(Just joining us? You may want to start at the beginning.)
Wendy reacted quickly, deciding before JD had his wits about him what she was going to do. She turned hard left, did a quick three-point turn that left Dillon tossed like a sock in a Laundromat dryer and JD clinging to the hanging handle over his door with both hands to keep from being jerked around the car. She went swiftly down the street, and noted the layout of the houses around them as she did.
"Look, JD! Look ... the houses -- they're all kinda set back or obscured by trees. In this neighborhood, he could've parked a truck and not even been noticed!"
"Uh -- y-yes, I see," JD stammered, nervous at how fast she was going. They rounded the gentle curve and he felt the pressure of the G-forces on him. She braked slightly and took the curve fast.
Panicking only slightly, JD checked quickly over his shoulder to make sure there wasn't any oncoming traffic immediately behind them. She roared the short distance to the house and pulled up so close to the curb, JD thought the car would skip its rims along the miniature concrete wall. Instead she brought them to a smooth and swift stop that left them pressed against their seat belts.
"Duuuuude," Dillon whispered. "If JD don't wanna marry you, Wen, I sure as hell do! That was hawt!"
She giggled and opened her door. "C'mon -- we can see this thing from the beginning. He parked the truck up the hill so they wouldn't see him when they got here. Why? Why would he do that? Come on, you guys, hurry up!"
"Uh ... o-okay," JD got out of the car, fighting with the buckle on the taut safety belt. Dillon slowly slid out of the car, and quickly checked himself.
"All the parts're still here ... guess I'm okay ... damn, that was hawt. I never knew driving like a maniac was so sexy 'til a chick did it. Heh."
"Try to focus, Dillon," JD said patiently. "Where are you going, Wen??"
"Come on! Hurry! I want to see him come in! What's he doing here, and why's he hiding!" She raced child-like through the gate and toward the parlor window, then changed direction and headed back toward the porch.
"Wendy, wait! You don't know where ..."
"It doesn't matter, lover! Come on, inside! We'll see him come in the window just like we did before!"
She was exuberant and wild, and JD found himself smiling despite the situation. He ran after her, trying to catch her, and she bounced eagerly on the porch, her hair springing from her shoulders as she waited for JD to come with the keys.
"Hurry, baby, hurry!"
"We still have more than an hour!" JD giggled, unable to stop himself from catching her enthusiasm.
"I don't think so! I think this is it! This is the whole story! Everything the house has to say, we're about to hear!"
"Sure. Don't you think it's the house?"
"Does this mean we ain't gonna eat? I'm friggin' hungry."
"We ate less than three hours ago, Dillon, give me a break."
"I'll give you somethin', all right. Dude."
He finally fumbled the keys into the lock and opened the door. Wendy raced in past him while he disengaged them from the lock, and Dillon pouted.
"Don't worry, Dilly ... we'll get you something. Just not right now. Come on, let's wait by the window!" She darted for the parlor, peeling her coat from her shoulders.
JD chuckled again, and noticed he was trotting after her, wanting to keep pace with her unbridled excitement. Dillon shuffled after them, grumbling.
JD came alongside her as she dropped into one of the chairs in front of the tables, behind the monitors, and watched the windows. The dark outside stared back at them coldly, as blank and unrevealing as a shark's eyes. She took JD's hand and held it between both of hers, and sat at the edge of her seat like a young girl at the movie theater without her parents for the first time.
JD watched the window, and tried to check his watch, but Wendy held the hand on which he wore it. He still thought there was too much time left for the replay to start. He didn't want her to be disappointed. Dillon leaned against the parlor's door jamb, his hands tucked casually into his pants pockets.
"Ain't gonna happen, people," he said. "Not time yet. Big-brain-small-balls said it was all time-triggered or whatever."
JD shot him a glare. "What'd you call me?"
"Have I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?"
JD shook his head and looked away. "That could be considered blasphemy."
"Shh! Shh! I think it's going to happen! I think it will! Just ... wait. Just wait."
"Wendy, we're really early, and it does appear to be time-dependent ..."
"Give it chance, baby, just wait ... okay?"
He looked down on her flashing eyes, her broad, amazing smile, and gently nodded. He looked back at Dillon, who simply shook his head and looked down. JD shrugged.
They all jumped harshly and Dillon squeaked when the window sash screamed open, rising slowly, the screeching wail of the ancient window protesting the movement.
JD quickly took a step, feeling at the table top desperately, finally wrapping his fingers around the tiny digital recorder, and pressed the record button quickly, catching the last several seconds of the loudly crying window movement.
Dillon whimpered behind him, and Wendy was squeezing his hand so tightly he thought she might crush it.
JD shut the recorder off a half-second after the sound died away, and tucked it into his pocket. He was straining for the hand-held video camera, and Wendy finally noticed what he was doing. She handed it to him quickly and released his hand. He felt guiltily relieved and worked it opened and closed to get the blood flowing through his digits, while he powered the camera on with his other hand. He popped open the LCD display and made sure the lens cover was off. Pointing it at the window, he watched as the shadowy figure appeared at the window, just outside.
Wendy covered her mouth and he heard her soft cry die in her hands as she smothered it. He felt the floor vibrate simultaneously and knew Dillon had jumped. Whether at the sound or the image, he didn't know. Steadily pointing the camera, he watched the figure come into the room, crouching just beneath the window, just out of sight from the exterior.
"Darren Jenkins?" JD called softly. The figure ignored him.
"Who're you, Jennifer Love Hewitt?" Dillon mocked. "This ain't TV, dude!"
"Hey, the other one spoke to us. I thought it was worth a try."
"Good try, baby," Wendy patted his arm. "What's he doing now?"
"He's looking to make sure he wasn't seen or followed. In a couple of seconds he'll ..."
The figure rose and moved to their left one more window, brushing invisible curtains aside to look out on the yard from another perspective. Then he moved toward the wall again, and JD knew this would be where it got tricky.
"He's going to open that door again," Wendy said. "Should we follow him?"
"No! I know where that door used to go! Come on!"
The figure opened the door that seemed to simply morph out of the wall, and vanished inside, pulling it closed behind him.
JD raced across the large space behind the stairs, across the foyer to the kitchen, and turned on a light quickly as he ducked into the pantry. At the back, he turned on another light, and then yanked open the door to the servant's staircase. He felt Wendy right behind her and heard Dillon's distinctive shuffle stumbling after as he pulled on the chain to engage the light at the top of the basement stairs.
He flew down the steps as fast as he could, and felt Wendy trying to keep pace. Before he could worry she was grasping his shoulders, keeping herself from falling as she stumbled down the last few steps. JD came forward, but the basement was pitch black now. No exterior light assisted with the navigation. He knew the space was largely open, now ... but wasn't sure if he could trip on objects that were there 35 years ago.
He fumbled in his pocket, but didn't have his red-lens flashlight.
"Damn," he swore softly, and fumbled with the camera. He finally made the tiny camera light turn on, and it pierced the black as far ahead of them as the camera's night-ability would allow. It was all of about six feet, but showed that the floor was still clear. He began to edge to his left, moving forward slowly, cautiously.
"This way ... there's a concrete wall up there that sits right between the parlor and the den or living room, whatever it is. There was a staircase between those two rooms 35 years ago. I think they expanded the room next to the parlor and took it out to create the space."
Wendy clutched JD tightly, and he was sure Dillon was clutching her just as tightly.
"I'm scared, dude," Dillon whispered softly.
"Don't be. This is the easy part. Just watch."
JD crept forward until the tiny light finally found the first traces of the large concrete barricade in front of them. He stopped then, and felt the others press tightly to his back. He heard Wendy breathing, anxious, quivering, and felt her gentle but rhythmic trembling on his arm as she entwined hers over it like ivy. He squeezed one hand with his free one, and let the camera run.
In a moment, the concrete seemed to be liquid and soft again, and a shadowy, indistinct form seemed to emerge from the gray monolith as if coming out of a wall of oatmeal. Wendy clutched JD tightly, and he felt his heart racing, his body tense, ready to spring.
The shadow moved toward the window, next to where he'd seen the pipe plunge through the wall into the earth under the parlor window. With a last furtive look through the dirty panes spattered with mud, he turned toward the middle of the basement. He bent and seemed to be working on -- or in -- something. The distinct sound of metal clinking and glass bumping filled the damp enclosure.
"What ... what's he doing?" Wendy's whisper was so soft, JD had to strain to hear it.
He shook his head, indicating he didn't know either. He gingerly took another step forward, Wendy moving in unison with him. The tiny camera light seemed to be powerless to illuminate the shadowy figure bent over the floor, but it showed the folds and wrinkles of a large canvas bag, gray with age and frayed with use, lying in front of him.
And suddenly, a diamond necklace appeared as he dropped it beside the bag in the weak ring of light. A golden statuette, a jewelry box, a silver candlestick, a jade figurine ... one by one the shadow placed expensive and rare objects d'art and jewelry beside him, trinkets that, JD was sure, had been taken in the burglaries of the time.
In a moment, the collection seemed to be complete. The figure took the items he'd set aside, and stood up, stretching and moving his legs to allow the circulation to flow freely again. He pulled something white and flimsy from behind his back, and they all jumped, stifling yelps of start, when he snapped the pillow case open. One by one he dropped the tiny treasures into the cotton make-shift carrier, and they clinked and clunked as they fell in. In another few minutes, he hefted the case over his shoulder, the items rattling against his back, the figure grunting with the effort.
JD shone the light on the canvas bag on the floor, but couldn't tell how much had been removed.
"Dude took all the good stuff, I bet," Dillon whispered, and JD was impressed that he could barely hear the statement.
"Is that what he's doing? Taking stuff? Stealing from thieves?"
JD shrugged. "I ... don't know. Sure looks like it." He whispered so softly, he bent low to make sure she heard him. He wasn't sure why he was whispering, though.
The shadowy figure seemed to vanish into the depths of the basement, and when he re-emerged into the dim light, he no longer had his treasure with him. He checked what JD assumed was a watch on his left wrist, and walked back to the basement window beneath the parlor, looking out into the night. Turning slowly, he started for the concrete barrier again.
All of them froze when they heard voices outside.
JD felt himself sweating. He knew what was coming.
They could hear the sounds, but not make out the words. Rushing, the shadowy figure raced back to his position at the window and peered out, and suddenly a flash of white light traced past the panes and the figure ducked, pressing himself against the wall beneath the window. The voices seemed to fade as the light moved away, and the silhouette slowly stood and looked out the window again.
The sound startled them all sharply, making them jump and their skin burn with the sudden, hot flush of adrenaline that pounded through them.
"What the fuck are they doin' here already??"
The voice was whispered but harsh, gravelly, gruff. The figure sank to the floor, and went motionless.
They continued to hear the voices outside, so softly now they couldn't be distinguished from one another.
Quickly, another light cut across the panes of the window, and Jenkins jerked his head up, then scrabbled to his feet. He strained to look out, but couldn't see, and then darted across the basement to the window opposite. He strained again, but still couldn't see.
"Aw, Christ!" he groaned softly. "Damn it, is that you, Robbie?? You sonuvabitch, you told me you weren't doin' this!"
He bolted back to the opposite window, then scrambled forward, the three observers nearly leaping to get out of the way as he raced past, trying to find another window at the back of the basement. There was none.
He panted heavily as he went back to the window beneath the parlor, then held his breath, listening. The voices were joined by a third. There was an exchange. The voices grew a bit louder, but were still too indistinct to be understood. The figure bolted to the other window again, and suddenly there was a strange, indecipherable sound, and a voice strained and panicked. Then footfalls, clear, racing and pounding past the window where Jenkins stood, and he ducked quickly, watching them go by.
He waited, watching for a moment, and listened. No sound. Silence.
He tore at the old, rickety latch of the window, and pulled the sash harshly. Paint cracked and splintered away, and the decrepit hinges screamed in protesting agony as the sash was opened for the first time in many, many decades. He scooted up, onto the ledge formed by the basement foundation wall, and wedged his form tightly through the window, and into the yard.
"Come on," JD said softly, "let's go back upstairs. The rest of this will be in the yard."