A no-out contract
Second place, adult division
Calvin hadn't darkened the door of a church in more than 20 years. It was uncomfortable that first Sunday, like the first day at a new school. But he knew many of the people. After all, Calvin had worked in real estate in Green Valley for 30 years.
Soon the rhythms of the Church year took hold. He especially loved going to Sunday School. His small class was peppered with adults of varying ages and led by Pastor Mike.
John and Barbara Higgins were in that class. The couple was restoring an old home located on the outskirts of town. Calvin knew the house. He sold it once just after he had started in the business.
The Higgins hosted a class dinner at their home and Calvin instantly remembered the wide plank floors, the ornate coal-powered fireplaces, and the upstairs bedroom with a raised platform in the room's center. Barbara had redone that room for her daughter, Carrie Beth, and a huge canopy bed draped with sheer fabric dominated the room.
Calvin could never remember who owned the house or who bought it when Barbara quizzed him. "I'm sorry." said Calvin. "It was a long time ago."
Then one Sunday while everyone was gathering for class, John and Pastor Mike were talking when Calvin walked up.
"Calvin, we need your help," said Pastor Mike. "Barbara wants to sell the house. Carrie Beth has been having nightmares. Barbara thinks it has to do with the folks who lived there before. Can you help us?"
"Yes," John chimed in. "Barbara thinks it's the house. Moving now would be a financial disaster for us. She won't listen."
Just then Barbara walked in and Pastor Mike asked Calvin to stop by his office after church.
Calvin didn't know why but he felt a cold dread in his knees.
By the time he sat down in one of the two wing back chairs in the Pastor's office, his sense of dread was a dull thud in the pit of his stomach.
"I think I know why you can't remember who lived in that house." Pastor Mike started. "I called Pastor Smith who was here at the time. He told me all about it. Do you remember Frank and Julie Graves?"
Calvin scratched his neck trying to find some extra space around the knot of his tie. Molasses-thick fear gripped Calvin's heart. The image of the young couple crept into his mind.
He knew they would love the idea of the ancient house on the hill. They didn't know it had been on the market for 8 years. "Cursed" some said. But Calvin would sell it. Another notch in his gun. All he had to do was leave no stone unturned. No loose ends.
He did his work well. Too well.
He led them through the house and dreamed their dream, the one he knew they'd have. "The price is right. All it lacks is vision. Your vision." he said. "You are the ones!"
They believed him.
The contract was simple. One page. No inspection. Owner financing 30 years at 6% with 20% down. The money was a gift from Julie's father. No stone unturned. A no out contract.
"No outs." Those words echoed in Calvin's head as he felt himself transported to the upstairs bedroom with the canopied bed. Calvin saw the bodies of the young Graves couple. Except for the blood, they looked peaceful. Julie had one hand across Frank's chest. The other lay limp beside the .38 special.
Calvin thought, "This is what death feels like. No outs." But before he could think his next thought, Calvin saw words forming on Julie Graves young beautiful lips.
"You knew," she said. "We were so naive. You knew exactly what you were doing."
Calvin's fear leapt from his heart to his throat. He resisted a scream.
"Calvin. The Graves. Do you remember?" asked the Pastor.
Calvin heard nothing. There was only the bedroom and the bodies and Julie beckoning him to join in the contract, the unbreakable agreement that left them, and now Calvin, with no outs.
Calvin felt a firm, steady force at his back. He leaned back hard but his feet kept sliding toward the bed. His face touched the draped curtains. He opened his mouth, the fear looking for an outlet. His head bent toward the bed as he let out the last gasp and finally, with no outs, he was gone.