The Tactics for an Inquisitive, Impending Individual - a short story
I wrote this story for a local short story competition, but I thought I could give you nice folk a look too. The reason why I wrote this is because I wanted to "see" what might go on inside a criminal's mind, which I thought would be interesting. It's not my best work, and it was originally longer and I'm not used to using present tense, but it's something.
The Tactics for an Inquisitive, Impending Individual
Just as I expect, the green Holden Commodore obediently pulls around the corner and slides up the cement drive of the house I was analysing while she had gone to work, like every day of the past week. This time, I wear tracksuit pants with an orange shirt and sunnies, and leaning by the bus post further down the road, but always still with the woman’s house in sight. I never stood directly facing the house; that would scream my intention to the owner. No, I was always the casual, indifferent bystander either walking the dog, or sitting on the bench reading the paper, or waiting for the bus like I am today, only I alone know I’m not going to get on a bus. Those times are for the woman’s eyes; in the others I sneak around her house.
It might sound like a dumb thing to do while the sun is out, but logically it shouldn’t be too problematic. First, many people, like the woman, went away as their jobs required. Second, this suburb’s hot topic was families, so the kids had to go to school too. The only real concern was the sick employee or student staying home alone and free to look outside where I could’ve been seen if I wasn’t careful. It was strangely quiet in those hours, as if I was the only conscious thing there.
I wouldn’t go to her house until half an hour after she had left. I don’t trust the reliability of her memory; she could’ve forgotten papers, her lunch or anything else she needed to return for. Then, I would shuffle over to her block and slip hidden in her property. Because of these visits, I now know where she ate dinner, slept, watched TV, where she sat with her laptop, and most importantly when she did these things, and thank goodness she has maintained her routine strictly so far. From the windows, I had recorded the network of rooms; which of the hallways lead to dead ends, and which were escape routes. Afterwards when I returned to my own home, I committed these sights to memory and used this knowledge to make the logical calculations that would determine my success conducted later tonight.
I’m not exactly sure why I chose this woman. It was most likely how I witnessed her shameful act: shoving food waste down the recycle bin at the food court, in the shopping complex. It had hooked my eye, and my attention switched to follow her back to where she lived. Her weakness I saw was ignorance, and I craved for more opportunity at a much larger scale. I am hopeful still, since she has never noticed me over the last week.
Facing the bus route map on the post, I glimpse her form climb out of the Commodore and disappear into the house with the shopping products bulging under those ugly plastic consumer bags. My cue to exit the scene comes five minutes later in the form of my own organisation, and I simply walk away.
If I could trust anything, it would be myself with the dark. The night-time, although a stereotype, is a host providing much of the right conditions for deeds like mine. Victims rely on clear sight far too much, and jump at even a slight click of dark’s native sounds. It is the time they are most alone, and the most worrisome. A nervous eye in the street turning at a stranger’s swift swish of his coat of invisibility – God only knows what’s stashed beneath it – is only a variable of vulnerabilities victims feel. The night brings the dark, and that is where my true time lies.
So it is only natural to return to the woman’s house later when I feel the most prepared, but comfort didn’t rule out thought. Now, I crouch on the street side of her freezing brick wall in dark casual clothes – not too shabby but not an eye opener. My ear cocked up, I could hear the evening news blaring from the open living room window along with the innocent clatters of a knife and fork playing with the woman’s dinner. If she was sitting at the chair facing the TV like always, she shouldn’t be able to see the side edge of her front yard where the dark bushes, losing their stiff black flower petals, provide decent cover for a man with enough sneak in him. I peer over the border wall to see the space of lawn, between me and the bushes, where on a windy day I had the excuse to clear the stray crunchy leaves, but the dry grass wouldn’t stop groaning under my feet in the heat. Holding my breath, I duck over the wall and skip over the lawn to lie beside the bush line. I pause and listen. The regular noises inside the house go uninterrupted, and even if she did hear me a wandering, patrolling cat would be the first explanation to come to mind. Noise has always been my worst enemy.
Now I am hidden at the side of her property, with the wall of her house just forward and opposite of my position. I crawl up, keeping the bushes at my right side. Actually moving within the bushes would allow the twigs to scream as they were being snapped and broken in my way, and I can’t afford it. My creeping brings me in the pitch black shadow of the house and I leave the bushes to slink over to the cold brick side.
I turn to my new challenge: the picket fence. I knew from the beginning this was probably going to be the hardest part of the invasion, because I am going to have to climb over it. I considered cutting a hole through the wooden stakes, but even if I had done it behind where the rubbish bins were placed, it would just be too open and moving the bins to get to the hole would be too nerve-racking: the noise factor must be taken everywhere. So what if I just open the gate? The squeak of the latch and joints of the gate would give me away, and I prefer not to pay for the oil. I thrive for a challenge.
I stand fully for the first time as I approach the fence and grip it tightly. I twitch my head back so I can still hear the TV going until I decide I can’t leave it off any longer. Gritting my teeth, I launch myself up into the air and let my arms bear all of my weight as I propel myself just over the top of the fence, to land with an undesirable thump. I immediately roll over to the cover of a large tree in the corner of the backyard and freeze. I’m not sure if she heard it or not, but my decision to move away hidden proved vital as a few seconds later I glimpse a petite face in the yellow laundry window above the rubbish bins. A keen eye pressing to the glass, the woman edges her limited vision as best as the window allows, and afterwards apparently losses interest and backs off with a slight frown. A minute goes by and then just as I am about to declare the area safe, the door knob is turning and out she comes in her night gown with a torch flashing about. I mentally curse her for I dare not utter a sound. If she points that torch right here, I’m a goner.
No, she’s turning back towards the fence and shining her light at the ground and the bins, and has conveniently left the door wide open! I strike and do an arrow-shoot for it without looking back, slipping in the crack of electricity light and into the hallway. Ducking into the nearest closed room, I quietly shut the door behind me and crouch behind the largest object I could feel in the darkness. That was close, likely too close for comfort, but it paid off because I hear no hurrying footsteps or screaming about a strange man invading the house. If I had hesitated, I would’ve been too slow and she would’ve caught me in the act, and I’m certain that would’ve been the case since I had only just secured the room before I hear her re-enter the hallway and close the door. I smile of course. No different than peeling off a band –aid, and now I just need to dispose of it.
If you knew exactly what I was going to do tonight, you would wonder why I don’t carry weapons. The answer’s quite simple: they aren’t your friends. Situations like these don’t come with a hundred per cent guarantee, so weapons can easily turn on you in the difficulty. Guns are a lot like dogs: at a click of your finger they respond to your command but they bark and that gives me attention, which is the exact opposite of what I want. Cats are more quiet, so why not a knife? Similar to the felines, knives are quick, swift and sharp, but if mishandled they don’t care who they injure in the struggle. The point is, weapons are unreliable and you need to care for them properly, otherwise they make a dangerous trip more so and can cause it to backfire.
I hear the muffled sound of the TV starting up again through the crack of the door. I let myself breathe again and recall my knowledge. If I remember correctly, I should be in the spare room which means I have to go down the hallway, take the next little hallway on the right, then the living room should be on the left where she would be sitting in the corner of the room right next to the doorway facing the diagonal corner watching the TV. I would have to stand just outside the room to prevent her seeing me until she goes out or I go in.
Feeling my way over in the dark, I grip the door knob with both hands and listen. The TV is still going and I don’t hear any footsteps or subtle noises originating from the rooms she shouldn’t be in. I turn the knob slowly and it squeals only a little under the pressure. Only when it is fully rotated do I slide the door open as precisely as I had been with the knob. When there is enough space I slip through into the hallway and as I place my feet on the floorboards I realise my first flaw.
My slippers were soaked. Apparently the fluff was a magnet to the evening dew on the grass outside. I had no choice though; when I found out earlier in the week that the hallways were laid with floorboards, I knew I couldn’t wear any solid shoes. As noisy as mice they would be against this defence, especially if I had to rush. Going barefoot was asking for some sharp thing to make me cry out, and some sorts of shoeprints were better to pass off as common dirty patches than direct footprints. Fluffy slippers were my best chance, and now they are dripping wet. But I can’t stop. I’m just beginning to feel the thrill.
I creep up the hallway, rolling my feet so the heel goes first followed by the toes, and stick to the wall so I have some sort of support. Just as I had feared, the damp slippers are having their effect: making the wooden floor wet and creating a series of squelches as I go, making my heart beat as loudly as them, but I nearly don’t care. I’m so close now!
I reach the corner of the next hallway and the entrance to the living room is right in front of me. I could even see the TV (some stupid reality show was playing) and I glimpse her slender legs propped up in the recliner chair as I duck closer to her, so the doorway is directly to my left. I hold my breath and try to still my shaking out of excitement. My mind whirling, I feel my head pound; so afraid I am of this pounding I wonder if I am in reality banging my head against the wall insanely. No, I’m not and I curse my ridiculous imagination. I search in my memory for any of the crucial notes I had to remember for this phase of the mission but I only have the dedication to remind myself: don’t let her reach the main hallway.
Then the phone rings. I am more than frozen. I’m paralysed. Suddenly it ends as swift as it began and I hear the woman talk. So near I am, I swear I can smell her breath from here, making me giddy. I can’t wait anymore.
I must be fast, because my next conscious thought is seeing her sitting, with the phone to her ear, in my shadow created by the TV. Her scream is as sudden as my entrance.
“Annie?” I hear the phone inquire. “Are you okay? Annie!”
I have her cornered and trapped, forced under my power. She does nothing but scream, and cowering as best as she can in the recliner; the sight of her weakness fuels my strength. I love this.
When she pauses to take back her breath, I point to the phone. “Turn it off now!” I command.
Unexpectedly, her face tightens and she flings the phone at me instead. It bounces off my shoulder and I angrily lean in over her, so my body covers hers, before she can move any further. “Just for that,” I hissed, “I’ll take your body with me after I’m done.”
Her voice reaches a high shriek. “No, no, no! Get off me! Help! HELP!”
I shut her up with my hand and put a finger to my lips. “The more fuss you make the quicker I will kill you. By the way, thank you for leaving the back door open for me. I don’t know how I would’ve got in otherwise.”
Muffled speech comes through the gaps of the hand covering her mouth but I’m pretty certain she means to say: “What do you want from me?”
“Oh, a bit of fun I suppose.” I explain. “So I’m not letting this opportunity go to waste.”
Then just as I am about to squeeze her delicate neck, a loud crash sounded and something hard hit me on the head and struck me down onto the floor. I yell my curses and lay my hand on my forehead which, when returned, bore the sight of fresh blood. Out of the corner of my eye I see a rock of the same colour as my hand beside my arm and the feet of the woman rushing out of the room along with piecing cries. I stumble to my feet and I see the broken window bearing the sight of a different woman on the front lawn shouting with a phone in her hand. I realise and groan: what are the chances of the caller being a close neighbour?
But nothing frightens me like when I hear the police sirens racing here. As fast as the sounds, I dash out of the room but as I come to the main hallway I’m somehow down on the floor again, except wet. The floorboards were now as slick as ice. The slippers had indeed lived up to their name.
The photo frames, the buffet and side rooms are all a blur as I half run, half stagger down the hallway. I don’t get clear vision until I bump straight into the back door and re-coordinate where I am exactly. I heave open the door and trip down the stairs like a madman, because who is to doubt it? I head for the back fence, where the wilderness of the bush begins. I somehow climb over the fence without trouble – that must be the adrenaline taking over. Now everything is going downwards and I fall, only to go up again and then down. I’m forward rolling down the hillside I didn’t know existed – or maybe I just didn’t remember it being there. Finally it stops and I am able to stand on my feet long enough to run again. I can still hear the sirens, wailing for my sins to be avenged, chasing me into the unknown, breaking my sanity and beating me until I’m long past the scarring.
Through all of the madness and chaos, the moon reveals itself for the first time and the crickets spread rumours about my demise. I feel my heartbeat scramble up my throat as hasty as flames, as if my life doesn’t trust my body anymore.
. . .
The image of the insane man crouching over her still haunted Annie as she cried with fright but relief on her neighbour’s comforting tender shoulder, while the neighbour murmured words of kindness and bravery as she looked on to the group of policemen standing on the roadside, discussing the break-in. The shattered window was being taped up and the living room examined, when a young man in uniform arrived from the bush where the pursuit had taken the officers.
He spoke to the group of men. “Well Justin and I went after the guy, but in our hurry we forgot our torches and we were just scrambling in the dark. Thank goodness when the moon came out and we spotted him ahead of us. We shouted at him to freeze but he didn’t respond so Justin took out his gun and shot for his leg, but he misfired.”
“So he got away?” demanded the chief. “Where is he?”
“Exactly where we last saw him, because Justin accidently hit him in the chest. The maniac’s dead.”
P.S: Just sharing a couple of easter eggs you might not have noticed:
The woman's name and what the neighbour says in the phone is a nod to Michael Jackson's song "Smooth Criminal".
Justin is a play on the word "Justice", so I thought it suited for the officer that shot the criminal in the end.
Image created by me, including original photo
"When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead. True story." - Barney Stinson
Ravenclaw on CoS
Hufflepuff on Pottermore
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