Ok, now I know it’s not Christmas yet but I posted a short story, Hunted, on here well over a year ago and it’s getting regular views still so I thought I would post this up and see what people thought. If it looks familiar to anyone it’s because it was on Portobello Book Blogs 12 Days of Christmas in 2017.
Let me just warn you now, not everyone in this story gets a happy ending……….
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Enveloped by the darkness and shadows Emily sat and watched, waiting patiently for the occupant of number 3 to return home. Number 3 was an unassuming terraced house that looked exactly the same as its neighbours though Emily knew there was something quite different about it. For the past few weeks she had watched, careful not to arouse suspicion. She had enough doubts of her own about what she was doing without getting unwanted attention from anyone else. She had used the local shops so that her presence in the village seemed less strange but at the same time she had tried to not visit them or speak to people too much so that when she was gone, when her task was done, no one would remember her. This was a small village and Emily had realised quite quickly that people were friendly. If you were walking around, particularly in the evening, people assumed you were out for an evening stroll and said hello. Lovely as this was she didn’t want to have any more contact with other people than was absolutely necessary.
Emily shivered sitting on the wooden bench. Although she was wrapped up warmly the cold bite from the frosty air found its way through to her limbs, frozen from sitting in the same position for too long. Wiggling her toes she huddled into herself a bit more, trying to minimise the amount of her body that was exposed to the cold. Being in the north of Scotland on Christmas eve it was no surprise that the temperature was so low. The snow that had fallen the day before was crispy and, thankfully for her, covered in footprints so hers would not stand out. Clearly everyone in the village was sensible and either away or cosily tucked up at home as there was no one around, the stillness and silence was broken only by an occasional car passing through.
Her planning had been meticulous, or so she had thought, but despite the fact that her quarry had returned by 8pm every night she had watched Emily was beginning to get concerned about his continued absence tonight given it was now well after 9pm. She wasn’t concerned for him as such, his safety was of no issue to her. What worried her was that she would be deprived of the closure that she and so many others needed. It had to be tonight, that way Christmas would be untainted by it and she and everyone else could enjoy a fresh start in the New Year, something they all deserved.
A sudden noise broke the silence, startling her and she realised that she had dozed off. Trying to clear the fog of sleep from her brain she noticed that the sound was of a car door slamming. It was him. Typical that he would make so much noise on such a quiet, peaceful night. Watching as he fumbled with the key for his front door before heading inside, Emily then carefully looked around to ensure that she was alone. She hunched further into the cold bench, pulling her scarf up round her nose and mouth.
“This was it”, she thought, “this was what everything had been building up to”. Everything she had done over the past few weeks had led up to this. Now she just needed to find out if she really had the courage to go through with it. “After all”, she mused, “no one would notice if I did nothing and just went home, although I would know…….no, I have to do this, I’ll regret it if I don’t.”
With that final decisive thought Emily stood up, wiggling her legs to wake them up before walking in the direction of number 3. The blue door stood out amongst all of the other white and cream ones, almost as if it was a beacon for her in the snow and frost. As she walked she thought through her plan while removing the scarf from her face. It was just starting to snow again, big, wet flakes were landing on her face as she walked, making her cheeks feel tingly and damp. Reaching the door she pulled the envelope from her pocket, another part of her plan, before ringing the bell and waiting.
As she heard footsteps inside the house her nervousness increased. There was no turning back now. Suddenly the door opened and there he was, looking at her with absolutely no recognition at all. Realising he was waiting for her to speak she went into her pre-prepared pitch.
“Evening! I’m collecting money for the local animal shelter, or any donations of blankets or old bedding that you might have?” Emily showed him the envelope with the shelter’s details on it. It was genuine although they had never canvassed in this village before.
“Huh, oh, ok, I suppose I might have something”, he said, sounding a bit surprised. “Come in and I’ll see what I have.” He opened the door wider, letting her inside. Emily walked past him into the lounge. “She was in, this was going to work!”, she thought trying to contain the fear and excitement suddenly coursing through her. “Wait here”, he said, “I think there are some spare towels upstairs.” He took the stairs two at a time and soon she could hear him walking around above her head.
Before she knew it he was coming back down the stairs, carrying some old but clean towels. He handed them to her and she started to take them. Just as he was about to let go, her right arm came from behind her back and in one swift movement, hidden by the towels, the knife in her hand went into his stomach. A cry of pain and surprise came from him as he stepped backwards in shock. Automatically his hand had gone to the knife, and both were quickly being covered in blood. The towels dropped to the floor with a soft thump, both he and Emily ignored them. Although she knew what she had done she hadn’t expected there to be quite as much blood so looked just as stunned as he did, though obviously for completely different reasons. He took a few more steps backwards before his legs gave way and he fell onto the floor.
Lying there, still bleeding profusely he looked at his hand and then at her. “Why?”, he gasped, clearly in a lot of pain. “Why?”, he repeated when she didn’t answer. She blinked, realising he had been speaking to her. “Why?” she said, “Why for all of the women, myself included, that you duped into believing that you loved.” He looked confused and she knew he didn’t recognise her so she elaborated. “You don’t recognise me because I lost weight and changed my hair after you dumped me. I thought we were getting married but you never intended to marry me did you? Just like you never intended to marry any of the other women you strung along.” Emily could see from his expression that he knew exactly what she was talking about but she wasn’t finished yet. “After I realised how much of a toad you are I decided to take revenge so I used social media and found a group, a whole group, just about you. The women that you have used and tossed aside found each other and grouped together to plan payback, but they were taking too long so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I’ve ensured that you won’t do this to anyone else ever again. You’re pathetic, you really are.”
She realised, looking at him as he lay dying, that she felt nothing for him. She had expected to feel something, even some strange form of joy but there was nothing. She had researched stomach wounds and knew that loss of blood was the main cause of death so all she had to do was wait. He tried speaking, possibly to defend his actions or ask her for help but he couldn’t get the words out so she ignored him and looked instead at the room she was in. She hadn’t paid it any attention till now but Emily was relieved to see that the blind on the window was closed, something she scolded herself for not checking on her approach to the house. It was a pleasant room, a little small but nice and cosy and she hoped that this death wouldn’t put people off living here in the future. She looked back down at him, suddenly wanting to leave this place. He was barely conscious. Prodding him with her foot she got only a faint groan in response. Emily bent down, loathe to touch him but wanting to check his pulse. It was there but very slow. She stood up again, noticing that the towels he had brought down were now soaking up his blood. They clearly were very good towels, it was a shame they would be wasted on him. Taking one final look around, she decided to leave.
Opening the front door slowly she glanced out but saw no one. She stepped out into the snow, now falling thick and fast and pulled the door closed behind her. The Yale lock clicked shut and she started to walk away, across the street and through the square to where she had parked her car. As she walked she decided this was going to be the best Christmas ever.