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Melissa Kesead

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The Victorian Cage
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This is the first of my books. It's unlike the other two in that it could be classified as a young adult, but it's okay for adults, too. And just remember. If you read me..  
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A Stranger is Waiting
By Melissa Kesead
Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rated "PG13" by the Author.

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Recent stories by Melissa Kesead
· Angels of Death
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About a writer being stalked by a killer


A Stranger is Waiting


Melissa Kesead



















            The lightning flashed and she saw him, a figure standing boldly near the tree line that surrounded her property.  The darkness covered him once again and she chalked it up to her imagination playing tricks on her.  “Too many horror movies, Cyn,” she whispered to herself.

            Just then the phone rang and she screamed in spite of herself, whirling around to face the sound, and then realizing it was just the telephone as it rang again.


            “Hey.  Are you okay?” David’s voice betrayed his concern.

            “Oh.  Yeah.  I’m fine, just a little jittery because of the storm.  Are you still coming over?”  Cynthia moved toward the fireplace, grabbed the poker and started pushing the logs around, watching the glowing sparks as they flew up the chimney.

            “Yeah, I’m still coming.  In fact, I’m on my way as we speak.  I just wanted to let you know I was going to stop before it rained and pick up a movie and wondered if you had any requests.”

            Cynthia listened and now that he mentioned it, she could hear the thunder through the telephone as well as outside. The storm must be coming down from the north.  “No specific requests, just nothing too scary tonight.  I think I’ve had enough of those for awhile.”

            “I thought those were your favorites,” he joked.  “The slashier the better, you always said.”

            “Yeah, well, I think my imagination is playing tricks on me in this storm and I don’t need anything else to fuel it.”

            “What kind of tricks, Cyn?  Are you sure you’ll be all right until I get there?”  David was really concerned now.  Cynthia was all alone and there weren’t any neighbors for a few miles.  If something were going on, she could be in real trouble.

            “Nothing.  Really.  I’m just seeing things.  Pick up something you want to see and then get here to keep me company.  I’m just lonely.”  As she said those words, her confidence came back and she was positive now that it had just been a trick of the light and that was it.

            David thought for a moment about foregoing the movie and hightailing it over to her house, but he didn’t want to be overprotective and pushy.  “Okay.  I’ll hurry, though.  I should be there in about a half hour if not sooner.  I can’t wait.”

            Cynthia sighed in anticipation.  “Neither can I.”




            The figure moved swiftly through the darkness, reaching the house before the next bolt of lightning could betray him.  He slipped silently along the back of the house and stopped by the stairway that led to the rear deck.  He could see her through the picture window as she poked at the wood, the light from the fire creating a soft, glowing aura around her.

            “She looks like an angel,” he thought.  “This is just like I imagined it would be.”  He had seen her picture on the dust jacket of one of the books she had written, The Heights of Horror.   After that, he had read them all, even the short stories and poetry she had published while still in college.  He taped her interviews and watched them over and over, memorizing her face, her speech, and her mannerisms.  He knew everything about her, including her habit of staying home alone.




            Cynthia Roberts loved what she did for a living.  She wrote horror novels; and she was good at it.  She had dabbled with poetry and writing since she was in middle school, letting all the angst and frustration of the pre-teen and teenage years out with paper and pen.  She would write about anything then.  If there was a war or struggle in another country, she would imagine the trials and tribulations of those people and write a poem about it.  If she fought with her family, she would try to let words on paper soothe her soul.  When she had boyfriend troubles or love woes, she would pour her heart out and write sonnets, haiku or ballads in the little books she kept for just such an occasion.  It became a part of her. 

            She would take her pad of paper with her and sit on the dock behind her parents’ house and watch the sun on the water and doodle until the words came to her.  The rays would warm her and shine off her chestnut hair and she would lie on her belly and create permanent memories of joy, sorrow and love.  Cyn didn’t think much of it at the time, but she was creating a legacy that would follow her into her adulthood and become coveted by millions of devoted readers.  She was just having fun.




Marcus had first seen her picture when he had been in Borders on Roosevelt Boulevard in Key West looking for something new to read.  It was December 1st, 2006.  He had always been a lover of scary stories and had grown up watching monster movies on late night television.  His favorites were the movies like ‘Don’t Answer the Phone’, ‘Someone is Watching’ and ‘There’s a Stranger in the House’.  Those were so scary because you never knew who was either coming to your door or already in your house and you had to figure it out before you got killed.  Someone always died; they just weren’t smart enough.  He knew he’d be smart enough, though.  He tried to tell them through the television set, but they never listened to him.  It wasn’t his fault if they got chopped into little pieces. 

            Reading a horror novel was almost as good as watching a scary movie.  He could pretend it was him stalking the people and that he was too smart for them to catch him or to get away before he butchered them.  He would smile when the descriptions were especially vivid and he could almost feel the blood on his hands and the terror of his victims.  It got him hard just thinking about it.

            He moved around a display of books to cover his erection and that’s when he saw her; Cynthia Roberts.  She had an exhibit all of her own on the stand he was next to and he couldn’t take his eyes off her cover photo.  Her dark brown eyes seemed to stare into his and her red lips looked moist and aching for him to kiss them.  He had to meet her!  He quickly bought her book and took it home for some light reading.




            Cynthia really got her break when she moved to the keys in 2003.  She had been writing on and off since college and had published a poem and short story while still in school but nothing major.  She had kind of given up on being a successful novelist because she had a busy career in finance and two small children to take care of.  She had one failed marriage and a second one was on the outs.  That’s when she met David.  He had lived in the keys for about four and a half years and was really happy here.  He made his living working as a realtor and had created quite a reputation for himself.  She liked him immediately. In fact, he had helped her buy the house she lived in now, on Little Torch Key.  They became fast friends and would see each other on occasion at social functions, commiserating about their failing relationships and getting advice from each other about how to handle things. 

            When Cyn’s marriage finally went south and she decided to move out, David gave her moral support and helped her find a place to hang her hat.  She didn’t know what she would have done without him.  After a couple months, David’s relationship ended as well and they became lovers.  He had a strength and openness that she had never experienced before and it was refreshing and felt safe.  It was a new beginning.




            Marcus slowly climbed the steps of the porch and hugged the shadows until he found the perfect spot to watch her.  It was a chilly night for February and the forecast had it reaching 58 degrees by 10:00.  “You don’t get to use your fireplace much in the keys” he thought to himself.  “Better take advantage of it while you can.”

            He knew she had grown up in Michigan and liked the warmth of a fire on a chilly night.  He knew she had liked stacking wood as a young girl, helping her father store the winter firewood supply.  He had done his research and knew everything about her. Ever since that fateful day when he picked up that first book of hers, he’d been looking, spending hours on the Internet trying to find out whatever he could about her.  As she became more popular, it became easier and easier to procure tidbits of information about her.  Acquaintances around town loved to stop and chat, getting their few moments of fame from having known her way back when. She had even become a Freshwater Conch after her first book made the bestseller list.  Everyone loved her; especially him.




            David had asked Cynthia to move in with him about six months after they had become lovers.  He lived in a two-story house by the ocean with a canal.  She really wanted to, but she cherished her freedom and she needed the quiet to write.  Right now, though, she wished he didn’t have to drive from Key West up to Little Torch.  It was only 27 miles, but sometimes it felt like it took him forever. Normally she loved the isolation and the quiet, loved watching the egrets and herons look for fish in the marshy waters that crept alongside her dock.  She didn’t have a boat yet, but David kept one in Key West so she really didn’t feel the pressure to add one to the pristine view she had.  When she couldn’t concentrate on her writing, she would sit outside on the porch that ran along the back of the house and watch the cormorants and anhinga dive for fish and swim around with their snake-like necks barely breaching the waters’ surface. The birds always relaxed her and sometimes even gave her ideas that she could use in her books.  The keys had their fix on her and she didn’t think she could ever live anywhere else.

            Tonight, she didn’t think the porch would soothe her.  The thought of going outside frightened her, actually.  She shivered and moved closer to the fire, wondering what was wrong with her.  She lived this stuff, wrote this stuff, and made her living from frightening others.  She wondered if, somehow, it was coming back to haunt her.




            When Marcus Reilly was a boy, everyone who knew him called him odd.  Even if they didn’t know him very well, they could just sense that there was something not quite right about him.  His mother just thought he was a shy, introverted boy who liked to play alone and preferred the company of animals and bugs to people.  Mother didn’t know the dark side of Marcus.

            He liked the company of animals and bugs well enough; liked to watch them die slow deaths as he tortured them and found new ways for them to entertain him.  It started with pulling the legs off of bugs, then the wings, then crunching them underfoot so he could watch the insides ooze out, or lighting them on fire and listening to them pop like popcorn.  That intrigued him for about a month, moving on to bigger bugs like the larger beetles, praying mantises, grasshoppers and cicadas.  He liked catching caterpillars and pulling them apart; he would laugh as they would squirm, their lives leaking out of their severed ends.  Then he moved up to lizards and snakes.  Their blood was more thrilling than the thick ooze of a bug.  They wriggled more, too, which made his heart pump quicker and his breathing shallow with excitement.  Then came the cats.




David smoothed the worry lines from his forehead as he tried to pick out a movie.  He couldn’t concentrate, his mind going back to Cynthia and the tension in her voice.  His blue eyes, which were normally the color of the sky, had become cloudy with concern and he ran his fingers through his sandy brown hair as if to wipe away his feelings and allow him to focus on the task at hand.  He finally settled on National Treasure with Nicolas Cage.  A little adventure and humor should do the trick.  As he got in line and waited patiently for the slower than molasses clerks, he silently cursed the coming rain as lightning lit up the store.

            As he pulled out of the Albertson’s parking lot, he noticed the unmistakable lights of an ambulance speeding north ahead of him.  He hoped there hadn’t been an accident that might delay his arrival any longer than necessary.




            Cynthia looked out of her sliding glass door at the water, trying to soothe this feeling of impending doom that was looming over her.  Just a few hours ago she had been sitting on the porch trying to finish a chapter in the novel she was working on, enjoying the warmth of the sun on her toes.  She was having a terrible case of writer’s block and while she didn’t get much writing done, she had enjoyed the solitude.  Trying to recall the feelings of relaxation that she had experienced earlier, she momentarily closed her eyes and took a deep breath.  “CRACK!” A bolt of lightening came down and struck a tree at the edge of the water.  Cynthia screamed and rushed back to her chair by the fire, wrapping her arms around her chest and rocking back and forth.  Her heart hammered inside her chest so forcefully that she could feel it through her clasped arms and inhaled through her nose, holding her breath, trying to slow it down.  “I know.  I’ll sit down and try to do some writing while I wait for David.”  Smiling to herself she walked toward her little desk and sat down, crossing her legs Indian style and hunching over to stare at the computer screen.  “Easier said than done Cyn,” she chided herself. 

            When she was young, she used to have feelings of déjà vu a lot and glimpses of events that hadn’t happened yet.  She also was very sensitive to the presence of ghosts or spirits or whatever you want to call them.  Frequently she would feel something pass by her and experience a cold that made the hair on her arms stand up; or have the feeling that someone was standing right behind her, watching her, and there was no one there.  That’s how she felt now.  She hadn’t felt that premonition of dread in years and now she recalled how much it had frightened her.  Her family had thought she was just being silly and brushed it off as an active childish imagination; but she knew better.  She read up on the subject of ESP and telepathy and astral projection.  She watched documentaries on Edgar Cayce and other mediums that communicated with the dead.  Fascination with the supernatural led her to Ouija Boards, witchcraft and Satanism.  She had always been a voracious reader but when she found those books that she could relate to she literally consumed them.  They made her feel that she was not alone; that there were kindred spirits out there that felt as she did.  It made her happy.  Well, she wasn’t feeling happy now.  She felt like any minute something horrible was going to happen and that she was powerless to stop it.




            Leering from the shadows, Marcus saw how scared she was and it made him stiff.  Mmmm.  He stroked himself through his pants as he stared at her, grabbing himself and squeezing until he winced.  Licking his lips, he could almost taste her fear and he took an involuntary step, almost revealing himself to her.  “Not yet,” he whispered to himself.

            Marcus thought back to the time a few months ago when he had run across a woman that reminded him of Cynthia.  He had followed her every day until he knew her routine, where she shopped, what she ate.  She was a pretty thing; liked to sit by the water and read.  Her skin looked like alabaster when it was hot enough and she would get that fine sheen of perspiration on her body.  He itched to touch her.

            It took him three weeks to decide to kill her.  Waiting outside her apartment he saw her come home and put away her groceries.  She lived alone and he watched her prepare a small salad for dinner and sit in front of the television.  Patiently he waited while she nibbled and then washed her bowl, went to the bathroom and got ready for bed.  He had already known she didn’t lock her door, so when the lights went out he turned the handle and slowly walked through the door.

            She was lying on her bed with the covers off and she was covered in that fine sheen of perspiration that he loved.  It was the start of fall, but in Key West it still felt like the end of summer.  Her windows were open, so he would have to be very careful that she didn’t make too much noise…very careful.  As he inched toward her, she turned on her side, her tank top riding up and bunching under her breasts, giving him a glimpse of a moon pale globe.  Smiling, he knelt next to the bed and touched it and watched her eyes fly open in fright.  Before she could scream he put his hands around her throat and squeezed, maneuvering her onto her back and sitting on her chest.  Flailing her arms and clawing at him, she tried to fight but he was much stronger.  He had lifted weights and sculpted his body, turning it into a killing machine.  There could be no mistakes.

            Succumbing to the pressure on her neck, the girl went limp.  Without her fighting him, he could take his time and explore her, inside and out.  Undoing his pants he marveled at his hairless crotch and how much bigger it made him look.  He read books on forensics, when he wasn’t reading Cynthia’s masterpieces, and he knew they could identify you if they found a body hair.  He had used one of those creams and gotten rid of all he hair on his body.  He didn’t want to shave his head of hair off, though, so he wore a swimmers cap and made sure it was all tucked in.  He looked ridiculous, but he felt safe.  He also already had a condom on.  He’d been hard for an hour now, just with anticipation of killing her, and he figured it would be one less thing he needed to worry about when he was in the act.

            Shoving himself into her she started to moan and her eyelids fluttered.  He grabbed her by the shoulders and roughly raped her, enjoying her tightness surrounding him and her unconscious whimpers.  She woke up as he was getting close and he saw her mouth open to scream.  Grabbing her by the throat again he choked her harder, ramming into her, the bed squeaking underneath him, until he crushed her windpipe as he came.  Fondling her breasts he pulled out, leaving the spent condom hanging from his member.  He would dispose of it on his way home, in some out of the way dumpster.  Looking down at her he was pleased to see that she looked even more like Cynthia now that she was dead.  He gently brushed her hair back from her forehead and tucked the covers up under her chin.  She looked so peaceful that he kneeled beside her and kissed her forehead.  “Soon, Cynthia…I’ll see you soon.”  Smiling, he let himself out and wiped the handle clean, whistling as he made his way home.




            The winds picked up and Cynthia stared out the window toward the water.  Lightening boomed nearby and it lit up her yard, and the man on her porch.  She could just see half his tennis shoe; the rest of him was lost in shadow, but it was enough.  Letting out a scream that any character in her novels would be proud of, she ran to the phone to call David.  As she picked it up she had the feeling that there would be no dial tone, and she was right.  Luckily, she didn’t rely on her house phone much and she raced to the bedroom and took her cell phone off its charger. “All circuits are busy” was all she heard when she dialed David’s number. 

            “Damn storm!” she shouted at the phone.  Quickly she walked back down the hallway and glanced at the sliding glass door.  It was still closed and the figure she had seen was gone.  “Am I sure he was there?” she whispered, edging closer to where she had seen him.  Running the last few steps, she locked the slider and searched for the piece of wood to put in the track.  She never used either one of those for safety, not out here.  It should be safe here, shouldn’t it?  This wasn’t supposed to happen in the keys!  Staring out the window now, she searched for signs that someone physical had actually been standing out there.  All she saw were the patio chairs, exactly the way she had left them, and her dying geraniums in their terra cotta pots.

            “I’m not going crazy.  I’m not,” she murmured to herself as she sat down and hugged her knees, rocking back and forth.




            David sat in his car, pounding the steering wheel, furious that he had to sit in this traffic jam.  The ambulance had stopped right after Bobalu’s on Big Coppitt, blocking the street.  Apparently there had been an accident; a pretty bad one from what little he could see.  Someone probably tried to hightail it out of the Circle K to get into traffic and didn’t quite make it.  Why can’t people be more patient?  He threw his hands up in exasperation.  Yeah, patient, like he was being.  “Cynthia will be fine,” he repeated to himself for the third time, “just fine”. 




            Marcus grinned to himself as he eased his way around the side of her house.  That was perfect!  She saw him, but he could tell that she wasn’t sure if he was real or not.  He had heard that she went through some kind of mini-breakdown a few months ago.  Something about her Mom dying; she started hallucinating and seeing her ghost everywhere.  Cynthia had gone to some retreat in the mountains of North Carolina or somewhere like that to get her head straightened out.  That was when he had found that other girl, because he missed her so much. 

When she got back to the keys, she stuck mostly to her house and he didn’t see her in town like he used to.  Eventually he got a tent and started camping in the mangroves near her house just to see her.  Sipping her iced tea she would stare out over the water or putter with her flowers on the back porch.  Sometimes she would bring her laptop out there and do some writing, especially when it was overcast and not quite so hot.  She would sit with her hair in a ponytail and put her feet up on a wooden ottoman and type away.  That was his favorite, when she wrote outside.  He would stare at her and pretend that she was writing about him.  Picturing himself as a character in her book, deviously planning to stalk and kill someone, he would creep through the mangroves and sometimes come upon a homeless person that he could act out his deeds upon.  Oh yes, those were his favorite times.




Hearing something clatter near her kitchen window, she looked up and briefly saw two eyes floating in the blackness and then they were gone.  Now she knew eyes didn’t float, so it was either her imagination or someone in a mask.  She preferred to think it was her imagination.  Trying the phone again she got the same message and threw her phone into the couch in frustration.  Once, being out here gave her peace and creativity; tonight, being out here reminded her of how alone she really was.  No one would hear her if she screamed.  No one would answer her cries for help.  No one would know if some lunatic chopped her into little pieces and stir-fried her.  No one.

Taking a deep breath she took a bottle of wine out of the rack and poured herself a glass of Shiraz.  One hefty gulp later, she took an assessment of what weapons she would have at her disposal and was utterly disappointed.  From what she could determine she had some pliers, a hammer and her fireplace tools; that was it.  Never had she wanted the security of a gun more.  She wasn’t a big fan of having guns in the house; when her children were with her she didn’t see the need to having something so dangerous nearby.  Now she could see why some people swore by them.  No need to dwell on the fact that she didn’t have one, though; she needed to focus on the weapons at her disposal.  Taking the fireplace poker in her hand she hefted it and jabbed at the air, pleased with the way it handled.  “I think this will do nicely”, she sneered, feeling better with it in her hands.




Marcus stifled a giggle after he had scared her at the kitchen window.  He knew the kind of effect it would have when the whites of his eyes were against the black of the mask and the darkness of night; knew she would question what she had seen.  Pulling off the mask he stuffed it into his front pocket and went back toward the slider.  The sky was really crackling now and he could feel the hairs on his arms standing up.  Fabulous!  Weather like this made him feel alive and vibrant.  Inhaling through his nose, he took a deep breath and walked out near the water, in plain site of Cynthia, but invisible until the next lightening strike.  He wanted to make sure she saw him this time, however briefly.  He prepared himself the next time the lightening hit, and he streaked across the back yard, glancing through the slider to see if she had seen him.  By her reaction, she had.  The look of horror on her face as her eyes followed him and she stumbled backwards, tripping over her own feet, was priceless.  Stopping behind a tree he saw her gather herself together and grab something as she headed toward the glass.  She peered out into the darkness, looking for him, but he knew she couldn’t spot him in his current position.  He waited until she sat back down and then moved to the other side of the house and broke her bedroom window.




The wreck had been cleared up and David breathed a sigh of relief.  He still had around seventeen miles to go and traffic was moving but still slow.  He tried to call Cyn to let her know he had been delayed due to the accident, but the lines were down.  Oh well, he would be there soon enough.  Turning on the radio, he found the song Lightening by Live and chuckled to himself at the appropriateness of it.




            Cynthia heard the glass break in her bedroom and cringed.  Grasping the poker she crept down the hallway and saw the rock and glass on her bed but no intruder.  Quickly shutting the door, she retreated back into the living room and stood with her back to the fire and her eyes on her bedroom door.  When nothing happened, she changed her stance from that of a baseball player to that of an old man.  Leaning on the poker, she felt her hands shake and felt the hitch in her breath.  “I’m not going to cry”, she whispered.  “I am not going to cry.”  Taking a couple deep breaths, she closed her eyes for a moment and then popped them back open when she realized what she was doing.  The Shiraz was within reach and she gulped the rest of it down, feeling better as it warmed her throat. 

            “Cynthia” she heard, a whisper, coming from the kitchen window.  “I see you.”  She whirled around and looked at the glass, but there was no one there.  The window looked shut, too.  Starting toward it she heard “I love you Cynthia” whispered from the bedroom.  As she waited for the door to open, something bumped from underneath her feet and a masculine voice shouted, “I’m coming Cynthia.” 

            “Go away!” she screamed at the floor, stomping her feet like a child during a tantrum.  “Leave me alone!” 

            Again, from the kitchen window, “I need you Cynthia.”  The disembodied eyes stared at her through the glass, then disappeared.

            “You’re not real!” she shouted, forgetting about the rock on her bed.  “Go away!”

            “I’m here Cynthia,” he whispered from the bedroom, and again she waited for the door to open, but it didn’t. 

            A slither under her feet startled her before she heard him shout “Let me in Cynthia!  I need you.”

She swung the metal poker at the floor, gouging the wood.  “Get out of here!  Go away!”  The front door shook and she spun around, ready to fight.

“Cynthia” whispered from the kitchen window.  Lightening illuminating the man at the slider.  “I love you.”

The front door shook again and she moved toward it, her fight reflex taking over.  From the bedroom she heard “Cynthia”.  She whirled around, not knowing if he’d be at the kitchen window next or the slider.  She thought she saw him run past in the blackness of the back yard, but then she heard her name whispered from the kitchen.  “Go away!”  She screamed.  “Leave me alone!”  She was hysterical now; clutching the poker so hard her knuckles were white.

Underneath her the floor thumped and he shouted, “I need you Cynthia.”  She saw him at the slider, leering at her, and then heard him at the kitchen window.  “I’m here, Cynthia.”

She ran to the door, ready to do battle.  She waited, unlocked the door, hands on the metal poker.  She started when it shook, but grabbed the knob and flung it open, swinging the poker with all her might.  David looked startled for a moment, and then collapsed onto the floor, blood pouring down his face from the gash in his forehead.

“Oh my God, David.”  She rushed to the bathroom to get a towel for his head, but when she returned his body was gone and there was only the smear of blood on the floor to say he’d ever been there. 

“What is going on?” she stammered, disbelief and confusion clouding her brain.  She reached for the door and then remembered the voices and the man she had seen.  “I’ll just wait for David right over here.”  She edged her way back to her chair by the fireplace and curled up in it, hugging herself to ward off the chill that was threatening to overwhelm her.




Marcus studied David as he stood over him by the carport.  It was like looking in a mirror.  He had known about David being his twin; he had researched everything about Cynthia Roberts, even her boyfriend.  When he had first seen his picture, he was shocked.  Mother had never said anything about him having a brother, let alone a twin.  She had told him he was adopted, before she died.  Marcus loved his mother, but when he found out she wasn’t his real mother he didn’t feel so bad about poisoning her.  She never knew it was him that killed her, and that’s the way he wanted it.

David moaned and Marcus turned his attention back to his twin.  Kneeling on his windpipe, he felt him struggle feebly but he didn’t have much fight left in him after the whack to the head.  He took special notice on how he parted his hair and examined his teeth to make sure there wasn’t anything different in his mouth than was in Marcus’.  When he was done with the examination, he smiled.  This was going to work out more perfectly than he had ever planned.

He took the body and jammed it in the trunk of David’s car, using the keys he had found in his pocket.  He had stripped David of his jacket and glasses and taken a rock to his forehead to simulate the knock from the poker.  Just then it started to downpour, which was perfect because it would mess up his hair just enough and she wouldn’t really pay attention to what he was wearing.  Making sure there was blood running down his face, he grabbed the movie that David had dropped and walked up to the door.




Knock.  Knock.  Knock.  It took Cynthia a minute to realize what she was hearing.  “Cyn, it’s David.  Open the door.”

She rushed to the door and flung it open, poker in hand.  “David.  Where did you go?”  He reached for her and stumbled a little and she put the poker down and grabbed him by the waist.  “Here, come sit by the fire.  You’re soaking wet.”

Marcus let him lead her to the couch and sat down heavily, as if he didn’t have the strength to stand.  Cynthia brought him the towel she had retrieved from the bathroom and started to wipe the blood from his face.  He grabbed the towel from her and winced.  “I’ll do that.”

“Oh honey, I’m so sorry.”  She crouched at his feet.  “Did you see anyone out there?  A man?  With a mask?”  Her hand shook as she placed it on his knee, still unsteady from her experience.

“What?  What man?  What are you talking about?”  The fake David feigned concern and looked at her through splayed fingers.  He was holding his head, as if in pain, the towel pressed against the cut. 

“The man,” she stammered.  “Before you got here, there was a man outside, taunting me. David, I thought he was going to kill me.”  She walked to the slider and looked out into the rain, certain she was going to see someone there.

“There’s no one out there.  I’ll go out and search to make sure, if it would make you feel better.”  He hid a smirk and brushed a clod of mud off his shoes.

“No, it’s pouring out there and you need to rest.”  She noticed the mud and then glanced at his shoes.  “Where did you get those?  I’ve never seen you wear them before.”

Marcus glanced at his tennis shoes, slightly muddy from trekking through her yard, and shrugged.  “I’ve had them in my closet, I just don’t usually wear them.  I got some dog crap on my other ones and couldn’t get the smell off, so I threw these on.”  He had always been good at coming up with quick fibs, and tonight he was living the biggest one.

“Oh,” she sat down beside him and took his hand.  “I really am sorry about your head.  I thought you were the man from outside, coming to get me.  I panicked.”  She shook her head and wiped her eyes.  “There was someone out there.  I swear.”  Getting up on shaky legs, she located her wine glass and poured until it was brimming.  Two hands steadied it as she drank long and deep, sighing when she felt its effect reach her toes. 

“This ‘middle of the boonies’ is getting to you, I think.  Time for you to move in with me.”  Marcus grinned under his hand, knowing that she had stayed in this house to prove her independence to herself…and to David.

“Perhaps your right,” she said, surprising herself.  “I was all alone out here.  That man could have done anything he wanted to me, and no one would have heard a thing.”  She shuddered.  “I could have died tonight David.  I could have….”

“Shhh,” he walked up behind her and put his arms around her.  “I’ll take care of you.” 



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