“Are you sure we need to walk?” Teri asked, looking back at Aiden’s car. It was barely visible through the trees.
“Yeah, it’s freezing out here,” Morgan said.
“Yes, we need to walk,” Aiden said. “I thought you guys wanted to find out what’s going on.”
“At least we know if something bad happens, Teri can warn us,” Max said.
“Don’t count on it,” Teri said. “I’m still tired. It takes a lot out of me.”
“Shh,” Aiden said. “I think I see something.”
Aiden was right. Teri peered ahead and saw the faint glow of electric lights. Slipping among the trees, the four of them winced every time a twig snapped or a leaf crunched. Teri’s teeth were starting to chatter. She’d worn this coat this morning mainly because of how good it looked, not how warm it was.
Looking to the side, Teri saw Morgan was doing her best to keep from shaking. Aiden and Max had typical boy coats, big and warm. It must be nice not having to make sure your clothes were cute. Teri took a deep breath of cold air and tried to will her body to stop shaking. It worked for about five seconds.
The distant light quickly got brighter. As they got through the worst of the underbrush, Teri saw a porch light and a lone backlit drape. The house sat at the end of the dirt road they were walking next to. Teri pulled a pine cone from her hair.
“Ouch. We totally should have just walked on the road.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Aiden said.
“That’s a big house for one guy,” Max said.
“He’s a secret government scientist,” Teri said. “I’m guessing they pay him pretty well.”
“Is it bad that I’m more excited to break in and get out of the cold than to see what he’s hiding in there?” Morgan asked.
“Maybe we should just turn around guys,” Teri said. Max was right. The house was huge, and all the dark windows were staring at her. Despite the cold, her heart thudded in her chest.
“We came this far,” Aiden said. “We’re getting answers, remember?”
Teri wasn’t convinced, but she didn’t say anything else. She followed the other three to the darkest side of the house. A few stray notes of music escaped through cracks around the windows. It sounded like something classical.
The house was old. The paint was chipped and fading in places. In the gloom, an ancient set of storm doors sat at a forty five degree angle, leading down into an unfinished basement. Aiden grabbed one of the handles.
“This is probably our best bet to get inside,” he said.
“Or our best bet to get axe murdered,” Teri said.
“What was that?” Aiden asked.
“Oh, I was just saying we should be careful it doesn’t make too much noise.”
“Dr. Fiedler’s on the other side of the house,” Max said. “Judging by the light and the music.”
“Okay, I’m going to give it a try.” Aiden started to pull. Nothing happened. Grabbing the handle with both hands, he strained but didn’t get it to budge.
“Let me try,” Morgan said. Aiden was reluctant to step away, but finally he did.
Teri watched Morgan’s eyes get far away and her hand closed so tightly on the handle that the metal squealed. With a final screech of protest, the door pulled free.