Clock Tower 2 Adventure Novel: Jennifer's Part Complete Translation


PROLOGUE


At certain moments in your life, two doors will appear before you.

Will you make your train in that narrow window before it leaves the station...or not?

Will those concert tickets be in your budget...or not?

Those new Nikes you bought the other day - will you put on the left one first, or the right?

By mere chance is it decided which you shall open.

One is the door leading to your humdrum everyday life, same as always.

And the other is the door leading to a terror yet untasted, terminating before long in death.

Now, which door would you choose?

If you chanced to open the other door, I would be your guide beyond.

I am a disciple of the Great Father, he who holds sway over tales of blood and putrescent gore.

Well, then - shall we open the first door?





The surroundings were a wall of flame.

The fire had become a scorching red snake that crawled along the floor, painting the cave's stone walls crimson.

At the center of the flames lay...It. It moved not a muscle; it had begun to shed its skin. The cave was like an oven - and the heat only served to accelerate the process. To It, this was an unforeseen development. During shedding, the body of Its kind became as hard as stone - it could not move a muscle, no matter what the calamity.

So It bode Its time in its sanguine hell, waiting for its birth.

The mucus covering Its green, pus-like skin belched hissing steam - drying, cracking, curling. A sound like raw skin being ripped away scraped the air, and its carbonized dermis crumbled to dust.

And then, suddenly, Its back split vertically in two.

A fluid like blood mixed with vomit seeped through the crack, then was engulfed in flame. White steam spewed upward, and the stench was overwhelming - but no one was present to be overcome. One look at the moaning, writhing, stinking mass, and any bystander would perhaps have found it preferable to consign themselves to the surrounding flames than bear continued witness.

Swaddled in slopping slabs of knobbled, bile-tinged meat, It resembled the most horrible fetus within the realm of human imagination.

Fetus? If this were a fetus, then the mother's womb would have burst well before delivery. Legs extended, head to toe, the creature measured well over six meters.

From deep within the corpus, a cry rang out reminiscent of a cat in heat. And from the gash in the creature's back extended a single thin arm.

Compared to the mountain of It, the arm was slender, frail - weak like a dried twig.

Its long, lithe fingers twice, three times opened and closed, grasping air.

And therein lay the beginning of a new tale...






PART ONE








The giantess old | in Ironwood sat,
In the east, and bore | the brood of Fenrir;
Among these one | in monster's guise
Was soon to steal | the sun from the sky.

- Völuspá, Stanza 40







CHAPTER ONE


Shing. Shing. Shing. Shing. Shing. Shing.

Oh. That sound. The sound of two giant blades scraping together...

He's coming. He's here! Right beside me--

--"He"? Who is "he"?

Shing. Shing. Shing. Shing. Shing. Shing.

That's right. That's the sound of scissors. Giant, massive scissors - enough to shear someone's head off their shoulders like straw. That sound.

And he's coming.

I'm climbing a ladder. I look up, and it seems to go on forever. Endlessly...endlessly.

His hand is gripping my leg.

...Him? Him? ...That's right. The man with the giant scissors...

Scissorman!

A girl with long black hair screamed atop a black leather examination table. Her shapely face was drained of blood; her moist pink lips were parted in a sliver. Her slender frame shook unceasingly. Her heart beat wildly in her chest.

I have to get away. I have to get away. Scissorman is coming!

So she thought - but her arms and legs were frozen with fear. She couldn't move a muscle. It was a nightmare - one that wouldn't end.

Her eyes shot open. She found herself staring at the ceiling - a gleaming white wall with gleaming white fluorescent lights.

"Jennifer!"

Someone's calling a name. My name. Jennifer Simpson - my name.

The voice belonged to a woman in pants and a lemon-yellow sweater. Her bright golden hair shone like the sun; her eyes were clear lakes of blue. She was smart, beautiful, strong-willed - like the goddesses of Norse myth. Her name was...

Jennifer's consciousness suddenly emerged from a thick white fog. "Helen!!"

The girl shot up in bed and threw herself into the arms of the woman beside her.

That's right. How could I forget? Her name is Helen Maxwell. My friend. My mentor. My sister.

"It's all right, Jennifer. That's all over now. You're in Professor Barton's office."

Helen held Jennifer tight as she spoke; Jennifer pressed herself against Helen's chest, taking in her strength, her warmth, her life essence itself. The sensation alone made Jennifer quiver.

Yes - it is over. All of it. I'm safe. I escaped the nightmare. I'm in the lab. Not in that mansion. I'm here, safe and sound within the pure white walls of the laboratory.

Helen was saying something - speaking to the older man standing beside her. The man was...Professor Samuel Barton. That's right - the professor. My doctor. This is Prof. Barton's laboratory. That's right. I'm safe.

Like a torrent rushing in after a dam being opened, Jennifer's memory flooded back to her.

"Professor, it's getting harder to wake Jennifer from hypnosis with every passing day - and when she does wake up, she's still overwhelmed with the terror of that incident. Your methods are accomplishing nothing but terrorizing Jennifer."

Jennifer heard regret in Helen's harsh tone. She felt the anger in her voice. And her love.

Barton's response was devoid of emotion; it was as if he were reading a report. "She is a patient and a patient only. Whether she experiences fear during her treatment is beneath our concern."

"Jennifer is not a lab rat. She's only just now pulling herself together from that incident--"

Prof. Barton cut Helen off. "Of course Jennifer isn't a lab rat. She's a test subject. And you are not my professor. You are an assistant. You took this position to learn from my profiling expertise. You have two options: if you find my methods so disagreeable, then feel free to quit. Otherwise, keep your opinions to yourself."

Barton spoke coolly, as if enlightening Helen that one plus one were two. Jennifer looked up; Helen's blue eyes were glaring. Jennifer followed their gaze to find the object of Helen's displeasure.

He was a tall older man clad in an English suit made of extremely expensive fabric. Samuel Barton. Professor of behavioral science at South Oslo University. Jennifer came to his laboratory every day to undergo his hypnosis therapy.

Barton's grey eyes regarded Helen as if she were a lab mouse. He did not look as if he were suppressing his emotions; rather, it seemed as if he had no emotions at all. The first time Jennifer saw this man, he brought to mind nothing so much a giant lizard - a giant lizard with a moustache in a business suit.

The giant lizard was currently looking at a mouse with his expressionless eyes that seemed to be deliberating whether or not the mouse were food.

Helen was, of course, the one to break the gaze. "At any rate, I'm taking Jennifer with me already."

"Do what you want, Helen. The therapy's already over."

So saying, as if he had completely lost interest, Barton turned his eyes to a giant pair of scissors on the table. A replica of the weapon used in a mass murder in a forest-shrouded mansion far from Oslo one year ago.

Jennifer had laid eyes on those massive scissors long before she ever entered this room. She knew they were only a replica - she knew, and yet they still brought back memories of the incident one year ago.

Helen probably realized that Jennifer had fixed the scissors with a dead-eyed stare. She felt Helen pressing against her back. "Let's go, Jennifer."

Helen held Jennifer's hand as she rose to her feet. Her head was still swimming. She felt her feet sink into the linoleum as if it were urethane.

Helen casually put her arm around Jennifer.

The treatment room opened directly into the laboratory. The desks were lined with monitors and heaped sky-high with piles of documents ready to topple over. The room was filled with the sounds of keyboards clacking, people bustling - the aroma of coffee and someone's hamburger lunch. She was still enclosed by the same white walls, but here, there were signs of life.

Jennifer breathed a sigh of relief.

Helen spat with frustration: "I can't see how hypnotherapy is effective in this case!"

"The professor can hear you in there!" Jennifer looked up worriedly at Helen. She was fifteen and had no one else in the world to rely on. Helen was her sole guardian. More than that - in the year since Helen had taken her in, she had become an older sister and a friend. She didn't want Helen to clash with the professor, her mentor, on her account.

"It's all right. Let him listen."

"Are you two still butting heads?" Beth said, laughing. She'd become a research assistant the moment she graduated from South Oslo University. She's pretty, but compared to Helen, she's so shallow - and that was all Jennifer had to say about Beth.

"Well, I guess it's only natural, though, really. When you get right down to it, how you've been able to keep working under the professor all this time, that's what's really weird." Beth dropped her voice to a whisper in the middle.

"Then why did you take a job here in the first place?"

"I may not look it, but I'm quite the stoic woman!"

Beth laughed as she spoke. The word "stoic" was far from Jennifer's mind.

That laugh of hers...she sounds like such an airhead, Jennifer thought. The type of woman who doesn't care about anything but Hollywood celebrities or the latest fashion, she thought.

"Well, then...if you'll excuse me, I'm be going out for a bit to take Jennifer back to the dorm."

"Are you going home already?"

Suddenly, a small, gloomy man emerged from behind Beth.

"H-Harris! You were here all this time?"

Yes, Assistant Professor Maxwell. I was here."

Harris stepped toward them. Though he was only five years older than Helen, he seemed older than even Professor Barton. He was another research assistant in the laboratory.

"Also, I'm always telling you this, but you can call me 'Helen.'"

"Well, one must clear about these things...and it is true that you ARE an assistant professor...and what we call 'formality' is to some people..."

Harris mumbled his words, as if talking to himself. You frequently couldn't even make out what he was saying. Even worse, he never looked at the other person when he talked; his eyes were always aimed at the ground. It was if he were talking to the polished brown tips of his spic-and-span shoes. Jennifer personally thought he was The Worst.

"...In any case, is Jennifer going home already, then?"

"Ahh - yes. Indeed she is. Her therapy is over for the day."

"Is it really... Oh, it's not that I'm doubting you, you know... It's just that I thought I heard your voice, arguing with the professor... Going against the professor so much might not be... It's just, I mean, that the professor has taught us all so much, you know..."

"Spit it out, Harris." Helen opened her mouth, finally out of patience.

"Well, I don't have anything to say, but...Jennifer."

Harris this time faced Jennifer - looking at the floor, as always.

"What took place just now...so much has happened to you, and I think it's awful, but...if there are things you don't understand about the professor's therapy or something you're worried about, you could always...I mean...if you could come to me and let me talk things over with you...as far as it were in my ability to respond, I could..."

Jennifer switched to the tone of voice she reserved for the man she had deemed The Worst. "If I want to speak to somebody, I'll speak to Helen. I can count on her."

"Jennifer!"

Jennifer squeaked out a small "sorry" at Helen's rebuke. Harris had turned red and doddered dejectedly back to his desk before he heard it.

An awkward hush fell over the room, broken only by Beth sniggering. Helen glared at Beth, which only made her laugh more loudly.

"Well, then, we're off." Taking Jennifer's hand, Helen left the lab.






CHAPTER TWO


It was called the "Clock Tower case."

It happened a year ago. At the report of one lone girl, Norway police headed for a mansion in the mountains of the Romsdaaren region. What they found inside: the butchered corpses of three young girls. One mummified young female. The bodies of two adult males. And the body of an adult female pecked head to toe by birds. Seven corpses total.

The owner of the mansion - the so-called "Clock Tower mansion" - was one Simon Barrows. His body was discovered in a cage in the central courtyard.

The case shocked Norway - indeed, the entire world.

There were only two survivors of this mass murder. One was the girl who had made the report to the police: Jennifer Simpson. The other was a young boy rescued from his hiding place in the mansion's depths. That was all.

Jennifer had been one of four girls brought to the manor as adoptees. As the boy had lost his memory, Jennifer was the only living witness to this unprecedented incident.

According to her testimony, the culprit was a creature who carried a giant pair of scissors. Her teacher - Mary Barrows, the woman who had led the girls to the manor - was an accomplice, and there was another monster in the caves hidden under the manor. So went her story. However, while the giant scissors and Mary's body were recovered, the police, despite their surprise discovery of a network of caves beneath the mansion, found no body of any monster there.

Ultimately, the official findings handed down by the police were that the mansion was the mansion was the site of a cult ritual in which children were offered as human sacrifices. The "monsters" were deemed hallucinations on the part of the terrified girl; the crimes were instead pinned on Mary Barrows. However, it was deemed that the gigantic scissors that served as the murder weapon would have been difficult for a woman to wield with sufficient ease, suggesting the possibility of a co-conspirator.

But of course, the world wasn't satisfied by these pat answers to such an outlandishly bizarre incident. The Clock Tower case took the media by storm - and rumors of the creature with the giant scissors, Scissorman, spread across the world in the blink of an eye.

Scissorman Lives! Even now, a year later, such sensational headlines were still mainstays for numerous magazines. The impact the Clock Tower case had had on society at large was undeniable.

The cover of the magazine held by the man currently standing in front of Jennifer was a perfect example. Lurid text dripping red with blood spelled out: CLOSING IN: Scissorman's true identity——REVEALED!!

"Um...I wrote that."

The man was pointing at the headline. Helen and Jennifer exchanged glances.

The two had been waiting for a bus after leaving the university research building. A couple men had come running up behind them - both about 30. One of them was a tall man in a jacket, jeans, and a pair of ratty sneakers - the "Scissorman REVEALED!" auteur. The other was a heavyset man in a battered sweatshirt, a large camera dangling from his shoulder. Neither exactly gave the impression that they were corporate salarymen.

"And who might you be?" asked Helen, all business.

The man with the magazine held out a business card: "Nolan Campbell, reporter, Oslo Week." So it claimed. Of the approximately seventy daily newspapers printed in Norway, Oslo Week ranked comfortably near the bottom in quality. It was a second-rate rag.

"He's Tim - one of our cameramen," Nolan said, pointing to his compatriot and grinning.

He's got a cute smile.

So was Jennifer's assessment of this man - who was probably at least 10 years older than her. And his was a charming face, certainly. It would probably appeal to the average individual. But to be told by a girl like Jennifer that it was cute would likely fluster him considerably.

"OK if I snap a photo?"

Tim readied his camera, but Helen commanded: "Could you please put that away?" Her voice was quiet but firm. "You're here for a story on Jennifer. Am I correct?"

"You're Assistant Professor Helen Maxwell, aren't you? Specialist with the new profiling initiative at the Norway police, star pupil of the department's top profiler, Prof. Barton. And famous beauty, as I can see."

"I'm sorry, but no interviews."

Nolan ignored Helen's words and approached Jennifer. "Now, I've seen your face on TV and in the paper many a time, but I had no idea the real article was such a cutie. Pleased to meet you. I'm Nolan Campbell - Oslo Week." Nolan held out his hand.

"I hate flattery. And I hate shallow men."

"Well, I'm striking out." Nolan lowered his hand and turned to Helen, not seeming deterred in the slightest. "You're her guardian, so you both live in the university dorms, don't you? You're going home for the day, I take it?"

"Asking where we're headed?" Jennifer replied before Helen could even open her mouth. "We under no obligation to give you that information."

"Tough crowd." Nolan scratched his head.

"Tough girl. Pretty one, too. The perfect final girl."

"The hell are you talking about, Tim?" Nolan furrowed his brow. "No one's looking to make a movie with you, dumbass. No one on the face of the planet has lost that much respect for themselves."

"'Dumbass,' 'dumbass' - know any other words?" Tim stuck out his tongue like a child.

"Would 'lardass' be any better?"

"You wound me, Nolan."

"Hey, do you know the stress I'm under? Saddled with a horror movie maniac to cover the Clock Tower case?"

"I don't, actually."

"Every time you open your mouth to talk about one of your stupid slasher flicks, people think they're going to be written up in a tabloid!"

"That's because your reporting sucks, Nolan."

"Enough of that, lardass. Remember when we interviewed Barton? What you had to stick your foot in your mouth and say!?"

"What did I say?!"

"'Hey, prof, you must have tons of Hannibal Lecters in your address book!' Ring any bells?"

"Well, I asked, but he didn't. So?!"

"If he says 'no,' then you leave it at that. You don't launch into your pet theories on Silence of the Lambs. It didn't occur to you that that's why he got mad - asked if you were 'intending to produce a film together'? That's why these young ladies don't want us to interview them, either. Got that, you horror-gorged lunatic!?"

Jennifer, who had been listening to their conversation dumbfounded, let out a giggle. Nolan, not missing a beat, looked her way and said: "See, she's laughing, you lardass! Even though this isn't really a laughing matter to me."

"The bus is here." Helen took Jennifer by the hand.

"Hey, wait a minute!" Nolan said, frantic.

The bus stopped and opened its doors.

"Approach us again, and I'll report you to the police as perverts at large." That was Helen's last word on the subject, but Jennifer was laughing behind her as she boarded the bus.

"Umm--" But before Nolan could get anything out, the door closed in his face, and the bus took off.

Jennifer watched the two of them become small and fade into the distance. She saw Nolan give Tim a hearty whap on the back of the head.

"Weirdos," she muttered.

"You stay away from those two! The media never gives up once they sink their teeth into someone. You know that better than anyone."

It was indeed true that Jennifer had been hounded by the media when news of the Clock Tower incident broke - to her dismay. She was of a rather fragile disposition at the best of times; she didn't know what she would have done had Professor Barton not intervened and Helen not come to her rescue. Jennifer had received a peerless education in the nature of the media...but the two reporters she just met seemed different somehow.

They rated a B. Enough to leave a favorable impression.

As Helen and Jennifer exchanged despairing views on the media, the bus promptly arrived at its destination. The two continued to chat like the closest of sisters as they walked the short distance from the bus stop to university housing.

Summer was approaching. The sun shone strong and warm. A dry breeze rustled the lush greenery. Vacation was just around the corner. Then, in one short month, the everyday bustle of sightseers and locals would commence. The most agreeable season for one to pass in Northern Europe was underway.

The residences greeted you right as you emerged from the end of a tree-lined boulevard. Renovated from its former incarnation as a cheap, unfashionable hotel, the old, broken-down brick building was one of Jennifer's favorite things in the world.

Jennifer stopped in front of its entrance. "Are you gonna go back to the lab again?" she asked in a childish mien.

"Yes. My hard drive crashed on me. Restoring it'll take some time, so it looks like I'll be coming back late. I'm sorry; you should go ahead and eat alone tonight." Helen handed Jennifer some money. "Hey, didn't they build a new restaurant at the end of this street?"

"That place where they put a bar in the basement?"

"Right. There's a cafeteria on the lower level; you could do take-out, too. You should get something and come back!"

"...Yeah, I'll go get something now."

"Shall I go with you to the restaurant?"

"I'll by OK alone. And...it'll be lonely sitting at home by myself, so I'll go take a walk around the neighborhood for a while."

"Well, OK...be back home before it gets dark."

"Got it - Assistant Professor Helen."

Jennifer waved and watched Helen go back to the bus stop, then headed for the new restaurant. She bought a giant open-faced sandwich when she arrived at the restaurant - housed in what looked more like a modern art sculpture than a building - then took it and headed back to the dorm.

She had no intention of taking a walk. The "it'll be lonely sitting at home by myself" was the only part she meant - a ploy to tug on Helen's heartstrings. If Jennifer had her way, she'd be with Helen always - shopping, having dinner, playing video games together by the bed in their pajamas. She knew full well that Helen had her hands full with her job and that her hopes were unreasonable - she knew that better than anyone. But she didn't know anyone besides Helen whom she could call a friend. She was alone. And when she thought about that, the familiar streets of Oslo suddenly seemed so cold - like she had been abandoned in an unfamiliar city.

Jennifer returned to the dorm and entered the elevator, closing the old-fashioned manual door that was practically out of an old movie and ascending to the fifth floor. She exited the elevator - to find a man waiting for her at the end of the corridor, in front of the door to her quarters.

The shock lasted only a second.

The man waved his hands above his head with a "Howdy!".

"Nolan..."

"I'm honored! You remembered my name, Jennifer!" Nolan seemed truly thrilled as he held out his hand. Caught off-guard, Jennifer moved to take it, then batted it away in a fluster.

"What are you doing here?!"

"I wanted to talk to you!"

"No interviews. Like Helen said."

"But you didn't say."

"And I have the same opinion as she, Mr. Campbell," Jennifer said, as curtly as she could manage.

"Just 'Nolan' is fine. Besides, you've already called me that, haven't you?"

"When?!"

"Just now."

"Liar."

"It's not a lie."

"It is!"

"I don't tell lies. For example...you're really pretty."

"Thank you." Jennifer ably deflected the comment. She wanted to tell him, You probably say that to all the girls. She could see it was just a cheap line, and she wanted to be firm and resolute - a rock. Like Helen. "But...I hate flattery. Besides--"

"--you hate shallow men."

"That's right."

"See, I got to know at least one thing about you. And I'd like to know way more." Nolan glanced at the paper bag in Jennifer's hand. "You got takeout from that new restaurant over there, didn't you?"

"I did."

"What's inside? A sandwich?"

"Yes."

"And you're gonna go and eat dinner alone?"

"Mm-hm."

"I've got an idea. How about you save that sandwich for a midnight snack and come have dinner with me?" Nolan flashed his best smile.

He's cute, Jennifer thought. At that moment, she had thought her answer was beyond question. But...

"Are you asking me on a date, or an interview?"

Nolan paused for a moment to think. His face was serious, as if the Sphinx had asked him a riddle and his life depended on the answer.

Jennifer was just about to decide to ditch Nolan and head inside when he met her eyes straight on and said:

"A date."

"Then no." Jennifer said flatly.

"Why not?" Nolan seemed crestfallen.

"I have no interest in you."

"Maybe if we have dinner together, you'll change your mind."

"I hate optimists."

"Another thing I've learned about you!"

"Besides, I was told to be home before sundown."

"Because it's dangerous being out by yourself, right? Well, you'll be with me - so what's the problem?"

"That's probably even more dangerous."

"Oh, man. And I've been called the safest guy in the world!"

"I hate liars."

"So I've heard."

"It's still true."

"No exceptions?"

"Absolutely none."






CHAPTER THREE


And so Jennifer found herself enjoying a dessert of vanilla ice cream across from a man whose likes she, without exception, hated. She had just finished a full-course seafood dinner at an Alpine-style restaurant near the university residences.

Nolan hadn't lied. This wasn't an interview - this was a date. He hadn't asked about the Clock Tower incident once. It was Jennifer who brought it up.

She had encountered a variety of paranormal phenomena in the mansion. Dolls who attacked her, arms reaching out of mirrors - and the creature in the caverns. "Irrational" events that so far no one had taken seriously.

"Maybe Scissorman was a sick man in a mask. ...I don't agree, but all right. What I saw in the caverns, though, was no hallucination! It was huge, enormous - the size of an NSB railway car. It was a giant fetus - green. It chased after me and climbed up the cavern cliff."

Jennifer stared at the tip of her ice cream-laden spoon as she spoke. A white drop fell upon the table.

"And then you dropped a can of kerosene on it and set it on fire."

"It was an accident. I knocked the can over, and it hit it, and it caught on fire from one of the candlesticks. There was an explosion. And the fire rose up - just pillars of flame..." Jennifer simply kept staring at the spoon. It was if she were replaying a movie in her mind.

"Are you OK?" Nolan stared inquiringly at Jennifer's face.

"Oh - yes." Jennifer looked up and flashed a smile. "I'm fine. Um...there's something I haven't told anyone. Not even Prof. Barton. ...Well, maybe I've talked about it under hypnosis, but not consciously."

"What about?"

"I saw my father."

"Your father?..."

"You know I'm an orphan, right? I was sent to the Granite Orphanage when I was about five years old. My father was an obstetrician, you see. But one day, he went out on a call and never returned. Shortly afterward, my mother disappeared, too."

"So, wait, are you saying - you met your father...in the Clock Tower mansion?"

"Yes...I think. There were lots of hidden rooms in the mansion. In one of them, I found a skeleton wearing a doctor's coat. There was a note in its pocket. I lost it while I was running away, but I remember what it said."

"So what did it say?!" Nolan blurted - but then he shook his head. "Never mind - don't tell me. Not a great topic for a date."

"It's OK. I know you won't publish it if I tell you not to. Right?"

"Of course."

"The note was signed 'Walter Simpson' - my father's name! He had been called to the mansion by Simon Barrows. It was an exceptional case, he said, so my father had been visiting the mansion regularly ever since the mother became pregnant. On that day, he said, the mother was close to giving birth, so he had been called to the mansion as an emergency. And in the note, he wrote that he delivered twins - they called one of them 'Bobby,' and the other, 'Dan.' And he said that when one of them was born, it bit off his right hand."

"...Bit off his hand? Um, he meant...one of the newborn infants?"

"Yes. The skeleton in the white coat was missing its right hand! What was born that day wasn't human! They were twin demons, my father said - fated to inflict horrible disaster upon the world as long as they lived."

"Sounds like some sort of prophecy."

"That's what he heard! My father, I mean - he must have heard something from someone in the Barrows family, about the children who were going to be born. But he also wrote that the children were born deformed - they shouldn't have lived for long."

"But they did live. One of them was Scissorman. The other became that giant fetus..."

"You don't believe it?"

"I believe it. It's coming from you, after all."

"I hate liars."

"Again, so I've heard. But I don't want to be hated by you!"

"Really?"

"Really!"

Jennifer had completely opened her heart to Nolan - she wouldn't have told him that story otherwise. At the same time, however, a voice in her head was telling her: This is a scheme by Nolan. He's a better reporter than you thought. That's how he got all this information out of you. Watch yourself. This is a trap.

Jennifer considered all of the above - but she never realized that this all meant that she was falling helplessly for Nolan.

"Are you really all right?" Nolan peered at Jennifer.

He looked strong, manly - right down to his thick brow and staunch nose. But even to fifteen-year-old Jennifer, he looked adorable - like a child.

"I-It's nothing. ...Maybe we'd better be going? I'm full, and it's getting late. If Helen gets home, she'll be worried." Jennifer spoke brusquely and got right up out of her seat - before she realized she was blushing.

---

"Thank you for the meal," Jennifer said once Nolan came back from paying the check.

"Hey, don't worry."

"Huh?"

"About what you told me today. My lips are sealed. It's not going in the paper - ever. Besides, I know you--"

"--hate lies."

Their voices overlapped. Jennifer let out a laugh. From the heart. She hadn't laughed like that in a long time. Probably not since her father disappeared when she was five. She was happy - overjoyed. She had finally met someone she could call a friend besides Helen.

Friend? Jennifer asked herself. Yes - friend. I mean, he's too old to be my boyfriend. Nolan's twenty-six, and I'm fifteen. That's an eleven-year difference. ...But eleven years isn't that much, is it? It's not exactly uncommon for people that apart in age to be married.

Married!?!

Jennifer was shocked at herself for even allowing the idea to enter her head.

Idiot! What are you thinking!? Helen would be speechless if she found out. And probably angry, too.

"Ah, dang it." They had been walking along the dark streets at night, Jennifer lost in her thoughts, before Nolan's sudden interjection.

"What's wrong?"

"I gotta call in to the paper."

"The paper?... Aren't you off the clock?"

"A reporter's job is 24-7."

"You sound like an overworked salaryman."

"I've got no problems with the schedule if they pay me for it. Sorry - I gotta go make a call." Nolan set off at a jog for a nearby phone booth.

Jennifer started after him - but then she heard it.

Shing. Shing. Shing. Shing.

The sound of two giant blades scraping together.

...It can't be.

Her body froze up. It was like she were under hypnosis.

It can't be. That nightmare is over. It's done with. The monster is dead. I saw it die - with my own eyes.

Shing. Shing. Shing. Shing.

The sound of scissors was just a little closer.

Nolan. I have to get to Nolan. Jennifer took a deep breath and attempted to make her legs move.

Jennifer.

A voice rang out.

No - not a voice, exactly. There was no sound. It was as if the words were directly impressing themselves onto her mind.

Shing. Shing. Shing. Shing

The sound of the scissors drew ever nearer.

It's been a while, hasn't it, Jennifer.

The voice echoed in Jennifer's head. She could not tell if it were male, female, adult, child. It was an unnerving experience. One Jennifer had had one year ago.

Scissorman.

Unbidden, the memories were resurrected fresh in her mind.

Blood - so much blood. Severed heads, gouged stomachs, butchered corpses. And corpses. And more corpses - run through with silver scissors. And that sound. Shing. Shing. Shing. Shing. Shing. Always at my back. And that monstrous creature, who would find me no matter where I hid.

Planning to scamper to that man for help? If so, that's fine by me. But, you know, Jennifer - if you do, I'll chop off his head before yours. I have a better idea. Let's play tag, Jennifer - like we did before. Run away, Jennifer. Now.

Terror seized Jennifer's heart, and it beat wildly in her chest - but panic sharpened her nerves. Finally, she moved her right leg. Then her left.

Go on. I'm coming.

The sound of scissors snapped behind her - and Jennifer took off like a pinball out of its chute.

Nolan's making a phone call right over there. If you want his help, just scream. "Help" - long and loud. He's right over there.

But Jennifer didn't. She kept on running, looking back out of the corner of her eye.

The sun had completely set. Darkness now engulfed the city like a malevolent fog.

There were streetlights. Rows of houses, all lit up. But even those lights seemed to lose their brightness, as if they had switched allegiance to the dark.

The town had returned to an almost eerie silence, broken only by the sound of Jennifer's boots on the cobblestone. And another set of steps, following...one foot dragging. And the sound on metal on metal - the sound of scissors.

She saw a sign - "The Seaman's Quarters." A tiny pub. Light streamed through the window punched in its wooden door.

Jennifer ran toward it and attempted to throw it open. But no matter how she pushed or pulled, the door wouldn't budge. She could see nothing through the frosted glass of the window but the silhouette of someone's head - someone appeared to leaning against the door. There seemed to be a lot of people inside the pub: she could make out what appeared to be a number of drunken individuals beyond, boozing it up and gabbing in loud voices.

Jennifer pounded on the door with both hands. Over, and over, and over - until her hands ached.

The figure on the other side of the glass didn't even budge. It was as if they were passed out against the door dead drunk.

Unable to stand it any longer, Jennifer screamed: "Help me! PLEASE! Help me!"

A hearty guffaw was the only response.

"Help me! SOMEBODY!!"

Shing. Shing. Shing. Shing.

The sound of scissors drew closer. Jennifer gave up on the attempt for help and took to running once again.

The city was deserted. It was as if Jennifer were its last living soul. She ran. Ran. And kept on running. But she encountered no one.

It was a city straight out of a nightmare.

There's no one else here. It's just me and Scissorman. Even the lights and shadows are phantoms. Everyone else is gone. I'm all alone in the city.

Jennifer mustered her flagging spirit and shook off the nightmare's delusions.

I have to run. Keep on running.

At last, the university research building appeared before her eyes.

That's it. The guards - they can alert the police.

Jennifer ran through the front gate, across the university's sprawling campus. The research building soon stood before her.

The front entrance was closed, but there was an emergency exit on the side - with a guard station right next to it.

"HELP!!" Jennifer screamed in desperation as she approached the door.

A uniformed man emerged from the building, and Jennifer felt the strength leave her knees in relief.

The face illuminated by the streetlights showed a twinge of recognition. The welcome sight of a familiar soul restored a bit of Jennifer's presence of mind.

"What's the matter?" asked the guard with suspicion as he watched the girl run toward him.

"Um--" Jennifer had barely began speaking when the guard interrupted her.

"--I know you. You see Prof. Barton."

Jennifer was a celebrity. Her face had been plastered all over the mass media from the Clock Tower incident to this very day. Perhaps this man, too, knew her as one of the few survivors of the murders.

Jennifer quickly composed her thoughts.

Would this man believe the girl who had turned delusional and had to see a psychologist from the horror of that incident if she said that Scissorman was chasing after her?

She needed to get inside. There was no time for arguing.

"There's a man following me - a pervert!"

"A pervert, hmmm? Tuh - lots of weirdos around these parts lately. And you're a magnet for trouble, it seems." The guard did know about her, apparently. "Anyhow, come inside. You'll be safe in here."

"Thank you so much." With a glance backward, Jennifer made for the guard station.

The guard let out a small moan.

There was a terrible, dreadful sensation.

And a smell.

A raw smell - one that had hounded Jennifer one year ago. One that had turned her stomach. She remembered - it was the smell of blood.

A strange protrusion jutted out of the guard's stomach. Twin medal blades erupted from within. Like silver arrows - pointing straight at Jennifer. And a cascade of wine-dark blood gushed out from his gut.

The guard began to dance - his body swaying back and forth like seaweed, his arms dangling comically.

The tips of his toes left the earth. Suspended in midair, the guard reeled and pranced giddily, liked a crazed marionette.

Then, suddenly, he collapsed to the ground.

And behind stood the twisted face of a man bent over like a shrimp. His bluish-black skin shriveled like a rotten fruit.

His lips were split to his cheeks, his pointed teeth jutting out at odd angles. His clouded eyes were fixed squarely on Jennifer.

And he held in his hands a giant pair of scissors - as long as the creature himself. Red drops dripped luridly down the tips and splatted fatly upon the grass.

Scissorman!

Overcome with fear, Jennifer could not even sate her desire to scream.

It can't be, she felt.

She heard the sound of scissors, and even though a strange voice echoed in her head, her only thought was: It can't be. Scissorman is dead. She knew he was dead; she'd seen him meet his end with her own eyes - and yet here he stood.

But...she knew that this would happen. And not for the first time. The thought had come to her before: that it all would happen again.

Scissorman couldn't die. He wasn't human. He was a demon - one who could never be destroyed.

Scissorman tore his eyes away from Jennifer - to the guard's dead, unmoving body.

He hoisted his giant scissors above the corpse's head.

The blades opened wide.

Scissorman mercilessly thrust them at the guard's neck.

The blades closed.

And, noiselessly, the head was severed.

A massive fountain of blood gushed forth - it seemed impossible that there was that much left in the entire body. It was as if the lawn were being watered with it.

Scissorman jumped for joy - left, right, over and over, as if he were dancing. Stabbing the back of the guard who would never move again with his scissors all the while. Over and over, dancing and jumping. The tips of his blades passing through the corpse as easily as a needle through cheese.

I have to get away.

Jennifer finally snapped to as she watched Scissorman enraptured in his dance of death.

I have to get away. Get out of here. Now.

She was off before she even realized it. Dashed into the research building and slammed the thick metal door shut. Pressed her back to the door and slid to the ground.

Had the researchers all gone home? The lights in the hallway were dimmed, with only the emergency lamps emitting a lonely light.

Even here, the darkness held sway.

The structure had recently been rebuilt: cold, white concrete walls with a white ceiling and blue-grey floor. The rare example of Norwegian architecture devoid of its usual warmth. A monument to logic and practicality, the building was now rife with darkness, with the sighs of hidden demons seemingly emanating from the walls.

Calm down! You have to remain calm. You can't do anything if you're not calm, Jennifer kept telling herself.

I made it. I always do - alone. Just as I have all my life. No matter what. That's why I'll make it out of here on my own. I can do it. I have to.

She couldn't hear the sound of scissors anymore - but it wasn't as if Scissorman was just twiddling his thumbs on the other side of the door. She knew that monster wouldn't release his prey that easily.

Think, Jennifer. How can you get out of this?

First, you have to call the police.

Jennifer's eyes immediately found the guard station right next to her. There were usually two guards on the night watch.

Which meant there should be one more guard inside.

Jennifer stood up and grasped the knob to the door of the guard station. It wasn't locked. The door opened noiselessly; it was dim inside, broken only by the emergency lights.

Maybe the power is out.

Jennifer crept inside.

It was a narrow room. There was a panel that informed the guards of emergency situations. It featured a light for every room on each floor; press an emergency button in one of those rooms, and the corresponding light would go on in the office. When you pressed the emergency button on the panel itself, a siren would sound, alerting the entire building as well as the police.

There was also a phone on the table beside the panel. Jennifer picked up the receiver and held it to her ear. No sound. She tried pressing the button several times, but the result was the same.

Jennifer peered into the depths of the room - and caught a glance of a guard, seated in a folding chair, his back to her. "Umm--" she ventured, touching his shoulder.

The guard's head lolled back like an infant's. His face and eyes stared back upside-down at Jennifer - his tongue dangling out of his gaping mouth, grazing his nose.

Only a thin strip of skin remained to connect the head to its torso. The cross-section of flesh and bone was as patently exposed as a dissection model. At last, the head splatted to the floor like an overripe fruit - smearing a trail of blood as it rolled twice, three times, then stopped. Its eyes, agape in terror, stared directly at Jennifer.

Jennifer's breath hitched, but her eyes remained fixed on the guard's head.

There's no escape.

Jennifer stared vacantly on the bloody stump of the neck for a while. She couldn't even breathe. Every time she tried, it threatened to become a scream. And if she screamed now, she wouldn't be able to hold back the flood of terror.

The bloodied head.

The dismembered corpses.

The thick stench of flowing blood.

Her friend, screaming as she was thrown out a window.

The girl strung up in the shower room.

The bleached skeleton of her father.

A parade of ghastly images flashed across her mind.

And that creature - the giant creature in the caves. That gruesome monster whose spindly limbs could barely support its weight but who slowly, yet inexorably, crawled after Jennifer.

The nightmare will never end. The nightmare will never end. The nightmare will never end. The nightmare will never end. The nightmare will never end. The nightmare will never end. The nightmare will never end...

"--No."

Jennifer muttered, a sigh escaping her throat.

No.

The monster burned up in the flames. Scissorman was no more.

The nightmare is over. The nightmare is over. The nightmare is over. The nightmare is over. The nightmare is over.

"The nightmare is over!" Jennifer spat - breaking free of the past that threatened to engulf her.

She took a huge breath into her lungs, then breathed it outward. And then she did it again.

It's all right now.

Jennifer repeated this like a mantra as she headed for the panel. She didn't know which was the emergency button - so she just pressed them all.

Suddenly, all the lights flashed red, and the emergency siren rang throughout the room. The sound jangled her nerves - as if every wail of the siren were urging her: Hurry. Hurry.

Jennifer left the guard station. The siren was resounding throughout the corridor.

Every single person in Oslo should hear that, Jennifer thought. The police should be on their way. Just stay alive until then.

The flashing lights scattered red everywhere, as if the research building were engulfed in flames.

Jennifer ran to the front entrance and threw herself at the knob.

But the door wouldn't budge.

It was locked. The key, the key, the key... The guards must have keys to all the doors.

Jennifer headed back to the guard station -

- and then stopped in her tracks.

There's a dead body in there. But she scattered the thought from her mind. With a Hyah!, she whapped the door open.

The guard's body, and head, were as she had left them. She glanced at the corpse. As she'd thought, there was a keyring hanging from its belt. Jennifer had seen the guard jangling it many a time as he made his rounds in the research building.

Fearfully, she crept near and snatched the keyring. She then left the room without looking back, dashing once again toward the front entrance.

She flung herself at the door and selected a key from the ring. She inserted it in the keyhole and turned it. The lock opened with a click. Jennifer let out an unconscious "I did it!" and made to open the door.

It didn't move an inch.

It didn't even budge. It was like it was nailed shut. It was unlocked, she knew it. It had responded to the key; she'd heard it unlock. But the door wouldn't move.

Jennifer selected another key from the ring. The siren wailed aggravatingly on and on as an irritated Jennifer tried key after key. But some of them wouldn't even go in the hole, and those that would wouldn't even turn.

The first one was the right one after all.

I have to be right. The door should open. But it's not.

A sound echoed behind her. Even with the blaring siren, there was no mistaking it - it was the sound she never wanted to hear again.

Shing. Shing. Shing.

And it was slowly getting closer.

Jennifer turned around, and there it was - that impossibly huge figure, one that reminded Jennifer of nothing so much as a giant crab. Scissorman - hoisting his scissors above his head.

There were several doors between the front entrance and Scissorman's position. But Jennifer didn't have the time to check if they would open.

She ran to the stairs.

Scissorman never hurried; he always approached at the same slow, relentless place. As if to taunt Jennifer.

She dashed up the stairwell - running from the fear that he would grab her leg any second.

She reached the second floor. She looked down.

Below was Scissorman. Climbing the stairs step by agonizing step. As if he were savoring the pursuit.

Jennifer ran to the second floor.

She tried the door right next to her.

It wouldn't open. No matter how many keys she tried.

Forget it.

The next door, the next door - and so Jennifer tried each of them in turn. But all of them were a bust.

Finally, she found herself before a familiar door. Professor Barton's office.

Not really expecting a response, Jennifer tried the door.

It opened, instantly.

Jennifer dashed inside, locking the door behind her.

Suddenly, the siren stopped - like the score cutting out in a movie during a scene transition.

"Helen!" Jennifer shouted.

It wasn't a call for help. It was a call to see if she were here - because if she were, she had to save her.

She'd be lying if she said she weren't afraid.

Her heart was still gripped with the terror that was threatening to crush her at any second. But even stronger than that fear was her will to survive - the will that allowed her to escape the Clock Tower mansion as its lone survivor. The will that now saw her resolve to do battle with Scissorman.

Fortunately, no one answered Jennifer's call.

The lab that was so bustling with activity during the day had returned to silence and stillness at night.

No one's here.

The atmosphere created by the monochrome interior now seemed far colder and inhuman than even the designer intended.

Jennifer rifled through desk drawer after desk drawer in the hopes of finding something useful. Though she felt hesitant at going through the others' belongings, this wasn't the time or place for those reservations.

Danny's desk held nothing but trading cards and a mountain of gag props.

Reports on the Clock Tower case were scattered across Harris's desk. Buried among them stood a single photo frame - adorned with a picture of Jennifer. The photo had been taken immediately after she'd been brought to the lab. She was standing together with Helen, arms around each other's shoulders. That's right - she remembered when this had been taken now.

Next was Helen's desk, neat and orderly. She took out a pair of scissors from the desk drawer. The tiny clippers looked a kid's toy next to Scissorman's blades. She stuck them in her belt anyhow.

She then turned to Beth's desk, which featured an array of stuffed animals, big and small. Poking around in its drawers, she found a tiny spray bottle - with "Self-Defense Spray" printed on the label. It was so small it could have been mistaken for a lipstick case. Jennifer slipped it in her skirt pocket.

The phone rang.

Jennifer jumped in alarm.

It was the fax machine on Helen's desk. Jennifer's hand instantly went for the receiver.

Just before she picked up, though, the ringing stopped, and the printer started screeching, spitting out a length of paper from the roll.

The white paper unspooled upon the table and billowed to rest.

Jennifer picked up the receiver. There wasn't even a dial tone.

The phone was disconnected. The line must have been cut the instant the fax stopped transmitting. If so, Jennifer knew who sent that fax.

Jennifer grabbed and ripped out the paper with the very tips of her fingers, handling the message as if it were a poisonous snake.

On the paper was a message in a filthy scrawl: "Get ready! I'm comin' to get ya!!"

And then the door started banging. As if something were being rammed into it. Like a giant pair of scissors.

The door creaked, and splinters of wood flew everywhere.

Scissorman.

The thought occurred so calmly to Jennifer that she surprised even herself. The only weapons she had to defend herself were a pair of scissors that was practically a child's toy and a tiny can of spray she wasn't even sure would stun. Nothing more.

With every blow of the massive shears, the door squealed, cracked, and showered splinters in response. At last, the hinges gave way, and the door fell sloppily and slantwise to the ground.

And behind its remains stood the misshapen man with the giant scissors.

Jennifer stared him straight in the face.

She was scared.

She felt like collapsing on the spot into a quivering pile of nerves. But Jennifer stood firm.

Scissorman slowly approached, dragging one foot behind him.

In jest, he opened and closed, opened and closed his giant scissors - slowly, as if to savor the effect it would have on the girl.

Jennifer waited - until Scissorman came within sure range of her tiny scissors or her self-defense spray.

Tirelessly - like a nightmare, but all too real - the sound ceaselessly advanced upon Jennifer.

Shing.

Cold sweat ran damply down the hand holding her scissors.

Shing.

Her heart beat savagely - painfully - in her chest.

Shing.

Her breath quickened.

Shing.

No matter how she inhaled, she couldn't catch her breath. It was as if the air couldn't reach her lungs.

Shing.

Just a little more. Just a little more.

To her, the time seemed like an eternity. Scissorman was right before her eyes - so close, she could hear his raspy breath.

Scissorman opened his scissors wide and pointed the tips of his blades at Jennifer's neck.

Now's my only chance.

Jennifer swiftly dropped to a crouch. The scissors scraped closed above her head. Several strands of her black hair fluttered in mid-air.

Instantly, Jennifer aimed her self-defense spray upward. A minute amount of tear gas escaped from the tiny vial, forming a white mist and engulfing Scissorman's face. Scissorman moaned; his arm shot to his brow.

Without losing a beat, Jennifer flew at Scissorman, aiming her scissors at his throat.

Scissorman quickly dodged to the right. But he couldn't elude his opponent completely. Jennifer's scissors found their mark in his shoulder.

Jennifer had only a young girl's strength. The tips of the scissors barely sunk into the muscle.

But it was enough.

Scissorman dropped his scissors and cowered.

Juking around him, Jennifer sprinted for the broken door. Exiting to the corridor, she dashed down the stairs.

Reaching the first floor, she ran for the emergency exit through which she had entered. There was no Scissorman lying in wait outside for her this time. Now was her chance to leave.

The emergency exit was shut.

She tried the knob. No response. She tried several of the keys on the ring in turn. At the fifth, the door responded - and with a click, locked tight.

The front entrance was the same. The door was unlocked - but wouldn't open.

Both exits were cut off. Was there any other place she could escape from the building?

Then Jennifer suddenly remembered - the emergency rope ladder on the stairs to the roof. Just after she'd first come to the research building, she went on a top-to-bottom tour of the facility with Helen. Of course, she hadn't even imagined anything like this at the time - it was a scavenger hunt, mere child's play...

She heard the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs.

Jennifer hurried to the elevator. She pressed the button and waited for the doors to open.

Shing. Shing.

The elevator doors opened with an insipid fwoosh. Jennifer ran in and pressed the button for the highest floor - jamming it over and over with her finger.

The doors closed.

Jennifer felt her stomach lurch in her gut as the elevator ascended.

She savored a moment of relief behind the protection of closed doors - but only a moment's. Jennifer was soon assaulted by the crushing feeling of being unable to breathe - of being trapped in a tiny box. Her breath quickened. Her heart hammered like a drum.

The elevator stopped.

Jennifer grabbed her scissors and steeled herself.

Again, that insipid sound.

The doors opened.

Scissorman was nowhere to be found.

Jennifer flew out in the corridor and raced for the ladder.

Crouched in the corner, she saw a woman in red.

Jennifer crept near - and realized the woman was not wearing red at all.

It was blood. The woman had been sliced up from head to toe - countless little cuts spaced carefully at even intervals, as one would with a piece of meat to allow a sauce to soak in.

In front of the body was the metal case for the emergency ladder. The woman had breathed her last with a death grip on the handle.

Jennifer knew this woman. She was one of Helen's colleagues - a fellow researcher. Yes - her name was Rose. She probably had had the same idea as Jennifer - and died here for it.

From below, she heard the faint sound of footsteps - with one foot dragging behind. Scissorman's footsteps.

Without hesitation, Jennifer grabbed the handle atop the corpse's grip. The hand was cold, as if it itself had been made of metal.

She pulled the handle. The case was locked.

You, too?

With a feeling of despair, she once more went to the keys. This time, however, the door before her slid smoothly open.

Jennifer unconsciously let out a sigh of relief.

She removed the ladder from its case and opened the window on the landing.

The cold air from outside rushed in. She unrolled the ladder from the window.

Jennifer stepped over the sill and put her foot on the ladder.

There was a bit of a trick to using the ladder. If you didn't know it, the ladder would just rock back and forth, left and right, threatening to shake off its passenger. That was Jennifer at the moment. The ladder swished and swayed, and Jennifer several times almost missed her footing. All the strength had fled from her legs by the time her toes touched the grass of the courtyard.

Her legs shaking, her eyes spotted the campus gates and made a run for it.

The gates were wide open. She could see red lights.

A patrol car.

The police are here.

Jennifer redoubled her pace.

A solidly-built middle-aged man in a suit was approaching her. Behind him were two officers in uniform. Jennifer knew the man in front - the man in charge of the Clock Tower case, Assistant Inspector Gotts.

Jennifer barreled into the thick chest stuffed into the suit. "Inspector Gotts!"

Her legs lost the power to stand. Her body threatened to slide to its knees - and was supported only by Gotts' arms. The man said -

"It's Assistant Inspector."

But Jennifer never heard him. She had already lost consciousness.






CHAPTER FOUR


After several explosive coughs, Gotts took out a handkerchief and let out a deafening honnnnnnnnnnnnnk.

Within the interrogation room of the Oslo police department, neither Helen nor Jennifer made an attempt to conceal her disgust.

"Sorry. But you can forgive me for blowin' my nose, can'cha? It's not like I haven't got enough on my hands - and I don't just mean this cold I've had since last week! First off:" - here, Gotts stood up and approached Helen - "look, the pants to my only good suit are wearin' out at the knees. Second" - Gotts picked up a memo off his desk - "the initial hearing for this nuisance lawsuit I'm wrapped up in starts tomorrow morning."

Gotts brought his massive face and unaffable expression toward Jennifer - the face of a man who hadn't found a single source of joy in this world and was all the more sour for it.

Jennifer felt compelled to express condolences.

"And to top it all off" - Gotts pointed a fat finger at his temple - "I'm losing my hair!"

Jennifer's shoulders shook as she suppressed a laugh.

"And now here I am" - Gotts paused to suck in his breath and stretch his back - "with another serial murder on my desk!"

Jennifer almost jumped in her chair at Gotts' outburst.

"Sorry, young lady. I didn't mean to frighten you. But how do you think I feel, being told that Scissorman's on the loose again!?"

"But, Inspector Gotts, it really was Scissorman!"

Gotts returned to his desk and slumped into/sat down in the chair. "Assistant Inspector. I'm not a full Inspector." Gotts took something out of his drawer as he spoke - and this time, Jennifer almost let out a scream.

"I don't mean to frighten you - though I guess you've heard that before."

Gotts held in his hand a rubber mask. The twisted face, the gaping mouth, the teeth like fangs - it was an exquisite likeness of Scissorman. Beneath the clouded eyes were tiny slits for the wearer to see.

"You understand, don't ya? The Clock Tower case's all over the media - it's the talk of Norway! Scissorman's hotter than Ed Gein - in Oslo, at least. So ya see - well, ya gotta expect there're a lotta crazies lookin' to make a quick buck crawlin' outta the woodwork. They say they're even gonna make a movie about it."

That'll make Tim happy if so, Jennifer thought.

"Plus -" here, Gotts waved the mask in front of Jennifer - "there're these things. You can get 'em for a 1000 kroner in any party store. Get a load of that face! Looks like he could put away a good meal, huh? I wouldn't pay a single øre for 'em, but there's no shortage of people who'll fork over a bunch of money for the damnedest things. Like whoever attacked you."

But, Inspec--...Assistant Inspector Gotts. Whoever attacked me was carrying a giant pair of scissors - and they weren't a toy, either! They killed people, just like the ones Scissorman had back in the mansion--

"What I'm about to say is top-secret info. We knew Teach would be looking after you, young lady, so we brought in Prof. Barton on this - before we even contacted her. We let him on the scene, as our profiler. ...There's already evidence that Scissorman did this."

Gotts glared at Jennifer. Or maybe he wasn't actually glaring at her. Gotts always looked like he was glaring.

"While he was there the professor realized something - that something from his treatment room had disappeared." Here, Gotts looked at Helen and Jennifer significantly, gauging their reactions. "The scissors. The replica of the murder weapon from the Clock Tower case. It's just speculation, but perhaps the killer came to steal the replica and killed several people while they were at it. To eliminate the witnesses."

"No! Scissorman came into the research building because he was following me!"

"So you saw this 'Scissorman' before you went into the building, young lady?"

Jennifer cast her eyes silently downward.

Indeed, she hadn't actually seen Scissorman before entering the research building - just heard footsteps, and the sound of scissors. And his "voice," which she hadn't reported to the police. If she started talking about hearing voices slithering into her mind, they might not even believe Scissorman existed in the first place.

"Of course, it's possible that it's the same perp from the Clock Tower case. But even if that's true, they're human - not the monster you're talkin' about, young lady. I've been on the force for a long time - so long, it makes me sick - but I've never even once arrested a suspect who wasn't human. Met plenty of people who were like monsters, though. At the end of the day, there's nothing out there scarier than people. You got that, young lady?"

"Yes, I understand that. But--" Jennifer looked imploringly at Helen. "--I was attacked by Scissorman!"

"I believe you, Jennifer! No legitimate possibility can be ruled out - that's the scientific approach. Even though you'll never get that through the inspector's thick skull."

"It's 'Assistant Inspector,' Teach. The Inspector's checked into this giant damn hospital the size of a hotel with food poisoning. A bad oyster he ate kicked in on the way home from a little opera appreciation with some society bigwigs," Gotts said, scowling. He then clapped his hands together: "Now, then - about time to go home for the day, huh? Past your bedtime already. We've got several officers patrolling near the dorms. We've also got a car ready to bring you home, young lady."

Jennifer said a quiet "thank you" and stood. At the same time, she thought: The police won't help me.






PART TWO








There feeds he full | on the flesh of the dead,
And the home of the gods | he reddens with gore;
Dark grows the sun, | and in summer soon
Come mighty storms: | would you know yet more?

- Völuspá, Stanza 41







CHAPTER ONE


Nolan arrived at the dorms with flowers and cake in hand - complaining that he had been "subjected to a full-body pat-down!" by the police at the doorstep.

"Thanks for coming!" Jennifer beamed. She'd been whiling away time by herself in the dorms, waiting for Helen to come back. Police followed her wherever she went, so she didn't feel particularly inclined to go outside. And she'd been bored stiff. She'd been so desperate for someone to talk to that she'd even welcome a monkey for company, Jennifer commented. At that, Nolan cast a dark glance downward.

"Um--no, I mean...I didn't mean to call you a monkey, Nolan...

"I'm sorry."

"...For what?"

"I'm ashamed I wasn't able to protect you."

To Jennifer's ears, it came out as: I love you. As a heartfelt sentiment. Not something an adult could tell a fifteen-year-old girl to her face - and therefore not something to which she could voice a rejection. Jennifer wasn't a child who could take such words at face value...but she wasn't an adult who could just let them go once she heard them, either.

"So you're sorry," Jennifer said in a deliberately high-handed tone. Nolan nodded. "Then you'll help me out, won't you?!"

"What?..."

"I was attacked by Scissorman. The Clock Tower case isn't over yet."

"'SCISSORMAN STRIKES AGAIN!' Today's Oslo Week headline. Just to get this out there: I didn't write that article."

"I don't know what's in the article, but it's true that Scissorman's back. And he's a real monster - you can be sure of that."

Jennifer relayed the events of last night in detail - Scissorman's voice and all.

"Do you believe me?" Jennifer asked tremulously, stuffing her cheeks with cake. She wasn't sure she wholly did herself. The mask Gotts had shown her was a perfect likeness of the Scissorman Jennifer herself had seen. The research building was dark, so it wasn't as if Jennifer could make out his face that well. When she was closest to Scissorman - just before she attacked him - she saw unnatural shadows below Scissorman's eyes. She wondered whether they were indeed shadows or just eyeholes in a mask. Right now, she couldn't say either way.

"I believe you!"

Jennifer let out a sigh at Nolan's words. She brought another piece of cake to her mouth and chomped down with gusto. Nolan felt reassured by her demeanor.

"You say you saw a variety of paranormal phenomena in the Barrows mansion."

"Yes, that's right! And I also heard a mysterious...'voice.'"

"So you think that the phenomena in the mansion - including this voice - were caused by supernatural powers Scissorman has...like psychic abilities."

"Yes. In the research building, the doors wouldn't open, even though I'm sure they were unlocked," Jennifer said, draining the slightly lukewarm cup of black tea she had brought to the table. "It's Scissorman's superpower. 'Psycock' or something."

"'Psychokinesis.' The ability to move things with your mind."

"Whatever. So, Nolan - you'll help me out on this, won't you?"

"On what?"

"I'm the only one who knows who the real culprit is in the Clock Tower case. The police don't - so they're not going to be able to solve this." Gotts' pigheaded expression flashed across her mind. "I mean, the police won't even acknowledge that there even is a 'Scissorman' in the first place - but until they do, the Clock Tower case will never end. And until the Clock Tower case is solved, I have to live every day in fear. I can't do this anymore. That's why -"

"--That's why...?"

"I'm going to solve it."

"You're what?..."

"Are you going to help me, or not? That's all I'm asking of you. Or are you not as sorry as you said?"

"Of course I am..." Nolan fiddled with his teaspoon as he thought for a bit. Finally, he blurted out: "...You know about Edward, right?"

"Yes, I met him a number of times at Prof. Barton's office."

Edward. A young boy rescued from the Barrows Mansion. The only other survivor of the Clock Tower case. He had no memory at all of events by the time the police found him. Even his name was a placeholder given to him by the Granite Orphanage.

Edward was escorted to Barton's office by his teacher at the orphanage, Kay Satterwhite. Whenever she saw him, Edward reminded Jennifer of nothing so much as a doll - with his golden hair and sapphire eyes, he had the beauty of a porcelain angel. But when Jennifer remarked as such to Helen after one visit, Helen retorted: "That boy may look like a doll, but I wouldn't want him decorating my bedroom."

The boy's skin was so pale it bordered on translucent - almost as if it were bloodless. It gave Jennifer an uneasy feeling. Perhaps she was unsettled by his almost inhuman beauty.

"I wonder how he's made out in all this?"

"What do you mean?" Jennifer replied.

"He's also a survivor of the Clock Tower case. So...was he attacked, too?"

"Well, I haven't heard that he was. But...why would he be?"

"I'm just wondering...is he trapped in the same neverending nightmare you are?"

"You mean, you wonder if Scissorman has gone after Edward since that incident? I don't think so. I mean, Helen would have told me if he had!"

"But I'm thinking that Scissorman might be going after the survivors of the previous case..."

"To cover his tracks?"

"I don't know. But...don't you think it's strange? How you and Edward survived, I mean."

"Well...I've never really thought about it." Jennifer didn't understand the point of Nolan's question.

"Look: this time, you were the target. To me, it seems like Scissorman's playing a game. Like a cat toying with a mouse - do you see what I'm saying?"

"You mean that he let me go on purpose? I mean...maybe. But maybe not. One thing I am certain of, though, is that right now, I'm in Scissorman's sights. And that the police probably aren't going to be much help."

"Yeah... Well, I've decided: I'm gonna help you. There's no way I could just leave you alone. But have you talked this over with Prof. Maxwell - investigating Scissorman alone, I mean?"

"Naturally."

"And what did she say?"

"That she'd help me."

"You've got even her over a barrel?" Nolan commented in shock.

"It's not like that, dummy! It's just...I think she's exactly like you, Nolan. She said she couldn't just leave me alone."

"I guess. I still think that counts as being under duress, though."

"Don't say such disgraceful things! I want everyone to help me of their own free will! ...Now, Nolan: I'm going to come right to the point. I want you to tell me everything you know about the Clock Tower case."

"I know only what you do," Nolan said - earning a glare from Jennifer. Nolan returned her gaze. The ensuing staring contest continued for a while.

Nolan finally heaved a sigh. "I know, I know. You hate liars. So I've heard! I'll shoot straight. I recently got my hands on two pieces of info. One: The Barrows family isn't originally from Norway. They supposedly came over the sea from England eighty years ago. I'm still tracking down the details. Two: I found someone who used to work as a butler at the Barrows mansion."

"What?!" Jennifer shouted.

"Hey, don't startle me like that!!"

"Um, there was this little statue in Prof. Barton's office - the Demon Idol, we called it. It was used in some sort of ritual in the Barrows mansion. I just got this...weird feeling from it. But I haven't seen it lately. So I asked Helen about it, and she said that Prof. Barton had asked someone to look after it for him. He'd been apparently talking about giving it to someone involved with the Barrows family, for the investigation - or to the head of the library, Mr. Sullivan. This person involved with the Barrows family must be that butler of yours!"

"Tomorrow, I'm going to be seeing that butler - Rick - for a story. Do you want me to ask him about the idol?"

"Well..." Jennifer took another forkful of cake as she mulled it over.




Ahh - and now, two doors have appeared before you.

If you want Nolan to ask about the idol, open the door here.

But if you prefer to refuse Nolan's offer, you should open the door here.

Which door will you choose?





CHAPTER TWO


"Man, you've got a magnificent place here." Nolan took a seat on the sofa and surveyed his surroundings. He was in a spacious living room that showcased an antique chandelier suspended from its high ceiling. If Nolan hung that chandelier up in his apartment, he thought, he'd have no room left to live.

"I have nothing that deserves to be called 'magnificent,' but..."

The man - Rick - who claimed to have once served the Barrows family as their butler plucked a speck of dust from the carpet with his long, bony fingers as he spoke. Thin and aged, Rick had the appearance of a gentleman.

"Well, as someone who lives in a cramped apartment, you can count me as jealous." Nolan repositioned his legs twice, three times on the sofa, fidgeting like a child.

He cast a glance to the table, at a tiny statue that seemed as if it could fit in the palm of his hand. It was a grotesque figure - a twisted monster seated atop a skull. It looked nothing like a gargoyle, which were traditionally used to repel evil. The figure appeared to be made of metal; it shone darkly. This had to be the "demon idol" Jennifer mentioned.

"The master graciously arranged for a severance package upon my retirement - a far too generous sum. Now, Mister...Campbell, was it?"

"Nolan Campbell. 'Nolan''s fine."

"Mr. Campbell, then," Rick continued, ignoring Nolan's gracious words. "How was it that you found about about me?"

"'Found out about you'?" Nolan said, a blank expression on his face.

"That I was employed in the Barrows mansion."

"I'm afraid I can't reveal my source. It might cause problems for them. Of course, I don't want to cause any problems for you, either."

"Is that so?" Rick knit his bony fingers and held them in front of his face, as if praying. "I knew someone would find out. I suppose it is only luck that I have remained undetected for this long. The other day, I received a message from that Professor Barton fellow, and one of his assistants brought this to me."

Rick picked up the tiny idol from the table. "You wanted me to tell you everything I know about this, correct? I apologize, but I am unaware of what it is. I imagine it was the master's property. I am unaware of who this Prof. Barton is exactly, but he of course knew my address. And if you know as well, then I imagine they..."

"I'm sorry?"

"...I imagine I have precious little time left. Perhaps I should be grateful that you are a member of the media. The master wanted the truth to be made public when the time came."

"What are you talking about?"

"The master was too kind to me. I imagine he had faith in me - why else would he entrust me with this task? ...But the burden was too great for me to bear. And when that incident occurred..."

"--I'm sorry; you're talking about the Clock Tower case, correct?"

"Indeed I am. I learned that the master had lost his life. And yet I did nothing - despite the master's wishes. ...I was scared. I wanted to live out my remaining years in peace, if possible...but that didn't happen. ...I've only spent my days in fear. It's been over ten years since the day I left the mansion - here alone in this house, just quaking in my boots..."

And here's another person trapped in a neverending nightmare, thought Nolan. And once again, the keys lie with the Barrows family.

A dog barked. Violently. Perhaps it had spotted some prey.

Rick, who had so far simply stared at his hands as he spoke, rose to his feet. "What's the matter, Victor?" As he called the dog, Rick stepped back into the recesses of the living room and parted a heavy curtain. Behind stood a huge glass door that looked upon a garden. The lawn shone green under the glare of the lights, as if it were wet.

There stood a dog black as night, no smaller than Rick himself. The dog continued barking, retreating ever so slightly.

"Pipe down. We have a visitor." Rick opened the glass door as he spoke; the dog slunk into his house, tail between its legs.

"Forgive me. He usually doesn't bark like that."

"Do you have him to deter burglars?"

"Hm?"

"Well, he somehow doesn't seem like the type of dog you'd keep just as a hobby."

"Ah, well, I don't think he'd be of much use on that account."

Seems like a beast that size would be enough to chase any burglar away. Or does Rick need protection against something that's beyond mere watchdogs?

"Now, then..." Rick turned a suspicious gaze toward Nolan and smiled wanly. "I don't think I'll have need of him much longer. Would you like to take him in?"

"...I can't have pets in my apartment."

"Is that so?" Rick stood at Nolan's side. "Then allow me to give another gift - something the master entrusted to me. But you must promise - that you'll write an article about this. That you'll tell the entire country."

"Of course I will. That's why I came here, after all--"

"Even" - and here Rick sat next to Nolan and brought his face closer - "if it means your life?"

"...My life?" Nolan took one look at the gravity of Rick's expression and swallowed hard.

"It's in the kitchen. Wait a moment. I'll be right back." Rick headed for the door.

Nolan almost choked out, It's OK; I'm good, but the words caught in his throat. Instead, he said: "Uh, um, that's a mighty fine chandelier."

"Ahh, yes - the master gave it to me. In those days, he was still--"

The magnificent chandelier of glass and brass began to sway - even though it would seem to take more than a slight breeze to move the massive piece. And the room was completely enclosed - there was no way a breeze could enter.

"Look out!" Nolan screamed, as he flew off the sofa.

Snap! The chain connecting the chandelier to the ceiling was severed. Jangle, sang its crystal.

The colossal, leaden mass of the chandelier plunged from above.

There wasn't even time to scream.

Shards of glass flew everywhere as the chandelier struck the floor. And beneath the chandelier lay Rick's body, splayed at unnatural angles like a broken doll. A pool of blood spread beneath him, as if welling up from the carpet.

Nolan thought, as he tried to move the chandelier. It refused to budge. Nolan tried for a while before giving up.

The giant brass arms of the chandelier had squashed Rick's head. He was clearly dead.

Rick's face was surprisingly calm, even in death. As if he had come to end of a good, long life surrounded by family, thought Nolan. To him, the only way out of his nightmare was death.

Nolan rose to his feet. This was no time for sentimentality.

He headed for a side table in the corner of the room, looking for a phone he had spotted there earlier. He hesitated for a moment, deliberating as to whether he should call the police or an ambulance, before picking up the receiver.

But when he brought it to his ear, there was no dial tone.

Disconnected?

--No.

Nolan felt his heartbeat quicken as he attempted to deny his own thoughts.

Rick's dead, and the phone's out. There's no way this is coincidence. Whatever Rick was afraid of did this.

That's right. The dog. It was barking before.

I thought the dog had gone back in its house because it had been scolded by its master. No. It backed off - because it was afraid of something. Someone had sneaked in here - someone that had even that ferocious beast cowed.

Scissorman! The name popped into Nolan's head unbidden.

Calm down. You've got to calm down, Nolan.

Repeating the words like a mantra, he grabbed a tumbler from the sideboard. It was filled with an amber liquid. He took a drink directly from the heavy cut glass.

One gulp. Two gulps.

It was whiskey. The genuine article, top-drawer, from Scotland.

Nolan returned the tumbler to the sideboard. He wasn't the best at holding his liquor.

But he found his hands were shaking, and it wasn't because he was drunk.

Get a grip, Nolan. It's do or die time. Make it out of here with this scoop, and you're on your way to a Pulitzer. You've got a cool head. You're not a guy who would panic over something like this. So get a hold of yourself. Get a hold of yourself, and think.

Someone's in the house. That someone is probably Scissorman. Whatever Simon Barrows entrusted to that poor old man poses a threat to him... So he came to get it. If I turn tail now, I can kiss it goodbye. I can't leave until I find it.

Rick said it was in the kitchen.

The kitchen...

A thought suddenly came to Nolan. He took the demon idol from the table and slipped it into his pocket, then took out a handkerchief and wrapped it around his right hand.

Rick was dead. The police hadn't been contacted. Right now, Nolan was shaping up to be their number-one suspect. If his fingerprints were found all over the place, he'd have a tough time coming up with an alibi.

But...it's kind of funny, Nolan thought, staring at his right hand, wrapped in a white handkerchief. None of this will matter if you don't make it out alive.

--Stop this, Nolan said, shaking his head. Of course you'll make it out. Go get what Simon Barrows left you.

Nolan began searching for the kitchen. He found it quickly enough on the first floor.

Rick didn't appear to have had many guests. He had very few dishes, and one look at the large quantity of cheese in the refrigerator and the even larger quantity of stale bread in the pantry was enough to give a picture of his dining habits. He didn't have much in the way of cookware, either; it didn't take much time to see all there was to see. However, he couldn't find anything that seemed likely to be what he was looking for.

Finding something when you didn't even know what it was was next to impossible. And if the police were coming, he couldn't ransack the kitchen too much. Instead of looking blindly, maybe it'd be better to try to think like Rick - figure out where he would have hidden something.

Nolan took a momentary seat on a stool in front of the sink. He was bound to find something as long as he kept his head.

Nolan stared ahead blankly.

A large clock hung on the wall in front of him. It was a stately, pendulum-type model; it wouldn't be an overstatement to call it an antique. It had stopped, its hands pointing in random directions.

Even a layperson could tell it was expensive. It seemed out of place in this kitchen. Rick had said that his expensive chandelier had been a gift from Simon Barrows. Perhaps it hadn't been the only gift Rick had received.

Nolan stood and lifted the clock off the wall. Using the tip of a knife from the cupboard as a screwdriver, he removed the screws on the back.

"Bingo!" Nolan cried in joy. Removing the back cover of the clock revealed the interior to be hollow. The screws and gears had been removed; in their place lay a single notebook with a leather cover.

Nolan placed the clock on the floor and removed the notebook. Opening the cover revealed two handwritten maps. The first was was map of Great Britain. A site on the border of England and Scotland, near the coast, was tightly circled in red. And there was written: Barrows Castle.

A castle. Where the Barrows family probably lived before coming across the sea to Norway. The next map was of this area, magnified, with the passages throughout the castle marked in detail.

Nolan flipped to the next page. The paper was crammed with notes in meticulous handwriting, prefaced with the following message:


I begin this fight with the intention of bringing an end to everything - of awakening the accursed Barrows bloodline from its neverending nightmare.

If this notebook finds its way unburnt into another's hands, it means that I have failed in my quest - that I am, in all likelihood, no longer among the living.

Here I have inscribed all I have learned of the secrets of the Barrows family. May it be a weapon for you in the fight against Them. Neither sword nor gun will avail you against your foe. What you will need is knowledge - and courage in the face of death.

I ask you this: read these words and send them back whence they came. If you cannot, then at least make the contents of this notebook public knowledge. As part of the Barrows bloodline, I bear endless shame. However, many lives will be sacrificed so long as they remain undestroyed. That is unbearable to me.

To you who read this: the Barrows curse has already befallen you. You have no choice but to fight - fight, and win. To save not only your own life, but many others.

They will try to stop you. They will try to kill you. But - with the right knowledge - you will be victorious.


Nolan closed the notebook.

He felt like another shot of whiskey. Scratch that - he felt like getting drop-dead drunk.

Suddenly, the lights went out.

In an instant, all went black.

Nolan's eyes gradually adjusted to the darkness. The room was illuminated by the dim lights outside the window.

Calm down, Nolan. You've got what you need here. Now all you have to do is get out. Nolan kept repeating the words to himself as his eyes adjusted.

He heard a sound.

What was that?

He strained his ears to listen.

It was the sound of a knife being sharpened. No, not a knife. It was the sound of two blades - scraping against each other. Like twin sabers...or a pair of scissors. But this sound came from no ordinary pair of scissors. It would have to come from a pair of massive blades. Yes - like the ones Scissorman carried.

The sound was getting closer and closer.

Nolan spun around.

He stifled a scream.

He was face to face with Scissorman.

The blades that had drunk the blood of so many glistened as if in mockery.

Nolan scrambled backward, thrusting out his right hand as if to defend himself - the hand that still held Simon Barrows' notebook.

The scissors closed with a shing, as if to snatch the notebook away.

The notebook was plucked from Nolan's grasp and fell to the ground. Scraps of paper fluttered in the air like butterflies.

After reaching out and grabbing some fragments, Nolan turned tail and ran.

He didn't recall the path he took or how he escaped.

The next thing he remembered, he was driving down the highway in his car.

He constantly glanced at the rearview mirror as he drove. When he arrived at his apartment, he finally contacted the police. He waited in front of his locked door until the officer arrived.

It had been the longest night of Nolan's life.






CHAPTER THREE


"That really was Scissorman, wasn't it?" said Nolan to Jennifer, his cheeks stuffed with bites of sandwich. He had finally finished the tale of his bout with Scissorman - and the find that had heartbreakingly slipped through his fingers.

Warm sunlight streamed in from the windows facing the street. Recounting the story of Scissorman here, it all seemed like a fantasy - no more than a movie.

"So, how come you weren't able to get the notebook?" Jennifer glared at Nolan, her eyes deeply skeptical.

"Um, another cup of coffee, please."

"Don't change the subject!"

The restaurant's brand-new, modern exterior belied its chic interior of wood and brick. Jennifer had made an appointment to meet Helen here - to reintroduce her to Nolan.

"I'm not 'changing the subject!' But I fought with him - Scissorman! I'm lucky to have made it back in one piece! You could spare a few kind words for me for that, y'know!"

"Well, you did manage to get the demon idol, so I'll overlook it this time. Now, what about the police?"

"Well, they were trying to make me out to be some whackjob murderer." Nolan waved at two men in suits lunching at a table in the corner of the room - detectives. They were there to guard Jennifer - and to keep an eye on Nolan. "They don't seem to believe a single word I say."

"Now you know how I feel."

"Well, you aren't being treated like a homicidal maniac. ...Also, I've understood from the very start how you feel." Suddenly, Nolan leapt out of his feet from his chair. "Ah, Professor! It's been a while!"

Jennifer turned around to find Helen, dressed in a light blue suit.

"I believe it was 'Nolan Campbell,' wasn't it?"

"Call me 'Nolan.' Is it all right if I call you 'Helen,' Professor?" Nolan held out his hand. After a sideways glance at Jennifer, Helen took it reluctantly.

"Call me what you like, Nolan. However..."

"However?"

"I want you to leave Jennifer alone."

The atmosphere at the table was grim. Jennifer hastily cut in: "Helen, please, just sit. You promised we'd have lunch together, didn't you!?"

Begrudgingly, Helen sat. Nolan followed suit.

"Helen, like I was saying, I asked him to get involved."

"No, that's not true - it was my own idea to investigate."

Helen glanced between Jennifer and Nolan, then let out a sigh. "...Nolan. You're...how old, again?"

"Huh?"

"Your age, Nolan."

"Ahh - I'm twenty-six."

"Jennifer is fifteen. It's easy for you to lead her on! But--"

"--Helen, what are you talking about? I don't understand!"

Helen was hit with a wave of regret; she feared she had said too much in front of Jennifer. She hurriedly pointed to the sandwich on Jennifer's plate and told a passing waiter: "Ah, I'll have what she's having."

"Adults sure do love dodging questions by placing orders, don't they!? Wow, what a convenient way to dodge the question! Adults do it all the time! It's their favorite trick! ...Well, it's not going to work here! Helen, I want you to get this straight: I don't have any romantic feelings for this man! He offered to help me, and so I'm letting him. That's all! I'd never, ever fall for an old guy like him!"

Jennifer stole a glance at Nolan, who seemed to wince at the "old guy" part, before continuing.

"Right now, I couldn't care less about romance. What I want, more than anything, is to bring an end - a real end - to the Clock Tower case. I'm staking my life on it. ...So, come on, Helen. I want the three of us to work together and solve this case."

"What about the police?"

"Helen, we talked about this before. We're the only three people who believe there even IS a Scissorman."

"What about Edward?"

"He's a child! And he's lost his memory! We can't force somebody who doesn't want to be part of this fight to join us!"

"So we don't count?"

"Well..."

Jennifer was at a loss for words. Helen stared at her a bit before saying: "I'm sorry. I'm just teasing! I'm helping you because I want to. Though I don't know what Mr. Reporter's cover story is for getting close to you."

"Helen!"

"It's okay, Jennifer. Helen, let me be honest. Of course, at the start, I approached you two to write an article on the Clock Tower case - just like you thought. But that's not the case now. I'm like Jennifer - I want to bring a real end to the Clock Tower case. Of course, I want to protect Jennifer, too - and my own life is on the line, as well. I'm part of this now. I have been from the moment I got involved in the Clock Tower case."

Nolan extracted a file from his well-worn leather briefcase. It contained numerous scraps of crumpled paper, patched together with adhesive tape - remnants of the notes left behind by Simon Barrows.

Nolan passed them to Helen.

"I heard from Jennifer that you were able to get a variety of information on the Barrows family from Rick's place."

"Yes, and I managed to get back the demon idol, too. I've already given it to Jennifer, though--"

"--I saw that! It's currently being stored in a safe back in the laboratory. I haven't let the police in yet on their return, though."

"Because they'll be confiscated as evidence if we do, right?" Nolan once again gave a smile and wave to the pair of detectives. They regarded his greeting with sour glares.

"I told the police that Rick was going to show me something about the Barrows family but died before he could - and that I ran away at that point, so I didn't know what happened after that. That's my official testimony, anyhow. But they didn't believe me, at any rate."

Helen was flipping through the scraps of Simon Barrows' notes.

One of the scraps Nolan managed to salvage was the map of the Barrows Castle and its surroundings. Save for some slight wrinkles, Nolan had gotten it out completely intact. Most of the remaining scraps detailed the history of the Barrows family in England.

The Barrows were retainers of the Percys, serving as Marcher Lords on the border between England and Scotland. Everything started with Theodore Barrows, the lord of the castle in the mid-15th century. One after another, children began disappearing in the Barrows' lands. The missing children were never to be seen again - and it was all the work of Theodore Barrows. After he returned from the Hundred Years' War, Theodore had acquired a crippling fear of death. He formed a pact with a pagan god in an attempt to escape death. He lured children to his castle, torturing and butchering them before offering them up to his heathen god.

Rumors of Theodore's inhuman acts gradually spread throughout the countryside. Fearing that the word of the scandal would reach the king's ears, Theodore's own family poisoned him. His fear of death had engineered his own demise. But the curse Theodore left behind would continue to twine around and choke the Barrows family like ivy.

Once every several generations, deformed children would be born into the Barrows family. Monsters with strange powers beyond the limits of human knowledge - and a taste for blood. When these children were born, victims followed. It was the 13th lord of the castle, Quintin Barrows, who tried to break this cycle.

However, even he was unable to seal away the accursed blood completely.

After Quintin's death, the Barrows family crossed the sea to Norway. Scant records remained of the rituals they subsequently conducted, but it was impossible to make out the details from the scraps that remained.

"Now, Jennifer - I imagine you haven't changed your mind."

"Of course not. I'm going to England. The key to solving the mystery of Scissorman has to be there! We've talked about this, Helen. You said you'd let me go - isn't that right!?"

"I'm going, too. I won't be able to talk you out of it. At least it'll be better if we both go. And I imagine our reporter friend here will be coming along," said Helen, a resigned look on her face.

"I had intended on accompanying you ladies! My photographer Tim will probably be coming, too."

"Jennifer, I know you're going to be in a party of three - four, with this photographer - but do you realize how difficult it's going to be to get to England? You and Nolan are material witnesses. You're going to need police permission to go overseas. You also need Prof. Barton's permission - you and me both, actually. Do you think that's really possible now - when a new serial murder is ongoing?"

"I'll make it possible," said Jennifer, staring down Helen with quiet determination.

Jennifer had lost her father and been abandoned by her mother. She was no stranger to difficulty. In the Clock Tower incident, she had faced terrors that would induce madness in lesser souls and seen all her friends die before her eyes. Her heart still bore the scars. Even now, she was swept up in yet another serial murder case. And still, Jennifer kept looking forward, to the future. She would bring an end to this case with her own two hands.

And she'll do it, too, thought Helen. If Jennifer's set her mind to it, then this case might just see a genuine conclusion.

"Jennifer can do it. I know she can."

It was as if Nolan were reading Helen's mind.

"Then it's settled. Now, to think of a way of persuading Assistant Inspector Gotts." So saying, Jennifer casually took a sip of hot coffee. It threatened to burn her tongue.






Proceed to Part Three, if you please.






CHAPTER TWO


Jennifer had heard that the head of the library was a chatterbox. However, Jennifer herself had never found that to be the case - until now.

She had asked at the reception desk to meet with him, and it had been thirty minutes since she had been admitted to his office. Professor Sullivan hadn't been stopped droning since. He had originally been a professor at South Oslo University - and Helen's mentor. Helen respected Prof. Sullivan's unparalleled knowledge and tireless passion for scholarship...but, as Helen attested, the man never shut up.

Sullivan laughed, and his whole belly shook. His gut looked as if the man had swallowed a cod whole.

"...oh, I just wish you could've seen Helen's face!"

"Um...Prof. Sullivan?"

"Yes, what is it?" The tiny eyes behind his gold-rimmed glasses still glimmered with merriment.

"I came by today because I have something to ask you."

"--Oh, yes; of course! I didn't expect you came by to ask me out, after all." Prof. Sullivan let loose another laugh at his comment. Isn't there a saying - fat people are jolly? And laughter's supposed to be the best medicine, too... Jennifer couldn't help but be reminded of those old adages as she looked at Prof. Sullivan's face. Not a single white strand in his hairstyle, neatly parted to the side, was out of place. He likely wasn't a day under seventy, and yet his skin remained a smooth, rosy pink, flushed with health.

"Well, you see - I think Prof. Barton might have asked you to look after something for him. If so, I'd like to take a look at it. It's about - this big?" Jennifer made a motion with her hand as if she were squeezing a baseball. "It's a statue."

"Ohhhh, the infamous demon idol."

"So he did give it to you, then?" Jennifer's eyes lit up. She had managed to stay a step ahead of the police.

"Now, where did I put it. ...Do you have some time to spare?"

"Huh? ...Yes. Well, I suppose."

"Well, then..." Sullivan fished a key from the inside pocket of his suit. "This unlocks the reading room. From here, take a right and go down the hallway. It's past the main stacks in the common hall. You'll see a plate on the door! If you don't find it, ask at the reception desk. You've met young Wergeland, haven't you? Oh, don't get your hopes up - despite his name, I wouldn't be expecting any great literature from him. He's an exceptional librarian, though! Why, just the other day, he turned to me, and--"

"--And so" - Jennifer piped up, a little forcefully - "that's where the statue is, then?"

"...That's where we have our rare volumes."

"Uhhh..."

"For example, the skaldic poems of Eyvindr Skáldaspillir. The originals, you know! Can you read old Norse?"

Of course not, Jennifer thought, shaking her head. Old Norse hadn't been spoken since Norway had adopted the Latin alphabet after the introduction of Christianity. How could a fifteen-year-old be expected to speak it?

"Well, that's a shame. That book's my pride and joy, you know - it's from the 8th century! Well, no worries. The collection room has plenty of books written in Bokmål! I imagine you understand that, don't you?"

Understand it? We're speaking Bokmål right now. Norway also recognized another dialect, Nynorsk, but Oslo and the eastern part of the country used Bokmål almost exclusively. The question was on its face ridiculous.

Jennifer was too exasperated even to respond. Prof. Sullivan droned on regardless.

"The reading room also has a number of volume of historical research on England - and Ireland! And they're in Bokmål - thankfully."

Despite the "thankfully," Jennifer was still confused. English history has nothing to do with the Barrows family - does it? Jennifer felt a fog descending upon her mind - but her primary concern was the whereabouts of the statue.

"Never mind that, Prof. Sullivan. Where is the demon idol?" Jennifer interjected, understandably fed up.

"Yes, the idol! Now, it's just a hobbyhorse of mine, but I believe there is a base faith that ties the ancient Germans and Celts together - that serves as the wellspring of the beliefs of all the Indo-European tribes. We're talking before the advent of Christianity, of course! And I have a sneaking suspicion this idol might have some sort of connection to it! ...Now, there was a lord of a castle - in England - who seems to have had a theory similar to mine. What was his name? Oh, yes - Barrows."

"Barrows!"

"Mmm - a Lord Warden of the March of the border between Scotland and England. The crest this particular lord of the castle used - it was a bit different from the Barrows family crest, but part of it resembles the demon idol, viewed from the front. So perhaps..."

Prof. Sullivan suddenly stopped short to roll up his sleeve and check his watch.

"Oh, dear; look at me. I've gone on too long again. I actually am due at a meeting right now. I know I put the demon idol somewhere in the collection room, but I forgot just where! I'll track it down as soon as I get back, so if I could just have you wait in the reading room until then..."

Why didn't you go find it beforehand, Jennifer almost said, but she pushed the words back down her throat and instead replied: "About what time will you be back?"

"Oh, soon, soon."

I don't know who he's meeting, but from how he's saying it, it's not going to be anywhere near 'soon.' Jennifer resigned herself to a long haul in the reading room. "--Um, what was the name of that book on the Barrows family?"

"Lord Wardens of the March of Northern England," Prof. Sullivan called over his shoulder. He was already halfway out the door.

Slam.

Jennifer shrugged and followed him out.

She found the library's main hall soon enough - it was big enough to fit two tennis courts. Every inch of it was stuffed with bookshelves - a practical forest of books. It had been built following the 1947 revisions to Norway's Public Libraries Act, which charged each municipality with establishing its own public library - part of a campaign by Norway to establish cultural institutions. Each citizen of Oslo supported this library with 5 kroner a year.

"Oh, Ms. Simpson!" A timid young man approached Jennifer - the boy at the reception desk. "Are you looking for the reading room?"

"Yes."

"The director rushed out and asked me to tell you where it is. He was really worked up about it, too! Well, it's not like he's ever exactly organized, but..."

Jennifer laughed a little. The boy blushed slightly; he was probably nervous in front of such a beautiful girl.

"Um, I'll show you the way," said the boy, taking the lead.

They had emerged from the massive stacks that reached to the ceiling and had walked halfway down the hall, when suddenly -

"Oh!..." Jennifer exclaimed, despite herself.

She had spotted a boy reading in a chair - a boy with hair of rich gold and a doll's porcelain looks. Edward.

The boy noticed her presence before Jennifer could speak. "Jennifer..."

"Edward!"

"Um, do you two know each other?" The boy from the reception desk glanced suspiciously between the two. Though both portraits of beauty, they didn't look anything alike.

"Er, a little." Jennifer was evasive; things tended to get complicated when speaking of the Clock Tower case. "Edward, are you here all alone?"

"Yes. It was kind of boring at the hotel." Edward stared at Jennifer with eyes of miraculously clear and undimmed blue. "What about you, Jennifer?"

Fine, well-formed lips moved in query, yielding glimpses of tiny white teeth. Jennifer could even make out the saliva with which they shined.

Jennifer put one hand on the table to steady herself. It was if she had felt the earth move beneath her.

"Um, I..."

That was all she could get out. She was helpless to do anything but stare at the perfect, jewel-like beauty before her. It wasn't mere captivation on her part - not entirely. There was...something there. Something she felt. Something that made her uneasy, something out of place - like a single grain of sand contaminating a splendid banquet. A voice inside Jennifer was telling her something...telling her: No!

"No" what? That, Jennifer didn't know. But whatever lay buried within this beauty was drawing Jennifer in.

"Um, Jennifer?"

At the hesitant voice of the boy from the reception desk, Jennifer finally managed to tear her eyes off Edward.

"The door over there leads to the reading room. I'll be at the reception desk; if you need anything, don't hesitate to ask. See you!"

After the boy left, Edward repeated his previous question. "So, why did you come here, Jennifer?"

"Just looking for something." Jennifer cautiously returned her gaze to Edward's face. Whatever premonition that had consumed her thoughts previously was gone.

Edward's just as beautiful as ever. He looks downright otherworldly, unnatural - just like I thought he did the first time we met. But that was completely different from that intense feeling I had just now - that something was...wrong.

...It was an illusion. Just nerves. I'm jumping at shadows.

That was what Jennifer wanted herself to believe.

"Isn't Ms. Satterwhite with you?"

"Kay...Ms. Satterwhite is back at the hotel." Edward and Kay were staying at a hotel in Oslo. They'd be going back to the Granite Orphanage once Prof. Barton's treatment was over.

"But, Jennifer - you have to come and play with me again sometime, OK?"

"...Uh, sure."

"Then it's a promise! We're friends, after all!"

"Um, sure! Yes! It's a promise! Well, I've got to get going, Edward. See you later!" With that, Jennifer headed for the reading room, practically running out of the room to escape.

The reading room archives were far smaller than the library's main hall, but it still took Jennifer longer than expected to pick out the book for which she was looking. She found the history shelf right away, but tracking down Lord Wardens of the March of Northern England was an arduous task. Still, she didn't think Prof. Sullivan would be back anytime soon. She had all the time in the world.

Jennifer methodically traced the spines of the books with her eyes. She at last found her quarry on the very top shelf of the bookcase, near the ceiling, buried among tomes written in languages she couldn't understand. She pushed a stepladder on casters to the shelf and climbed up to retrieve it, then sat down with her prize.

As its title advertised, Lord Wardens of the March of Northern England offered profiles by region of the lord wardens of the march of England's north. Locations, chronologies, and other content were compactly listed, as if the author had realized the book would be used as a historical resource. The index was also effectively organized, and Jennifer soon found the information for which she was looking.

Were the Barrows that well-known? The book devoted a surprising number of pages to the family. The very start of the section included a rather detailed description of their lands, complete with map. As Prof. Sullivan had said, Barrows Castle was located on the border between England and Scotland, near the sea. The main body of the text followed, detailing everything from the very origins of the Barrows family, who served as retainers to the Percys, to a painstaking history of the clan. To Jennifer, the account seemed to drone on excessively; she found her attention drifting, rereading the same line over and over again. She dutifully pushed herself to keep turning the pages.

Then her hand stopped short - at the account of Theodore Barrows, the lord of the castle in the mid-15th century. After Theodore returned from the Hundred Years' War and became lord, children started disappearing one after another in his lands. The text continued:


The number was placed at one or two hundred, but these totals are at best peasant rumor; the exact count is unknown. Suffice it to say that the number of disappearances was sufficient to shock the countryside.


The text went on. Theodore continued to enjoy a favorable reputation among his vassals and fellow feudal lords, possibly due to his political prowess. Among the countryfolk, however, he was called "Barrows the Cannibal." Rumor had it that he was behind the disappearances - to feast on the children's flesh. As children stopped vanishing around when Theodore died, the rumor was thus cemented in public opinion as fact.

Beyond this, numerous rumors circulated about Theodore's death itself. That he was a pagan and was offering up the children to his dark god, but that he ultimately offered himself up as a living sacrifice. Or that Theodore's own relatives had poisoned him out of fear that word of his evil deeds would reach the king. Or that he had been drowned in his own bath. The list went on.

But this time, the rumors remained rumors, and the facts were never discovered. There did, however, seem to be truth to the idea that Theodore was a pagan - a disciple of a true heretical religion, devoted to the gods of old. Several of Theodore's treatises had been cited as references.

The foul rumors about the Barrows clan didn't stop there. The child disappearances continued, reoccurring every few years...every few decades. It was during one of these times that a song was written, popular in the Barrows lands:


Little John from the big castle
Plays with a little boy
Snip, snip, snip
Off goes his head
Bright red, bright red


"This is..." Words came to Jennifer's lips unbidden. "...This song is about Scissorman."

Jennifer's hand couldn't turn the page quickly enough.

The author continued to discuss the "nasty rumors" about the Barrows family in a lighthearted tone. Disappearances in the Barrows' lands would coincide with the family's problems in finding an heir - that is, when the lord of the family had no child, and he would adopt children from his relatives. This was an occasional custom among the Barrows family - one that coincided with disappearances of local children. The rumors about the Barrows grew ever more sinister.

The story went like this: after meeting an unnatural demise, Theodore had brought down a curse upon the family that would cause a monster to be born into the Barrows every several generations. At these times, the lord would have no choice but to adopt and to seal the monster away within a dungeon. But the monster would rage for victims, and the lord's only option would be to abduct children to sate it.

The author's objectivity remained unbroken, treating these accounts as merely rumor. But what the author saw as impartiality, Jennifer saw as an obstinate refusal to face facts. Assistant Inspector Gotts' disbelieving face flashed across her mind. It's people like you who create more victims, Jennifer muttered, as she read the rest.

After the ascension of Quintin Barrows, the 13th lord of the castle, in the mid-19th century, the disappearances stopped for a long while. Rumor had it this was because Quintin had exiled the monster, as well as the vassals and family members who had supported it. The author, however, derisively dismissed the "monster theory," claiming it to be a cover story for an internal power struggle within the Barrows family.

At the dawn of the twentieth century, the Barrows clan was chased from their castle by a popular uprising. They wound up crossing the sea - to Norway.

Upon reading these words, Jennifer closed the book and heaved a great sigh.

Scissorman had been born into the Barrows family countless times, as a result of a curse by Theodore - or the dark gods he worshipped. Jennifer simply stared into space, overcome by this revelation - until she heard a hesitant "um" from below. Startled, Jennifer looked down from her perch atop the stepladder to find the boy from the reception desk.

"Ah, I'm afraid the library's about to close."

"What? It's that time already? ...Wait - where's Director Sullivan?"

"He finally got back just a little bit ago. He's waiting for you in his office."

"Really? Thank you!" Jennifer went to return the book she'd found to the shelves, but then stopped short and asked the boy: "Ahh, can we take out books from the reading room?"

"Not normally, but I think it'd be OK with the director's permission. There's supposed to be a whole procedure around it, but the director himself was the one who put it in place. Just bring the book to him. Tell him you like it - it should work out fine. Well, I've got to get going; see you later!" With that, the boy parted - reluctantly.

Jennifer placed the book in a small bag she'd brought and, with a languid stretch, descended the stepladder. Her entire lower half was numb from being seated on its hard surface for so long. She looked at the clock - it was already evening. No wonder she felt hungry. Today, Helen was supposed to come home early and make dinner. I'd better get home quick, Jennifer thought, or Helen will be mad.

Jennifer made a dash for Prof. Sullivan's office. When she arrived, she found him seated behind his desk, typing. "Professor Sullivan!"

Upon hearing his name, the professor looked up and smiled. "Not the world's greatest typist, am I? No wonder, with fingers like these!" He held out his sausage-like digits. "Hmmm - you look like you might be a fine typist. If so, would you--"

"--Um, about the idol..." Jennifer had to cut in before the director got started.

"Ohhh, yes. Now, let me see--"

Suddenly, Prof. Sullivan was interrupted - by the sound of giant bells. The tone was dull, as if the bells were cracked.

"...Why, that's the sound of the bells in the clock tower!"

"You have a clock tower here?"

"Indeed we do - with a magnificent beast of a clock! You saw it when you arrived, didn't you? You can't miss it if you look up! It doesn't help tell the time, though - it's been broken since before I came here! Someone must be playing a prank. Wait here; I'll go see. --On second thought, why don't you come with me?"

Jennifer wasn't inclined to go if she could help it. Clock towers brought back bad memories for her. The Clock Tower mansion had its name for a reason, after all - and it was in its namesake that Scissorman had attacked Jennifer.

"What about the idol?" Jennifer knew she was being pig-headed, but she persisted.

"Oh, it's here." Prof. Sullivan retrieved the tiny idol from his suit pocket. The idol shone blue-black; a grotesque gargoyle stared from its perch atop a skull. It wasn't the type of gargoyle used to ward off evil, either. No doubt about it: this was the demon idol Jennifer had seen at the Barrows mansion.

"I had it in my collection room." Prof. Sullivan passed the idol to Jennifer. "Now, shall we be off?" Seemingly convinced that Jennifer would accompany him as a matter of course, the professor turned and left the room.

Jennifer couldn't very well say she was taking the idol and leaving now. Resigned, she followed behind him.

"This way!" the professor beckoned, going down the corridor leading from his office. At the T-junction at the corridor's end stood a staircase - of the long, dark, spiral variety.

Sullivan trod up the staircase one leaden step at a time, his body swaying left & right all the while under the effort. His lips never stopped flapping during the ascent.

"I take it you found Lord Wardens of the March of Northern England in the reading room?" he said in a single breath. Indeed, he was ascending slowly, but his legs had surprising strength for his age.

"...Yes." It was Jennifer, surprisingly, who was the exhausted one - less, perhaps, from the long staircase than from Sullivan's blathering. "...Um, I brought it with me. I was wondering if I could check it out." Jennifer extracted it from her bag as she spoke.

Sullivan didn't even glance at it. "Oh, yes. I don't foresee any problems if you bring it back within a week. So, you read it, then? The section about the Barrows family."

"Oh, yes."

"Then you also read The Nameless Pagans."

"Um, no..."

"'No'? What a shame! You'll have to do so on your next visit. It offers some theories about the nature of the dark religion Theodore Barrows followed. Theodore was a learned man - he left behind four books he himself wrote. Parts of one of them touched upon the fundamental religious consciousness of the Europeans. We can use it to make some inferences about the nature of his own religion...oh, yes, and: according to some surviving works, even after Theodore, there were members of the Barrows family who followed his religion. There were allegedly regular conflicts between the orthodox and the pagan branches of the Barrowses. ...Well, here we are."

Their ascent had taken them to a heavy iron door, which Sullivan unlocked with an old-fashioned key from his pocket. The door groaned with a rusty grinding as it opened, and a chill of cold air slithered out from below.

Despite the presence of electric lighting, the room remained dim, infused with the odors of oil and dust. Countless massive gears squeaked as they turned. A look up revealed the presence of two massive bells, swaying back and forth, together and apart, like two hornets locked in combat. Jennifer put her hands over her ears to block out their constant dull clang.

"There, now - let's have a look, shall we?" Sullivan ventured to the depths of the room and crouched down. In the wall was a little door. "This looks out upon the face of the clock... --I'm sorry, Jennifer, but could I ask you to grab hold of my legs? I've just always had a problem with heights. That reminds me, though - speaking of high places..."

Sullivan opened the door and poked his head out as he continued to talk. Jennifer, flustered, grabbed his legs.

The professor continued his attempts to chat even as the clang of the bells and the howl of the wind drowned him out.

"...But...when need be...I've always been the one who's done this job... --Hm? Oh, my...oh, dear!......The hand! My...My neck's caught beneath it. I...--oh! Jennifer!"

The professor's voice seemed strange to Jennifer's ears. "Professor, are you all right?"

"...I'm sorry, but...please...I'm stuck... The hand's going to come down..."

It seemed that Sullivan's neck had been caught between the hand and the bottom of the hole in the wall when the hand descended. Jennifer held on Sullivan's legs tight and tried to pull.

"Ow! OW! ...No, stop; it's no good. Call Wergeland. ...Ah! No! It won't--the hand! It's moving again! Please...pull me--"

There was a scream. A long, long shriek.

Jennifer grabbed Sullivan's legs and yanked backward with all her might.

Sullivan's body slid from the window without the slightest resistance. Jennifer fell backward with the excess force.

"Are you all right!?"

He wasn't. He had no head. The hand of the clock had sliced it off. Blood spurted from the ragged stump.

"Professor...Sullivan?"

Jennifer gazed vacantly at Sullivan's headless corpse.

The body flopped to the ground in a sitting position, its legs sliding splayed out in front of it on the floor. For some reason, it reminded Jennifer of a massive broken teddy bear. The absurdity only underlined the grotesqueness of the headless body.

Jennifer screamed - screamed, and flew out of the machinery room. She didn't even realize that at some point, the bells had stopped ringing. She ran down the spiral staircase three, four steps at a time, as if she were in freefall. It was sheer luck that she managed not to tumble to her own death.

Once Jennifer hit the bottom of the stairs, she touched her hand to the wall and crouched down.

She heard a noise. Had been hearing, she realized. The sound had been audible ever since she left the machinery room.

It was loud. A horrible sound, one that grated on her every nerve. Why wouldn't it stop?

And then she realized - it was the sound of her own scream. Jennifer vomited at the realization - expelled everything that was in her stomach. But it kept on contracting, as if convulsed with cramps.

At last, Jennifer wiped her befouled mouth with her sleeve and struggled to her feet.

All was silent.

She'd screamed and screamed - and no one had come running.

It had been some time since the library's closing. Perhaps the employees had all gone home.

Leaving Jennifer and Sullivan all alone.

The fluorescent lights above her head began flickering, as if in hesitation.

And then, like the flame of a candle in a sudden gust of wind, they were snuffed out.

The corner of the corridor where Jennifer stood was plunged into darkness. Jennifer fled to the next light down the hall.

That, too, flickered and went out.

She headed for the next light. Again, a flicker; again, darkness.

At some point, she started running.

The lights behind her extinguished in a cascade, one by one. As if the darkness itself were trying to sweep Jennifer up in its embrace.

Jennifer had been driven to the other end of the corridor. There, too, above her head, the very last light went out. Darkness at last wholly claimed the hallway.

No - it wasn't complete darkness, not yet. Emergency lights still faintly illuminated the hall.

Jennifer leaned against the wall. Her shoulders heaved.

Scissorman.

He killed the lights to flush me out. No ordinary human could do that. Prof. Sullivan's death, too - it was his doing. That means I'm not just going to be able to just walk out of here.

But... Jennifer lifted her head and glared into the darkness's depths. "I will get out of here," she muttered. "You'll see."

No matter how hopeless the battle, she was determined to win. To end this nightmare.

Jennifer lifted her back from the wall and firmly tucked the satchel containing the idol and book beneath her arm. She took a deep breath and strode into the dim hallway.

The lights in the building were all extinguished. Jennifer made her way through the congealed, living darkness, searching for an exit.

The front entrance, the emergency exits, even the windows - all were firmly shut. The front doors should have been able to be opened from the inside at any time, to avoid locking the public in - but they refused to budge. Just like in the research building. No doubt about it - this was another of Scissorman's tricks.

And then it happened - as she moved from the reception counter to the office.

She heard a sound. A small one, like the sound of a chair moving.

"Is someone here?"

She hadn't encountered anyone so far. The next person with whom she would come face to face, she was sure, would be Scissorman.

But Jennifer had to ask. She couldn't just leave someone else here. She began to move toward the source of the sound. Slowly. Methodically.

In the center of the room were several steel desks, each with a chair directly facing it. The workers here must have been of a fairly methodical character: all the chairs were perfectly square with their respective desks. One chair, however, was slightly askew, somewhat removed from its desk.

Jennifer crept silently toward the errant chair. Gently, she extended an arm, gripped its backrest, and pulled it back. Tentatively, she peeked under the desk.

"Edward!"

There he sat - beneath the chair, hugging his legs. He seemed quite frightened. He was trembling.

"It's all right. It's me! Jennifer!" She held out her hand and drew Edward out.

"...Jennifer." Edward's complexion, naturally pale, was sheet white, and he was drenched with sweat.

"You're still here?"

"Y-yes...I asked one of the employees, and they said they'd stay with me a little. And then..." Edward threw himself into Jennifer's arms. She gently ruffled his golden hair, which glistened all the more in the darkness.

Why was I so afraid of this boy? Jennifer wondered. His trembling body barely reached Jennifer's chest. His shoulders seemed pathetically frail and slender. He was just a scared little boy.

A little boy.

The words pricked at something in the back of Jennifer's mind.

"But it's all right now! I know you'll save me, Jennifer!"

Jennifer gently put aside the boy's quivering hand and began opening the drawers of the desk. After that search, she began rifling through the employee lockers.

"A-ha!" Jennifer plucked a screwdriver from one of the lockers. When she had entered the room, she had spotted a ventilation duct in the corner - fairly large, covered with a metal grate. She had momentarily considered using it to escape but quickly realized it was useless: large though it was for a vent, even Jennifer's small frame couldn't fit through. But a child could. A small boy. Like Edward.

Jennifer knelt in front of the duct and used the screwdriver to remove the screws securing the grate. It wasn't a difficult task; the screws were removed in short order. Jennifer cast the grate aside and beckoned to Edward. "You can get out from here. You can do it! When you get out, go get the police right away."

"But..."

"Don't worry about me. You have to get out of here."

Edward stared at Jennifer's face for a while. Then, as if making up his mind, he stuck his head in the ventilation duct. Just like Jennifer thought - he could very well escape.

As soon as Edward's feet disappeared into the darkness of the vent, Jennifer turned her attention back to searching for her own way out. Something like the emergency ladder at the research building - something that Scissorman had overlooked. There had to be something.

Jennifer had no intention of sitting quietly and waiting for the police to arrive. But she had almost run out of places to look. The only place left was that vast main hall.

She opened the door. There was a peculiar odor. Putrid, like rotting garbage.

The black shadow of the bookshelves extended all the way to the ceiling. Looking at them in the dim light, they seemed like tombstones for giants.

Then she saw them. The hands that stuck out of the stacks like bookends. The leather shoes that protruded from the bookcase below - with feet still inside. A closer look revealed that the torso was chopped up as well as the limbs - crammed piecemeal into the shelves to create a grotesque work of art.

And then, wedged between thick volumes, she saw the severed head.

Its eyes were so wide open that they threatened to bug out of the skull. The timid young man from the library was almost unrecognizable.

The boy may not have produced any great literature - but he had been an exceptional librarian. Now, he had been dissected and strewn among his shelves.

Jennifer was so overwhelmed she couldn't even make a sound. The strength fled from her knees, and she collapsed to the ground on the spot.

Of course not all the employees had gone home. They would never have left Edward all alone. The boy at the desk had stayed - to the very end.

And Scissorman had killed him.

It seemed to Jennifer that she heard the sound of scissors right behind her. But even if that were true, she lacked the will to stand.

It was all hopeless. What good was it to fight? Scissorman brought death as inevitably as fate itself. She couldn't escape. If Edward got out in one piece - then that was enough, she supposed. It wasn't as if she could hope for anything more.

Everything was hopeless before Scissorman.

Jennifer.

She heard a voice from afar.

Jennifer.

He's calling my name.

Jennifer.

He has his hand on my shoulder. I'm about to die.

Jennifer... Jennifer! Jennifer, it's me!

He's shaking me. He has me by the shoulders. He's...

"--Jennifer, it's me! It's Nolan! Jennifer!"

...And Nolan's familiar face appeared before Jennifer's eyes, flashing his fold, comforting smile.

"Nolan...no! You have to get out of here!!"

"It's all right! The police are here!"

And then Jennifer realized - she could hear voices and the sound of rushing footsteps. See the intersecting beams of pocket flashlights.

She was saved.

Warmth flowed from the tight grip on her shoulders. That's right - like Helen, Nolan is someone who gives me strength.

But...

"It's OK. You don't need to be afraid anymore."

Jennifer promptly pushed herself off Nolan's chest. "I'm not afraid."

"But you're shaking."

"It's cold."

"...You know, a little honesty wouldn't hurt."

"'Be honest, Jennifer! Be good! Don't make waves! Do what you're told!' Like I haven't heard that before. From the teachers at the orphanage. From my mother!"

"Didn't your mother teach you it's OK to be scared?"

"Ha! ...No. My mother didn't bother to teach me anything beyond table manners."

"Then take a word of advice from this strapping young man: it's OK for a fifteen-year-old girl to be scared."

"--Old man."

"..."

"You're over twenty-five. You're old. Not young."

The fear had already fled Jennifer's body. She was all right. For now.






CHAPTER THREE


"What makes you such a busybody, anyway?"

So said Jennifer as she stuffed her cheeks with sandwich. Nolan, seated directly across from her, gave a smirk.

The sun streamed warm and strong in from the giant window facing the street. It was as if the events at the library had never happened - were all just out of a B-grade horror movie. It put Jennifer in high spirits - and she couldn't help but tease Nolan a bit given the atmosphere.

Inspector Gotts had blown up at her at the police station that night - claiming this had all happened because she had given her police escorts the slip and headed off on her own. Then Helen had yelled at her. She was really furious. Jennifer was secretly delighted.

The very next day, she invited Nolan to this restaurant - the same brand-new place where she had picked up that open-faced sandwich the other day. Jennifer liked how it looked - its a modern facade belied its chic interior of wood and brick. And Helen was on her way - because Jennifer had also invited her, of course.

"Are you telling me my help isn't appreciated?" said Nolan, as he took a gulp of piping-hot coffee.

"No, but...what exactly were you doing at the library?"

"I just got this feeling. I was at the office, working on an article - when all of a sudden, I remembered that you had said you were going to the library to get the demon idol. I called your place, but you weren't there, so I figured you had headed over. By that time, the sun was already going down. When I got to the library, the bells in the clock tower were ringing - but that clock's been broken forever. I thought that was strange, so I looked up..."

When Nolan realized exactly what it was that he had seen plunge from the clock tower, he called the police.

"That's when I went in the library. I went looking for you. The police had already arrived by the time I found you. --Ah, Helen!" Nolan jumped from his chair upon his sudden exclamation.

Jennifer turned around to find Helen standing there in a light-blue blazer.

"Come on in, join us!" Nolan greeted Helen like she'd been a friend forever, offering her the seat next to him. Nolan had encountered her at the police station the night before, where they'd only briefly exchanged words. Even so, this fleeting encounter had apparently rendered them in Nolan's eyes closer than kin.

With a pained expression, Helen ground out: "Mr....Campbell, was it?"

"Just call me 'Nolan,' Helen."

Helen heaved a sigh. "Nolan, I'm of course truly grateful that you came to Jennifer's aid. But I have no intention of cooperating with you for an article because of that. I'm here only because Jennifer invited me. Because she insisted."

"Harsh words from such a pretty face."

"Allow me to make myself clear, Nolan: superficial flattery is not the way to earn my trust."

"You'll never get married at that rate!"

"Casting aspersions on my ability to find a man isn't the way, either."

The tension could be cut with a knife. Jennifer hastily interjected: "Helen, please, sit. You promised we'd have lunch together, didn't you?"

Begrudgingly, Helen sat. Nolan followed suit.

"Helen, I can imagine what you think about Nolan, but he's not that kind of guy!"

Helen ignored this and stared straight at Nolan as she spoke. "...Nolan. You're...how old, again?"

"Ahh - I'm twenty-six. Soon to be twenty-seven, but--"

"Jennifer is fifteen. I know full well how easy it is for a man your age to lead a girl like her on! But--"

"--Helen, what are you talking about? I don't understand!"

Helen was hit with a wave of regret; she feared she had said too much in front of Jennifer. "Jennifer, I'm sorry, but you have to understand..."

"Helen, please. I want you to get this straight: I don't have any romantic feelings for this man! First of all, he's way, way too old for me! I'd never, ever fall for an old guy like him!"

Jennifer stole a glance at Nolan, who seemed to wince at the "old guy" part, before continuing.

"Right now, I couldn't care less about romance. What I want, more than anything, is to bring an end - a real end - to the Clock Tower case. I'm staking my life on it. ...So, come on, Helen. I want the three of us to work together and solve this case."

"That's a job for the police."

"Helen, we've been over this. We're the only three people who believe there even IS a Scissorman."

"What about Edward?"

"He's a child! And he's lost his memory! We can't force somebody who doesn't want to be part of this fight to join us!"

"But it's all right to coerce Nolan and me; is that what you're saying?"

"Well..."

Jennifer was at a loss for words. Helen stared at her a bit before saying: "I'm sorry. I'm just teasing! You know I want to do anything to help you. But - Jennifer. I don't want you putting yourself in danger. Like yesterday."

"I agree."

"Nolan..." Jennifer turned an uncertain face toward the reporter.

"I don't want Jennifer putting herself in danger, either. But - Helen." Nolan stared squarely at Helen. His face held a sincerity he hadn't yet betrayed. "If we don't help her, I know she'll act alone. ...Like yesterday. And I think that'll be far more dangerous. That's why, if Jennifer has a plan, I'm all for helping her out. ...Helen, let me be honest with you. Of course, at the start, I approached you two to write an article on the Clock Tower case - just like you thought. Just like you still think."

"See! Then how can you sit here and talk about 'helping' Jennifer when that's what you're really after?!"

"--Hear me out, Helen. Yes, I want to write an article on the Clock Tower case. That's why I've been gathering material on it for a solid year. ...Let me ask you. The victims in the Clock Tower case - besides the girls brought from the orphanage, there was another girl found at the manor. Her remains, at least. Do you remember?"

"Of course I remember! You mean Julia Campbell, don't you? A fifteen-year-old-- ...She has your name."

"My little sister."

The pronouncement was as shocking to Jennifer's ears as it was to Helen's. A hush fell over the table as the waiter arrived to take Helen's order. She simply pointed at Jennifer's open-face sandwich in an I'll have what she's having gesture.

The moment the waiter left the table, Jennifer exclaimed: "...You never said a word to me about this!"

"Sorry. I was planning on telling you sometime, but I...just couldn't get the words out."

"Nolan, I'm so terribly sorry. I see now why you've been obsessed with the Clock Tower case. But you can't just--"

"I couldn't save my sister. So I want to protect Jennifer - no matter what. When the attack in the research building happened, I was right there, right by her side...and I failed her. That's when I made up my mind."

Silence settled upon the little group once more.

"Well, I've said my piece. Jennifer, let's hear what you have to say. You called Helen and me here for a reason."

"...I've also made up my mind about something." Jennifer retrieved Lord Wardens of the March of Northern England from her bag. "Nolan, you haven't seen this before." Jennifer opened the book and flipped through its pages, giving Nolan a brief rundown of its contents. "This tells us that the roots of the Clock Tower case are in England - at Barrows Castle. There's even a map."

"Jennifer, you can't be thinking..." Helen and Nolan objected in stereo.

"That's right. I'm going to England. To Barrows Castle. The key to the mystery of Scissorman has got to be there. And you both are coming with me."

"That's impossible," said Helen. "You're a material witness. You're going to need police permission to go overseas - and there's no way you'll get it now, in the middle of a new serial murder case. How can you think that any of what you're proposing is possible?"

"I'll make it possible," said Jennifer, staring down Helen with quiet determination.

"Nolan, don't you have anything to say about this?"

"It's hopeless."

"See? Even Nolan agrees with me!"

"No, Helen. I mean it's impossible to stop her. It doesn't matter if we tell her 'no.' Even if we lock her up and throw away the key, she'll find a way to England. It's better if we go with her. To protect her."

"Thank you, Nolan!" Jennifer leaned over the table and gave Nolan a peck on the cheek.

"Plus...I've got a feeling that Jennifer will bring a real conclusion to the Clock Tower case. It's just a gut feeling...but still."

Helen heaved another huge sigh. "...Maybe what you say is right. Maybe for her, the nightmare will never be over until she brings a conclusion to the Clock Tower case herself - until there's no possibility of Scissorman ever laying a hand on her again. Still..."

"--Then it's settled!" Jennifer merrily raised her coffee cup in a spirited toast. "To the three of us - and England! Cheers!"







Proceed to Part Three, if you please.






PART THREE








A hall I saw, | far from the sun,
On Nastrond it stands, | and the doors face north,
Venom drops | through the smoke-vent down,
For around the walls | do serpents wind.

- Völuspá, Stanza 38







CHAPTER ONE


The forest was immersed in darkness - dismal to its very heart.

The limbs of the massive pines blotted out the sky, casting black shadows reminiscent of nothing so much as stacks of corpses. The sun had just set, but it was already pitch black.

A light fog was descending, emerging in patches between the trees like wandering ghosts.

The forest seemed as if it had held everything in its grip for all eternity - its visitors, the light, even time itself.

A single crack interrupted its suffocating span - a meager gravel road that seemed lost in the forest's expanse.

A paltry amount of light filtered in between the black trees to break the darkness - arrows piercing the earth, illuminating the gravel path.

And like a tortoise sluggishly fleeing those arrows, a lone van - the rental Nolan had picked up in London - chugged its way up north.

Nolan was at the wheel, naturally. Jennifer sat next to him, her jaw resting on the back of her seat, her eyes listlessly staring behind her as she muttered to herself: How did it all end up like this?

Helen and Prof. Barton were in the row directly in back, embroiled in some sort of argument. When Helen approached him about the Barrows Castle, Barton relied immediately: Well, then, I'm coming, too.

"It is beyond doubt that the perpetrator in the Clock Tower case is involved with the Barrows clan. That being the case, the history of the Barrows family would be invaluable in analyzing the perpetrator's behavior. I therefore insist on accompanying you - as part of my profile of the Clock Tower case."

That was Barton's rationale for coming along. He wouldn't take "no" for an answer - and he wouldn't let Helen come otherwise, he hinted. And so, the party headed to England increased to four.

Behind Helen and Barton sat Edward and his guardian, Kay. The latter sat ramrod-straight in her seat, eyes fixed straight ahead, a serious expression on her face; the former was staring at the ceiling, bored. Neither had said a word since they'd left London. It was Barton who had told them of the trip - and Edward promptly announced that he wanted to come, too.

My life might be in danger, too - like Jennifer's.

That was how Edward explained it. For some reason, Kay instantly gave her permission - and, of course, as his guardian, had to come with him.

Helen, who was present for this exchange, had hoped Barton would quash this idea - but her hopes were quickly betrayed.

You'll be safer in England than you will be in Norway.

That was Barton's opinion, anyway. And so the party increased to six.

Behind Kay and Edward, playing poker, sat Nolan's cameraman, Tim, and Beth, the research assistant. The pair was happily chatting as if they were on a picnic in their school gym.

Beth wanted to see a real European castle. Tim wanted to take photos. And so the party increased to eight.

And behind them all, blowing his nose loudly, sat Assistant Inspector Gotts.

He was downright miserable.

Helen and Barton had approached him jointly to gain permission to go to England. Gotts was furious. He would never allow it, he raged. And even if I let you, he screamed, the law won't.

Unfortunately for him, the Inspector, who had been in the hospital, had just been released - and Gotts' enraged shouting had reached his ears.

And so Gotts' troubles compounded.

Responsibility for the Clock Tower case and this new serial murder had been transferred to his boss. The Inspector had attended South Oslo University - where Barton had been one of his teachers.

Also, the Inspector hated Gotts' guts.

And so, Gotts' collective misfortunes led him to England.

If we wanted a suspect in bodily danger to be monitored from afar, we'd be calling in the FBI. Go and protect her.

That was his boss's opinion.

And so, the number of travelers to England increased to nine.

Finally, there was one more addition.

Harris, the research assistant, sat beside Jennifer. At first, he pestered Jennifer constantly - trying to talk about his research. Unintelligible garbage, filled with jargon - material only one's spouse was obliged to forebear. Eventually, Jennifer dropped her polite smile, and when Harris asked her, "I'm sorry; am I boring you?", Jennifer replied, "Oh, yes!"

Ever since then, Harris had been sitting sullenly staring out the side window, muttering to himself intermittently.

"This's no good," said Nolan.

"What is?" Jennifer asked.

"It's going to be dark soon. And this fog is closing in."

"Meaning?"

"Meaning we shouldn't go any farther. We should find a place to camp for the night."

"Camp?"

"Yeah. I thought this might happen, so I came prepared." Nolan called to the back: "OK, listen up, everyone. I can't see with this fog, and it's getting dark. So I'm letting you know now: I'm going to find a good place, and we're camping for the night."

Elation, sighs, and shouts of anger from the back.

At last, Nolan spotted a tiny clearing in the dense trees. The van was stopped, and tents were put up. Nolan, Gotts, Tim, and Harris were rounded up for the manual labor. Barton pitched in at first, but by the time it came to position the tent poles and hammer in the pegs, he wandered back to the van and picked up a book.

"He's an old man. Let 'im stay in the van. Speaking of which: you're going to break a hip if you keep it up, Inspector Gotts," Nolan joked, pulling a rope taut.

"It's 'Assistant Inspector.' Don't forget it. And unlike a twenty-year-old keyboard jockey, I keep myself in tip-top shape." Gotts did look manly swinging his hammer.

"Your arms bulk up filling out all those reports at the station, do they?"

"That's enough outta you! And I suppose your arms get stronger typing up all that yellow-sheet journalism!"

The bickering and name-calling continued as the tents were set up. Meanwhile, Harris and Tim set to digging a ditch right beside the ruckus.

"Y'know, Harris - you and me, we're the type of guys who get offed in the first reel."

"What do you mean?" Harris looked at Tim, sweat beading upon his balding forehead. He had been handling the shovel gingerly, disdainfully. His pinched face looked distinctly ratlike.

"Well, I mean, you're a bookworm, you know? And me, I'm just a dumbass - and a lardass! Tropes like us are usually the first to go."

"I fail to comprehend a single thing you're saying."

"C'mon, man: horror movies! You know - camping in the forest at night? Textbook horror scenario!"

"What rubbish," Harris muttered as he returned to his digging. Tim continued chatting, regardless of Harris's disinterest.

"I mean, Texas Chain Saw starts out just like this! The setting doesn't really match this forest, though - too dry. --Well, hang on. We're heading for a castle, so I guess it's more like Dracula - the Universal Dracula, with Lugosi, more than the Hammer ones. --Well, hold up again! If we're going to be the victims here, then it's gotta be a camping story. Also, we've got a scissor-wielding maniac on our hands, so we can't forget about The Burning! ...On second thought, though, Cropsy was just an old man. Scissorman's an undying monster - so they say."

With Tim mentally distracted, the project was derailed, and the completion of the ditch seemed uncertain.

As this unfolded, Helen and the others were preparing dinner.

"Rather sexist, don't you think?" said Helen as she opened a can of soup.

"Doesn't bother me!" said Beth, browning some meat over a portable burner. "This job is way easier! If this is sexism, bring it on! Right, Kay?"

"Sure," squeaked Kay. There had been something off about Kay's behavior for a while. She was inexplicably...jumpy.

"Why isn't Edward helping out?" Jennifer said as she tossed a salad. Kay seemed to cringe at the mere mention of Edward's name.

"--What? Ohh...he's in the van."

"Ms. Satterwhite, you're way too protective of him," Jennifer pouted. "Edward, I mean."

"Um, Jennifer." Kay fixed Jennifer with a serious look.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I guess that was a little harsh."

"Be careful!" Kay was whispering, barely audible.

"Huh?"

"Be careful." Kay was still whispering. She was chopping vegetables. "Scissorman...his reach extends beyond Norway, you know."

"What do you mean?"

"Shh!" Kay brought a finger to her lips. "I mean...Scissorman might show up here, too. He might...he might come after you--ahhh!"

Kay had cut her fingertip. The blade was sharp; both nail and flesh had been pierced. The finger dripped blood.

"Oh, no! Nolan, where's the first-aid kit?" Jennifer ran toward the van. And so the conversation with Kay came to an abrupt end - a deeply unfortunate turn of events, for both Jennifer and Kay.

Dinner was promptly served, though the menu was mostly canned and reheated. The tent was erected, and the ditch was at last finished. Everyone gathered to eat.

Jennifer enjoyed the meal. It was as if they all had completely forgotten the purpose of their trip. Indeed, they had.

According to Nolan, it wouldn't take ten minutes to get to Barrows Castle from here. Come tomorrow, they'd be right at their destination.

And Jennifer had a premonition: that at Barrows Castle, she'd uncover far more than the roots of Scissorman.

Dinner ended, and everyone headed for either the van or the tent - Helen, Beth, Kay, Edward, and Jennifer in the former, and the men in the latter. The lights were put out; even the moon was hidden behind the trees. Only a faint bit of starlight remained, serving solely to accentuate the darkness.

Jennifer reclined her seat and dutifully closed her eyes. But sleep wouldn't come. She kept thinking back to Kay's words.

Scissorman might very well show up here. It isn't outside the realm of possibility. He isn't human, after all. He's a demon incarnate.

So thought Jennifer.

There's nothing that's impossible for Scissorman. He could probably fly right through the air if he wanted to come after me.

Tomorrow, I'll probably have my final confrontation with Scissorman. And then my nightmare will be over - either way.

Either Scissorman will be dead. Or I will.

Outside, an unfamiliar bird was singing.

Jennifer thought back to when she was younger - the nights when she was afraid and would start crying. But Jennifer knew now that crying solved nothing. Fighting back, saving herself, finding her own way out - that was the only way forward.

So many thoughts rushed through Jennifer's head - fear, rekindled courage, the resolution to fight, despair, optimism. Somehow, amidst it all, she fell asleep.






CHAPTER TWO


She thought she had been dreaming.

In her dream, she had suddenly been gagged - dragged off to the forest while still half-conscious. The edges of her mouth were burning. The pain was so real that she awoke.

The first things that greeted her eyes were books - stacks and stacks, enough for an entire library. All crammed into the tiny room in which she now found herself.

Am I back at Prof. Sullivan's library? At the reading room?

The thought crossed Jennifer's mind for a second, but she soon realized that was impossible.

Her environment smelled of mold and old paper. It lacked the sterile light of phosphorescent fixtures. Flickering light from candlesticks took its place, providing unreliable illumination for the room.

Jennifer attempted to rouse herself. She found she couldn't move her limbs. They were bound. With rope.

She was in a red sweater and a brown skirt, a belt pack around her waist. The same clothes she was wearing when she fell asleep. For some reason, her boots were on her feet, even though none of her other travel gear was to be found.

With only her upper body responsive, she attempted to look around her environment.

She made out a dim shadow in the corner of the room.

"...Who's there?"

The shadow glanced up at the sound of her voice.

A smashed-in head. Teeth like fangs. Eyes like rotten eggs.

And on the ground, then in the figure's upraised hands, a giant pair of scissors.

"Scissor...man." Her voice was shaking so it made her quail inside.

"Are you awake, Jennifer?"

Jennifer propelled herself backwards with her bound legs as best she could. Her back met the wall. She could retreat no farther.

Pressing her back against the wall for purchase, she struggled to her feet.

"Jennifer."

Again, that voice. A human voice. Not the voice that had forced itself into her head before.

This was a man. That was clearly a man's voice.

"Get away!" Jennifer cried - uselessly, she knew.

But it wasn't useless. The man stopped.

"There's no need to be afraid, Jennifer." The voice was rasping, almost whispering; Jennifer could hardly hear it. And yet...it sounded familiar.

"Look. It's me."

The man raised his hand to his jaw and, in a single movement, stripped the skin from his face.

No - it wasn't skin. It was rubber. A mask. Just like the one Gotts had shown her.

And beneath it was a man's face - a pinched face. His hair was in disarray after the mask was removed; sweat stuck to the wide expanse of his capacious brow.

It was a man small in stature, vanishing in personality. At university, he had been hailed as holding the brightest of promise. At Barton's office, however, he was treated as an afterthought - an incompetent.

Harris.

His servile eyes still stared at the ground.

"Harris! What on earth..."

"I suppose you're wondering what I'm doing in this costume..." Harris fiddled with the mask in his hands. "Masks...they endow people with other personalities. Don't you see, Jennifer? When I put this on - when I take up the scissors - somehow, I feel...stronger. At first, I hated it, but..." Harris gave a weak little laugh.

"You...you were Scissorman."

All those murders...they were the work of this scared little man?

Jennifer couldn't believe it.

"That's right! ...Well...not exactly."

Harris took a step forward. Jennifer again screamed: "Get away from me!"

"It's all right, Jennifer. I'm not going to kill you. I promised, you see."

"You...you killed all those people."

"Not all of them! ...Well, I did kill Rose at the research building. That bitch, always using it as a hotel...you understand, don't you? I had to punish her! Rose, you know, she'd sleep with anybody."

Except you, I'll bet, Jennifer dearly wanted to say.

"She was meeting Baker that day. I left him in the men's room - but you saw him, didn't you?"

"...No!"

"Oh - that's a shame. I had so wanted you to appreciate my work. I did such a good job on him, I thought." It was as if Harris were talking about a toy model he had assembled of which he were particularly proud. "See, I had cut off his head - and then I took it, and I shoved it in his...lower abdomen, let us say. I'd split him open down there, you see. It was the part of the anatomy with which the man thought, after all."

"...You're crazy."

"Am I?" Harris's lips broadened into a senseless grin. His eyes stared, as always, at the tips of his shoes. "You truly have a filthy mouth, Jennifer. But it doesn't matter. They're the words of a child, after all! I'm an adult. So I have to overlook that all, you see. Just like when you told me that I was boring you. But when you become my wife, you know, I can't let you say such things anymore! I have to...educate you."

"What are you talking about?"

"He promised! He promised that...he'd let me marry you."

"Who did?!"

"God."

Harris paused, then pouted. "I'm joking. I have a sense of humor, too, you know! Though I suppose that would never enter your mind."

"I don't find that a bit funny!" Jennifer raged, her voice trembling.

"You're a child. You wouldn't. It's an adult joke." Harris once again approached Jennifer.

"No! Don't come any closer!"

"It's not your place to make such demands. Come on, now - hold out your hands," Harris coaxed, roughly seizing Jennifer's bound wrists.

Jennifer let loose a little scream. Harris licked his lips with a discolored tongue. "Hold still, like a good girl."

Harris raised his giant scissors. The tips of the shears grazed Jennifer's arm. She felt a cold shiver for a second.

The rope binding her arms was cut. Her hands were free.

"Now, let me get your legs." Harris bent down. Jennifer's lower body was bound with rope over her long suede boots at her knees.

"Don't move, Jennifer. One false move, after all, and you might lose a leg! I wouldn't mind particularly, but you might find it distasteful." With a throaty laugh, Harris wielded a single blade of his shears like a broadsword, aiming them at Jennifer's thighs. The ropes were tight; there was barely enough give to insert the blades.

Jennifer felt the smooth steel of the blades against her skin. A sharp pain followed.

"Stop, please!"

Harris heedlessly snapped the blades shut. The ropes binding her legs fell to the floor. One, two rivulets of blood flowed from Jennifer's thighs.

"See? I told you not to move. That's your fault! Now, then, Jennifer--" Harris stood up, gripping his giant scissors. "In a little while, we're going to have a wedding. We're right near the chapel, after all. In the castle! Won't that be wonderful?"

"We're in Barrows Castle?"

"That's right! Where did you think we were?" Harris grip Jennifer by her shoulders.

"No! Don't touch me! You filthy animal!"

Harris's veins throbbed at his temples. "'Filthy animal'...? Don't you know who I am!? Harris Chapman! Scion of the Chapman family! Of course, my brother had all the business sense, but--NO! That's wrong! You're wrong!!" Harris continued on as if talking to himself, head turned to one side. "They were never right! He was just a social butterfly - a glad-hander! There's more to life than just counting money! Isn't that right!?"

Jennifer had heard that Harris's family headed a huge financial conglomerate and ran a number of banks and hotels. She had also many a time heard Harris smugly note: My older brother was handed the family business. I chose scholarship.

"Just you wait." Jennifer stared Harris dead in the face. "Helen will come for me! And Nolan - and Assistant Inspector Gotts, too!"

"Helen!" Harris spat. "You think that slut will save you!? She's probably fucking that reporter boy as we speak." Harris gave a grinning leer as he inched closer to Jennifer and whispered: "Were you aware, Jennifer?" Harris brought his lips to Jennifer's ear as he continued, like a feral animal about to bite. "That bitch got her position by sleeping with the professor."

Even at this distance, a hair's breadth from her face, Harris couldn't look Jennifer in her eyes.

"Liar! Helen is an excellent scholar. Compared to the likes of you, she--"

"You dare compare me to that woman!?" Harris's teeth clamped down on Jennifer's earlobe. Jennifer thought he was trying to bite it off.

"AAH!" Jennifer shrieked. Harris immediately released his teeth and pulled away.

"I'm fed up with being compared," Harris muttered, his lips twisting. "'Compared to him, 'compared to him--' ENOUGH!!" Harris was practically screeching; he seemed on the verge of tears. "I'm the best! No matter what! Why won't they understand that?! So...when he came to me...when I heard his voice...I believed him. And he...he understood me!"

"...When...the voice came to you..."

"Yes - the voice. It came into my head. Slithered in. Directly. And he told me: You're my chosen one. You're the best. You see? Just do as I say, and soon, everyone will know. And he was right! Everyone falls at my feet! They would lick my shoes if I but asked! I can even have you as my bride. All because I did as he said." Harris stroked Jennifer's hair lovingly. "Come, now. There's no need to worry. I won't kill you. I won't let you be killed. You're my wife, after all."

"NO!" Jennifer rammed Harris in the chest with all her might. She took Harris by surprise; he fell backwards, landing on his rear. His giant scissors fell from his hands and slid across the floor. Jennifer slipped from his grasp and began to run.

"Hold it, Jennifer!" Jennifer felt a grip like iron on her hair. She staggered backwards; the power was overwhelming. Without releasing his grip, Harris pinned Jennifer to the floor by the back of her head; with his other hand, he reached for his discarded mask.

"...You, too?" The voice was strangled, choked. "You bitch. Are you stupid?" Harris replaced his horrible mask. It wasn't on straight; it was crooked, as if he had put it on drunk. Harris's eyes peered at Jennifer through the slanted slits. "...No. No, you're not, Jennifer. You're weak - a weak woman. You'll never survive. Not without my protection."

Harris gathered the black hair on the floor in his hand and adjusted his grip. He shifted to straddle the girl, seating himself on her chest. The rubber mask stared down at her - stared her straight in the eyes. He pressed her struggling arms to the floor with his knees.

"Shall I cut off your legs, Jennifer? You'll never run away again. I'll hack you off at the knees! You'll be a little shorter, of course - but a fine height for a wife! Yes, Jennifer - I think it'd make you far sweeter." Harris reached for his scissors.

But they weren't there.

"...What?..." Harris searched around, in vain.

What he was looking for lay directly behind him.

Wide open, on either side of his neck.

This scissors closed with a snap.

And Harris's head fell to the floor beside Jennifer's.

A geyser of blood doused her face.

Jennifer.

A voice calling Jennifer's name slithered into her mind.

Harris's headless corpse was shoved aside. Behind it stood a deformed monster with a hunched back and shears covered in blood.

Come, now, Jennifer. Let's play again!

Jennifer's head went blank. She must have been screaming, she thought, but she didn't know. Once she regained her senses, she ran.

She flew up a stone staircase and down a dark corridor. Barrows Castle. Ancient. Abandoned to history. An accursed place, stained by blood and flesh and darkness. The echo of Jennifer's footsteps on its stone corridors faded into the pursuing laughter of the butchered dead. Jennifer stopped her ears and kept on running.

There was a door. Wooden, ponderous.

Jennifer yanked it open and flew inside.

She immediately ran into someone's chest - a solid wall of muscle.

Arms suddenly gripped her. And she couldn't even scream. Her breath was caught in her throat.

"Jennifer!" Upon hearing her name, Jennifer sucked in her breath like a whistle.

"Let me go!" She screamed and began hammering with both her fists on the broad chest in front of her.

"It's all right! It's all right, young lady!" Young lady... This voice was as welcome as nails on a chalkboard to Jennifer before, but now, it sounded like a benediction from God.

"Inspector Gotts!"

She looked up and found a familiar ill-humored face staring down at her.

"How many times do I hafta tell ya? It's 'Assistant Inspector.'"

"--Scissorman! He's--"

"Hold on." Gotts released his grip on Jennifer and took out a revolver from the holster on his chest. He took a quick peek out into the corridor from the shadow of the door.

"...He's not there."

He closed the door and bolted it, then returned the gun to his holster.

"It's true! It is true... He killed Harris!... --N-no... Harris was..."

Jennifer tried to explain events as they had happened, but the words were all jumbled in her head. She couldn't get them out in order.

"It's OK. Take a deep breath. You'll be able to talk then."

Jennifer did as she was told.

"See, my daughter, she sometimes gets like this," said Gotts, placing one of his thick hands on Jennifer's back in reassurance. "Always telling me, 'You just don't get it, Dad!'. And she won't even try taking a deep breath!" Gotts heaved a sigh.

This was all a ploy, Jennifer realized, to calm her down. But her ability to recognize that, she realized, was evidence that she had regained a bit of her composure, at least.

"...How old is your daughter?" asked Jennifer.

"Older than you, young lady - old enough to make her own decisions, but...well. ...Are you able to tell me about what happened yet, young lady?"

Jennifer started talking about what had happened to her since last night. How when she came to, she realized she had been brought here. How Harris had pretended to be Scissorman. And had Harris had been killed by the real Scissorman.

When Jennifer finished talking, Gotts crossed his arms in thought.

"I think Harris was the one who attacked me in the research building. But Harris couldn't have done all that alone! He was working together with the real Scissorman."

"A man'd go mad, living in a castle like this," Gotts said, uncrossing his arms, putting a hand to a wall stained red and black.

As he did so, Jennifer took her first look at her surroundings.

A giant birdcage lined with spikes. A human effigy wrought in iron, adorned with an eerie relief of a female figure. Branding irons standing in a massive cauldron. An array of whips, large and small, hanging on the wall. Shackles, for both hands and feet. Racks adorned with spikes and chains. The room was packed with devices for every sort of torture conceivable to the human mind.

"It's like you can still hear the screams, huh? I don't know what kind of people the Barrows are, but their ancestors, at least, don't seem to have been on the up-and-up."

"You're right! The Barrows had a cursed bloodline--"

"This isn't a case of a 'cursed bloodline,' young lady. Just genetics. And like I said before: Scissorman's human. And if Harris wasn't acting alone, he had an accomplice - a human, not a monster."

"But his voice--" - and then Jennifer stopped herself short. It was useless, no matter how many times she explained it. Gotts had made up his mind. Jennifer changed the topic: "So, how did you end up here, Assistant Inspector?"

"It was still dark when we realized you and the others had vanished."

"Wait - 'the others'? I'm not the only one?"

"Kay and Edward were gone, too - and Harris. I talked with Teach and the others, and we decided that whether you'd been kidnapped or left of your own accord, you were headed to Barrows Castle. So we hightailed it there. But..."

Gotts and the others opened the front gate of Barrows Castle to find themselves in a stone corridor - whose floor suddenly gave way once they all had finished crossing. Shards of falling stone tumbled down into the darkness. After a bit of a wait, they heard a faint sound - that of the shards finally hitting ground.

It was then that they realized - that this bottomless pit was blocking their only means of escape.

Old architecture - that was Gotts' diagnosis. Jennifer had a different idea, but she kept it to herself.

Having lost their way back, Gotts and the others nonetheless pressed forward. The corridor emerged into the castle's great hall - one that had probably been host to many dances and parties when its lord was alive.

It was there that Scissorman attacked them from behind.

No one knew from where he could have come. Taken by surprise, with no means of fighting back, the group scattered in its panic to flee.

"I was with Helen and Barton until just a little while ago. We were in the living room, I think - if we cleaned out the furnishings and brought 'em back to an antique shop, we could make a fortune! Huge fireplace there, too - enough room for Santa and all his reindeer. Now, our idea was that it might have a secret passage to the outside - so, magnanimnous public servant that I am, ever mindful of our citizens' safety, I crawled in. And this is where I wound up!"

"So, Helen's safe?"

"Yeah, Teach is some woman! Kept her head after all that happened. She was the one who found the secret passage in the first place!"

"Yes, she is! Helen's one-of-a-kind." Jennifer was as delighted as if she herself had been praised.

As if an afterthought, she added: "Um...what about Nolan?"

"Beats me. Lost 'im in the great hall. ...Well, I'm sure Helen and the others are worried, young lady. Shall we be getting back?"

"Shh!" Jennifer quickly pressed her finger to her lips.

She strained to listen.

The sound came clearly to her ears.

"What do you hear?" Gotts' face tensed.

Shing. Shing. Shing. Shing.

The sound echoed down the hallway. It was getting closer.

"It's Scissorman! It's his scissors!"

Gotts took out his gun again. "Had to fill out so much paperwork to get this into England I got tendinitis. Good thing I did." He crouched low, in a ready stance, muzzle pointed at the door. There was now a loud pounding from the other side - too violent for a knock.

"Get to that wall." Gotts pointed to a wall further into the room, stained red & black, with a chain hanging from above - and at its end, a round gold ring. "Pull it. It brings down a staircase to the upper level. I checked it before."

Jennifer did as told. With a shuddering rattle, a staircase unfolded from the ceiling - so slowly it was almost as if it were consciously trying to create suspense.

The pounding at the door continued, the wood bulging inward with every blow. It wouldn't be long before it gave way completely.

"Now, young lady. Head on up."

Jennifer's foot was on the first step before the staircase even touched ground.

"When you're all the way up, you'll find another chain with another ring. Give it a tug. It'll pull up the staircase."

Jennifer, halfway up the stairs, looked back. "But, Assistant Inspector, what about you?"

"You know from climbing it that that rickety thing's gonna buck & sway under a sick old man's weight. There's no way I'll be able to get up before he comes - and I'd have a tight squeeze waiting after that. The only chance I've got of avoiding a pair of scissors in the back is to stop him cold here and now."

Boards broke and shards of wood flew everywhere as the silver tips of a massive pair of shears burst through the door.

"No! Let's get out of here together!"

"There's no time to argue! Go! Quickly!"

The bolt flew off the door.

"Gotts!"

"Have you forgotten already? It's 'Assistant Inspector!'"

The door slammed open. Scissorman's bent-over form entered the room.

"Hurry! Helen's waiting!"

Jennifer rushed up the stairs.

Behind her, she heard gunfire. She didn't look back.

When she finished climbing, she came to a narrow passageway the size of a vent - so small she'd have to crawl through.

Like Gotts promised, there was a ring attached to a chain. She pulled it. The suspended staircase slowly rumbled shut. Jennifer flew into the passageway without waiting for it to close fully.

She heard another shot. Jennifer kept moving forward.

When the staircase closed completely, the passageway was encased in darkness. Jennifer felt her way forward as she crawled. Even without claustrophobia, it was a nerve-wracking experience.

The passage snaked right, then left.

Jennifer's hips began to ache. Her knees were skinned from crawling on the floor. The ground was slick beneath her legs; Jennifer couldn't see, but she assumed the moisture was from blood.

Just as she began to fear there really was no exit, a light appeared - like the sight of a port after a long time adrift.

The light filtered up from below. Jennifer moved beneath and looked down. There was charred wood - surrounded by a mountain of ash.

A fireplace.

Jennifer reoriented herself in the narrow space and descended feet-first.

The walls of the room in which she found herself were lined with cracked portraits, faintly illuminated by lamplight. It was furnished with large chairs with delicately-carved backs and a heavy wooden table with claw feet. All extravagant - but though it must have cost a fortune to build, it was poorly-maintained. The table was covered with a thick layer of dust; some of the chairs were toppled with broken legs. The carpet was faded and moth-eaten.

But Jennifer had no time to appraise the furnishings.

No one was here.

"...Helen? Professor Barton? Beth? Is anyone here?" Jennifer called out but knew she wouldn't get an answer.

Her eyes roamed the room aimlessly. She wondered half-heartedly if she could find a trace of Helen or the others, a hint as to where they had gone - even though she knew her search would be fruitless.

Her gaze alighted on the portraits on the wall. They were all of men, from the head-up - realistic, like photographs. She could spot several features the subjects held in common: the abnormally-narrow eyes and noses. The practiced smiles that seemed more like sneers. The thin, cruel lips.

Are these portraits of the lords of the castle? If so...

Jennifer approached the first of the row of portraits. Compared to the others, its damage was particularly severe. The portrait was cracked; the paint, peeling.

Is this the first Barrows lord? Then the man who tried to break the curse on their bloodline...Quintin Barrows...he should be the 13th portrait. Jennifer pointed and counted.

The man in the 13th portrait resembled the other lords, of course. But Jennifer could detect a certain pain in his expression.

Jennifer approached the painting for a closer look. Quintin's eyes differed from those of the other lords. Jennifer could see grief within them. Grief, and bitterness - mingled with determination.

Wait a minute...

It was then, as she stood staring into the portrait's eyes, that Jennifer spotted a small detail - something amiss.

She couldn't see well in the dim light, so Jennifer removed the portrait from the wall and brought it beneath a lamp. The paint forming the eyes was peeling - and she could see writing beneath it. The letters lay half-hidden beneath the flakes.

I'm sorry. Uttering an apology to no one in particular, Jennifer scratched at the cracked portrait with her fingernails. Letters emerged from beneath the paint. They were in Roman script - but Jennifer couldn't understand at all what they were saying.

Jennifer eventually attacked all the portraits with her fingernails. Nothing was written on the canvases. Quintin's portrait, though, was painted on sheepskin - with something written beneath it. But whatever it was, Jennifer couldn't even pronounce it. The only part she could understand was a small scrap at the end - Quintin Barrows's signature.

Quintin Barrows wrote this. And he had his own portrait painted over it - as if to cover it up. He was trying to break the curse on the Barrows family. That had to involve a variety of dangers. And he had something to hide.

There had to be something important on this. Something to do with Scissorman.

Hold on - Helen might be able to read this.

With another "I'm sorry," Jennifer flipped over the portrait. With difficulty, she peeled off the painting, rolled it up, and stuffed it in her belt pack. Now - to find Helen.

Jennifer's mind suddenly flashed on Gotts - that stubborn, pig-headed, depressing old man she hated, and his ridiculous insistence: It's 'Assistant Inspector. And yet, in remembering him, tears welled in her eyes. But she couldn't cry. If she did, she felt, then his death would become a reality.

Gotts will make it out. He'll survive Scissorman - I know he will. Not just survive - he's already shot Scissorman dead...or has him under arrest. More than likely, Gotts has this case all wrapped up.

With that thought, Jennifer left the room in search of Helen.






CHAPTER THREE


Why are the lamps lit?

That was the only thing Jennifer could think about as she roamed the dark corridors. In every room, in every hallway - all the lamps had been lit. Filling them with oil and lighting them would have been a massive job. Did Harris do it all? Or was it the real Scissorman?

The lamps couldn't have held more than a single night's worth of oil. And it would have been impossible to light them all from the time Harris had arrived at the castle by when Jennifer awoke.

So did Scissorman do it? To welcome his prey?

It's not as if I could say Scissorman wouldn't have had enough time. I don't know how long he's been at the castle, after all. I don't even know how he was aware we were coming. Or how he made it from Norway to England in the first place.

They wouldn't have let him board a plane with those giant scissors, would they? That'd be kinda funny.

As she pondered these unsolvable mysteries during her wanderings, Jennifer happened upon a black door. It was made of wood, like the others, but had been painted black for some reason. She didn't know what kind of paint had been used, but it had a luster to it Jennifer had never before seen.

A strange image had been inscribed on its center, above an odd crucifix shaped like a human figure with its arms upraised to the sky: a skull, with a creature seated atop.

Jennifer took the demon idol from the Barrows mansion out of her belt pack. She'd slipped it out of the safe in the research building once she'd decided to go to England. She had a feeling it was connected to the mystery of the Barrows family.

And from the front, the idol looked exactly like the image above the crucifix on this door. So something important - something connected to the mystery of Scissorman - had to be behind this door.

Jennifer gently nudged it open.

"B, back for more, Scissorman?" came the voice from within. Jennifer shut the door in shock.

"Too scared of me to come in, huh?" The voice was trying to put up a front, but it was still shaking. It was unmistakable to Jennifer's ears: the voice was Nolan's.

"Nolan!" Jennifer flung open the door. Both of them yelped in surprise simultaneously. Nolan was staring at Jennifer. Jennifer was staring at the huge pile of bones in the middle of the room.

"Jennifer! So you're all right!!" Nolan couldn't move; one hand was chained to the wall. The other hand also had a chain attached, but the metal stake at its end had been pulled from the wall and was held in Nolan's hand. Nolan thrust the stake out in front of him, his other hand held above his head, striking what to Jennifer looked like a fencing pose.

"Jennifer, don't look to your right!" Nolan blurted in a panic. He should have said Look left; if warned not to look at something, human nature generally can't resist taking a peek. Jennifer was no exception.

Beyond the pile of bones, at the left end of the wall, arms upraised, lay Tim. The upper half of him, anyway. The lower half lay at the other end of the wall, turned upside-down. The two halves were connected by a trail of bloody guts.

Jennifer immediately averted her eyes. But she couldn't wipe what she'd seen from her mind. The horrors of the Barrows mansion flashed anew through her memory. The rivers of blood. The butchered bodies. The putrid odor. And the horrible creature who always, always followed. The creature she discovered she could never fully elude. His dragging footsteps. The sound of his scissors.

And his Voice, slithering into Jennifer's mind.

There's no escaping me, Jennifer.

There's no escaping him.

There's no escaping him.

There's no escaping him.

"There's no escaping him," Jennifer at last muttered out loud, almost unconsciously.

"Close the door, Jennifer. Come over here."

Nolan's voice sounded far away. Jennifer turned almost mechanically to face its owner.

Nolan beckoned. "Hurry. Scissorman's coming."

Like a marionette, Jennifer tottered over toward Nolan.

"Help me pull out this stake. The first one came out. There's no reason the second one shouldn't." Nolan pointed to the metal stake. Jennifer stared blankly. Her eyes were hollow.

"...the stake..."

"Hurry! Grab the chain and pull!" Nolan wrapped the chain around his hand and leaned backward to pull. Jennifer added her own hand. "What are you doing, dummy! Put some force into it! C'mon! One, two--"

Though embedded in the stone wall, the stake came out a little.

"One more time! Put your back into it, Jennifer! One, two--!!"

The stake was half-out. Before she knew, Jennifer was pulling hard on the chain, her face flushed with effort.

"Now, here we go! One, twooo--!!"

The stake slipped out. The pair tumbled backwards into the pile of bones from the excess of force. Nolan scrambled to his feet, then helped Jennifer up.

"Thanks... But...you didn't have to order me around like that, you know!..."

"I absolutely did! You were totally out of it! The only thing you can do in that situation is to give orders rapid-fire!"

Nolan said, clearly full of himself. Of course, Nolan's strategy had been a success. Still, Jennifer never was one to drop an argument.

"Whatever. But - dummy?..."

"Did I say that?"

"You sure did! 'What are you doing, dummy?'"

"'Dummy'... Um... You see... I meant the stake, not you! You know, like: 'forget this!'"

"...The stake. Of course." An insincere smile came to Jennifer's face. "I guess we really should forget it," she muttered, looking downward, remembering the horrible sight of Tim.

"We came to the castle in search of you," said Nolan, as if sensing it was time to change the subject.

"I know. I heard from Assistant Inspector Gotts."

"You met him?"

"Yes..."

Nolan didn't ask any more. "We were attacked by Scissorman in the great hall. But I suppose you know that." Jennifer gave a small nod. "We ran into this room - but Scissorman caught us. He's toying with us - I know that. After taking care of Tim, he left me here. He had no reason to keep me alive. He could've killed me right away. But he had me watch him kill Tim and left. It's all a game to him. He just wants to terrorize people."

"That's what I think, too. At the research building, Scissorman could have sealed all the exits. Yet that one window was left open - the one I used to escape. Scissorman was making a little bet to himself - as to whether or not I'd find it. It was fun to him. A game."

Jennifer had given voice to something she'd thought for a while now. At the time she'd believed that Scissorman had happened to overlook the window. But it seemed impossible that the sole window left open just happened to be the one with the emergency ladder.

That was her conclusion, at least.

"Let's save the psychoanalysis for later. Right now, we've got to get out of here. We don't know when Scissorman's coming back." Nolan took Jennifer's hand.

"Hold on. Where's that door go?" The wall to which Nolan had been secured also had a door - also pitch black, with the same design on its center.

"A library. It's a dead end - nothing but books. We ran in there and got ourselves caught."

"A dead end... Hey, Nolan - what do you think this room is? It's nothing but bones."

"Beats me." Nolan glanced at the bone pile. "These all look like kids' bones. And these chains - they're attached too low for adults." The spikes had been driven in at about the height of Nolan's - an adult's - head. A child secured with his arms raised, however, wouldn't have been able to move.

"So is this where Scissorman's victims were disposed? ...In front of the library?"

"Who knows? Look, forget that; we need to get out of--"

"I'm going to take a look at this library."

"Jennifer!"

"Nolan, please."

"...All right, young lady." Nolan opened the door.

There were numerous shelves of books, plus a stepladder built solidly of wood. The place where Jennifer had first been brought had also been filled with books, but this was not in such disarray. All the books here were neatly organized upon their shelves.

One shelf contained a conspicuous row of books with green covers.

"Hey, what's..."

"I looked at that, too. The covers are bronze - the green's verdigris. OK, c'mon, Jennifer. We have to get out of here. If Scissorman comes back, we've got nowhere to go."

"The door to the room next door is black, and it has an image on it that looks like it means something. The door to this room's the same way. Maybe somebody went undercover - infiltrated the castle. To find out the secret of Scissorman."

"Like us, you mean?"

"The Barrows family gave birth to generations of Scissormen. I have to think that someone decided to stand up and oppose them at some point. Like us."

"What's your point?" Nolan was getting carried away by the conversation.

"So they see this door. It looks important. They go inside."

"Of course."

"And they find a pile of bodies. They're shocked."

"Definitely."

"A spineless person might run away right there."

"So you're saying the room next door's meant as some sort of warning - a threat."

"I think there's more to it than that. So, inside, there's another black door. What would a brave person do?"

"Go in."

"And when they do, they see it's just a library. They think they've been tricked and leave. Like you."

"...I guess."

"But they're wrong. I think it's all a trick. To deceive their enemies. Twice."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I don't really know myself..." Jennifer approached the books. "They're made of copper, huh?..." She took one in hand; it was heavy. Scratching the verdigris with a fingernail revealed the glint of the reddish metal beneath.

"Hey, look." Jennifer returned the book to the shelf and pointed to another. This book - and this book alone - sported black splotches on its bronze cover. "Now, this..." Jennifer brought her face closer to the book. "This is mold! ...But only on this book. Hey, Nolan. When I was in the orphanage, I once saw this lens with black fingerprints on it. In our science lab, you know."

"Where are you going with this?" Nolan was sweating. He wanted to get out of this room as soon as possible.

"So I asked my teacher: like, what is this? And I was told: it's mold. Mold just loves the oil from people's fingerprints, I learned - and it sure looks like it! That's what this is! Mold! The other books are spotless, but this one - just this one - was handled - taken out repeatedly. This wouldn't have been allowed to happen when the castle was maintained - the book wouldn't have been allowed to grow mold on it. And maybe no one else realized it, but time tells that this book, and only this book, has been handled - taken in and out a lot."

"What are you getting at?"

"I don't really know myself. But there's something to this book..." Jennifer removed it from the shelf - and when she did, she heard a metallic thunk, and a large, heavy bookcase began to slide along the wall.

"Nolan!"

"...Did we hit the jackpot?"

The bookcase revealed an arched entryway behind it.

"You're amazing, Jennifer. Should I start calling you 'Holmes'?"

"Why, thank you, Watson."

"Shall we go in?"

The two entered the opening to find a room on the other side - a tiny room, encased on all sides by black metal. Jennifer didn't know exactly what the black metal was, but she realized: it was the same substance of which the demon idol was made.

On the wall directly facing her was the same twisted crucifix from the door; in front, an altar-like structure. On the floor below the altar was drawn a round design with writing Jennifer had never seen before: a so-called "magic circle."

"What is this?...." Jennifer approached the circle and crouched down, extending a hand to touch the strange script.

Thunk. The bookshelf lurched back in place - with alarming speed it certainly didn't demonstrate when it opened. The gap in the wall was shut in the blink of an eye. Nolan rushed to it - not in time.

"It's a trap..."

Jennifer rose to her feet and stepped back from the magic circle as wind began to kick up. Her long hair fluttered in the breeze.

"Nolan!"

A gust of wind rose up from the magic circle - like a fan, and only from the part where the design was inscribed.

Suddenly, there was a metallic sound - and the magic circle shattered like glass into a million pieces. The particles flew toward Jennifer, and she reflexively covered her face with her hands to protect herself - but she felt no sensation of being struck. The shards seemed to have dissolved like smoke before reaching her.

Beneath the vanished magic circle lay the same black metal that composed the walls. It was then that something suddenly began to emerge.

A tip. Sharp, pointed. Made of the same black metal as the walls and floor. Emerging slowly, as if burbling up from a pool of tar.

It was a dagger. Black as night. Brimming with complex symbols carved in relief.

The handle surfaced - gripped by slender fingers. Thin as bone; dried to a brown husk.

Then the wrist emerged. Followed by an arm. Then a head, with a body attached.

It was a mummy. Skin like leather stretched over its bones. It was female, evidently - withered breasts drooped from its chest like malignant tumors. And a wound gaped between them. As if something had been embedded there and ripped out whole.

Nolan and Jennifer stood like deer in headlights, staring at the undead creature that had emerged from the floor.

The entire body emerged before the altar. And within the skull's withered sockets, two eyes - still moist and shining, the only points of life on its desiccated body - stared at Jennifer and Nolan as it raised the hand holding the dagger above its head.

The hand slowly descended, with the tip of the dagger pointed at Jennifer's chest.

Neither of the living entities could move. They were transfixed.

The mummy's mouth opened. The skin on its cheeks split like paper, revealing yellow-brown teeth. Its tongue moved like a desiccated slug.

"Heretics."

Its voice rasped as if its throat were filled with sand.

"Y...you... reek... of heresy. A...unique stench... One...not of our blood. ...Of our family."

The mummy staggered forward. The gait was crude, as if it had just learned how to walk. Its shoulders swayed left and right with every broken step.

"...Will you...grant our request? Or not?"

The mummy stood with the tip of its dagger pointed at Jennifer's chest. A mere extension of its arm would pierce her heart.

"...Which is it? ...Will you...grant our request? ...Or not?"

The wind battered Jennifer as it once again began to howl.




It's been a while.

And here, two doors again appear before you.

Which will you choose, I wonder?

If you will grant the mummy's request, open the door here.

If you refuse its request, open the door here.

Consider your options carefully.

Were it up to me...well, I'd choose the one that promises more entertainment.

The one that reeks of blood and rot.





CHAPTER FOUR


"...Which is it? ...Will you...grant our request? ...Or not?"

"Yes! I'll grant your request!" Jennifer screamed.

The wind disappeared, as if it were never there at all.

"...Then you will grant our request?"

"Yes."

"Jennifer..." Nolan looked at Jennifer uncertainly.

The mummy extended its hands - with none of the stiffness it exhibited earlier. Its movement was completely fluid and swift.

Its slender fingers gripped Jennifer's head.

"Stop!!" Nolan screamed, grabbing hold of the mummy's arm.

And then all exploded in a blinding white light.

The light obliterated everything. Only brightness remained. Jennifer was engulfed by the flow; it flooded the depths of her mind, filling her with a staggering dizziness and the sensation that her body was no longer her own.

And then, in an instant, the light was gone.

The sight before her shimmered like a mirage in the desert heat.

Am I dreaming? Jennifer asked herself.

Jennifer still beheld the room with the altar - but she herself was nowhere to be found. It was as if a movie were being projected onto her field of vision.

Nolan, too, was gone.

Another man was there, though, in the center of the room. He appeared to be of noble blood; his expression was sad, but resolute. His hand gripped a dagger - the same dagger that the mummy held.

Jennifer knew this man. His was the face from the portrait. He was Quintin Barrows.

A woman knelt before him - young, pure, and innocent. Wearing nothing - not a stitch to hide her skin.

Quintin spoke: "Then...you will grant my request."

"Of course, m'lord. Your wish is my command. Merely to be asked is a greater honor than I deserve."

"Then stand."

The girl did as she was told. She dropped both arms to her sides, baring all before the Barrows lord.

Quintin pointed a dagger at his breast and, with his own hand, carved a cross into his flesh.

His lips remained firmly shut, but from the depths of his throat emerged a strangled groan. The air reverberated, screaming in unison with Quintin's half-voiced cry; the entire room shook as if it were a tuning fork.

Slowly, Quintin's lips parted, and the unenunciated sound from his throat began to form words.

"Aaaaaateh Maaaaalkuuuuuth ve-Geeeeburaaaah le-Olaaaaaam."

Quintin's voice was solemn; his chant felt like it heralded the advent of a sacred presence. Jennifer didn't understand its meaning, but it certainly sounded like a divine curse.

Quintin continued his chant, and the sound changed to strange utterances that were impossible to understand. The intonation began to rise and fall like a wave - ever bigger, ever smaller, as he brought the dagger to the girl's chest.

Jennifer tried to approach the girl - to stop Quintin. But her legs wouldn't move. Her arms wouldn't move. They weren't there. Jennifer's body was elsewhere. She was just an observer.

The dagger sunk smoothly into the girl's chest.

"Ah--!" Her lips parted slightly as she cried out.

The dagger was buried in her chest without resistance. It was if it were sinking into water. There wasn't any blood; the girl evinced no pain. On the contrary: while her lips were open, the girl's eyes remained closed, a look of positive rapture upon her face.

Eventually, the dagger sank in her chest up to the hilt. But Quintin kept pushing - and the whole dagger, as well as the hand grasping it, disappeared into the girl's chest.

He was buried up to the wrist into her flesh - and there was not a drop of blood.

Suddenly, the voice boomed - and the chant ended. Quintin yanked his hand free. It no longer held the dagger.

"Please. Tell them. Pass this on - to a future generation."

Quintin had grasped the girl by her shoulders, drawn her close, and whispered the words in her ear. He quickly released her body, then raised his voice: "We're ready!"

The door opened, and three men entered, clad in black priests' robes. One said: "She must enter the magic circle and offer herself up freely. Does she understand?"

"Fool," Quintin barked. "Of course she does. Why would you have given me time to persuade her otherwise?"

"Then you compelled her to agree?"

"Yes."

The girl gave a small nod.

The three priests surrounded the girl and began chatting merrily, as if they were three old women who had run into each other on the street.

"At last - the finishing touch for our altar to the Exalted Father!"

"Cause for celebration, indeed!"

"And our final sacrifice was hand-picked by Quintin himself!"

"She is a splendid sacrifice."

"Indeed."

One of the priests thumped Quintin on the shoulder. "You've done the house of Barrows proud."

"Let's get on with the ceremony," Quintin urged. It was as if he had no more stomach for the priests' chit-chat.

"Yes, yes! Let's get cracking!"

The priests stood the girl in the magic circle before the altar, then positioned themselves behind her. Quintin stood behind them.

The priests began to chant. The girl's head began to sink. It wasn't that she was kneeling. She had begun to sink into the magic circle. Ripples spread across the hard metal floor. The girl was sinking into the floor - just like sinking into a bath. It took no time at all for her to disappear completely.

For Jennifer, it was all crystal-clear - instinctively, as if she were in a dream. This all happened. Here. In this very room.

The girl had decided to offer up her life at Quintin's request. An apparent human sacrifice, at this altar. But she had in fact deceived the dark priests - to bestow a gift from Quintin upon a future generation.

The air undulated, and the image of the past vanished, as if it were wiped away.

The mummy stood before Jennifer, just as she had before. She reached out and took Jennifer by the hand. She pressed the dagger into her palm. "Please...my master's wish...you must..."

The rest remained unsaid. The mummy's jaw had plopped to the floor, shattering into a pile of powder. Her skin began to ooze and peel from her body like beads of sweat, separating - liquefying - pore by pore. Her neck snapped; her head dropped off. Her arms fell from the sockets. They shriveled to dust before they even hit the floor.

Her knees shattered; her breastbone cracked apart upon the mountain of powdered debris, which began to dissipate as a rising crematorial cloud. All that remained when it settled was a pile of ash.

"...Nolan."

"I had a dream. It was so strange. There was a girl here - in this room..."

"I saw it, too - and it wasn't a dream. It was real! That all happened here - in the past. I don't know how I know that, but I do."

"So do I. That was no daydream - that really happened. But why..."

"That was Quintin Barrows. The 13th lord of the castle - the one who tried to break the Barrows curse! And in case he failed - he had insurance. This dagger." Jennifer thrust the dagger toward Nolan.

"Hey, I'm on your side!" Nolan pushed Jennifer's arm down. "Those men in the black priests' robes - they must have been members of the Barrows family who worshipped Scissorman. Because he had powers that transcended human comprehension - they thought he was a god."

"They worshipped Scissorman? That homicidal butcher?"

"Scissorman - or whatever birthed that monster! Either way - terror is the most effective tool in controlling other people, you know? ...Well, I don't suppose there's anything more for us here. Let's go look for Helen and the others!"

"But..." Jennifer cast a glance at the closed bookcase.

"--Hey, look - there's a little crack in the wall there," Nolan said, pointing to the side of the bookcase. Sure enough, there was a vertical crack on the side of the opening leading to the library. It was less a natural crack than something manmade - drilled.

"That looks like a keyhole."

"Then the key..."

Jennifer looked at the dagger in her hand. She approached the hole and slipped it in the slit. The bookcase began to rattle open.

"See?! Watson can make deductions, too!" With that, Nolan took Jennifer by the arm, and the two left through the opening.

The pair took a wary glance around, then approached the library door. Tentatively, they nudged it open. After confirming no one was there, they entered the room with the pile of bones.

"Looks like Scissorman hasn't come back yet. Or maybe he never intended to in the first place?"

"...Looks like someone else has been waiting for us, though."

"What do you mean by that?"

Jennifer pointed at the pile of bones.

There were children there.

Six in total. Dancing in a ring atop the bones.

It soon became apparent, even from across the room, that these were not real children. Their bodies were translucent; the room's walls and furnishings were visible through them.

"Are those...ghosts?"

"...I guess.. They're just like the ones I saw at Disneyland."

The child ghosts took little notice of Jennifer or Nolan. They sang as they danced, like a nursery rhyme:


Little John from the big castle
Plays with a little boy
Snip, snip, snip
Off goes his head
Bright red, bright red


"Scissorman! That song's about Scissorman," Jennifer exclaimed. "These children...were they all killed by him?"

The children swayed back and forth as they sung, dancing around the center of the room. A closer look revealed a small gap between their heads and bodies. Sudden movements would produce a lag as their heads caught up after slipping from their shoulders.

"What a sad song," Jennifer sighed.

"I dunno. Those lyrics are pretty tough to stomach."

The children parted from their dance, forming a single file. They left the pile of bones and headed for the door. The child at the head of the line walked right through the closed door, then vanished; the others followed, one by one, leaving the room. Occasionally, the children would cast a glance at Jennifer and Nolan.

"What do we do, Nolan?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I kinda think they're telling us to come with them, right?"

"Yeah, but...they're ghosts. Do we really want to take them up on their invitation?..."




And here we are at yet another door.

If you would like to take these dead children up on their invitation, open the door here.

If you would not, open the door here.

Well - which way?

Hurry up and make up your mind, already.

These kids aren't going to hang around forever.





CHAPTER FIVE


The dead children continued their song.


Little John from the big castle
Plays with a little girl
Stab, stab, stab
She loses her sight
Bright white, bright white


The children walked single-file as they sang, as if they were heading out for a picnic. At times, they exchanged glances, elbowed each other, giggled to themselves.

The castle was like a labyrinth. Long corridors that twisted and turned endlessly; hidden rooms; hidden doors. All seemed positioned solely to obliterate one's sense of direction.

But the children were never lost. Up and down the staircases; round and round the corridors; through room after room - without the slightest of cares. Finally, they disappeared through a new door, walking through it as before. Jennifer and Nolan were not as clever; they had to resort to opening it with their hands.

Had this place been used as a storeroom? Giant crates lay piled high, accompanied by a clamor of detritus: cosmetics cases carved in fine relief; stone caskets with broken corners; silver tableware and earthen pots on decrepit shelving; and machinery of incomprehensible use. The children, however, were nowhere to be found. They had vanished as quickly as they had appeared.

But Jennifer took no notice. As soon as she'd opened the door, she broke out running.

"Helen!"

In the middle of the room, Helen stared at Jennifer, shocked. Then the tension instantly fled from her face as her expression melted into a grateful smile.

"Jennifer! And Nolan, too. You're all right! Oh, I'm so glad."

The two embraced as if they were parent and child and hadn't seen each other in decades.

"How did you get here?" Helen asked as she held Jennifer close and caressed her hair.

"The children brought us here," Jennifer replied, finally separating herself from Helen as she explained what had happened since she had been brought to the castle. Helen listened attentively, not attempting to interrupt. When Jennifer got to the point where she met Gotts, Helen simply gave a knowing smirk: sounds like him.

When Jennifer's tale ended, Nolan asked: "Helen, weren't the others with you?"

"Prof. Barton and Beth were, yes. There's a corridor nearby, on the castle's south side. We went down the corridor and found the castle courtyard, with a garden - abandoned for eighty years and full of weeds, but a garden all the same. There's a fountain there, and a small man-made pond - and by some contrivance, the fountain's still running, and the pond has fresh water."

At the time, Helen had sat down against a tree by the pond to think. Prof. Barton and Beth were still with her. The group had engaged in a long and fruitless search for the companions from whom they'd been separated at the castle entrance when Scissorman attacked.

It was then that Helen's hand happened across a valve on the ground. Absent-mindedly, Helen turned it.

"And when I did, the fountain stopped. Only natural, I thought - but Prof. Barton had been peering into the pond, and he said: 'There's a passage below.' When the fountain stopped, the bottom of the pond opened up, revealing this large hole. There was even a handy ladder attached to the side for going up and down. We didn't know where it led, but we wanted to go down and see. I said we should wait, though - until we found you, Jennifer, and the others."

"So you came here looking for us! Then Prof. Barton and Beth went?"

"No. They're waiting in the garden!"

"Then let's hurry. We can't leave an old man and a lady alone."

"I'm a lady, too, you know," Helen said, unsmilingly.

"--Um..." Nolan seemed caught off-guard. "But you hate being treated like a lady, don't you, Professor?"

"I hate being treated as something other than a human being."

"Nolan." Jennifer yanked Nolan aside and spoke in a low voice. "You're not going to win against Helen over this, okay?"

"What are you whispering over there?! Come on. Let's get out of here." With that, Helen took the lead and led the little group of three from the room.

They had been walking down the dim corridor when Jennifer suddenly let out a shout. "Oh! That's right!"

"...Don't startle me like that, Jennifer! What's wrong?"

"Helen, take a look at these." Jennifer retrieved the ebony dagger and tightly-wound parchment from her waist pack. "Both have writing on them - but not in any letters I can read. But you can read them - can't you, Helen?"

Helen took the dagger in hand. "What a strange metal. It's not iron. Is the black paint? And the writing...it's not anything I recognize at all. They're pictographs...I think. At first glance, they look like runes - but at the same time, they don't seem to be. ...I don't know."

"What about this?" Jennifer held out the parchment.

"This looks like Latin. The paint's still stuck in places, so I can't read it all, but - ummm... 'Darkness; oh, darkness...' Then there's a bit below I don't quite understand. 'Return the child thou didst nestle to thy breast to'...um...'to the darkness whence it came.' Then there are words: 'Open the door, and show me the way. N-ha Es Sh*.' I wonder what it means?"

"Quintin Barrows went to the trouble of hiding it underneath his portrait, so I'll bet it's pretty important!"

"If that 'child' is Scissorman...then could this be a spell to seal him away somewhere?" Nolan muttered haltingly, almost to himself.

"A spell, hmmm?... I think it's occult, to be sure, but - ah, here we are. It's behind this door." So saying, Helen opened the door herself.

The other side was flooded with light. Jennifer's eyes narrowed from the brilliance.

The sun was already setting. But as weak and faint as the light was, it was a far cry from the dark, dank castle. The light of the sun and the green of the trees blessed this place. For that alone, this overgrown garden was to Jennifer nothing less than paradise.

But as long as Scissorman was out there, there could be no heaven here.

"Where are they?" Nolan looked around; the trees and shrubs had grown wild in the absence of care and maintenance. Their companions, however, were nowhere to be found.

"Prof. Barton! Beth!" Helen called, cupping her mouth to amplify the sound. "...This is strange. I wonder if they went on ahead of us."

"Hey! Over there!" Jennifer was pointing. She had spotted a man in a business suit, leaning against a great pine whose thick roots swelled from the earth.

"Professor Barton!" Helen ran toward the man and stepped in front of him. "Beth! Are you..."

Helen gave a long, loud scream.

First Nolan, then Jennifer ran to her side.

In front of the professor lay Beth, sprawled in a disheveled heap. Her eyes bulged from their sockets; her tongue lolled long from her gaping mouth, threatening to escape her oral cavity. Vomit soiled her mouth and neck.

Barton sat leaning against the trunk of the pine - a screwdriver driven deep into his skull, its red handle protruding from his left ear. Barton gaped glassily at the sky, as if gazing at the passing clouds. He no longer drew breath.

"Helen!" Jennifer violently shook a still-screaming Helen by the shoulders. Her composure had been shattered before; now, she was cool as ice. "Helen. Calm down, Helen."

Helen stopped screaming and drew a ragged breath. "...Well, this is a fine reversal. Here, I'm supposed to be your guardian."

"We're friends, Helen! We're here to lend each other a hand when we need it. Right?"

Helen nodded.

"I don't think this has anything to do with Scissorman. Does it?" Nolan had crouched down to examine the corpses.

"...What makes you say that?" Helen, still pale, stood next to Nolan.

"The scissors! There's no sign that they were stabbed with scissors. Scissorman just can't resist chopping people into bits, right? It's his favorite game. This is way too clean for him."

Nolan caught sight of Helen's face and muttered: "Sorry. Poor choice of words."

"Step back for a moment," said Helen, and then crouched down next to Beth. Her face had already regained the calm professionalism of a scientist.

Helen took Beth's head in her hands and turned it from side to side. "Beth's been strangled. Her neck is red - internal hemorrhaging. There are no signs of deformation on her neck, so it hasn't been broken... Her face is purple - engorged with blood, I imagine. She was probably asphyxiated through pressure put on her windpipe."

Next, she examined Beth's fingers - carefully, one by one.

To Jennifer, such a clinical demeanor seemed bizarre. It was as if Helen had retreated to a detached, scientific mindset to escape the horror of the situation.

"I knew it. Beth managed to scratch her assailant before her death. There are fragments of blood and skin underneath her fingernails. Her neck wasn't broken, so the strangulation took time - three, three-and-a-half minutes. Enough time to resist - if only briefly. So Beth fought. Violently. And..."

Helen looked at Barton. She approached him and examined him in detail. She brought his limp hands up to her eyes - and stopped cold. She continued, eyes frozen, staring at Barton's fingertips.

"Helen? Are you all right?" Jennifer anxiously peered at Helen's face.

"Yes. I'm fine. ...It was Professor Barton who killed Beth."

"No way!" said Nolan.

"I would have said the same thing. ...But there are scratches on the back of his hands. They're fresh."

"But we don't know how that happened! He could have brushed against a tree branch or something!" Jennifer objected. She thought: Prof. Barton had no reason to kill Beth. I didn't like Prof. Barton, but I can't picture him killing someone. That just seems impossible.

Helen held up Barton's hand to Jennifer to show her. On the back of the hand were three parallel scratches, etched deeply into the skin. "These were left by human fingernails. Forensics isn't my specialty, but that much is apparent. I'm sure if we analyzed the wounds, we'd find fragments of Beth's nail polish. ...Say, Jennifer--"

Jennifer was standing at Helen's side gobsmacked, looking down at Barton. She didn't seem to hear Helen.

"Jennifer?"

"Um...w, what?"

"It looks like Scissorman really does manipulative people through the use of a psychic Voice. Barton was manipulated by Scissorman. He killed Beth, then drove the screwdriver into his own ear. So he couldn't hear the Voice anymore."

"...What?" Jennifer was speechless.

"I'd have to reserve judgment as to whether Scissorman's Voice is telepathy or not. But it seems it can indeed manipulate a certain type of person."

"'A certain type of person'?" Jennifer asked cautiously.

"One with mental instabilities," Helen said crisply.

"But Professor Barton?" Nolan exclaimed, tilting his head skeptically. "The man was a robot! Nothing moved him."

"The people best suited to criminal profiling are...criminals. Understanding the other person - seeing things through their eyes - is a crucial part of psychological analysis. We use a number of clues to paint a portrait of the culprit at the time of the crime. We stare into the darkness within ourselves - to confront the horrible beast that lives within all of us. We listen it speak, feel it breathe...all to think like the beast itself. But at the same time, we have to view it all objectively. That's a very difficult balancing act. Prof. Barton was a genius-level analyst - and the better a profiler is, the closer he gets to that dark beast within his soul. And that dark beast - that evil itself...it begins to speak to you. 'Come on. Don't you want to give it a try? ...Murder, I mean.' And we have to fight against that beast - and keep on winning. But..."

"Barton lost," Nolan muttered.

"To the temptation of the Voice, yes. A shameful deed for such an excellent analyst. So he drove a screwdriver into his own ear to escape that Voice. A supremely prideful act. He couldn't live with himself, having been at the command of another. ...I'm going to look for Edward and Kay." Helen suddenly rose to her feet.

"Why?" asked a shocked Nolan.

"'Why?' An inhuman question! Scissorman could be ripping them apart as we speak. Are you going to stand by and let them die?" Nolan unconsciously retreated, wilting in the face of Helen's harsh fusillade and sharp glare.

"No...of course I'm not saying that." Nolan glanced to the side at Jennifer for help.

Jennifer took Helen by the elbow. "Helen. You're not responsible for their deaths."

"What are you saying!?" Helen shouted, her angry expression unchanging.

"You're thinking that you could have saved them if you were here - right, Helen?" Jennifer said slowly. Helen stared at her, unspeaking. "That it's your fault they were killed. That's why you think you have to save Kay and Edward - right? But it's not your fault, Helen! If you had stayed here, there just would have been one more victim! We're up against Scissorman. There's nothing an ordinary person can do against him. Even if you go look for Edward by yourself, it won't be of any use."

"So you're saying we should just run around screaming our heads off, and do nothing?"

"I think we have a way," Nolan cut in. "A way of finishing off Scissorman once and for all. Quintin Barrows fought Scissorman - and won. There has to be a way to stand against him. That's the only way to save everyone."

"That's right. And we have to save everybody from Scissorman - to put an end to him for good. Otherwise, what's the point?"

Helen remained silent, her eyes cast downward. Her expression was hard.

"Plus, Helen: are you going to just leave us here? I don't want to hang around here waiting for someone to come back. Whatever we do, let's act together. No more splitting up, OK?"

"Besides," Nolan added, "Jennifer and I - and you, too, I'm sure, Helen - have walked all over this castle. And we haven't found hide or hair of Kay or Edward. None of us have seen them so far, and I don't think it's likely that we would if we wandered this castle further. So I think it's possible that they found this passageway before we did and slipped out ahead of us - that they're waiting wherever this passage leads."

"That's right! It's like Nolan says. Let's go down through the passageway we found, Helen - all three of us. It's highly likely Kay and Edward are down there - way more likely than that they're just roaming around the castle. And it'd be dangerous for you to stay behind and look alone. We have to stick together. Please, Helen. It's only logical. Or are you reserving judgment here, too?"

"She's right, Helen. We need to stick together, and work together. That's the least risky approach."

In the face of her companions' arguments, Helen reluctantly nodded. "...I suppose it is."

"Then it's settled! Let's go! The pond, right?" Jennifer set off, taking Helen by the arm.

It was a small pond, surrounded by stones. The water had been drained, leaving a sludgy bottom. In the center was a square hole that looked like it had been gouged out with a butter knife.

"I'll go down first," said Nolan. "Or is this a 'ladies first' situation?"

"After you," gestured Helen like a doorwoman.

Nolan entered the pond and peered down into the hole. The ladder was there; midway, it disappeared into the darkness, with what lay beyond not visible. It wasn't a hole that invited you to plumb its depths without preparation. It wasn't a hole that invited even if you were prepared.

"Jennifer, you go next," Helen said, hand on Jennifer's back. "I'll take the rear."

There was no reason to refuse. Jennifer followed Nolan, placing her feet upon the ladder. On the way, she suddenly had a thought: "Hey, Helen. What was that spell again?"

"The one from the parchment? I'm pretty sure it was 'Open the door, and show me the way! N-ha Ee Sh*!'"

"'Open the door, and show me the way. N-ha Ee Sh*.'" Jennifer recited the words she had heard over and over to herself, as if they were a mantra against harm, as she began her descent into the pitch darkness.






CHAPTER SIX


Jennifer's hands were covered with sweat. Her grip began to slip.

The ladder seemed endless; it seemed as if it were plunging into hell itself. To Jennifer, it felt like hours since the descent began. Initially, the members of their little group had been calling back and forth to each other; now, though, their descent continued in silence. The only sound that greeted Jennifer's ears was her own ragged breath.

Her hands began to turn numb from gripping the rungs. Her actions were mechanical; she no longer knew if she were going up or down. As soon as she thought she could take no more, the soles of her shoes at long last touched ground.

She had reached a tunnel - much wider than the one she had just descended. The large cave was lined with lamps at even intervals that illuminated the rock wall, which shimmered as if wet.

"Finally," Jennifer muttered to herself. "Solid ground."

Jennifer then looked above her and called: "Helen, we made it!"

There was no answer.

"Helen?! ...Answer me, Helen!"

Jennifer was greeted only by the sound of her own voice as it echoed throughout the tunnel. It sounded oddly twisted to her ears.

"...Dammit. I knew she was acting strange. She turned back on the way - to go look for Kay and Edward." Nolan dashed back to the passage by which they had descended and began to climb the ladder again.

Then it happened.

There was shaking, and a loud sound - of gears and chains and counterweights in motion. Some sort of mechanism had been activated.

"Helen!" Nolan cried, reaching for the next rung - only to have a metal grate snapped shut above him, skimming the tips of his fingers.

Then there was a loud CLANG, and the upper passage was cut off.

Nolan gripped the grate, shook it, tried to open it - but it wouldn't budge.

"Nolan! What happened!?"

Nolan reluctantly descended the ladder. He couldn't bear to look Jennifer in the face as he told her: "There's a metal grate that closed over the passage. ...There's no going back."

Jennifer shot under Nolan's arm and climbed up the ladder to attack the grate. But it would not yield for Nolan, and it would not yield to her.

Jennifer continued her battle with the grate, calling Helen's name all the while. She did not stop until Nolan forcibly removed her. The girl collapsed on the spot, like an abandoned doll.

"This is a trap to keep us here - or maybe Helen shut it before she went back above. ...But, Jennifer - either way, the fact of the matter is that we are stuck here. It's not Helen we should be worried about."

"How dare you. That's--" Jennifer looked up at Nolan with reproachful eyes. "That's easy for you to say! What do you care about Helen!? She's nothing to you! Helen's my friend!! And I can't...I can't bear to lose my friends. Not again."

Jennifer's eyes were filled with tears. She started crying - and once she that well was opened, the sobs wouldn't stop. It was as if she had regressed to that little five-year-old who had just been orphaned.

Nolan reached out and raised Jennifer to her feet. He placed his hands on her shoulders and said: "We can't go back. You saw that yourself. So we have to keep moving forward. Staying here to cry would be the worst possible move right now. You know that yourself - far better than I do. That's why you always have kept moving forward. Right?"

Jennifer nodded.

"Then let's keep going, Jennifer. We won't be able to see Helen again unless we save ourselves first."

After a long silence, Jennifer wiped away her tears. "...Yes. Yes! You're right. We have to keep going."

Nolan took her by the arm, and Jennifer continued her journey into the depths of the cave.

How long have I been walking? It must be five solid minutes by now.

A wall appeared in front of her - and a door.

A door gouged - excavated - out of the wall of stone before her, dead in its center. It was made of the same pitch-black metal as the idol. In its center was the same crucifix and skull design, carved in relief.

Nolan gripped the knob and opened the ponderous door.

The scene within took Nolan and Jennifer's breath away.

A vast cavern gaped before them - vast enough to hold two baseball fields at once. The entire cavern was dimly lit, as if light were filtering in from somewhere.

Were those..."stalagmites"?

Crowds of sharp, pointed rocks jutted from the surface of the earth, like giant fangs threatening to devour Jennifer and Nolan - each far taller than Nolan stood, and far thicker than Jennifer could get her arms around.

The right side was a sheer cliff, along which a fence had been erected. This, of course, was made of black metal as well. Peering down from its heights revealed a battalion of the same thornlike rocks at the far bottom - seemingly just waiting for someone to fall and be impaled.

Jennifer peered across the chasm - and gasped in fright. There she found innumerable beasts...that upon closer glance were revealed to be only carvings. The rock wall on the other side of the chasm was covered with creatures - carved in relief but so lifelike they seemed photographic.

A boy with batlike wings. A man with the head of a dog, crawling along the ground on all fours, ridden by a woman with two heads. A half-human, half-fish fusion with a twisted spine. A man with four arms, his torso ripped open by the teeth of a horse walking on its hind legs.

These creatures all turned arms against each other, rending each other limb from limb, killing each other. And at the center of this twisted mass stood a woman...like a Madonna, but cradling a child - a monster - with a twisted face and a pincer-like pair of scissors. The woman was proud, beautiful - truly a mother of God. But her eyes were pierced with daggers. Even the blood trickling down her cheeks like tears was delicately rendered in the stonework.

The carvings, the massive stalagmites, the chill, dry air - everything in this tomb of rock was somehow disquieting. The atmosphere put one's nerves on edge.

The very environment seemed to reject human presence. We're not supposed to be here, Jennifer thought, dumbstruck. ...No one is.

"Help!!"

There was a scream - a woman's. A figure had emerged from the shadow of one of the pointed rocks.

Kay - normally so dispassionate - was scrambling toward them in a blind panic, her hair wild.

"Please - help me!!"

Jennifer realized in an instant, as Kay shambled toward her, that the woman had a large knife in her hand. In the same instant, that knife was at her throat.

Kay whirled around behind Jennifer and said to Nolan: "Get back! Or I'll slit her throat! This is not a joke! I'm serious!!"

"Ms. Satterwhite, what are you..."

"Didn't I tell you to be careful?!" Kay whispered in Jennifer's ear. She then shouted to the rocks: "I have Jennifer!"

Shing.

There was a sound.

Shing.

One that suited an environment so far removed from the last vestige of humanity.

Bloodthirsty. Cold.

Shing. Shing. Shing.

And then they made their appearance: a giant pair of scissors, raised overhead in search of prey.

"That's..." Nolan was speechless.

"Jennifer! I've been waiting so long!" The voice was rich with pure glee.

"Edward..."

Edward approached Jennifer, hoisting a pair of scissors far larger than he was.

"I love playing with you, Jennifer. It's my favorite game - and you're my favorite playmate!"

Edward turned to Nolan, who had been attempting to sneak up behind him. "I wouldn't come any closer, Mr. Campbell. If you do, you know, Kay will slit Jennifer's throat! And what fun would that be? None at all! Not for me - or for you, Mr. Campbell."

Nolan froze mid-step.

"Good job, Kay! I couldn't have done it better myself."

"Edward, let's stop this! What good is it going to do!?" Kay wailed, her voice shaking. The knife at Jennifer's throat was shaking, too.

"'What good'? Kay, how many times do I have to tell you - what fun it is to lop their heads off? To pull their insides out and see them flop around on the floor? When I told you about it, didn't you feel the thrill, too? It's just contagious!"

These weren't the words of a ten-year-old child - much less one so beautiful he seemed not of this world.

Edward approached Jennifer, meeting her eye to eye. "Now, Jennifer - let's begin."

Edward opened his scissors. The blades were pointed squarely at Jennifer.

"Stop!" Nolan cried.

Jennifer ducked. The scissors closed on air, above Jennifer's head.

"Oops! I missed!" Edward said, laughing.

From behind Jennifer came a gurgling sound like a broken sewer pipe. Hot liquid ran down her back. Jennifer choked on a thick stench.

The knife that was at her throat clattered to the ground. Jennifer didn't need to look behind her. She knew that Edward had cut Kay's head off.

"Monster!!" With a strangled scream, Nolan flew at Edward. Edward swung his heavy scissors - and Nolan went flying, as if he had been hit by a car.

Nolan was lying face down on the ground. His arm was twisted at an unnatural angle. His face went instantly pale; he retched in agony.

"Nolan!" Jennifer screamed.

"I'll take care of him later. After all, I just can't wait any longer, Jennifer! Our game's been put off for so long."

"Monster! Demon! INHUMAN!!"

"Well, of course I'm inhuman. I'm a Child of the Great Father! We borrow the wombs of human women, yes, but we need no human father. The women of the Barrows family are born with a door in their wombs - a dimensional portal, if you will. And we use that door to come into this world. ...Now, Jennifer. It's time for our game to - at last - begin. And as you can see, we've got quite the playground! We could run around here for a good ten minutes! But I'm afraid there won't be any escaping this time. The way you came here is no longer open, after all."

"So it was you..."

"I think I'll take care of Helen later as well. But...you first. Like I said before: I just can't wait!" Edward licked his thin, Cupid's-bow lips with a sharp tongue. "It's a sheer cliff over there. Go flying off, and you'll be most likely be skewered! Even if you managed to land just right, you'd never be able to climb back up! So there's no way out. But - you have to try! Now - let's play, Jennifer."

Edward brandished his scissors like a checkered flag - beaming with glee all the while.

Jennifer dashed off in the opposite direction of the passage through which she'd arrived. As she ran, her eyes had slowly begun to fill with tears.

But not out of sorrow or fear.

A completely different emotion had begun to well within her chest - one wholly unfamiliar to her.

Rage.

Blinding rage, as if a vice were gripping her head and tightening until it threatened to burst.

Then she remembered Nolan's words: It's all a game to him. He just wants to terrorize people. And Jennifer thought: He was right. He enjoys it.

How many people have died, just for this child's entertainment? Tim. Professor Barton. Beth.

I'm going to survive. Kill him, and survive. Go back to Oslo with Nolan and Helen, and have open-faced sandwiches with them at our restaurant again.

I'm going to survive.

I'm going to survive.

Jennifer ran. And kept on running. Sheer rage powered her legs. Otherwise, she would have collapsed to her knees long ago.

Twice, she was almost caught by Edward - but she managed, narrowly, to escape each time. No; it was more like Edward had granted her the opportunity. It was only when she evaded his clutches a third time that Jennifer had the realization.

Sitting behind a rock, shoulders heaving as she drew ragged breaths, she gathered her thoughts, making a bird's-eye map of the cave in her mind. Each time she'd escaped, Edward appeared to have been lying in wait for her - seemingly, in the exact same place.

If he'd wanted to kill her, Edward could have done so easily. He'd refrained only because he wanted to tire her - to hunt her until she could no longer move a muscle, to drain her of her strength and spirit, drive her to despair. If that were true, then these "close calls" were meant only as intimidation - empty threats.

Even so: Edward's appearance each time seemed rushed - panicky. He simply stood so that Jennifer could see him from afar, in time to escape - that was all. Not very threatening.

Shouldn't I expect something more dramatic from Scissorman? That's not his style, Jennifer thought.

If I think about it, it's like Scissorman so far has been making his own haunted houses, meant to threaten and scare - like a kid's game. In a way, he doesn't care if he kills or just chases his prey.

...So why this?

In each close call, Edward seemed to be lying in wait for Jennifer. As if to block her way.

Something's there.

Behind that spot Edward's popped up to guard three times.

He said there was a cliff there. Is it actually an exit? ...Or is it something Edward fears?

Jennifer made some quick calculations in her head, then took off running. As she expected, Edward stood before her, brandishing his scissors, attempting to block her path.

Upon spotting him, Jennifer fell like a fainting damsel to her knees. She'd intended it to be a ploy, but she was truly at the limit of her strength.

Shing. Shing. Shing. Edward's scissors sang as he approached Jennifer.

"No! Get away!!" Jennifer half-screamed. Even she couldn't tell at this point if it were an act.

"Is our game over already? And here I hoped you would keep me entertained for a while longer, Jennifer! Like before." Edward began walking toward Jennifer, clacking his scissors open and closed almost in a rhythm.

"'Before'... So you were the Scissorman at the Clock Tower mansion, too?"

"That was Bobby. My little brother! A failure - good for nothing. I can do much that he could not."

"Then you're..."

"Dan! The one you thought you burned up. Remember?"

That giant monster, wreathed in flame? It seemed impossible that the beautiful boy before Jennifer's eyes could have any connection to that hideous creature.

"That was my pupal form! It takes about ten years after our birth in this world for us to we reach the form you saw. Our chrysalis, you could call it! And from that chrysalis...we are born. My brother was born a bit early, though - he was fated to die from the start. Not like me."

Jennifer had been inching backward as Edward spoke - little by little, subtly adjusting her bearing.

"You're no better, Edward! You're the same age as Bobby? Then you came out before your ten years were up, too!"

Edward was already at Jennifer's feet. But by now, Jennifer had pivoted a full ninety degrees. A quick sprint to her left, and she'd reach the cliff.

"I'm so delighted, Jennifer! You're so smart! Just like I thought - you kept me entertained right up till the end!"

"What do you mean?"

"You know there's something over there, don't you?" Edward gestured with his jaw toward the cliff. He knew. "But it's hopeless. The moment you stand up and run, you're getting my scissors in your back! Go ahead - try it! ...Jennifer. It's the end - game over. You've shown your final hand. Still - I'm satisfied."

It is in the moment a person believes they have the advantage that they drop their guard. Edward, it seemed, was no exception. As if sensing this, he suddenly whirled around - to find a thick knife embedded deep in his back. It was the knife Kay had held - but now, Nolan gripped the handle.

Nolan retreated from Edward, his pallid face distorted in utter agony.

Edward dropped his giant scissors - but not out of pain. On his face was an expression of sheer ecstasy.

There was a sound like slurping mud - and all of a sudden, Edward's back began to swell.

"Oh, my. Looks like...that was too much for this body to take."

Edward's clothes rent as his now-humped back burst from beneath. Countless little masses writhed beneath his skin, making a sound like kneaded mincemeat. The knife in his back plopped to the ground, its blade covered in black liquid.

Edward howled.

In a voice unknown to him. The voice of a beast.

His scream tore through the cavern, reverberating through the air.

The skin on his face, too, rippled like a mass of crawling worms. His howling lips split to his forehead, dripping yellow saliva mixed with tiny teeth, like dead insects. Edward's teeth had fallen out - pushed out, one after another, by sharp fangs growing in above and below.

Before Jennifer's very eyes, Edward had transformed into Scissorman.

His Voice slithered into Jennifer's mind: How delightful, Jennifer!

Jennifer shook her head as if to extinguish the Voice from her mind, and called: "Nolan, over here!" She lent Nolan her shoulder, and the two made their way away from Edward, still transforming into a monstrosity, and toward the cliff.

"Jennifer. Leave me," Nolan moaned in agony. "I can't run."

"Don't you remember, Nolan? I hate pessimists."

"I thought you hated optimists?"

"I hate extremists. Now shut up and move."

Jennifer supported Nolan and began to hurry as Edward's Voice infiltrated her mind once again. Pain, death, human terror - I take pleasure in them all. They provide...unbearable ecstasy for me. It's like my very flesh is melting! It's - too much!...too much for me to... My flesh... My FLESH... AaaaaaAAAAAHHHH...

Jennifer could see a fence.

She looked around. There had to be something here. Something Edward didn't want her to see. Something she had to find.

A part of the cliff jutted out from its face, like a titan's diving board. There was no fence there. At the end of this prominence stood a slab of the black metal, like a tombstone.

"Over there!" Half-dragging Nolan, Jennifer ran toward the cliff.

In the middle of the slab was a design - a twisted crucifix. Above it was a hole cut into the platform. Jennifer recognized its shape.

She lowered a half-unconscious Nolan to the ground. He managed to seat himself with his back against the slab.

Jennifer retrieved the idol from her jacket pocket. She compared the idol with the hole in the metal slab.

"STOOOOOOOOP!!!" came a scream. It was an unnatural sound, one trying to mimic human speech. Jennifer didn't need to turn around to know that it was Edward.

She shoved the idol into the hole. It fit perfectly.

"JENNIFERRRRRRRRR!!!"

Jennifer turned around to find the hideous monster that was now Edward four or five steps behind her, shears raised.

There was a rumbling. The earth began to shake beneath Jennifer's feet.

Jennifer collapsed. The rumbling grew so intense that she could no longer stand. Beside her, Nolan slumped against the pillar. Even Edward stopped in his tracks, still clutching his scissors.

There was a thunderous roar from behind Jennifer. Jennifer peeked out - and then she saw.

On the other side of the cliff, far away, the blinded Madonna began to crumble. Massive shards of rock peeled from the wall and began to fall one after another, raising clouds of dust.

And behind the fallen Madonna was a solid square of blackness - a void.

No, not a void. A pitch-dark door. Massive, fearsome, black as night.

The tremors intensified, threatening to bring everything down around her.

"I get it!" Jennifer shouted above the rumbling. "I know what I have to do! I have to open the door! And I know the spell -"

"STOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!!!" Edward howled with such ferocity it threatened to turn his throat inside out. Jennifer turned around to find Edward standing right in front of her and Nolan - and fear upon his blue-black face for the first time. And it was in that moment that she knew: victory was hers.

Staggered, Edward aimed his scissors at Jennifer. Jennifer ducked to avoid the blow, falling to her side with the force of the movement; the scissors hit the pedestal in a shower of sparks.

Jennifer shouted, in a voice she had never known since birth: "OPEN THE DOOR!"

Edward recovered and once again thrust his scissors at Jennifer. The sheer drop of the cliff was right beside her. She could see the stalagmites waiting for their prey far below.

"AND SHOW ME THE WAY!" Jennifer chanted the next line of the spell.

It was at that moment that Edward brought his scissors down.

And that the cavern was rocked by a singularly violent tremor.

The tips of the shears, which had been aimed at Jennifer's throat, swayed, then struck home - in Jennifer's shoulder.

Jennifer pressed her hand to the wound to staunch the river of blood and screamed the final line: "N-HA EE SH*!"

The immense door that had appeared in the wall began to open.

Beyond was a sheer void. Something even thicker and blacker writhed within.

The wind began to howl - sucking the air out of the cavern, toward the door.

Almost instantaneously, the wind increased in force. It was like a hurricane.

Jennifer screamed as she was dragged along the ground. Nolan was plastered against the black metal slab, unmoving. As she slid toward the edge of the cliff, however, Jennifer also slid toward Nolan - who extended his unbroken arm.

Their hands crossed, and clasped.

But Jennifer was more than halfway over the cliff. Her body was flying out over the edge like a streamer.

Edward's scissors flew from his hands. They grazed Jennifer's head as they whirled through the air and disappeared into the door. Edward threatened to follow; he managed two, three halting steps before flying into space himself.

He found himself helpless, blown away by the wind. He sailed over Jennifer's head, following his scissors.

And as he did, his arms latched onto Jennifer's waist.

His sharp talons dug into her sides. His grip was like iron. It threatened to crush Jennifer's organs.

Jennifer's hand began to slip from Nolan's grasp.

Nolan moaned. His hand gripped Jennifer's wrist tightly, but his muscles strained under the weight of two people; his arm felt as if it was going to be pulled from its socket. He had only seconds of strength left. But, through chills and sweat, he endured.

Inch by inch, Edward began to claw his way back, climbing up Jennifer's body - hips to back, back to arms. He came so close Jennifer's long black hair was trailing across his face.

It was then that Jennifer remembered: her inheritance from Quintin Barrows.

With her other hand, she searched her waist pouch - and there it was.

The black dagger the mummy had passed on to her. The answer to her prayers.

Jennifer gripped the handle and drove it into Edward's chest. It split his skin, pierced his flesh, struck bone.

Edward screamed. His hands released his grip on Jennifer. With a cry of despair, he was swallowed up by the other side of the door, disappearing into the darkness.

The door began to close - and as it did, the wind began to stop.

Jennifer was borne low, and at last, she found herself dangling over the cliff. The shaking continued unabated.

"Jennifer!"

With a cry, Nolan mustered the last of his strength and pulled Jennifer, who clawed her way up the cliff.

The black slab had nearly fallen to the ground amidst the shaking before, in an instant, it tumbled down the cliff. Jennifer and Nolan watched as it split upon the earth - and noticed the base of the cliff itself had begun to crack.

"Let's get out of here."

The pair stood up. With a roar, the carvings fell, one after another. Jennifer and Nolan ran. Before long, debris fell down like rain; the ceiling began to crack. A boulder the size of a car screamed down and split.

The two had nowhere to go.

But Jennifer wasn't afraid.

The only thought in her mind was: My nightmare is already over.

And it was.






EPILOGUE


There was the sound of water dripping - from who knows where.

Drip, drip - at the same, monotonous rhythm, echoing throughout the enclosed space. Over. And over. And over.

Jennifer and Nolan had made it out of the cavern - but as they fled down the long, long stone corridor, both the way forward and back were blocked by falling rocks. Seconds after they took refuge in a narrow crack in the crumbling bedrock, the rumbling stopped. They propped themselves against the fallen rocks and stretched out their legs.

"...I wonder how many days have passed." Nolan's face was sheet white; his bloodless lips were thin and trembling.

"Days? I think it's been only a night!" The piece of cloth tied over Jennifer's shoulder wound was dyed dark red. The bleeding, it seemed, had stopped.

"You think our luck's run out?" Nolan muttered with a sigh.

"I hate weaklings."

"...Seems like I'm leaving behind a legacy of nothing but hate."

"Stop talking in the past tense, Nolan. Besides...I don't hate you."

"...Really?"

"Really!"

There was a brief silence.

Drip, drip.

"...Helen will be along at any moment to rescue us."

"Maybe. You saying it makes me think so. You know, you're tough."

Jennifer had sidled up to Nolan and was staring him straight in the face. The two were nose to nose.

Their lips touched.

And then there was a sound.

An engine.

Jennifer jumped up from Nolan.

"Rescue services!" came a call, checking to see if anyone was present.

"We're here!" Nolan cried.

"Over here!" piped up Jennifer.

There was a clamor - and after a bit, a man's voice, calling: "We found them!"

And there were more sounds: of a jackhammer busting rock. Of a bulldozer lifting something away.

Sand began to filter down above Jennifer and Nolan's heads - and, slowly, the rocks above them were lifted.

Light broke through - so bright it was dazzling.

The world overhead was clear. Pure white clouds. A crystal blue sky.

And a familiar face peeking through.

"Jennifer! You're all right!"

It was Helen.

"And Nolan, too!"

Jennifer answered with a smile. Helen held out her hand and pulled up Jennifer, then Nolan.

As soon as Nolan was extracted, he was loaded onto a stretcher. "See you in Oslo," said Jennifer, as Nolan was surrounded by emergency personnel.

"See you in Oslo!" replied Nolan, under an oxygen mask. He disappeared into an ambulance.

Jennifer watched protectively as the ambulance, and its siren, faded into the distance. Helen gently placed an arm around her shoulder.

"I always had faith, Helen!"

Jennifer placed her head on Helen's chest.

"And so did I. I always knew you could do it," Helen said, as if she just knew all that had happened. She held Jennifer tight - as if determined never again to let her go.

The castle was rubble. The centuries-long curse of the Barrows clan had been undone in a single night.

"Hey, young lady!"

Jennifer couldn't believe her ears. She whirled around to find...a sour, stubborn, pig-headed middle-aged man decidedly unpopular with the young ladies - now, with a bandage around his head. Gotts.

Jennifer broke free from Helen and looked her in the face. "That's right!" Helen said. "He made it!"

"Inspector Gotts!"

Jennifer ran toward him.

But Gotts was disagreeable as ever. With the same-old, habitually-cantankerous expression upon his face, he muttered: "It's Assistant Inspector."





And so, the insects crawl back to their idiotic, mundane human existence.

And after I took the trouble to guide you all that way. What a pity.

The most dunder-headed choices at every turn, too.

But this story is far from over.

No world is without darkness. The Great Father reigns eternal - indestructible.

And Scissorman will resurface in your world. You can count on that.

Don't you hear it? The sound of his scissors?

Shing. Shing. Shing.

And there will be another door for you to open.

A door to a tale of terror, ending before long in death.

I am a disciple of the Great Father.

He who holds sway over tales of rotting guts and blood.

And I will not betray your expectations.

~FIN~


ENDING COMPLETE.
YOUR ENDING RANK IS A






Proceed to Afterword from author Osamu Makino






CHAPTER FOUR


"...Which is it? ...Will you...grant our request? ...Or not?"

"No!!!" Jennifer screamed.

At the same time, Nolan flew at the mummy. In a tangled mass of limbs, the two collided with the altar.

"GRAAAAAAAAAHHH--!!!" The mummy howled - howled and stood. The ebony dagger was embedded in its throat up to the hilt.

The wind stopped, as if it had never been there at all. The dagger melted like chocolate on a stovetop.

"Curse you!!!" The mummy's gaping jaw plopped to the floor, shattering into a pile of powder. The skin began to ooze and peel from its body like beads of sweat, separating - liquefying - pore by pore. The neck snapped; the head dropped off. The arms fell from the sockets. They shriveled to dust before they even hit the floor.

The knees shattered; the breastbone cracked apart upon the mountain of powdered debris, which began to dissipate as a rising crematorial cloud. All that remained when it settled was a pile of ash.

"...Nolan."

"...Looks like you're OK. ...That's all that matters."

"...But..." Jennifer cast her eyes toward the closed bookcase.

Nolan shrugged. "We'll figure out something."

"Wow, how irresponsible--" But just as Jennifer readied herself to castigate Nolan, the bookcase rattled open again.

"Voilà!" Nolan beamed with satisfaction as he took Jennifer by the hand and the two left through the opening.

The pair took a wary glance around, then approached the library door. Tentatively, they nudged it open.

No one was there.

Just the pile of bones and Tim's butchered body.

The two took another glance around before taking a step inward.

"Nolan, look..." Jennifer was pointing at the pile of bones.

There were children - seemingly having appeared out of nowhere. Six in all. Dancing in a ring atop the bones.

It soon became apparent, even from across the room, that these were not real children. Their bodies were translucent; the room's walls and furnishings were visible through them.

"Are those...ghosts?"

"...I guess.."

The children sang as they danced, like a nursery rhyme:


Little John from the big castle
Plays with a little boy
Snip, snip, snip
Off goes his head
Bright red, bright red


"That song's about Scissorman," Jennifer said. "Are these children all victims of Scissorman, then?..."

The children swayed back and forth as they sung, dancing around the center of the room. A closer look revealed a small gap between their heads and bodies. Sudden movements would produce a lag as their heads caught up after slipping from their shoulders.

"What a sad song," Jennifer sighed.

The children parted from their dance, forming a single file. They left the pile of bones and headed for the door. The child at the head of the line walked right through the closed door, then vanished; the others followed, one by one, leaving the room. Occasionally, the children would cast a glance at Jennifer and Nolan.

"What do we do, Nolan?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I kinda think they're telling us to come with them, right?"

"I guess... Well...shall we?" quipped Nolan, with all the gravitas of inviting Jennifer to a nearby restaurant.






CHAPTER FIVE


The dead children resumed their singing.


Little John from the big castle
Plays with a little girl
Stab, stab, stab
She loses her sight
Bright white, bright white


The children walked single-file as they sang. At times, they exchanged glances, elbowed each other, giggled to themselves.

The castle was like a labyrinth. Long corridors that twisted and turned endlessly; hidden rooms; hidden doors. All seemed positioned solely to obliterate one's sense of direction.

But the children were never lost. Up and down the staircases; round and round the corridors; through room after room - without the slightest of cares. Finally, they disappeared through a new door, walking through it as before. Jennifer and Nolan were not as clever; they had to resort to opening it with their hands.

The other side was flooded with light. Jennifer's eyes narrowed from the brilliance.

She was in an open garden - one that had lain untended for 80 years. Weeds blossomed in profusion; limbs grew unruly-like from their trees. The sun was already setting. But as weak and faint as the light was, it remained the sun.

The light of the sun and the green of the trees blessed this spot in Barrows Castle. For that alone, this overgrown garden was to Jennifer nothing less than paradise.

But as long as Scissorman was out there, there could be no heaven here.

The children were nowhere to be found. They had vanished as quickly as they had appeared.

But Jennifer took no notice. As soon as she'd opened the door, she broke out running through the undergrowth - the weeds snagging her legs, threatening to trip her.

"Helen!"

Helen stared at Jennifer, shocked. Then the tension instantly fled from her face as her expression melted into a grateful smile.

"Jennifer! And Nolan, too. You're all right! Oh, I'm so glad."

The two embraced as if they were parent and child and hadn't seen each other in decades.

"How did you get here?" Helen asked as she held Jennifer close and caressed her hair.

"The children brought us here," Jennifer replied, finally separating herself from Helen as she explained what had happened since she had been brought to the castle. Helen listened attentively, not attempting to interrupt. When Jennifer got to the point where she met Gotts, Helen simply gave a knowing smirk: sounds like him.

"And then there's this." Jennifer extracted the tightly-rolled sheepskin from her pack. "Something's written on it, but I don't know what it says. And neither does Nolan, of course."

"What's with the 'of course'?"

"Well, can you?"

"Well, no..." Nolan stammered. Jennifer gave him the side-eye as she continued: "But I know Helen can - can't you, Helen?" Jennifer handed over the sheepskin.

"This...looks like Latin. The paint's still stuck in places, so I can't read it all, but - ummm... 'Darkness; oh, darkness...' Then there's a bit below I don't quite understand. 'Return the child thou didst nestle to thy breast to'...um...'to the darkness whence it came.' Then there are words: 'Open the door, and show me the way. N-ha Es Sh*.' I wonder what it means?"

"Quintin Barrows hid it with his portrait, so I'll bet it's pretty important!"

"If that 'child' is Scissorman, then could this be a spell to seal him away somewhere?" Nolan muttered almost to himself.

"A spell, hmmm?..." Helen could neither confirm nor deny this.

"Helen, weren't Beth and Prof. Barton with you?" Jennifer asked.

"Yes, they were. We finally escaped Scissorman, then started searching for an exit and the missing members of the group. And we wound up here. Then...well, do you see that fountain over there?" Helen pointed to a pond encircled by stones at the center of the garden. "That's a man-made pond. It's been abandoned for over 80 years, and yet the fountain's still running - the pond's filled with fresh water. I leaned against a tree beside it to sit down, and - I found this valve."

Helen had absent-mindedly turned the valve, and the fountain stopped. Ahh, so it's the valve to the fountain, Helen mused. Prof. Barton then peered in and announced: There's a passage below.

When the water had stopped, the pond had drained completely - and a large pit had opened at the bottom. A ladder was even attached to the side to descend.

"I don't know where it leads, but we decided to go down and see. That was just a little while ago. I said I would stay, though - to search for you and the others. I was just about to leave here to do just that."

"Then let's hurry up and go down. We can't leave an old man and a lady alone down there."

Helen, though, showed no enthusiasm for Nolan's suggestion. "I'm staying."

"Why?" Jennifer pouted - a puppy-dog expression she reserved only for Helen.

"I have to find Kay and Edward."

"No way. You can't do that yourself, Helen!"

"And why not?"

"I mean..."

Jennifer was at a loss for words. Nolan cut in: "Helen, I don't know whether or not you can find Kay and Edward. That's up to fate. But Jennifer and I - and you, too, I'm sure, Helen - have walked all over this castle. And we haven't found hide or hair of Kay or Edward. None of us have seen them so far, and I don't think it's likely that we would if we wandered this castle further. So I think it's possible that they found this passageway before we did and slipped out ahead of us - that they're waiting wherever this passage leads."

"That's right!" Jennifer added forcefully. "It's like Nolan says. Let's go down through the passageway we found, Helen - all three of us. It's highly likely Kay and Edward are down there - way more likely than that they're just roaming around the castle. And it'd be dangerous for you to stay behind and look alone. We have to stick together. Please, Helen. It's only logical."

"...I suppose it is," Helen said, finally persuaded.

"Then it's settled! The pond, right?" Jennifer set off, taking Helen by the arm.

It was a small pond, surrounded by stones. The water had been drained, leaving a sludgy bottom. In the center was a square hole that looked like it had been gouged out with a butter knife.

"I'll go down first," said Nolan, entering the pond and peering down into the hole. The ladder was there; midway, it disappeared into the darkness, with what lay beyond not visible. It wasn't a hole that invited you to plumb its depths without preparation. It wasn't a hole that invited even if you were prepared.

Jennifer entered the hole next. Finally, Helen started down.

"Hey, Helen," asked Jennifer, as she descended the ladder into pitch darkness. "What was that spell again?"

"The one from the parchment? I'm pretty sure it was 'Open the door, and show me the way! N-ha Ee Sh*!'"

"'Open the door, and show me the way. N-ha Ee Sh*.'" Jennifer recited the words she had heard over and over to herself, as if they were a mantra against harm. As soon as she began her descent underground, Jennifer's hands were covered with sweat, and her grip began to slip.

The ladder seemed endless; it seemed as if it were plunging into hell itself. To Jennifer, it felt like hours since the descent began. Her hands began to turn numb from gripping the rungs. Her actions were mechanical; she no longer knew if she were going up or down. As soon as she thought she could take no more, the soles of her shoes at long last touched ground.

Then it happened.

There was shaking, and a loud sound - of gears and chains and counterweights in motion. Some sort of mechanism had been activated.

A metal grate snapped shut above, skimming Jennifer's head.

Then there was a loud CLANG, and the upper passage was cut off.

In a panic, Jennifer gripped the grate, shook it, tried to open it - but it wouldn't budge. It was as if it had always been there.

"Jennifer? Is something wrong?" Nolan asked, his voice tense.

"There's a metal grate that closed over the passage. Helen's still above it."

There was a clank clank on the grate - the sound of the soles of Helen's shoes.

"Helen--"

"Jennifer! How do I get down from here?"

"Umm-- Did you hear that sound just now?"

"Yes. What was it?"

"This metal grate came out and closed over the passageway."

"........."

"Trade places with me." Jennifer moved out of the way, and Nolan climbed the ladder to where she had once stood.

He quickly attacked the grate. "Helen, lift your legs up for a bit. I'm going to try to move this somehow."

Nolan continued his battle with the grate for a while. But it was useless.

"...Looks like it won't budge."

"Helen!" Jennifer scrambled up the ladder, getting entangled with Nolan. "You're coming with this, Helen. We'll get this open somehow."

"It's no use. I can't do it. And if my arms can't, yours can't, either."

"We don't know unless we try, do we?!"

"We already did."

"But..."

"Jennifer." The voice came from above - from Helen. "I'll go look for Kay and Edward. You and Nolan keep looking below. Prof. Barton and Beth should be there, too."

"No! Never!"

"Jennifer, please. "This" - here, Helen kicked the metal grate with her heel - "isn't going anywhere. There's no turning back for you two. ...That's clear, Jennifer."

"...I guess so."

"You have to keep moving forward. Staying here to cry would be the worst possible move right now - you know that far better than I do. That's why you have always kept moving forward. Isn't that right, Jennifer?"

Jennifer nodded silently. As if she saw, Helen continued: "Now, go. We'll see each other again."

The sound of footsteps ascending a ladder echoed in the dark.

"Helen..."

"You heard her, Jennifer. Let's go."

There was a long silence before Jennifer, at last, wiped away her tears. "...She's right. I have to keep moving forward."

She descended the ladder. Nolan took her by the arm, and Jennifer continued her journey into the depths of the cave.

How long have I been walking? It must be five solid minutes by now.

A wall appeared in front of her - and a door.

A door gouged - excavated - out of the wall of stone before her, dead in its center. It was made of the same pitch-black metal as the idol. In its center was the same crucifix and skull design, carved in relief.

Nolan gripped the knob and opened the ponderous door.

The scene within took Nolan and Jennifer's breath away.

A vast cavern gaped before them - vast enough to hold two baseball fields at once. The entire cavern was dimly lit, as if light were filtering in from somewhere.

Were those..."stalagmites"?

Crowds of sharp, pointed rocks jutted from the surface of the earth, like giant fangs threatening to devour Jennifer and Nolan - each far taller than Nolan stood, and far thicker than Jennifer could get her arms around.

The right side was a sheer cliff, along which a fence had been erected. This, of course, was made of black metal as well. Peering down from its heights revealed a battalion of the same thornlike rocks at the far bottom - seemingly just waiting for someone to fall and be impaled.

Jennifer peered across the chasm - and gasped in fright. There she found innumerable beasts...that upon closer glance were revealed to be only carvings. The rock wall on the other side of the chasm was covered with creatures - carved in relief but so lifelike they seemed photographic.

A boy with batlike wings. A man with the head of a dog, crawling along the ground on all fours, ridden by a woman with two heads. A half-human, half-fish fusion with a twisted spine. A man with four arms, his torso ripped open by the teeth of a horse walking on its hind legs.

These creatures all turned arms against each other, rending each other limb from limb, killing each other. And at the center of this twisted mass stood a woman...like a Madonna, but cradling a child - a monster - with a twisted face and a pincer-like pair of scissors. The woman was proud, beautiful - truly a mother of God. But her eyes were pierced with daggers. Even the blood trickling down her cheeks like tears was delicately rendered in the stonework.

The carvings, the massive stalagmites, the chill, dry air - everything in this tomb of rock was somehow disquieting. The atmosphere put one's nerves on edge.

The very environment seemed to reject human presence. We're not supposed to be here, Jennifer thought, dumbstruck. ...No one is.

"Look..." Nolan was pointing - at a part of the cliff that jutted out from the face, like a titan's diving board. There was no fence there. At the end of this prominence stood a slab of the black metal, like a tombstone.

A woman was leaning against the tombstone, as if sloppily sleeping. It looked like Beth. She was certainly wearing her clothing. But Jennifer couldn't say for sure. The woman had no head.

Another headless body was present, being dragged across the ground - in a business suit; probably Barton. And clasped to his leg, hauling him to the tombstone, was...

"Kay!..." Jennifer screamed, then ran toward her.

Kay turned around; her face was twisted in shock. But not because she saw Jennifer and Nolan. Her gaze was fixed behind them.

Kay screamed: "Stop!"

There was a dull sound, like a sandbag being thumped with a stick.

Jennifer stopped in her tracks and turned around.

"Jennifer! I've been waiting so long!"

Edward was standing there. Carrying a pair of scissors taller than he was.

Nolan was lying face down on the ground. His arm was twisted at an unnatural angle.

"I think he's just unconscious! But it looks like he's broken a bone."

Edward smiled. It was so beautiful it almost inspired you to smile back.

"Kay, could you help Jennifer? It looks like she can still move."

Kay dropped Barton's body and trotted over to Jennifer.

"Edward...so you're Scissorman."

Edward gleefully nodded.

"Were you the Scissorman at the Barrows mansion, too?"

"That was Bobby. My little brother! A failure - good for nothing. I can do much that he could not."

"Then you're..."

"Dan! The one you thought you burned up. Remember?"

That giant monster, wreathed in flame? It seemed impossible that the beautiful boy before Jennifer's eyes could have any connection to that hideous creature.

"That was my pupal form! It takes about ten years after our birth in this world for us to we reach the form you saw. Our chrysalis, you could call it! And from that chrysalis...we are born. My brother was born a bit early, though - he was fated to die from the start. Not like me."

Kay was quickly at Jennifer's side.

"Ms. Satterwhite..."

Kay averted her eyes under Jennifer's gaze. "I have to. I..."

"Kay is mine! Like my clothes and my scissors and the shoes on my feet! I say 'jump,' and she jumps. Now, Kay. Get behind that girl."

"Please, Ms. Satterwhite! Stop this foolishness!" Jennifer took a step back.

"Don't you move, Jennifer! If you do--" Edward opened his scissors wide.

"Snip snip snip, off goes my head - right?"

Kay moved behind Jennifer, grabbing her arms and holding them behind her back.

"Now, Jennifer - I was thinking I'd take your eyes first. It's delicate work, so I can't use my scissors! So I think I'll use my fingers." Edward dropped his scissors on the ground.

Then it happened. Kay screamed - "Run!" - and released her grip on Jennifer.

Jennifer got one step away, two steps, before she heard a beastly scream - for a split second. Then it stopped.

"Do anything stupid, Jennifer, and Mr. Campbell will be next."

Jennifer stopped short and turned around. Edward was standing there, scissors in hand, their tips dripping with fresh blood. Kay's body lay on the ground - right beside her head. Blood gushed out, burbling like a broken sewer pipe.

"I love playing with you, Jennifer. It's my favorite game - and you're my favorite playmate! So I just can't wait any longer! It's been put off for so long. So I'll wait to finish off Mr. Campbell. I've got...so much I want to do with you. Beyond even your wildest dreams."

"Monster! Demon! INHUMAN!!" Jennifer was screaming so loudly her throat threatened to split.

"Well, of course I'm inhuman. I'm a Child of the Great Father! We borrow the wombs of human women, yes, but we need no human father. The women of the Barrows family are born with a door in their wombs - a dimensional portal, if you will. And we use that door to come into this world. ...Now, Jennifer. It's time for our game to - at last - begin. But it won't be like before. There won't be any escape this time. The way you came here is no longer open, after all."

"So it was you..."

"I think I'll take care of Helen later as well. But...you first. Like I said before: I just can't wait!" Edward licked his thin, Cupid's-bow lips with a sharp tongue. "It's a sheer cliff over there. There's no way out! Now - hold nice and still, Jennifer. I don't want to it to be over so quickly, like with Kay. I want to take my time with you."

Jennifer's eyes had slowly begun to fill with tears.

But not out of sorrow or fear.

A completely different emotion had begun to well within her chest - one wholly unfamiliar to her.

Rage.

Blinding rage, as if a vice were gripping her head and tightening until it threatened to burst.

Then she remembered Nolan's words: It's all a game to him. He just wants to terrorize people. And Jennifer thought: He was right. He enjoys it.

How many people have died, just for this monster's entertainment? Tim. Professor Barton. Beth.

"You're not going to have your way, Edward. I'm going to survive. Survive - and go back to Oslo with Nolan and Helen, and have open-face sandwiches with them at our restaurant again!"

"I'm thrilled, Jennifer! You really are just so fun! I've never before met such a human! ...I love you, Jennifer. I could just eat you up." Edward's face twisted inperceptibly. It was as indescribably grotesque as it was beautiful.

Edward raised his scissors. "All you have left to you is despair. Terror. Allow me to make that clear." He began to bring his scissors down - but then stopped short.

His arms were tensed - but the scissors wouldn't move.

Edward turned his eyes above him with a suspicious expression.

A white mist began to form at the tips of his shears, quivering like drops of milk in water. It began to coalesce - into a human figure. Jennifer recognized his doleful expression.

"Quintin..." Edward spat. Quintin Barrows, the 13th lord of Barrows Castle. His shade seemed as if it would vanish with a wave of a hand. He looked down at Edward with an expression of pity.

"Out of my sight, Quintin, you traitor! Still trying to stab us in the back from beyond the grave?! What can you do!? Nothing. You're dead."

So saying, Edward renewed his efforts to move his scissors. Quintin's figure faded.

But one shoulder, and the attached arm, faintly remained. The arm raised; the index finger extended.

Quintin seemed to be trying to draw attention to something. By now, even the tip of his finger was barely visible. But Jennifer saw.

It was the black metal slab in front of Beth's body.

It wasn't a realization fueled by reason, but instinct. And once it came to her, Jennifer started running.

She arrived at the slab bookended by the headless corpses. In the middle of the slab was a design - a twisted crucifix. Above it was a hole cut into the platform. Jennifer recognized its shape.

"Begone, spectre!" Edward shrieked.

Did that break Quintin's hold on Edward? Behind her, Jennifer heard the sound of running footsteps.

At the same time, she retrieved the idol from her belt pack. She compared the idol with the hole in the metal slab.

In was then that a familiar Voice crept into Jennifer's head.

Jennifer. We're of the same blood.

Paying the voice no mind, Jennifer pressed the idol into the hole.

Listen, Jennifer. Your mother was a Barrows.

Jennifer's hand stopped still.

I'm not lying. Otherwise, why would we have called your father all the way to the Barrows mansion? Why would we entrust such an important job to a little obstetrician who lived so far from us? Don't you see, Jennifer? The blood of the Barrows flows through your veins as well.

"Liar!!" she screamed, shoving the idol into the hole. It fit perfectly.

"JENNIFERRRRRRRRR!!!"

Jennifer turned around to find Edward four or five steps behind her, shears raised.

There was a rumbling. The earth began to shake beneath Jennifer's feet.

Jennifer collapsed. The rumbling grew so intense that she could no longer stand. Even Edward stopped in his tracks, still clutching his scissors.

There was a thunderous roar from beyond the metal slab. Jennifer peeked out - and then she saw.

On the other side of the cliff, far away, the blinded Madonna began to crumble. Massive shards of rock peeled from the wall and began to fall one after another, raising clouds of dust.

And behind the fallen Madonna was a solid square of blackness - a void.

No, not a void. A pitch-dark door. Massive, fearsome, black as night.

"I get it!" Jennifer shouted above the rumbling. "I know what I have to do!"

The tremors intensified, threatening to bring everything down around her.

"I have to open the door! And I know the spell -"

"STOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!!!" Edward howled with such ferocity it threatened to turn his throat inside out. Jennifer turned around to find Edward standing right in front of her - and fear upon his pale face for the first time.

Staggered, Edward aimed his scissors at Jennifer. Jennifer ducked; the scissors hit the pedestal in a shower of sparks.

Jennifer shouted, in a voice she had never known since birth: "OPEN THE DOOR!"

Edward recovered and once again thrust his scissors at Jennifer.

Jennifer fell to her side to avoid the blow. The sheer drop of the cliff was right beside her. She could see the stalagmites waiting for their prey far below.

"AND SHOW ME THE WAY!" Jennifer chanted the next line of the spell.

It was at that moment that Edward brought his scissors down.

And that the cavern was rocked by a singularly violent tremor.

The tips of the shears found their mark - in Jennifer's shoulder.

Jennifer pressed her hand to the wound to staunch the river of blood and screamed the final line: "N-HA EE SH*!"

The immense door that had appeared in the wall began to open.

Beyond was a sheer void. Something even thicker and blacker writhed within.

The wind began to howl - sucking the air out of the cavern, toward the door.

Almost instantaneously, the wind increased in force. It was like a hurricane.

Kay's body, then Barton's, began to slide along the ground. Kay reached the cliff, then tumbled shoulders over foot as she flew toward the door. Barton followed suit.

Jennifer, too, found herself dragged along the ground by the strong gales. Before she knew it, she was more than halfway over the cliff.

She reached out, and her arms found the metal pedestal. She desperately scrambled for purchase. Her body was flying out over the edge like a streamer.

The winds were incredibly fierce.

Edward's scissors flew from his hands. They grazed Jennifer's head as they whirled through the air and disappeared into the door. Edward threatened to follow; he managed two, three halting steps before flying into space himself.

He found himself helpless, blown away by the wind. He sailed over Jennifer's head, following his scissors.

And as he did, his arms latched onto Jennifer's waist.

His sharp little fingers dug into her sides like talons. His grip was like iron. It threatened to crush Jennifer's organs.

Jennifer's hands began to slip from the pedestal. Her arms strained under the weight of two people.

Jennifer.

The Voice once again slipped into Jennifer's mind. The corpses are being brought to the Great Father. So it is with all who die by my hand.

Jennifer couldn't guess where Edward was going with this - and she couldn't see his face.

Their souls can never be saved. They dwell for all eternity with the Great Father, suffering torments unimaginable to this world. The purest of agonies - pain beyond pain. Do you want them to experience that, Jennifer?

"What are you saying?" Jennifer's arms felt as if they were going to be pulled from their sockets. She had only seconds of strength left.

I'll be blunt. The same tortures are waiting for me on the other side of that door. I can't face that. It's a fate worse than death. But there's another spell - one that can save all the souls offered up to the Great Father. But only those of Barrows blood can speak it. Jennifer. Please. Say the spell. I'm begging you.

Slick with sweat, Jennifer's fingers began to slip from the pedestal.





And here we are at the end.

This will be the final door you will open.

If you grant Edward's request, open the door here.

If you refuse, open the door here.

Think this over very, very carefully.

But, of course, the choice is up to you.

Now - which door will you open?






CHAPTER SIX


"GO TO HELL!!" Jennifer screamed in rage. At the same time, her fingers slipped from the pedestal.

Edward shrieked.

Jennifer's body was carried away by the wind.

Edward released his grip. With a cry of despair, he was swallowed up by the other side of the door.

And so, too, was Jennifer - swallowed into the depths of the bottomless void.

The very last thing Jennifer saw was the pitch blackness of the door as it closed.

And then - at long last - Jennifer's nightmare was over.






EPILOGUE


Helen looked up to a clear blue sky and wiped the sweat from her brow.

Summer this year was unbearably hot.

A bird was singing.

Helen was in a cemetery on the outskirts of Oslo.

...The name "Oslo" means "Pasture of the Gods" in Old Norse.

Are we the sheep, then? Allowed to live for a brief time by the mercy of the gods?

Helen held a bouquet in her hands.

And where was the gods' mercy in that case? ...Was it even present to begin with?

She neared the grave that was her destination.

Jennifer Simpson.

So read the inscription.

Helen knelt down and offered her bouquet.

I survived. ...So did Nolan. And all either of us wanted was for Jennifer to return unharmed.

Jennifer's remains were never found.

Nolan couldn't accept Jennifer's death. He quit his job at the newspaper and took up freelancing - to continue searching for her.

But I've made up my mind. Jennifer is dead. And I have to accept that.

...Are you angry with me, Jennifer? Shocked at me - for being so cold?

Ultimately, Helen decided to abandon her work in profiling. She had no further desire to deal with crime - no more stomach for senseless death.

The summer was unbearably warm.

The bird once again began to sing.

Helen stood and returned the way she came.

Her nightmare was just beginning.




Death is the end of all our stories.

Don't you agree?

...Well, you shouldn't. Because it's a lie.

Death is merely a door to the world beyond.

Let me tell you something sweet:

There is no heaven.

Only hell.

Eternal pain and suffering - that is all that awaits you.

I am a disciple of the Great Father.

He who holds sway over tales of rotting guts and blood.

And it is I who have guided you this far.

...Aren't you grateful - for all that I have shown you?

~FIN~


ENDING COMPLETE.
YOUR ENDING RANK IS B






Proceed to Afterword from author Osamu Makino





CHAPTER SIX


"All right. We have a deal." Thoughts of all who had died up to this point flashed through Jennifer's mind. At least - at the very least - let me save their souls.

Good. There's no time. Repeat after me: Open the door--

"Open the door--"

--that lies within me.

"--that lies within me."

Sh* Ee N-ha.

"Sh* Ee N-ha."

Edward released his grip on Jennifer. He flew directly into the door straight behind him.

And he was laughing.

Loudly. In a way that was deeply, deeply wrong.

And he continued to laugh until he was dissolved into the darkness.

The door began to close. The wind began to stop.

Jennifer was borne low, and at last, she found herself dangling over the cliff.

The shaking, too, had somehow stopped.

"Jennifer!"

A voice was calling her; a hand had hold of her arm. Nolan.

Nolan pulled with all his might, and Jennifer clawed her way up the cliff.

The nightmare is over, Jennifer thought, cradled in Nolan's arms.






EPILOGUE


Jennifer was walking through a dense forest.

It had been over half a year since the incident.

No hiding the truth now. Not anymore, Jennifer muttered to herself, as she continued down a gravel path shrouded in thick fog.

She told Helen that she wanted to take a trip - that she needed a change of pace. Helen helped her make arrangements. Nolan offered to come with her - but Jennifer refused. She wanted to travel alone, she said.

No one could stop Jennifer. Just like when she came here before. Just as Helen and Nolan were previously convinced.

The castle came into view - the castle that was home to those of the accursed Barrows blood.

Jennifer pressed her hand to her abdomen. It occasionally pulsed with a dull, heavy pain.

I've been had, Jennifer thought when she first realized what had happened. But she felt no hatred - no anger. The only emotion within her was determination - to make sure she gave birth safely.

Jennifer was pregnant.

She was also clueless about such matters - totally lacking in experience.

A dimensional portal had opened within her womb - from the spell Edward had taught her. And the sons of the Great Father had traveled through it, in the form of conception.

Her stomach began to show - to the point where she could no longer beg it off with an excuse of "I've gained weight."

Jennifer intended to give birth at Barrows Castle.

She was being manipulated - by the unborn children within her.

And at times, she realized this. But in the next moment, she would be overwhelmed by love, by adoration, for her darling children - and all other concerns would quickly recede.

Jennifer arrived at the gate. Knowingly, it opened.

Jennifer opened her eyes wide and peered down the dark corridor before her. There were figures clad in black robes - waiting for her. Jennifer knew who they were: the remnants of the Barrows clan. Not all of them had left England. Some had stayed - to worship their pagan god. They all greeted her with blessings, words of joy - with congratulations.

At the center of the great hall, a priest was waiting, holding a black dagger.

Jennifer walked to the priest, and waited.

She had to fulfill her final duty - to obtain her children. Her final duty as a mother. As the Holy Madonna birthing the Children of Darkness.

The black priest raised the dagger and began to chant a spell.

As its sharp tip neared her open eyes, Jennifer watched with an expression of pure ecstasy.






Congratulations on making it this far.

Your judgment was sound.

Darkness will always triumph over light.

And humans have only despair and terror waiting for them.

I am a disciple of the Great Father, he who holds sway over tales of rotting guts and blood.

And it is I who have delivered despair unto you.

~FIN~


ENDING COMPLETE.
YOUR ENDING RANK IS C






Proceed to Afterword from author Osamu Makino





CHAPTER FIVE


Little John from the big castle
Plays with a little girl
Stab, stab, stab
She loses her sight
Bright white, bright white


The dead children continued their singing as they left the room.

"I wonder what they were trying to tell us?"

"Who knows? I'm not personally inclined to follow the lead of dead people. Anyhow - let's get out of this room already. Scissorman could come back at any moment." The pair left the chamber with the pile of bones to wander the castle in search of Helen and the others.

The castle was like a labyrinth. Long corridors that twisted and turned endlessly; hidden rooms; hidden doors. All seemed positioned solely to obliterate one's sense of direction.

At last, the two happened upon a light at the end of their tunnel. Not from a lamp, however: this light was bright, and warm. As they approached, it became clear to Jennifer and Nolan that the light came from a half-open door. They closed the distance, and Jennifer gently grasped the knob.

After a glance to Nolan - Open sesame, her eyes said - Jennifer pulled it wide open.

The other side was flooded with light. Jennifer's eyes narrowed from the brilliance.

She was in an open garden - one that had lain untended for 80 years. Weeds blossomed in profusion; limbs grew unruly-like from their trees. The sun was already setting. But as weak and faint as the light was, it was a far cry from the dark, dank castle.

The light of the sun and the green of the trees blessed this spot in Barrows Castle. For that alone, this overgrown garden was to Jennifer nothing less than paradise.

But as long as Scissorman was out there, there could be no heaven here.

"Look! There's someone over there!" Jennifer pointed. She had spotted a man in a business suit, leaning against a great pine whose thick roots swelled from the earth.

"Professor Barton!" Jennifer ran toward the man, stepped in front - and gave a long, loud scream.

Nolan broke out in a run.

In front of the professor lay Beth, sprawled in a disheveled heap. Her eyes bulged from their sockets; her tongue lolled long from her gaping mouth, threatening to escape her oral cavity. Vomit soiled her mouth and neck.

Barton sat leaning against the trunk of the pine - a screwdriver driven deep into his skull, its red handle protruding from his left ear. Barton gaped glassily at the sky, as if gazing at the passing clouds. He no longer drew breath.

"Jennifer!" Nolan violently shook a still-screaming Jennifer by the shoulders. "Jennifer, get a hold of yourself!"

"Professor Barton..." Jennifer managed, her face sheet white. "--Scissorman! Scissorman - he's here somewhere!"

"Jennifer, calm down! ...This doesn't have anything to do with Scissorman." Nolan looked down at the two corpses as he spoke. "The scissors, remember!? There's no sign that they were stabbed with scissors. Scissorman just can't resist chopping people into bits, right? It's his favorite game. This is way too clean for him."

Nolan caught sight of Jennifer's face and muttered: "Sorry. Poor choice of words."

"Then how do you think this all happened?"

"Well, it's not like I have the answer, but--"

"--Helen! Helen could be here somewhere!"

The two searched the vast garden, overgrown with its untended shrubs and plants. Helen, however, was nowhere to be found.

"Helen! Helen!"

"Jennifer, over here," Nolan beckoned. He was standing in front of a man-made pond ringed with stone, his attention caught by something within.

No - Helen couldn't be... Jennifer ran toward Nolan, as if to escape the horrible premonition forming in her mind.

"Look here."

The sight Jennifer feared was absent. Instead, the water had been drained, leaving a sludgy bottom. In the center was a square hole that looked like it had been gouged out with a butter knife.

"Look - there's a ladder here." Nolan had entered the pond and was attempting to peer down the hole.

"It seems unlikely that Helen could have made it out of here on her own."

"But it's possible!" Jennifer joined Nolan in his peering. Midway, the ladder disappeared into the darkness, with what lay beyond not visible.

"Gentlemen first!" Jennifer gestured toward the hole like a doorman.

"Me!?" Nolan pointed at himself. Jennifer nodded. "...Well, all right." Nolan disappeared into the darkness. Jennifer followed suit.

The hole was devoid of light. Looking downward yielded only the sight of neverending darkness. Jennifer began to worry that it might have swallowed Nolan whole.

Then a "Did you say something?" echoed from below in Nolan's voice, and Jennifer's fears were, for the time being, dispelled.

"I was thinking about Prof. Barton and Beth. You said it had nothing to do with Scissorman, but...I think it might."

"How so?"

"Beth looked as if she might have been strangled. There were bruises on her neck."

"You got good eyes."

"Just observant. Unlike certain reporters I know."

"No friends of mine, I'm sure. So?"

"So - it's just a hunch, but...I wonder if they killed each other - had some sort of fight."

"What? Why would Barton and Beth fight?"

"His Voice!"

"His 'voice'?"

"I told you before, remember? Scissorman uses his Voice to manipulate people. Like Prof. Barton and Beth - they must have been manipulated by Scissorman!"

"So you're saying that's why they killed each other?"

"You don't believe me?"

There was no answer.

"Nolan? ...Nolan!"

"...Sorry," came a reply from below. "I slipped. My hands are sweaty."

The ladder seemed endless; it seemed as if it were plunging into hell itself. To Jennifer, it felt like hours since the descent began. Initially, Jennifer and Nolan were calling back and forth to each other; now, though, their descent continued in silence. The only sound that greeted Jennifer's ears was her own ragged breath.

Jennifer's actions were mechanical; she no longer knew if she were going up or down. As soon as she thought she could take no more, the soles of her shoes at long last touched ground.

The two had reached a tunnel - much wider than the one they had just descended. The large cave was lined with lamps at even intervals that illuminated the rock wall, which shimmered as if wet.

A wall appeared in front of her - and a door.

A door gouged - excavated - out of the wall of stone before her, dead in its center. It was made of the same pitch-black metal as the idol. In its center was the same crucifix and skull design, carved in relief.

Nolan gripped the knob and opened the ponderous door.

The scene within took Nolan and Jennifer's breath away.

A vast cavern gaped before them - vast enough to hold two baseball fields at once. The entire cavern was dimly lit, as if light were filtering in from somewhere.

We're not supposed to be here, Jennifer thought, dumbstruck. ...No one is.

Everything in this tomb of rock was somehow disquieting. The atmosphere put one's nerves on edge. The very environment seemed to reject human presence.

"Help!!"

There was a scream - a woman's.

"Kay!"

Kay - normally so dispassionate - was scrambling toward them in a blind panic, her hair wild.

"Please - help me!!"

"What? What happened?!" Jennifer asked - and as she did, from behind her, she heard a dull sound, like a sandbag being thumped with a stick.

Jennifer turned around.

Edward was standing there. Carrying a pair of scissors taller than he was.

"Jennifer! I've been waiting so long!"

Edward smiled. It was so beautiful it almost inspired you to smile back.

Nolan was lying face down on the ground, bleeding from his head.

"Jennifer." Jennifer felt herself gripped from behind. Kay.

"Kay...so Edward was Scissorman."

"Yes." Kay held Jennifer tightly in her arms.

"What are you doing?"

"Didn't I tell you to be careful?!" Kay whispered in Jennifer's ear.

"And you're..."

"Let's play again, Jennifer!" said Edward, beaming with true glee. "I love playing with you, Jennifer. It's my favorite game - and you're my favorite playmate! So - let's begin."

Edward opened his scissors.

And pointed them at Jennifer.

"Stop!!" Jennifer screamed.

Shing.

Again, the sound Jennifer could never escape reverberated through the cavern.

But it no longer troubled her. Her head was already flying from her shoulders.

Edward laughed. Long, and loud, and endlessly.






EPILOGUE


With the decrepit old castle as a backdrop, the TV reporter continued her grief-stricken monologue.

"Bodies continue to be taken from the castle, one after another - most of them, with their heads severed. Details remain unknown, but the witness who notified the police, Kay Satterwhite, claims the perpetrator was Scissorman. Ms. Satterwhite, however, is reported to be in a delusional state, and the truth of her statements remains unclear. Has Scissorman reappeared - this time, here in England? Or is this the second coming of Jack the Ripper? ...Wait - it seems they've just discovered a survivor! Let's cut to him now!"

The cameraman, who had been focused squarely on the reporter, put down his camera with a sigh. The make-up person flew in and began to fuss with the reporter's hair.

"Ike, let me have a look, too," said the reporter, her hair still being brushed. A man looking at a tiny monitor turned the screen to face the reporter. It showed the rescued survivor being carried to an ambulance on a stretcher.

The camera zoomed in on the stretcher, revealing the face of the survivor - a child, still quite young.

"Ohhhhh, what an adorable little boy!" the reporter squealed.

"Doesn't look so cute to me."

"Bozo." The reporter lightly thwapped the impudent staffer on the head. "Anyhow - you just know this is all the handiwork of some freak. Right? And he's probably miles away by now - the police one step behind, as usual. I'm sure they'll find some way to screw things up royally this time, too. Who knows? Maybe they have already."

On the monitor, the ambulance drove away, disappearing into the forest.





Allow me to express my gratitude.

What a wondrously happy ending you found!

Each and every door, you chose with me in mind - didn't you?

That's right. All stories lead to death and terror.

As your choices only serve to illustrate.

I am a disciple of the Great Father.

He who holds sway over tales of rotting guts and blood.

Next time, do me the favor of allowing me to lead you to your very own conclusion.

~FIN~


ENDING COMPLETE.
YOUR ENDING RANK IS D







Proceed to Afterword from author Osamu Makino






AFTERWORD


Note: Though we've just concluded a narrative of rampant scissor murder, Makino's afterword, while obviously not meant to be taken seriously, makes heavy use of suicide jokes in a typical '90s manner, which you may not be in the mood to read.


It was a winter night, dark as pitch.

I was watching the setting sun in a gloomy state of mind. Behind me, my son, not yet one year old, was crying. His voice was weak; his cry, hopeless. We hadn't had milk in two days.

My wife, fighting heart pains, spoke from her damp futon: "Dear, you should just give up. Since Mouse released at the beginning of last year - on sale now, to rave reviews! - you haven't had a single book come out, have you? I knew it was no use you trying to become an author! *cough* *cough* *cough*"

"Perhaps you're right..." I nodded. Since writing my masterpiece Mouse - a tale of boys playing with illusions; on sale now, to rave reviews, from Hayakawa Publishing! - I indeed had not put out a single book. My savings were spent. The only road left to me was...

Family Suicide

I envisioned the headline in thick Ming typeface, taking a 90° turn midway on the newspaper page.

"Dear, here - for you. *cough cough*, *hack hack*, *BLECK*." My wife began to hack up blood. I wiped the fresh blood from the tatami mat with a rag and looked at what my wife proffered in her hand: a medicine bottle with a skull and crossbones. It was clear as day that this was poison.

Then it happened: the phone rang. I scrambled for the received and shoved it to my lips with such force I busted out two of my front teeth. Blood dripping from my mouth, I said: "Hewwo?"

"Ah! This is K from ASCII. Sorry for being out of contact for so long!"

It was a request for a script.

Thank you, K. Thank you, ASCII. Now I can eat rice again. Tears streaming down my face, I continued to dance in gratitude to my editor like a madman.

Several days later, I was at a coffeeshop in Shinjuku - for a meeting. Eventually, my supervisor for this job, Ms. K, arrived, brandishing a giant pair of scissors. I was impressed: Wow. She really is a horror editor.

"I'm K, from ASCII! Pleased to meet you! I brought these just so you'd recognize me." K placed the scissors on the table and, after wiping the sweat from her brow, offered me her business card.

"Same heah! Pleased to meetchu." (My two front teeth were still busted out.) Still, the meeting concluded successfully, and several days later, a PlayStation and Clock Tower 2 arrived at my humble home. And so, my days of battling Scissorman began.

Now, you have one of two choices to make. Either you buy this book, thinking it looks interesting, and you begin reading it from the very start. You want to know how the story in this afterword ends, and so you buy and read the Clock Tower 2 Adventure Novel: Helen's Part, to be released several days later.

The humble author and the Makino family pray from the bottom of their hearts that you will make the more virtuous choice.

And thank you - sincerely - to everyone who helped this book come to fruition.

- Osamu Makino, March 1997


Note: Osamu Makino's travails continue in the afterword to Helen's novel.




Novel by Osamu Makino. Translation by R. Capowski at RACapowski@sceneryrecalled.com; last updated 4/15/2023. Clock Tower is copyright Human, ASCII, Agetec, and Capcom, none of whom are associated with or sanction this document.
Translation notes:
- Though Helen and Jennifer's novels share numerous passages between them, I will be rewording passages where I'm not satisfied with my original work.
- Quintin's name is spelled correctly this time.
- The translation of the Völuspá used is by Henry Adams Bellows, in the public domain.
- The endings are not overtly ranked in the novel; the letter grades are my own addition. However, given the progression of the novel, the hierarchy of the endings is self-evident.
- All previous instances of "Burroughs" in previous versions of this document have been changed to "Barrows" just for simplicity's sake.
- Furigana in the text identify the early Barrowses as Marcher Lords ("maachaa roodo"). To my understanding, however, Marcher Lords concerned themselves with the border between England and Wales; the Barrows Castle is on the Scottish border, where the equivalent (and confusingly similarly-titled) office was a Lord Warden of the March. I've taken the liberty of substituting the appropriate title, though it is a deviation from the original text.
- I've used the English versions of "Little John from the Big Castle"; it's worth noting that the Japanese game uses the same English-language vocals and lyrics as the U.S. release. The Japanese lyrics printed in the novel are close enough to the English lyrics for a direct quote of the latter to be serviceable in the novel translation. A literal translation of the Japanese yields a few slight differences, recorded for posterity here:
"Little John from the big castle/plays with a happy boy/chop chop chop/he slashes his head/and out comes red water"
"Little John from the big castle/plays with a cute girl/chop chop chop/he slashes her eyes/and out comes white water"
- Quintin's chant as he carves a cross into his chest is taken from the ritual of the Kabbalistic Cross, from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The full chant, "Ateh Malkuth ve-Geburah ve-Gedulah le-Olam," translates to "Thou art the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory, Amen." Quintin leaves out the "ve-Gedulah"/"and the Glory" part; it is unknown if this is intentional or accidental.
Also: Hey! If you need help with performing the Kabbalistic Cross to create your own Scissorman-banishing dagger, WikiHow has you covered!
- I took a small liberty in the last lines before the epilogue in the A ending: the final line was originally in Jennifer's voice ("Yes. It's over") instead of that of the narration. Unfortunately, keeping that line in her voice in the syntax for the English translation ended up having Jennifer tell herself it was over twice in a row, which, in English, lent a sense of uncertainty (as if Jennifer was trying to convince herself of the fact) instead of the finality intended. I hope this small divergence is forgivable. If not, feel free to edit your copy of this document and substitute.
- No cheese opinions this time! Please enjoy your newly-acquired knowledge of Norwegian library law. Also, please enjoy this art installation from Oslo's real-life public library.