The sky roared a combination of wind and thunder, coalescing into a deep, rumbling boom. Frank sneered up through the pouring rain and screamed right back.
He yanked at his ring of keys still stuck in his pocket, the jagged end of a key entangled with a stray thread, and even through the pounding rain he could hear the sound of the pocket tearing when the key finally yanked free.
By the time he could get his car door open his outfit, which happened to be one of his good suits, was quite thoroughly soaked.
To his right he glanced over at the still glowing lights coming from Mary’s living room, and if he stared long enough he could see the shadow of her moving back and forth.
Just ten minutes prior he’d been standing in that very living room. Mary had been but one in a long chain of poorly conceived relationships. The smirk she had given him when he suggested where their relationship should go was all it took to make his blood begin to burn.
Her list of reasons as to why he had been misguided in even suggesting such a thing only added additional insult at his expense.
His tires squealed before finding purchase and sending him into the darkness. Every time the anger was the same, that boiling, raw emotion that left him incapable of doing anything until it finally subsided. He knew what he wanted to do, and when he approached a car stopped at a red light he nearly hit the gas just to slam his car into the back of them and cause a little misery in someone else’s life.
Frank was, he often mused, too pragmatic for his own good, and could never ignore the future enough to truly let himself go in the moment. Even with how furious he was as his car flew over wet roads, his speed still never went above five over the speed limit.
He pulled to a stop at yet another red light. There were no cars coming from either direction, and yet the light just remained red, mocking him by the fact that he didn’t dare go before it changed.
And while he scanned the road for any other vehicle he happened to notice the old house on the corner, or more importantly, the girl ducking in the entrance.
She had looked like a teenager, her hair a dull blonde, her face too obscured for him to get a good look at her. But what he’d seen of her body, she had a good figure, and he couldn’t imagine her face was any worse.
The light had apparently turned green, and an asshole had managed to pull up behind him in order to let him know by blaring their horn. Frank felt his fingers clench on the wheel, but he drove on, making it only a block before he realized what house it was the girl had ducked into.
He took the next right and doubled back around until he was parked along a side road just a few houses down from the abandoned one on the corner.
And yes, he knew the house was abandoned. Everyone in the area knew about that house, which had become a bit of a thrill for the local teens. The place had been empty about eight years prior when Frank himself was finishing up his trek through high school.
She might’ve been the last in a larger group to pass through the door. She certainly had company of some kind in her little thrill seeking, but what if she didn’t? What if she had decided to go it alone for the bigger thrill?
And she’d been good looking from what he’d seen. She’d been the exact kind of girl Frank had always stared at from afar for so long as his life had existed.
Slowly he killed his engine and pulled himself out of the car. His clothes were already soaked so badly it didn’t really matter if they got a little worse.
Frank found himself trudging through the wet grass along the side of the road towards the old house, and then over the fence into the backyard where no one would be able to see him.
The glass on the back door was cracked in a way to allow a person to stick their hand through the hole and open the door should they be so inclined. Rather than enter he hunched down and stared through the hole into the dark kitchen. He could almost see her by the doorway, her silhouette the only thing visible to him, but that was more than enough.
She seemed to be surveying the room, her movements tense and cautious. One thing was for certain: he didn’t see anyone else with her. After about a minute she turned her head away from the room, and disappeared into the darkness of the hallway.
The decision was made. It wasn’t enough to stop Frank’s heart from hammering away, nor did it stop his stomach from cramping up. Mary’s face was what made him reach through the door and click open the lock.
No one could possibly know this girl had snuck into the house, no one other then some friends of hers, and even if something did happen to her while she was hidden away from the world in this empty home, who would ever know it was Frank who had done it? The night would conceal his departure just as it had his entrance.
Floorboards creaked somewhere just around the corner of the hall. Frank glanced around but saw only darkness. He didn’t even see her silhouette as he crept down the dark hallway, only that continuous creak as feet moved slowly across the old, wooden floor.
The hall seemed to stretch on for farther than he would’ve thought, and suddenly he realized the boards had become silent. There were no footsteps anymore, just the steady drum of rain battering the roof up above. He took two more hesitant steps forward, and on the second one he felt the floor give out from under him.
A small, startled yelp was all he managed to utter before his face crash into what he knew was a step leading down. He tumbled down three more before he finally came to a finish just a few steps down from the bottom, his nose throbbing, his forehead bruised. Sharp pain pulsed through his right knee when he began to pull himself up.
For a few minutes he didn’t do anything but take up a seat on the steps and stare into the darkness of what he figured must be the basement. He found a smile creeping onto his face, and glanced around in search of the girl, not that he figured she was still anywhere near. She must’ve gone into the living room across from the hall rather than down it.
Now, after the commotion he’d raised, if she hadn’t already fled the place, she was probably running out. A short, small chuckle forced its way out of him, the laugh closer to a cry than anything else.
“You really are a fuck up,” Frank whispered to himself, and started to stand when he heard the voices.
Judging by the sound of them they were somewhere deeper within the home. There was an argument from the tones, a male and female yelling at each other, and Frank could swear it was from somewhere in the basement.
The floor at the bottom of the steps was carpeted, his eyes adjusted enough to the darkness to make out the white washed room he’d walked into, an old TV in the corner with a ratty sofa in front of it. Just a little farther in was a closed door, and behind it people were fighting.
Perhaps the girl hadn’t fled. His previous intentions weren’t what made him creep just a little closer to the door and press his ear against it.
He heard the deep thump before the girl cried out in pain. Frank pulled back from the door, cautious, his eyes darting to the stairs behind him.
As soon as he turned he heard the sound of the door behind him slamming open. His heart nearly stopped at the sound of the knob striking the drywall. He spun around to stare at the closed door, nothing different than it had been before, and yet he could hear the heavy footsteps of a large man walking across the carpet, even though Frank knew he was alone in the room.
“Can’t be,” he muttered, aware of the word already coming to him, the only word to explain the sounds.
Another scream, this one wet and throaty, nearly right next to him. He turned a full circle to take in the entire room only to confirm he was still alone. The loud thumps of someone getting hit repeatedly made Frank pull back until he realized his back was against the closed door.
The violence ended. A sick, gurgling cry silenced the rest of it. Only then did Frank notice the deep, labored breaths.
There was a single window built into the wall of the basement, located near the base of the stairs, and through it Frank could see the faint glow of a streetlight somewhere close by, along with the falling rain. And through that window a flash of lighting lit up the basement enough for Frank to see the image of a large man standing near the television in the corner, along with the body of a young girl, wet and shining in the light.
In those few seconds that the harsh glare filled the room Frank saw the man’s head turn towards him, saw the dark face taking him in, eyes nothing but black circles built into a pudgy face.
“You aren’t taking her away from me,” the man whispered, the voice not quite coming from the dark figure but from all around the room, and Frank saw the blood dripping from the man’s thick hands.
Frank tore open the door behind him and plunged into the darkness beyond. He prayed there was some other exit, something to get him away from the footsteps he could hear pounding down the hallway after him.
So far away from the window Frank’s vision dimmed, only the vague outline of walls and doors visible to him.
“Get out of my home,” the man roared, the voice coming from the ceiling, the walls, engulfing Frank like a living force.
He didn’t notice the wall marking the end of the hallway in time to stop from colliding with it. Frank managed to bring up his hands just in time, only to slam right through the thin sheet of white paper that had been put in place to hide what lay at the true end of the hallway.
This time Frank had his arms up to protect his face before he collided with the cement floor.
The vile stench forced Frank to pull back, and before he could help it he felt the stomach acid burning the back of his throat.
He had never been confronted with a stench so strong. He could almost feel it seeping into his pores, burning his eyes, soaking his clothes with filth.
There was no stopping what he knew he had to do next. Whatever had been following him was gone, Frank alone as he pulled the damp packet of matches from his pocket. The first three he tore loose were too soaked to do him any good, but the fourth sparked to life.
Lying near the wall to his left was the man he had seen only a dark visage of. A rusted shotgun remained clamped in his decaying fingers, his face lost to the shot that had ended his life.
The real sight lay on the other side of the room, where the battered, decaying corpse of a young girl had been gently put to rest in an open casket. Up above her a portrait was stuck on the wall, a painting done of a young blonde woman who Frank knew he had seen sneaking into the entrance of the house.
Years of decay and the violence of her passing removed whatever beauty had once existed in the corpse lying in the casket. At least there were no insects swarming over the corpses, which had left them sickeningly preserved for Frank to see.
Their names escaped him, but Frank still knew who they were. The man and his daughter had lived here around the time of Frank’s birth, when talk had always circulated about what the father had really been up to with the daughter he kept secreted away from the rest of the world, until the day both simply vanished, never to be seen again.
Frank had overheard from the older children at his school that most believed the two had simply left for another city, but there were other claims, such as those dealing with a night when the daughter had denied her father’s horrific advances.
And Frank himself, he briefly thought while standing in that room surrounded by the stink of death, had been intending quite a similar act when he had first entered this home.
He stumbled away from the torn wall, down the hallway, until he emerged into the room with the stairs, and the room the girl had lost her life in.
Frank couldn’t get his mind to slow until he had left through the kitchen door and back out into the cold rain. The world remained a dark blur up until Frank sat behind the wheel of his car.
He pulled his cell phone from the glove box. “You’ll call the police,” he told himself, “and tell them what you found, but you won’t say who you are. You’ll just tell them what you found.”
Yes, the idea sounded good. He’d let them know and let them remove that poor child from her improper burial. He’d let them free her from the fate something in him knew she suffered over and over again.
That was the right thing to do. Frank would do what was right. He was a good, upstanding citizen after all. He’d never broken any laws. Intentions didn’t mean anything. They didn’t say a single, goddamn thing about who he was as a person, he thought to himself. He hadn’t done anything to her.
That was all that mattered.
By Philip Roberts