The following is an excerpt of a short story from my book Shades of Gray: Strange Tales from the Old Dominion, now available exclusively on Amazon Kindle. Order it today for only $2.99.
Martin Cox stood with his son Daniel on the brick sidewalk facing a three story Georgian manor. The two hundred-year-old manor home was situated at the end of a quiet avenue at the crest of a hill near the Potomac River in Harpers Ferry. The small engine house where John Brown had made his final stand in 1859 was only a short stroll away.
“Lots of character and older home charm,” Martin read off the classified listing in the wrinkled copy of the The Journal in his hand. He glanced back and forth at the home’s quaint description in the newspaper and its dirty red brick and its white paint peeling off the trim. “It has five bedrooms, two baths, wood floors, natural woodwork, and new roof,” he read. A single round window just below the cornice shimmered in a hint of sunlight. Two thin, white muntins paired like a Greek cross divided the window into four equal parts. “Well, at least there’s a new roof,” Martin grumbled.
His son, a young man, twenty years old, stared at a group of tourists making their way up the street. “No wonder this place is so cheap,” he finally said. “It creeps me out. Look at it. It looks like it should be condemned.”
“Yeah, it certainly does have charm,” Martin said while adjusting his clip-on sunglasses. “The realtor wouldn’t even come with us. But hey, for this price who cares if it’s a fixer-upper.”
“Are we going to check it out, or what?” Dan asked impatiently.
Martin folded his newspaper and strolled up the weed-choked sidewalk to the front steps. The cement stairs were cracked, but still intact. Small circles were ornately carved into the sides of each step. The temperature seemed to drop as Martin and his son were drawn out of the afternoon sun as they neared the door.
“Wait,” Dan said. “There’s something in the mailbox.”
Martin turned just in time to see his son retrieve a piece of paper from the faded blue mailbox. “What does it say?” he asked as a sudden breeze ruffled his hair.
“I don’t know,” Dan replied and ran up the steps with the paper in his hand. “It’s some kind of list.”
“Bring it in,” Martin grumbled as he imagined it was a list of repairs and saw his investment go down the drain. He reached the door and jiggled the tarnished handle.
“Don’t you have the key?” his son asked.
Martin continued to play with the knob. “Not exactly,” he answered. “But I don’t see the harm in checking it out. The house is going to be ours soon anyway, right?” Martin slammed his shoulder into the door, which shook violently.