• Ruth Banister

The Night Prowler

It was about 10. I checked and rechecked every door but I felt fearful going up the stairs. The house was so quiet. Every noise I made seemed loud, drawing attention to myself. Was he out there right now, watching me? I wondered.

‘Ridiculous, you’re being ridiculous,’ I told myself.

I checked Mindy. Fast asleep.

I cleansed, toned and moisturised my face just as the lady on the beauty counter had advised. I had been looking so damn tired of late, what with Simon always away, the school run, work, Mindy’s homework. It was all taking its toll. Teeth, wee, then I switched off the light but when I reached for the door I had a vision of someone on the other side, waiting to grab me. It totally freaked me out, standing there, frightened to open my own bathroom door.

I fought down this panicky feeling. If I was ever to sleep well, and I had a big day coming up, I had to clear my head. So I yanked the door open and of course there was no one there, no Night Prowler, just the empty landing. But I kept seeing the images from the news, the CCTV stills of the Night Prowler inside a victim’s house. That’s what the press were calling him, because he prowled about in the dark, watching and waiting, biding his time.

In my bedroom I pulled the curtain aside and peered out. The night was very dark I remember. An area of lawn was lit by the house but slowly my eyes adjusted and I started to make out the rest of the garden, the individual trees and shrubs, Mindy’s trike and her tiny watering can. I watched with a wide gaze.

A low shadow slunk forward. A fox, a big one, stepped cautiously onto the lawn, its nose to the grass. I relaxed, a fox wouldn’t be there if a human was. I watched the fox zig zag across the lawn and I smiled, remembering the gummy biscuit Mindy had dropped earlier. I let the curtain fall.

Suddenly light began filling the room, the door was opening. I crouched down, my hands flying to my chest. But it was just Mindy, rubbing her eyes and dragging her mussy.

‘Mummy,’ she whined, still half asleep.

I scooped up her small, snuggly body and carried her back to her bedroom. It felt good to have that human contact.

Honestly, watching the news had totally freaked me out.

I walked back into my bedroom, it was about 10.30pm by then, and my phone was vibrating on the bedside table. It was Simon. I wasn’t going to answer then I stabbed the green button.

‘Hi’ I said.

‘Hey babe, you okay?’ he said.

‘Fine, you?’ I hated ‘babe’.

‘Knackered, it’s been a joke, this whole trip.’ He rambled off into a lengthy description of the conference he was on, the speech he’d made, the response he’d had. My mind drifted off, he’d become so boring, it was like he was making a report when he rang me. And I heard some noise in the background. Where was he anyway, I wondered.

‘Sarah?’

‘Yes?’

‘You’re quiet.’

‘Am I?’ There wassound in the background, like someone was in a bathroom. ‘Where are you?’ I asked him.

‘In London, I told you, at the annual conference.’

‘Uh huh.’

‘I could have come home, but I’ve got that stupid early start tomorrow.’

‘No I just wondered that’s all. I got really spooked earlier, the news did a piece about that guy, you know, they’re calling him the Night Prowler or something, he watches you and is a nasty piece of work. I dunno, I just got spooked being here alone. Silly really.’

‘Shall I come home, I can?’

‘No, I’m fine.’

‘Look, go get a knife and slip it under the mattress. Get that one with the long thin blade, you know the one I mean.’

‘Yeah I will. Anyway, I’m tired and need to get to bed. You home tomorrow?’

‘Er, all depends on how the morning meeting goes.’

‘Are you in a hotel right now?’

‘Yes, why?’

‘Which one?’

‘The, um, Cavendish. Why?’

‘Well just in case, you know, if there wasan emergency and I needed you, that’s all. It’s okay to ask where your husband is, isn’t it?’

‘Oh don’t start Sarah. I’ve always got my mobile with me, you know that.’

‘But that’s sort of the problem isn’t it?’

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

‘You know exactly.’ I spat those words at him.

We both went quiet, knowing just what was meant. I heard him swear under his breath then he ended the call. Not before I’d heard someone’s voice though. I heard a woman say, ‘Put the_’

I dropped the phone on the bed and paced the bedroom, I was angry. Furious even.

I ran downstairs to the kitchen and pulled open a drawer. I picked up several knives until I found one I liked, well, one that felt suitable for killing a Night Prowler, I guess. It was about eight inches long, thin, pointed blade, very expensive forged steel. All our knives are. I particularly liked this one for cutting Mindy’s sandwiches as it didn’t tear the bread. I thought of Simon in his hotel room and I drove the blade into the work surface and stared at the gash I’d made in the maple surface.

Back upstairs I slipped the knife between the mattress and the bed frame. I practised finding it with my eyes closed. I adjusted where it lay and turned it so the blade pointed towards my feet, reasoning I’d probably be lying on my back if threatened so would need to bring the blade up to any assailant.

Could I actually do it? I pondered that, lying there alone in the huge, six bedroomed house in the gated estate that was just the kind of property the Night Prowler fancied. How does anyone know until they’re actually faced with that situation, I’d say. I mean, I’m just me, not a killer, but threaten my child and I would do whatever it took.

I turned off the light and lay in the dark, listening, thinking and picturing Simon in his fancy hotel room doing whatever it was he was doing.

Occasionally I dropped my hand to the knife, lifted it up and flashed it through the air, more like a sword than a knife.

I lay there for some time and I knew sleep wouldn’t come, I was too wound up. It was after midnight and I had to be up at six. I took a sleeping tablet, well half. I had to get some sleep, the next day was too important.

Just taking that damn tablet made me feel better and I could feel my heart begin to slow. I touched the knife one last time I remember, then I rolled over and felt myself go.

A noise woke me. I looked at the clock, I’d been asleep just over an hour. I propped myself up and strained my ears. I heard footsteps downstairs. I couldn’t believe it. How scared I felt. People say they go blind or freeze with fear and I totally get that now, because lying there I was rigid with terror.

I reached for my mobile and dialled 999 but the voice that answered sounded so damn loud in the silence, oh my god, and then trying to whisper for help was impossible.

Feet stopped outside my room, casting shadows under the door and then the hall light went off. My heart was knocking painfully in my chest.

I put my phone on the bed, the line still open and swung my legs out. I reached for the knife and it was a good thing I’d turned it round to face the way it did because that’s how I picked it up. I stood up, knife in hand and the door started opening.

I heard a voice on my mobile, muffled in the bedding, which emergency service do you require? Oh no, I thought, the Night Prowler would’ve heard that too, he’ll know that I know.

I waited behind the opening door, a foot slightly extended to stop it hitting me. I considered ramming the door hard into the Night Prowler, but he’d be sure to recover and attack back.

I reasoned I would have only one chance to stop him.

I became preternaturally calm and I knew I would survive this. The thing I’d feared most was happening but I was dealing with it. Mindy mustn’t know, she must see nothing and wake up tomorrow with her life unsullied by this, this bastard who crept into people’s homes and wrecked lives.

I changed the grip on the knife to a downward thrust, ready. I stood up tall. I heard the man’s breath, it was shallow, a slight clearing of his throat. He smelled strongly of a deodorant or something. I was holding my breath.

He was coming in soundlessly, cautiously. I saw the stills of the CCTV again, darkly hooded, crouching, baseball bat. That’s what I saw in front of me right then.

Bastard! I screamed in my head and I stepped forward and I did it, a few times I think, it was easy, the knife was the right one. It was so quiet, just me and him, and him sinking down without a noise and then a voice on my mobile saying help’s on its way, please keep the line open.

‘Come quick!’ I shouted, ‘I’ve stabbed him! Oh my God I’ve stabbed him!’

But I felt triumphant, good had vanquished evil.

I slumped down, my back against the door, and waited for you lot to come. I wanted to sleep, the tablet was still working. I heard everyone arrive and force open the door and come upstairs and it was only then, with everyone’s torches that I saw who it was and my first thought was, oh my God, Simon’s the Night Prowler.

Simon’s the Night Prowler? That’s absurd.

And now I’m here answering all these questions.

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