Welcome to part eight of the current long story cycle (Cracked Windows). The links will be laid out in sections to cut down the total number we see on each post. You will be able to follow from week to week as needed when new sections appear.
No eyes followed him as he stepped out his front door. Jerome scanned up and down the street. Eerie light from the street lamps, filtered through the crisp fog. Daylight was still a bit off and he didn’t expect to see anyone leaving for work, let alone awake on the street with him.
With a shiver he let go of the screen door’s handle and let it close behind him. The gentle slam echoed in the night air, another sound that sent a chill down his spine. He side stepped to the edge of his front porch. In the night, away from the comfort of his bed, this wasn’t the grand idea he thought it was before. His body fought against his commands to step off the porch and then cross his yard. Across the street, the neighbor’s house waited for him, it hadn’t moved. He didn’t know why he thought it might, or maybe hoped it might have moved. But no such luck at that point.
The house glared at him, an angry blot in the darkness. He hadn’t turned his porch light on and the house across the street sat in the same darkness. Only the vague street light gave shape to either house in the black mass of night.
This was better. He knew it was better. He couldn’t even think of this during the light of day. Not now. Not with Ariel gone. That was it wasn’t it, Ariel was gone and there wasn’t anything he could do to bring her back. Dammit, it wasn’t about that anymore. He knew it never had been. But that guy across the street, he sure as hell would pay. Jerome knew what he did. He didn’t know how but it was plain as day. The man was a killer. Probably had been for longer than he had lived in that house. Too much death around here, too much pain.
“It ends now,” he said as he stepped into his yard.
The cold, so cold, intensified as he crossed his yard. On the other side of the street the temperature had dropped to the point he wanted to go back home for his winter coat. More than seasonal lows, something at the neighbor’s house wasn’t quite right. He had only made it about halfway up the driveway before he knew it wasn’t the right moment for a confrontation. The cold beat him before he had a chance to do anything. Jerome turned back.
His body shivered. It shook in the warmth of his house. He yanked open the hall door with shaking hands. A few moments of weighted breath calmed his nerves and allowed him to recover. But it didn’t take away the cold. He shifted the hanging coats back and forth till he found the one he had been looking for, and then some more searching freed some gloves from the drawers under their coats.
It didn’t take long for the layers to work their magic. He had pulled his ski jacket and gloves from the closet. Though they were a thin material, their design kept him warm in sub zero weather. He hoped it was overkill, but he had never been that cold in this neighborhood.
He set out again. The trip across the street felt more like a journey through vast stretches of frozen tundra, but without the snow and ice. Frost formed as he exhaled and he felt the sharp pains in his nostrils as the mucous crusted and would no longer move.
The bitter cold had reached a crushing level as he came to his neighbor’s side door. Frost had crusted the windows and blocked his view into the house. Though even this didn’t matter when the darkness blocked out what little he might have seen beyond the frost.
He knocked on the door, a rap with his knuckles that drew a bolt of frigid pain up his arm and down his spine. A second knock shook the door in its frame and the window beside where his knuckles landed cracked in a spider web pattern. All that held it together was the frost that covered both sides of the glass.
Jerome waited a short time as he scanned the back yard and then over to the pole barn inside the fence. The only light that had cut through the night fog came from the sliver of moonlight that the crescent moon offered. All around him, nothing else moved, and the night had fallen into a dead calm.
The quiet had slipped his notice until this moment. His anguish and rage had blocked out much of the world around him. And still no one came to the door. The car, that damn car that telegraphed the new neighbor, that brought them to this moment, sat in the driveway. It hadn’t moved since its return a the other day.
He hammered at the door one more time and the window creaked with a few small pops as physical streaks began crusting the window from the cold. No answer, yet again. He didn’t wait this time. After the knock he had let his hand fall to the door knob. The cold of the metal threatened to overwhelm him but he fought the urge to drop everything.
He could wait no longer. Jerome steeled his courage and pushed against the door. It had iced over and wouldn’t budge. Not at first. He threw his shoulder into it and used his weight for leverage. It budged a little but still wouldn’t open. Finally he stepped back and kicked it with the flat of his foot near the door handle. The door shook and the spider web cracks in the window gave up. The glass shattered and fell in pieces from the door. He kicked it again and the window next to the door cracked as well.
The door hadn’t been locked, at least not at the handle. The cold had created a wedge that wouldn’t let go. Jerome gave up on the door. He kicked the side window at its base. The glass gave way, shattering into the house. With his elbow he knocked the remaining glass from the pane and made a hole big enough he could climb through into the kitchen.
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