Logan stared up at the house, his mouth hanging open. It was huge, even for a Los Angeles native like himself.
The house was completely white, with a porch filling the front that had a wide set of steps leading up to a large wooden front door. It was two stories with a smaller third story on top, which was half the size.
An attic, Logan figured as his eyes moved on to the three balconies protruding from the second level.
When his gaze came to a stop, it rested on the extension to the left hand side of the house, which was what made the building so large. It was also completely white and the same height as the house, but with no windows and a single black door.
A flicker of color caught Logan’s eye. He looked away from the extension and discovered an orange and black butterfly nearby. It zipped past him to land on a bush right beside where Logan stood and it was then he noticed he was standing at the edge of a garden that filled the front yard and continued on around the right hand side of the house. In the middle was a gravel path, leading straight to the porch and front door.
“Mr. Gerard is expecting you,” Harvey told him, and Logan turned to see his bags being unpacked by the driver. He bent to pick them up, but Harvey spoke again. “Mitchell will bring those in and place them in your room.”
Harvey then started down the path, each of his steps producing a crunch. With a deep, shaky breath, Logan quickly shoved his bag of uneaten cookies into his backpack before he followed.
As they mounted the steps, Harvey pushed open the front door and they both entered the house. Once again, Logan’s mouth hung open.
The inside was more exquisite than the outside. A grand staircase filled the area in front of him, and to the right he could see what he thought to be a ballroom. Light caught Logan’s eye and he looked up to see a chandelier hanging down from the roof of the second story.
“This way,” instructed Harvey, motioning to the left where a door stood open.
Logan followed once more and the scent of food being cooked met his nose as he continued to try and take in his surroundings. He wasn’t having much luck as he was so overwhelmed. The harder he tried to absorb all of it, the more everything blurred. He closed his eyes for a few seconds. When he opened them, Logan was through the door and in a new room, facing a man with piercing blue eyes and greying, dark brown wavy hair.
Harvey motioned towards the man. “Logan, I’d like you to meet Mr. Thomas Gerard.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” said Logan as Gerard stood up and rounded his desk. Gerard held out his hand and Logan took up the offering.
“The pleasure’s mine,” Gerard told him, the hint of an accent in his voice as he shook Logan’s hand firmly. “Please, sit.”
Logan did as he was told and noticed Harvey leaving the room.
“You’ll be in safe hands with Mr. Gerard,” Harvey told him. “I’ll see you later.”
With that, Harvey walked from the room, closing the door behind him.
New panic set in and Logan was amazed that Gerard couldn’t hear his gasping breath or the pounding of his heart. Logan tried to calm himself, but it was impossible. This was it. This was the part where he found out the truth.
“I take it Harvey has filled you in on what your job will entail,” said Gerard after a few moments of silence, his eyebrows raised.
“Yes. And I still can’t believe I’m here.”
Gerard’s laugh was surprisingly musical. “I know; it’s all a little unbelievable. You’re probably still thinking I’m going to yell, ‘Surprise, joke’s on you.’”
“Well, I’m not,” Gerard told him with a smile, and Logan thought the slight accent may have been French. “You’ll see soon enough. Tonight you will get to see the collection on display with the recruits who won’t be fighting.”
That’s when Logan remembered it was the first Saturday of the month. That was the day Harvey told him the collection went on display for the rich.
Logan’s fingers clenched the arm of the chair he sat in. “I’m looking forward to it.”
“Excellent. I will just grab someone to show you around and to your room, then.” Gerard picked up a walkie-talkie from his desk and spoke into it. “O’Donnell, please report to the study. O’Donnell, to the study.”
Gerard put the walkie-talkie back down on the desk then gave Logan a reassuring smile before speaking once more.
“You will need this.” Gerard reached out and handed Logan a booklet. “It has the weekly schedule in it, as well as other information and a map of the estate. Just in case you get lost.”
Gerard produced another smile. There was a twinkle in his blue eyes as he resumed talking. “Now I’m not sure if Harvey mentioned it or not, but the estate is surrounded by an electric fence. It’s a necessity, given what we do here. The other necessity is a lockdown from 11pm to 7am, so recruits are required to be in their rooms before this goes into effect each night. On display nights like tonight, things usually work a bit differently, so lockdown isn’t until twelve. You will find everything you need to know in your handbook, so I suggest you read through it when you have the chance. If you need to, you can come to me with any questions. My door is always open, but if I’m not available my daughter, Genevieve, and when he’s at the estate my son, Jackson, can answer anything.”
At that moment there was a knock on the door, and Gerard called for the person to enter.
“Ah, yes, O’Donnell,” said Gerard to the young man who had just entered. He was dressed in cargo pants, a black t-shirt, and had a walkie-talkie clipped to his belt, as well as what Logan thought might possibly be a taser. “This here is the new recruit, Logan Gates. I need you to show him around and to his room. It’s room B7. Logan, this is O’Donnell, one of the guards here at the estate. He’ll show you where you need to go.”
“Thank you, Mr. Gerard.” Logan stood up and shook the man’s hand once more.
“It’s great to have you here, Logan,” Gerard told him with genuine warmth in his voice that helped Logan relax a little bit more.
With his handbook clenched in his fist, Logan started to follow O’Donnell from the room. He quickly glanced back, but Gerard was already looking down at the papers in front of him.
Logan faced the doorway once more and as he did, his eyes caught on a framed picture hanging on the wall. It was a child’s crayon drawing of a man with blue eyes and brown hair, surrounded by money. There was a name scrawled in the bottom right hand corner, but although the drawing was clearly of Gerard, the artist wasn’t either of his children. It was someone named Penny.
Once out of the study, Logan followed O’Donnell past the staircase then the open door of a room stuffed with books and comfy looking chairs. They were headed straight for the entrance to what looked to be a dining room, but with a slight turn to the right they entered a hallway. They walked past the kitchen with its mouth-watering aromas as well as a large, heavy looking metal door which stood open, and Logan found himself in another hallway.
As he trailed O’Donnell, Logan could see smaller hallways running off of the main hallway they were in, and also see doors facing onto these. He was about to ask what the doors were for when O’Donnell began to explain.
“This first dorm is where the housekeeping and kitchen staff sleep, as well as guards and trainers. It’s both upstairs and downstairs.”
“Can I ask why there would be a need for guards?”
O’Donnell laughed, but it wasn’t very friendly. “Let me ask you this. Would you feel safe around vampires and werewolves if there weren’t any guards?”
“I suppose not,” mumbled Logan, trailing O’Donnell as he went into a room that followed on from the hallway.
This room was packed with tables and benches, and had a serving area, just like a school cafeteria.
“This is the mess hall where everyone eats,” O’Donnell continued gruffly. “Next door are two recreation rooms. There’s also another two downstairs, as well as the laundry room.”
O’Donnell didn’t seem like the most enthusiastic tour guide, or the friendliest, but at least Logan had some sort of an idea what everything was. He probably wouldn’t remember most of it later, but he wasn’t about to ask O’Donnell to go into more detail.
They left the eating area and entered another dorm where O’Donnell resumed speaking.
“The upstairs is the recruits’ dorm and downstairs is the creature dorm.”
“They’re right underneath?” asked Logan, his voice unconsciously growing soft.
O’Donnell laughed. “Not right now. They’re in their training yard.”
They turned right onto another hallway, which was small and close, and Logan noticed it also had a few doors facing onto it.
“You’re in B7,” called O’Donnell over his shoulder and Logan saw the letters and numbers on the doors around him.
They crossed another hallway on the left and came to more rooms. On the right hand side was a door showing B7, and O’Donnell opened it. Inside sat Logan’s two bags, as well as a single bed, wardrobe, bedside table with lamp and a door to another room.
“Each room has its own bathroom,” O’Donnell informed him, sounding bored as he went over and opened the other door.
Logan stepped forward and looked inside where he found a shower stall, hand basin and toilet.
“Next to your room is one of this dorm’s linen closets,” O’Donnell told him as Logan moved back from the bathroom door. “You’re expected to change your own sheets and towels and take them downstairs to the laundry room to be washed. Housekeeping washes those, but you need to take care of your own clothes. In your wardrobe you will find six changes of training attire.”
O’Donnell opened the wardrobe and Logan saw a full length mirror on the back of one of the doors, some drawers, plenty of hanging room and the training attire.
“Come on, I’ll take you to the recruit training yard.”
Logan looked from the clothes in the wardrobe to O’Donnell. “Should I get changed?”
“No, it’s okay, you won’t be expected to train until Monday.”
Logan followed O’Donnell from what was now his room and when they reached the main hallway, they turned right, heading away from the mess hall. They passed more small hallways with rooms and at the end, O’Donnell opened a door that led into a large room filled with people and training equipment. The scent of sweat and metal immediately hit Logan, but it wasn’t unpleasant. If anything, it seemed to settle his nerves a bit.
O’Donnell held out his arm, gesturing half-heartedly with his hand towards the room and the people. “This is where you will spend five and a half days a week. The recruits train in three separate groups, depending on their skill level, so you’ll start off in the beginners group. Just wait here for a minute. I need to quickly speak with someone.”
O’Donnell left Logan standing by the entrance to the training yard and went to speak with someone Logan assumed to be one of the trainers, as he was dressed differently from most of the other people. O’Donnell didn’t seem much more animated talking to the trainer than he had with Logan, and Logan felt a bit relieved to find it wasn’t just him.
Logan looked around the room and watched the various activities going on. It seemed that everyone in the training yard was around his age. No younger than eighteen, but probably no older than twenty-five. As he watched, he began to wonder if he would ever be able to punch someone like one of the guys did, or flip a person like a very strong looking female just did.
“Hey, new guy.”
Logan turned to locate the speaker and found a young woman looking at him who was using a weight lifting machine not far from where he stood. She was slim, tanned, and had a girl next door look about her.
“Hey,” he greeted in return.
She sat up, wiping the back of her hand across her forehead to remove the damp strands of dark brown hair stuck to her skin. “You have a name?”
“Yeah, it’s Logan. Logan Gates.”
“Well, Logan, Logan Gates, I’m AJ, and this sweaty mass next to me is Mack.”
“Sweaty mass?” came a new voice. From the machine next to AJ sat up a large, mischievously smiling young man with blonde, almost white hair and blue eyes. “She loves me, really.”
AJ smiled at Mack, her green eyes bright, then turned back to Logan. “So, how did Gerard lure you in?”
Logan’s eyes narrowed. “Lure me in? What do you mean?”
AJ met Mack’s gaze for a moment, and Logan’s stomach began to knot.
“How did you end up here at the estate?” Mack asked, not answering Logan’s question.
“I applied for a job,” Logan told them, his heart racing now. “This is just some sort of hoax though, isn’t it?”
“Not exactly,” said AJ as she swung her legs off of the weight lifting machine to set her feet on the ground. “It’s more that once you’ve been lured in, there’s no way out.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Two months after we came here we wanted to leave, but Gerard wouldn’t let us, so we tried to escape,” AJ told Logan.
“And what, the guards stopped you?” Logan shoved his hands into his pockets so AJ and Mack wouldn’t notice how much they were starting to tremble.
AJ shook her head. “Who needs guards when you have the Witch and the Psychic?”
“The Witch and the Psychic,” answered Mack, not smiling now as he stood up, and draped a towel around his shoulders. “They keep everyone from escaping. The Witch stops you, but the Psychic sees it coming if you try.”
© 2012 Jade Fowler