Chapter 1: Taking The Plunge
Of course, on a day when I have to do one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do, the sky absolutely opened up earlier in the day so everything was wet and cold and overcast. It was just way too damn cold for midday during the Spring for my liking.
Sliding the thick yellow envelope into the mailbox was already stressful enough, but to see that familiar yellow sports car when I turned around honestly set me fast walking back to my car in a panic.
“Nope, fucking nope!” I say when I hear him getting out of his car!
“(f/n), please just wait a second!” he called out as he rushed over to me.
“Go home Ace, don’t you need a nap before the casino opens again?” I snapped, glaring at him over my shoulder but looking at my car like a scared cat.
I dug into my pocket quickly and pulled out my keys, almost dropping them as I rushed to get the door to my truck unlocked.
“(f/n), stop!” he called out as he rushed over to me and just as I got the door open, he slammed it closed and I whipped around to face him.
“What Ace?! Why are you fucking following me?!” I snapped and he pulled off his sunglasses, looking at me honestly with his hazel gold eyes.
I sighed and lowered my head, refusing to look at him completely. I don’t want to look at him but I do at the same time because I want everything to just go back to normal. I want him to wrap me in his arms, swear he’s going to stay away from the casino and take me home…but I know he won’t.
“Because I don’t want to lose you. This is all a huge mistake and I don’t want you to jump into something foolish just to spite me and end up hurting yourself.” He says and takes my cheeks into his hands.
I involuntarily lean into one of his hands, grasping his wrists gently as I close my eyes and sigh. His hands were so warm and smelled of his cologne, making me inhale deeply then opened my eyes to look up at him.
“If that’s how you feel…then why won’t you stop gambling?” I ask and his desperate expression falls, the softer wrinkles around his mouth smoothing out.
“I can’t…you know I can’t.” he says and that’s when I push his hands away from me, looking down and taking a few deep breaths before looking back up at him.
“You can…you just won’t.” I pushed his shoulder back and opened my door.
Once I was in the car and the door was closed, he places his hands on my window, making me look up at him and I can feel my body begging me to go back to him. I want to get out and believe him, go home and just fall into bed with him like I have every day for the past seven years.
His soft jawline was salt and pepper colored from his stubble, he had laugh lines around his mouth and a steep nose, round eyes and bushy black eyebrows. He had this incredible charisma and a swagger I’ve never seen in another man.
“(f/n) …I’m begging you, please don’t do this.” He says and I shake my head.
“Goodbye Ace,” I say and find myself lightly kissing the window and starting the truck. He backs up as I drive out of the parking lot of the post office and leave him…and the rest of this town behind me.
In the process of gassing up my truck, my phone rings.
Warning, warning, it’s the wife!
“Hey Meg, I’m gassing up right now and then I’ll be on my way.”
“Good, how’d dropping off the papers go?” she asks.
I hesitated, rubbing my forehead roughly as I contemplated telling her. “Ace was there…I don’t know how I missed him when I rolled up but he was there.” I say, scratching the back of my neck as the tension returned to my shoulders.
“Are you kidding?! Did he hurt you?” she asked quickly.
“Just my pride as a strong, independent woman.” I say and Meg scoffs.
“I almost wish he was; your life could become the next Lifetime movie of the decade!” she says, mimicking a movie trailer voice. “In a WORLD where-”
“Careful, if he dies during the court proceeding, they might suspect you.” I warn and she laughs, making me smile.
“Alright, I’m sorry. Anyways, I’ve gotten all your boxes into the new place and now I’ve got your keys ready for you when you get up here!” Meg practically sings into the phone as I finish pumping my gas and return the nozzle to its holster.
“Jeez, you’d think you were the one moving.” I tease, getting into my truck again.
“Oh, come on!! I’m so excited for my bestie to finally be within spitting distance again!”
“If you actually spit on me when I get out there, I’m moving to the damn moon.” I say, starting the truck and listening to Meg laughing as I hit the road at last.
The drive from my home town to the Canadian border was long and unfortunately, left me to think a lot about where I was going and why I was going there. I glanced down and tapped my phone screen, pulling up my lock screen of Ace and myself holding each other close and smiling at the camera.
I kept driving, feeling that painful spot in my chest that Ace occupied sting as I kept forcing myself to push him out.
I met Ace while responding to a Domestic Dispute at his favorite casino, The Twin Rivers Casino. I’d been a police officer in (hometown) for almost 2 years by this point so responding to a domestic dispute in a public setting was abnormal but upon arrival I learned that it was a miscommunication. It was radioed in as a 10-16, which generally means a Domestic Dispute. It ended up being a 10-10, 10-15; Fight in Progress and Civil Disturbance.
Ace had won a rather high stakes game against this guy and this guy…did not take the loss well. He flipped the table and attacked Ace, resulting in them fighting and us getting called to the scene.
I was still just a beat cop at the time and showed up just in time to watch Ace get in a cheap shot on this prick by kneeing him in the groin and backing up. This allowed me to swoop in and chicken wing the guy before he could recover and get him handcuffed.
After handing him off to my partner who had brought his squad car as opposed to me coming here via motorcycle. After I’d taken all the statements and started towards my bike to continue my patrols, Ace ran out to me and offered to buy me a drink later with that guys money that he’d won. Me, being the spiteful little bitch that I am and thinking he was pretty cute for an older guy, I said yes.
From there, Ace and I began dating for a few years and then he surprised me one night with a trip to Las Vegas and then he proposed to me in the shadow of the Bellagio hotel as the fountain was shooting up into the air…and I said yes. Yes, we got married in a get hitched quick place but the rest of that trip we spent drinking and dancing and fucking.
I laughed as I remembered the confused look on the room service guys face when Ace answered the door book buck naked. Tears had come to my eyes I was laughing so hard.
I felt something warm hit my lap and a quick glance at the rearview mirror told me how I’d started crying without realizing and I had to pull over. I turned off my truck and just stared at the horn, trying not to let my thoughts drift to the past but I couldn’t help it.
I woke up to the sound of a bottle breaking downstairs. I gasped and sat up, looking around my blue and black blurry bedroom. I reached into my bedside drawer, finding my hand gun and flashlight, I held it at the ready; resting that arm on my flashlight arm.
I crept out into the hall, all remnants of sleep have left my body and has been replaced by tension. My veins heating up with adrenaline, prepping my muscles for a worst-case scenario. Once I got to the end of our hallway, I glanced down the stairs and saw a white rectangle of light on the wall, telling me that my kitchen light was on.
I got to the bottom of the stairs and started towards my kitchen, hearing someone going through my fridge.
“(hometown) PD!” I call out and hear Ace’s voice grunt, making me drop my weapon right away!
“Ooh, sorry dolcezza!” he says, waving at me with a bottle in his hand.
“Don’t call me sweetness when I just almost shot you!! Where have you been?!” I ask, pointing my weapon at the floor.
“Casino, why?” he asks, leaning on the fridge door.
“Why am I not surprised?”
“You said you were fucking tired! Too tired to fuck but never too tired to gamble some more!” I yelled, throwing my gun into the sink with a loud clang that seemed to sober him up right away.
“I don’t always feel in the mood to fuck, is that so damn bad?” He yells right back, slamming his bottle down on the counter.
“It’s not the sex I’m mad about, it’s the fact that you keep lying to me!! I actually think I wouldn’t be nearly as mad if you would just tell me the damn truth!!” I yell, feeling my eyes fill with tears which makes him turn away from me.
He’s always had this awful habit to avoid me when I start crying-which was far and few between when it did happen-but I was so tired of having this same exhausting fight.
“Why would I want to be honest with you when you always react the same way? You yell and cry to make me feel bad for doing something that makes me happy!” he shouts and I set my shoulders back.
“Me crying and screaming isn’t a manipulation tactic! I’m yelling because you don’t listen to me when I just talk to you and I’m crying because I feel like you’re cheating on me with that damn casino!!” I dropped my face into my hands and just started sobbing.
“It’s not like that!” he tries to defend but I just step back and start towards the sink. “What are you going to do? Shoot me?” he asks and I stop…just stop.
I don’t feel the need to cry, or scream…I just look at him and I can see the panic in his eyes. I reach into the sink, take my gun and left the kitchen. “I’m done,” I say.
“Wait, I didn’t mean that!!”
Warning! Warning! It’s the wife!
I gasped and looked down at my phone, Meg was calling me again and the sun had mostly gone down.
“Shit,” I whispered, wiping my cheeks and taking a deep breath before answering. “Hey,”
“Hey, why do you sound like that?”
“Nothing just…I’m still hung up on what he said…when he asked me if I was going to shoot him.” I took a deep breath and pressed my forehead against the steering wheel. “I just…looked at him, of all the things he could have said at that moment…he said that.” I started loudly crying into the phone. “What’s worse? I can still feel it…in my heart…how much I still love him.”
“I know you do and I know this is hard, please remember why you’re doing this to begin with. You are not the priority in his life and you deserve to be number one.” She says firmly and I nod, fighting through the heartache to regain my will to go forward.
“I deserve better…I deserve better…” I chant to myself.
“Do you want me to come and get you? Where are you?” She asked.
“No…I can…” I took a deep breath and sniffled, setting my shoulders back. “I can do this. I’ll be on my way again in just a minute.” I say and Meg whistles.
“That’s my girl! Let’s get you up here and bring back your inner boss bitch! I liked Ace but let’s be real, he made you into a blushing bride and they’re too soft for my taste.” she cheers and I can’t help it, I laugh.
“You’re amazing Meg, I love you.”
“I love you too, I’m hunting you down if you’re not here in an hour.” She warns and I nod.
“I expect no less from you.” I say and hang up before taking a few deep breaths before turning the car back on and rejoining the road.
Chapter 2: Meet The Locals
Finally arriving in Ormond affords you to learn just how small a town it is...you nearly drove right through it and didn't realize. Though the town and the people seem nice enough, you can't help but stick your nose where it doesn't belong. Be careful.
Ormond was a surprisingly small town when I arrived, the streets paved with black ice. All the buildings were stout with flat roofing, as if this town hadn’t had a reconstruction since the early 80’s. It made me think about the town from ‘It’, small town where everyone knows everyone. I could probably deal with something like that, killer clown running rampant in a small town; spice up my everyday a little bit.
I’d only realized I had even entered Ormond after I’d passed a sign that said ‘Now Leaving Ormond – Please come see us again’. I turned my ass around and went right back into town, seeing a small market place with several stalls shrouded by tarps that were filled to the point of bending with snow.
The people milling about under them were clad in strangely thin looking hoodies and jackets but I just assumed it was because I wasn’t used to this type of weather. I parked in one of three spots that had been shoveled, a massive pile of snow sitting at the front of my car.
Getting out of the car, I was met with a snowball almost immediately to the face; startling me into slipping and hitting my back against the car and falling to my seat.
“Ow!” I yelled when there was a loud voice from my left.
“Damn it, Joey! You two are not playing games! You two are in detention, now get back to shoveling the snow!” he yelled and I looked up to see a man of a rather portly build, white mustache and a round face with rosy Santa Claus cheeks, offering me his hand. “I’m so sorry Miss, are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I’ve taken worse hits to the head.” I say, having him help me stand when he looks at my feet.
“Oh, well no wonder you slipped. Those sneakers aren’t going to do you much good here, this place is a tundra almost eleven months of the year.” He says happily and I guess my jaw dropped because he laughed. “Don’t tell me you didn’t know that?” he asks and I shake my head.
“No, my friend happened to mention that this place was mostly a winter town. Oh!” I suddenly realize I haven’t said hello and offer him my hand. “I’m sorry, I’m (f/n) (l/n). I’m moving here today,”
His eyes light up. “Oh! You’re the one Megan has been telling us about, she said to be expecting you. She should be over there in her sports shop.” He directs me to the storefront of a quaint little block shaped building with colorful window paintings advertising their current sale on trips up the mountain.
I turn back to him and shake his hand. “Thank you, and you are?”
“Ah, I’m the Mayor of Ormond. You can call me Rusty, everyone does actually.” He says and I smile at him.
“Mayor Rusty, thank you sir. Nice meeting you,” I say and look over at the two boys who were currently holding shovels and pushing the snow over towards another pile. The taller of the two had his hood up and I could see a black wire hanging from his head; headphones. He was African American with thick eyebrows and a light peppering of black hair around his lips. The one beside him had his back to me so I couldn’t see much of him. I could only tell he was wearing a grey hoodie under a black leather jacket and dark green camo pants held up by a belt made of bullets; looking to be about 55. caliber if they were real. “Hang in there boys, you’re doing a great job.” I say and the one with his back to me raised his head up and looked at his friend, confused seeming and the one I could see just shook his head and they started shoveling again.
I remembered being a kid and even my detention wasn’t shoveling snow, mostly just writing sentences on the board.
I started across the street and as soon as I walked in the storefront, I heard a cheery voice call from the back. “Hi, welcome in! I’ll be right with you!” Meg’s voice traveled to me from the front counter and I followed it. I saw a short girl with bright pink hair and a green hoodie standing at the front counter, talking to Meg. “Susie, detention again?” she asks and takes a pink slip from the girl.
Meg was wearing a maroon long sleeve turtleneck and a bright red puffer vest with a high collar. Her pants were a light blue and matching blue snow boots. Her long red hair was back in a high ponytail and braided, tied off with a white ponytail.
“Yeah…I got in trouble for printing out crime scene photos in the library.” She says and Meg turns her back to the girl and starts digging for something in a box.
“I understand you kids are curious, I think they’re worried you guys are going to shoot up the school or something like that.” She says and turns back to the girl, holding a snow shovel.
“I promise we’re not, we’re just…” she pauses when she seems to sense my presence and turns to look at me.
Her eyes are round and a dark brown color, almost black. Her face was fair with a light speckling of freckles on her cheeks and her full lips were pink and puckered a little. She gasped when she saw me and I could see the light blue rubber bands on her teeth; braces. She wore dark green leggings and bright pink converse with tricolored laces and what appeared to be thicker soles.
She quickly turned back to Meg and took the shovel. “Never mind, thank you Miss Thomas.” She then rushes out of the building, pulling her hood up over her hair as she goes.
“What was that?” I asked, gesturing at the girls back with my thumb and Meg’s saddened expression lights up.
“(f/n)!! You’re here!!” She rushed around the counter and pulled me into a tight hug, warming me to my very core.
“Sorry it took so long,” I start when she grabs a tress of my (h/c) hair and holds it up, showing me the snowflakes still in it.
“Um…what happened here?” she asks and I step back, pulling my hair from her fingers and smiling at her.
“Oh, I got beaned with a snowball by one of those kids over by the market.” I say and Meg casts a stern look outside.
“Oh jeez, which one was it? Was it Joey or-”
“No, no, it’s fine. They’re already getting punished. Extra punishment isn’t going to teach them anything, besides I don’t think they did it on purpose.” I say when a bell rings at the front counter and I see another young girl standing there with another snow shovel. “Business is booming today, huh?” I ask and Meg squeezes my shoulder.
“Oh, hi Julie, you didn’t get detention, did you?” she asks then whispers to me. “No kidding, I’ll get you your key and meet you at your new place.”
“No ma’am, I just wanna go over and help them out.” She says, turning to speak to Meg and giving me a look at her face.
She was like a book character, a natural beauty from a small town in the middle of nowhere. She had long brown hair, straight and perfect; not a hair was out of place and the same fair skin as that Susie girl, only hers was completely clear. Her eyes were almond shaped and an almost glowing green color, long dark lashes and pretty red lips.
How the hell did teenage girls like her always make me feel insecure? I mean, I wasn’t saying I was ugly but I was no Julie, apparently. I was about five feet, had long (h/c) hair that hung to about the middle of my back. I had one or two strands of white in my hair that I knew of but they didn’t stand out enough to be noticeable by others. My skin was clear, fortunately I’d had all my acne trouble in my teens and that went away and stayed away. I had dark circles under my eyes from many a late or sleepless night and I was rather fit for my age, but that’s a given considering my previous line of work. I’ll probably pack on some weight now that I’m not chasing criminals every day.
“Julie…your dad is gonna be pretty angry with me if I give you another shovel. He’s brought them back the last three times you tried this.” Meg tries to plead with the girl but she shakes her head.
“Please Meg, I’ll just tell him I stole it this time!! Please let me go help my friends!” she pleads gently and I walk up to the counter.
“Hey Meg, I was just about to buy that shovel.” I say and the girl looks rather angry that I interrupted but I looked over to her and winked, bringing a relieved smile to her face.
“You just can’t help yourself, can you?” she asks as she hands me the shovel. “Just take it,” she says and I immediately turned and looked up; one security camera.
I glanced over at Meg without moving my head too much and she smiled, waving at us like she was waving goodbye. “They don’t record sound but its high def, choose your words.” She says and lightly tugs on the high collar of her vest, showing that her mouth was hidden by that.
I nod and gesture at the door like I’m ordering Julie to go. “Walk outside and pretend I’m scolding you until we’re out of its view.” I say and Julie’s eyes light up as she mock storms out the door, like a child throwing a tantrum.
Once outside, we duck to the left of the door and I see there’s one more camera but it’s pointed straight down above the door. I turn to Julie and hand her the shovel.
“Thank you,” she says and I nod.
“Sure, I remember being a kid. My friends used to be everything to me but none of my old friends would join me when I got punished. Get going,” I say and she smiles before rushing over to help the three kids now shoveling snow, pulling her hood up.
They look elated to see her and I sigh, somewhat envious of them. Other than Meg, I had no friends from school and I met her in college. I heard the door and looked over to see Meg coming over to me, my key in her hand.
“You just got here and you’re already sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong.” She warns, giving it to me.
“I know…I couldn’t help it. I feel like they might not have an adult they trust; kids like that need someone they can depend on.” I say and she punches my shoulder.
“Girl, you’ve been here what? Five whole minutes and you’re already trying to fix this place, this is exactly why I’m so glad you’re here. Everything you touch turns to gold.” She says and I shake my head.
“Great, I’ve got the Mitis Touch.” I say and immediately slap her in her chest, making her groan and laugh. “Aww…no gold titties today, damn.” I say and she punches my shoulder again, a little harder this time.
“You mean bitch,” he laughs and I smile, feeling the metal key in my hand.
Looking down at it I was surprised to see it was a heavy, old key, like the kinds used for giant cartoon padlocks. It was somewhat rusting around the ring of it but otherwise, it was fine. “How old is the place I bought, you said it fit my style?” I say and she nods.
“You’ll get why I said that once you’re there. I gotta man my store for a couple more hours. Go home, get started unpacking and I’ll meet you up there later for some drinks.” She says and pats my back, turning and going back inside her store.
I looked down at the key again and took a deep breath, heading over to my car and knowing I’d have to drive a little way up the mountain to reach my new home.
Once I got the door open, I heard Rusty again and looked up to see he was yelling at the kids. “Julie, you know the rules. Go on home, these three are in detention.” He says and walks over, taking the shovel from her hands. “Meg needs to stop selling you these things, I’ve already told her-”
“Rusty!” I start and he turns to me, so does Julie. “It was me, I thought I was helping out…I’m sorry.” I say and Julie’s eyes are hopeful when he turns back to her.
He lets out a sigh of defeat and gives her back the shovel. “Return that to Miss (l/n) when you’re finished, am I clear young lady?” he asks with his hands on his chubby hips.
“Yes sir, thank you!!” she says giddily and resumes shoveling with her friends, all patting her shoulder and nodding.
Rusty comes over to me and places a heavy arm around my shoulder. “Look, I know you meant well but those four are nothing but trouble. Try to steer clear of those kids.” He says and I tilt my head.
“Why? They seem to just need some structure, a chance?” I offer optimistically but he shakes his head, sadly smiling at me.
“I wish it were that, ever since that new boy moved here…those four have been nothing but trouble for the whole town. Several of the teachers at Fairview have tried their best but, nothing seems to work with them. No punishment makes a difference and if we punish two, the other two will always be there. They’re like a pack of wolves, thick as thieves, although they haven’t stolen anything…yet.” He says and I shake my head.
“I’m sorry sir, I’ll mind my own business from now on.” I say and he pats my shoulder happily.
“No, its alright. Your heart was in the right place and I respect that. We need more good Samaritans around here. Happy to welcome you to Ormond.”
Chapter 3: The Lodge
Oops...must have missed the turnoff. On your way to your house...you find yourself stuck going up the mountain. What is that looming structure up at the top?
Sorry uploads have been somewhat spotty this passed week, things are going to be picking up again as I am now an Affiliate on Twitch! (I can focus purely on my work!)
Be sure to check out my Twitch channel at DeadOnArrivalGirl; I stream DBD most of the week and sing and edit videos for my YouTube channel under the same name.
I'm grateful for everything that has happened in the last 48 hours and I'll find some way to show my gratitude properly. I hope to make you proud! Long live The Archive!
The snow bluffs glistened all around me, like piles upon piles of white glitter as I drove up the mountain. Every tree I passed glistened and the branches hung low and round; heavy with snow. I saw maybe one or two houses all with that same flat and stout design with their drive ways shoveled and salted. I’d probably have to do the same thing once I got to mine. Mentally I kicked myself for not even considering that while I was still in town because I don’t have any salt for it…or a shovel.
And I supposedly commandeered a shovel on Julie’s behalf before leaving Meg’s shop. I rubbed my temple with my right hand and winced; hindsight is 20/20…as always. One of the first things I should have thought of when I saw all the snow out here was shovel and my drive way. I should probably just focus on finding the actual street first.
The roads were black and seeming sprinkled with the same glitter that surrounded me. The trees were covered in snow, branches bowing under the weight and massive piles of untouched snow, despite me seeing little paw prints in it every once and a while.
I kept going until I found myself in the looming shadow of this wide-open space, a massive white blanket literally out of nowhere on the slope with a massive building at its apex. I looked up at it, feeling something at the back of my skull urging me forward.
I must have missed the turn somewhere; I look around and don’t see a place where I can turn off…this particular road is too skinny for my truck to make any sort of turn. I guess I’m going all the way up…just to come all the way back down. Shit…it’s gonna be dark by the time I go back down.
I grip the steering wheel a little tighter and keep going, honestly a little worried that I went and got myself lost already. It must be the snow; I’m not used to everything being covered and having no land markers to determine where I am.
It didn’t matter how small Ormond was, with the snow…it may as well have been the maze from The Shining. The road up the mountain was winding and carried so many sharp turns I had to slow my pace to a near crawl; 20mph at the fastest…sometimes slower. I didn’t want to run the risk of smashing into the barricades or being the unfortunate newbie that died on her way to her new house.
Finally getting to the entrance, I saw the long since defaced sign that once read ‘Mount Ormond Resort’ but it was covered with graffiti. It now read Dead Lands; None Shall Pass.
Edgy teens or adults who didn’t know how to be adults yet…if ever. As I made to turn around and go back down the mountain, there was a violent stop in my truck and I jerked forward. I managed to keep from hitting my head on the wheel but I gasped in shock as my car idled.
I turned off my truck and got out, taking care in not slipping this time and going around to look at my truck. The front right tire of my truck was stuck in a deep pothole…this couldn’t possibly be happening right now.
“Fuck me…” I grumbled when I turned and looked at the looming building, starting to feel extremely alone right now.
I wasn’t going to be able to get my truck out of there by myself…and I’m on a fucking mountain top; cell service is out of the question. On the off chance that maybe I had a bar or two, I tried but the big red X over my bars confirmed what I already knew.
I looked back and figured; this place looks pretty abandoned but I can see what appears to be a pickaxe leaning against a wall at the top of one of the many balconies this place had. I mean…if I had more room to move, I could gain some momentum and probably hop out of the hole. Drastic of course, but I’m all alone in a strange place with no one to help me and no other options. I’ll just try to think of something else on my way up, if I don’t think of anything by the time I get back down here, I’ll just consider this to be my last resort.
“Ha…resort…pfft.” I muttered to myself and turned around, making my way back into my truck.
I kneeled on my drivers’ seat and snatched at the glove compartment handle, revealing my registration and my firearm. While I no longer had the one provided to me by the unit, I did have a license to carry so I slide the holster onto my hip and stepped outside.
I was about to close my door when my phone beeped and I gasped; I had one bar. One shot at this reaching anyone. I dialed Meg and it went straight to voicemail; of course, she’s still working.
“Hey Meg, I think I missed the turn and ended up here at this resort. My car is stuck in a pothole so I’m gonna try to get out of it and get to my new place. If you haven’t heard from me by the time you start towards my place…come save me. Later,” I say and hang up, stuffing my phone into the glove compartment and locking up my truck.
I started into the building, feeling extremely apprehensive as I walked up to the looming structure. It had seen much better days, there were still tarps and wood filling in where glass likely once sat. The place was also covered in graffiti, varying in design and style. From the little stint I did in the gang unit, I could vaguely tell that there were maybe four or five people responsible and at least one of them was a girl.
Entering the building, I could see this built in circular couch set imbedded in the floor, with three skinny steps leading down into it. At its center was what I’m sure once was a beautiful firepit with a chimney that lead up into the ceiling. Not too far away from that was a massive hole in the ceiling with icicles hanging in.
Damn…this place is fucked up. There were some stairs to my right so I turned and started up, there were two landings that lead up to the second level. It overlooked the entire first floor of the lodge and lead up into other rooms, most of them barren of no more than a shelf and a few left behind materials and boxes.
I walked over towards where I’d seen the leaning pickaxe and saw the open doorway that lead out onto the long balcony. With all the snow lining the rail, I’m amazing that hadn’t caved in like the ceiling in the lobby. I saw the pickaxe leaning up against the wall and I started out towards it, only for the car alarm to stop me.
I turned and looked over the rail and saw three kids, all wearing masks and jackets surrounding my car. One was already in the driver’s seat while the other two seemed to be talking frantically.
“HEY!” I yelled and they looked up, immediately turning to the one inside and seeming to rush them. “Damn it!!” I turned on my heel to run back inside but the floor under my foot gave out. At first, just my leg went through but the weight from my groin hitting the neglected wood forced it to break more and my whole lower half went through the wood.
I screamed in surprise, my arms splaying out to keep me from falling any further. My legs swung and almost pulled me the rest of the way into the hole, that momentum alone scaring the hell out of me. My finger tips were dug into the tiniest of spaces between the planks that made up this walkway and I thanked my lucky stars it was enough to keep me from falling.
I gasped and struggled to pull myself up but that sparse grip I had on the wood wasn’t going to be enough for me to hoist myself up. I looked around, breathing hard and trying to think of a way to get out of this when I heard footsteps inside and fast approaching.
I looked up and saw this rather lithe looking guy come out of the door where the pickaxe was leaning, but I couldn’t see his face; he was wearing a hoodie and not looking at me yet. I let out this frantic sounding whimper and he whipped around to look at me, shooting fear through my veins as I took in the messily written smiley face on his mask.
This was just getting worse and worse, not only was my car about to be stolen but now I’m hanging on for dear life and I’m outnumbered 4 to 1! I kept trying to get myself up but I lost my grip for a moment and slid down a little more, gasping and crying out like a frightened cat. I kept clinging to the boards, waiting anxiously for this guy to move.
He finally did and my heart sank, he grabbed the handle of the pickaxe; slowly and meticulously picking it up and looking from it to me, slowly. I didn’t want to show any semblance of subservience here but I was looking at either falling to my death or being pickaxed to death…I tried to plead with him.
“Please…” I started and he approached me, still holding the pickaxe like a baseball bat in his hands. “I’m not looking for trouble, I was just lost!” I tried but my grip was starting to slip.
He was now standing maybe three feet away from me; prime swinging distance for his weapon of choice. He suddenly knelt down and extended the rounded end of the axe to me, holding onto the handle tightly. I didn’t hesitate; I snatched at it and once I had a grip he stood up and pulled back, letting out a loud grunt as he did. I was now laying on my side on the much more stable feeling boards and gasping for air. I knew he was still standing there but a soft thump on the floor told me that he’d put the pickaxe down.
Once I’d mostly caught my breath, I looked up at him and he stepped forward, reaching his hand out to me. His hands were calloused, he liked to tinker with things…something dirty since his fingertips were somewhat black. His palms were wrapped in what appeared to be medical tape and below the mask, I could see what appeared to be a skull tattoo but I couldn’t make out much else. Just as I got the idea to accept his help, my car alarm stopped and he jerked back, slowly walking away from me. The way he squared his shoulders and clenched his fists told me that he was considering something but I wasn’t sure what when he turned and ran away, disappearing from my view and the sound of his footsteps faded away quickly.
I took a moment and caught my breath, feeling so confused and the adrenaline pumping through my veins blinded me to the ache I was probably going to feel between my legs after this. Once I wasn’t breathing so hard, I slowly got to my feet and while I couldn’t feel any pain right now, I could feel that was a tear in my pants along my right inner thigh…damn it…I liked these ones.
I carefully but quickly looked over the rail and saw that while the alarm had indeed stopped…my door was still ajar and my car was about 10 feet from where I’d left it.
I turned and ran into the lodge and down the stairs before I stopped near the front door. I didn’t know where those four had gone but I wasn’t about to be ambushed. I pulled my gun and clicked off the safety, pointing the barrel at the ground and steadying my breath before raising it towards my car and stepping outside in one fluid motion.
No one, I saw no one and nothing around my car; where had they vanished too so fast? I pointed the barrel down again as I quickly went to my truck and checked the backseat of my cab, nothing. No one in the bed or anything missing. I stepped back and looked down…seeing the small line of boards behind my tires that lead from the pothole.
Rebels with a cause…
Meg did mention once that people out here enjoy their privacy…I didn’t think she was this serious about it though. I’d chosen a strange town to call my new home…but I was still grateful. I holstered my weapon and turned to look at the building; seeing no one and nothing. I could also see where I’d fallen through the floor of that balcony; I definitely would have broken something if I’d fallen.
I waved at the building and called out. “Thank you…” I started when I reached into my car and found one of my old business cards from the precinct. I snatched it and held it up to the building, hoping at the very least, to make peace with these unseen helpers. “This is my card…I’m new here so feel free to throw it out. If you want help with something…call me; bring this full circle.” I said and lightly placed the card on the ground, got into my car, starting it up and driving away.
With one quick glance in my rearview mirror, I could see someone rush out, snatch my card and disappear back inside.
Chapter 4: The Carpenter
Finally arriving at your new home...it's not what you expected at all, but there is always more than just appearances. Oh, the phone is ringing.
I saw this massive triangle shaped thing in the distance and at first, I thought I was seeing things, it was a cabin…my cabin.
From a distance, it looked small…but I knew I’d have to get closer to see it at its full size…which was huge! The front had two rows of tall glass windows that seemed to reach from floor to ceiling. There was a chimney sticking out of the top and a balcony with at least a few years’ worth of dead leaves buried under another layer of snow. There were no lights inside so I figured everything was just as bad inside and I started to doubt Meg.
She said I was going to like it…that it fit me and what she figured I needed right now. I swear if this was her idea of a joke, she would be receiving a very strongly worded phone call.
I got out of my truck, locked it up and started walking towards it when my foot sank much deeper than I was expecting it to. My ankle made this loud pop sound and I shrieked in surprise as I fell flat into the snow, almost being buried by it. I raised my head and saw that if I had wanted to, I could have just laid flat and hidden on my own front lawn!
Jeez this is a lot of fucking snow! I forced myself up and started limping towards the cabin, feeling my ankle aching from having rolled it so hard. Damn it, I hate this feeling.
Finally reaching the front porch I could see a little better now how the front of my house was structured. The ground floor was actually narrower than I had first thought, since that large triangle shape I’d seen was the front of the cabins roof extending almost all the way down to the ground. The roof over the balcony on the second level slanted at less of an incline so it stuck out like a flap on the side of this thing. I also noticed that the balcony was not a mirror effect in the architecture, it was the only balcony on the left of the building, my right, as I stood before it.
I couldn’t see into the first floor as the windows were covered with thick curtains and from the bare edges that I could see within, there was a sheer cover on the other side to make it look pretty. I looked up and while I couldn’t see the second floor at all, I could see that the two windows at either end of that four-pane row had their outer corners clipped to match the shape of this huge triangle roof.
It was unlike any house I’d seen while living in the city, everything in the city was sleek and modern, sharp and sparkly. This was more rustic looking, which wasn’t a problem per say…I was just worried about the interior and how bad it might end up looking…if that balcony was any indicator.
I found the front door actually underneath the balcony, a little lantern hanging over it but the bulb within it was broken. Too bad, it looks like it would cast a pretty light.
I stuck my key into the lock and I actually half expected it to break…but it held firm and opened the heavy wooden door with a loud click.
Alright…let’s see if I regret this decision any more than I already have.
Pushing the door open…it was still practically pitch-black inside so I just hurried myself inside and closed the door behind me. It wasn’t that light out anymore anyways so I started limping around and feeling my way around when my finger tapped something smooth but hard. I recoiled by instinct but laid my hand against it slowly and recognized the texture as a cardboard box, this sent a lightbulb off in my head.
Were my things already moved in here? I hadn’t even seen the movers since I got here…did I really take that long to get out here? No wonder Meg called me.
Sadly, the little bulb in my head did me no favors in the dark so I kept feeling my way over the boxes, seeing that they’d been stacked up together beside what I could only assume was the wall. I felt a little uneasy as I wasn’t sure how high up they went and I pictured them finding me in the morning, crushed by my many boxes because I chose to walk around in the dark.
I keep reaching around, trying to find some section of the wall not covered by boxes with hopes of finding a light switch, when I was startled by the sound of the phone ringing. I couldn’t even manage to find it because it seemed to bounce off the walls of this place, the whole room was filled with the sound of it blaring like an alarm.
I frantically dug into my pocket for my phone but once I pulled it out and tapped the screen, nothing happened. Fricken…great, I can’t fucking see! At least there’s a land line incase something does happen; I’m not completely stranded.
Hey, you’ve reached the home of (f/n)! If this is Ace…please only reach out to her through your lawyer! Anyone else, she’s single and ready to get it ON! Bow chicka wow wow!
Meg…I’m actually going to kill you.
Hello Mrs. Visconti-ahem, um Miss (l/n) …This is Jane Romero, I’ll be representing Mr. Visconti. I’m calling to inform you that Ace would like for you to come in so we can discuss the terms of your paperwork.”
I thought my stomach just did a back flip at the sound of that bitch on the phone. He was still using her for this? Of all the people on earth he could have gotten to be his fucking lawyer…he chose her?!!
“See, there seems to be a few discrepancies with the papers you provided and due to the prenup you signed, we have to ensure that you aren’t trying to sneak any of Ace’s assets out from under him.” Her voice was absolutely condescending and I actually started storming towards where I thought the sound was coming from.
“What fucking assets?! He’s in fucking debt to-” I’m cut off by colliding my rolled ankle into something solid and I screamed as I fell and hit my face on the floor, my nose exploding with pain!
“FUCK!” I yelled and Jane just kept talking. The really fucked up part, is that I don’t think she would have stopped talking if she’d been standing in the same room as me.
“There could be a suit filed against you for this considerable oversight, but Ace has insisted that he wants to speak to you first as a sign of good faith. I’m sure we can come to some sort of agreement, please contact me so we can schedule a time to go over this. I’ve also been made aware of your new living arrangements. Please be sure to provide us your new address and source of income.”
I curled up into a ball on the floor as I could feel my heart breaking all over again. My head was absolutely throbbing at this point, I couldn’t see anything and I just kept seeing that horrible woman over and over again. My nose felt like fire was pouring out of it but I knew it was blood…I didn’t move, nor bother to wipe it away.
Oversight…good faith…some sort of agreement…fucking bitch.
I let the fire pour from my nose and eyes, my chest aching and my hands tucked between my thighs. I was curled up like a pill bug and I wish I had its strong exterior to protect myself. I was not nearly as fortunate; a little critter that lived in the dirt and hid from all its problems…was better off than me. Me, a decorated officer with enough smarts and experience to go back home and head my old unit…am no better than a measly little insect.
This…isn’t…happening. David and I poured over that agreement for weeks before I dropped it off, what could have possibly been missed?! I made sure that everything was perfect, he keeps his shit, I keep mine; nothing more and nothing less. I send the papers, he signs them, sends them back and we’re no longer husband and wife!!
I’m not letting go without a fight because I love you!
His voice echoed in my head from our last argument when I told him I wanted a divorce. I loved him still too but…I can’t handle him coming home whenever, drunk or too exhausted from gambling all fucking night!
He stopped treating me like a wife once he was comfortable again.
I’ve faced hardened criminals, been in fire fights with drug lords and held a child’s hand before they faced their predator in court. I’ve done countless acts of bravery and rescue…I was a hardened officer who fought for the good of the public…yet Ace. He was the one person I’d met who turned my diamond rough exterior into molten mush with a single look, I felt like I was in a dream when we were together…but now?
Why can’t he just let me go?!
I sobbed like a child, my emotions flooding out of me through my tears, when I heard the door clicking as someone unlocked it. Meg was early and boy was she in for it when she came in.
“Hello? Miss (f/n)?” a man’s voice and I sat up. Raising my head and halting my sobs; I see the silhouette of a man in the doorway when I’m hit with a flashlight beam. I raised a hand to block the beam, unable to tell who this person is. “Oh my God! Are you alright?!” he rushes over to me and kneels down before me.
“Um…yeah, I…fell?” I say, hoping he didn’t notice the slight inflection to that. I let him lightly touch my jaw to turn my head; seeming to examine my nose. The beam from his light actually warmed my cold skin a little and I he hummed as he looked carefully at my nose.
“Ok, stay right here; I’m gonna go turn on the power. I wasn’t expecting you to be here already, I would have had them on already.” He frets then leaves the flashlight with me and runs out the door, leaving it slightly ajar.
The chilly air from outside creeps in and I hadn’t even realized but I’d begun to sweat. My forehead and cheeks and upper lip growing cold almost immediately as that air began to fill the room.
I must be completely out of it because I just laid back on the floor, flicked off the light and just stared up at the blackness above me. The air out here…smelled incredible.
It was clean and fresh and felt so good to breathe in deeply as I just…existed for a moment. I wasn’t even sure who this guy was yet, he talked about the power and called me Miss so…maybe a groundskeeper or electrician? I heard something flicker and was practically blinded as the bulbs flickered and lit up the whole place.
I’d had to cover my eyes and blink several times with my hands over my eyes, slowly ridding me off the ache from the flash. Once that was gone, I slowly moved my hands away from my eyes and my jaw dropped…is this real?
There is a stone fireplace sticking out of the wall, slightly elevated off the hardwood floors. Dark stained support beams with soft cream walls, the kitchen was small but had granite counter tops and a shiny black and silver stove.
There was a short hall to some double doors that lead outside, glass windows making up their center but bordered in that same dark stained wood. There was a washer and dryer stacked beside the doors and that man came in through one of those doors.
“There we go, looks like they only set up the land line and forgot to flip the other breakers. Everything should be up and running now.” He says and approaches me, this soft smile on his face.
He’s roughly average height, black rimmed glasses and short black hair, a little spikey from being styled that way. His skin was fair and his eyebrows were thick, he was skinny looking but not unfit looking. He was wearing a black button up with the sleeves rolled up, black gloves and a black watch on his right wrist. His pants were also black but appeared to be covered in sawdust, with black work boots to match.
“Thank you,” I say and he rushes over, pulling out a handkerchief and handing it to me. “I’d introduce myself but it seems like you already know my name.” I say, trying not to sound nasally as I pressed the cloth to my nose.
“Oh, sorry. I’m Dwight, I’m just the carpenter.” He says offering me his gloved hand with a smile.
His smile fades though as I look at him, confused and not taking his outstretched hand. “Carpenter? Was something wrong with the place?” I asked and he seemed to grow more nervous all of a sudden.
“Um…no? I was just checking it out to make sure everything was set up right.” He says and clears his throat while I’m still just staring at him. “Um…I built it…just checking to make sure-”
“Wait, what? You built this place? Ground up?” I asked and he nodded, looking a little frightened as I looked around quickly. “You built this,” I said again, somewhat breathlessly and more of a statement than a question.
“Yeah…Meg said that you would like it this way, I’m sorry if it’s not what you expected. I can fix whatever you don’t like for a reduced rate, if you like.” He offers and I just look back to him, my eyes starting to feel dry from how wide they were.
“No! It’s beautiful, I thought…Meg said she was handling the sale for me but I didn’t know she was having my place built for me!” I said and he smiled, his brown eyes lighting up at my delight.
“Yeah, I owed Meg a favor so I did this project for a discount.” He says, walking over to the wall and placing a gloved hand on the dark beam. “Staining the fir was a little tricky since they usually have red or blond colors to their timber, but I think it came out rather nice.” He says, looking at the place like a work of art, this warm admiration in his eyes.
“It’s amazing, I’m gonna need to ask Meg what kind of favor you owed her.” I say and he laughs, his cheeks turning a light shade of pink.
“Hey, make friends in the right places.” He says when the phone rings again and I felt my heart leap into my throat but I remained still. “Aren’t…aren’t you going to get that?”
“No, I um…tissue?” I ask and the color in his cheeks drained almost immediately.
“Oh! Yeah, bathroom is right over here! Follow me.” He rushes back to those double doors and opened a door between the laundry area and back doors.
As I went towards that area, I discretely unplugged the land line and the ringing stopped. Now that the ringing had stopped, I followed Dwight and saw my bathroom.
“We decided to keep the bathroom more modern, as much as people claim to love the rustic aesthetic; they have a few misgivings about the plumbing. We have a chrome finish and all the tile in here has that wood finish. The tub and toilet are pearl porcelain and the sink is the same dark chocolate brown as the support beams in the living area.” He says and hands me a small cluster of toilet paper.
The tub was indeed a pearly white porcelain color, walled in on three sides and the only way in was through the pristine glass door with a silvery handle. I couldn’t see the showerhead until I looked at the ceiling and saw that it was a large square panel built into it. There was some shelving space built into the wall and I even walked around Dwight to look at the rest of the bathroom. Just in front of the tub was the sink, mounted into the wall with a rectangular mirror above that. The largest wall on the shower wasn’t the end of the room, there was actually a narrow space behind it where the toilet resided with two skinny doors on either side for storage. This far back wall of the building had that same modern look to the rest of the bathroom, with a few narrow windows up near the ceiling.
“I wanted to put some blinds up to begin with but I figured you might want to pick what they look like.” He says and I actually lose grip on my nose for a moment as I take it in…this is mine…my new home.
“Oh!” I hear and look down to see I’m dripping blood onto the floor.
The dark droplets of my blood look almost brown as they hit the wood designed tile and I step back, not wanting to bleed on my shoes too. Dwight gently takes the tissue from my hand and places it under my nose, placing a hand on my shoulder and having me lean forward. “It’s better to let it flow out, in my experience it’s no fun when you get blood clots in the back of your throat.”
“Agreed, thank you.” I say and look up at him, holding eye contact for a long moment.
His cheeks started to turn pink again before he looked down and focused on his hands and not my eyes. He’s pretty handsome, he’s got that delicate jawline that makes me think he was probably picked on a lot as a kid. His eyes were narrow and focused, a few creases between his brows; he worries a lot.
“You’re a nervous person,” I say without thinking and he looks back up at me.
“I’m sorry?” he says and I laugh a little.
“You’ve got a few wrinkles in the dead center of your forehead, it shows that you scrunch up your brow a lot. You’d have more wrinkles if you scowled a lot, that would tell me that you’re angry. You’d have less if you were more laid back, it would tell me that you don’t emote with your face much. That and your nailbeds are completely history on all ten of your fingers; nervous nail biter and your hair may be styled but its messy because you run your hands through it a lot.” I say and he chuckles.
“Holy crap…you…hit the nail on the head. In school they called me the Nervous Nerd; are you some kind of medium?” he asks, lightly pressing the tissue against my nose again.
“No, but I appreciate the compliment.” I say and he pulls away, the tissue looking red but my nose wasn’t gushing anymore.
I lightly pressed the back of my wrist against my upper lip and nothing came away with it so I figured it was fine now. Dwight tosses the tissue into the nearby waste bin before turning back to me.
“Seriously, how’d you know all of that?” he asked and went over to the sink to wash some of the blood smears from his fingers.
“Uh…call it a party trick.” I say awkwardly and despite his back being to me, I flirtatiously twist in my spot.
Ok…could I be anymore pathetic right now? I haven’t even been here a day and I’m already looking for a rebound!
“Oh, also…before I forget.” He says, turning to me and wiping his hands on another cloth that he must have had in his pocket. “There’s a nature preserve behind the property; my friend Jake lives out there.” He says, scratching the back of his head; awkward…he’s nervous again.
“Oh, does he like, run the preserve?” I asked and he looked physically uncomfortable.
“No…he doesn’t really have a job.” He starts and that’s when I cross my arms and lean against the wall. “Meg said that if anyone would understand how Jake likes to live, you would so I…wanted to hopefully talk about that…as well.” He says nervously, seeming to notice how annoyed I look.
“Ah, is that the real reason you came over today?” I asked and he shook his head frantically.
“No! I did actually come over to look at the house but…I just wanted to mention that before I left, maybe convince you to let him stay there?” He said and I tilted my head.
“Um…if he’s on a nature preserve then…its none of my business. He’s not going to be a creep and perv out on me or something, right?” I asked and he shook his head frantically.
“NO! Of course not!! I’d never ask you to let him stay if he were like that! He’s just anti-social and he’s never just asked someone where their property line ends so…he’s been arrested a few times for trespassing despite not knowing. Not to say that he’s a criminal or anything like that-ooh…I’m not explaining this very well, am I?” he stammers, grabbing the back of his head with both hands and looking down at the floor.
“No…but since Meg trusts you, I trust you and by extension; I will trust your friend. Jake, you said?” I say and you’d think I’d just given him a million bucks.
His face absolutely lit up and he smiled at me, it was rather cute to see that kind of expression on a man. Whenever Ace was happy, he was calm and collected; confident and extremely full of himself. Dwight didn’t seem like he got happy about things often…how sweet.
“Yes, even if you run into him, he’s very polite just…quiet.” He says quickly and I nod.
“Ah, so he’s shy.” I say but he shakes his head and I stand up away from the wall, putting my hands on my hips.
“No, he just…lacks real social skills. He’s my best friend so it’s not my business to speak of but, if you meet him you can ask him. He’s quiet but if you ask about him, he’ll tell you.” He says and I nod.
“Alright, I’ll take your word for it.” My attention is then drawn to the wrought iron black spiral stairs that lead up to a second level. “What’s up there?”
“That’s the loft, it serves as your bed room. Here, this is actually something that Jake recommended for it.” He says and starts up the stairs, me following close behind him.
Up on the second level, I’m met with a triangular room with sloping walls and those same dark chocolate colored support beams. The walls were a softer and warmer blond and there were two skylights on the two high sloping walls, showing me the night sky above me. I could watch the sun rise and set this way.
“Wow…this is breathtaking.” I said and I turned to see him leaning against the wall, his hand against the beam.
“I’m glad you like it; this is the part that Jake recommended.” He says and pulls this tall Japanese panel out of seemingly nowhere and points at the beam directly across from it and behind me.
I touch it and find that there’s a small dip in the wood, that my fingers hook onto and start pulling until I bumped into Dwight’s shoulder and allowed him to take over and close the doors. They were made of several tall and skinny wood panels that all linked up and neatly folded over each other to create this divider.
“He said that his mother deeply valued privacy so when I said this house was for a woman, he said that the bedroom area needed a door. I took some inspiration from his Oriental heritage and built something into the plan that was both effective but also maintained space.”
“This place is amazing Dwight, thank you so much for this. I owe you and Meg a few rounds of drinks.” I say and his eyes light up.
“Hey, if you’re buying; I know the perfect place.” He says and I gesture for him to lead the way.