Fallen One (08)

Stefan Keller – Pixabay

It was late in the afternoon, and the neighborhood was strangely quiet. Jared walked the path from the street where he left his bike parked in haste. He ascended the three wooden steps leading to the porch even faster. He now stood on the edge of the porch, the front door to the house only a few feet in front of him, hidden behind the aged screen door. All the windows and blinds that he could see were closed, and those few feet to the door felt like a mile.

He held the crumpled note in his hand. Nothing had changed. He had read it several times now, but he felt compelled to look at it again. A name and an address were all that were there. It held the same address as the faded numbers on the house. The name he presumed was inside, hiding behind closed windows and doors or not hiding at all. Maybe the name was oblivious to his presence on the porch.

Maybe the name wasn’t even living there any longer. Maybe the name was dead.

Why was he so nervous? He had already asked himself that question a hundred times since he left the barn, and still, he hadn’t come up with a good reason. Standing in the presence of Landel, he was more than ready to face his past. And now?

Jared shoved the note in his pocket, his hands falling to his side. His fingers were quite animated as he stared at the screen door. It hung loosely, a little out of square. In its present condition, the screen door wouldn’t do much good. It was kind of the way he felt at the moment.

His vapid finger movements fell limp, giving way to the buildup of courage that had already started at a snail’s pace. A deep breath followed as he lifted his foot and stepped forward, a gust of wind blowing as he did. Now it was only half a mile to go.

With his other foot bringing up the rear, he took another look at the windows, his head jerking sideways, his progress abandoned as he stumbled back to the top step. The curtain was open for only a moment, and only by a few inches, but in that time and in those inches, he saw an eye. It must belong to the name. His fingers started dancing again until he heard the click of the lock and the squeak of the door. He backstepped to the middle tread, the wood groaning under his weight.

The eye reappeared through the screen door along with the rest of his face.

“You are on my porch, so I assume you want something.”

Jared looked down at his feet, off the porch, and on the step. It was an irritatingly small point. He let it go.

“Well?”

“I am looking for Detective Spaulding.”

Both eyes squinted, and a hand appeared, wiping his mouth. “Who the hell are you?”

Dancing fingers curled inward, gently at first. “Jared Cooper,” he said, his mouth suddenly dry. “My grandmother—”

“I know who she is.” The eyes looked this way and that. The door squeaked some more, and the screen door wobbled open. The flesh of Detective Spaulding’s face thrust forward. “Come inside.”

“Jared hesitated.”

“Now!” he barked before letting go of the screen.

Inside, Jared tread lightly, easing the door closed as he looked around the room. It had a certain lived-in look, that is, if you’re a former cop struggling with your past. He saw at least three ashtrays, placed in strategic locations, each of them at the heaping stage. The small table next to the recliner was home to ring stains and a heavy-bottomed glass tumbler holding an inch of amber liquid. The drink’s identity was a mystery to Jared as he looked at several open bottles of liquor on the coffee table and the one nearby on the floor.

His television was on but muted, an old game show in progress. A floor lamp was nearby, its shade removed, the exposed bulb nicotine stained. Clutters of newpapers, magazines, and dog hair filled in the rest of the scene.

He heard a noise in the kitchen. “Grab a seat,” Spaulding said, the sound of running water following.

Moving to the far end of the sofa, Jared chose the dog hair and sat down.

Former Detective Mike Spaulding walked around the corner, his face glistening from the encounter with water, his air slicked back. He almost looked like a new man. He walked into the living room, apologizing for nothing, and fell into his recliner. It received him with a leathery groan.

“You seem—nervous,” he said, offering nothing else. He crossed his fingers and raised his hands, hiding the lower part of his face behind them.

“You—you were the lead investigator in my mother’s murder?”

Spaulding’s eyes didn’t flinch. “And your grandfather’s as well,” he said, making a note of the young man’s omission.

“Uh, yeah,” Jared said, his eyes falling. “I didn’t know him that well.”

“Five years old,” the detective said, “or were you six?”

“It happened a week before my sixth birthday,” Jared said, the tension mounting. He gripped his knees. It didn’t help.

Spaulding dropped his hands and reached for his drink. “Yeah, well, I’m sorry for your losses.” He took a sip and set the glass down, carefully eying Jared as he did. “So, Mr. Cooper, what is it that you want from me?”

Jared’s fingers dug deep into his knees as he willed himself to look up and look Spaulding in the eyes. “I want to know what really happened.”

And with that response, it was Spaulding who now looked away and reached again for his glass. There was a pronounced tremor in his hand as he did. “What really happened,” he repeated, followed by a nervous chuckle. He lifted the glass off the table, where it hovered. He stared into the amber prism of the glass and held his gaze for some time before, in a moment of weakness, his fingers let slip the glass. It bounced on the table, the spray of liquor landing on his arm, leg, the table, and floor. But despite the calamity, he didn’t move. His empty hand was now holding nothing but air.

This story of Fallen One, is a first draft. I encourage anyone to provide comments, make suggestions, and point out problems.

Jared’s first meeting with Detective Spaulding is gripped in tension.

Comments welcome.

Have a great day.

Rollin

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