Somewhere in America
A Horror Short Story
Teddy – Part Two
“Mr. Phillips, I’m still not convinced it was Epilepsy.” The Inspector had been at the house for almost two hours now. He had come home with them along with the rest attending the wake and yet at eight o’clock at night he was the only one still remaining.
“You say the windows were closed?”
Mr. Phillips stared into his glass of brandy, slowly twirling the last of the ice with a straw. “I – I honestly don’t remember. Was it raining that night? I may have closed them if it was. I – I don’t know.”
The Inspector, who had other thoughts as to what had happened that night, stared at the bereaved man through narrowed eyes. The doctor had confirmed the epilepsy. But then the doctor was a good friend of Mr. Phillips. The Inspector shook his head. Something just didn’t sit right with him….
“Please Inspector, today has been very trying for me. Could you….”
“Of course. Of course… Your loss.” Out of habit the Inspector dusted off his pants and stood up from the little armchair where he had been perched most of the night. “I’ll come another time, perhaps tomorrow.”
Mr. Phillips looked away, something the Inspector didn’t fail to notice. “Yes, of course.”
“If you do find anything else though, please let me know, hmm? You still have my number?”
“Yes, yes. I do,” Mr. Phillips said, glancing at the semi legible scrawl on the sheet of paper beside the telephone. “I will. Thank you, Inspector.”
Mr. Phillips showed the Inspector to the door, closing and locking it after him. He then ran to the window where he pulled the curtain aside an inch to watch the Inspector as he stood beside his car staring out into the night before finally getting in and driving off. When his brake lights had faded into the distance Mr. Phillips let the curtain drop.
“My loss….” He muttered to no one as he walked back to the sofa, downing his last glass of brandy before pouring a new one. He appeared even older now than at the funeral.
Outside the storm had only gotten worse since the service. Peels of lightning lit the back windows with a yellow glow as thunder crackled loudly above the sound of the pouring sheets of rain dancing across the roof. He couldn’t remember a storm this bad since he was child.
He stared at the silent television set across from him, slowly sipping his brandy. When he finished it he poured himself another. And when he finished that he poured another….
He awoke with a start some time later. Just how long he didn’t know. But the thunder, while not completely gone, had lessened, and the rain outside was a gentle pitter-patter once more. He started to rise but fell back as his head reeled in protest. His face felt like a freight train had hit it sometime in the recent past. He rubbed his eyes to clear the fog from them, looking around. Something had woken him. Something had-
There it was again. He couldn’t tell where it had come from. Was that it? It sounded like something tapping against something. But it was only once and then it was gone.
He sat back, trying his best to pull himself out of the mist which covered him. It was just the wind, nothing more. This house was empty now. He laid his head back and closed his aching eyes.
“Empty. All empty,” he said to himself. “I’m not even here anymore. I’ve gone to that-”
The sound came again and he quickly opened his eyes, jarred by its suddenness in the midst of so much relative silence. It sounded like it had come from upstairs.
He blinked his eyes and stood up, fighting the urge to pass out. Probably a window left open. As he mounted the stairs his gaze fell upon a step a little further up. There was a strange spot on it. He bent down to look closer. It was red and shiny.
“But-but I cleaned those up,” he said to himself, frowning down at it. He shook his head. “Must have missed it.” But it was so shiny…. so…
He reached out with his finger to touch it, recoiling instinctively at the texture of the thick liquid. Hands shaking he stared at his finger. It wasn’t possible. He had cleaned it up. And yet it was still wet. And warm. So warm.
He looked to the next step and the next. Dots of blood speckled them here and there and, once, a thin smear ending in one little finger print.
He was shaking, unable to take his eyes off that mark. He remembered that print. Remembered wiping it up with a damp rag as his mind had raced, wondering what to do. It wasn’t possible.
From above came the sound again. Only it wasn’t a tapping sound now. It was more like a rolling sound. The unmistakable sound of a ball being bounced and rolled along the floor only to bump up against the wall and then repeat after a short pause. He touched his face, feeling the cold sweat which clung to it like a death shroud.
“The wind. It’s only the wind,” he said, steeling himself to continue his ascent.
When he got to the top he looked around, trying to figure out where the sound was coming from. His heart told him where, but he wouldn’t listen. And he was so cold. Wrapping his arms around his body he started toward his room. His daughter’s room lay in the opposite direction and he hadn’t been in there since that day. He’d rather he never went in there again.
He was halfway to his room when he heard the sound again, closer now. A ball being dropped. He listened with growing fear as it rolled along behind him.
Slowly turning, the floor boards creaking under his feet, he watched, frozen in place, as a little red ball rolled slowly toward him, speeding suddenly as it passed him by, heading for the stairs. Step by step it bounced, each time sounding like a hammer against a nail. Finally it came to a stop at the far wall below him and there was silence once more.
He looked at the door to his daughter’s room, opened just a crack. It was the wind. That was all. He’d closed that door. He knew he had. He knew he had!
Outside the thunder slowly faded to nothing. And from the room a new sound now drifted. A soft sound as if carried on the wind. The delicate, stilted chiming of a child’s wind-up music box.
He listened in disbelief. He knew that tune. It was the box he’d gotten for her when she was only a few months old. He remembered winding and rewinding it for her as she lay in her crib staring up at him. She’d been such a beautiful child.
The tinkling notes of “The monkey and the weasel” played round and round as he stood there, just outside her door, the ghost of a smile playing across his lips… But it wasn’t right. It was off. He listened more intently. It paused here and there before continuing, now fast, now slow, as if it were uncertain. As if a hand was turning the wheel. A child’s hand.
After a moment the sound of a rocking chair creaking back and forth joined it. Mr. Phillips wanted to scream.
The inspector had left the Phillips’s house at eight that night intending to go home. But something kept sticking in his mind. He drove for over an hour thinking about it, unconsciously winding his way back to the station.
Pulling into the parking lot he got out of the car and walked in, heading past several others still at work. One of them sent a paper airplane flying at him. He brushed it away and headed for his desk.
A series of photos sat there, taken at the scene of where the little girl had lain from various vantage points. The idea was that she had suffered from an epileptic fit, her first, while standing at the top of the stairs. From there she had fallen, cutting her hand on a loose nail and breaking her neck in the crash at the end.
But then why so many blood spots near the top of the stairs? And that finger print. It looked like she had actually grasped at the step on her way down, as if trying to stop herself. A person in a fit would never have done that. And her hand had a cut in it yet there was no sharp object she could have cut herself on except near the bottom.
But he couldn’t prove it. Couldn’t prove anything with the doctor vouching for the whole affair. And Mr. Phillips had cleaned it all up so fast after they’d seen it.
But then there was that other photo. It had been dismissed by the others but his mind still stuck on it, pulled to it now as he sat there. It was a shot looking up from the bottom of the stairs.
Blurred but discernible the door of the little girl’s room was open just a crack. Through the crack, even blurrier than the door, one could see the far wall. And on that wall was what looked to the inspector like the shadow of a little boy standing there, bending over something. Or at least half of one. The door blocked what would have been the other half. It could have been anything really.
“It’s nothing,” the precinct’s film developer had said. “Just a spot on the film.” And maybe it was. It didn’t fit into any angle the inspector could think of. But still it tugged at him.
Finally, taking a cue from Mr. Phillips himself, he set the picture down and leaned back in his swivel chair. From his coat pocket he pulled a small cask of scotch. It had been a long day.
This is continued in:Somewhere in America – Teddy – A Horror Short Story Part Three