Oct 302023

For the inaugural Canadian Creative Writers Edgar Allan Poe Contest I came in third place with this submission:

The East Coast Gambler

The raven looked down on the detective as the detective looked back. Both summoned to the room in the House of Usher moments before its fall. Detective Roberts shook himself out of his trance, tried to convince himself the raven was only a statue, and continued to take photographs of the murder scene.

A man, slumped over, held up only slightly by the two walls running perpendicular to the bluing body, seemed out of place. His penny loafers, bowtie and cuff links gave off a vintage feel. With an earthquake imminent, the house sitting on the edge of the cliff was tilted, about to crash into the sea hundreds of feet below. At this point, even a slight wind could shift the structure and cause more harm and more lives lost. Looking at his watch, Detective Roberts gave himself five minutes to do what he could. He understood when he got the call the crime scene investigators would not make it in time, the paramedics would never get in to extract the body.

A shame, really. Someone knew this man and why he was there. He wasn’t the only one who cared, he couldn’t be. Bending down for a closer look at the body, being on the force in some capacity for twenty-five years sadly made him almost tolerant to the stench, and using his gloved hand to lift the top lip of the corpse, he knew this man was prestigious. All of his teeth were perfectly straight, very white and grasping a $100 bill which he carefully removed.

He also removed a cuff link, plucked a piece of hair and, after placing each into a small bag of their own and sealing them, used a stick to swab the inside of the corpses cheek in hopes of collecting some bodily fluids for a DNA check. When he made to stand up, his knees popped loud enough to give him a fright and distract him from the swoop of a raven’s flight. Detective Roberts bent down to collect his evidence and put them neatly into his briefcase when the house tilted. He stood quickly, making himself dizzy, and dropped his flashlight. Despite it being a sunny day, the room made it feel like 2 AM with its heavy darkness.

The raven, or a raven, swooped past the detective and onto the corpse as the man’s eyes adjusted to the almost complete lack of light. Typically, he was better without his trainee by his side though he suddenly missed her tremendously. Or rather, more specifically, missed her flashlight.

He remembered there being a window at the wall to the body’s right, his left. Draped in heavy curtains, a window nonetheless, so he made his way to his left. Slowly, trying to recall the furniture or any other obstacles, his arms outstretched in from of him he cracked his knee on something but stayed erect and silent, listening closely to the sounds of the house and some creature making a feast of the body. Reaching the wall, feeling with his right hand while his left still clung to the briefcase, he felt. Rough, peeling wallpaper, a hole in the drywall, his fingers rubbing what he suspected to be newspaper instead of insulation, he ripped a piece he thought was large and maneuvered it into his left fingers. Eventually he felt the heavy velvet and yanked it towards him.

Sunshine filled the room as the curtain fell on top of him, making him even more disoriented. He needed to leave. Scrambling out of the heavy curtain, Roberts eyed the door and began walking towards it, quickly. Hand on the doorknob he took one last look towards the corpse to see the raven looking back, one eyeball in his beak and his talons on another. He shivered, despite the sweat of the hot day, as he walked backwards onto more solid land.

Thanks for reading,

Sarah Butland

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