Trampling through the snow, Ray McGregor glanced back when he felt Janine Lloyd’s hand slip from his grasp.
He looked back at the lights of the hotel just visible through the falling snow, “We’re almost there.”
The fear that appeared on her face as the sound of flapping wings began getting closer made him grab her by the wrist and begin dragging through the snow.
A single black moth landed on the back of her hand and she jerked back, shaking her hand to make it fly away.
Janine froze when she saw the small trickle of blood on her hand where the moth had landed. She looked at Ray, “Go.”
He shook his head, “I’m not leaving you.”
Falling to her knees, Janine struggled to keep her eyes open, the venom from the bite taking effect. “I won’t make it.” She looked back, glimpsing the swarm of moths moving through the trees towards them. She gave him one last look, “Go.”
Ray hesitated, “I’m sorry.”
She managed a smile before falling head first into the snow.
The swarm getting closer, he began moving towards the hotel. Continuing to run from where Janine had fallen, he was almost at the hotel doors when he glanced back, seeing the swarm of moths covering Janine’s body.
Reaching the doors, he reached to push them open and saw the blood on his hand.
Forcing the doors open, he stepped into the lobby and stared at the unfamiliar faces turning to look at him as he entered, his vision beginning to blur.
Exchanging a quick glance with his wife sitting opposite him at the dining table, William Burns caught the disapproving expression which appeared on Claire’s face.
He ignored it and headed straight to where Ray had fallen.
Another man passed him and closed the door to stop the snow blowing in, then turned to look down. “Is he dead?”
Opening Ray’s coat, William shook his head when he found a pulse. “No, he’s just unconscious.” He glanced up at Kenny Ward, “Could you help me get him over to that couch?”
Helped by Kenny to lift Ray off the ground, William carried him to the couch in front of a tall and decorated Christmas tree.
Placing Ray on the couch, William slipped out his mobile and saw ‘no signal’ visible on the display. Heading to the reception desk, he rang the bell and waited for the manager to emerge from the staff lounge.
Ian Stephens looked at William, closing the door to the staff lounge behind him. “Can I help you?”
Nodding, William glanced back at the couch. “We’ve got a man who needs medical attention and the mobiles aren’t getting a signal, so I need to use your landline.”
Picking up the receiver without waiting for Ian to reply, William raised it to his ear. His gaze falling on Ian after a few moments, he lowered the receiver. “There’s no dialling tone.”
Snatching the receiver from him, Ian checked it for himself. “There’s a spare room up on the first floor, may I suggest moving him up there until we can work something else out.”
“Okay.” William glanced back at Kenny as Ian lifted the key to the spare room from a hook on the wall, “Want to give me another hand?”
As Kenny picked up Ray’s legs, William slipped his hands under Ray’s arms and lifted him off the couch. Glancing at Ian as he moved backwards towards the stairs, he began following Ian up to the top of the stairs.
Stepping out from the dining room, Claire headed upstairs behind them and continued following them to the door of the empty room. Entering, she watched William and Kenny laying out Ray on the bed.
She looked across at her husband, “Do you think someone should stay with him?”
William returned her gaze, “It might be best, yes.” He glanced at Kenny, “Listen, mate. Why don’t you let me buy you a drink for helping like that?” He gave Claire another look, “My wife can keep an eye on our friend here. You don’t mind, do you, honey?”
She wasted no time shaking her head, “Of course not. You go ahead and get that drink.”
Watching them leave the room, Claire waited until they were out of sight and began checking through the pockets of his jacket. Removing a small journal, she began flipping through the pages.
Reading the last page of written notes, she closed the journal and dropped it into her pocket. Waiting for a few minutes, she headed straight for the door and down the stairs.
Entering the bar, she walked towards William and Kenny sitting at the counter. “That guy started mumbling about someone called Janine, she might be outside somewhere.”
William recognised the concern in her eyes that she was trying to hide, “I’ll go get a coat and I’ll take a look round.”
Slipping down from the stool in front of the bar, he headed back into the lobby, hurrying up to the second floor. Approaching the door to his and Claire’s room, he pulled the key from his pocket and unlocked it.
Entering the room, he took a coat off the back of a chair and slipped it on. Pausing to look at one of the suitcases in the corner, he hesitated for a few moments before heading straight for the door.
Reaching the top of the stairs and beginning to descend, he saw Kenny and another man standing close to the door leading outside.
Kenny moved towards the door as William got to the bottom of the stairs, “Dave here says he wants to help look.”
Nodding, William opened the door and stepped out into the snow. Taking a quick look round, he saw the still visible footprints in the snow made by Ray. He glanced back at Kenny and David North as they emerged behind him, pointing to the footprints. “He came this way.”
Heading through the snow, William followed the footprints until he saw the body lying face down in the snow, red snow surrounding her.
Rushing forward, he stopped short of reaching the body. Beginning to move forward again when Kenny and David began to catch up, he reached down to grasp the shoulder of the thick jacket as he got close enough.
Watching William turn over the body, David felt sick when he saw the bloodied skull staring out from under the hood of the jacket.
Taking note of David’s reaction, William let the body fall back down, glancing towards the row of trees. “I think we should get back.”