. He'd wrapped it so tightly... She was definitely going to have bruises around both arms after this... Not that it would matter, since she'd be dead.

She exhaled tiredly and looked over at Patty. "I kinda wish he'd just come kill us already so we could be done with this. I mean, if he's gonna do it, I'd rather he just do it... Skip the other thing. Just kill us."

Patty frowned back at her. "Shut up, Holtzy. I say the longer he puts it off, the better. Maybe one of the ghosts really can save us."

"Yeah." Holtzmann scoffed, rolling her eyes.

"She might." Patty persisted. "Maria said the other ghost is stronger. She's just got to be convinced-"

"She didn't save Maria though." Holtzmann cut in. "Maria said Susan had been here a year. She was here when Alvin killed Maria. If she cared about saving anyone, she would have done so then. Why on earth would this ghost who won't even talk to us save us when she had the chance to save someone else already and didn't act on it? Maria was brutalized and killed down here. Susan had to have known it was happening... and she didn't do anything. She's not in the 'saving people' business. She just isn't. We can't rely on her. End of story."

Patty nodded and looked down at her feet as she shifted uncomfortably where she was forced to remain standing against the support beam a few yards away. "Well... Maybe she'll change her mind. Maybe she regrets not helping Maria. Both ghosts warned Erica and her mom to leave. Maria said the paper wasn't her - so Susan did try to help us before."

"I guess." Holtzmann shrugged.

"And maybe she'll help us when Maria tells her we might be able to help her too." Patty reminded her. "Maybe if she won't help us just to help us, she'll help us to help herself."

"Maybe." Holtz spoke, but she really wasn't counting on it. Susan probably wouldn't even believe it was possible. She tried to stretch her legs by moving her feet slightly and flexed her fingers. "This is really uncomfortable." She complained.

"I know." Patty frowned.

"How do you think Maria died?" Holtzmann changed the subject.

"Well, Alvin killed her, Holtzy. We already know that." Patty furrowed her brow. "You talking just so you can say something now or what?"

"No, I mean, how did he kill her?" Holtzmann clarified.

"I don't know." Patty answered.

"He stabbed me to death." Maria's voice spoke up as she appeared in the corner.

Holtzmann flinched, honestly surprised by Maria's sudden remark. She didn't really usually let ghosts scare her that much, but she was understandably on-edge right now.

"How long have you been lingering around in here?" Patty frowned.

"Not long." Maria exhaled. "Susan doesn't want to help. She said she warned you and you didn't listen. That you made your own bed..."

Holtzmann felt a pout on her lips as she glanced nervously toward Patty.

"Maria, that's bullshit." Patty glared. "Be more persistent... Or tell her to come down here and hash it out with us directly. I'll fucking talk to her."

Holtzmann raised her eyebrows and looked back toward Maria again. Patty was pretty fierce when she wanted to be.

Maria shook her head. "I can't make her... And trust me, she knows you're down here. She knows what he's going to do. If she doesn't care, she doesn't care... Just like he doesn't."

"Why does she want him to get his way again? If she's that upset about her death, why let her killer continue to get what he wants? Why allow him to continue killing?" Patty's voice was starting to raise, and Holtzmann was beginning to worry that she might soon attract Alvin's attention.

"The risk to her is too great." Maria said simply.

"Risk? What risk?" Patty glared. "How could helping us possibly hurt her? She's already dead. What more could happen?"

Maria shook her head and shrugged. "That's just what she said."

Holtzmann exhaled tiredly. "So was dying really all that bad? I mean, what should we expect?"

"Holtzy, will you stop that? We're not dying." Patty growled.

"It was very terrifying. Very painful." Maria ignored Patty's interjection in favor of answering Holtzmann's question in a flat voice.

Holtzmann nodded. "Maybe it won't be that terrifying since we expect it..." She mused.

"It'll probably be worse because you expect it. Especially with the two of you here. I assume you're friends... You know it's not just you suffering. You'll have to endure each other's pain. The pain of being stuck watching but unable to act while someone you love faces immense hurt and degradation. Having a friend there with me would have made it so much worse - either knowing she had to watch me suffer, or me having to watch her suffer... Simply unbearable... But also, he's violent, sadistic. He makes it slow, and makes sure it's painful and humiliating... That, and the promised sexual assault first. He's in no hurry to finish that either, and makes sure it's as terrifying as possible."

Holtzmann swallowed. She wasn't sure she could come up with a way to turn that into a joke or anything at all lighthearted.

"Try to help us then, Maria. I know you think you can't do it, but if Susan won't..." Patty trailed off.

"That's like asking you to try to teleport to the North Pole. How do you even start to try to accomplish something so impossible?" Maria frowned. "I can't help. If I could do anything here, I'd have killed that motherfucker already. I've been here for months. I've been wanting him to die a painful death the whole time. I want it more than I've ever wanted anything, and I can't do it... Don't think I haven't tried... It's all I've been doing for months. Besides scaring the neighbor and her mom off, that's all I've focused on... I can't possess him or anything else. Can't pick up weapons or light the gas up on the stove... I can't do anything. I've tried all of it. So yes, I want to help you, but I can't."

Holtzmann held her breath and looked up toward the stairs as she heard the heavy sound of the deadbolt sliding open. She wanted to take back what she'd said before about wishing Alvin would just do what he was gonna do and be done. She wasn't ready for this. She was more terrified of this man than she'd ever been terrified of anyone or anything ever in her life.

She looked back toward Maria as her breath caught in her throat. "Maria, please..." She whispered.

"I'm sorry." Maria's voice breathed before she disappeared back into thin air.

Holtz bit her lip as the door creaked open and Alvin began making his way down the stairs. She frowned as she looked him up and down. He was carrying a large mixing bowl, but she doubted he was going to be doing any baking down here.

Alvin grabbed a spare chair that had been sitting along the wall and dragged it over toward Holtzmann, sitting it right in front of the chair she was chained to, so that it was facing her.

Holtzmann involuntarily shrunk down and stared up at him silently. He sat down in the chair and put the mixing bowl down at her feet. She couldn't help but to lean forward and look into it. It looked like it was full of various hair care items and makeup. Underneath that was some kind of red fabric and a syringe filled with something.

Holtzmann felt the breath leave her lungs as she looked back up at Alvin, who was staring right back at her with an amused grin. Why did he have a syringe? What was in it? Was it something that could kill her? Some kind of drug to make her easier to assault? Something that would make her disoriented? Weak? Otherwise more docile?

"What is that?" Patty asked. Holtz could see out of the corner of her eye that Patty was leaning to the side, trying to see around Alvin to view what he'd brought down here. Holtzmann didn't feel like she could form the words to answer her friend at the moment, and Alvin clearly didn't feel like she deserved to know.

Alvin leaned forward and began unraveling her hair from the various pins holding it in place. "I don't know what this nonsense is." He started. "But I don't like it."

Holtzmann didn't even try to shrink down, but she could feel herself shaking. Her chest felt so cold. She felt like she could barely breathe. It felt like her heart was pounding in her chest so hard that it might break through her ribs. She was starting to feel light-headed. Was this the end for her? Was Alvin about to fix her hair and makeup however he liked it so he could enjoy assaulting her more? And then he'd kill her - or worse, kill Patty and make Holtzmann watch.

She felt tears in her eyes as her breaths became more quick and shallow.

"I don't think you'll need much makeup." Alvin noted as he ran his fingers gently through her hair. "I'm not sure what to do with your hair though... I feel like brushing it's gonna make it worse..."

Holtzmann frowned as she stared up at him and tried to ignore the feeling of his fingers running through her curls. She really didn't like how intensely he stared into her eyes as he worked with her hair either, or the fact that he sat so close that his legs were touching hers.

"Why are you doing this?" Patty spoke up.

Alvin narrowed his eyes as he ran both hands through Holtzmann's hair, positioning her curls gently over her shoulders. He smiled and put his hand lightly against her cheek and then glanced over toward Patty.

"Because I want to. Because I can." He answered her question. "And because you pissed me off, Sweetheart. That's why you get to watch."

Holtzmann looked over toward Patty with a frown. She hoped her friend wouldn't take that comment to heart. She hoped Patty wouldn't blame herself for all this. Obviously Alvin was going to do this whether Patty cooperated or not. He already told Holtz that he was going to kill them both before he ever met Patty.

"Hold still, Peach." Alvin looked back toward Holtzmann as he reached down into his bowl of tricks and grabbed up a tube of red lipstick. He uncapped it and twisted the bottom, then put his other hand under her chin, tilting her face up.

Holtzmann couldn't help but to pout. That was definitely not something she'd ever wear on her own. She also didn't like that the guy was clearly making her over purely so she'd fit whatever sick thought of perfection was in his mind. She didn't want to look attractive to him. That's the last thing she needed.

She couldn't keep her mouth from trembling as Alvin put the tip of the lipstick over her lip.

"Shhh... Don't cry." Alvin whispered, applying lipstick to both of her lips and then reaching back up toward her hair, parting it to the side with his fingers and then running his hands through it again. "This'll do." He noted, then looked down into the mixing bowl and fished around until he found a mascara tube. "Keep your eyes open for a second." He ordered.

Holtzmann swallowed, her throat feeling tight. She tried to keep her eyes open though. This wasn't a battle she needed to fight. Not when there were most surely much more painful, much more terrifying things to come in the near future.

"Please stop, Alvin." Patty spoke up, her voice somewhat shaky. "You're gonna get caught if you keep doing this. You've gotten away with this twice. You're pressing your luck."

"Twice?" Alvin laughed. "You think I perfected this after just two?"

Holtzmann looked over at Patty with raised eyebrows as Alvin finished applying the mascara onto her eyelashes. It felt sticky and uncomfortable. Holtz didn't normally wear makeup. She didn't like it.

"How many people have you killed?" Patty asked.

"Eight." Alvin answered without hesitation as he closed the mascara and tossed it back into the bowl. "I haven't lived here forever. If you're talking about the ghosts Erica was bitching about, those two I killed here." He smiled and looked up as though reliving a fond memory. "Princess and Love." He said softly.

"They have names." Patty frowned.

"I don't care, Sweetheart." Alvin raised his eyebrows and laughed as he put his hand on Holtzmann's jaw, with his fingers on her neck below her ear and his thumb over her cheek. "You've got good skin." He noted, rubbing his thumb carefully over her cheek. "I think the lipstick and mascara is all you'll need. No point in covering skin that's already perfect."

"Susan and Maria." Patty went on, causing Alvin to frown. Holtz wasn't sure Patty saw that, but maybe they could use it. Maybe Alvin did feel a degree of empathy. Maybe he didn't like being reminded that his victims were real people, with real names.

"They had families. Maria's parents are still looking for her." Patty noted. "There was an article in the paper about it. I bet they cry about her every night... They're still hoping-"

"I don't care!" Alvin said again, raising his voice and suddenly and very violently slamming his fist hard against Holtzmann's ribs.

Holtz gasped and choked out a pained breath as she squeezed her eyes shut and doubled forward as much as she could while tied down. She hadn't even fought with him at all this time! She was making a very conscious effort to not be difficult... She hadn't even said anything. Why did he do that!?

Her ribs hurt and she felt like she couldn't breathe. Tears stung at her eyes as she leaned forward. She felt like she was crying, but she couldn't really breathe well enough to do it properly, so she was stuck gasping silent breaths that didn't feel like there was any air involved, as tears rolled quietly over her cheeks.

"Stop." Alvin growled, putting his hand against her chest and pushing her back against the chair. "Stop crying. Stop it. You're gonna mess up your mascara."

Holtzmann sucked in a shaking, painful breath as she blinked back tears, honestly not wanting them to fall because she didn't know what Alvin would do if the horrid mascara he had coated her eyelashes with ran.

"I don't want to fucking talk about their god damned families or their stupid trailer park names." Alvin growled, grabbing the front of Holtzmann's shirt and tearing it open. Buttons scattered on the floor around them.

Holtzmann couldn't help the shaking sob that choked its way out of her mouth. Her ribs were still in pain and she was honestly completely terrified. Alvin was being so rough, and she hadn't even made things difficult for him. He was just mad. "Please don't do this..." She whimpered.

"I'm not fucking you while you're wearing this trash." Alvin grumbled, pulling harshly at her shirt, but not able to get it past her elbows with the chains he'd wrapped so snugly around her arms. He exhaled tiredly, as though it was Holtzmann's fault the chains were in his way.

"Please let me go." Holtzmann breathed. She had finally gotten herself to speak again and now she wasn't sure she was going to be able to get herself to stop. Her fear of the situation had kept her quiet, but now that she was feeling entirely cornered, she couldn't keep her words to herself. "I don't want to do this. Please don't make me..." Her voice shook. She was so terrified. "Alvin, you can't... Please. I don't want to do this..." Her voice cracked as she started crying again.

Alvin laughed, but seemed agitated. "If I cared what you wanted, I wouldn't have chained you down to a damn chair... Stop crying." He demanded.

Holtzmann shook her head and squeezed her eyes shut. She couldn't help it. She was scared. He was being very transparent about his intentions. He was taking off her clothes so he could rape her. How could she stay calm right now?

"Stop crying!" He all but screamed as he grabbed her arms in hard, bruising hands. She could hear and even feel his breaths as he leaned down close. They were quick, almost shaking. He was mad. "Stop fucking crying!" He yelled, squeezing his hands hard around her arms and shaking her.

She squeezed her eyes shut tighter, trying to force her tears to stop as she whimpered a soft, breathless plea. "You're hurting me!" She winced. His hands around her arms were so rough. She was trying to stop crying... It was hard to convince herself to calm down when he was screaming at her and hurting her.

"If you don't stop crying, right fucking now, I swear to god-" Alvin screamed, squeezing his hands tighter and tighter with each additional word.

"Alvin!" Patty's voice interrupted. "You're scaring the hell out of her... She's crying because you're scaring her. And you're hurting her. You've gotta calm down. She wasn't crying until you hit her. She was doing everything like you wanted her to..."

For a moment, Alvin paused, keeping his hands gripping her arms, but not squeezing any tighter, and no longer screaming.

"She's just scared..." Patty said again, using a lower voice, clearly trying to calm the guy down.

"She is, huh?" Alvin almost sounded ready to laugh. The change in tone had actually interested Holtzmann enough to keep her tears at bay for a moment. What did it mean? He didn't sound so mad now... just crazy.

"Yeah..." Patty breathed. "She's scared... She's trying to listen to you... You scared her, lashing out and screaming like that..."

Alvin exhaled, loosing his grip around her arms. "Fine... I'm sorry. Okay? I'm not gonna hurt you unless you make me... So take a breath..." He paused until Holtzmann blinked her eyes open, shrinking down and staring up at him nervously. "Take a breath, Peach."

Holtzmann swallowed nervously and inhaled, choosing to do what he said since it seemed like he was trying to calm himself down by calming her down. No amount of breathing was going to make her okay being here right now, but she figured if it made him stop squeezing her arms and screaming at her, she'd give it a try.

"Good girl." Alvin smiled and exhaled too. "See? We can get along here... You don't have to cry and piss me off... We can both just breathe. Right?"

Holtz nodded and stared up at him.

"I'm gonna have to untie you for the rest of this to work. Don't fight me on this or I'm gonna fucking hurt you." He stared at her with narrowed eyes as she stared silently back, breathing in shaking, panicked breaths. "I mean it... If you fight with me, I'll hurt you. Play nice, and I'll be careful... Fight me, and I won't. Got it?"

Holtzmann felt herself trembling as she stared down at his hands. She had to fight him. She had no choice. He was going to assault her and kill her. Then he was going to kill Patty. If she didn't fight him, that stuff was definitely going to happen. She had to fight back, no matter how unlikely it was that she'd succeed.

He rolled his eyes and shook his head as he fished a key out of his back pocket and reached down toward the cuff on her left hand. He was clearly growing more frustrated by the second. Maybe he hadn't kidnapped two people together yet. Maybe it was proving more difficult and more annoying than he'd expected. Of course there was a quick solution to that. He could always choose to kill one of them quickly in order to have an easier, more pleasant time killing the other slowly.

Holtz swallowed nervously as she watched Alvin bring the tiny key up toward her wrist. She glanced quickly toward Patty, trying to communicate with her eyes that she was going to make a try at escape as soon as he had unlocked her arm.

Patty's eyes widened and she shook her head, obviously thinking fighting back wasn't a good idea at the moment. Holtzmann didn't care. She had to try. The alternative was the worst thing she could imagine.

Holtzmann remained still, although shaking, as Alvin unwound the chain from around her arm, letting it drop limply from the arm of the chair. She quickly flexed her fingers, inhaled a steadying breath, and then slammed her palm hard up against Alvin's nose, feeling a harsh crack under her hand and immediately seeing blood drip from his nose and down his chin.

xxxxxx

Chapter Text

xxxxxx

CHAPTER 12: The Syringe and Dissociation

xxxxxx

As soon as she hit him, Holtzmann felt Alvin hit her back hard. She wasn't even sure half a second passed between her attack and his. She only knew the side of her face hurt and then his huge hand was wrapped so tightly around her arm that she wondered if he was going to break it.

"Let go of me!" Holtzmann screamed, yanking painfully at her trapped wrist and shaking her head as Alvin reached his other hand up toward her hair, grabbing a fist-full and pulling her head back.

"You fucking bitch." Alvin growled, squeezing both of his hands into hard fists. He shook his head and wrinkled his nose, sniffing quickly, clearly in pain from the hit she'd managed to land. "You dumb, stupid fucking bitch..." He went on. "You girls just don't know when to stop... I thought you might do this..."

Holtzmann choked out a pained breath as she felt tears falling from her eyes. "Please let me go!" She sobbed, watching his hand as he let go of her hair and reached back down into his pile of beauty supplies. Of course he grabbed the syringe next. Holtzmann shook her head and choked out another sob as her eyes widened.

"What is that?" Patty's shaking voice interrupted the terrifying moment. "You don't need that... Whatever it is... You don't need it. Look at her... She's not gonna overpower you..."

Alvin laughed. "No shit."

Holtzmann squeezed her eyes shut and whimpered as she felt the pinch of the needle piercing the skin of her arm as he injected her with whatever it was the syringe was filled with.

"Oh my god..." Patty breathed. "What was that?"

"Just something to calm down my defiant little Peach." Alvin cautiously let go of her arm and put his hand against her hair, straightening it back down from where he had pulled it back.

Holtzmann opened her eyes and looked down at the tiny drop of blood welling up from where he had injected her. She felt tears in her eyes as her throat felt tight. She had no idea what he had injected her with, and she was honestly terrified.

"Get off of me!" She screamed in a shaking voice, reaching her hand up toward his to shove it away from her hair. Her arm felt heavier than normal. Her body felt exceptionally tired, even though her mind didn't. Her movements seemed a bit uncoordinated as she fumbled her fingers toward Alvin's arm.

Holtzmann felt Alvin grab her hand in his as she tried to shove his groping paws away from her. He held on easily, as though she tried to pull her hand back, she simply didn't have the strength to do so. "Let go!" She whimpered, squeezing her eyes closed and gritting her teeth together.

"Shhh." Alvin cooed, placing one hand on her waist and the other against her cheek. "Don't cry, Peach. I won't hurt you too bad.. I won't have to now that you're not gonna be fighting me the whole time."

Holtzmann exhaled tiredly as she felt her body growing weaker. She felt Alvin's hands wandering toward her breasts, groping and squeezing as she clawed weakly at his arms with her one free hand. Her arm felt heavier and heavier by the second. She couldn't even almost pry his hands off of her.

"Alvin, please don't do this." Patty's shaking, frantic voice called from across the room. Holtzmann didn't have the energy to look over at her friend, and wasn't sure she wanted to. She knew Patty was upset, and didn't care to see that look on her face. It was bad enough that this was happening without having to see one of her best friends in emotional pain too.

"Stop." Holtzmann whimpered, feeling that even speaking was becoming more difficult as her eyelids grew heavy. She exhaled and closed her eyes, feeling her arm falling limply in her lap. She just couldn't pull together the strength to keep fighting back. She didn't have it in her right now. Whatever drug he'd given her was acting fast.

"Don't touch me..." She whispered in a trembling, tiny voice. She shakily lifted her arm to try to grab at his hand again, to get it off of her, but her limb felt so heavy. She could barely lift it anymore and quickly gave up, letting it fall limply back down onto the chair's arm rest. "Please..." She whimpered.

"Shhh..." Alvin moved his hands carefully and gently, but still in a way that was entirely unwelcome, brushing his fingers over her breasts, moving one hand down toward the bottom of her shirt and then sliding it up between the fabric and her skin. He exhaled a satisfied sigh as he shoved his whole hand under her shirt and her bra, cupping her breast and squeezing lightly. "Sweet, soft little Peach..." He mumbled.

Holtzmann choked out a soft sob as she struggled to force her arm to function again. She felt her fingers moving slightly, but simply couldn't lift her arm anymore. "Please stop..." She sobbed.

"You're okay." Alvin spoke in a low voice as he moved his fingers softly and slowly over her breasts. "I'm gonna get you untied and dressed up... You'll be my gorgeous little Peach... Then we'll make love - I'll be gentle... You don't have to be scared."

With a tired, fearful, defeated groan, she laid her head back and exhaled. She didn't know what the drug was he had injected her with, but she did know it was making her very tired, very fast. As frightened as she felt, she couldn't fight back anymore. There was nothing she could do.

"It won't put you entirely to sleep." Alvin told her as he continued groping her breasts. "Just make you hold still for once. I can be more careful with you now. Without you fighting back the whole time. You know I only ever hurt you because you made me." She felt his hands move off of her, and though she was glad he wasn't touching her anymore, she was curious as to why.

Holtzmann felt her lip trembling as she pulled her eyelids back open and watched Alvin unchain her other wrist and then move down to her ankles. She felt more tired than she'd ever felt in her life, yet she was still awake. She just couldn't really move beyond weak, useless, minimal movements. She couldn't even lift either arm now that they were untied.

"Please don't hurt her, Alvin." Patty begged. Holtzmann could hear her voice was growing increasingly frantic.

"Does it look like I'm hurting her?" Alvin laughed, pulling her forward in the chair enough to slide her shirt down her back and off of one arm.

Holtzmann choked out another soft sob as she squeezed her eyes shut. "Stop..." She whispered, unable to speak any louder, or with any more force. She wasn't sure she could even manage to breath out an entire sentence at this point.

"Alvin, please!" Patty begged.

Holtzmann dragged her heavy eyelids up so she could look over at Patty. She tried to offer a reassuring smile, but couldn't be sure Patty saw it. She didn't want Patty to be sad for her sake... If Holtzmann died now, maybe she wouldn't even feel it. Maybe this part was a blessing in disguise.

She felt her head loll slightly down as her breaths grew slower and she blinked tiredly, trying to keep an eye on what Alvin was doing. She wasn't sure why it mattered to her. She couldn't stop him... and obviously he wasn't doing anything good. Why did she want to witness any of it?

He slid the other sleeve off her other arm, held the garment up to his nose to clean up the blood spilling out of it, and tossed it to the side. He then reached down to the bottom of her tank top, gripping it carefully between his fingers and pulling it up over her head and arms before placing his hand on her collar and pushing her carefully back against the chair.

She closed her eyes again as she could do nothing buy lie limply in the chair.

"I wasn't going to hurt either of you yet. None of this had to be painful... but you just couldn't be good." Alvin's voice hinted at a frown, but Holtzmann couldn't bring herself to open her eyes enough to see him.

She could feel his hands running down her chest and stomach. He paused at her breasts, squeezing them over her bra in his hands. He inhaled a slow breath, keeping his hands where they were, rubbing one of this thumbs back and forth over the top of one of her breasts as he leaned down closer to her. She heard him breathe out a scary, satisfied breath. She tried to flinch away, but wasn't sure she'd moved even an inch.

Her eyes were still closed and she felt almost like her mind was trying to create a dreamland for her even though she wasn't sleep. She pictured her lab - her inventions. Maybe she could create something new soon. Something to free ghosts trapped haunting the same place for eternity. That's what she had been thinking about making for Susan and Maria... Even though Susan could probably help her right now and chose not to. She figured Susan must have been very angry by the world to refuse to help people who weren't the ones who had hurt her. It made Holtzmann sad - not just for herself, but for Susan. Holtzmann couldn't imagine feeling so hurt by the world that she wouldn't even want to help innocent people.

While her eyes remained closed, she felt them flutter slightly as she was brought back to the present and re-noticed Alvin's hands on her body, sliding down her stomach and toward the button of her pants. She figured she probably could open her eyes at least a little, but didn't think she wanted to. She couldn't fight back... why bother seeing? She didn't want to see Alvin or his hands. She didn't want to see that she wasn't wearing a shirt anymore. She didn't want to see his eyes looking hungrily at her body knowing she couldn't do anything at all to keep him from touching and hurting her.

He gently unhooked the button on her pants and then pulled down the zip. "These pants are weird. You're a really weird girl, Peach. You could be pretty, but you choose to look weird instead." He noted. "I'm not sure why someone would do that... But I'll make sure you're pretty in the end. You'll be pretty for me."

"Please." Patty's voice shook. "You can't do this... She doesn't deserve any of this. Alvin, you don't know her. She's so sweet and innocent... She wasn't trying to be difficult when she fought back... She's just scared. She's so tiny and you're huge. She was just scared."

Alvin paused shimmying her pants down her thighs long enough to put his hand up against her face. "Hey, Peach... Open your eyes for me."

Holtzmann whimpered and shook her head very slightly. "No..." She breathed weakly.

Alvin cleared his throat. "Wasn't a question... Open your eyes. Look at me."

"Can't... 'M dissociating..." She slurred, squeezing her eyes closed tighter.

"Come on. Open 'em." Alvin repeated with a slight edge to his voice. "Or I could just snap your little fingers. Bet you'd open your eyes then."

Holtzmann struggled to comply. Her eyelids felt so heavy. She blinked them open, feeling them threatening to fall back closed as she looked tiredly down at Alvin, who leaned down in front of her so he could see into her eyes with her head slumped forward. He was smiling.

"I'll be as gentle as I can 'til the end, okay?" He spoke, honestly sounding like he meant it. "If you play nice for the rest, I'll be more careful. I typically like my grand finale to be stabbing... but I could try something new for you. Only if you cooperate though. If you piss me off one more time... I'm gonna make sure every second of the rest of your life is pure hell."

Holtzmann sniffed back tears and breathed out a low breath. She wondered if whatever he'd injected her with might kill her. She felt like even breathing was harder than it had been before. Her heartbeat felt slower. She supposed she'd rather die in a calm, more painless way like that though... Especially if it meant she could skip whatever he was about to do to her.

She let her eyes fall back closed as a sort of numbness enveloped her body.

"Peach?" Alvin's voice sounded far away. "Hope I didn't give you too much..."

"Holtzy?" Patty's voice sounded so worried. It also sounded almost like Holtzmann was underwater and Patty was on land. Everything was starting to sound like a muffled dream.

"She's fine." Alvin assured the older woman as he continued working on pulling her pants down her legs.

"Holtzy, Baby... Please wake up..." Patty's voice sounded even more distant now. Holtzmann could barely hear it. She could barely even feel her own body as Alvin slid her clothing off of her.

Holtzmann wanted to speak up, to tell Patty that she wasn't dead... She wanted to tell Patty not to worry about her - that she felt like she was passing out anyway. But she wasn't sure she even could say anything anymore. She also kind of wondered if she wanted to die at this point. Maybe it would be best for Patty too - for Holtzmann to die right now, so the older woman wouldn't have to watch her be tortured first.

She didn't know for sure whether she was dying or not... but if she was, Holtzmann hoped Patty's death would be quick and painless too.

xxxxxx

Chapter Text

xxxxxx

CHAPTER 13: Jillian

xxxxxx

Patty's chest felt tight as she could do nothing but watch and plead with Alvin.

He had undressed Holtzmann down to her sports bra, panties, and socks. The younger woman was completely limp in the chair he had previously chained her to. Patty wasn't even sure if she was still alive.

She narrowed her eyes as she focused on Holtzmann's chest, trying to detect any movement. She thought she could see a very slight rise and fall, but she wasn't entirely sure. If Holtzmann was breathing, it was faint.

"How do you choose who you do this to?" Patty asked, hoping she could somehow convince Alvin to let them go, or at the very least stall for time... Maybe the ghosts would help them... Or maybe Holtzy would wake up and finally successfully fight him off. She didn't want Alvin to do anything he was planning, and if he was going to succeed in his plans, she wanted to put it off as long as possible..

Alvin shrugged as he reached down into the large bowl he'd brought down here and fished out a garment of some kind. He stood up and shook it out so that it unrolled, revealing a small, silky red dress.

Patty frowned, hating that Alvin felt entitled to do this to her friend. It was bad enough that the man wanted to hurt Holtzmann at all, but the fact that he was dressing her up first, creating some sort of fantasy out of her was all the more sickening.

"Why do you do this? Besides just because you can... I mean, you could target anyone..." Patty rephrased. "So why her? Why Susan? Why Maria?"

"Well, you two fell into my lap." Alvin finally answered. "I just got lucky that Peach has a look I can work with." He paused for a moment, running his fingers though her hair and staring at her face thoughtfully. He smiled slightly and then looked down at her chest as he ran a hand down her arm. "She'll fit into my dresses. I only have a few sizes, and they're pretty small."

Patty swallowed. This man was so sick.

"I wasn't going to do anything, you know." Alvin went on. "I saw you pull up in that weird car you have. I saw your headlights and looked out my window... I watched you both walk up to the house. No offense, but you're too tall... and her outfit and hairstyle was so weird I didn't like the look of her at first either. I have a certain look I go for - pretty girls, long hair... Small girls too. I enjoy the feeling of power and control, and that's much easier when my girl is little. Like her." He nodded down toward Holtzmann.

Patty stared silently at Alvin as he talked. She hadn't expected this thorough of an answer. She really didn't think he'd want to explain at all... But she supposed it was slowing him down - so she was glad he was talking... Even if the words he was saying were disturbing.

"I wasn't interested until she came back out to the porch alone. I peaked out - really more curious about why you ladies were here than anything else." Alvin continued. "She was looking down at a newspaper and she had this little smirk on her lips. I was staring out the window at her. She didn't know... That's when I noticed she was more attractive than she seemed at first. The weird clothing and hair gives off a certain first impression, but look closely, and she looks totally different from that. It's strange that she'd choose to look how she does when there's so much potential underneath. I mean, look at her little body." He leaned back and smiled. "She could look fucking stunning."

Glaring, Patty chose to keep her opinions to herself. There was no point in making Alvin angry, even if she did want to swear at him and remind him gross pricks like him were probably half the reason Holtzmann dressed the way she did - to keep herself from becoming any other pervert's object of affection and lust.

"I still wasn't going to do anything though." Alvin laughed. "That's the funny part of all this. I went from completely uninterested, to a mild attraction I had no intent to act on... She had so many chances to not fall into this... And then she came right up to my front door. Started talking to me... I still didn't want to do anything. I knew she wasn't fully alone - that I'd have to deal with you too... Her car was here, so that'd be another thing to clean up... I wasn't going to take her... But she kept talking, and she was laughing and smiling and asking me if she could come inside... Can you believe that? She fucking asked me if she could come in... Almost like she was begging me to grab her and take what I wanted. She had so many chances... So many... But she must have really wanted me, in some way or another, right?"

Patty shook her head. "She doesn't want this though. You realize that, right? She was trying to do a job. It's her job to talk to people who have ghosts haunting their homes. She didn't want you to kidnap her. She didn't want you at all. She wanted access to your house. She didn't know you were going to drag her down here and not let her leave."

Alvin chuckled, but didn't answer. Surely he knew Holtzmann wasn't trying to get him to kidnap her. That was ridiculous.

"She really is pretty." Alvin noted as he maneuvered her arms so that he could slide the dress down over her body. He pulled it down to her waist and then wrapped his arm around her back and lifted her off the chair enough to slide the skirt down over her thighs. The top consisted of a low-cut v that stretched up over Holtmann's chest and tied at the back of her neck. It was really a dress most women wouldn't wear a bra with, or would at least go strapless, but Patty wasn't about to give the man any suggestions.

"I don't understand her style." Alvin went on. "But she's pretty. She's got big eyes... Hair that would probably look nice if she didn't do whatever it was she came here with. Good lips." He added, licking his own as he looked down at hers.

"So why do you want to hurt her? Why do you want to kill someone you consider pretty? You don't hate her, right? She hasn't done anything to offend you besides fighting back out of fear..." Patty went on. "You're finding people you find attractive and killing them... For what?"

Alvin shrugged. "I enjoy it, Sweetheart, okay? I can't claim to fully understand it. You want me to make an appointment with a psychologist or what?" He laughed as he kept his one arm behind Holtzmann's back and slid the other under her legs, effortlessly lifting her into his arms and carrying her across the room. He seemed to be making an attempt at being gentle for now, which Patty appreciated... but she knew it wouldn't last. His aim was to sexually assault and kill her. There was no kind way to do that.

Patty felt tears in her eyes as she watched Alvin take her friend over toward the mattress in the corner of the basement. Holtzmann was completely limp, and she looked so tiny in his arms, and even tinier since she didn't have her usual mess of clothes on. Holtzmann tended to wear lots of oversized and/or unnecessary excess clothing. Seeing her in that tiny dress and not much else was strange, and made Patty realize her friend was even smaller than she normally looked.

Alvin laid her carefully down onto the mattress and sat down next to her, quietly and softly running his hand up and down her arm. She didn't move at all, but finally made a tiny groaning sound as her lips formed a slight pout.

Patty exhaled a relieved breath, but she could barely feel happy considering any life her friend still had in her wasn't going to last. Maybe it would be better if she didn't wake up, if she didn't have to be conscious and aware of everything that was to come.

"I think she's gonna be really fun." Alvin noted as he glanced over toward Patty with a raised eyebrow and a smirk.

Patty scowled back at the man and shook her head. She didn't know if anything she could say would convince him to stop, but she had to try. There was no other choice. She just didn't know what else to say. She remembered he didn't seem to like hearing about Maria and Susan - being reminded that they were individuals - people, with feelings and families... Maybe he wouldn't want to hurt Holtzmann if he realized she didn't just exist for his pleasure. She was a person - a sweet, funny, precious person.

Holtzmann whimpered softly again and flinched ever so slightly as Alvin climbed on top of her, straddling her body and running his hands slowly up her thighs.

"Her name's Jillian." Patty spoke with a shaking voice and a nervous swallow. "She's a scientist... She's really funny, and I don't always know if she's trying to be or not... Sometimes she looks so serious when she says this off-the wall nonsense. I can't tell if she's joking or kinda crazy..." She choked out a small laugh as tears stung at her eyes.

Alvin frowned as he looked over at Patty with raised eyebrows.

"She didn't have a very supportive family growing up, and kids at school bullied her sometimes, but she's still so sweet. She's sarcastic and weird, but she's sweet, and she'd never want anyone to feel sad or excluded. She-"

"Please shut up." Alvin finally interrupted. "I know she's fucking great, okay? I heard you the first time. I don't care how nice and funny she is. I care that her body is attractive, that she's warm and soft, and that I can derive pleasure from having sex with her and killing her."

Patty felt her lip quivering as she looked from Alvin's angry face down to Holtzmann, who lay completely still on the mattress, with one hand near her face. Her fingers were curled into a loose fist and her head had lolled to the side so that Patty could see her face. The mascara Alvin had put on her eyelashes had already started to run. It looked like fresh tears were still slowly making their way down the younger woman's cheeks. Was she crying in her sleep? Or was she even sleeping? Alvin had told her that the drug he'd injected her with wouldn't put her completely to sleep. Maybe she just couldn't keep her eyes open. Maybe Holtzy was fully aware of every second of this...

"I guess now I know why I never did this with an audience." Alvin laughed, putting one hand on Holtzmann's waist and the other on her shoulder. "You're really annoying, Sweetheart." He looked over at Patty. "I mean, I get it... You girls are friends, and you don't want her to suffer... I totally understand that. You're protective. She's small and fragile... I don't like hurting people without a good reason either, and if she would have cooperated, she never would have gotten hurt."

"You rape and kill people." Patty growled. "That's hurting them."

Alvin laughed. "I don't have to be rough when I have sex. I will if I'm mad... I will if you keep pissing me off. I'm not gonna forget that you punched me... Then you tried to kick me. She fought with me too." He nodded down towards Holtzmann. "So I would have every right to hurt her on purpose, but I won't. As long as she cooperates from here - as long as she's obedient when she wakes back up... I won't hurt her again."

"How are you going to kill her without hurting her?" Patty glared.

"I don't know yet." He mused. "But that deal only stands if she cooperates once she wakes up more. When she's more responsive, I'm gonna have sex with her again, and if she fights me, I won't be careful. I won't be humane. I'll make her death and everything leading up to it hurt as much as I can. I never felt sorry for anyone yet, and I'm not about to start now."

He slowly ran one hand up from her waist, over her breast, and toward her neck rubbing his fingers lightly over her collar bone. He put his other hand against her cheek and stared down at her face. Holtzmann moaned softly and flinched under his hands. Patty could see that her eyelids were struggling to open, but she couldn't quite manage to open them.

"I'll be slow and careful this time..." Alvin promised. "And it'll be up to her from there."

Patty shook her head as she watched Alvin run his hand down Holtzy's stomach and over her thigh toward the bottom of the short dress he'd put on her, which reached about halfway to her knees. He pushed his fingers up her inner thigh, under the dress, sliding the thin material up toward her hips as Holtzmann let out a soft whimper.

"Please don't do this..." Patty pleaded again, silently trying to squeeze her hands free behind her. She was nowhere close to succeeding, but she didn't know what else to do. She couldn't bear the thought of having to sit helplessly and watch him hurt her friend like this.

Holtzmann flinched slightly again, breathing out a labored breath and whimpering softly again. She had to have been aware enough at least to know what was happening in order to respond to it in that way.

Alvin exhaled loudly as he looked down at Holtzmann and licked his lips. He had slid the dress all the way up over her panties and was just staring as he ran his fingertips over her underwear. He shook his head softly. "I know I'm just gonna take 'em right back off... I know this shouldn't bother me." He grumbled. Patty wasn't sure if he was talking to her or himself. "These aren't sexy." He reached up toward her shoulder, gripping her bra strap in his other hand. "And neither is this... I mean, that's like a middle school girl's gym bra... And I'm pretty sure these are little boy underwear."

Patty choked out a pained laugh. Of course Holtzy was wearing boy's underwear. She remembered the younger woman telling her once that she'd gotten a great deal on a multipack of underwear. She had leaned in close and whispered like it was some amazing secret, that underwear for larger children was the same thing as underwear for smaller adults, only cheaper - and with more appealing patterns.

"I can fix this." Alvin grumbled, moving his hands behind her neck and untying the top of the dress. He pulled the dress down below her breasts and gripped the bottom of her bra, sliding it up over her breasts and pausing for a moment as he stared down at her chest.

Patty felt anger bubbling inside her as she could do nothing to help her friend. She wanted to punch Alvin in the face, knock his teeth out, break his jaw... She felt her mouth twitch as she thought about how much she wished she could rip his eyes out of his head just for looking at Holtzmann when Patty knew the younger woman didn't want him to. "You're not gonna get away with this." She growled.

Alvin smirked toward her before looking back down at Holtzmann, seeming to make a purposeful show of taking her breasts in his hands and squeezing them slowly, running his fingers carefully back and forth over her skin. "Why not?" He asked, raising his eyebrows as he stared back at Patty and continued groping Holtzy's chest with his hands.

Patty inhaled a calming breath. She was so mad. "Maybe no one thought to look here for Maria and Susan. People will look here for us. They know we're here. Erica came to our business and told us all about this place. We have paperwork in our office with your address on it. Our other three friends heard all about this house - your name was mentioned... They're gonna look here when they notice we never came back. So maybe you'll get your way. Maybe you'll kill us... But you'll get caught. If you have to do this... If you can't control your sick urges, then fine. I can't stop you. But it's gonna be your last fucking time."

Alvin frowned and looked back down at Holtzmann, pulling her bra up over her arms and head and tossing it to the side. For a brief moment, Patty wondered if she had struck the right nerve. He didn't look so confident and cocky anymore. He was still frowning as he stared down at his intended victim, but he no longer had his hands on her, almost as though he was afraid to do anything else.

But unfortunately, it didn't last long. He blinked a few times and shook his head, pulling the top of the dress carefully over Holtzmann's breasts and lying it gently over her skin. He didn't tie it back in place though. "I think I actually prefer smaller breasts like hers." He noted, all but ignoring everything Patty had just said as he ran his fingers carefully along the side of Holtzmann's breast. "So many men like the huge ones, but I don't really get it. They kind of almost get in the way, right? There's something cute and charming about women like her." He nodded down toward Holtzmann. "Like it's not too much, right? Her tits are small, but they're there. They're enough, without excess. I like it that way."

Patty felt tears in her eyes again. Nothing she said was working. She didn't know what else to do. She had tried literally everything she could think of. She told him they wouldn't go to the cops, told him other people knew where they were and that this was going to ruin his whole serial killer thing. She tried playing nice, tried fighting back, trying appealing to his humanity. Nothing worked.

She wasn't even lying when she said he was going to get caught after killing them. He really was. Erin and Abby and probably even Kevin would figure out this is where they were. There were numerous clues that would lead right here. Even their cell phones would have pinged off towers in the area. They took Erica's paperwork with them. Abby knew Holtzmann wanted to come here... Alvin had to at least wonder if what Patty said was true.

Maybe he realized that at this point he was screwed either way. If he let Patty and Holtzy go, they were gonna go to the police - whether they said they wouldn't or not, he knew they would. He was going to go down for at least two murders - maybe more... So why not do these last two? What difference would it make to him?

With a sigh and a shake of his head, Alvin stood himself up. "I can't believe this fucking girl doesn't even know how to dress herself. Can't do this with the little boy underwear. I'll be right back." He grumbled, heading back up the stairs.

Patty released a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. She wondered if Alvin had some sort of obsessive compulsive disorder. He seemed to have a very particular plan with all of this. The small details clearly bothered him enough to grind his plan to a complete halt. Maybe it was the window she and Holtzmann needed.

With a re-newed and possibly overly optimistic hope, Patty looked down at Holtzmann, who was still laying limply on the mattress. She hadn't moved at all while Alvin touched her breasts, arms, and stomach or when pushed the dress up her legs. She didn't seem anywhere near fully conscious, and Patty highly doubted she was gonna get up and walk anytime soon. Even so, she had to try...

"Holtzy, Baby... Open your eyes..." Patty urged. "You gotta wake up, Holtzy." She continued. Now was probably going to be their last chance, no matter how slim a chance it was. Holtzmann wasn't restrained at all. If she could just wake up enough to get out of here...

Holtzmann's lips pouted even further as her eyebrows knitted with worry and her fingers twitched slightly. She breathed out a slightly louder, shaky breath, but still didn't open her eyes.

"That's it, Baby... Please wake up." Patty breathed.

Holtzmann's eye lids looked like they were trying so hard to flutter open, but she just couldn't quite get there. "Pat-" Holtzmann whispered breathlessly, perhaps trying to call out to her friend.

"Holtzy, please..." Patty tried to stay calm, but her voice was growing frantic. It was a slight relief to see and hear Holtzmann moving and making noise at all, but it didn't look very promising as far as a possible escape was concerned. If she couldn't even say a full word or open her eyes, how was she going to get up and make her way up the stairs and out of the house?

"Susan!? Maria!?" Patty called out, looking up at the ceiling and around the walls. The ghosts were their last hope. "Come on, ladies... I know you don't want him to get away with doing this again... Please do something... Holtzy..." She looked back down at her friend as Holtzmann's eyelids finally fluttered weakly open very slightly. "Holtzy, try to wake up..."

With her eyelids still only half open, Holtzmann groaned and breathed in and out slow, labored breaths. She stared blankly ahead, not at Patty... Seemingly not at anything.

"Baby, can you hear me?" Patty frowned. She could see Holtzmann was still breathing, but she was hardly moving at all and stared ahead with such a blank look in her eyes. If not for the shallow breaths, Patty would have wondered if she was dead.

"Holtzy look at me. I know you're tired, but you've gotta get up. You've gotta get out of here, like now." Patty urged. "He's gonna kill you if you don't get up. He's gonna hurt you... And he's gonna kill you. You've got to get up. Please get up..."

Holtzmann's lips parted slightly as she blinked slowly, still staring in front of her without moving her eyes at all. Maybe she wasn't conscious enough to even realize Patty was talking to her.

Patty narrowed her eyes as she realized Holtzmann was trying to say something. Her voice was so quiet, and her words unclear, but Patty just managed to make out what she was saying. "Help..." Holtzmann breathed, closing her eyes again as though the single word had drained her completely.

"I can't, Holtzy..." Patty felt tears in her eyes as her voice shook. "Baby, you've gotta get up. There's not anything I can do from over here. I'm still locked up. I can't help you. I can't move. You've got to get up. Please try, Baby. I know you can do it." She lied - it really didn't look like Holtzmann was capable of moving right now.

Holtzmann dragged her eyelids open again. She stared at the same spot as before, not at Patty.

Patty noticed her young friend's fingers twitching slightly again. She almost looked like she was trying to physically reach out toward the spot in the room where she was blankly staring. Patty frowned and looked to where it looked like Holtz was looking. There was absolutely nothing there. Just the floor.

"...Scared." Holtzmann's tiny voice breathed as tears rolled down her cheeks.

"I know." Patty felt tears spilling over her own cheeks. It was too much to ask for Holtzmann to magically get enough energy to jump up and rescue herself. She had been given a very strong drug to keep her still. She couldn't even speak clearly.

Holtzmann choked out a tiny sob. "Don't..." She mumbled. "Want..." She closed her eyes for a moment and breathed a slow, soft breath. "To die..." She breathed.

Patty frowned as her attention was brought away from Holtzmann when she heard something clatter at the bottom of the stairs. She narrowed her eyes as she stared at the object - a very large knife, and then looked up the stairs. Had Alvin tossed that down here?

Patty's eyes widened as the knife slid under the bottom step, out of sight.

"Susan?" She whispered. Was Susan going to help them? That knife just moved all on its own... Alvin couldn't have done that. Maybe Susan had a change of heart. Maybe she was going to attack Alvin with his own knife.

"Susan, if you're down here..." Patty trailed off, looking back toward Holtzmann, who was staring toward the stairs now. "Holtzy, can you see them? Are you talking to them?" Maybe Holtzmann wasn't even talking to Patty just now... When she was asking for help, maybe she was speaking to the ghosts. Maybe she could see them and was begging them one last time before it was too late.

Holtzmann didn't answer. She simply stared silently at the stairs.

"Alright." Alvin's inappropriately cheerful voice rang out as he made his way down the stairs again. "These will look great on you, Peach. They're even your color - peach." He smiled, holding up a pair of nude-colored lace panties.

He walked over to the mattress and knelt down, placing his hands on Holtzmann's hips, but pausing as he stared down at her face. "You starting to wake back up? Good... I'd like you not to just lay there... I mean, I don't need a full-on battle, but a little life is always nice." He laughed, gripping her panties in his hands and starting to tug them down.

Suddenly, Holtzmann let out a breathy growl and her hands shot up toward his throat, grabbing him quickly and squeezing.

"What the hell-" Alvin was clearly caught off-guard. "How-"

Holtzmann gritted her teeth and continued the strange growling sound that certainly didn't sound like her own voice as she squeezed her hands tighter. "You're not doing this to anyone else." It sounded almost like Maria's voice. "Ever again."

Patty breathed in a shocked gasp. Had Maria finally learned how to possess someone? Had she possessed Holtzmann? There was no way Holtzy had regained enough strength to growl out that threat and reach both arms up and strangle the man when she couldn't even speak more than a word at a time or move beyond twitching fingers thirty seconds ago.

Alvin reached down and grabbed Holtzmann's neck back, squeezing pretty tight if the choking noises coming from the small woman were any indication.

"Help me-" Holtzmann's weak voice broke through as she squeezed her eyes shut.

"Nobody's gonna help you, you little bitch." Alvin growled, keeping one hand securely around her throat as he reached his other down toward her chest, pushing the dress down and squeezing his hand roughly over one of her breasts. "And I'm not gonna be careful anymore." He added as he moved his hand down to her underwear, grabbing the front of it in a fist and starting to tug it down.

Holtzmann let out a tiny, shaking sob as her hands maintained their grip on Alvin's neck, but she could do nothing to defend herself. She wasn't in control here. The ghost was... and it seemed like Maria - if it was indeed her spirit here now - was in more of a mood for offense than defense.

"Alvin, no!" Patty screamed, pulling at her trapped wrists. "Don't you dare! Get the fuck off of her!" Patty had never felt so angry in her entire life. She couldn't bear to watch this, but had no other choice. She didn't know what to do.

Patty gasped and stared with wide eyes as suddenly, the knife flew up from under the stairs, just as Holtzmann's hands dropped down away from Alvin's throat. Patty didn't know if Holtzmann was losing consciousness due to being choked or if whichever ghost was possessing her moved her hands to keep them from being hurt, but the next thing Patty saw was the knife quickly plunging into Alvin's neck, very deep, very fast.

Patty's mouth dropped open as Alvin grabbed at his wounded neck and some unseen force knocked him back off of Holtzmann, who simply whimpered and squeezed her eyes shut tighter.

Patty grimaced as she watched the knife twist in Alvin's wound as he choked and sputtered up his own blood, which was collecting in an ever-growing pool on the floor under him. He was bleeding out very quickly.

The small key to her cuffs floated up out of Alvin's back pocket and toward Patty, around her back and out of sight. Suddenly her cuffs snapped open.

"Oh my god... Thank you." She breathed. "Maria, Susan... Whoever did this... Thank you." She rushed over to Holtzy, kneeling down and grabbing her up, holding her in a secure hug. She felt so limp and so small in Patty's arms. "Baby, I'm so sorry... I'm so sorry I let this happen..." Patty sobbed.

Holtzmann didn't respond beyond a small groan and an even smaller movement in a few of her fingers. She seemed like she was trying to reach out for Patty's hand, but still couldn't really lift her arm.

"Are you okay?" Patty breathed, grabbing at Holtzmann's hand and squeezing it as she brushed hair out of the younger woman's eyes with her other hand.

Of course Holtzmann didn't answer. Her eyes were barely open and it seemed she'd used most of her available energy a few minutes ago when she was communicating with Maria and Susan. Patty didn't know if the ghost possessing her and using her body to choke Alvin had taken a toll on her as well.

"I'm so sorry I couldn't help you, Baby... I'm sorry he ever got to touch you." Patty pulled back slightly and looked her friend up and down. The tiny red dress Alvin had put on her was pushed up around her waist and one side of the top had fallen down over her arm revealing all of one breast and most of the other. Her underwear was pulled sightly down on one side. Patty quickly reached down and tugged her panties back up, trying to straighten the dress as well.

As Patty worked on fixing the garment, she noticed Holtzmann physically shaking and whimpering softly as tears ran down her cheeks. She couldn't be sure what exactly Holtzmann was feeling at the moment - were they tears of relief? Was she shaking because she was cold? Because she was still scared? Was she ashamed that her body was so exposed to Patty right now? No matter the cause of the younger woman's reaction, Patty tried to best to reassure her in any and every way she knew how.

"It's okay." Patty breathed as she moved the fabric of the dress up over her friend's chest. "You're alright. None of this is your fault. He's gone. It's over."

She hastily tied the dress back behind her friend's neck so that her breasts were covered, but didn't bother straightening the garment out completely. She had covered what she figured Holtzy would feel most embarrassed by. That was good enough for now. They needed to get out of the basement, first and foremost.

"Let's get you out of here." Patty breathed, lifting Holtzmann up in her arms. "You're gonna be okay." She promised.

Holtzmann remained limp in Patty's arms as the older woman lifted her up and carried her toward the stairs, not even bothering to look back or take real notice that Alvin was still choking and sputtering. She didn't care how long it took him to die. She hoped it lasted a long time.

xxxxxx

Chapter Text

xxxxxx

CHAPTER 14: So God Damned Tiny

xxxxxx

Holtzmann felt like she was in a haze as she leaned heavily against Patty's chest while the older woman carried her up the stairs. She could hear Patty's voice, and the woman was talking a lot... but Holtzy couldn't quite manage to say much back. She felt so drained and weak. What little energy she had managed to muster before was all but gone now that she didn't feel so entirely threatened. Now that she felt safe, with Patty's arms wrapped securely around her, she didn't feel like she needed to speak up and fight or die. She could finally let her exhausted muscles and mind relax.

"We're gonna get out of here, Holtzy. You're gonna be okay. He's gone. He won't hurt you again. You're okay." Patty rambled. Holtzmann couldn't tell if she was talking out of nervousness or because she thought Holtzmann needed the reassurance. Either way, Holtz did appreciate her voice. She knew Patty had been so incredibly worried about her, but Holtzmann had been worried about Patty too. Just knowing they were both free now and hearing Patty talking was immensely comforting.

Holtz didn't bother to try to pry her eyes open just yet. She could feel her breaths were slow and her body felt heavy and cold all at once. She felt like her arms and legs each weighed a ton. She still couldn't lift them, but she did think she might have moved her fingers a bit. She wasn't really sure.

"You awake, Holtzy?" Patty exhaled as she made her way down a dark hallway. How big was this house? How far had they gone inside? Or did everything just feel more like a confusing maze than it really was? Holtzmann honestly felt completely lost right now.

"Can you hear me?" Patty repeated.

"Hmm..." Holtzmann groaned, still not bothering to force herself to pull her heavy eyelids open. She was so exhausted. She wanted to ask if they were almost to the front door. She wanted to tell Patty to make sure to remember her equipment over in the other side of the house. She wanted to ask Patty to find her a drink of water. But she just didn't think she could bring herself to speak so many words in a coherent sentence.

Patty exhaled and seemed to hug her arms around Holtzmann tighter.

"I just gotta find my phone, Baby. I'm gonna call for an ambulance, because I don't know what he drugged you with... and we probably should tell the police what happened too." Patty breathed.

Holtzmann felt Patty lower her down onto some kind of furniture. It felt scratchy, like the old kinds of chairs grandparents always had. She opened her eyes and whimpered. This isn't what she wanted. Why weren't they leaving? Why was Patty putting her down? Why didn't Patty just carry her outside and put her in the car? They could call the cops later.

"I'll be right back." Patty breathed, squeezing Holtzmann's hand lightly.

"Don't leave-" Holtzmann blurted in a soft voice as she reached her hand out weakly. Her fingertips lightly brushed over Patty's sleeve, but she couldn't manage to get a grip.

"For a second, Holtzy. I'll be right back." Patty grabbed her hand again and squeezed it lightly, but securely.

"No..." Holtzmann's voice shook as she tried to keep a hold on Patty's hand. She felt tears in her eyes. She didn't want to be left alone. Patty's presence was the only thing keeping her from feeling utterly panicked. Without Patty, Holtzmann was completely defenseless...

"Just long enough to find my phone, Baby. We've gotta get you to a hospital and call the police." Patty told her.

Holtzmann whimpered. "M'not sick..." She slurred... And they could call the police later! She just wanted out of here. What if Alvin got back up? Sure, the knife Susan had thrown at his neck had hit him pretty hard... He was bleeding a lot... But what if he survived it? Or what if he didn't and he came back as a really angry ghost?

"It'll be quicker if I'm not carrying you. I've just gotta find my phone... Or any phone. It won't take long." Patty assured her.

Hotlzmann shivered. She was cold, and she really didn't want to be left alone right now. Not when she could barely even move. If anything unexpected happened, she wouldn't be able to defend herself at all.

"Just hang tight for a minute, Baby." Patty shrugged out of her jacket and picked Holtzmann up enough to wrap the garment around her shoulders. She reached down and pulled the tiny dress Alvin had put on her further down her thighs as well, as it had been up around her waist this entire time.

Holtzmann really didn't care about the dress barely covering her. Since it was just Patty with her now, it didn't matter. Besides the fact that she was cold, it really didn't make a difference to her if it was bunched up around her waist. She would have traded the whole dress - and even her underwear and socks if Patty just didn't leave her here by herself.

"Don't go-" Holtzmann whimpered. "Please..."

"I'll be right back." Patty persisted, squeezing Holtzmann's arm lightly before walking briskly off through the house.

The younger woman shrunk down what little she could as she watched Patty rush off into the darkness. Did this house even have working lights besides the one in the basement? She was pretty sure she hadn't seen any on in the entire house except that one. Surely this guy hadn't lived here without any lights... Why didn't Patty turn some on? It was too dark in here. Dark enough that someone might be able to sneak into the room she was currently in without her realizing it.

With her lip trembling, Holtzmann closed her eyes for a moment. Why couldn't Patty have just taken her to the car at least? She could have locked the doors and then went back for her phone...

She blinked her eyes open and stared out into the darkness of the room as she breathed in and out, trying to stay calm. The longer she laid here - basically paralyzed, the more vulnerable she felt. Maybe it was the drug still affecting her, making her paranoid... but there were lots of possibilities of what could happen next that would result in something terrible. Alvin could have lived... Maybe he'd stagger up the stairs, kill Patty, and then come back for Holtzmann. Or he could have really died and come back as a ghost. What if he possessed Patty? How could she know who to trust? It didn't matter that Patty would never hurt her. Abby wouldn't either, but she did when she was possessed.

Holtzmann sniffed back tears as a very faint image of a woman appeared across the room. She blinked and swallowed as she stared at the pale figure - obviously a ghost, much more faint than she had appeared before.

It was Maria. Susan was next to her this time, an even fainter image. They had helped her and Patty down in the basement. For some reason Holtzmann could see them when it seemed Patty could not. Maybe it was because Holtzmann was much closer to being killed. Maybe that made a difference. Maybe the ghosts didn't want Patty to see them. She couldn't guess why though.

Holtzmann wasn't sure what changed Susan's mind about helping them, but she was glad it happened. She was also proud of Maria for finally figuring out possession, even if it was her who she had possessed for a moment. That was kind of scary... Less scary than the alternative though.

"You don't need to worry about trying to help us escape this house." Maria spoke in a very far-away sounding voice.

"Why?" Holtzmann frowned as she blinked tiredly. She owed it to them. She and Patty had said they would help the ghosts get untrapped if the ghosts helped them. She had to try.

"We were trapped here because we had unfinished business... It's finished now." Susan spoke up.

"Is he dead?" Holtzmann breathed. She had to know for sure.

"Yes." Susan answered. "I can feel it. I didn't know, but now I do. That's what was keeping me here... The fact that I wanted so badly for him to suffer for what he did... for him to be gone. I can feel that it's over. He's dead."

Holtzmann exhaled and closed her eyes.

"I don't think I needed him to die... I just needed to find the strength to save someone the way no one saved me." Maria spoke up. In that moment down in the basement... I felt such a connection to you. I wanted to be able to fight back for you. I wanted it so much... and then it happened. I was as shocked as you were."

Holtzmann forced a small smile. She was glad Maria had figured that out. If she couldn't move her own arms herself, she was glad Maria found a way to do it.

"So it's done. He's gone, and now we can be too." Susan repeated. "You don't need to do anything more. You and your friend helped us free ourselves, intentionally or not."

Holtzmann swallowed and blinked her eyes open. "Why didn't..." She started, struggling to speak longer strings of words through her exhaustion. "You kill him... before?" She wondered. Susan had finished the guy so easily... If she was that strong, why didn't she exact her revenge ages ago?

Susan forced a small smile. "I didn't want his spirit trapped here with us... I knew if he died here, he'd probably be doomed to exist here forever too, and I didn't want that. I hoped he would leave on his own... But seeing you down there, with him hovering over you, ready to hurt you the way he hurt me... I couldn't let it happen again. I put my selfishness aside for a moment."

"I'm glad." Holtzmann breathed, closing her eyes again. "Will you stay-" She mumbled. She wanted to ask them to remain here with her until Patty returned, but she seemed to have lost her words half-way through. She was so tired. She felt kind of tingly and confused, like she wasn't sure if she was awake or not. Were her eyes open? No... She didn't think so.

She almost fell like she had fallen asleep when she blinked her eyes back open again and looked around in slight confusion. Had a lot of time passed? Or just a couple seconds? She couldn't tell. Maria and Susan were gone. Patty still wasn't back.

"Hello?" Holtzmann whimpered, trying to move her arms enough to pick herself up. Her limbs felt so heavy and her fingers so stiff. She could barely wiggle her fingers, much less move her arms enough to sit up.

She looked around herself. The room was still dark. So was the part of the hall she could see and every other bit of the house as far as she could tell. Maybe Patty hadn't ever turned on the lights. But why? She shrunk down and sucked in a breath as she heard footsteps. She couldn't quite remember the layout of the house. She didn't know how far Patty had carried her... Were those footsteps coming from the direction of the basement?

Holtz squeezed her eyes shut as she tried to sink down into the scratchy couch cushions. The footsteps were growing closer... and she still couldn't move. She couldn't hide... If it was Alvin, she wouldn't be able to fight back. What if Alvin had survived? What if he had killed Patty? What if she was all alone in the house with him? No one would be able to save her this time. Not if he'd killed Patty... and the ghosts were gone too, weren't they? Didn't they say they were free of the house now? That meant they had left. It was just Holtzmann and Alvin in the house. She was doomed.

She couldn't help but to whimper a soft cry as she squeezed her eyes closed even tighter. She let out a shaking breath and a quiet, weak plea when she felt a hand on her arm. "No! Don't!" She tried to shrink away, but could still barely move. "Please!" She sobbed.

"Hey... It's okay." Patty's voice spoke up as the older woman's hands reached back to grip each of Holtzmann's arms.

Holtzmann shrunk down and shook her head. This could be a trick. Alvin could have possessed Patty... How could she know? Why was Patty grabbing her arms? It wasn't really rough... It didn't hurt... But what if it wasn't really her? What if it was Alvin's ghost controlling her body? What would he do to her?

"Please don't hurt me..." Holtzmann whimpered, letting out a tiny, shaking sob. She wasn't even the one who stabbed him. She didn't choke him either. It was all Maria and Susan. She had been pretty cooperative, really... Besides those couple times. He shouldn't want to hurt her. He got so mad when Maria took control of her hands and choked him. She felt his anger about that when he grabbed at her chest and started ripping at her clothes, but she wasn't even the one he should have been angry with. "It wasn't me..." She sobbed, shaking her head and squeezing her eyes shut tighter. "Don't hurt me..."

"I won't. Holtzy, you know I wouldn't..." Patty's voice sounded like she was frowning. She paused for a moment while Holtzmann continued cowering down, unable to convince herself that this was really non-possessed Patty. "Holtzy, It's me." Patty's voice whispered.

"Are you sure?" Holtzmann whimpered, opening her eyes and staring up at her friend. It looked like normal Patty... She didn't look creepy or mean... She was calling her 'Holtzy.' Not 'Peach' or any other sick twisted nickname. Her voice didn't sound off at all. Maybe it really was her. Maybe Holtzmann was being illogical jumping to that conclusion.

"Yeah... Baby, it's me. I promise... You can see me... Right? You can see, can't you?" Patty frowned.

Holtz nodded. "Yeah." She whispered.

Patty exhaled and closed her eyes tiredly. "Good... I found my phone. The police and an ambulance are on their way. They said it'd be twenty minutes or so. This house is in the middle of damn nowhere."

"Patty..." Holtzmann whispered, blinking back tears. She had been so sure it was Alvin's ghost possessing her friend... She wasn't sure why she thought that... The last time one of her friends was possessed, it was obvious in hindsight. Patty's behavior was totally normal. There was no real reason to suspect Alvin had possessed her... Even so, she had been certain he was the one approaching and grabbing her.

Patty frowned down at her, clearly noticing her friend's frightened expression. "You're alright, Holtzy. He's dead. I double-checked... and locked the deadbolt anyway. He ain't gettin' back up any time soon."

Holtzmann was still shaking. She couldn't get herself to stop.

"Let's wait outside." Patty suggested, putting her arms behind Holtzmann's back and knees and lifting her up off the couch.

Holtz leaned herself close against Patty's chest and closed her eyes. That was a good idea - to wait outside. She didn't want to be in this house any longer than she had to. If Alvin's spirit was around, she didn't want to come in contact with it. She never wanted to see any part of that horrible man ever again. Not even his ghost.

Patty carried her out onto the porch and made her way down the steps, sitting down on the bottom one and pulling Holtzmann close against her chest, hugging her securely and resting her chin on top of Holtzmann's hair.

For a moment, they sat in silence. Neither of them knew what to say. Holtzmann didn't know if she was capable of saying much at the moment. At any rate, she was fine to sit quietly and let herself relax in Patty's arms. She didn't care if either of them said anything or not. She was just happy Patty was holding her now - that Alvin was gone. That his terrible, huge, rough hands weren't touching her.

The older woman hugged her arms tighter around her friend, in an embrace so secure Holtzmann was beginning to wonder if Patty feared Holtz would disappear if she didn't squeeze her tight enough. Holtzmann frowned as she noticed Patty's arms shaking slightly, and heard a tiny, choked sob come from the older woman.

Holtzmann's own lower lip trembled as she squeezed her eyes shut tighter and wished she could hug Patty back. It hurt her heart to know her friend was in emotional pain, and she felt even worse that there was nothing she could do to fix it... She felt largely responsible for this whole mess too. Patty was sad because Holtzmann had done something stupid and had nearly gotten them both killed.

Patty hugged her tighter and sniffed back tears. "You're so god damned tiny." The older woman whispered.

Holtzmann swallowed. She didn't know how to respond to that - not that she would have been able to say much anyway. She felt Patty's hand moving softly up and down her arm, maybe trying to warm her up. It was kind of cold out here.

"That motherfucker was so big, and you're so tiny." Patty rephrased. "I wanted to help you... Seeing you lying there with that big hulking bastard hovering over you, putting his nasty paws all over you..." She trailed off. "Saying all those sick things..."

"S'Okay..." Holtzmann whispered in a soft, slurred voice. She didn't know what else to say. She didn't want Patty to think she was at all disappointed or let down by the fact that Patty hadn't gotten Alvin away from her sooner. Patty had tried her best to get free just like Holtzmann did. None of this was her fault.

"No, it's not." Patty shook her head, leaning down and resting her cheek against Holtzmann's hair. "Holtzy, I'm so sorry... Baby, you must have been so scared..." Her voice cracked.

Holtzmann breathed in a shaking breath, trying to hold in her tears. She had been scared. So, so fucking scared. When Alvin had taken off her bra and put his hands all over her, she was heartbroken. It was the only way she could describe it... and then it got even worse when the ghosts finally stepped in, and for a few seconds, it seemed like it wasn't going to be enough. She could see the rage in Alvin's eyes and could tell in that instant that what he said was true - that he wasn't going to be careful anymore. He was going to hurt her on purpose. He was going to make sure the rest of her life was excruciating. He had torn the dress back down and grabbed her breast so hard - obviously just trying to hurt her at that point. And when he had started pulling her underwear down... She could tell he meant it. He was so rough and forceful. In that moment, Holtzmann was sure the ghosts had failed and that Alvin was going to viciously assault her, with Patty forced to watch. That was probably the most terrifying five seconds of her life, and she wasn't ever going to forget it.

Patty exhaled a long breath and hugged her tighter. "I'm sorry... I hope I'm not making this worse... Maybe you don't want to hear this... You don't want to relive it or think about ever again, I'm sure. I just... I didn't know what to do... I'm not trying to freak you out or anything. It was awful... But it's over. You're okay now. You're gonna be alright."

Holtzmann nodded very slightly, a small, barely noticeable movement - all that she could manage at the moment. Patty was right. She was alright. Alvin wasn't coming near either of them ever again. They had survived this, and Alvin didn't even get to do half of the awful things he wanted to do. She and Patty won. Alvin lost.

"You're alright." Patty said again, maybe reassuring herself more than Holtzmann at this point. Holtzmann had barely said a thing. Patty was the only one speaking, and she was just upsetting herself. If Holtzmann wasn't heavily drugged right now, she probably would have attempted a hilarious joke to lighten the mood. Patty needed it.

"You're okay, right Holtzy?" Patty spoke in a soft voice.

Holtzmann swallowed. She still felt nervous and upset. What they had just gone through was terrifying... and she still couldn't really move much. She didn't know if she was okay. She knew she'd feel better when she was out of here, when she could move and speak again.

She smiled slightly as Patty hugged her tighter, silently accepting Holtzmann's lack of answer. Holtz laid her head against the older woman's chest, closing her eyes and listening to Patty's heartbeat.

She was so glad her friend was alright. When Alvin had suggested that he was going to kill Patty, Holtzmann realized that was her literal worst fear - to have to sit back helplessly as one of her friends was killed. Being unable to do anything when one of her friends needed her was the worst feeling in the world.

Holtz opened her eyes and looked up at Patty, who was staring out into the darkness of the front yard. She was frowning, just staring silently head. She must have been in her own head, thinking about the horrors they'd just endured, feeling upset and anxious for the same reasons Holtzmann was. Holtzmann wished she could say something to distract her from it all. Her mind felt fuzzy and confused though. She didn't know what to say.

Patty noticed Holtzmann looking at her and forced a smile. Holtzmann forced one back. She was starting to feel a little more awake. She could keep her eyes open now at least, and she could feel that her fingers were a little more mobile.

Patty moved her hand up and brushed some of Holtzmann's curls out of her eyes. "You look weird with that makeup on." She noted.

Holtzmann offered a small, breathless laugh, relieved that Patty had managed to say something humorous where Holtzmann was slacking.

"I mean, it doesn't look bad. Just not like you." Patty rephrased.

"Thanks, Patty." Holtzmann laughed again, closing her eyes and relaxing in Patty's arms. She was never going to wear red lipstick ever again. Not after this. Not that she would have ever chosen it anyway.

"So do you think you can invent something to help Maria and Susan?" Patty changed the subject.

Holtzmann shook her head slightly, not sure she could fully explain her answer with her ability to speak currently so limited.

"Surely there's something we could do, Holtzy. They saved us." Patty frowned.

"Don't need it." Holtz breathed, keeping her eyes shut as she felt like she might actually fall asleep this time.

"What do you mean?" Patty asked. "Maria said they were trapped here..."

"Killing him fixed that." Holtzmann explained simply, feeling too tired to explain it fully.

"How do you know?" Patty wondered.

"Told me." Holtzmann answered, feeling her breaths evening out as her adrenaline was wearing off. She was so relieved this was finally all over.

"So that really was Susan who killed him? Was that like her unfinished business?" Patty asked. "Is that a thing in real life? I've heard about it in stories... I don't know how real ghosts work fully, I guess."

"Mm hm." Holtzmann mumbled. "Unfinished... Finished now."

Patty nodded, resting her chin on Holtzmann's hair again. "Well... I'm glad they finally helped us... That was way too close. We're going on calls with the whole group from now on."

Holtzmann laughed softly. "Yeah." She agreed, feeling herself drifting off to sleep. She hoped when she woke up that she'd be able to move again.

xxxxxx

Chapter Text

xxxxxx

CHAPTER 15: The Forgotten Sandwich Debt

xxxxxx

Holtzmann seemed to be in and out of consciousness over the next hour, but was slowly regaining her motor functions and speech by the time they made it to the hospital.

"Where are we?" Holtzmann blinked as she looked around herself while the paramedics wheeled her into the Emergency room. She was speaking more and staying awake for longer periods, with her eyes not falling back closed so often, but she still seemed a bit disoriented and confused. Patty could tell she was still tired and that the drug wasn't fully out of her system just yet.

"We're at the hospital, Baby." Patty smiled down at her, taking her hand and squeezing it lightly.

"Why?" Holtzmann frowned, sticking her lower lip out slightly.

"Just to make sure you're okay." Patty answered, squeezing her hand again. "I'll stay with you. Don't be worried."

Hotlzmann stared up at Patty and continued frowning, but didn't argue. Patty knew the younger woman didn't like hospitals or doctors. She typically avoided medical treatment like the plague and has asked several times in the ambulance if they really needed to come here. The younger woman seemed like she would have been content to just go home and sleep this off, but Patty wasn't going to allow it.

"We're going to get the two of you set up in a room right away. They're gonna need to draw some blood from her pretty quick to make sure whatever she was given isn't dangerous. So if you're okay to walk, I'll let you go right here. If you could change into the hospital gown on the bed..." The nurse instructed. He sounded like the was rushing through the interaction. "We're a little busy tonight, but I'll make sure someone takes a blood sample sometime in the next twenty minutes. Press the call button there by the bed if you need anything." He nodded toward the bed and offered a quick smile and then rushed off toward the next patient.

Patty frowned as the nurse walked off, leaving her and Holtzmann standing in the small room. Twenty minutes? What if the drug Alvin had injected her with was poison? Of course, it had already been an hour and she seemed to be recovering from it. Maybe the nurse realized if it was anything too dangerous, she'd have died already.

"Do I have to change into the hospital gown?" Holtzy groaned, sinking down onto the bed and closing her eyes.

"I think you should." Patty answered.

"You should wear it." Holtzmann suggested.

Patty scoffed and shook her head. "Just put it on, Holtzy."

"He punched you really hard. Don't think I didn't notice." Holtzmann yawned, stretching out on the bed as though she was completely exhausted. She probably was, of course. "Why am I the only one the doctors're gonna bother all night?"

"He gave you a mysterious drug, started choking you, and he hit you pretty hard too... So let's focus on you for now. I'm fine." Patty promised.

"So'm I." Holtzmann grumbled, closing her eyes and curling in on herself, completely ignoring the suggestion to change into the gown.

"Holtzy, come on..." Patty exhaled. "You've gotta let the doctors check and see if you're okay, and you've gotta wear the gown for it."

"I'm too tired." Holtzmann breathed, curling herself into a ball on the bed. The dress Alvin had put on her had ridden up pretty far and the jacket Patty had given her was falling off one shoulder. If Patty didn't know better, she might have mistaken Holtzy for being drunk. She looked drunk. She was acting kind of drunk.

"Holtzy, you gotta change into the gown. You can't keep the jacket on because they've gotta reach your arms to draw blood. And you don't want to keep wearing that dress, do you?" Patty reminded her. Surely the dress reminded her of Alvin - about what he was preparing to do to her. It wasn't her style at all, and didn't look very comfortable.

Holtz dragged herself up to a sitting position and looked down at the dress. For a very long several seconds, she just stared down at it, almost as though she had forgotten she was wearing it until just now. She pouted and shook her head. "No... I don't want to wear it." She said in a small voice.

With slow movements and slightly shaking arms, she shrugged out of the jacket and then reached down with fumbling fingers toward the bottom of the dress, pulling it up over her stomach and chest. She groaned in frustration as she tried to peel the dress up over her head. It was a snug-fitting dress, and she was getting her arms tangled in it as she struggled to pull it off of her body.

Patty was almost tempted to laugh at how quickly and easily Holtzy had failed such a simple task. She reminded Patty of a young child, trying to undress herself when she just wasn't capable of it yet. It was kind of comical to watch until she heard Holtz let out a shaking whimper. She sounded like she was on the verge of tears.

Patty's shoulders slumped and she stepped forward. "Let me help you, Holtzy." She offered, reaching out and lifting the dress up over her friend's head. She placed it on one of the chairs - maybe the police would consider it evidence? It could potentially have DNA from the other victims on it. Patty had no idea if he had used the same dress on other girls he killed.

"Let's get the gown on you." Patty offered, reaching toward the gown which was lying on the end of the bed. She didn't know if Holtzmann even realized she was no longer wearing a bra, or if she cared... but Patty tried to keep her eyes up - so if Holtzmann did feel shame over it, Patty wouldn't make it worse.

She turned back toward her friend and frowned. The younger woman was still sitting on the edge of the bed, with her arms wrapped around herself as she sniffed back tears. Maybe she really did care about her lack of bra.

"You're okay now." Patty reminded her. "I'll help you get this on, and I won't look... I won't see anything. I'll just turn my head, help you get this on..." She nodded down to the thin material of the gown in her hand.

Holtzmann shook her head, keeping her arms wrapped tightly around her chest as she stared down at the floor.

"Holtzy... You can't just sit in here in your panties. Aren't you cold?" Patty frowned.

"I can get it on myself." Holtzmann finally responded. She held out her hand. Her arm trembled.

Patty frowned and handed the garment over. "I know you can do it yourself." She commented. "I was just trying to help you. This exhaustion you're feeling is temporary. I know you can do everything for yourself. I'm not trying-"

She was cut off when Holtzmann suddenly reached out her arms and wrapped them around Patty, pulling her weakly toward the bed as she began to sob. She buried her face in Patty's shirt and cried as Patty put her own hands against Holtzmann's back and hair, trying to offer what comfort she could considering the embrace was at a bit of an awkward angle. Holtz was about eye-level with Patty's bellybutton since she was sitting and Patty was standing.

"I was so scared." Holtzmann whimpered between sobs. Her voice shook and she was clearly out of breath.

"I know, Baby. I know you were." Patty carefully maneuvered herself so that she was sitting on the bed next to the younger woman, so she could wrap her arms around her shoulders and hug her more securely. Holtzmann moved closer, hugging Patty tighter, and hiding her face against the older woman's collar. She was practically in Patty's lap now, but Patty didn't mind. She hugged her friend tight, glad to give what little comfort her words and embrace could offer.

"I thought I was gonna die." Holtzmann sniffed.

Patty nodded. She thought Holtzmann was going to die too. She had tried to remain optimistic during the whole thing - she didn't verbally give up hope entirely like Holtzmann seemed ready to do... But she did feel pretty sure both she and her younger friend were going to die. There hadn't been any way out. It indeed looked entirely bleak.

"There was nothing I could do." Holtzmann went on. "I heard everything he was saying, and I felt his hands on me... I-" She cut herself off with another shaking sob.

"I know." Patty rubbed her hand gently on Holtzmann's back. She could feel the younger woman trembling. "I can't imagine how scary that must have been. I tried to stop him. I tried to get my hands free. I wanted so badly to help you."

Patty kept one arm around Holtzy's back and grabbed at the blanket on top of the bed, pulling it up and wrapping it around her friend's shoulders before putting both arms back around her. She could tell Holtzmann was cold, and she had a strong suspicion that the young woman would prefer to be covered up, even if her mind was too occupied by other thoughts at the moment. Patty wasn't as distraught, so it fell on her to preserve her friend's dignity when Holtzmann was too preoccupied to do so herself.

"Even when the ghosts showed up, I wasn't sure... Maria was using my hands, but she was just choking him and nothing else. He was choking me too. He was stronger... and then he started grabbing me and trying-" She cut herself off again with a small whimper as she squeezed her eyes shut.

"I know." Patty spoke, unsure of what to say really. She couldn't take back when Alvin had done. It was all over now, but she couldn't erase it. He had taken off almost all of her clothes. He put his hands all over her when she couldn't even move or speak in her own defense. He flat out told her what he was going to do, and Patty doubted Holtzy would ever forget any of it.

"What if Maria and Susan didn't help us?" Holtzmann sniffed.

Patty shook her head. "They did help us though. It doesn't matter what would have happened if they didn't."

"Do you think he would have killed us yet?" Holtzmann wondered, looking up and staring at Patty.

Patty frowned as she stared back. If the ghosts hadn't stepped in and helped, Patty didn't think Alvin would have killed them yet. That thought was not at all reassuring though. The man specifically said he was going to force himself on Holtzmann again after the drug wore off more. If they were still there in the basement, Alvin would probably be hurting Holtzmann again right now, after having already done so with her practically passed out. And she didn't even want to wonder how many times he'd have done it before finally getting bored of her and killing her.

Holtzmann swallowed and looked back down, clearly accepting Patty's lack of an answer as meaning Patty didn't want to even begin to wonder how much more terrible this could have been.

Holtzmann frowned as she stared at Patty's shirt, which had red lipstick smudged on it.

Patty watched as her friend put her fingertips up against the shirt, and then against her lips, rubbing her finger over her bottom lip and then holding her hand out in front of her. Patty could see tears welling up in Holtzy's eyes again as a soft breath caught in the younger woman's throat.

"Shhh... You're okay. Calm down." Patty immediately urged, grabbing Holtzmann's hand and covering up the red lipstick staining her fingertips. "We can clean that off. Don't get upset... Baby, he's gone. He's not ever gonna touch you again. We got rid of the dress. We'll get rid of the makeup. You're safe now. It's all over. We got out. He's dead."

Holtzmann nodded, but Patty could see that she was shaking.

"You stay right here. I'll find something to clean off the lipstick. We're gonna be fine. There's nothing unsafe in this room. Just me and you. You're okay. I promise." Patty reassured her.

"Okay." Holtzmann forced a shaking smile and blinked back her tears.

"I'll be right back. I'm gonna find a bathroom and get some paper towels. You can put on the gown while I'm gone, alright?" Patty asked.

Holtzmann nodded. "Yeah." She said in a small voice.

Patty forced a small smile and made her way out into the hall, finding a bathroom pretty quickly and ducking inside. She made her way over to the sink and grabbed a handful of paper towels, then turned on the water and held the towels under.

It was then that she noticed her own reflection in the mirror above the sink.

She frowned as she looked up at herself. Her eyes were red from crying. She had a bruise forming on her face where Alvin had hit her. Overall, she looked completely exhausted.

She stared at herself for a long few seconds, suddenly feeling infinitely more guilty than she already had through all of this. If the ghosts hadn't been there, Patty wouldn't have been able to do a damn thing to help Holtzy or herself. Alvin would have raped and killed her friend, right in front of her... and Patty wouldn't have been able to do anything but watch. Then he would have killed her too. She had never felt so powerless and worthless in her entire life. She felt like such a failure. Holtzy probably thought she was safe with Patty there to back her up. Patty was supposed to meet that expectation. Holtzmann usually knew she could be a bit more careless when Patty was around - because Patty would always save her. But she hadn't tonight.

The younger woman seemed fearless - she was ready to go on this adventure all by herself after all... but as soon as Patty agreed to go with her, Holtzmann had seemed so happy - probably relieved on some level. She probably had a tiny hint of fear and uncertainty and Patty's presence erased it. But Holtzmann had been wrong to trust that Patty would protect her.

Patty couldn't get it out of her head how close Alvin had come to raping her friend. She knew Holtzy was thinking about it too - and she knew she told her to focus on now instead - to remember that she was safe now... but Alvin had been so damn close... Like two seconds away pulling Holtzmann's panties down and assaulting her. It had been too close. Patty still felt like vomiting just thinking about it.

And that was just the stuff he didn't do... He did sexually assault her. Not the worst kind - but he did. He undressed her, groped her, made all of his sick little comments and threats. Maybe he didn't actually get her panties off and finish what he wanted to do, but he had gotten started. He did things that were awful, painful, humiliating, terrifying. Holtzmann had to just lie there while he took off her clothes and put his hands all over her, while he spoke out loud exactly what his intentions were. It certainly could have been worse... but that didn't mean what did happen was okay.

Shaking her head and closing her eyes, Patty exhaled. She couldn't stand in the bathroom dwelling on this forever. She hadn't been able to help Holtzy then, but she could help her now.

She breathed in a steadying breath and tried to force a smile onto her face before heading back into Holtzmann's room.

"You get the gown on okay?" Patty asked as she headed toward the bed.

Holtzmann nodded. "Can you tie the back?" She asked, turning slightly on the mattress so Patty could reach the ties.

Patty brushed Holtzy's hair to the side and tied the garment and then sat down next to her friend, who turned back to face her. Holtzmann looked less upset now. Maybe just changing out of the dress and the promise of the makeup being gone soon was enough to calm her down.

Patty smiled slightly as she looked at Holtzmann, who looked so young and innocent as she stared back at Patty with huge eyes and a wild mess of hair framing her face. "Hold still, Baby." She requested as she brought a wet paper towel up toward Holtzy's lips, rubbing it gently over the lipstick and taking as much of it off as she could.

"I wonder if-" Holtzmann started, before Patty cut her off.

"Holtzy. Hold still." Patty grumbled. How was she supposed to work on removing the lipstick if Holtzmann couldn't keep her mouth still for longer than three seconds?

Holtzmann frowned and stared up at Patty.

Patty exhaled and shook her head. "Don't look at me like that." She laughed, finishing up on Holtzmann's lips and then moving to clear the tear tracks of mascara off of her cheeks and eyelashes.

"I was gonna say," Holtzmann started back up. "I wonder if Abby's gonna be mad, because she told me not to go to the house, and I did... And she was right. It was a bad idea and she told me so, but I did it anyway."

Patty scoffed. "Let her be mad, Holtzy. You didn't know the guy was a creep murderer. We investigate ghost sightings. It's what we do. You were doing your job." In her head, Patty agreed that Holtzmann's choice to go to this house at night without telling anyone was reckless... but she didn't need to add insult to injury right now, and it wasn't like Patty had done much to convince her not to go. If anything, Patty enabled her and was equally irresponsible by not telling the others what they were up to.

"Yeah, but I could have waited." Holtzmann frowned, closing her eyes so Patty could work on carefully cleaning the mascara off her eyelashes.

"Everyone makes mistakes." Patty reminded her. "We'll just learn from this and be more careful next time. I don't think Abby will be mad."

"Does she know what happened?" Holtzmann asked. "Did you call her?"

"Yes. In the ambulance." Patty reminded her. Holtzmann had been there, but she was kind of out of it at the time.

"Did she sound mad? Did you tell Erin? Was she mad?" Holtzmann frowned.

Patty shook her head. "They aren't mad. Obviously that wasn't a call they wanted to receive at three in the morning... But they're worried, not mad."

"Hmmm..." Holtz leaned back a bit after Patty finished clearing the makeup off of her face. "Okay..."

"They're not mad, Holtzy. You can talk to them when they get here." Patty told her.

"They're coming?" Holtzmann smiled.

"Yeah." Patty could't help but to smile back. Holtzmann's mood had turned around so quickly.

"Could you call Erin and ask her something for me? Or text her, I guess." Holtzmann shrugged.

"What?" Patty frowned. "She's gonna be here in like an hour. You can talk to her then."

"No. She needs to hear this now. Ask her to bring snacks!" Holtzmann grinned. "That's the one thing we did wrong driving all the way out here on this mini road trip - we never got snacks..." Holtzmann gasped slightly and stared at Patty with huge eyes. "Oh my god..."

"What?" Patty furrowed her brow.

"I think I still owe you a sandwich..." Holtzmann remembered.

Patty scoffed, rolled her eyes and shook her head. "You can buy me one when we get out of here."

"Okay." Holtzmann leaned her head against Patty's shoulder and stared at the wall. "It can even be one of those big foot-long subs or double meat and cheese..."

Patty smiled and wrapped her arm around Holtzy's shoulders, hugging her close. "It better be."

xxxxxx

Chapter Text

xxxxxx

CHAPTER 16: Kindred Spirits

xxxxxx

"They were the coolest ghosts I've ever met." Holtzmann seemed very overly excited as she explained to Abby and Erin everything she and Patty had gone through - mostly focusing on their interactions with the ghosts. It seemed the fear and anxiousness she had obviously felt at the house and earlier in the E.R. was all but gone now that she was safely in her hospital bed with the drug Alvin had given her no longer affecting her.

The doctors had insisted on keeping Holtzmann there overnight for observation until the drug was fully out of her system. Patty had eventually agreed to let them take x-rays of her ribs as well after Holtzmann insisted, and everyone was more or less okay.

Patty had called Erin and Abby earlier in the ambulance and they had driven down as soon as they could get there. Neither Holtzy nor Patty had mentioned much of the more horrifying parts of their ordeal to their friends. Patty was content to maybe never mention it. She was going to follow Holtzmann's lead on that one.

Now they were all together, and the conversation was strangely lighthearted. Holtzmann barely seemed bothered by the event anymore, and though Patty certainly still was, she did her best to push that to the back of her mind and enjoy the fact that she and her best friends were all here together, all safe.

"We didn't even try to use our proton packs. I don't think we always have to, guys." Holtzmann noted. "We might need to do more research on our ghosts in the future... Maria and Susan weren't bad spirits. Not at all... I don't know where for sure they went... but we didn't bust them, and I don't think they'll be bothering anyone anymore, even if they're still around."

"So they just disappeared?" Erin asked with a confused frown.

"I guess... I was kind of out of it..." Holtzmann laughed. "One minute I was talking to them... Then I felt like I was waking up and they weren't there. They said they were free of the house now, so I assume they went off to whatever comes next for a spirit who has finished whatever lingering task weighed them down." She shrugged. "I can't say I fully understand that part yet..."

"We'll have to do more research." Abby suggested. "It seems like something we should know."

"So the neighbor was being weird because he knew there were ghosts... Because he was the killer..." Erin mused. "Did they haunt him? Like... did they at least make his life hell while he was there?"

Patty frowned. "I don't know that they did. He could have left and he didn't. If they bothered him too much, surely he wouldn't have kept living there with them." She didn't know why Maria and Susan wouldn't have tortured the guy though. Why let him sleep peacefully every night after what he did to them?

"But then he would have had to clean up. As long as he lived there, no one could see how horrifying his basement is. Maybe Maria and Susan did bother him as best as they could knowing he couldn't really leave. If he moved, he ran the risk of someone noticing something odd. That, and where are the bodies? They could be somewhere in the house, or buried in the yard." Holtzmann noted, looking up and narrowing her eyes as though she was thinking.

"What was in the basement?" Abby raised her eyebrows and looked at Holtzmann.

Holtzy exhaled and shook her head. "A chair welded to the floor, chains all over the place. A mattress that looked like someone may have literally been killed on it. Blood stains on the floor too. I'll bet there's so much evidence down there."

Erin grimaced and Abby's eyes were huge.

"I am interested to find out where the bodies are though." Holtzmann went on, seemingly not even noticing the uncomfortable expressions on her friends' faces. "Hopefully they're nearby and the cops will find them. Their parents deserve closure, and I'm not sure two strange ladies who call themselves 'Ghostbusters' claiming to have seen their spirits is gonna do it."

"So he took you guys to the basement and the ghosts helped you escape?" Erin frowned. "The ghosts killed him?"

"Yeah." Holtzmann laughed. "I mean, it was a longer process than that summary makes it seem, but I guess that's the gist of it."

"How did he die?" Erin went on. "How did the ghosts kill him."

"Uh..." Holtzmann hesitated, glancing toward Patty almost as though silently asking Patty if it was okay to speak the more traumatizing parts of this aloud.

Patty cleared her throat. "One of the ghosts stabbed him in the neck with a knife." She said bluntly.

"Really?" Erin frowned. "I didn't know ghosts could do that... They can just pick up knives and stab people? We're gonna need to be more careful from now on. I never even considered when going on calls that the ghost might stab me..."

"She kinda threw it somehow. I don't think she actually picked it up..." Holtzmann explained.

"And you guys were right there? You saw him die?" Abby grimaced.

Patty looked over at Holtzmann with raised eyebrows as the younger woman let out a quick laugh. Their other friends stared nervously toward her too, obviously not understanding the reason she was laughing about this. If Patty had to guess, she'd assume Holtzmann found it absurd that Abby would assume seeing the man die was the worst thing that happened to them tonight. For Patty, it was the best thing that happened. Holtzy probably felt the same way.

"It's not the first time we've seen someone die, and he deserved it... But yes, I was right there. I was choking him; he was choking me." Hotzmann laughed and shook her head. "I mean, it was kind of me... I was so heavily drugged I couldn't move, but Maria figured out the art of possession just in time."

"She possessed you?" Erin's eyes widened.

"Abby was possessed once too!" Holtzmann immediately sounded defensive as she pointed an accusatory finger at Abby. "I'm not possessed anymore. It was only for a minute."

"No... That's fine... I'm not saying it's anything to be upset about... I just didn't know that part." Erin raised her hands in defense.

"So you were so drugged that you couldn't move and he was choking you?" Abby frowned. "That's so cruel..."

"Well, I was choking him first - or my hands were... Him choking me was actually a defensive move. I was already attacking him." Holtzmann shrugged and then looked down at her lap. "I couldn't move... I wanted to... I would have choked him myself if I could, but I was stuck just laying there while he... Well, I was pretty surprised when she did that anyway. I thought for sure that he-" She stopped herself, swallowing and staring silently down.

Patty frowned as she noticed Holtzmann beginning to look more nervous. She could tell Holtzy wanted to share her pain with her friends - to tell them everything, so they'd know, so it wouldn't be a secret trapped in her head... But she also knew Holtzmann wasn't always great at sharing her feelings and was much better at making everything into a joke, whether she was honestly upset by it or not.

Obviously Erin and Abby already knew something more happened than a quick trip to the basement and an immediate rescue by Maria and Susan. They knew Holtzy was being kept here because Alvin had drugged her. They could see the dark bruises around Holtzmann's and Patty's wrists. They could see the darkening bruises on each of their faces where Alvin had hit them. They could fill in the gaps with their minds and probably wouldn't be that far off. Even so, speaking the truth, with vivid details wasn't going to be easy or pleasant.

"Well... Whatever he was gonna do, he didn't get to." Abby spoke up in a small voice, reaching over and squeezing Holtzmann's foot under the blanket covering her legs. "And he's never going to get to."

"I know." Holtzmann breathed.

"Hey..." Abby spoke up again, drawing Holtzmann's attention back up toward her eyes. "I know I told you not to go, and you went anyway... And I'm not saying it wasn't reckless... But you guys did do something kind of cool... Something Erin and I certainly haven't ever done. Most people in the world never have actually... You caught a serial killer."

"Yeah." Holtzmann breathed with a small smile as she stared down at Abby's hand. "I guess we did. So..." She shook her head and looked up at Abby. "What's our next job? A couple of the people we interviewed seemed sincere... And I guess we should follow up with Erica, let her know how that went."

Patty frowned. She was honestly starting to get worried that maybe Holtzmann wasn't going to let herself process and deal with this. The younger woman was clearly upset by everything that had happened, but wasn't letting herself acknowledge it anymore. Patty didn't want to force her to talk about it before she was ready, but she didn't want to let Holtzmann push it onto the back burner either. Was that tiny breakdown back in the ER the only bit of emotion Holtzmann was going to express on this matter? Was that it? She wasn't going to deal with it any further?

"The bar manager uptown sounded promising." Abby answered. "We'll just have to make sure we all go together... We always go together. Or at the very least, tell everyone where you're going. And when..." She paused, looking like she was about ready to add more, but wasn't sure if she should.

"I don't know that we always have to go together." Holtzmann disagreed. "Like all four of us? Every time? Even to small things? Maybe pick and choose-"

"Honey, we wouldn't have been looking for you until halfway through the day..." Abby interrupted with a frown.

Holtzmann frowned too, looking back down with a pout. "I brought Patty." She squeaked.

"I know, but that's still just two of you, and no one else on Earth knew where you were. We didn't know you weren't safe at home, and wouldn't have even started to get worried until you didn't show up for work. Even then we would have probably given you an hour before starting to call your cell phones... and then what? We couldn't have even filed a missing person's report. We wouldn't have found you until it was too late."

Abby glanced up toward Patty with a frown and furrowed brows. She almost looked like she was ready to cry. And it was then that Patty realized the other woman wasn't only chastising Holtzmann. She blamed Patty for this too... and of course she did. Patty shouldn't have let Holtzmann convince her to do this... At the very least, she shouldn't have agreed to keep it a secret.

"I'm sorry, Abby." Patty exhaled. And she really was. She was extremely sorry that any of this had happened. She was supposed to be the responsible one. People expected Holtzmann to do weird, reckless stuff. Patty knew better.

"I'm not mad." Abby breathed, her voice wavering slightly. "I'm just..." She stopped herself, looking down at the floor and shaking her head.

"You guys could have been murdered." Erin noted. "And I know you know that better than anyone... You were there... I think what Abby's saying is that you put yourself into a really dangerous situation and we could have helped you out of it, but you didn't give us the chance. If he had killed either or both of you, we would have never forgiven ourselves."

"It wouldn't have been your fault." Holtzmann frowned. "Like you said, there was nothing you could do. You wouldn't have needed to blame yourselves."

"But we would have." Abby nodded and narrowed her eyes. "We would have blamed ourselves, and you know that. Doesn't matter if it's logical or not."

Holtzmann nodded and looked back down. "But it wasn't your fault. And it wasn't Patty's. It was mine. Abby, you told me not to go... Patty told me it was a bad idea too... and she said we should stick together, and I didn't listen then either. I went right up to Alvin's door, not knowing anything about him, and initiated a conversation without anyone else knowing I was doing it. Even Patty was upstairs in the other side of the house. I was an idiot, and I know that. Even if he hadn't grabbed me and pulled me inside his house, I would have gone in on my own. Even Alvin expected me to be smarter than I was."

"It's not that you aren't smart, Holtzmann." Abby frowned. "You're really smart... You just let your curiosity get the better of you sometimes."

Holtzmann nodded as she stared ahead at the wall, clearly deep in thought. She shook her head, but didn't look at any of her friends. "I knew I'd made a mistake as soon as I was inside. He wasn't as blunt at first. He pulled me in, but I had asked to see the house, so one could argue that he was just being a little more handsy than necessary... But I knew I'd screwed up as soon as he did that. As soon as he stood between me and the door." Her brows knitted as she swallowed and continued staring at the wall.

Patty exhaled a tired breath and closed her eyes.

"He was definitely going to kill us." Holtzmann went on. "He told me. He was really forward about it. And he was going to rape me first too. And after. He said it... He straight up said he was going to rape me - both before and after I was dead. Man... He didn't sugar coat it at all, guys... I mean, at least he didn't lie to me and give me false hope... but damn... Just the way he talked was so harsh."

Patty glanced over at Abby and Erin, who both stared down at Holtzmann with shocked expressions on their faces. Surely they knew Alvin didn't just tie them up and leave only to come back in time for the ghosts to kill him. This new bit of information shouldn't have been that shocking at this point.

"As soon as he dragged me down to the basement, I started telling him Patty was gonna call the police, and I lied and said you guys knew we were there... I told him I wouldn't tell anyone anything if he let me go... Nothing I said worked. He chained me up and taped my mouth closed... and then until Patty started knocking, he was putting his hands on me, saying gross, terrible things..." She shuddered and closed her eyes.

Patty swallowed, unsure if she should say anything. She was glad Holtzmann was finally talking, and she wanted to be comforting if she could, but she also didn't want Holtzy to feel rushed in telling her story.

"He heard Patty..." Holtzmann's voice cracked. "He said he was gonna kill her, but that he might make her watch everything he was going to do to me first."

"Holtzy, honey..." Abby frowned and sat down on the edge of the bed, putting her arm around Holtzmann's shoulders and pulling her into a hug. "You're alright now though. You're both alright. You've got to remember that. He didn't get what he wanted."

"I know..." Holtzmann breathed. "But it was really scary."

"I'll bet." Abby agreed, hugging Holtzy tighter.

"We saw the ghosts within all this... Or the one ghost. We asked her to help and she said she couldn't, but that Susan could... She's the other ghost - the one who was killed first. Maria - the second ghost - she said that Susan was strong enough that she could help us, but that she didn't want to. At first, I was pretty certain we were screwed... Like, I expected he was gonna rape and kill us and that was it... But any chance I got, I fought back, and he didn't like it, and he hurt me more when I did." Holtzmann explained. "And that's why he drugged me - to keep me still while he took my clothes off."

Erin breathed in a soft gasp.

"I couldn't move." Holtzmann whimpered.

Patty felt tears stinging her own eyes as she remembered those moments, and as she watched Abby hug Holtzmann and rub her back gently. Poor Holtzmann had been so defenseless. It had honestly been the scariest moment of Patty's life. She could only imagine how scared Holtzy must have been.

"He undressed me and put this weird red dress on me... and before that he put lipstick and mascara on me and messed up my hair... He wanted me to look a certain way for when..." She trailed off, licking her lips and then shaking her head. "Anyway... right before he did... that... Susan and Maria showed up, and they saved us... and they killed him... And that was that."

Erin nodded, but was clearly at a loss for words. Abby didn't say anything either.

"I really am sorry I didn't tell you guys where we were going. I thought you'd be mad." Holtzmann frowned.

"I probably would have been." Abby forced a small smile. "But I'd rather be mad than heartbroken."

"We're just glad you're both okay." Erin noted. "And we don't want to risk anything like this ever happening again. No one's mad... No one's disappointed... Just really scared. You didn't do this the safest way... But mistakes happen. We'll learn from it be safer next time. I think that's something we can all agree to."

Patty and Holtzmann both nodded.

"Yeah... That's all I was saying." Abby agreed. "I'm not mad... It's just scary knowing people like that are out there. Knowing when we go on these calls, we don't always know what we're walking into. You scared me more than you made me mad, Hotlzy. You too, Patty... I just..." She hesitated.

"I know." Patty nodded. "We'll be better communicators from here on out. No more secrets."

Holtzmann nodded. "But you can't make me feel bad for wanting to go on calls when no one else wants to."

"And you've got to learn to be patient." Abby added. "We had a full schedule and you didn't want to go until late."

Holtzmann exhaled and looked up at the ceiling. "Alright. You're right... I was impatient."

"So..." Abby exhaled and forced a smile. "The nurse told us visiting hours were over before we ever got here... and she told us again about an hour ago... So maybe we should head out and come by in the morning."

Erin laughed. "Probably should... If we don't leave soon, they're probably gonna make us."

Holtzmann laughed. "Rules are meant to be broken, guys. That's why they're there."

Erin wrinkled her nose. "I'm pretty sure rules are meant to be followed actually."

"Eh..." Holtzy shrugged. "That's not how I learned it."

Patty laughed and shook her head as she followed Abby and Erin toward the room's door. "Thanks for driving all the way out here." She spoke in a low voice. "And again, I'm really sorry I fucked this all up... I went with her to prevent something like this... I thought I was being the responsible one, but I wasn't... I was just encouraging irresponsible-"

"Stop, Patty... Don't blame yourself. You did what you thought you should... I'm just glad she wasn't there all alone. She would have gone by herself if you didn't go with her. You were the only one of us smart enough to stick around and ask her what she was doing. I should have known she was gonna go anyway. It's Holtzy we're talking about here..." Abby whispered. "You being there might have stalled him just long enough to keep him from raping or killing her. I'm sure the whole thing was awful, but it could have been a lot worse."

Patty swallowed and nodded. She knew that was true. She saw it in Alvin's face when she was down in the basement with him. He was frustrated that things weren't going as smoothly since Patty was there. She hadn't really thought about it before, but Abby was right, and it made her sick. She almost hadn't stayed back at the firehouse after everyone else left. What if Holtzmann had gone alone like she originally planned? Holtzy wasn't going to tell Patty her plan. Patty had had to guess and specifically ask what she was up to. If Patty had gone home like everyone else, or even just failed to ask the right questions, Holtzmann would have gone to that house alone, without telling a single person.

"Don't think about it too much." Abby added, clearly noticing Patty was getting trapped in her own head again. "It doesn't matter what might have happened. It matters what did. He didn't kill you guys. He didn't rape her. You both got away relatively unharmed. You're fine. She's fine."

Patty licked her lips and nodded. "I think I'm gonna ask the nurse if I can stay overnight." She breathed.

"She'll be fine, Patty." Erin frowned.

"I know... I just want to stay with her." Patty noted.

"Alright." Erin smiled and squeezed Patty's arm. "You should try to get some rest. I'm sure you're exhausted after everything. Just remember, you did good tonight. Nobody could have known you were going to a serial killer's house. You didn't know that... You went with her to protect her, and you did... as best as you could. It might not have gone as smoothly as planned, but you guys are both okay, and that's what matters."

"Thanks, Erin. I'll see you guys tomorrow." She nodded toward Abby.

"Night, Patty." Abby whispered.

Patty watched as the two women made their way down the hall and toward the elevator. Patty headed over to the nurse's station next, leaning on the counter and waiting for the nurse to look up from some paperwork.

"Yes?" The young woman asked.

"Is it alright if I stay?" She asked. "I know visiting hours are over, and have been for a while... We won't be loud."

"If it's alright with Miss Holtzmann." The nurse nodded with a smile.

"Thanks." Patty smiled too and headed back toward the room.

Holtzmann looked a little surprised, and then a lot happy when Patty walked back in. "I thought you were going home." She noted. "Are you staying?" Her eyes shined and a smile spread across her face.

"Of course." Patty smiled. "If you'll share the terrible, uncomfortable hospital bed."

"Oh." Holtzmann laughed, scooting over to the edge. "Definitely. What good is a terrible uncomfortable hospital bed if you can't share it with a friend?"

Patty climbed into the bed next to Holtzy and looked up at the television, where an infomercial about pans was playing. She glanced over toward Holtzmann with a frown. "Did you turn that on?" She asked.

"Yeah." Holtzmann looked up at the screen and stared with interest.

"Why?" Patty stared back at Holtzmann. She honestly looked like she was into the commercial. "You don't cook, Holtzy."

"Not food, but look. Nothing sticks to those. I could use 'em in the lab. Or something like them. You know how that ectoplasm went right through those one gloves I had, and you sure can't store it in a paper cup for long." Holtzy noticed.

Patty smiled and leaned back against the bed, putting her arm around Holtzmann's shoulders and closing her eyes. "I love you, Holtzy." She breathed.

She felt Holtzmann turn slightly, but Patty kept her eyes closed. She could tell her friend was staring at her. "I love you too, Patty." She said after a few seconds, snuggling down close to the older woman.

They sat in silence for a few moments. Patty kept her eyes closed. She was honestly really tired, and totally ready to fall asleep at any moment. She hoped she wouldn't have terrible dreams after what she and Holtzmann had just been through. As much as her mind was stuck on the terrible parts of the whole thing, she tried to will herself to focus on the good. They weren't there anymore. Alvin was gone, so that he couldn't ever hurt anyone again, and they even sort of helped the ghosts move on.

Patty hugged Holtzmann tighter as she let her head rest on top of her friend's soft curls. She was so happy to be here right now, hugging her friend close. They were both safe. Holtzmann was physically okay, and seemed to be recovering pretty quickly emotionally too. If Holtzy could live through this and move on from it, Patty could too. They were both going to be alright.

As Patty lay there next to her friend, very aware of the feeling of Holty's hair tickling her cheek, and of the soft, gentle movement next to her as the younger woman breathed in and out and shifted slightly in the bed, Patty smiled. There were few people in this world who Patty considered entirely precious to her, and Holtzmann was one of them.

She couldn't help but to think about Maria and Susan. They were precious to someone too. She wondered if their families had been told anything yet. Patty and Holtzmann had both talked to the police. They both mentioned the ghosts, and Patty couldn't tell for sure if the officer she talked to believed the story or not. Either way, surely they'd check the house for evidence, find all the chains, blood stains, the mattress, the women's clothing and panties Alvin had no business owning... The police were going to figure this out, and Maria and Susan's families were going to receive the heartbreaking news that their daughters, sisters, mothers, wives - whoever they were to the people they loved and who loved them - were gone for good. Never going to be found alive. It was over for them.

Patty swallowed carefully as she came back around to the thought of what could have happened if she hadn't asked Holtzmann why she was staying late at the fire station. If she had just gone home instead... Maybe Alvin would have succeeded. Holtzmann likely would have gone straight to Alvin's door - she seemed to want to do that more than searching the other side of the house. Maybe she wouldn't have encountered Maria's ghost at all. Maybe the ghosts wouldn't have even known Holtzy was in danger. Patty wouldn't have been there to make things more difficult and time consuming, to help plead with the ghosts to help them, or to talk to Alvin and distract him what little she could. He almost definitely would have raped Holtzmann, and probably killed her too.

When would Patty and the others have learned what had happened? When Holtzmann didn't show up for work they would have suspected that she went there, as she had expressed an obvious interest in doing so... So they would have assumed something went wrong at the house, but if the police didn't suspect it too, maybe they would have never even got closure at all.

Patty inhaled a breath and tried to shake those thoughts out of her head. She didn't want to think about it. She had to stop thinking about what could have happened. It didn't happen that way. Things worked out more or less okay. Anything that could have been didn't matter. Patty was there. The ghosts did help them... None of those things that could have happened did happen. Alvin was dead, gone for good. It was all over. The worst day of her life had come and gone. They had nowhere to go but up from here.

After a couple minutes of silence, Patty felt Holtzmann squirming a bit next to her. Patty didn't know if she was trying to get comfortable, thinking about getting up, or just moving around out of boredom, but she finally settled down and whispered softly. "You awake, Patty?" She asked in a tiny voice. Patty decided to pretend not to be. She didn't want to stay up chit-chatting about pans all night. She was exhausted.

"Good." Holtzmann whispered, pausing for a long moment that left Patty frowning slightly as she wondered why her friend would have responded that way to her lack of answer.

"Patty..." Holtzmann went on, seeming quite uncharacteristically hesitant. "I'm sorry I almost got you killed... And I was really scared for you... I didn't know what to do when he was hitting you after he tied you up. I wanted to help you, but I couldn't. I wished that you could get out even if I couldn't. I mean, a big part of me did. But in another way, I'm glad you were there... I didn't think anything would stop him, and it hurt me that you were gonna have to watch, but I thought at least I wasn't alone. I didn't want you to have to see that... I think I cried when he was undressing me and touching me... but having you there made me feel stronger, and not as scared."

Patty felt her throat tightening. She wanted to cry. She was glad she had been there too, even if it was the most terrifying couple hours of her life.

"I didn't know how to tell you that..." Holtz continued. "I wanted you to get away even if I couldn't... because I didn't want you to die because I made a stupid choice... But if you hadn't been there, I don't know what he would have done... I mean, I do know... and... Anyway, I'm glad you were with me. And if we had died, I think I would have been okay being a ghost and haunting a house with you. We'd be literal kindred spirits." She laughed softly. "And we would have made Alvin's life hell."

Patty felt a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. Even when Holtzmann didn't know anyone was listening, she still made everything into a joke.

"Thanks for convincing me to tell you what I was up to and for coming with me even though you didn't want to." Holtzmann whispered, snuggling down against the older woman. "Thanks for not letting me get myself raped and murdered. And thanks for helping me when I couldn't move and my clothes were falling off and I was all drugged up and confused... I've been a fucking mess all night..." She paused, exhaling and seeming to relax against Patty's side. "Anyway... I just wanted to say I'm sorry, and I love you, Patty."

Holtzmann clearly didn't want a response to what she had just said. That's why she waited until she thought Patty was asleep to say it out loud. So Patty chose to respect that, and hugged her tighter instead.

xxxxxx

The End