House Call

I’ll never forget that night. 

I was still paired with Bob Simmons, a veteran of the force by twenty years. The chief told me he’d seen it all, from riots in Los Angeles to Presidential visits in big cities across the country. I’d learn from him, he told me.

That was true, in its own way. In the end, I learned what not to do.

It was the last call of the night. We were responding to a noise complaint in the north side of town. This was a quiet, upscale side of town. Older houses adorned the pristine streets with Victorian architecture, most of them in pristine condition. However, a few were abandoned, having long since fallen into disrepair. Every now and then we’d find a few squatters residing in one. Simmons believed it was a front for selling drugs, but I had never seen more than the odd homeless living in one of these dilapidated houses. 

We answered the call. A middle-aged woman in a bathroom met us in the driveway. She lives across the street in a nice two-story house, and said she’d heard screaming coming from the old house. I gazed at the browning husk before me. Whatever glory the old Victorian house had seen in its heyday had long been rotted away by the elements. 

“Should I radio for an ambulance?” I asked Simmons, but my partner already had his flashlight in one hand and service weapon in the other

“Let’s secure the scene first,” he replied. The door slid open as we moved to investigate. To this day, I’m not sure if Simmons brushed it open, or if the wind caught or if….

It doesn’t matter. The door was so dilapidated if barely hung on its hinges. 

The first thing we noticed was the smell. The scent of decay hit both of our nostrils. It smelled like roadkill on a hot summer day, overpowering and inescapable. One thing was for sure: someone or something had died somewhere in the house. 

The entryway led into a parlor, with cracked tiles clattering beneath our feet. To the right, a stairway ascended to the second floor. My eyes struggled to adjust to the lack of light. Shadows cast about from the passing traffic outside. I couldn’t tell if any of these shadows were moving.

That’s when a high-pitched bout of laughter emitted from the second floor. Simmons surged up towards the source of the laughter. I reluctantly followed him, even as the wooden board warped and shook beneath my feet. I didn’t like the look of these stairs. In fact, I didn’t like the look of the house in general. I wanted out, but Simmons continued to push forward.

“Freaking druggies,” he said. I pointed my gun down to the ground as we moved through the second floor. Together, we methodically cleared the second floor room by room. We never found anything of interest in any room. The previous owners had cleared out. Nor did we find any sign of illegal inhabitation of any kind. Occasionally we would hear a long deep scratching sound on the ruined, rotted wood of the adjacent room, but every time we moved to investigate, the sound would move to another wood. I told myself it was either the wind outside, or perhaps, a very determined termite.

Even then I knew better.

After our first sweep of the upstairs, a rough bark sounded throughout the house. It sounded like a rottweiler on steroids. I sure as hell didn’t want to see what made it, but Simmons practically charged down the stairs towards the sound, with his sidearm drawn. 

“Should I call for animal control?” I asked, but he shook his head. I wasn't sure what animal control would be able to do for our phantom dog, but I didn’t want to be stuck in this house with only Simmons any longer.

We didn’t find any animal, canine or otherwise, downstairs but we did find a long deep clawmark in the parlor wall. Even to this day, I shudder to think what could have made it.

After we finished our sweep of the downstairs area, we heard the scream. It was high-pitched yet so deep and gravely I don’t know what could have made it. Either a man in deep pain or…something else. It came from the basement.

“Should we call for back-up?” I asked but Simmons didn’t even dignify my question with an answer. He just descended down the stairs without hesitation. I grimly followed, flashlight and weapon at the ready. 

“Druggies,” he said in a gruff voice. The basement area was a mess. Burnt papers covered the floor, but it was too dark to read them. The papers had been scorched beyond all recognition anyway. The scream sounded again.

“It’s gotta be a noise device of some kind,” Simmons said, annoyed. He moved into the furthest bowel of the basement, with myself trailing behind him. 

I was sure it was going to be another dead end. There was nothing but shadows down here. Then one of the shadows moved. It turned towards us. We both leveled our flashlights at it. I expected to find a person, perhaps a homeless or even an addict down there. But this shadow remained blackness through and through, There was no substance to it beyond the darkness. It turned to us, and I swear, it smiled at us with a set of pearly white teeth and no other discernible features. 

It smiled again, right before it charged at us.

Simmons unloaded his service weapon into that thing. I wasn’t sticking around to see what happened. I grabbed Simmons by the collar and hauled ass out of there. We didn’t stop running until we made it upstairs and back into the squad car.

We didn’t say anything to the woman who reported it. Later, I would call her and report that our investigation was both inconclusive and closed. 

Simmons retired after that. Last I heard he was working at a crosswalk guard in another city. I haven’t talked to him since it happened. I don’t know if either of us knew what we would say.

I try to steer clear of the north side whenever I’m on duty. But sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly brave, I drive by where it all went down. And every time, I still see that shadow grinning at me from the basement window of that old brown house.

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