This is Episode Ten in the ‘FEAR’ series – The previous episode is HERE
John turned his key in the lock and slowly inched the door open. He gradually slipped through, listening to see if he could hear anything inside. It seemed to him that the house was silent. This in itself was strange. John had never thought of his house as silent. He wasn’t sure whether to move forward into the kitchen or to reopen the back door and run as fast as he could from the nightmare that had become his life over the past few hours. However, the memory of that first call that had started the night’s sequence of events kept him moving forward He still couldn’t clear his mind of that scream which ended the call. If that had been Karen and he didn’t do anything he would never forgive himself.
He didn’t want to turn on any lights in case there was still someone in the house, and knew the layout of the place well enough to find his way around in the latent light that was filtering through the windows from the outside streetlights. As he reached the kitchen table the boiler burst into life behind him, cranking up the central heating. He was grateful for the warmth inside his home but the sudden noise half scared him to death, and his heart felt like it was going to beat out of his chest for the umpteenth time.
Steadying himself against one of the kitchen chairs he slowly moved towards the kitchen door that would lead him into the hallway then to anywhere in the house. He opened the door slowly waiting every other second to listen, half expecting the door to be thrown open against him by whoever had been in the house, and still could be for all he knew. As he opened the door the hinges creaked noisily. Silently berating himself for not having oiled the hinges before, he finally pulled the door wide open and slipped through.
Standing in the hallway he was sure that the house must be empty. The sound of the door creaking would have been heard anywhere in the house and would have brought his entry to the attention of anyone waiting for him. He wondered for a moment if perhaps the house was being watched from the street, by whoever his tormentors were, and as his hand floated over the light switch he suddenly changed his mind. “Just in case,” he said to himself.
In the night gloom he gradually made his way along the hallway to the stairs and started to climb. When he reached the top of the stairs he turned towards his study where the safe was hidden behind the books of one of the bookcases. He would need to get everything from the safe to do as the caller had asked. Then he intended to head to his bedroom and the secret drawer in his wardrobe. He just might need the gun, but the money he would definitely need.
The door to his study was open. Looking inside he could see that someone had been in there whilst he was out. The room had been ransacked. The papers that had been tidily piled on his desk earlier in the day were now strewn across the desk and floor. His laptop had gone and the bookcases were bereft of their books, they too were strewn across the floor. John took the few steps necessary to cross the room and was happy to see that whoever had been in the study had not found the safe. The books hiding the false panel had been ripped away but the panel was still in place. He quickly removed the panel, punched in the special code on the keypad and opened the safe. He took out the things he thought he might need and closed it again, replacing the panel.
As John walked from his study to his bedroom he lamented the loss of his laptop. Luckily it held no sensitive documents. It was the vehicle for his writing and nothing else. If whoever had taken it thought that it held anything of financial value they were wrong. It didn’t even have any new material on it. Up until the moment the evening had blown up in his face John had been sitting in front of its screen hoping for inspiration. He thought that perhaps ironically he now had some new material for a new thriller.
Back along the landing John opened the door to his bedroom and was surprised at the devastation the intruders had caused in there. Everything was upturned and emptied. ‘What could they have been looking for?’ John asked himself. He wondered if, perhaps, this was a case of mistaken identity. He really had nothing that he considered valuable enough that anyone would cause such wanton destruction to get their hands on it. So far nothing was making any sense.
For the first time in his life John didn’t feel safe in his own home. Instead of his original plan of taking a shower and sleeping he decided he would grab everything he needed for the night, and the next day, and check into a motel or hotel as far away in the city as he could.
John thanked his lucky stars that the intruders hadn’t found his secret drawer in the wardrobe. ‘Another well hidden hidey hole,’ he thought. He crouched down, pulled it out and removed the money and the gun. He had never been happy having a gun in the house, but his dad had left it to him, making him promise to get some training in its use, and he hadn’t had the heart to get rid of it. He’d never shot it, and wasn’t even sure he could shoot another human being when it came to it. All the same he wished he’d taken his dad’s advice about the gun-training now.
Standing up John grabbed a sports-bag and threw some clothes into it, along with the money, gun and documents. He pulled the wardrobe door closed and caught a good look at himself in the mirror. For a moment he simply stood there staring at himself. “You look like you’ve had a hard day,” he told himself. “I have at that,” he replied. He thought he looked older than his thirty-eight years, and needed a good clean up.
Before leaving the house he decided to stop off in the bathroom for a improve his appearance and freshen up a little. If he was going to check into a hotel or motel he didn’t want his appearance to lead to them asking any questions.
Stepping into the bathroom he pushed the door closed and turned on the light. The bathroom was the only room he considered safe to do this as it had no windows, and with the door closed the light would not escape the room. standing in front of the basin he took a good look at himself in the mirror. He looked like a man ready to collapse, and that was too close to the truth for him to consider it further. Turning on the tap he ran some water into the basin and quickly splashed his face and smartened up the appearance of his unruly hair. He checked his reflection once more and turned off the bathroom light as he pulled the plug to allow the water to drain. Looking above the mirror he read the words he had always considered an inspirational way to start the morning ‘Live well, laugh often, love much’. Now they simply seemed to be mocking him.
John opened the door as the water noisily gurgled down the drain. He swung his bag over his shoulder and started to move towards the stairs. He checked his phone and noticed the battery charge was running low. Cursing himself for not thinking to pick up the charger when he had been in his study he turned round planning to go pick it up when he heard the kitchen door creaking below him.