Kate patted her belt, checking to make sure she was fully equiped before shutting off the cruiser. She gazed warily at the downtrodden house, that seemed to collapse upon itself, as though it had given up all hope of a family. Shutters hung awry and the paint had long been flaked off by the elements.
Kate mentally gathered her strength and her wit, and stepped out of the unmarked car, wondering if she should wait for backup on this one. As just a courtesy check, this shouldn't be a big deal, and 'the boys' would tease her mercilessly if she asked them to come out on this. Better to plug on, she thought, as she walked up the narrow path, overgrown with neglected, choking bushes and weeds. The cement porch steps were crumbling, and she stepped lightly across gaping holes in the wooden porch floor. Wires hung out exposed from the ancient doorbell, so Kate rapped loudly on the door instead, listening to the slight echo inside. A few seconds later she heard a thump followed by a soft shuffle as someone approached the door. Kate listened to a lock twist, and then another lock, a deadbolt, and a chain. Kate rested her hand lightly on her belt, prepared.
As the door struggled to open, it groaned, and Kate could see it was swollen from moisture. The cloying scent of mildew slapped her across the face, and she struggled not to cough. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness and she found herself facing a boy, maybe 19, with silvery gray eyes and a tight, white 'wife-beater' tank that had a rip across one side. Tattoos of wolves ran up and down both bony, emaciated arms.
"Yeah?" he said, surly.
"Hello. I'm Officer Dugan. We've received some complaints of activity out here. Loud noises, flashing lights, that sort of thing. Seeing as how Mr. Hendricks passed away eight years ago, we wanted to check it out," Kate said mildly, with a touch of concern, watching as the expression on his face darkened.
"Delmas Hendricks was my Grandpa. I got every right to be here," he said, anger evident along the edges of his spoken words.
"Okay, that may be. Can I see some ID?" Kate said, reassuringly. She really didn't like the vibe she was getting. She needed to keep him calm.
"Yeah. Come in I guess," he turned abruptly as he spoke, and walked into the darkness of a long hall.
"You the only one here?" she spoke cautiously to the retreating form.
"Yup," he said, without bothering to look back.
With a great deal of misgiving, Kate stepped into the entryway. The scent of mold was so overwhelming Kate almost felt like she was being smothered. She waited, watching candle scones flicker light on stained mauve paisley wallpaper. To the right was a sitting room, the sort that once might have been a formal parlor for entertaining guests. Now it housed a battered couch, stuffing and springs exposed, topped with a down sleeping bag, a dingy pillow, and a few scattered Doritos wrappers and crushed beer cans. Above the couch, a painting hung haphazardly. It tilted dangerously to the right, and as Kate walked toward the picture her boots creaked on the worn pine floors.
The painting was a waterfall. The water was life-like in oils, colors radiating as the sun hit across rainbowed froth. The candlelight brought out an unusual iridescent quality in the water that Kate had never seen captured in oil before. Across the water floated hundreds of white orbs, shining and flowing. It was beautiful. Kate leaned closer, squinting at the orbs in the flickering candlelight. A chill went through her as she realized that the orbs were gazing back at her. Eyeballs. The spheres floating on the water were tiny painted eyeballs.
"Water gives life. And it takes it away," said a voice from just behind her left shoulder. Kate jumped. She forced herself to take a calming breath before turning around. He smirked and held out a card. Kate accepted the South Carolina driver's license that he held in his fingers.
"Roland Hendricks," she read out loud, "So what are you doing in your grandfather's house after all this time? There's no electricity and it doesn't seem safe for habitation." Kate winced internally at the word 'habitation', knowing that she sounded stuffy for using it.
"Rol. I go by Rol," he answered, irritated. "I'm here about the unfinished business in the basement of course," he said, and Kate felt the burn of his unsettling stare.
This piece is inspired by this week's prompt at The Red Dress Club:
Water gives life. It also takes it away.
Write a short piece - fiction or non-fiction - inspired by one or both of these statements.