"Do we really need to be here?" Diane whined. "Seriously. Aren't you done with all this yet?"
"Yes, we do have to be here," Veruca growled. It had been like pulling teeth getting Frank to agree to go back to the house again, despite him having already agreed to it, and Veruca could tell Diane was behind that, and that she still thought this had been some twisted scheme on Veruca's part. As if Veruca wanted to spend the last few days constantly in diapers, and almost as constantly wet. Like she wanted to spend her nights thrashing about in bed in double-thick diapers, as she thought about Diane, dressed up in what was surely some slutty costume, having the time of her life and keeping her from being able to fix this any earlier. Though, if there was any bright side to that, it was that it had given her the resolve to do what she was there to do.
"We're already here," Frank said calmly. "Let's just go check things out."
"Right," Veruca stepped in quickly. "I think we should split up, and since I'm still not... feeling well... I think I need some help, so I was thinking..."
"Actually, I thought maybe we'd stick together this time," Frank cut in. "That way we can be more thorough."
"Like, I can stay and guard the van," Scruffy offered timidly.
Veruca could hardly believe she was saying it, but, before she could come up with any better way to put it, the words were coming out. "I think we need you this time! A fresh set of eyes!"
"Yeah, Scruffy," Diane rolled her eyes from the front seat, "it's not like there's anything to be scared of in there anyway."
"Yeah, well, in case you haven't noticed, it's Halloween," Scruffy pointed out. "All kinds of ghosts and goblins could be in there waiting for us!"
"I'll protect you," Veruca said dryly, opening the door and hopping out of the van. "Come on. Bring the dog, too, if you want."
"Yeah, aren't dogs supposed to be sensitive to ghosts or something?" Diane asked as she got out of the van as well, staring down at Veruca. "Do you think he'll sniff any out?"
"It's hard to tell, Diane," Veruca glared at her. She didn't want to get into an argument with her here - it would take too much time, run the risk of giving Diane enough ammunition to change Frank's mind about this, and would just be tacky - but Diane seemed pretty set on pushing her buttons.
"I don't know..." Scruffy shook his head, still firmly planted in his seat, arms around the dog's neck. "Like, maybe if it was any other day..."
"Come on," Veruca sighed. "Please?" She reached down into her bag, digging around in her bag. "Here, look... I've got some cookies here. I bet you're hungry, aren't you?"
His eyes opened a little wider. "What kind?"
She pulled them out, holding them out so he could see them. They were sugar cookies, frosted and decorated like jack-o-lanterns. It was what her parents had handed out to the trick-or-treaters, though, since nobody in the family was much into cooking, they were just something her mother had picked up at the grocery store, but they weren't bad. And since Scruffy's eyes were their usual bloodshot red, she was sure he'd appreciate them all the more. She jiggled the bag she'd put them in. "Just help me look around."
"Oh, all right," he caved finally, climbing out of the van, dragging the dog along with him. She handed him the bag, then, rest of the group behind her, headed into the house.
"Do you think they have the explosives set already?" Scruffy asked between mouthfuls of cookie.
"It isn't a skyscraper," Veruca rolled her eyes, flipping on her flashlight. "I'm sure they're just going to bulldoze it down."
The house looked the same as it had last time they'd been there, but there was a different feeling in the air, a chill that made her rub her arms through her sweater and wish she'd put on some jeans instead of a skirt, even though she hated the bulge her diapers made in pants. She was sure it hadn't been this cold outside, but she was less certain that it really was any chillier in there. It could just be her nerves, knowing what she was about to try to do, or even memories of what had already happened to her in there.
"I really think we'll get more done if we split up," she offered again. "I mean, we'll get done faster, anyway. I know you two always team up," she looked at Diane and Frank, "so I can just take Scruffy, and we'll..."
"Seriously?" Diane raised an eyebrow, smirking.
Veruca blushed. "God, don't be gross! I'm just trying to be helpful!"
"I'm sure you are," Diane teased.
"I'm not going anywhere alone with you," Scruffy interrupted. "You already got attacked by a ghost here once!"
"Of course she did," Diane rolled her eyes.
"Gang, let's just concentrate on getting this done," Frank finally broke in, "or we'll be here all night."
They began to creep from room to room, checking out every dust-covered, but otherwise empty, corner. Veruca did her best to pretend she was looking, since she was the one who had insisted they do so, but since she knew right where they were going, the other rooms just seemed like a waste of time, so she spent more time trying to figure out some natural way to split the group up. She didn't have to, of course, but she thought it would make things easier.
"What are you doing, Veruca? Why are you back here?"
She turned around to see Carol standing there, with her children in tow. None of the others turned to look, so Veruca was pretty sure they couldn't see or hear her. It was, Veruca pondered, kind of striking how easily she accepted that, but then, after spending several days solid doing research on ghosts, she'd sort of come to expect it. She couldn't exactly answer without looking crazy, however, not that she planned to do so anyway. She gave Carol a cold look, then turned back around and returned to her half-hearted search.
"This is a bad idea, Veruca," Carol informed her. "This is a dangerous time. You shouldn't be back here."
"I cannot have you... in me," Veruca whispered. "I'm just doing what I have to do. Just leave me alone, okay?"
"You can't," Carol protested.
"There's nothing in here," Veruca said, speaking up as she turned back around, walking right through Carol, which gave her the shivers all the worse. "Let's go on to the next room."
"This is a horrible idea," Carol told her once they were there. "You don't know what you're doing!"
"Next room!" Veruca cried, just as soon as she dared.
The room with the shelf was getting closer, and yet she was still stuck with the whole group. They all seemed to be getting restless, but none of them were suggesting the split on their own. She sidled up to Diane in the hallway, quietly telling her, "I could always team up with you, too, if we split up. I mean, I know you're usually with Frank, but at least that way you wouldn't have to worry about me being with him, and..."
"Not into that," Diane cut her off, looking her up and down. "Way not into that."
"That's not what I meant!" Veruca insisted. "Why do you have to take everything like that? What is wrong with you?!" But Diane just ignored her, pushing past to catch up with Frank. Veruca knew she had no shot at getting him alone - and, honestly, she'd never even considered him as an option, partially because she'd expected that, and partly because he was the only one other than her that actually contributed. But it looked like he was going to have to come along, too.
"Veruca, you can't do this!" Carol told her sternly. Veruca was feeling a little more uneasy, but she blamed that on the ghost's constant warnings.
Finally, she was back in the room. Her stomach twisted a little at the sight of the shelves, as she looked around at the rest of her little group. She could always declare that room clean as well, then double back if she got the chance, but that would look pretty suspicious, she knew. It was going to have to be now.
"Veruca, please, don't! For your sake, I'm begging you!" Carol was down on her ghostly knees now.
Veruca glared through her, then turned and tapped the trigger. "Whoa!" she exclaimed, almost before the shelf started moving. "Guys, come check this out!"
"Zoinks!" Scruffy exclaimed, eyeing the moving shelf in fear, empty cookie bag clutched in one hand. "Like, what is that?"
"Only one way to find out," Frank said, shining his flashlight in and moving closer.
"I don't know..." Diane followed him, hanging back a little. "I don't like it..."
"What are you scared of?" Veruca couldn't resist sneering at her. "Ghosts?"
"It just feels... wrong," Diane shook her head.
"I'll say! Let's get out of here!"
Scruffy started to turn to leave, but Frank stopped him. "Dogs are supposed to be sensitive to spooky stuff," he said. "Bring him over and have him check it out."
"What?" Scruffy practically squeaked. "You want me to go in there first?"
"Well, I can," Frank offered, "but I need the dog."
"No way, man," Scruffy shook his head. "He's sticking with me, aren't you, buddy?"
"Then get going!" Frank stepped to one side, leaving the path open for Scruffy.
Veruca watched this anxiously, seeing the shelves slowly sliding back, tapping her foot. She wanted to urge them all to hurry up, but she didn't dare. Scruffy slowly edged toward the little room, dog following obediently, pausing at the doorway and looking around at the others, scared. Veruca couldn't help feeling a little guilty for trying to force him into this - though she doubted she could have even come close to getting him inside without Frank's help - but it was what she had to do.
"Come on," Diane voiced Veruca's thoughts. "Just go in."
Scruffy crept in, the dog trotting in after him. "It doesn't really feel different," he offered. Veruca went dead still as she saw him inside, just as she wanted him. As inconspicuously, but still quickly, as she could, she started to move closer to the door.
Frank stepped back towards the entrance as well, and Diane moved next to him as they peered inside. "It looks like a bunch of mirrors," he observed. "Kind of weird, but harmless."
Veruca bit her bottom lip as she saw the shelf starting to slide shut again. Frank and Diane were blocking her path now, and there wasn't much time. She only needed one - in fact, she wasn't sure if having more would affect it or not - but it looked like she didn't have a choice. She dashed towards them, using her small frame to crash into them and push them inside, falling in between them as the shelf slid shut behind them.
"Sorry, I tripped," she said lamely. "I'm sure there's some way to get out of here..." She started pawing at the wall, while, with her other hand, she began digging in her bag for the ingredients she was going to need.
"Umm, Veruca..." Scruffy edged over to her, tapping her on the shoulder.
"This would be easier if we all searched our own wall," Veruca told him, mostly since she knew she had the wall with the trigger, so she'd have all the time she needed.
"No, Veruca, I think you should look at this," Frank said.
"What, is there a ghost?" she asked, half-joking. She was sure Carol and the kids would show up, and probably even let the others see them, but she wasn't really concerned about that at the moment.
"Yes," Diane answered. Veruca had never heard her voice sound so un-confident. It almost made her feel proud, knowing that Diane was finally seeing that she hadn't been lying after all; she was also pretty sure she hadn't been anywhere near that freaked out when she'd first seen Carol, though she also hadn't known what she was then.
"I thought there was no such thing as ghosts," Veruca teased, turning around to give Diane a smug look. "I'm sure there's nothing to..."
She froze as she saw what was behind her. There was a whole group of ghosts - and these were definitely ghosts, being semi-transparent, many of them splattered with blood or missing parts of their body, all of them staring at the four teenagers with a look of hunger in their eyes. Veruca felt her diaper grow wet, but, for once, she knew that was all her fault. "Jinkies," she gulped.