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.
“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.
“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.
Have a great day.