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Nearly Midnight

by isbright 

Posted: 07 April 2009
Word Count: 971

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It was nearly midnight as I left the St. George’s Road office. Outside, every surface sparkled crisply in the bright sodium vapour glow. The cold spell, predicted for the weekend, had begun.

The car started first time, and, as I scraped a thin layer of frost from its windows, all I could think of was my coming week’s holiday. Caroline and I would be leaving for the Lake District the next morning. It mattered very little to me whether we walked the hills, toured by car or stayed in our hotel room all week. It was just a well-earned chance for both of us to escape the rat-race – albeit temporarily – and share some quality time together. Little did I know that, within the hour, events would change our plans.

Ten minutes later, with the car starting to warm through, I drove off.

Turning right at Wimbledon Hill I headed over Wimbledon Bridge and down towards South Wimbledon. Despite the chill of the night, Wimbledon still held many people on its bright main street.

Passing the burnt-out shell of the Woolworth’s store I saw a crowd gathered near the stark, fire-blackened pillars that still remained like condemnatory fingers. Had they seen, or were they waiting for, the ghost of the fireman who died there to appear? The vividly coloured police tape, seemingly the only thing that held the pillars upright, now hung limply against a newly erected chain link barricade.

Further along the Broadway I passed ‘Tiffany’s’ discotheque. Briefly I heard the bass thumping of a dance beat as three bouncers appeared out of the main doors to unceremoniously eject a lone man from the premises. Nothing unusual, I thought, recounting many incidents where bottles and glasses had been broken to resolve a variety of issues:

“.. She’s my girl…”

“…you’ll have to give me more than that for your dope, man…”

“…get lost, you homo bastard…”

The ‘X-programme’ late show at the Odeon had just turned out. The crowds dissipated into the side-streets, seeking comfort in each other and the familiarity of their homes after the atrocities they had just witnessed.

The rest of my journey took me through South Wimbledon and Colliers Wood to Tooting Bec. There were fewer people on the streets the nearer I got to Caroline’s flat.

I made two right turns, into Ritherdon and then Huron Roads, before encountering the first tendrils of a freezing fog that was drifting off the common towards me. By the time I’d parked the car it was almost thick enough to cut, as it swirled its way down the road like some gaseous Quatermass.

Shivering at the thought and coughing on the saturated air I unlocked the main entrance door to Caroline’s building.

This must have been what disturbed the intruder.

I did not bother with the internal light because a streetlight was located directly outside and gave sufficient illumination to see by. Also the timer mechanism for the hall light gave off such a harsh ten second buzz prior to leaving you in the dark that I didn’t want to disturb anyone at this late hour.

My first realisation that something was wrong was when the fire door at the top of the flight of stairs to Caroline’s floor was opened without anyone else turning on the lights. Two possibilities ran through my mind at this point: either they hadn’t been able to do so; or else they hadn’t wanted to. Dismissing the former as unlikely – there were push-button light switches outside every flat – the latter possibility sent my alertness level up several notches. Whoever had been up there in the dark long enough to adjust to it could not be up to any good.

Revelation of the intruder’s outline a moment later did nothing to alleviate my anxiety. Framed in the doorway, illuminated only by the dimmest orange of the streetlight behind me, he stood there - a well-built man of at least six feet in height. We must have been face-to-face, weighing each other up, for only two or three seconds at most. It seemed like an eternity at the time. I felt the gaze of piercing eyes I could not see. I felt disconcerted. I felt hypnotised.

Then he moved, and he was very quick. Before I had time to react he was halfway down the stairs. From there he launched himself at me, feet-first, without a sound. Unable to avoid it, the flying kick sent me sprawling backwards out through the still open front door. My feet caught on the doorstep and I hit the ground hard. It left me breathless and seeing double.

As I stared up at the porch ceiling he appeared in my vision, over the threshold. He aimed a kick at my left hip before running down the front path. I managed to turn over just in time to see him stop as he reached the pavement. Under the streetlight I could see his clothes were dark, he wore gloves, and his head was covered by a cap that kept his face hidden in shadow.

“Dressed for the part, too,” I whispered, starting to catch my breath.

He then turned left, towards the common, and ran out of my sight.

Only when lights from the ground floor flat came on did I feel any relief. Taking stock of what had happened I counted myself lucky that the man had been more intent on getting away than doing me any real harm.

Pushing myself up to a kneeling position and turning towards the opening door of the ground floor flat, I noticed something on the floor.

I picked up the key fob with the single key on it, and my laboured breathing froze.

It was the landlord’s key to Caroline’s flat.

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Comments by other Members

Beverley at 23:08 on 14 April 2009  Report this post
Hi Isbright

I read this with interest and felt you built up the tension very nicely. I was actually scared when he came face to face with the intruder.

well done



Is this part of a novel, I would like to read more.

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