Today’s going to be a simple day. I’m just going to post the rest of The Caller. If you missed the first half, you can find it here. Tomorrow, I’ll feature an excerpt from a vampire novel, for all you vampire lovers out there! 🙂
The Caller – Conclusion
“I regret to inform you that someone was here, Ma’am,” Constable Mathis said. “There is evidence that your wires have been cut. We’ll get a forensics team to study the footprints left outside and try for fingerprints in the morning, but it’s unlikely we’ll find any conclusive evidence that hasn’t already been washed away by the rain. Sorry.”
“That’s ok. It’s a big comfort just having you here.”
“We’ll have a cruiser pass every few minutes tonight, in case the perpetrator returns, although I think it’s unlikely. We can have a patrol come by over the next few nights, if it will make you feel better.”
“It sure would! Thank-you, again.”
The officer tipped his hat and hopped down the steps to his car, his cape billowing out behind him. As he opened the door, Sheila’s bedraggled form sloshed up the driveway, wet tendrils of brown hair falling over her dark eyes.
“You ok?” she asked.
“I am now,” Bonnie replied.
“That guy call you again?”
“Come and use Keith’s bed again.”
“Thanks, but the police said they’d be passing by every few minutes. I feel a lot safer now. I’ll be fine, but thanks for the offer.”
“It’s an open invitation, whenever you need it.”
Bonnie smiled at her. It was great to have such thoughtful neighbours.
After dinner the next night, Bonnie perched with Sheila on the front steps, staring across at her house. The huge global cedars waving at them in the soft breeze partially obstructed the view of her front door. It was a cool June night, but the sky was clear. The sun dipped behind the houses along the main thoroughfare on their right.
“Thanks for keeping an eye on the repairmen, this afternoon,” Bonnie said, then paused. “Why do you suppose this maniac is doing this? Do you think he would really hurt me, or is this just a game to him?”
Sheila shrugged. “Hard to say. There are a lot of strange people in this city. Maybe he’s just getting his kicks or maybe he really doesn’t like you.”
“He knows my name.”
Sheila stared at her, not knowing what to say. Bonnie’s youthful face had developed a few new wrinkles from the strain and she was biting her lip nervously.
“Maybe it was just a lucky guess?” Sheila suggested.
“No. This guy knows me. He knows whenever Harold goes on a business trip. He knows if someone else is in the house with me. He never called when Dad stayed with me.”
Bonnie’s voice trembled. She was desperately close to tears.
“I went to see the kids at my sister’s after work. She said a man called there last night asking about Alicia and Jonathan. He wouldn’t give his name. She said he sounded really creepy with a low, rumbling voice. I told her it sounded just like the guy who’s been calling me. Sheila, I’m really getting worried.”
“How would he know the kids were there?”
“I don’t know. God, Sheila, if anything happened to the kids or my sister and her family…”
Sheila squeezed her shoulder. “You’re going to have to think hard about anyone you know, or have met, that would have a grudge against you.”
“Sheila, I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out who this guy is, but I’m totally stumped.”
“I have an idea. Listen to this . . .”
When all was dark, Sheila’s husband wandered around the bay, a cellular phone hooked onto his waistband, a thick walking stick tapping the concrete with each step. Sheila sat in her darkened living room, peering through the sheers at Bonnie’s house across the street. A car drove slowly from around the far end of the bay, pausing at the curb in front of her.
Sheila was about to dial Nicky’s number when a young blond teenager stepped out of the car, waving good-bye to her friend. It was only Carla, one of her daughters. The car pulled away from the curb and drove away. Sheila exhaled loudly.
Another car pulled into the bay, stopping on the wrong side of the road in front of the house next to Bonnie’s. On the dash, Sheila noticed a light, like the ones used by the police in unmarked cruisers. It must be the cops checking up on Bonnie, she decided.
Another false alarm.
A man strolled down the city sidewalk, stopping under their boulevard tree to light a cigarette. The match lit his face for a moment. Sheila didn’t recognize him. She studied him, ducking back from the drapes as his dark eyes scanned the block. After a moment, she was brave enough to poke her head through the sheers again. Sheila no longer saw the smoking man. She broadened her search of the street, straining her neck as she glanced up and down the bay, but there was no sign of him.
Then she noticed a long shadow at the side of the house between their place and Debbie’s, then a faint wisp of smoke snaked its way towards the front sidewalk.
Sheila’s heart pounded. She reached for the phone and dialled. Nick crouched against the fence in the yard behind Bonnie’s house. The cell phone was in his hand, finger poised over the receive button. The instant he heard the trill, he answered.
“I think there’s someone between our house and Deb’s, watching Bonnie’s place,” Sheila whispered.
Nick tried to peer through the fence slats, but saw nothing.
“I can’t see through the fence,” Nick told his wife. “Call back, if you see anyone head across the street.”
Bonnie pushed aside the drapes and stared into the night. Clouds obscured the moon. The neighbourhood suddenly seemed like a dark, eerie place. She tried to shake the feeling of doom that had settled over her.
The phone rang.
“What are you doing, Bonnie?” the intimidating voice asked. “Why are you wandering around in the dark, peering out the windows? Are you hoping I’ll come and put an end to this torture?” An evil laugh, close to a cackle, sent a finger of fear along Bonnie’s spine. “Very well then. Let’s get this over with.”
His laugh was cut off and a dial tone hummed through the earpiece. Bonnie slammed down the phone. Picking it up again, she dialled Nick’s number.
“Keep your eyes peeled. He just phoned and said he’s coming.”
Nick tossed the walking stick over the fence, then scaled the boards, leaping to the ground on the other side. Skirting the raised deck of the above-ground pool, he hurried to the back wall of Bonnie’s house, tightly gripping his walking stick.
Gravel crunched underfoot as he crossed the street to her driveway. Another gloomy night, but at least there was no rain. He paused, ears cocked. He thought he had heard a thump, then dismissed it as a car door from the apartment’s parking lot on the next street.
He continued, heading for the gate beside the garage door. Slipping through, he strolled along the side of the house. He examined the dead bolt lock and the back door frame with dismay. They had prepared for him. It would take a lot longer to pick the lock than he’d planned. Then he noticed the sign: ‘These premises protected by Atomic Security.’
Shielding his eyes, he peered through the glass in the door window for a panel box that would control the security system. Finding none within sight, he grinned. It would be just like Harold to pull a trick like that. Put up a sign, just as a bluff. Well, he wasn’t going to fall for that!
He opened a leather pouch. Pulling out a pair of picks, he started to work on the lock.
Nicholas heard the footsteps, waiting until they paused at the back door. He raised the stick like a club and charged. He swung shoulder high, but the culprit turned at the last moment and ducked. The end of Nick’s stick struck the stuccoed wall, sending a jarring pain up Nick’s arm. A sudden blow to his stomach doubled him over. The Caller flung Nick to the patio and turned to run. Nick grabbed his foot, sending the intruder to the ground. Quick as a monkey, Nick climbed over his back and grabbed the man’s hair, wrenching his head back.
The man emitted a strangled grunt. He slowly brought an arm out from under him and jabbed his elbow into Nick’s ribs, flinging him off his back so he could rise. Nick rolled to his feet and lunged at the fleeing form, tackling his legs. They tussled for several minutes, writhing in the dew-covered grass.
Suddenly a blinding light flashed, momentarily blinding both men, but the Caller managed to regain his footing and scurried away before Nick had a chance to follow. Rubbing his eyes, Nick tried to focus again, but spots kept appearing, blurring his vision.
“Sorry, Nick.” He recognized Bonnie’s voice. “I thought I could help.”
“That’s ok,” he assured her. “I doubt he’ll be back. We probably scared the shit out of him.”
“Come inside and let me assess the damage,” Bonnie said, noticing a gash on Nick’s lip.
He limped up the back steps into her kitchen as she flicked on the light, blinding him once more. She set a camera on the counter and reached into the freezer section of her fridge for some ice. Wrapping it in a cloth she held it against Nick’s swelling mouth.
“Thanks,” he said, taking another ice pack from her and applying it to a bruise on his cheek.
“Let me get the bandages and antiseptic,” she offered.
As she headed down the hall, Nick’s eyes wandered around the room, coming to rest on the camera.
“Did you take a picture of the guy?” he called out to her.
“I tried to,” she called back. When she returned to the kitchen she continued, “I’m not sure how it’ll turn out in the dark. I thought it might give us a clue as to who he is and why he’s doing this to me.”
He called in sick at work the next day. It wouldn’t do to have his co-workers inquire about his injuries. He examined his reflection in the bathroom mirror. One eye was puffy and bruised. There was a gash on his chin.
“Bitch!” he cursed. “Now it’s personal.”
Bonnie met Harold at the airport the next day, with great relief.
Now, she could resume her life without experiencing the fear that the phone evoked. She told her husband about their antics the previous night and how Nicholas had almost caught the culprit. On the way home, they stopped to pick up her pictures. Eagerly flipping through the colour prints, she came to the one of the caller.
Her shoulders sagged with disappointment.
The photo showed a tangle of limbs, but no clear shot of the attacker. At home, she got out a magnifying glass to examine it more closely, hoping there would be some clue to help her identify the man. All she noticed was a leather jacket and jeans. The darkness muted the photo so she could not even be certain of his hair colour, although it appeared curly. The front of the caller’s jacket was open, revealing part of a typical biker’s shirt, black with part of a motorcycle visible and half the word ‘Harley’.
Then, on the clenched fist about to ram into Nick’s face, she saw it. The jacket cuff had ridden up, uncovering a partial tattoo. She brought the photo and magnifying glass to Harold.
“Look at this, Harry!” she said excitedly. “Doesn’t that look like a tattoo?”
He studied the mark carefully. “It looks like the tail of a scorpion!”
A sudden appalling thought occurred to him.
“There’s a guy in our office – at least he used to be in our office – who has a similar tattoo. He was transferred to a different department about six months ago. He and I were up for the same job. I knew he was disappointed about not getting the promotion, but I never would have thought he’d resort to something like this!”
Harold shook his head, sorting out the implications of their discovery.
“That’s how he knew I’d be out of town. That’s how he knew your name. He would easily be able to find our address and phone number from the company’s records. Shit! I’m going to kill him!”
Harold’s face went purple with rage, his fists clenched so tightly his knuckles turned white. He rose from the chair and stomped to the front door.
“What are you going to do?” Bonnie asked. “It’s Friday night. No one will be at the office, now.”
“I have a key. I want to get in and find the bastard’s address. Then I’m going to your dad’s to get his shotgun!”
“Harry, don’t! You’ll get in trouble. Let the police handle it. Why don’t we go down there now and tell them what we suspect. Maybe they’ll arrest him and that will be the end of it.”
Her words took some of the air from his sails. Harold plopped into a leather armchair, producing a sudden release of air through its stitching that matched his reluctant sigh.
“You’re right,” he admitted. “I just got so angry! How could anyone in their right mind put someone through the torture he’s put you through?”
“That’s just it, Harry. He’s not in his right mind.”
Harold nodded his agreement.
“Give me the photo. I’ll take it to the cops. You stay here with the kids. You’ve already been through enough.”
It seemed to take forever for Harold to convince the police that he knew who had been harassing his wife. It was dark when he left the station. Headlights flashed in his rear view mirror. As he reached to adjust the reflection away from the blinding glare, something jarred his car. Harold looked behind him. The car with the bright headlights eased off, then leapt forward again to bash his bumper with its own.
Harold lurched forward, wincing as sharp pain stabbed his neck.
“Damn it!” he swore through clenched teeth.
He strained to recognize the car, but the lights cast an aura around the vehicle, making it impossible to determine the make and model. All he could tell was, judging from the intensity of each blow, the other vehicle was considerably larger. A blaring horn refocused Harold’s attention on the road ahead. He was heading straight for a pick-up truck! Harold swerved out of the way, just in time.
Another bash to his back bumper caused Harold to lose control for a moment. He climbed the curb, but brought the car back into the street before hitting the thick trunk of a boulevard tree. Panic rose in Harold, but anger at the jerk wrecking his brand-new silver Pontiac forced his foot harder on the gas pedal. His car sped ahead.
The two vehicles raced along the sleepy street.
When the other car attempted to sidle up to him, Harold pulled into its path, cutting him off. Their fenders locked for a minute. Turning the wheel sharply, Harold pulled loose, grimacing as he heard the scrunch of metal as the bumper tore away. At the next intersection, he pretended to go straight. At the last possible moment, Harold cranked the steering wheel and screeched around the corner.
He heard the scream of slammed brakes and the squeal of spinning tires as his pursuer swung around to follow. Harold quickly ducked into an alley. Pulling into a driveway beside a garage, he shut off his lights and engine, scrunching down so he would not be seen. A siren in the distance warned cars out of its path, then all was quiet again. Some time passed, but Harold was not discovered.
With a sigh of relief, he started the car and clunked home. Bonnie saw the car limp into the driveway.
“What happened?!” she cried.
“That bastard must have followed me to the police station,” Harold replied. “I guess he was a little ticked off that I was there.”
“Are you all right?”
“Neck’s a bit sore,” he said, rubbing it. “And I’m furious that he wrecked the car, but other than that, I’m fine,”
Bonnie put her arm around his shoulders and guided him inside.
“They’re both gonna get it now!” he muttered. “He should be home by this time.”
He opened the trunk of his car, checking its contents. He lifted a section of the carpet, revealing a hidden compartment. From it, he withdrew a sheathed hunting knife and an automatic pistol. He strapped the sheath to his calf, then held the gun up to examine it in the dim glow of the street lamp. He released the clip, checked its contents, clicked it back into place and held it at eye level. Satisfied, he tucked the weapon in his belt and climbed back into the car.
The kids were finally asleep. They had been too wound up to go to bed, chattering excitedly about their stay at Aunt Kathy’s. Bonnie was so happy to see them that she had pushed back their bedtime a little. Harry spent the rest of the evening cursing as he walked around his car, examining each dent and scratch.
“Come to bed, Harold,” Bonnie called to him. “You can take it into the body shop tomorrow.”
With a sigh, he left his ‘baby’.
Pressing the button on the garage door control, he heard its squeaky protest as he stepped into the house. He carefully locked every door and went down to check each of the basement windows. His experience that evening summoned extra caution and Harold was determined to protect his family from the insane maniac who was hunting them.
Something woke Sheila, who had fallen asleep on the couch watching television, but for the life of her, she could not tell what it was. The living room was dark except for the flickering images from the TV screen. Outside, she thought she heard tires crunching on gravel, but there was no whir of an engine, nor glare from headlights.
“That’s strange,” she thought.
She peeked over the ledge of the bay window and saw a dark sedan roll to a stop in front of her house. The silhouette of a man stepped out and looked around. Sheila crouched out of sight. When she popped up again, the man’s shadow disappeared into Bonnie’s yard.
“Shit!” she whispered.
Dashing to the bedroom, she went to wake Nicholas.
He wore soft soled shoes, so he could walk soundlessly. The back yard was dark. No lights shone from the windows of the houses behind it. He felt safe from prying eyes. Padding to the rear door, gliding through the shadows, he felt like a panther. Every muscle rippled as he moved, muscles he had developed with care and precision. He felt in peak condition and the adrenalin pumping through his veins at the thought of the hunt, gave him a heady rush.
He heard a click and the yard was suddenly flooded with light.
“Damn!” he swore.
He had not realized the Lesters had a motion sensitive light. It had not been turned on during his last visit. He slunk to the back of the house, cowering against the wall. Above him, a kitchen light was turned on, casting a reflection of the window onto the grass just past his feet. The silhouette of a man appeared, forcing the Caller’s back flatter against the stucco.
“I can’t see anything,” Harold told his wife. “It’s probably just the neighbour’s cat that set off the light.”
“He doesn’t usually, Harry,” she replied.
Harold flicked off the switch, plunging the room into darkness again. With a sigh, he slipped into bed.
He crept around to the far side of the house, looking for a basement window. There were two on that side. He studied the one farthest from the master bedroom. Taking out his tools, he worked at removing the glass with as little noise as possible.
“Call the police, Sheila,” Nick advised. “This guy’s getting braver, if he’s going to attack when Harold’s home. That makes him doubly dangerous. I’ll see what I can do to help, until they arrive.”
“Be careful, Nicky,” Sheila whispered, her dark brown eyes filled with concern.
“I’ll be fine. I know how to hunt.”
He gave her a smirk, his clear blue eyes twinkling. He grabbed his rifle, clicking a cartridge into place. He cocked it and removed the safety, then headed across the street.
“I can hear scratching,” Bonnie whispered.
“It’s just the wind blowing the tree branches against the house,” Harold yawned. “Let’s try to forget that crazy bastard and get some sleep, ok?”
“But it doesn’t sound like the trees. It seems to be coming from the basement.”
Harold took a deep breath, exhaling with exasperation. He’d already been through enough, tonight. He didn’t need his wife’s paranoia to keep him up for the rest of it, but in order to humour her, he sat up in bed.
“If it’ll help you get to sleep, I’ll go check the basement again,” he said wearily.
“Thanks, honey. Just be careful.”
He gave her a look that said, “Nothing’s going to happen, ’cause there’s nothing there.”
Tucking his feet into his slippers and tying on his robe, Harold headed for the basement stairs. A soft tapping at the front door made him stop in his tracks. He tiptoed over and peeked through the viewer. It looked like a sleep-dishevelled Nick.
He released the dead bolt and tugged the door open.
“What the . . .?”
Harold suddenly noticed the rifle in his hands. Nick held a finger to his lips.
“Sheila saw someone lurking around the side of your house,” he whispered. “She’s calling the police right now, but I thought I’d come over to see if you needed help.”
“There’s nobody here, at least . . .”
There was a creak on the stairs. Harold stared at Nick, who raised his weapon. Harry motioned him in and closed the door quietly behind him. They slipped into the living room, peering around the corner into the kitchen, watching the basement door slowly swing open.
A gun barrel emerged.
Nicholas sprang forward, ramming the door closed with his shoulder. The Caller screamed as his hand was caught between the door and the frame, his gun sent spinning across the kitchen floor. With a grunt, the intruder fell backwards, down several steps, landing with a thud on the back landing. Harold whipped the door open, flicked on the switch and glared down at his colleague who stared into Nick’s rifle barrel.
The Caller recovered quickly from the unexpected vision of seeing two men hovering over him, one with a weapon trained at his forehead.
“Hello, Harry,” he said, his lips curling into a malicious grin.
“Why the hell have you been doing this to us, Donald?” Harold demanded.
The man scowled. “I really wanted that job, you know. I always get passed over for promotions. Every job I’ve ever had, I’ve been ignored.”
“But why me? Why not the ones who made the decisions against you?”
“People like you have everything. The best home, the perfect family, lovely wife. You stomp all over guys like me. It’s not fair. I had to teach you that you have to lose sometime, to give guys like me a break.”
“You’re crazy,” Harold said shaking his head.
“Harry? What’s going on?”
Bonnie walked in, briefly drawing the two men’s attention from their hostage. Donald took those few seconds to draw the knife from his sheath and lunged at the man with the gun. The blade sank deep into Nick’s shoulder. He dropped the rifle. Bonnie screamed. The Caller wiped the blood from the knife onto his sleeve, turning to Harold, who backed up in alarm.
The evil grin returned to Donald’s lips and his eyes shone with demonic delight. He twisted the blade, letting the light dance on its gleaming edges.
Despite the blood pouring from his wound, Nick slowly raised the rifle butt and rammed it against the back of the Caller’s head. Donald slumped forward into Harold’s surprised arms, the knife clattering to the floor. Bonnie rushed to her junk drawer and pulled out a ball of twine. The two men tied their attacker securely, moving all weapons out of harm’s way.
Bonnie forced Nick into a kitchen chair while she wrapped gauze tightly around his wound, making him promise to go immediately to Emergency for stitches. He flashed her a wide grin, revealing the gap between his two front teeth. Bonnie smiled back at her heroic neighbour.
Sirens screamed up to the house and Harold opened the front door for the troops that emerged from the cruisers. He led them to their prisoner, who was beginning to regain consciousness. The cops yanked Donald roughly to his feet, hurling him down the front steps to their car. One pair of officers stayed to take their statements.
Noticing the cruiser drive off with its prisoner, Sheila appeared on the doorstep. She had to know all the details, of course, and the group was up most of the night replaying each event leading up to the arrest of The Caller . . .
Well, all’s well that ends well! Have a great day everyone! 🙂