When the woman awoke, she was instantly aware of two things. The first was that she felt cold, the kind of cold you feel deep inside your bones. It made her teeth chatter uncontrollably, and she wanted it to stop. She had to be quiet, or the man would find her.
The second thing she felt was fear.
She couldn’t recall why she felt so afraid, but she instinctively knew she was. She was terrified. It was dark, absolutely dark. She was sitting in a crouched position with her knees pulled up close to her chest, hands by her feet. She tried to move, her cold limbs still and aching, but there wasn’t enough room. Wherever she was, she thought she must have gone there to hide. Yes, that was it. She was hiding from the man, and she must have been there for some time to feel as cold as she did.
But where had she hidden, and why was she wearing only one shoe?
She tried to think. She wished she could remember. Her hands wandered up from her numb feet, and she began to run them over the smooth walls around her, which were so close she couldn’t even straighten her arms. She imagined she must be in a box of some kind, and the idea caused her to catch her breath as claustrophobia gripped her. She wanted to smash her way out of there. She wanted to scream, but she knew that would be bad.
An image flashed through her mind, and it startled her. It was the man. He was angry, and she was running from him, trying to find somewhere to hide. She supposed he was the reason she was hiding in the box now, but was she hiding? She shook her head as the answer came to her. In her mind she could see her other shoe. It was on the floor at the back of the garage at her home. She was lying on her back a few feet away from it, reaching out for the hammer she’d seen just moments before the man caught up with her. She was kicking out at him as he pulled her back, away from the hammer. Her shoe had come off in the struggle. She had not found a place to hide. She had not managed to escape.
So why was she crouched inside a box?
A fearful shiver ran through her as she realised the man must have put her there. At last she screamed.
Her husband had not been home when the man came to the door, but then she thought the man must have known that. She began to cry as she thumped on the walls, which resounded with a low, hollow note. Wherever the man had put her, she was starkly aware that it was with no good intent. She had to get out. She pushed at the wall in front of her and felt her spine brace against the wall at her back. A moment later she thought she heard a crack. Then she heard another sound and froze. Somewhere beyond her confinement, a door had clicked open. She heard echoing footsteps, becoming louder. Her breath quickened.
It was the man.
Silent again in the darkness, she listened until the footsteps fell silent with her. Then she heard the man sigh, and her eyes were suddenly blinded by light. She blinked and tried to focus. A small square, no bigger than a matchbook, had opened in the wall to her right. Light was cast into the box, and she saw her surroundings for the first time. There were pictures on the walls—miniature pictures. She could see a bookcase and several fireplaces. There were tiny portraits of indistinguishable people, and above her she saw the interior of an apex roof with a tiny chandelier hanging down. She touched it in disbelief. She was inside a doll’s house, with all the floors removed to accommodate her.
The light at the small window the man had opened was suddenly interrupted, and she turned towards it. What she saw startled her. It was an eye—his eye—as grey as steel and easily recognisable by the scar that cut a deep line across his left eyebrow, cleaving it in two. The woman caught her breath again, still uncertain of the man’s intentions, fearing she would soon find out.
The eye blinked as the man focused on her.
‘I wanted to be sure you were awake,’ he said, showing no emotion, no nervousness or excitement in light of what he had done, or was about to do. ‘The others were awake when it happened. You can be sure of that.’
The others? What others?
‘When what happened?’ she asked, but the man gave no answer.
The eye at the tiny window withdrew, and the interior of the doll’s house became bright again. A moment later, she caught the distinctive chemical smell of gasoline. She heard it splashing on to the roof above her. She saw it dripping in through the window.
‘What do you want?’ the woman asked, panic in her voice. ‘Why are you doing this?’
The only sound she heard in reply was the unmistakable striking of a match. It scratched and fizzed, and then the man’s eye returned to the tiny window.
‘Jefferson Tayte knows why,’ he said as he offered up the flame. Then he dropped the match inside.