56 - Reunited: Day Eighty-Six

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Melanie stood at the top of the staircase, staring into the dark abyss below. Everyone around her remained silent, not wanting to rush her or do anything to cause her to change her mind. Otis's cabin was too small to hold everyone, so Simon, Sam, Kevin, Howie, Nick, and two of the police officers were waiting outside, watching through the door and windows. All of the Spice Girls, AJ, Brian, Officer Shaw, and Lucy were crowded in the kitchen and sitting area.

"Would it help if someone else went down first?" Victoria asked softly as she wrapped one arm around Melanie's waist.

Melanie shrugged, not taking her eyes off the staircase.

"You don't have to go down there," Victoria assured her. "We can leave right now if you want."

"Can I go down first?" AJ asked. He flipped up the light switch, illuminating the small basement with the single exposed bulb hanging from the ceiling in the centre of the room. He looked back at Melanie, who nodded slowly as she took a step back away from the stairs. He smiled sympathetically at her and slowly made his way down the stairs, disappearing from view as he stepped away from the bottom of staircase.

"You know we're not going to do anything if you go down there," Victoria stated. "If we were going to do anything, we easily could have forced you down there already, right?"

Melanie looked back at the crowd of people behind her. No one moved toward her or looked like they were getting impatient with her.

"I'm going to head down there, Melanie," said Officer Shaw. "If you want, you can just come down the first few stairs and you can tell me where they did everything, all right?" He gently squeezed her shoulder and followed AJ into the basement.

Melanie listened closely as Officer Shaw opened the cupboard and told AJ about what the forensic team had already found and she looked down at the yellow bracelet her friends had made her wear. There was concern from everyone that visiting the cabin would be too traumatizing for her and they worried she might try to run away. They all decided that having Melanie wear the GPS tracker was necessary so they wouldn't lose her in the woods again.

The bracelet was relatively loose around her wrist, but she still found it uncomfortable, knowing it would prevent her from escaping if she needed to.

"We'll take it off as soon as we get back to the car," Victoria assured her, watching as Melanie pulled anxiously at the bracelet.

"I won't run," Melanie squeaked, looking back at Victoria desperately.

"Ok", said Victoria. "We still need to keep it on for a little while longer though, all right?"

Melanie choked back a sob and hugged her arms to herself as she returned her gaze to the staircase.

"This is too much," said Victoria. "You don't have to do this. Let's take you back to the hotel and forget about all of this." She pulled Melanie close and wrapped her arms around her, immediately feeling how badly Melanie was shaking.

"Melanie, did they do it right here?" Officer Shaw asked, appearing at the foot of the staircase. "In this room?" Melanie shook her head, clinging tightly to Victoria.

"You should be able to see everything down here from that second step," said AJ, joining Officer Shaw at the bottom of the staircase. "That's really as far as you would need to go and you can just point from there."

Fighting back tears, Melanie stepped away from Victoria and looked at the staircase once more. She gripped Victoria's hand tightly as she apprehensively descended the first step, not trusting her legs to keep her up as they trembled uncontrollably beneath her. She began breathing quickly and stared fearfully at the remaining stairs leading her back to the setting of her living nightmare.

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