Chapter 27

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Bob was strangely hesitant and mostly silent through the rest of the tour. As he led me past rooms, he would avert his gaze and only mumble what was behind each door. He would stand aside as I looked around, which is when he would take the chance to scrutinize me again, watching me when he didn't think I would notice. It was weird and it made me nervous. Why was he being all awkward all of a sudden? Had I done something wrong?

But the thought that was berating my mind more than Bob's precipitous change in behavior was the picture. It was simple enough-- I could even recreate it in my mind, mentally tracing over each contour and shadow in what I thought was near perfect detail-- but so complex at the same time. Who was she? Dressed in a Victorian era gown, she looked elegant, confident, and overall beautiful. But the torn and tarnished fabric, the predominantly dismal appearance gave her a radiating aura of impurity. And what the hell was up with the gas mask?

The questions plagued me through the entire tour and I barely focused on what Bob was saying or motioning to. I tried to stifle my curiosity and focus what he was telling me, but in the end, it was too enticing to leave alone. I had to know what the drawing meant, who the woman in the photo was supposed to be.

Bob was leading me back down the main hallway on the first floor, into the right wing. Through a large den, adorned with more gold and brown furnishings and a few comfortable-looking sofas, was a spacious kitchen. An black island stood in the center of the pure white room, looking awkward and out of place. Weaved baskets covered the smooth granite, filled to the tops with various fruits. Adjoining that was a dining room, a narrow table stretching across the area, it's wooden surface bare and polished. A multitude of chairs sit, pushed neatly in place, along the table on both sides.

I watch as Bob leans against the island, looking everywhere but at me and getting awkwardly silent. I shift on my feet and cross my arms. No, Frank. Don't cross your arms. Crossing your arms is a gesture of intimidation, trying to exert your dominance over someone. I don't want him to feel like I'm cornering him.

I almost laugh at the thought; I'm Frank Iero. I'm 147 pounds of pale skin and fragile bones; Intimidation isn't exactly one of my strong points. Even still, I drop both of my arms to my sides, shuffling awkwardly before settling with stuffing my hands into my pockets. Bob eyes my curiously and I bite down on my lip, wondering how I'm going to word my next question.

"Who's Gee?" Wow, Frank. Way to be subtle. "You've been acting all awkward since you mentioned him."

Bob visibly tenses. Oh crap. I made him feel cornered. Now he's never going to answer me. He's going to run! Should I tackle him? Pin him to the floor and demand he tell me who the woman in the picture is?

But instead of sprinting from the room, Bob sighs, looking defeated. His head drops and he avoids eye contact, though I don't argue. "He's been here as long as I can remember," Bob finally says. "And I've been here since I was six. He's like a big brother to me."

Well that doesn't answer any of my questions. I wait for more, but Bob says nothing else. He gnaws on his bottom lip and I'm slightly concerned he's going to bite it off. Eventually, the silence becomes too much for even Bob and he sighs again. This time, the breath leaves him heavily and his whole posture changes. He looks up at me, no longer hesitant. He looks like a defensive brother. "Some shit happened a few years back and he got really depressed," Bob explains in a hurry. "He's just starting to get better. I'm worried that having you here is going to make things worse."

What? What could have happened so long ago that just my presence here could make worse? Did I know this Gee kid? Maybe I did something to him that made him depressed in the first place. I rack my brain for any Gee that I could possibly know, but come up with absolutely nothing.

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