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Authors: Charlotte Stein

Intrusion

BOOK: Intrusion
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Dedication

For my Clarice

Contents

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Epilogue

An Excerpt from
Forbidden

About the Author

An Excerpt from
Various States of Undress: Virginia
by Laura Simcox

An Excerpt from
The Governess Club: Louisa
by Ellie Macdonald

An Excerpt from
Good Guys Wear Black
by Lizbeth Selvig

An Excerpt from
Sinful Rewards 1
by Cynthia Sax

An Excerpt from
Covering Kendall
by Julie Brannagh

Copyright

About the Publisher

Chapter One

I
KNOW HE
has my dog. There is really no other explanation for her disappearance, when I think about it. Everyone knows that he does weird things in that house of his, with the shutters down all the time and the letters spilling out of his mailbox and the path he never rakes. Dog thievery is probably the least of his crimes.

People say he has a well in his basement, and that the body of his late wife is at the bottom of it. She tried to make him go outside one too many times and paid for it with her life. Now he gets to stay hidden all the time, while she slowly mummifies in her dank stone tomb.

None of which makes any sense, I'm sure. Nobody knows if he even had a wife. He hasn't told anyone. How could he have? He seems incapable of coming out his front door, and if by some miraculous chance he did once, and relayed information about his marital status to people in the neighborhood, well that hardly means anything. It certainly isn't proof that he poked out both her eyes and put her in a hole.

Yet somehow I stop on the first step that leads up to his porch. My foot hovers just above the layer of leaves that cover the peeling white paint, as unsure as the rest of me. What if he really
did
kill her? Heck, the fact that he might be an animal thief is enough to give me pause. Normal people don't steal animals.

Psychopaths and maniacs steal animals.

And if I am honest, his house
looks
like the home of someone who does that sort of thing. I'm certain I saw it once on
True Serial Killer Stories
. The windows are blank black eyes, and every board that makes up the place is riddled with lines—as though they're starting to decay under the pressure of his evil. Everything is dripping and vaguely dirty, and there are inexplicable items all over. I see a length of chain trailing away from an old rocker, rust bleeding from its heavy links into the wood.

Why is it there?

What was the other end once attached to? My mind tries to tell me
a hand
, but I refuse to listen. It gets harder, however, when I notice the baby doll under the window on the right. It's one of those with the eyes that flick back and forth, and they're just staring and staring up at nothing. Whatever clothes it came in are long gone.

Instead, I can see everything—the sad soft torso and the chubby plastic limbs, streaked with dirt and rainwater. The middle section is practically black, in fact.

But that isn't why the doll is disturbing. The doll is disturbing simply because it is there. He has to be in his thirties, so he would never need one for himself for any reason. And he lives alone, as far as anyone knows. No one has ever heard about any kids who might play with one. Yet he has a toy doll on his porch, splayed out like a symbol of something very bad indeed.
The real thing is inside
, I think, and then have to grind my teeth and close my eyes for just a second.

When I open them he is there.

Just barely, but I spy him even so. How could I not? The merest hint of him at the door is a jolt to my system. I see a sliver of darkness and half a face, and my heart tries to punch through my chest. A sound like a gasp comes out of me, even though barely anything has happened. He just came to see who was there. I should have expected that the second I formulated this plan.

Yet somehow it's still eerie and unsettling and awful, for all kinds of horrid reasons. Such as, why has he opened the door only a crack? Normal people would not open the door a crack. And even if they did, they wouldn't then stand there with the wood splitting them down the middle. I can see only one hand and one leg and one side of his face.

But if I'm honest, one of everything is enough. The eye he's settled on me is a laser beam, burning through my body. I feel as though I could put my finger to my forehead and find the hole he's made. And worse: I think he
knows
he's making a hole. That is his intention. He wants to scare me into running away, and in truth, I come close.

I can't even remember why I came here in the first place. What did I hope to achieve, really? Did I hope I could somehow take back the night? Nothing will ever make me strong again in the way I was before. I'm still as timid as I was two years ago, locking my door ten times a day and imagining men have stolen my dog. Thinking people have the power to put a hole through my head when all they did was open the door.

He just opened the door
, I tell myself.

But somehow it doesn't help. My mind won't shift gears, and now I'm stuck on the porch of a possible murderer. In a second I'll have to speak to him, but what on earth do I say now? It was easy when I imagined it all as some empowering exercise, winning one over on a guy who decided to take something from me.

But it can't be if he's actually a psychopath. He'll see through me immediately. He's probably
already
seen through me. I'll follow him inside and he will look at me in this suspicious way and I will look at him in a suspicious way and then when he turns to get me the number for the real person who has my dog, I'll secretly unsnap the holster on my gun, as Clarice does in
Silence of the Lambs
.

Only unlike Clarice, I don't actually have a fucking gun.

I have seventy-six cents and a strip of Big Red in my pockets.

How am I supposed to rescue the girl in his well with those things?

“Hello—hey—I was wondering. . .”

How am I supposed to rescue the girl in his well with those
words
? I sound even weaker than I had hoped I would, back when I thought he was just a weirdo. My voice is so faint the wind almost carries it away. The end of my sentence searches and searches for a question mark, but there isn't one to be found.

It disappears under the weight of his gaze and the featureless wall of his silence. He should be asking me, I know. He should say:
Can I help you?
He should tell me:
Get off my porch
. There are so many ways he is supposed to behave here, yet he does none of them. He just waits and waits and watches until everything I wanted to say washes away.

Now we're just staring at each other—though
staring
seems like too small a word.

After a while it starts to feel like falling into a deep hypnotic sleep. Everything goes silent and still, and the world around me slows to a syrupy crawl. I see dust motes drifting past my head in wavering shafts of sunlight, and hear my own breathing like an oncoming train. But most important I see him.

I see every detail of him in a way I didn't before.

That one eye is so big I sort of think I might fall into it, if I keep looking. And though I thought at first that it was as black as the bowels of Hades, I can see now that he has opened the door a little more, that this isn't the case at all. I think it might be blue, a deep and liquid blue.

That blue is drawing me in. I take another step up before I can get a hold of myself, and by the time I do, I'm standing on his porch. I'm so close he could almost reach out a hand and grab me, if he wanted to. But somehow I don't think he will. If that was his intention, his gaze would be fiercer. His grip on the door would seem less tense.

And he wouldn't have the chain on.

He has the chain on
, I think, then am not quite sure why that seems so significant. The idea rings through me like a gong going off, no matter how hard I try to ignore it. My eyes keep darting to it, as I go to ask again. I have to ask again, because suddenly I feel so furious with him and his silence and his weirdness and his stupid chain.

I feel furious with every man who ever did me wrong.

“I know you have my dog,” I say, in this angry way that I swear I don't intend. I wanted to be pleasant and calm. Instead I get close to accusatory. There is a hint of sneer in my voice somewhere, and I can see he knows it. His eyelids flicker over his eyes in this weary way, and the light in them grows even dimmer than it was before.

But I don't let myself think about that. I don't get a
chance
to think about that, because after my words have sunk in he closes the door on me. Slowly, slowly, yet somehow that seems worse than him slamming it. He wants me to really
know
that I'm not worth any of his time. He wants me to feel him shutting me out, in every inch of my bones. And I swear I wouldn't care, if it were not for the realization that strikes me as I march back across the street. It comes with a flash of that dimming light in his eyes, so strange for someone supposedly so cruel. Then it grows, as I connect it to one simple concept.

People put chains on their doors when
they
are afraid of
you
.

Not when they want
you
to be afraid of
them
.

I
DON'T FEEL
relieved when I find Trudy scratching at the back door sometime later, filthy and hungry and obviously proud of herself for discovering a hiding space under the house. Or, at least, I don't feel as relieved as I should. Instead I flush hot and pace the kitchen, arguing with my conscience about the need to offer him some kind of apology.

On the one hand, I accused him point-blank of something he clearly didn't do. On the other, talking to him about it would be really fucking embarrassing. He would be fully justified in laughing at me now. Behind his eyes I would see what I should have seen before: I am a small person with small prejudices who does small things, and all of them are shaped by the one fucking event I can't forget.

Plus he probably wouldn't want me to go back over there. He barely opened the door last time. His knuckles were white because of the grip he had on the wood. The strain all over his face is clear to me now, even if it wasn't at the time. At the time, I was blinded by terror that rules me forever now—to the point where I see serial killers instead of sane men. And then there is the chain, the fucking chain. Why didn't I understand the chain?

I see it whenever I close my eyes, barring my way. At night I lie awake thinking of all the things it implies, and those thoughts always end the same way.

He isn't the monster.

I am, I am, I am.

Yet somehow, when I look up one night and see him just standing there in the blurry darkness of my backyard, my reaction is still an uncomfortable one. That same jolt runs through me at the sight of him. I think of the last time I saw someone just standing there in my garden, and go cold all over.

I wish I had more than a nightdress on. It was only five minutes ago that I was in my sweats, which only adds to that unsettled feeling.
Maybe he waits
, I think. Maybe he knew when I would get ready for bed and decided to stand there looking in through my kitchen window at precisely this half-nude moment.

I bet he can see everything, after all. The moonlight is so thin out there and the brightness so total in here and he's so close to the house—how could he not? He can probably make out my heart beating beneath my skin and bones. It's most likely making him drool. In a second he'll take out a knife and cut me open, to get at all those sexy innards he longs for so much.

BOOK: Intrusion
9.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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