The first part of this was about 500 words, so we are going to shoot for 1000 today.
No answer. The sheriff’s brow began to sweat. He jiggled the handle, and it was unlocked. The old wooden door creaked as it slowly opened into the old woman’s living room.
“Ms. Tallus?” Bandy called out. “Is everything alright?”
He made his way from room to room until he realized he was indeed alone in the house. It was time to check the backyard. He exited through the back door, and immediately saw Harold standing and staring, still in the same spot.
“Hey, Harold!” the sherriff called as he walked toward him. “Have you seen your grandmother? We had a phone call down at the station…”
Harold said nothing. He did not move. He barely breathed.
“Harold? Did you hear me?” Bandy approached him carefully. Next to Harold now, Bandy was able to see the single pink slipper in his hand. Harold was clenching it so hard his hand was a darker hue than the slipper. The sheriff reached out to touch Harold’s shoulder, and as he did so, the distraught grandson whipped around and grunted in anger.
“She’s dead.” Bandy stared back at him with condoling eyes. “She’s fucking dead!” Harold sobbed and fell to the ground, right into the sheriff’s hands.
After they went inside the empty house, Bandy waited as Harold showered off some of his shock. He wandered rooms that seemed to be waiting for their caretaker to return, to finish running the sweeper, folding the laundry, latticing the crust of the apple pie on the counter. The television was still blaring episodes of Gilligan’s Island on TVLand.
Bandy heard the water shut off in the bathroom. He turned off the TV, and took a seat on the floral sofa. There was a sadness in his heart he couldn’t quite shake. He knew this was going to be messy.
“Sorry about that, sheriff,” said Harold. “I hope I didn’t frighten you.”
“Don’t think twice about it, Harry.” Harold nodded in understanding and sat in a light green rocking chair. There was an extended silence that made them both shift in place.
“Harry,” the sheriff started. “I have to ask you some questions. We will both be uncomfortable during this process, but if you just hang in there, we can get this investigation in the right direction and work toward some kind of justice for what you’re going through.”
“I understand. I will do whatever it takes to avenge her death.”
“Now, let’s not discuss vengeance. That will only eat you up and make matters worse. I have to ask this, Harold. Where were you today?”
“I went to the cemetery, like I do on Fridays, to see mom and dad. That was about 9 this morning. And I stopped at Suzy’s Flower Palace to pick up those proteas you saw out in the grass.” The sheriff scribbled in his notebook. “I bring her flowers every weekend and stay overnight to keep her company and help with the chores. That was only about 10 minutes before I arrived here at about noon, and after I found her, I lost track of time.”
“Do you have anyone who can account for your whereabouts?”
“Well, possibly. Go talk to Ingrid at the Methodist church on Ridge, and Suzy was working this morning.”
“Mm-hmm. Now, we don’t need to go through what happened once you got here again, but other officials who get involved may need you to repeat yourself. I want you to be prepared.”
“This house and the yard especially are going to be cordoned off during this investigation, and everything needs to be left the way we found it. You won’t be able to come back here until this is over. There is a search party looking for your grandma. I’ll let you know once they have her. Is there anyone who can stay with you tonight?”
“There’s no one. There’s no one left.” They both looked at the ground for a few seconds. Harold looked up first. “Hey, Sheriff Bandy, by the way, how did you know to come here in the first place?”
“We got a strange anonymous call from a gentleman. He said, ‘Grandma Sherry’s red with berries.’ Didn’t know what to think, so came to check on her. Tell you what, I never expected this.”
There was nothing left to say, so no one said anything. The men rose to their feet and made their way out the front door. Harold got into his silver pickup truck. The sheriff rested his left arm close to the sideview mirror.
“If you can find someone to stay with you, please do. I’ll be here with the techs for the next few hours. If you need anything, you know where to find me. I’ll keep you updated.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“And Harry.” Bandy looked into the man’s face. “I’m very sorry. She was a huge part of what makes Crane the place that it is. I’m going to do everything I can to catch the sonuvabitch who did this to sweet ol’ Sherry.”
“I know.” With that, Harry backed out of the gravel driveway and started to head to his house in Ridgewater. Somehow, he found himself pulling into the church parking lot instead. He parked and his truck sputtered to silence. It was dusk and the crickets weren’t letting anyone forget it.
Harold went into the side door and down the long hall to the multi-purpose room. A bible study was in progress, so he took at seat in the back and checked his watch. 2:45. He would have a solo audience with Pastor Kel in 15 minutes. He wasn’t sure how he was going to break the news that his no. 1 parishioner was never coming back.
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Harold suffered silently, finding no solace where there once was overflowing light. I don’t know anymore, he answered to no one but God.