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Things That Go Bump
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Author:

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Ken Orford

Crime

PG




The instant you become a mum you also become a light sleeper. Your mind and ears become aware of every noise, every rattle, every sound that’s out of the ordinary. With two under fives, Angela White was no exception. But since her husband had gone just over two months ago, that awareness had heightened.

So it wasn’t surprising that what sounded like someone fiddling with the front door lock brought her out of her sleep. At first she didn’t move, but squeezed her eyes shut and held her breath. The noise that had been on the edge of her consciousness had stopped. But it had been replaced by something else. Unease. An awareness that something wasn’t quite right. Or maybe she was wrong. Maybe all was well, and maybe she’d just imagined, or even dreamt, that scraping noise of a key scratching round a lock.

The ache that grew in her chest reminded her to start breathing again. She slowly exhaled and inhaled. Still no more noise from downstairs. Had she imagined it? Was it simply in her head? Or more likely, was it Jamie or Georgie that had made the noise in their sleep?

She whispered a curse. Why did it have to be tonight that her mobile was downstairs, charging in the kitchen? And the house phone was sitting in its cradle on the hall table. She closed her eyes willing it to float up the stairs into her hand. She shook her head; who did she think she was? Hermione Granger? There was only one thing for it.

Her body slid out from under the warm duvet. Ignoring the dressing gown and slippers, she crept to the door in a series of small, cautious, unhurried steps. Her toes curling into the sheepskin rug with each slow step. Holding her breath again, she inched the door open. When it was open wide enough to go through, Angela paused again, listening for the slightest hint of something not quite right, the merest noise out of place – but there was only the snuffly noise of four year old Georgina in her bed coming through the slightly open door of the next room.

She inched her way out and along the landing to the open door where the two children that she loved more than life itself were sleeping. With a light touch, she eased open the door and peeked in. As if to say “I’m here too”, Jamie grunted a baby grunt and turned over in his cot. The tense ache in Angela’s chest was complimented by the wave of affection that flooded her insides at the sight of the two of them. Taking a slow deep breath Angela turned back out of the room.

She stopped with a sharp gasp at the sight of the figure six feet from her. Then she shook her head, wanting but not daring to laugh. The figure opposite did the same. The full length mirror showed a woman of five seven, loose three quarter length pajama bottoms, a loose strappy top, her medium length curly hair looked seriously wild in its unbrushed state. She grinned again at the thought that the sight of her without make up would frighten the life out of anyone. What she needed was a weapon.

I always knew Auntie Marjorie’s brass candlestick wedding present would come in useful one day. There it was, on the window ledge halfway down the stairs. Angela took another deep breath. Her mouth was dry in anxiety and tension. She swallowed and licked her lips in an attempt to generate some moisture. She got to the top of the stairs and took a big step down, missing out entirely the top step. Four and half years of running up and down those stairs had taught her that it creaked. Badly. No, it wasn’t four and half years of going up and down the stairs, it was four and half years of lying in bed waiting for the creak of the step. The creak that signalled the drunken bastard that she’d finally found the courage to throw out, was coming up the stairs to their bedroom. She remembered the nights when she’d just lie there praying that tonight he’d just go to sleep. The bruises had finally all gone, and her last two physical reminders of him were asleep a few feet away. But there were other scars that simply weren’t visible. But even they were slowly receding into the past.

She stopped dead. That wasn’t her imagination. There was definitely someone in the living room. Her hands reached out and her fingers slowly curled round the cool, smooth, comforting metal of the heavy brass candlestick. Not far to the telephone. Each careful step brought her closer to the hall table and the cordless phone. It was when she was on the last step she stopped, her eyes fixed on the empty cordless phone cradle on the hall table. Angela closed her eyes and bit her lower lip in a silent curse. She’d had a call from her sister just before coming up to bed. She could visualise the phone on the arm of the settee she’d been lying on. The phone was with whoever was in the lounge, and her mobile was in the kitchen. The only way to that was through the lounge. Bugger.

With a cold smile, she realized that it had taken more courage to do what she’d done a few weeks ago than what she was about to do now. Gripping the candlestick tightly, in a slow, smooth motion she pushed open the lounge door.

The figure, dressed in black, was crouched down facing away from her. He was too preoccupied with unplugging and stealing the Hi-Fi to notice he was no longer alone.

The man in black had been sitting in his car fifty metres down the road and had seen the bedroom light go out. He’d then smoked his way through another three or four cigarettes until he was sure that the woman would be asleep.

Feeling secure in the dimly lit shadows he crossed the quiet road to the house he’d been watching. His black trainers made no noise as he got to the front door. After a bit of scratching around, that he was sure was too quiet to be heard, the key went into the lock, and he gently turned it and with a slow but smooth movement, swung the door open. Once inside, he eased the door shut behind him, holding the handle so it wouldn’t make a loud click. He listened, no sounds came from upstairs so he took a deep breath and, afraid a light would come on any minute, made his way to the lounge.

Making as little noise as he could, though to him every rustle sounded like a thunderclap, he took the black sportsbag off his shoulder and headed for the CD and DVD collections that were neatly stacked on shelves near the TV and Hi-Fi unit. With his torch he scanned the collection, picking out the titles he wanted and leaving those that he didn’t want untouched. When he’d finished there were only a handful in the bag. He quietly knelt down and turned his attention to the Hi-Fi. He unplugged the speaker leads, and was just unplugging the power lead when he stopped. Something had changed, he didn’t know what, but his senses all screamed that there was someone else here. He turned. He saw the woman’s silhouette at the door. He also saw the outline of something odd in one of her hands. The other hand was on the lightswitch.

With a resigned sigh, he stood up. The lightswitch clicked and they both blinked as their eyes struggled to adjust. He looked at her for several long seconds, he stared into her eyes trying to read her intentions. His head made a small nod in her direction. Then he turned back to the Hi-Fi, and picking it up carefully he placed it with the CD’s in the bag. Every second his back was turned he expected the lights to go out as she smashed his head with the candlestick. Mrs White, in the lounge with the candlestick. How ironic. But no blow came. He stood and faced her again, his eyes didn’t leave hers as he put the bag over his shoulder. She stared in hatred and defiance. He stepped toward the door, then stopped. He looked over to the sideboard – there was a close up photograph of the woman and next to it another close up of two smiling children.

In an act of defiance and confidence, he walked over to photographs and picked up the one of the children. He looked back at the woman, and without taking his eyes from hers, put the photograph with his stash in the sports bag. Then he walked towards the door. Angela hesitated then stepped aside, letting her husband past, but keeping a tight grip on the candlestick.

As he got to the front door, he turned and she tensed again.

“Thanks Ange.” The words were flat and his face unsmiling. Angela looked him in the eye, oozing more confidence than actually felt.

“If you’d asked and sent someone round to collect you could have had it with a lot less trouble. So this is the last time I’ll tell you to get out. And this time stay away from us. You can have the speakers, just don’t come and collect them yourself. Oh, and I don’t know where you got that spare key from, but you can leave it on the table.”

The door clicked shut, Angela leaned back against the wall, and slid to the floor, and hugged her knees, tears of relief rolling down her cheeks. She was sure at last it was all over. He was just like any other bully, stand up to them and they show how weak they are.





© Ken Orford, 2007


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