Saturday, June 15, 2013

Don't Look Behind You II

Shannon shut the book she was reading. It wasn’t drawing her in at all. A woman having an affair, out in the middle of nowhere, waiting for her lover, a storm, someone watching through the window… it was all such a cliché. And it would be funny if it didn’t hit so close to home. Only in her case, Stephen had left his bitch wife and married her.
She looked out the window. The rain was still coming down. She looked at the clock. It had been twenty minutes since Stephen had gone out for pizza. He should be back by now.
The lights across the street were flickering. She squinted, trying to see through the rain. Stephen had told her there was a history with the people in the house. The babysitter had gone crazy and killed her boyfriend. Then she’d gone home and killed her own family. She’d given some insane story about ghosts, possession and the housing development being buried on an ancient Indian burial ground. Now she was locked up in the state mental hospital.
Shannon started to drop the curtain, but stopped. There was a girl staring back at her from across the street. She waved at her, but the girl didn’t return the gesture. After a moment, Shannon turned and looked around the room. She’d unpacked most of the kitchen and living room. She should finish it… but the book was sitting there. Her sister was the author. She’d promised to read it.
Shannon picked up the book and then set it back down. “If only it wasn’t so bad.”
Headlights bounced off the wall as a car pulled into the driveway. Running to the door, she flung it open. “It’s about time, I’m starving…” Stopping short, Shannon took a step back. It wasn’t Stephen. The car bore the insignia of the local sheriff and two men in uniform were approaching the door. When they saw her, they stopped too, looking at her strangely. The two men reminded Shannon of Abbot and Costello. One was short and husky, while the other was tall and thin.
“Can I help you?”
It was the tall officer that spoke. “Is this the home of Stephen Anya?”
“It is. I’m his wife, we just moved in today.”
“Is he here?”
“No, he went out for pizza. I’m sure he’ll be back soon…”
The two officers looked at each other again. The husky one cleared his throat. “Ma’am, does he drive a Ford Taurus?”
Shannon’s stomach clenched and she braced herself for the worst. “Was Stephen in an accident?”
“May we come in?”
“Oh my God.” She swayed, her knees buckling. The officer nearest her, the tall thin one, grabbed her arm, helping her inside and to the couch where she finally collapsed. “Is he… is he dead?”
“Ma’am, we don’t know. His car was sitting along the side of Petersburg Road. The headlights were on and the door was wide open. It didn’t appear as though he’d been in an accident, no skid marks and the car wasn’t damaged. It was empty though.”
“He wasn’t in it? Well where could he be?”
“We were hoping here,” the tall one said. “Is there any place he may be that you can think of?”
Shannon shook her head. “We just moved here. He’d lived here years ago… just down the street as a matter of fact.”
“Down the street?”  Asked the husky officer. “Do you know which house?”
“The one at the end.”
He looked confused now. “Your husband’s name is Stephen Anya?”
“Yes. Why?”
“That house has belonged to the Stevenson’s for the last twenty years or so. My son went to school with their kids. They have a son that went missing seven years ago when he was seventeen… but his name was Bryan Stevens.”
“So what… are you saying my husband is Bryan Stevens? That doesn’t make any sense. He’s the wrong age, for one. Thirty-Two.”
“Do you have a picture of your husband?”
Shannon reached into a box sitting beside the couch and pulled out a picture frame.  Handing it to the officer she said, “It’s our wedding photo. We just got married a few months ago.”
The short one looked at the picture and then handed it to the second. “Ma’am, I don’t know how to tell you this, but if your husband isn’t Bryan Stevenson, then he’s a dead ringer for him.”
The rest of the night was a blur for Shannon. Seven years ago the town had been rocked by a series of murders that began when a young woman, Stephanie, had been babysitting for the family that lived across the street, and ended with her death. She’d been locked in an insane asylum and even though there were cameras, none showed what happened to her. She was found hanging from the ceiling. Her last known visitor was Bryan.
“No one knows what he was doing there,” the short officer, who Shannon learned was Officer Duncan. “He’d gone out with her once, but then she started dating Brandon. He didn’t seem to mind, but now… I kind of have to wonder.”
“Why’s that?”
“Because you look just like Stephanie.”
Now Shannon sat, trying to read the book her sister had written, jumping at every sound. She looked out the window once, hoping it was Stephen coming home and this had all been a mistake. He wasn’t there. The girl was at the window again. She appeared to be around 12, which would be the age of the girl Stephanie had been babysitting. She shivered. She couldn’t see her that well, but she seemed to be staring right at her, but that couldn’t be… she was blind.
Across the street was a police car. Officer Duncan had requested someone sit outside her house and keep an eye on her. Shannon waved at him and then dropped the curtain and went back to the couch. She wondered if she should go in the morning and introduce herself to the Stevenson’s.
“He’s not Bryan. This is just… a strange coincidence.”
She started to doze off. She wasn’t sure how long she was asleep when a loud shriek woke her. Outside she heard sirens. She went back to the window to see what was going on. There were police cars and several ambulances down the road. Then she saw Officer Duncan heading towards her door.
“What’s happening?” She asked, opening it before he had a chance to knock.
“There’s been a murder… two actually. Bryan’s sister, Amanda and the officer we had stationed outside. Have you seen Bryan?”
“I think, for the time being, it may be best if you came with us. For your own safety.”
Shannon wanted to say no, she needed to be here if Stephen came back, but she couldn’t think of a reasonable argument. A cop had just been murdered across the street. “Let me just grab a few things.”
She went upstairs where her clothes had been put away earlier that day. She only needed a few things. She was stuffing her overnight bag with toiletries when she heard a thud downstairs.
“Officer Duncan?”
He didn’t answer her.
“Officer Duncan?”
Silence. Shannon looked around for something she could use as a weapon and headed downstairs. No one was there, but the door was standing wide open. She looked outside. The street was still lit by police lights. Officer Duncan stood down at the end of the walk, talking to another officer. It looked like the tall, thin one from earlier that night.
Relieved, Shannon went back to her room to finish packing. She was putting her nightgown into the bag when she heard the floorboard in the hall creak. She turned, expecting to see Officer Duncan coming to check on her. Instead she saw the girl from across the street standing there. She looked strange. Her dress was ill-fitting and hair was long and stringy. It hung down across her eyes and resembled a bad wig. She raised a knife and stepped forward. Then the girl moved out of the shadows and she saw Stephen’s face.

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