In case you missed it (shame on you):
Karen’s Explorer inched to a stop in front of the Parish home.
“Do you believe officer Emmert’s voicemail?” Asked Allen.
“Not really,” returned Karen.
“You don’t sound so sure.”
“Because I am not. Think of it: a time lapse of three hours is less believable than everything else we have heard.”
“It would explain why emergency services arrived hours after he did.”
She turned to him and scoffed.
“That is fictional at best. He was—and probably still is—in shock from what happened and it is logical that he is exaggerating that fact. I mean, you don’t go into a home for less than ten minutes and come out and have it be hours later. It just doesn’t make sense,” Karen opened the door and stepped out into the frigid twilight. “Are you ready?”
“Always,” said Allen.
A cloudless sky filled with a gibbous moon and dazzling stars offered adequate brightness and Allen and Karen took care regardless as they navigated the slick driveway adjacent to the dark, two-story home. The yellow tape that once partitioned the yard from the rest of Perry Lane was taken down. It was still regarded as an active crime scene and they knew the consequences of breaking and entering under these circumstances.
“It just seems vacant,” said Karen.
“I know. Almost as if nothing ever happened.”
Their boots fell through the firm, calf-deep snow with a crunch as they circled around the attached single-bay garage and to the rear of the home. A set of deep imprints described by officer Emmert remained. Allen pushed the button on his flashlight and scanned to the tree line that began on their left.
“Look,” he said.
“They stop as he said they did,” she paused. “We should check it out when we leave.”
Yellow tape crisscrossed over the back door and a thick overhang of ice threatened off the simple awning.
“Hold this,” said Allen as he produced a knife. “Let me get the door.”
Karen took the flashlight and shined it on the door. Allen flicked open his clip point and sliced at the seam. He tried the knob. Nothing. Allen then rammed his shoulder into the solid wood. Twice.
“We’re going to have to break the window.”
“Wouldn’t someone hear us?”
“Probably. Getting cold feet? That’s not like you.”
“You’re enjoying this a little too much, huh?”
“Caught me red-handed.”
“Just make sure we don’t get caught red-handed.”
Allen smirked before pivoting his body. He drove his elbow into the single square pane closest to the knob and the glass shattered on the first blow.
“I’ll start recording once we’re in… ladies first,” he said.
Karen cautiously lead with anxious steps and over-zealous swipes of the flashlight that cut through the darkness of the Parish home, and Allen followed. Winter coats hung on either side of the spacious mudroom and below them were a line of boots flush against the baseboards.
“I count five. And look,” Karen lowered to the second largest pair. “What do you make of this?”
He pointed the video camera to her light.
“I don’t know. It could be snow from earlier in the day. I’d guess there is a lot of traffic in-and-out as they continue to investigate.”
The door leading to the kitchen was ajar and Karen pushed it open with her free hand. It opened with a shrill whine that reverberated off dormant appliances and disused cabinets. Her breath escaped with drastic bursts that matched the cadence of her lungs. Allen steadied the camera forward and made a point to leave the door open. Her light was now fixed on the table centered atop the kitchen’s laminate flooring.
“This must be where the police found the note,” she said.
“Look at that,” Allen tapped her shoulder and shot a finger to the corner opposite of them. “Do you think that is a bloodstain?”
She nodded in quiet affirmation.
A sudden chill crept underneath Allen’s clothes and penetrated his skin. Karen felt it too as her shudder is apparent. “This must be where they found the rest of the family,” she said.
The beam of the flashlight traces across the carpet, revealing several spots of removed carpet. Allen guessed this was the forensic team’s doing. What laid below was stained plywood that wept in crimson sorrow. He averts his eyes in a futile attempt to banish the spontaneous influx of horrific images that seared his mind from Officer Emmert’s vague recollection during their interview earlier that day.
“Why do you think there are no pictures?” Karen asked as she inspected the walls. “Allen? Did you hear me?”
“Huh? Sorry, what was that?”
He couldn’t confess that he had difficulty discerning her waning voice.
“Check out the walls. You can tell that there where pictures here for a long time, but now they’re all gone.”
Various splotches of faded rectangles and squares sat below tacks and finishing nails on the walls above the living room’s furniture. “Maybe the State Police took them? I don’t see any other answer than—
The rear doors shut with a faint crash and a phantom gust fills the room.
“Jesus that jumped me,” said Allen. “Are you almost ready to go?”
“What, are you now getting cold feet?”
“Let’s just check the other rooms and get out of here.”
Karen heard something within Allen’s irritated tone. It was subtle and she now felt the urgency of her primal brain pleading for them not to linger. They hurried through the foyer and to the room that Officer Emmert stated was closed when he arrived four nights past. A sitting area awaited behind that door and leather couches and chairs sandwiched between bookcases.
Unexpected icy winds temporarily seized the air from their lungs.
“There has to be a window opened somewhere.”
“But where? These ones are closed and even if they were open it isn’t windy,” said Allen as her light touched upon drawn curtains.
Karen didn’t respond. She only steps around a stout coffee table and makes for the bottom of the staircase at the opposite corner.
“Wait, do you hear that?” Karen asked.
“I don’t hear anything.”
“That’s just it! I am even having a hard time hearing you.”
Her voice trails off as she ascends to the second floor and Allen stops. It was barely noticeable, but his eyes caught a spiral-bound notebook below a chair below the opened stairwell. He crouches low to retrieve it. At the top corner was a dark smudge of writing that he could not decipher. Allen folded the notebook at the seam and stuck it inside his coat. He runs up the stairs as his curiosity is piqued and he knows Karen will want to know what lays within the pages.
Allen runs up the stairs.
The weak glow of her flashlight flits through the rails of the second floor banister, and to Allen’s disbelief, so does the snow.
© Copyright John Potts Jr 2016 – 2017
I took a break for a few days from writing and reading anything other than world events and fellow word-pressers. It was necessary. Writing is taxing on the mind and it is nice to take a short reprieve for my sanity.
I am a father and husband, so I need to give due attention to my family, too.
I do want to take a moment to spotlight a site that I follow, or rather, an undying respect and admiration I have towards modern horror.
I want to talk about Pen of the Damned.
Launched by co-founders Joseph A. Pinto (author of “Dusk and Summer” and “Flowers for Evelen”) and Nina D’Arcangela (co-owner of Sirens Call Publications and Phrenic Press), Pen of the Damned offers horror and angst prose and short stories that are written by one of their elite members of published authors. The archives span back to April of 2012 and their stories are only of the highest quality.
I personally put whatever I am reading—be it Joe Hill, Jack Ketchum, or Robert Louis Stevenson (I read more than that, but you get it)—on the back burner whenever a story is posted there because frankly, they’re just that good. Above the gripping imagery of macabre pieces or the realism in a suspenseful tale of murderers doing what they do best, Pen of the Damn delivers every single time without failure.
I have never been disappointed, I have never walked away unsatisfied, and I have never questioned my time spent during this terrifying and wonderful experience.
You can find such authors as Lee Andrew Forman, Veronica Magenta Nero, Jon Olson—I mean hell! The list goes on and the talent runs deep.
Go read Pen of the Damned.
You’ll thank yourself later and you’ll also realize that modern horror radiates from dark epicenters such as this.
Now let’s talk about editing….
It is hard. Sometimes harder than writing itself. It is especially a mother fucker if you have a scatter-brain like I do. I find myself working overtime when I reintroduce my thoughts to a story that I haven’t touched in days or months. As I strive to have my glass-half-full mentality with any situation that I create for myself, I look at the pros:
- I can polish and rethink some concepts.
- I can tie aspects of character and story development together in an advantageous matter.
- I can reflect on my progression as a writer.
I think the last point is paramount to my evolution. Everything published on this site is “a work in progress”. Sometimes I go back and edit a single line, sometimes I take out a comma or add a semicolon here and there. Editing is a labor of love that must be taken with a positive outlook—be it on a story written in a single session or in multiple releases such as this—to be implemented with effectiveness.
I have gone 0-2 on my first publication attempt “Daily Visits” and I want to paraphrase something said earlier to me about rejections:
“Rejection means only that that a few people didn’t agree with your tale or thought that it simply didn’t fit.”
These are uplifting words that are certainly genuine. I think we need more of these nowadays, and I feel that every writer should take the time to ponder that rejection is just another attempt to find the right platform for you—the writer—to showcase the story the way you intended it to be.
I’ll be back much sooner with this stories conclusion and of course, Ghoul will be doing something ridiculous tomorrow. Last week he became a big brother, now he may make a snowman. Or he’ll try to understand what the hell a meme is. Maybe he will sing in a choir.
Possibilities are endless with him, ‘ya know?
I am focusing on publication attempts and an anthology of short stories that I have originally wanted to self-publish from the beginning. My father was a self-employed, self-sustaining artist and I want to continue that trend in the family. But then again, it has always been an aspiration of mine to become published first in the traditional sense.
Take it easy,
John Potts Jr