This is a short story, in 1350 words.
It was prompted by the above photo, sent to me by Darlene Foster.
When she split up with Joanne, the first thing Carrie wanted to do was to get out of Vancouver. She put in to the RCMP personnel department for a transfer to anywhere, and it wasn’t long before Alberta was offered.
Edmonton, somewhere she had never been. She accepted it without a second thought, and told them she would stay in a motel until she found an apartment to rent.
It was an Inspector’s job with the detective branch. Most of the others were well established already, and she knew she wouldn’t get anything high profile until she proved herself. After a couple of weeks getting used to the place, and settling in, Carrie found a decent apartment, then set about getting on with the job. She arrived early, and stayed late. When there were no cases coming her way, she looked for work.
Superintendent Roy looked at her as she tapped on his office door. “Can I help you, Inspector Chang?” She held up a file. “I was looking through this old case, sir. Be alright if I take some time to check it out?” He took the file, and flicked through it. “An old missing person job, out near Busby? Jeez, that’s over three years ago, Carrie”. She shrugged. “Looks funny to me sir, almost like it was let go. The guy has never showed up, not anywhere. I think it’s suspicious”.
She had come with good reports, and an excellent case clear-up rate. He thought he might as well see what she could do. “Sure, drive up there and look around. Take a week if you need it, then let me know what you think”. That night, Carrie took the file home, and read it in bed. Something had been missed, and she knew what that might be.
It was forty-five miles to Busby, and she made it under the hour. Not much happening there, just a small farming community. Even the gas station had closed down, probably unable to compete with the new one she had passed on highway forty-four. Taking the detailed map, she spread it over the front of the car and scanned it carefully. If she was right, she should be able to climb the tumbledown fence, and walk to the place.
The patrol car pulled in just behind her. Local cop. He walked over, smiling. “You lost, ma’am? Need some help?” Carrie flashed her badge. “I’m heading for the Duggan House. Were you around when that young fella went missing a few years back? Luke Anderson, he was a student at The University of Alberta, down in Edmonton”. He took off his hat and rubbed his crew-cut hair. “You mean that kid from Grande Prairie, nineteen or so?” Carrie nodded. “He told his room mate at the student accommodation he was going to head out here to look over the Duggan House. Nobody ever saw or heard from him again. He didn’t have a car, so he must have got the bus from Edmonton, and walked from the stop”.
The cop put his hat on and started to turn back to his car. “As I recall, there was a big search for him, and nothing showed up. If I was you, I’d keep away from the old Duggan House. That’s a bad place”. Then he was in his car, and driving away. Carrie folded the map and put it in her backpack. Then she locked her car and left it in the pull-off by the side of the country road. It took less than ten minutes to cross the fields until she saw the house in the distance.
It looked to be unloved, to say the least. The glass was gone from the windows, the roof shot, and there was light between the planks that had been used to build it, God knows how long ago. She walked straight up to the gap where the front door had been, and went in. The floor boards creaked under her feet and dust rose in small clouds that settled over her shoes. It seemed very cold inside, much colder than it had been out in the field. The ground floor was just one big empty room, and her footsteps echoed as she walked around it.
At the side was a lean-to. Judging from the single tap still bolted to the wood, she guessed it had served as a kitchen at one time. She headed up the stairs, which groaned under her light weight. The hand-rail looked like it would easily come away from the fixings, so she left it alone. There were two bedrooms upstairs, with an old iron bedstead still in one, and the other empty. Much of the upstairs space was taken by a big old storage space at the front. It was dark in there despite having no window, not even the frame. She took out a small flashlight from her pocket and shone it into the space.
Only dust and boards, nothing to bother with. Just about to turn and retrace her steps, she saw something glinting in the beam. She held the light on it and walked into the far corner. It was a small digital voice recorder. The chrome trim had reflected the light.
From her other pocket, Carrie took a latex glove, and a small evidence bag. She picked up the recorder in the gloved hand, then dropped it into the bag before sealing it up. It was getting colder all the time in there, so she decided to head back to her car. In the statement from the room mate, it was clear that Luke had been heading for the Duggan House. But it was also clear now that nobody had ever searched the place at the time. Or they would surely have found that recorder.
Back at the station, Carrie wrote up a report about what she had seen, then found some fresh batteries in the storeroom, and turned on the voice recorder.
“This is Luke Anderson. First recording for the Duggan House. It’s eight at night, and I am just going through the doorway”
Then there was the sound of footsteps, and creaking boards. Carrie began to jot down some notes in the file.
“Okay, the flashlight isn’t showing anything but an empty room. Going into the side room. I think this was the kitchen, but according to what I have read, nothing happened here”.
Creaking and heavier breathing followed. Carrie guessed he was walking upstairs.
“The old bed is still in one of the rooms, no furniture anywhere though. It feels really cold in here, considering it was around sixty degrees outside. Got to check out the old storage loft now, should start to get something where most of it happened”.
He probably meant that big empty space with no door or windows, Carrie made some more notes. Then there was just breathing, heavier this time. Almost a gasp.
“Jesus, it’s so cold in here. I can see something in the far corner. Going closer. Wow, it’s as cold as ice now”.
The next part made Carrie jump back in her seat. Luke was shouting, really loud.
“OH NO! OH SHIT! PLEASE, NO! STOP! PLEASE, STOP!”
There was no more audio.
Placing the recorder back into the evidence bag, Carrie put that and the case file into her backpack, and reached for her car keys. The case had taken a completely different turn now, just as she had suspected. Grabbing an extra flashlight from the desk drawer, she headed down to her car. It was already dark.
The best time to go back there, and try to find out what happened.
On Friday morning, Superintendent Roy walked into the main office. He raised his voice so they could all hear him. “Anyone seen the new girl? You know, the one from Vancouver, Carrie Chang”. Everyone shook their heads in turn. He raised his eyebrows. “She hasn’t let me know her progress, and it’s been three days now”.
He turned to the admin girl who was seated at the back.
“Janice, get on to the uniforms. Ask them to send someone to check her home address”.