From the author: When his reclusive uncle commits suicide in a mansion full of curiosities, Jamie Lawson is left to clean up his dusty estate. As Jamie peels back the layers of his uncle’s life as a semi-famous horror author, he discovers an eerie connection between his uncle’s works and real life tragedies. Now, he must uncover the truth behind his uncle’s books while trying to rebuild his life in a new town. But, the bizarre facts he uncovers may just threaten his new life and everyone in it.
Jamie sped toward Turner House and his only chance of stopping the crash. His head spun as he tried to reason through what he would need to do. Maybe he could go back one more time although he had no idea how he could prevent the accident, short of shutting down the bridge. He knew some solution existed behind the keys of the typewriter, but he wondered how many more times he could relive the day and what if this time he made the situation even worse.
The Subaru tires slid on the gravel as he pulled into the driveway, but the gate was shut and chained. He contemplated ramming the car through but doubted it could tear open the heavy wrought iron. Jamie hopped out of the car and looked up at the gate. The bars were tall and skinny, with little more to grab onto than the decorative filigree at the top of each spindle. He wasn't in the best shape but managed to step on the lower bar and give himself enough of a boost to make it up and over the top. He lost his balance and fell over into the bushes on the other side. The bush branches scratched and scraped at his arms, but their cushion prevented more serious injury.
Jamie rolled out of the bush and onto the grass. The blades were long and unkempt. As he stood and looked up at the house, he was surprised by the structure that met his gaze. The garden, once constructed with clean lines and sculpted beds, now sat sloppy and overgrown. The house was in a similar state. The paint was faded and chipping, and several wooden shingles lay scattered on the front lawn.
He walked up the steps, which creaked under his weight. The doorknob hung limp on the door, and he jiggled it, causing it to come loose and fall to the ground. It was merely decoration at this point, but the padlock that had replaced the deadbolt was locked tight. The lights were off inside, and he saw no signs of movement. Jamie stood back and lifted his right leg. He slammed it as hard as he could against the solid wood door, which barely budged.
So much for kicking it in. The TV shows made it seem a lot easier than this, and he thought he might have pulled a muscle in the process.
Jamie walked around the porch to the back of the house and tried the back door, but it was locked tight as well. He looked around the yard for a hard object to break one of the glass door panels and found a loose stone next to the wooden steps. The rock shattered the glass on impact, and he carefully reached through the broken panel to unlatch the door. The house was dark and looked as though it had been empty for years. The moonlight shone through the windows, casting an eerie shadow on the decrepit interior.
Jamie walked along the kitchen cabinets, one hand tracing the marble countertop. He felt for the light switch next to the kitchen door and pressed it, but nothing happened. Fortunately, he had brought a small pocket flashlight, which he twisted on as he walked into the main hallway. The LED light washed over the walls, and Jamie was surprised to see the hallway empty. The shelves and racks of jars and movie memorabilia were all gone, and the walls were bare. Everything that had reminded him of T.J. was missing. The living room was the same, full of old dusty furniture but devoid of the character of its former inhabitant.
The grand staircase was long and ominous, and the light from his small flashlight only made it halfway to the top. He had climbed this set of stairs a hundred times before, but this time, he was afraid of what he might find—or not find—at the other end. He gripped the handrail and started to climb. The doors to T.J.'s office were ajar and off their metal casters, so sliding them out of the way took some effort. The grand desk was still there although it had been covered with a sheet. Jamie expected to see the typewriter sitting in the center of the desk as it always had been. Indeed, he could make out the edges of an object beneath the sheet. In one sweeping motion, he ripped the sheet off the desk, sending a cloud of dust into the atmosphere. The shape underneath the sheet hadn't been a typewriter at all but rather a stack of old books. This wasn’t T.J.’s desk either. He looked around the room, but no typewriter was in sight—no object cases either. What the hell is going on?
The sound of a creaking door on the first floor startled him. At first, he thought that might have just been the wind until he heard the distinct sound of floorboards bending under the weight of heavy boots.
“Police. If there's anybody in here, say so now.”
“Shit,” Jamie said under his breath. He contemplated ways of escape. He could climb out the window, but the drop to the ground below was pretty far, one that even the bulky typewriter had failed to survive. His mind rushed to think of a story, and he looked around for some source of last-minute salvation.
“Come out now!” The command came from the base of the stairs and was more forceful this time.
“I'm up here! I'm coming down the stairs!” Jamie yelled as he walked toward the staircase.
Shuffling was audible below. “Come down slowly, with your hands in front of you,” the person responded.
Jamie descended the staircase as two officers watched intently. The difference in stature between the two officers would have been comical if not for the gravity of the situation. One of the men was tall and beefy while the other was short and stout. The tall officer grabbed Jamie's wrist and cuffed his hands behind his back.
They led Jamie outside to the front of the house. Two SUV police cruisers were parked on the other side of the fence, blocking in Jamie's car. He was thankful he hadn't tried to escape, for he would have had nowhere to go. Surrender was the best option. They sat him in the back of the police cruiser.
“I think that there's a misunderstanding. I came here to find my uncle.” In a panic to find a lie that would explain his presence, he resolved to tell the truth. He wasn't quite sure what the truth was anymore, but he had no more room left inside himself for lies or deception. “Have someone check the owner of the house. I swear. T.J. Lawson is my uncle.”
“Where's your wallet, son?” the officer asked.
“In my back pocket,” he replied.
The man reached into the car and pulled Jamie's wallet out of his pocket. He slid the driver's license out of the protective sleeve and took a look.
“Hold on a minute,” he said as he shut the door to the cruiser.
Jamie wasn't exactly sure how he could “hold on” since he had nowhere to go, but he was hopeful this little bit of info would make a difference.
The officer walked over to the second cruiser and spoke to the other, who was scribbling something down on a notepad. They had a brief exchange, and Jamie saw the first officer point at his ID and then at the house. He turned around and leaned on the side of the cruiser, grabbed his walkie-talkie, and spoke into it. A few moments passed, then he walked back over to the car.
“When's the last time you spoke with your uncle?” the officer asked.
“Just today,” he replied. However, at this point, Jamie had relived the day three times.
“Son, nobody's lived in this house for years, and you certainly aren't the first person we've caught snooping around.”
Jamie panicked. “Um, I know.” He reached for a response that wasn't absurd. “My uncle's not well. He owns this house. I know he hasn't lived in it for years. I got a call from him today, and it sounded like something was wrong. He mentioned the house, so I came here to check on him.” His mind flashed to the basement where Don had found T.J.'s lifeless body. His time at Turner House seemed so far away, and the cold and drafty mansion sitting in his periphery was now just an empty shell.
The officer turned Jamie's ID card over in his hands and examined it as if looking for something that would prove it fake.
“Do you have any idea where he is now?” the officer asked.
“None, but I've got to find him,” he replied with desperation.
“All right. Well, your record's clean, so we're going to let you go. But if we see you back here, we won't be so nice next time. You can't just go breaking into houses that don't belong to you. We’ve got your number.” The officer helped him out of the car, removed his handcuffs, and handed his driver's license back to him.
The two police cruisers blocking the Subaru pulled off to the side of the entrance so that Jamie could back out and pull away. He was just thankful that his story was good enough to work and that the police hadn't noticed the broken window in the back.
He looked up at the empty house and thought back to the last thing he’d typed on the Royal 1:
T.J. had another opportunity to save those whose lives he’d affected with the typewriter.
Maybe it worked better than I thought?
This story originally appeared in The Dreadful Objects.
When his reclusive uncle commits suicide in a mansion full of curiosities, Jamie Lawson is left to clean up his dusty estate. As Jamie peels back the layers of his uncle’s life as a semi-famous horror author, he discovers an eerie connection between his uncle’s works and real life tragedies. Now, he must uncover the truth behind his uncle’s books while trying to rebuild his life in a new town. But, the bizarre facts he uncovers may just threaten his new life and everyone in it.
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