I see Jane Mullen’s silver Toyota parked at the side of the curb and glance at the clock. It’s only four now, so I’m right on time. The overcast sky makes it seem later than it really is.
She gets out of her car smiling. “I’m afraid Denise is running a little late. She said to go on and look at the house without her,” she says. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
The brick Georgian rises up three stories against the darkening sky surrounded by stately oak trees and well cut hedges. A winding slate path leads to the front door, which is painted a cheerful welcoming red. It sits atop the hill alone in the cul de sac, though neighboring houses are close by.
Robert will like that. Neighbors close, but not too close. The houses here are all different from one another, not “another cookie cutter development”. I notice a woman peering out of the window of the house closest to the Georgian on the left side. She must be the neighborhood snoop. Well, there isn’t much to see. Robert, the kids, and I live a quiet life.
Jane clears her throat. “Shall we go in?” She pulls the key from the lock box and wrestles with the front door. “Damn. I wonder if this is the right key,” she mutters, twisting and turning and pushing. The door doesn’t budge until she gives it a good shove, and then it springs open and she practically falls through the opening.
“Oh, my, I guess I pushed to hard,” she says and gives a little laugh. Uneasily, I think.
It seems quite dark now, and she flips on the lights. They’re dim, but they work. The house itself has a closed in feeling as if it has been empty for a while. We walk into the living room first. It’s spacious with a lovely brick fireplace and wide curving front window. The parquet floors need a polishing, but they are lovely. Beyond the living room is an office, and I’m surprised to see a large mahogany desk still sitting there. It matches the built in bookcases. Boxes of papers stand on the desk and files litter the floor.
“Looks like someone forgot to pack up,” Jane says in a forced cheerful voice.
“I hope we can get a hold of them,” I say.
We inspect the powder room then walk through a family room with a high ceiling to the kitchen and stop in horror. Someone has taken a hammer to the to the kitchen. Giant chunks of black granite lie on the floor, the cabinets are smashed through, and bits of broken china and glass glisten on the floor.
“Oh,” Jane says.
When we walk into the dining room, we can see that someone has smashed a hole through the ceiling. We exchange a look.
“Do you want to go upstairs?” Jane asks.
I don’t, but I do. I don’t understand if vandals have broken in and deliberately destroyed this beautiful house, but I need to look.
“I think we should. Maybe this just happened.”
We walk up the stairs, and I hear Jane’s heavy breathing. It matches my own. I wonder why my hands are so cold.
We look in the hall bath. It has been tiled in the largest, most beautiful, green glass tiles I have ever seen. They are almost translucent, and they have, for the most part, been smashed. The pale bathtub door has been shattered.
The master bedroom, which takes up the left side of the house and has two walk in closets, has it’s own bathroom with the same glass tiles in an opalescent white. I can see the dining room below through the smashed floor.
Two other bedrooms share a bath and are intact. A smaller room on the far end of the hall smells damp. The walls are covered with symbols. Stars and moons. Pentacles and suns.
We look at each other before we head up to the third floor. To our right is a storage room, filled with boxes. We hear the rustling of something, and close the door before we find out what. To the left are two bedrooms and a bath. One bedroom is empty, the walls painted white. The second has dark blue walls covered with collages. One is of faces in the throes of all kinds of emotion—fear, joy, anger. There is a collage meant to convey the horrors of war. Another collage features syringes and pills and people. A single photograph of a woman with a cat. The single bed is unmade and smells of old body odor. The room is thick with dust and the pall of sorrow.
I am shaking with cold.
“Hallo. Hallo. Sorry I’m late.” A cheerful voice calls.
Jane and I both jump. We are down the stairs in a minute to face Denise, a plump, smiling woman in a vivid red dress, who seems so terribly out of place in this horrible house.
“What happened here?” I ask.
“Oh. You mean the holes,” Denise says. “It wasn’t burglars, and the family is ready to make repairs.”
“But what happened?”
Denise sighed. “Look this house has been on the market for almost two years. It was the Evensham place. Dr. Sam Evesham, the psychiatrist? His oldest son was killed in that terrible car accident on the turnpike a few years back and his daughter ended up killing herself.” Denise shook her head. “It was too much for him. He went crazy one night. Took a hammer and started smashing away at the house then put a gun to his own head. Now nobody wants to even look at the place. It should be going for well over a million, but it probably won’t come close to that.”
“Was there a wife? Other kids?”
“The family just wants to be rid of this place. If they can’t find a buyer, they’ll probably sell to a developer. Shame really.”
Denise’s eyes flicked to Jane. “He killed his wife and the remaining three kids.”
“Oh.” I looked at Jane. I was still freezing, but she looked calmer now. A little annoyed.
“I guess that means you aren’t interested,” Denise said.
I shook my head. “Sorry.”
“Maybe you wouldn’t mind waiting a minute til I lock up,” Denise said. She exchanged a look with Jane. “This place at night gives me the creeps.”