General Fiction posted September 10, 2016

This work has reached the exceptional level
A stranger knocks at the door on a rainy day

Old news

by oliver818

Sentence Contest Winner 

The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.
There was a knock on the door. His chair screeched backwards as his head jerked round, his eyes wide, staring in the direction of the unexpected noise. Who could possibly be out in this weather? he wondered. His chair rattled again as he reluctantly lifted himself up and crossed the room. A dark, dripping hood stared back at him through the peephole. The safety chain clinked securely as the door opened just a crack.

"Yes? What can I do for you?"

"Are you Caleb Brown?"

"Yes. Who are you?"

"My name is Jonathan Roy. Look, I'm so sorry to bother you with this terrible weather, but I need to talk to you about something very important. Can I come in? I won't take too much of your time, I promise."

Caleb's eyes swept back and forth, taking in the stranger's features. Wet glasses clung to a long, thin nose. A collar and tie peaked out of the top of the rain jacket.

"Uh, sure I guess. Just a second."

Caleb really wasn't in the mood for visitors. But then again, he hadn't really been getting anywhere with his work, so a few minutes wouldn't matter. The chain slipped easily out of the metal clip, and the door swung open.

Water spilled over the hard-wood floor as he helped the guest off with his long, black, soaking anorak. The stranger pulled off his shoes and left them neatly by the door.

At least he's polite, Caleb reflected. "Take a seat by the fire. Would you like a cup of coffee? I only have instant at the moment I'm afraid."

"That would be great. Just black thanks."

As Caleb made his way to the kitchen, he hoped this wasn't going to take too long. Rebecca was expecting him to make dinner, and his article wasn't even past the first paragraph.

"So what is it I can do for you, Mr. Roy?" Caleb called from the kitchen, spooning dark, brown coffee granules into the cup. He took down a second cup, and dropped in a thin, gray bag of anti-stress tea, the third of the day. The kettle was just beginning to bubble.

Not receiving any reply, he stuck his head out of the door. Papers hung from the visitor's left hand, his eyes carefully studying the title of another.

"Oh, please excuse my curiosity, Caleb, may I call you Caleb? I'm a big fan of your journalistic work."

The wooden frame creaked as he leaned hard against it. He took a deep breath. "So, you're a fan. Look, Mr. Roy, normally all this kind of stuff goes through my editor. I can't just have people turning up here uninvited. I'd never get any work done!"

"Again, my sincere apologies, Caleb. I didn't mean to intrude. However, I have to confess, I'm a little more than just a fan. I'm also the father of Jessica Laurence. Well, step-father. I think the kettle is boiling, Caleb. For the coffee?"

Caleb's face blanched slightly. "Yes, sure, um, wait a minute please, I'll be right back."

Arms straining slightly under a tray loaded with two cups, a sugar bowl and a fresh packet of chocolate cookies, he crossed the room and the glass table tinkled a little under the heavy tray. Caleb made himself comfortable as he handed Jonathon his coffee.

"Look, Mr. Roy, I'm really sorry about my reaction just now. I didn't know..."

"It's fine Caleb, no offense taken. Oh, this is good coffee. Thank you."

Steam rising into his face, he blew softly on his own cup. His legs crossed and uncrossed as rainwater rushed down the outside pipe, and the fire hissed and danced.

"Look, Caleb, let me get to the point. I read your article about Jessica's murder. Now don't get me wrong, it was good. Very good. You're an extremely talented journalist."

"Thank you."

"But there is one thing that concerns me. The details. Now remember, this is my step-daughter we are talking about here, someone who I have loved and raised like my own since she was four years old. So you can imagine my horror when my wife, Jessica's mother, tearfully hands me an article written by yourself, containing every single bit of information about the murder. Nothing was left to the imagination
Mr. Caleb, nothing. And he did some heinous things to our daughter."

A log snapped and fell to the bottom of the hearth. "I realise how difficult that must have been for you, Mr. Roy."

"Do you really, Caleb? Have you been through the same thing then? Has someone sliced your daughter to pieces, raped her, hacked her up, and left her body in a ditch for the dogs? And then, just to rub it in, did a cold-hearted, detail-obsessed journalist print it all up for the pleasure of the town gossips? I didn't think so."

A window creaked, and the rain continued to tumble.

"I'm making you uncomfortable Caleb, aren't I?"

"Honestly, a little. But it's my fault. I, I could have been more considerate. I thought it might help though. I thought by sharing the details, more people might know about the killer, and we could maybe catch him more quickly, and avoid another tragedy."

"An honourable motive, Caleb, although I seriously doubt that the general public being aware of what kind of instruments the killer used to penetrate my daughter could help catch him."

"Sure, I understand. It was a difficult decision, Mr. Roy. My editor and I discussed this very point for a long time before we decided to leave that information in."

"Don't try and pin this on anyone else, Caleb! The editor didn't force you to include it. That was your decision!"

Caleb's face burned, eyes set on the licking fire. He'd received criticism before, but never for something so personal. "If I apologise to your wife, would that help, Mr. Roy?"

"It might. But actually, I'd rather talk about something else now if you don't mind."

Caleb's whole body relaxed slightly, and he took another sip of tea. "Certainly."

"You seem to know an awful lot about the killer. You mentioned, for example that he has black hair, he's about one metre eighty, approximately seventy five kilos. You also said he appears to have a very good knowledge of the medical field, and weapons, particularly knives. How do you know all that? No one's ever seen him! And I've never found these facts mentioned in other articles before."

"Well, a journalist never reveals his sources, Mr. Roy. Let's just say I have some contacts in the police who help me out sometimes."

"And did these contacts give you any more information? Anything that you maybe didn't include here due to its, let's say, delicate nature?"

"What are you getting at?"

"Come now, Caleb, don't tell me a smart, experienced journalist like yourself gives away all his information in one go? You must keep some facts, some wee tidbits hidden away, so that if, for example, another murder were to take place, you'd have something new to pull out. Just to please your readers, of course."

"Well, honestly, even if I did, Mr. Roy, I wouldn't be able to tell you."

"Come on, Caleb. I'm the girl's father. Anything you know, I have a right to know too."

Fingers running over his stubbled chin, a vague memory, a forgotten detail, came creeping back into Caleb's mind. He had met Jessica Laurence's mother. It had been a little too warm to sit inside that day, he remembered. They had drunk ice tea on the veranda. She was a widow. And when she had discretely handed over her business card, a delicate hand running through her loose, blond hair, a wisp of a smile on her lips, she had made it clear that she had not remarried.

"No, honestly, Mr Roy, I have nothing. And it's getting late, I need to start on dinner. If you've finished your coffee, I think it'd be best if you leave now."

A crash of thunder shook the house. Caleb gasped. Something sharp and cold was pressing hard into his neck.

"You may want to reconsider that Caleb. I'm very good with knives, as you know only too well."

Caleb's lips quivered, noiselessly.

"I'm waiting, Caleb. But I don't have all night. Your beautiful wife, Laura, will be home soon, and we wouldn't want to get her involved in this would we?"

Caleb licked his dry lips. The knife bit harder, a line of dark, red drops staining his shirt collar.

"Okay, okay, yes, I know something. Something disturbing. I've never told anyone."

"Tell me Caleb. I like disturbing."

Writing Prompt
Write a story that starts with this sentence: There was a knock on the door.

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