ASN 3.5: I Remember…

by Matt P.

The house that sat at 785 Denver Terrace loomed large, over-sized for its plot and its neighbors. Dark brick, dark wood, and a looming door that seemed to invite visions of horror movies and serial killers. Even the dark ivy crawling up one side of it seemed to project an air of subtle menace. It was impressive. It was grandiose. It looked like the kind of house that would have a sinister history.

It was also, and unfortunately, not original. “The file says there were some drugs in the areas, and apparently gang activity. In the late 1960s the house burned down,” Leah explained. She had changed into much more normal clothes, a cream colored button up and navy jacket and slacks. She had apparently also showered, her brunette curls still slightly damp. “There was only one survivor from the family, who went in to foster care. But the family that moved in afterword is still here,” she finished. “So we may be able to find some information. Robert and Margaret Haven.”

Andre considered the house. He had apparently caught a shower as well, freshly shaved both face and head, and was dressed in a dark red dress shirt and a black suit. “So the house burned down.” Leah nodded, and he continued. “And they chose to build a new one right here.”

“Yep,” Leah confirmed as they all pulled themselves out of the Border PD Charger they had taken after lunch. All three of them adjusted their jackets to make sure that they weren’t flashing guns at unsuspecting citizens, and began to walk toward the house.

“So the question we have to ask ourselves…” Andre began.

“Is why they chose to make it so spectacularly ugly?” Walter finished, grinning wryly. “Because house builders are like Burger King. You can have it any way you want, even if it will terrify neighborhood children.” Andre let out a low chuckle, and Leah gave a little smirk.

“And now we are going to talk to people about the family that died here fifty years ago, so we will endeavor to be respectful,” Leah drawled affectionately, sharing a look with Andre. “Right?” Both men gave a little bit of a non-committal shrug before they all turned to the door and took a slight breath in and Leah rang the bell.

Walter always tensed up during the moments between ringing the bell, or knocking, and the answer. Not that he was any less tense when they had to kick, ram, or blow it in; but it always felt like a moment of tension and transition. The person on the other end might come out angry or scared, or armed and screaming—or might not come out at all. Walter’s muscles tensed as he heard the sound of the lock being turned, and the door opened.

This time who answered the door was a petite woman in her late sixties or early seventies, her dark hair having apparently just started losing to gray in a way that made Walter idly jealous. Bright eyed and with deep laugh lines around her mouth and eyes, she could not have looked more non-threatening unless she had been actually holding a plate of cookies. Walter watched the tension ease out of his partners at the sight of the woman’s welcoming, if somewhat confused smile. “Good afternoon, can I help you?”

Walter matched the smile, and pulled his badge wallet out of his jacket pocket. He held it up so she could see both the ID card, and the gold badge with the rank of Detective and the motto of the Border PD: Fiat Justitia Ruat Caelum. Let justice be done, though the heavens fall. “I’m Walter Richards, and these are my partners Leah Silverman and Andre Alexander. We were hoping to be able to ask you a couple of questions about the fire here fifty years ago? I understand that you’ve lived here since then.”

Walter knew there were people in the world who didn’t have events in their lives that would cause the shadow of sorrow to cross across their face when mentioned—people who did not have trauma that still occasionally kept them awake at night. Walter was not one of those people—and apparently neither was the woman in front of him. “Yes, we’ve lived here since then. We were friends with the family who lived here, and we bought the land when it was sold.” This news brought a round of curious looks from the detectives—one raised eyebrow from Walter, two from Andre, and a tilt of Leah’s head. “Please, I’m being very rude, why don’t you come in and we can talk about that…unpleasantness.” She sighed a bit as she stepped back to let them in, but Walter figured it was from the topic rather than their presence.

The living room she led them to was surprisingly tastefully appointed for the looming exterior. The walls were medium-dark wood, and the carpet was cream colored and just this side of shag—older in style, but certainly not suitable for serial killers or ghosts. Maybe some ghosts, Walter amended as he remembered how the current residents had come t live there. They sat down, respectively, on a matching set of chairs and a couch in a discrete floral print. Perhaps seeing their glances at the decor, Katherine Haven smiled. “My husband designed the outside; in return I got the inside. But you’re from the police, not Border Home and Garden—how does a fire from so many years ago get police atte*ntion now?”

Andre nodded at the slightly incredulous tone in her voice. “We understand that it is a little bit unusual. But we’re looking in to some crime trends from the time, and if they continue to have an impact on the neighborhoods.” Haven looked at them with a little smile on her lips.

“And three detectives who even I recognize as having been cited for the…what was it, gang war at the High School? Three decorated detectives have annoyed someone important and are sent to query little old ladies?” No matter her age, Katherine Haven hadn’t lost a step from her younger days. Now it was Walter’s turn to smile slightly.

“No, there is more to it, but we can’t really talk about it. But it is important, and we need to know more,” Walter explained in a patient voice. “Did you live nearby? Did anyone talk to you about it, or do you know anyone we can talk to about it?”

Katherine Haven paused for a long moment,, taking in a deep breath as if to steel herself against something. “I remember the screaming, most of all.”