Story writing contest for a Cupertino house [Burbed.com]
It was another night with no stars. The marine layer covered the sky and left everything chilly, including the corpse in the driveway. The beat cop turned his notes over to me and went off to canvass the neighbors. But I knew it would be a waste of time. Nobody’s ever home around here, everyone working all day at their 60 hours a week engineering jobs and the kids parked in after school programs. Maybe there’d be a Chinese or Indian family with a grandma at home, but she wouldn’t be able to tell us a thing in English.
I looked in vain for a front door. The house was an Eichler, which meant cheap construction playing at Frank Lloyd Wright, but it also meant the entry was hidden behind a seven foot wooden gate. Eichlers had huge sheets of single-pane glass, and that let the neighbors see too much. If anyone was home to talk, they could have missed a murder in front of their own garage.
I found the gate itself, painted the same ugly blue-gray as the rest of the exterior. Fortunately, it was not locked. The front door stood open. The entryway was strewn with toys, but I didn’t get a sense of how many kids lived there yet. Not so many that they were running a preschool but at least two of the rugrats.
I called out but nobody answered. I couldn’t figure out why the front door was open if no one was home, and the uniform said he’d already interviewed a man here. I passed through the front entryway, imagining some ditzy real estate foof shouting “Light and Bright” at the high-ceilinged entry. No front hall closet, instead coats hung from hooks right on the wall. I saw a brochure at a small table. The house was for sale. For a goddamned $1.1 million.
Would someone kill over this ugly shack, with its single-pane energy-leaking windows and its horrible heating system?
I found the guy in the kitchen, looking as proud as a fourth grader who came in second in the spelling bee when he expected to be knocked out early. He knew about the stiff in his driveway from his earlier interview, but other than that claimed he’d been working and hadn’t heard a thing. He didn’t know who the dead guy was, had never seen him in the neighborhood. Yes, there had been realtor activity, but they had been told to call first and no one had come today. No one had come all week. The house had been on the market for more than a month and he was going to change agencies. He showed me the whole house, describing why some lucky family should be more than willing to drop seven digits on what was essentially a big garden shed. A light and bright garden shed.
It was in the baby’s room that I found my first clue. A cat box. Who the hell puts a cat box in a baby’s room? But there it was, same blue as the exterior paint, in the corner right of the crib. I didn’t think this dude had a baby and furthermore, some of the other items didn’t add up.
Why were the kitchen drawers open when I came in? He said he was working in his office, but the computer was turned off. Why did I feel vertigo looking at the back porch? And why did the kitchen suddenly look updated when I turned around and went through it again?
After inquiring as to the whereabouts of his wife and kids, and getting no definitive answers, I decided to pull out my Miranda card. Sometimes you just get a sense about these things, and this case just stunk. There was no way his shack was worth a million in this market. I doubted that anyone else lived there but him, and that the baby fittings were what the real estate trade calls “staging.” And I strongly suspected that the stiffy in his driveway was probably the agent who wanted to cut the price to $925,000.
Congrats to Madhaus for this amazing entry. You’re the winner!