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Bryce stumbled and put his hand on the letterbox. He checked for mail, shoved the couple of envelopes into his jacket pocket, then dug around for his keys before he attempted the stairs.
The keys fell from his hand and into the grass that needed cut about three weeks ago.
“Damn it.” Keeping one hand on the letterbox to steady himself, he felt around. His fingers closed on a key. But not his. He was about to toss it back, but he didn’t need it wrecking the lawnmower, so he put it in his pocket with the mail.
He felt around in the grass again and found his keys, now substantially lighter without his work keys. A wave of sadness hit him. He’d been a cop since he’d left school. Twelve years. He’d liked his job, but he just couldn’t do it any longer.
With a wrench of will, he started up the stairs.
The mail and the glass key fell out of his pocket onto the second step. The porch light came on and the odd key he’d picked up glinted in the light. At one end was a skull. The whole thing was about two inches long, and at the other end were two teeth sticking out to be put into the lock.
Weird. What kind of lock did a glass key fit into?
However, he picked it up instead of leaving it there.
Two more steps, and he fumbled for the key to his front door, juggling the envelopes and the glass key and his keys. His fingers kept finding the damn skull. He dropped it on the doormat, then everything fell out of his hands. His wallet joined in, flopping open on the mat.
“What the hell.” He wiped his hands on his pants and picked everything up, got the right key and put it in the door. Only when he turned it he realized it was actually the glass skeleton key. He tried to pull it out before it snapped in the lock, but the key turned and his door swung open.
A wave of heat and something sweet and spicy washed over him.
He wrinkled his nose and stepped back. He hadn’t left the heater on and his house kind of smelled like when his ex was cooking curry. What was the spice she had she used? Cardigan? Cardamom? He could hear talking, but couldn’t make out the words. He was damn sure that he hadn’t left the radio on.
He reached to his side. No gun.
“Shit.” Had he got the right house?
He closed the door and looked around. The mosaic house number tile his ex had made hung on the front door. Hot pink and black. He’d never gotten around to throwing it away.
He pulled the tile off and tucked it under his arm, then took the key out of the lock and stared at it. How had it opened his door?
His brain couldn’t pull the thoughts together.
Had it opened his door?
This time he deliberately put the glass in and gave it a turn. The door opened and he pulled the key out, fisting it in his hand. He knew better than to leave a key, even a weird one, in the door. Again with the heat and strong scents of spices and something else. It was too dark to see what was inside.
His house was inside.
His house didn’t smell like that.
He hesitated not sure if he should go in or call the cops. He was a cop, an ex-cop anyway, and what was he going to report? My house smells funny and I found an odd key?
No. He was going to go in and go to bed. Bryce didn’t step forward though. Something was wrong. He was drunk. That is what was wrong. He wavered on his feet as the world began to tilt, then he stumbled across the threshold. He tried to grab the door frame but his fingers missed.
He managed to put his hands out so he didn’t land on his face.
There were no cold tiles beneath his palms like there should have been. Instead, he felt dirt. Warm, hard packed dirt.