Fallen One (09)

Stefan Keller – Pixabay

Detective Spaulding pushed back in his chair, his hands raised to his face, covering his eyes. He remained like that for several moments, pushing against the floor with his feet, rocking. “I knew this was coming,” he said, weeping in his voice. “It all had to come back one of these days.” He pressed against his eyes, wiping them as he did. When he dropped his hands, a different face emerged, one filled with anguish and fear.

“Tell me about my grandmother, Detective Spaulding.”

His head began to wobble, fresh tears appearing. “Detective Spaulding,” he spat, the dribble cascading down his chin. “Not anymore,” he languished. “Not after that case.” He pushed himself up, leaning forward on his knees. “Oh God, I need a drink. Where did my glass go?”

Jared sat back, a wisp of disgust on his face as he watched Spaulding search for and finally find his glass and fill it. The first swallow came hard and heavy. The others followed in hand clutching sips as Spaulding leaned back again, the rocking resumed. His face changed yet again, eyes blinking, as he recalled the memory that was never far away.

“It was on a Saturday,” he began, eyes now wide. “Saturday afternoon when I pulled up at your grandmother’s. The call came from one of the neighbors reporting they heard a terrible ruckus.” He chuckled, the liquor sloshing as he did. “That’s the exact word they said.” He began to fade.

“Go on.”

“I climbed the steps to the porch, looking around as I did. The curtains were closed, and I couldn’t tell if any lights were on. There was only one car in the driveway, which turned out to be hers. I put my ear to the door for a second, listening. Hearing nothing, I knocked and announced myself.” He inched his glass higher and kept it in a holding pattern as fear shoved the edges of his eyes wider apart.

“Then I heard something, barely above a whisper, at least from where I was standing outside. I wasn’t certain what was being said, but it was a woman; that much was certain. And I did hear one word. Help.” The glass broke its holding pattern and rose steadily to his lips, tilting, the golden liquid entering his thin, pale lips.

“I called out and tried the doorknob. It was unlocked, and so I slipped inside, my gun in hand. Once inside, her whimpering could be easily heard. I swept through the house, ending up in her bedroom in the back corner.” He pressed the glass to his cheek. “The door was partly open when I got there. I could see her plain as day in the far corner, sitting on the floor. She was covered in blood and crying.”

Now it was Jared who leaned forward, his mouth open. The exchange of air in his lungs was laborious and loud, at least as breathing could be. He sounded like an overheated dog panting.

“Kicking the door in, I was stunned by what I found,” Spaulding said, pointing in the air, “I saw your mother, her body in a crumpled and bloody heap.” The tears flowed freely now, his voice interrupted by nearly continuous sniffling and occasional throat clearing. He didn’t look at Jared, who by now had turned to stone and yet tremored where he sat, tears trickling down his rocky cheeks.

“As the door swung open, it stopped abruptly. I rounded the edge, clearing the room of threats with my gun leveled, and found what had blocked the door.” He sipped again, a glistening drop clinging to his lip as he pulled the glass away. “Your grandfather was laying there, his clothes shredded and bloodied, a pool of blood surrounding him.” Spaulding looked up at the spinning ceiling fan and took a deep breath. “I, uh—I don’t know if I should tell you too many of the details. It’s really—”

“I want to hear it all,” Jared said, the stone breaking away under his swelling emotions.

“You can’t imagine the blood,” he stammered, leaning forward, reaching for the bottle. His fingers shook as they approached, painting the label with his fingertips before taking the final push and grabbing it. The neck of the bottle repeatedly tapped against the edge of the glass, the liquor convulsing its way out. “It was everywhere.” His finger swept the room, and his eyes followed. “Limbs had been separated from bodies, strewn about the floor. One of your mother’s arms rested in your grandmother’s lap, and she held its hand.”

Jared got up and stepped away, turning his back on Spaulding. He was beginning to doubt his resolve to hear the whole truth.

“You want a drink?”

Jared waved his hand while Spaulding put the bottle back on the table. “You’re grandmother was, oh, I don’t know, calm? At least calmer than I would have been if I had seen my husband and daughter slaughtered like that.”

Jared turned his head part way.

“She was covered in both of their blood. She had no injuries. We found no evidence of another person being in that room, and yet—”

Jared turned around and walked back. “And yet what?”

The two men locked eyes. “I never once believed that your grandmother was responsible for the murders.”

“Then why?” Jared was shocked to hear the detective’s confession.

Spaulding’s tone darkened, his words starting to slur. He pointed at Jared, holding the glass in the same hand, the surface of liquor tossing and turning as he moved his hand. “Well, for one, everyone thought she was crazy.” He let loose a mirthless chuckle. “When they took your mother’s arm away, she started throwing a fit. And when they tried to calm her down, she started ranting about some demon killing her daughter and husband. She kept screaming it over and over again. And just when you thought she would never stop, she did. She smiled, her eyes kind of bugged out, and she started laughing. She began to describe this demon in the vaguest of terms—tall—strong—wicked—piercing eyes, that sort of thing.”

A demon. No wonder they thought she was crazy. “But you obviously didn’t think she was crazy.”

“Now, I didn’t exactly say that,” Spaulding said. “I just don’t think she was responsible.” He slammed the glass down the table and jumped to his feet, taking a moment to get his balance. “How anyone could look at the evidence and point the finger at her?” He waved both hands. “She weighs what, 90 pounds at the most? A 90-pound old woman tore off arms and a head, shredding their chests, abdomens, and legs down to the bone?” Now his head started turning. “There was no way in hell.”

“Then, why was she accused?”

The mirthless chuckle returned, with eyes that matched. “The truth was that there was no way of explaining what happened. Your grandmother, already acting crazy, was an easy target. Just lock her up and bury what really happened. It was deemed best for the town.” He fell down in his chair, the frame groaning in response. “But I couldn’t go along with it. So—here I am.” He grinned.

“Early retirement.”

“Kicked out and told to keep my mouth shut.”

Jared shoved his hands deep in his pockets, stretching his back as he did. As the shock began to subside, he began to tumble it all around in his mind. “A demon,” he said, his eyes glimmering in wonder.

“That’s what she said,” Spaulding said. “Say, by the way, what brought you by my place anyhow? It wasn’t Landel by chance, was it?”

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

Jared continued talking with Detective Spaulding, and what he found out about the murders and his grandmother would change everything.

Comments welcome.

Have a great day.

Rollin

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