Category: suspense

THURSDAY: Watching

BY BELINDA BRADY

Copyright is held by the author.

THE AUTOMATIC light illuminates the cobblestone footpath and blooming lavender. Not that she ever notices. She’s head down as she walks, busy rustling through her handbag, looking for the house keys. Just like she does every night. You’d think she’d learn to get them out while she was still on the bus. Maybe put them in her jacket pocket, so they’re easy to find and she can get inside quickly. That’s what I’d do if I were her.

She stops at her front door, her hand still dancing around in her handbag for the ever elusive keys, her face scowling in the process. The scowl turns into a wide grin as she finally finds the keys, holding them up to the porch light triumphantly, as if they were a prize. And in a way, those keys are just like a prize – for her because she’s always so happy to find them, and for me, because I get to witness it. I get to see her bad habits on full display every night, with this front porch routine my favorite. She really needs to stop being so scattered.

A ginger cat appears at her feet, and as always, her face lights up at the sight of him. “Hello, beautiful boy,” she murmurs, bending over to give it a good scratch behind one ear. The feline repays this sign of affection with a quick rub around her legs, before it settles on the ‘Welcome’ doormat, meowing to be let in. She opens the white front door, and it rushes inside, straight to its bowl, where it will sit patiently until she feeds him. Which will be in about five minutes.  She’s always putting others first.

Following the cat, she stops at the front entrance, and as always, turns around for one final look before heading inside. She checks the path for anything she may have dropped. She checks the yard for anything out of the ordinary. And lastly her eyes scan the darkness as she checks for the bogeyman, and like every other night, she never finds him. The bogeyman is well hidden. She looks to the night sky, whispering a quiet thank you, before shutting the front door with a thud, followed by the sounds of the door’s locks. Click – click – click. It’s sweet music to my ears. The front light switches off. I see a slight movement to the side of the house and I know it’s time.

Tonight is the night.

Leaving my hiding spot, I quietly make my way down the side of her house, careful to stay close to the neighboring fence, avoiding detection by the kitchen light in the process. I walk towards the back porch, the only sound the wind blowing gently in the surrounding trees and a dog barking in the distance. I’m suddenly aware of movement ahead of me, and not wanting to be seen, I duck for cover, crouching underneath an outdoor table. After a few moments, the noise has stopped and I slowly unravel myself from the concrete floor, stretching out a few cold limbs I didn’t realize I had in the process. I quietly climb the wide back steps, making sure my footsteps are soft, and draw my gun, keeping it at my side. My adrenaline is pumping as I open the back door, careful not to step on the shards of glass from the broken window on the floor. I am inside now, in the dark hallway, but I can see the light from the lounge room just ahead. The television is delivering the nightly news in the background, and pots and pans clatter as they are being pulled out from drawers in the kitchen as dinner is prepared, a sweet humming rising over the noise. There are footsteps just ahead of me. I see my target and lift my gun, quietly sneaking up from behind. I jam the barrel firmly in my targets back. The humming stops. Before I can speak, the hallway door bursts open, flooding the room with white light, and she is standing there, saucepan raised, gaping at me and the strange man in a black hoodie before her, her shocked face seconds away from a scream.

His intended victim — her — had no idea he’d been stalking her for weeks, watching her every move, preparing to strike. There was no doubt she was his next victim, that he’d picked her the first time he followed her home and had been watching her nightly ever since. But he too had been noticed and we’d been doing some stalking of our own. He’d been on our radar for a long time, under constant surveillance, but we could not make a move until he did.  That move finally happened tonight.

Seeing my opportunity, I tackle the man in black from behind, grabbing him with both arms and bringing him down in a face-first body slam to the ground. I am on top of him quickly, grabbing his wrists and handcuffing them. The girl’s threatened scream finally comes out as an ear-piercing wail, her face twisted with fear as she grips the saucepan so tight her knuckles have turned white. The scream comes to a sudden halt, and the pained fear is quickly replaced with a look of confused relief, as I pull out my police badge, holding it up in the air so she has a clear view. The man underneath me is wriggling around, uttering complaints of me crushing him under my weight, but after the torture he inflicted on his victims, he deserves a little pain. The house is suddenly alive with my colleagues yelling out to make their presence known as they make their way through the house. I push my entire body weight into this monster, digging my elbow into his back, and say the words I’d been dying to say since he began his killing spree over a year ago. “Police! Don’t move! You’re under arrest.”