Burned Down to the Ground

I kicked around the cold, charred remains of the wall that divided the living room from the kitchen, “Did you find anything over there?”

“Nothing yet,” Richard replied. While I’m trying to pick out the slightest of details in my area, I could hear him doing the same thing with the sound of breaking boards, “I’m still trying to sort out where the house caved into the first floor. So much was burned down for so long, it’s like the house merged into a single floor home.”

“Same here. Fire fighters said the house must have been burning for hours before it was put out.”

After a quick dust off of my hands, I grabbed my phone out of my pocket and started scrolling through the mountain of digital files I carry around for quick reference. Many of the files were from cases that I’ve worked on in the past, most notice the ones that were kept hush hush from public media due to the severity; the police department would have seen major backlash if the slightest of details were displayed on papers and television. So far for the investigation, it was still being disguised as a natural disaster due to the area’s history with forest fires.

I wish we were able to rule it out as such.

After some more rummaging through the remains, I saw something shimmer for just a brief second before it was covered with ash, “What the hell was that?” I took a few steps back to see if I possibly overlooked something, but everything was covered by blacken house boards. I called out to Richard to toss me his pocket kit with a few tools inside. I popped it open and grabbed the small duster, brushing away as much as I could. With each stroke, the shimmering grew brighter and brighter until it was clear enough to make out what it was. Seeing it make me feel more puzzled and my gut started telling me that this fire was no accident.

“A door latch… in the floor?” I pushed away the remaining boards and saw an outline of some kind or doorway in the floor. It was still covered in ash, but it was just enough to make out the individual slits on the wooden floor. I tried to see if I could try and pull the door open, but it barely budged; it felt like something was holding it in place on the other side. “Hey, Rich. C’mere for a sec. I found something.

Stepping over piles of the remaining house, Richard made his way from his half over to mine. His white button up was almost as black as night and his cheeks were stained from all of the shifting around we had to do. I point out the doorway to him and he started to go on about possible uses, most like it leading to the basement of the house.

“It’s not uncommon for homes to have the entrance of the basement to be inside of the house itself instead of the outside around the edge,” he started. “They even put a mat across it so that they won’t have to see it all the time and move it when needed.”

“I know about that,” I replied, “but taking into consideration what you just said, this door must have been recently used. There was nothing hiding it, no carpet, no extra floor, nothing at all.”

“Meaning somebody must have used it recently.”

“Exactly. Throw in the fact that it’s locked on both sides and we’re looking at something more than just a basement.”

Richard took a moment to look at the doorway, pausing our conversation. I could tell by the worried look in behind his round glasses that he didn’t want to try and think about what could be down there. I sure as hell didn’t want to think about it either. But we had a job to do, so we didn’t have a choice to stop there.

I put the duster back in its case and handed it back to Richard before u started gliding my hands across the top of the door, “Help me find the lock on this thing.”

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