The man answering the door looked harried – hair uncombed, stains from more than one meal spotting his shirt, still in bedroom slippers at 10:20am. His eyes darted from one uniformed officer to the other as he repeatedly moistened his upper lip with nervous flicks of his tongue.
“Yes?” he asked without opening the storm door.
“Mister Jackson?” Officer Makely asked, raising his voice to counter the closed door.
The man inside looked none too sure of it when he replied, “Yes.”
“Can we speak to you please?” Officer Reanot asked, causing the man to swing his head in an almost comical exaggeration from one policeman to the other.
“Speak… to me?” His voice almost squeaked.
“Yes, sir. Would you mind opening the door?” Reanot pointed to the latch for emphasis. “And we’d like to see Mrs. Jackson. Is she in?”
The color washed from Jackson’s face. He started to turn away when a loud crash from the kitchen made him jump. Officer Makely put his hand on his gun.
Instead of retreating Jackson stood where he was, pinching the bridge of his nose. Then, with a slump of his shoulders and a sigh audible through the glass he nodded his head.
“Yes. Yes. Come in. I can’t take this anymore.” He unlatched the door and took a few steps back to allow room for the two policemen to enter.
The stench from within nearly knocked the men over as they opened the door. Makely swallowed hard to keep down his gorge. Reanot drew his gun and hurried to the kitchen.
“Jesus Christ!” A mountain of dirty dishes was stacked in and about the sink. Debris was scattered on the floor. The stench was coming from the overflowing trash can. Looked like this was more a case for the Health Department than the Police. He holstered his gun and rejoined the two men in the front room.
“Nobody in there,” he explained to Makely.
“Mr. Jackson,” Makely said, taking the lead. “We’d like to talk to your wife please. We’ve got a 10-57, uh, a missing person report. Your wife’s sister says she has not been able to speak to her for over a week. She is quite concerned about her well-being. Is she around?”
Jackson looked at the floor and shuffled his feet. Then he slowly shook his head, no.
“Can you tell me where she is?”
Jackson looked up at Makely with something very close to desperation in his eyes. “Oh, she’s here,” he said in a tentative voice. “She’s here. She won’t leave me alone. Not one moment of peace.”
Another loud crash came from the kitchen.
“Alan, what a mess!” a shrill woman’s voice shouted from the kitchen. “You never finish anything. Anything at all!”
Makely and Reanot exchanged glances as Reanot darted once again for the kitchen doorway.
Again, the room was empty, but now a stack of dishes was scattered across the floor. Several pieces were broken. Reanot moved quickly to the dining room, but it was empty too, then tried the back door, which was locked.
Jackson watched him from the other room as he approached the basement door.
“Don’t go down there!” Jackson squawked, his voice breaking on “there.” Makely put a hand on the man’s shoulder to restrain him when he took a step toward the kitchen.
“What’s in the basement, Mister Jackson?” Makely asked, trying to bore into him with his eyes. It had no effect. Jackson was far too distraught to even notice the steely glare.
Reanot tried the door, and it too was locked.
“You have the key for this?” he asked.
Jackson raised his hand, index finger extended and jabbed upward several times.
Reanot looked up and saw a key hanging on a nail in the cornice.
“Please. Don’t.” The man’s high squeak was barely audible. Reanot ignored him.
The stench that roiled from the opened door sent Reanot reeling. “Call for backup,” he managed to croak as he staggered for the back door.
“You’re worthless, Alan. Worthless.” a woman screeched from below. “You have never finished a single thing. Couldn’t even finish my grave.”
© 2015 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.