We’re coming down to the wire with this 31-day challenge! I hope you have enjoyed following along on this journey. If you’re new around here, you can start chapter 1 here. Also, I’ve made a few little changes to the story. I felt it worked better for Scott to be just slightly older and a detective instead of a rookie cop fresh out of the Academy, so you’ll see some of those changes reflected from here on. Let me know what you think!
As Erin followed Scott down the wide carpeted stairs leading to the lower level, she couldn’t help but wonder what they had been missing all these years. From Hazel’s outward appearance and persona, she was pretty certain no one would have guessed that she lived like this. Everyone in the Village thought the accident that took her family had caused a mental breakdown. She always wore the same clothes no matter the weather. She did not speak much to anyone, but when she did it was very polite and quiet, and she never opened herself up to deep conversations with anyone. She never let anyone come and help repair or keep up the outside of the house, that was obvious from its run-down state. Erin wanted nothing more than to find her and then sit with her and learn what was going on behind the façade. She was absolutely certain at this point that it was a façade.
Entering the downstairs living area solidified that belief. As the staircase took a turn to the right, the typical laundry room appeared. Nothing unusual there. Top-loading washer sat alongside a front-loading dryer. Nothing high end or fancy, but good quality, looked like it had been around for a long time. Ironing board with an iron waiting to be used hung in a special nook in the wall above a wooden dryer rack. An empty laundry basket stood on the tile floor next to the dryer. Out of curiosity, Erin opened the washer and then the dryer. Both were empty.
To the right of the laundry room, through an arched doorway was a playroom that would have been heaven for any small kid. Surrounded by a plastic removable gate was a ball pit filled with colorful balls about three inches in diameter each. There was a large TV and a VCR with stacks of kids movies underneath. Low white shelves lined the far wall filled with books to be read and games just waiting to be played. Like Bryan’s room, this one didn’t look like it had been touched in twenty years.
Giving it just a cursory glance for the moment, Erin turned toward the opposite side of the laundry room where Scott had flipped on an overhead light and was now standing and staring. Erin moved to his side and saw why. A modern office that would be the envy of any tech geek stood out as an anachronism to the untouched 90s of the rest of the house. State of the art computer equipment sat on a glossy black desk. At least three monitors, none of which were currently on, faced a high-back black chair. Shelves lined the wall behind the desk with neatly labeled file folders and books in immaculate order covering every inch.
“I’m ceasing to be surprised by anything I see,” Scott said as he moved to turn on the computer and begin a search of what he might find.
While he did that, Erin walked over to the wine bar in a corner by a plywood-covered picture window. She walked behind the bar and, unlike Scott, was again stunned by what she found. Every bottle of the hundreds she found in every cubby of that bar was from one place: Green Glass Vineyard and Winery.
The plywood all around the house began to make sense. Hazel didn’t want anyone to see what was going on inside her house, just like she didn’t want anyone to see what was going on in her head.