In the dark of night, the house appeared no different from the others on the street. The lack of lights masked its details, making it nothing more than another shapeless silhouette on the block. The trees bracketing the property provided concealing shadows that hid the rest of the lot from view.
Nearly thirty years now. Ever since the murders.
For others, such blissful ignorance wasn’t possible.
Standing in the shadows on the other side of the street, a lone figure stared at the structure and imagined what it would be like to watch the house burn to the ground.
No. Determination surged, hard and desperate and unrelenting. It had to end.
Only then would it be possible to forget exactly what had happened here.
Maggie didn’t have to check her watch to know what time it was. She’d felt every minute ticking away from the moment she’d crawled into the sleeping bag and settled in for the night.
So she waited. For one of them. For all of them. For the trouble she knew deep in her bones would be coming eventually. It was the entire reason she was here, on the living room floor of this decrepit old house, when she could be in an actual bed in more comfortable surroundings. To catch the vandal responsible for the damage the house had suffered the past two weeks.
The silence echoed around her. The wind knocked at the windows, rattling the glass or whistling through holes in the tape holding the cardboard in place over the broken ones.
Another minute ticked by. Then another.
The moments that passed without incident provided no relief. Her tension grew the longer she waited, her certainty rising.
Not tonight. Not on my watch.
Maggie clenched her fists tightly and listened even closer, determined not to miss the telltale noise when it came.
That didn’t mean there wasn’t someone out there. But if there was, the person was managing to move with the utmost stealth, not making a single revealing sound.
Like a killer had once done, stalking the halls in the middle of the night to claim two victims.
A burst of emotion made her lurch upright, her heart suddenly pounding in her chest. She threw the top of the sleeping bag aside and climbed to her feet, eyes scanning every inch of the darkness, unable to sit still any longer as the feeling hammered through her veins.
She wanted to believe it was annoyance. It felt too much like fear.
“Damn it,” she muttered, quickly sucking in a breath. She was letting the townspeople’s comments get to her, and that was the last thing she could do. Someone had to be sane in this town.
She was about to move away from the window when something grabbed her attention out of the corner of her vision. Something barely visible. Something that most definitely should not be there.
Her breath caught in her throat.
Someone was out there.
As soon as she thought it, she felt a flicker of doubt, as the figure she thought she’d seen disappeared from view. It may have been the shifting light, the clouds moving to cover the moon and blocking its glow. She narrowed her gaze and peered closer into the darkness on the other side of the street, trying to convince herself it hadn’t simply been a trick of the light.
A chill rolled slowly down her spine, like a cold finger being dragged along her bare skin.
She immediately shook off the idea, annoyed by the thought. She was letting the townspeople’s ghoulish obsession with the house get to her.
The house might have many problems. No one ever claimed being haunted was one of them.
No, the person out there was real. Which raised the question of why someone would be standing outside in the middle of the night, staring at the house.
Her annoyance exploded into full-blown anger, shock waves of fury surging from the pit of her belly to every inch of her body. She’d had enough. Whatever they were planning, she wasn’t going to wait for them to start to put an end to it.
Before she could even think about it, she grabbed the wooden baseball bat she’d found abandoned in one of the upstairs rooms and threw the door open.
She’d barely set one foot outside when she yelled out. “Hey!”
She was halfway to him before it hit her just how foolish she was being. She might have a baseball bat, but he could have a gun for all she knew. He might not even be alone. It could be an ambush.
She felt a flicker of relief when he didn’t reach for a weapon. He didn’t react at all, simply watching her approach, as if she wasn’t waving a bat and yelling at him.
And then they were mere feet apart. She had to force herself to slow to avoid slamming right into him, skidding to a halt far less gracefully than she would have liked. He was at least a half foot taller than she was, and she had to crane her head to look into his face. Or at least where she assumed his face must be. It was so dark she couldn’t make out his features. She only knew he was big, his silhouette that of a large, muscular man.
She wasn’t exactly tiny, but she also knew enough to be wary of a man—a stranger—his size. She braced her hands on the bat, ready to swing at the slightest indication of an attack.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she demanded.
Copyright © 2010 by Kerry Connor. All Rights Reserved.