Short Story Sunday #25

Write for 35 minutes leading up to discovering a dead body.

I left my office around one in the afternoon to visit my client. I locked the front door shoving my hands into my trench coat pockets. The air was chilled from the upcoming winter season and there was a light breeze in the air causing the autumn leaves to fly past me. I stared at the ground mostly as I walked down the sidewalk, but every once in a while I looked up with my eyes squinting from the cold. I needed to make sure I wasn’t going to walk into a telephone pole or another person. However, I didn’t think I was going to be passing anyone by. The town seemed dead. I wondered why for a Saturday afternoon, but I assumed it must have been the cold. Looking up at the sky, the clouds did seem a bit more gray than usual. The sun wasn’t anywhere in sight, either.

Once I made it to the end of the sidewalk, I crossed the street coming on to the main road. It wasn’t as busy as I expected. I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to get a taxi over to my client’s house. As though my mind had been read, a cab showed up on the end of the road heading in my direction. I waved my hand and once its blinker turned back on I shoved my hand right back into my pocket. I should have brought my gloves. It was about a ten minute drive from where I stood all the way to my client’s house.

When I got there, I thanked the driver paying him with a nice tip before he drove away. My house was surrounded by a clichéd white picket fence. The grass was vividly green from the previous summer with a colorful garden to the left the house. In the middle of the lawn was a cobblestone pathway leading up to the front door. I opened the gate without it creaking and closed it with the click. The heels of my shoes clicked and clacked against the stones.

I made it up to the porch, holding onto the railing with one cold hand as I staggered up the steps. The house was lovely and my client clearly kept up with it. However, the porch was made of rotted wood. One step was wobbly, one had a hole at the edge of it, and the other looked as though it would crumble under my weight—I skipped that step just to be on the safe side. I stepped right in front of the door and as I raised my fist to knock, the wind blew a foul stench my way.

I sniffed, my face scrunching up in disgust. Was it a skunk? No, I didn’t think skunks smelled like that. They smelled bad, but not this bad. This scent was a mix between a skunk and garbage. It wasn’t pleasant.

I walked over to my right to the other end of the porch trying to see if I could find anything. I knew my client was the proud owner of five cats, so maybe they went out hunting and brought back a couple of mice and birds. When I made it to the end of the porch (I didn’t see anything) I noticed the porch wrapped around to the other side of the house. I turned to my left walking along the much sturdier wood keeping an eye out for any dead animal. Maybe the cats got out and a dog or coyote got to them. Whatever it was, it must have been there for a while. Nothing could smell that bad.

I made it to the end of the porch, but it didn’t wrap around the back of the house. I noticed a window was left wide open. I cocked my head to the side wondering why my client would have left her window open on such a cold day. I poked my head it, turning my head from left to right, but no one was in there. I took a deep breath, smelling the strange, disgusting scent once more. Except, with my head poking inside the house, the smell was worse.

I walked back around to the front door. I knocked hard willing my client to open up right away. However, after banging my fist against the door for the first time, it opened up with ease. I paused with my fist still raised in the air. No one was standing before me and no one was behind the door, so how did it open? It must have already been open a small crack and my knock pushed on it too hard. First the window was wide open and now the door was apparently left open and unlocked as well. I arched my back a little to check out the driveway to my left. Her car was in the driveway as it should have been since she told me to meet her at her house at this day and time. So, where was she?

I entered the house calling out her name, but there came no answer. I closed the door wanting to keep the cold out of the house, but that didn’t seem to do much. The house was freezing, but that was probably because the door was slightly open and a window was wide open as well. There may have been other windows left open, too. I stood in the mudroom trying to peek in the surrounding rooms with my eyes and craning neck. I didn’t see anyone in sight and when I called her name again, there was still no answer. I wiped my feet on the welcome mat and decided to make myself at home.

I walked to my left, entering the living room. The TV and the lights were off, but there was a mug sitting on the coffee table. It smelled of tea and looked as though it had been sitting there for a while. The couch was made nicely with a woolen blanket folded neatly across the top. The house looked as though it was well kept and in good condition, but there was no one to be found. I had been to my client’s house before and she had always greeted me at the door and her cats always came to say to me in the living room. Well, the cats weren’t around, but when I poked my head into the hallway, you wouldn’t believe what I saw.

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