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Crime Fiction Thriller

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Surrounded by piles of old newspapers and trash, I ran the back of my arm across my sweaty forehead to keep flyaways from getting in my eyes. There hadn’t been much here worth saving, so I was mostly just stuffing everything my gloved hand touched into trash bags. I was attempting to push my foot forward through some empty cans when I lost my balance and ended up on my butt with an avalanche of useless objects falling on top of me. Disgusted, I started to dig my way out when something out of place caught my eye. Pausing in my effort, I reached down and plucked out a heart shaped box that hadn’t been visible before everything fell, but was now peaking out among the useless things. Its color had faded, but I could see that it used to be some shade of pink, maybe red. There was a pattern painted all around it with little flowers at each swirl's end.

I called out, “Hey Alan, come look at this!” The shuffling and crashing of objects being pushed aside gradually got louder until I saw the familiar form of my husband appear in the dark corner of the room I was slightly trapped in.

“What’d you find, Grace? Surely nothing of value in this dump.” He offered his hand and yanked me out of my avalanche, steadying me by his side. 

I held out my newfound treasure with a curious excitement on my face. He didn’t look impressed. I rolled my eyes lovingly and with a mischievous smile I said, “Oh come on, it’ll be fun. It feels like there’s stuff inside, let’s pry it open and see what these people were like.”

It had been a week since we purchased this land. Way out in the middle of nowhere, the twenty acres sat atop a hill in rural Western New York. We had been living in a cozy apartment in the city nearby, but with my new job in analytics, our cash flow was increasing enough that we felt it was a good time to look for a house. We perused the market for months before finally coming across it one night. Alan had called me over and showed me the ad. I was immediately put off by the self proclaimed “fixer-upper” in the title, but Alan convinced me that with his moderate knowledge and skill in carpentry and construction mixed with what he assured me would be enthusiastic help from his brothers, we would be able to get the place up and running in no time. 

Our lease on the apartment was up in two months, which meant we would be living here by then whether it was ready or not, so we hadn’t wasted any time getting started with the renovation. Unfortunately, the more time we spent here, the more work we uncovered it would need. Half the house had no electricity, there was no plumbing, the foundation was cracked, mold grew in every nook and cranny. The place was disgusting. 

Apparently, it had been owned by an elderly man who was known in town for being a weird and intimidating guy. A recluse in his later years, the only information we dug up was from our realtor claiming his kids hadn’t wanted anything to do with any of his stuff when he died. Rumor has it he was an alcoholic and made his family’s lives miserable. His wife had finally left without so much as a single word to any of them like ten years ago. After that, he was alone, living in squalor for the rest of his days. 

Alan and I made our way to our new, non-functioning kitchen. The lid of the box was stuck, so I grabbed a screwdriver and pried it off. Inside was a small mound of papers. We took them out and started looking through them. There were a couple of pictures of what must have originally been the whole family, but one corner was burnt up, clearly cutting someone out of them. 

“That’s kinda weird…” I said awkwardly. Alan made a noncommittal grunt in agreement and we continued on. The rest looked like notes or letters of some kind. Half of them were in pencil and had faded beyond reading over the years, but a few of them were legible. I held one in my hand as I read the shaky handwriting out loud.

“‘I am so done with her. If this is how she wants it, then I’ll show her just how much of an asshole I can be. Constantly bitching. All she does is just sit there all day and whine. I’m getting too old to deal with her shit. She better watch her mouth or next time I won’t be so nice…’ Wow, he seems lovely! He must have really hated his wife.”

“Yeah, I guess so. I can’t imagine that feeling,” Alan said with a small smile on his lips. I gave him a little “awe” as I put an arm around his waist and set the paper down. We skimmed the rest of the notes quickly, reading much of the same sentiment in each. It was a bit disturbing to say the least. I thought I might have actually understood why his kids seemed to want nothing to do with the man.

Two months later, the work on the house was finally finished. The sun was beginning to set that Friday after work, and we decided to take our chocolate lab Mocha for a walk on the recently mowed trails. The birds were settling down, their musical chirps replaced by those of crickets and the occasional rustle of deer we startled as we walked past. We made it to the little pond on the far side of the property and stood breathing in the cool early autumn air. Mocha wandered off, but we could still hear her crashing through the underbrush, so we let her be. 

A few minutes later, the noise stopped and I spoke softly, “There’s probably coyotes out here. I hope she’s okay. Maybe we should go get her.”

“Alright, let’s see what trouble she’s managed to get herself into.” We made our way towards where we had last heard her in some bushes on the edge of the water. Pushing our way through them, we spotted her in a small clearing just past the underbrush. She had started digging in the damp earth beneath a tree. As I looked up, I could see what was left of a tree stand of some kind; quite common for a backwoods town like this. 

When calling for her could not deter her from her task, we made our way over to her. “What are you getting into, naughty girl! You’re getting covered in dirt!” I scolded fondly, patting her back as I grabbed her collar to finally get her attention.

“Grace. Stop.” At the tone of Alan’s voice, I looked up at him and upon seeing his equally concerning face, I followed his line of sight to the ground next to me. The cool air suddenly got to me, sending shivers down my spine. Mocha had dug up what was very clearly a pile of bones, a human skull among them.

Surprised by my lack of surprise, I let out a shaky breath with three words escaping my lips as it passed. “He killed her.”

February 15, 2022 00:48

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2 comments

Audra Beberman
20:41 Feb 24, 2022

Hi Melody, Nice work! I'd love to know what happens next! I personally think that makes it a terrific story! :)

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David Phillips
22:07 Feb 23, 2022

Hi Melody, Great story. I really enjoyed how descriptive it was. I could picture what was happening and all the characters. Big thumbs up.

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