A trembling Natalie hid in the shadows behind the door. The house was dark, but street lights bathed the scene in milky grey. The banging on the door made it clear. Whoever was out there wanted in … really bad.
Naomi wasn’t the most credible source of information in the world. Besides being a notorious exaggerator, she had watched way too many horror movies in her lifetime. Her wild imagination coupled with a passion for scary stories was not a good personality-trait combination for conveyors of information about serial killers. Besides, Natalie’s younger sister was usually wrong.
Last time, Naomi had prattled on about a raving lunatic at Christmastime who ended up being just a wayward driver trying to deliver packages. Seems he was not only at the wrong door but at the wrong house with the wrong packages, and not just on one occasion. He utterly terrified the old lady who lived there, who turned the story into the talk of the town for the month of December. Naomi preferred the lunatic version of the story to the accurate deliveryman version, which is exactly why Natalie didn’t trust her sister’s testimony in matters involving masked marauder types.
That’s also why today’s claim that an escaped murderer was now at large rooting for victims through the backyards of Wellington Flats was a little too fantastic to believe. Instead of being alarmed by news of a killer on the loose, Natalie listened politely, then decided to take the story with a grain of salt. That is, until Natalie arrived home from work when her opinion began to change.
The neighborhood was quiet this evening, way too quiet for this community of Rockwellesque tree-lined streets that should have been filled with the sounds of laughing children playing in their yards right before dinner. Yet today, her street was conspicuously empty, save a lone sheet of newspaper that danced with a stirring of the wind. The unnerving quiet provided a chilling backdrop to her younger sister’s story, but Natalie decided to get the story substantiated rather than let her imagination run away with her.
It was a little after 6 and the November sun had already bled weakly into an evening sky. Inside the house, Natalie turned on the radio. A voice droned a monotony of facts through tiny speakers, indicating the dreary state of the national economy. When a change in the announcer’s pitch attracted Natalie’s attention, she turned the volume up.
The announcer told the menacing story of a murderer on the run and cautioned strongly against talking to any strangers until further notice. Reportedly, the police were scouring neighborhoods for the escaped killer, and they were relentless in their manhunt. Capture was imminent as officials were determined that the dangerous individual be detained and brought to justice. Until then, stay inside behind locked doors was the newsman’s advice. Do not answer to anyone unless there was absolute certainty who was at the door.
She switched off the radio then began her survey of the house and moved from room to room, locking windows and bolting doors. Blinds were drawn and curtains closed until finally everything was secure. It was then that Natalie became keenly aware that she was all alone without even a cat to keep her company.
A noise crashed through her reverie, erupting from the backyard as though someone had lunged headlong into the trash cans. A ensuing mental picture of a gun-wielding bandit was shoved quickly out of Natalie’s mind. Even so, she realized that in ironic reality, her backyard intruder was more likely to be a murderer on the lam than a bandit with a gun. Things were getting all too real and fear seeped in through her skin. She began to tremble.
Natalie tiptoed her way to the backdoor, sliding back the curtains to catch a glimpse at the yard. Before her eyes could focus, someone on the other side of the door banged loudly and next thing she knew, Natalie found herself face to face with a dark figure peering at her through the glass.
Jumping back quickly, she sank into the shadows where she remained for a long, heart-pounding moment. Silence screamed in her ears as she strained to detect any possible clue as to who was standing on the steps on the other side of the door. Her efforts were answered by no sound, no voice and no one calling her name. Thoughts of the killer crowded her mind, and she dared not speak in case her fears were real.
From her shadowy refuge, Natalie’s vision turned to some small, slanted squares of light cast upon the floor by a light outside. Her eyes followed the pattern into the other room where she spotted a crumpled shape in the middle of the floor. From the very depths of her soul, she knew the shape was a body. It was surrounded by a crimson pool, a growing blackness in the darkened room.
Natalie’s heart leaped to her throat as terror wrapped its icy fingers around her neck. She had no idea how the body got there but even in its twisted position, she could make out that it was female. Strands of hair covered the face as the body lay in a ruined heap. The girl appeared to be about 30 with brown hair, not too unlike herself. Natalie forced herself away from her hiding place and crept slowly to the body, keeping low to avoid detection.
As Natalie knelt beside the bleeding corpse, the yard exploded with the fast, staccato rhythm of helicopter blades chopping through the night air and the bright white beam of a searchlight. A distant voice announced to the unknown stranger on the other side of Natalie’s door that he was surrounded. Time to give himself up.
Then several men in SWAT gear loomed over Natalie, peering down at her. In their faces she saw both pity and revulsion.
“Looks like we got here too late. He got another one,” one of them announced as he checked for pulse on the crumpled figure’s wrist.
When he turned the body over, Natalie’s hair fell away and revealed her face. Her blood leaked in large drops onto the floor and her eyes stared upward blankly.
This time Naomi was right. There really was a killer on the loose.