Chapter 19: Behind Closed Doors
I really didn’t know what I was going to do as I went up onto the front porch. Should I knock or just bust in? If he was in there with Summer’s stolen corpse in the midst of some ritual, I wanted to hit him by surprise. If I knocked, that would give him warning. He could hide anything sinister he was doing and put on that boyish charm. I kept thinking what he had said standing over his brother’s grave. ‘I think I might get in her skin tonight.’ My hand was half raised to knock when I felt her behind me. “Summer, go back to the car,” I whispered.
“No, Cole. This is wrong. Something is not right here. Darnell might be a lot of things, but he’s not one to conjure up the dead. Especially not his brother. They barely even got along.”
“How do you know this? Are you remembering something?”
“I just have this feeling. This isn’t what it looks like. Please don’t go in there and hurt Darnell.”
“Why? What’s your concern with him?” I reeled on her. “Is there something you want to tell me?”
“No, I just don’t want anyone to get hurt. You are angry and you’re chasing shadows.”
“Beats the hell out of talking to ghosts,” I snapped. “Now go back to the car.”
She didn’t budge. Why does every female ghost I run across have to be so damn stubborn?
I must have said it aloud because I swore she smiled just as I put my hand on the doorknob. It turned in my hand. I put my hand inside my jacket for my gun, but remembered she had asked me to leave it in the car. I sighed and slowly eased the door open. I was going in.
She was right behind me, though I think I was just as quiet as she. Thankfully the wood floors didn’t creak, and there was enough light filtering in through a skylight to guide my way.
The Dean household was large and richly furnished. I stepped lightly, exploring the rooms as I went. A kitchen, a bathroom, a study. The rooms were immaculate and something suggested to me that it was all for show. Under the wealthy facade, a darkness lurked here.
Where would he be hiding the body? And where exactly was Darnell? I came to a closed door and put my hand on the knob. It was warm. Someone had been through here recently. I slowly turned the brass handle and it opened with a light creak. I stopped and waited for the silence again. Then I eased it the rest of the way open.
A sparse bare bulb lit a stairway going down into the basement. I looked behind me. Summer wasn’t there. Where the hell did she go? I knew she followed me in. Reflex made me want to whisper her name, but I didn’t say anything. I needed the element of surprise.
I started down the stairs, slowly making my way step by step. Reaching the bottom, I noticed there was a big crate right in the middle of the floor. It was just about the right size for a body to fit in. I walked over to it. I checked to see if its lid was nailed down. It wasn’t.
I slid the lid away from it, slow and cautious. I had a brief thought I was stuck in an old vampire movie and was getting ready to face Dracula. But there was nothing inside the box. It was empty, except for a fine layer of dust. I ran my finger through it and put it up to my nose. Sawdust. Nothing sinister there, but maybe he had moved the body. Maybe the ritual was already complete and her body was now occupied by…
There was a creak on the stairs. I spun around, instantly wishing I had my gun on me.
“Winter,” Darnell hissed, standing there on the steps. In his hand he held a pump action shotgun. “I don’t recall inviting you in to my house.”
I looked back at the crate. “What did you do with the body?”
“Whose body?” he asked, the gun trained on me.
“Oh, you’re real sick. What would I want with a dead girl’s body?”
“I was in the cemetery earlier, Darnell. I saw you at your brother’s grave.”
“I heard what you said, about getting into her skin.”
The shotgun didn’t waver in his steady hand. “And you think that meant I was going to do what exactly?”
“Bring your brother back in her body.”
He laughed and shook his head. “You are more far gone than I thought. No wonder you’re not a cop anymore.”
“Darnell,” a voice whispered from the top of the stairs. “Is everything okay?”
His eyes never left me. “It’s okay Andrea, go back to bed.”
I caught a glimpse of a girl wrapped in a blanket standing at the top of the stairs. It was the same one from Joel Caden’s attic. She nodded sleepily and disappeared from the doorway.
“That’s whose skin I was getting in to,” Darnell grinned slyly. “Not some sick raising the dead crap you seem obsessed with.” He came down to the bottom of the steps, the gun still trained on me. “You know I got you dead to rights if I wanted. I could blow your brains out right here and claim I caught an intruder. It would serve you right for murdering my brother.”
“Your brother was the Kaleidoscope..”
“Shut up!” he cocked the gun. “He was not, you friggin liar!”
He marched around me, as if I were the walls of a city he had just conquered. I kept my eyes on his trigger finger. If he pulled it, I was dead. Nothing would save me from that. I had made a mistake and it was going to cost me.
“But I think I’ll just let the real cops handle this one. I already called them before I came down here. Your old pals should be here to arrest you shortly. Breaking and entering isn’t such a big deal these days, but maybe it will give you time to think what a screw up you are.” He pointed to the stairs with the gun. “Up you go”, he commanded.
Could I have been wrong? All my suspicions about Darnell wanting to resurrect his brother somehow? I stopped halfway up the steps.
“What was in the crate, Darnell?”
The gun barrel touched my back. “Keep moving.”
I started back up the staircase. When I reached the top, he prodded me away from the doorway and into the hall. Andrea looked fearfully out of the bedroom and then closed the door behind her.
“We’ll just wait on the porch,” Darnell spoke between clenched teeth. I got the impression he was fighting the urge on whether to shoot me in the back or not. “You’re wrong about us. You always have been.”
He moved me outside, and just as we got on the porch I saw the sheriff’s car pull up. Damn, it just had to be Deacon himself, didn’t it? Another cop car pulled up behind him.
I felt the gun barrel leave my back and I knew Darnell was standing down. He had the police here now. Deacon was coming up the porch, his normal swagger more pronounced as if this was a day he had been waiting for.
“What’s the problem here, fellas?” he asked, coming to a stop at the foot of the porch.
“This fool broke into my house,” Darnell said.
“Why does that not surprise me?” the sheriff replied sarcastically.
They waited for me to say something in my defense, but I wasn’t looking at them. I was looking beyond the sheriff’s car where Summer stood. She was in the middle of the street and I swore for a minute she almost seemed to be smiling.
She had tried to tell me something wasn’t right about all this. She’d tried to stop me from going in there and making a fool of myself. Why didn’t I ever listen to the women in my life?
“Cole,” Sheriff Deacon spoke, bringing me back to the moment. “You know the procedure.” I hung my head and held my hands out. He put the handcuffs around my wrist. “I just knew this was going to happen eventually.”
“Deacon..” I began.
He cut me off. “Save it for your statement.” He nudged me off the porch and towards the car. I looked over my shoulder to where Darnell stood on the porch.
Andrea had come out wrapped up in his robe, and the officers from the other car were questioning them both.
Deacon opened up the rear door of his cruiser. “Watch your head,” he said almost automatically. He placed his hand on my shoulder, carefully pushing me down and inside the car. He closed the door and turned back to the Dean house. I watched him walk back up to the porch. He exchanged a few words with his guys and then came back to the car.
He got in behind the wheel and turned his head around to look at me. “If I put you in the front seat are you going to behave yourself?”
I thought this was an unusual question, and definitely not part of arresting procedure, but I nodded.
He started the car. “We’ll wait until we are out of sight,” he said, gesturing to those up on the porch.
Someone else slipped into the back seat with me. Of course they didn’t open the door first. She didn’t have to. Summer could go anywhere she wanted. Now she was coming along for the ride. “I told you so,” she whispered with a shake of her head. I wanted to tell her to get out, but I thought Deacon would think I was talking to him.
So instead the three of us, a Sheriff, an idiot, and a ghost, would all be riding in the same car downtown.
“Advocate For The Dead 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.