I heard a voice call my name. It was so quiet that, at first, I wasn’t sure I’d heard anything. The halls were old, prone to groans and creaks as they settled during the night. In the cold weather, the noises only got worse.
I hate the night shift. I hate the cold, the dark, the mind-numbing boredom, but more than anything else, I hate the way your imagination plays tricks on you. The shadows seem to grow, the artefacts move and the lifeless eyes of the sculptures and paintings follow you through the museum.
‘David,’ the voice came again from deep inside the gallery; a male voice.
It’s got to be Mac.
I sighed and blew on my cupped hands to warm them before pulling the radio’s microphone close to my lips.
‘Mac? You hear me?’
The radio gave a hiss of static and a pop as Mac’s growled through my earpiece.
‘Yeah?’ he said in the hoarse snarl of a heavy smoker. ‘What is it?’
‘What’s your position?’
‘Everton’s on. Where the hell do you think I am?’ Security office, of course. He’d be leaning back in his chair, the match skipping in and out of focus on the ancient television’s snow-marred screen.
‘Just checking,’ I told him. ‘Thought I’d heard you up on Americas.’
‘I’m not leaving this office ’til after half-time. Maybe not even then.’
You will if we’ve got a break-in, I thought and unclipped the flashlight from my utility belt.
The harsh, halogen glow pierced the darkness, chasing the heavy shadows into corners. They danced back and forth as I trained the torch; first to the left and then to the right.
‘Hello?’ I called out. ‘Is anybody there?’
For a moment, I thought I glimpsed movement but realised it’d been the reflection image of the sculpture that dominated the room. The entwined, alabaster bodies of a man and woman glowed in the display case glass.
‘We know what you did…’ the voice said again, louder this time but still scarcely more than a whisper.
‘What you did…’ a second voice, female, echoed.
‘Sir, madam,’ I took a step over the threshold of the gallery. ‘The museum is closed. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.’
‘Leave? Like you left your father?’ said the man
‘Your poor, old, dying father?’
My mouth felt dry. I played the torch over and around the cases. I found no one.
‘Left him there, in the nursing home.’
‘You didn’t even visit when he told you the nurses had withheld his medication.’
‘H-how…?’ I started, stopping when I felt a hand brush my shoulder. I spun on my heels, flashlight raised.
Nothing. Just the statue.
My heart throbbed in my ears, my breathing heavy. A bead of sweat ran down my cheek, startling me.