Saturday, October 8, 2011
From across the street, Samuel could see the girl's shadow in the window. He'd been watching the house for a few days now; it looked like rich pickings, but he needed it to be easy pickings before he would commit himself.
The girl was alone, though. She never left the house, either; Samuel watched off and on pretty regularly, and he never saw her out at all. She must have had a rich dad supporting her. That meant she'd have some expensive toys in the house. It could also mean a security system, but if she's always home the system might not be active. The trick would be getting in.
Samuel stated at her silhouette. It was indistinct, distorted by the curtain, but he stared anyway.
Tonight would be the night, he decided.
He took out his cell phone and dialed the number he'd pulled from a reverse-lookup directory. The shadow in the window moved away.
"Hello?" She sounded young-ish, but the connection was bad and it was hard to tell for sure.
"Hi," Samuel said, exiting the car. "If you call the police, I'll kill you. Do you understand?"
"I'm not going to hurt you as long as you do as I say," Samuel said. It was a lie, but by the time she knew that it wouldn't matter.
"Who are you? What do you want?" Samuel was already at the back door. He couldn't hear her through it, so she must be somewhere else. Probably looking through the front windows to see if he was there. That's where these girls usually went, in Samuel's experience.
He tried the doorknob. It turned.
"Hello?" the girl said. He still couldn't hear her except through the phone, so he chanced a reply.
"What's your name?"
"Charlotte, you and I are going to be friends, okay?"
"Friends?" She sounded almost hopeful. Was she a shut-in?
"Yeah, friends. When's the last time you had a friend visit, Charlotte?" Samuel silently closed and locked the back door behind him. He set the dead bolt, too. They usually unlock the handle right off, but they always forget the dead bolt; by the time they remember, it's too late.
"I don't know. A long time. You're not going to hurt me?"
"Not if you play nice, Charlotte." It was dark inside. She must have turned the lights off after he called. He still couldn't hear her voice in the house; where could she have gone?
"Yeah. You and I, we're going to play a little game. You like hide and seek? I love hide and seek."
"Oh. I like that," she said. "I'll seek." The line went dead.
Samuel pulled the phone away from his ear and looked at it. Call Ended, it said. She had hung up on him? That happened, sure, but not like this.
Samuel was in the kitchen; there was a phone there, so he took it off the hook to keep the line busy so she couldn't dial 911. It was chilly inside; the girl liked her a/c.
Hide and seek then, Samuel thought. Whether she sought him or he sought her, the result would be the same, he decided. She was probably hiding anyway. Maybe she wanted to scare him, or confuse him. She'd probably be hiding somewhere, maybe thinking she was ready for him.
Samuel was ready too, though. He drew his knife from his belt.
Stalking forward, he entered the living room. Old furniture, no big TV like he expected. Maybe not much money then, but the girl was there. The night wouldn't be a complete loss.
He stood still and held his breath. He couldn't hear anything. A fly buzzed through the room somewhere, the neighbor's air conditioner kicked on, but no wild heartbeat, not even his own, no quiet whimpering from behind the couch. He circled the room carefully all the same. Empty.
The hall was empty too. Three doors, one left and two right. The first door was a bathroom: empty. The floor creaked under him as he peered around the moldy shower curtain. Clearly no money here, the girl was definitely a shut-in and probably poor, but she seemed good-looking from what he'd been able to tell.
Back in the hall, he gave up the stealth act. "Charlotte," he called, "olly-olly-oxen-free."
"That's cheating," she said. Her voice was coming from his jacket pocket. He pulled his phone out.
Call time: 10:38 it said.
"Hey, girl," Samuel said, putting it back to his ear, "I thought you'd hung up."
"I'm it, not you," she said, rather abruptly. "Go hide. I'll count to ten."
Samuel felt sure that he'd heard her through the last door on the right. He crept in; it was dark, like the rest of the house, but it looked like the master bedroom. It had a big bed, anyway; the sheets looked old, like everything else in the house. There was no adjoining bathroom, so it was a dead end. If she was in there, she wasn't leaving.
But she wasn't in there. Samuel looked on both sides of the bed, then underneath. No girl. No Charlotte. The air was cold; he could see his breath, even. He'd need to fix the thermostat once he found the girl.
Only one room left, Samuel went back to the hall. The last door was directly across, and the room looked just like the one he was leaving. Even the sheets on the bed looked the same; Samuel looked over his shoulder to confirm his suspicion.
He fell down. He couldn't breathe. Blood, where had all the blood come from? Did -
Samuel coughed. There was blood in his mouth. Why was it so hard to breathe? He tried to push himself up and realized his knife was gone.
"I found you!" Her voice wasn't coming from his phone. "You suck at hiding!"