Mercer Evans sprints to the woods. He had thrown the rock at the wall of Karen’s house harder than he meant to, and its impact with the vinyl siding sounded like an elephant stomping on plywood. Thirty feet in, he halts behind a thick tree and peers back.
His breaths are rapid gasps. They plunge into the frigid night air for an instant before vanishing, although the thick layer of clouds that blocks moon and stars causes their brief existence to be invisible.
Karen. He sees her peeking out of windows, doing a circuit of the first floor. Sometimes it’s from a lit room that shows her pretty, fuck-me face, other times it’s simply a flicker of movement, shadows on shadows, only seen by Mercer thanks to his night-adjusted eyes. He recalls her face looking that way in dimly lit bedrooms, the sensuous curves of her bouncing tits and hips becoming his whole world.
She stands at the patio doors. His breath catches. Karen. My love.
Illumination. It hurts his eyes even from such a distance.
She’s turned on the floodlights of the patio. They don’t quite reach his masterpiece of metal, yet still he can see its silhouette, proud and stark against the intrusive light. He touches the left side of his chest.
Karen closes the blinds.
Mercer frowns. Don’t you like it? He stares at the black ground for a moment before looking back up and smiling. Of course you do. You just wanted to close the blinds so you could masturbate. His gaze jumps to the dark windows, eager to see another flicker of movement, knowing she must be enraptured by his sculpture. He imagines her fingers plunged into her pussy, her breathing irregular. Fantasy overtakes him, and his soldier is at attention. Mercer liberates him into the freezing winter air, the shock glorious.
When Mercer finishes and the high fades, he grows bored.
I know what’s wrong, he eventually realizes, she’s waiting for me.
Mercer starts toward the house.
A sound in the distance. A siren. The police.
Shit. Fuckin’ pigs.
Mercer darts back to the woods and goes in three times as deep. He finds another large tree and watches as the flashing lights of the police car paint the night-black houses blue and red. The lights take up a position in front of Karen’s house.
Wait. She called the cops? His mind reels at the impossible implication. Then, he exhales in relief as he realizes the truth. No, a neighbor. Some stupid nosy busybody stank-cunt bitch-face whore who pulls back her frilly fag curtains every time a light goes on. Yeah, Karen must have one of THOSE next door. Mercer stares with seething hatred at the houses on either side of Karen’s, shuffling his stance to get a better view through the ninety feet of forest. He can see lights and faces in the windows of both, though of course that’s just because of the police. Still, he writes a mental note to be extra cautious the next time he comes to Karen’s house.
Waiting. The waiting always sucks. Mercer uses up most of his willpower putting on the facade of the friendly coworker and generally has little patience left for the rest of life. Damn, he thinks with a wide grin, those pansies at work would have strokes if they knew what I was doing. Thinking of work, he checks his silenced phone, holding it against his jacket to minimize its illumination. Eight thirty-two. I still have a few hours before I have to go in.
Finally, a cop shows up in the backyard. Mercer pulls his face behind the tree.
As expected, the donut-slayer shines a flashlight into the woods. Mercer counts to thirty before risking another look. The cop is checking out Mercer’s masterpiece. Even pigs gotta appreciate art of THAT quality, Mercer thinks, grinning.
The cop leaves.
Jesus fuck, what the fuck!
He waits some more.
Mercer swears in a loud whisper as another police car shows up.
He checks his phone. 9:13.
Hurry up, you ass-fucking pigs!
Mercer watches with increasing tension as they come to the backyard and photograph his metal sculpture. He checks his phone every few minutes.
The pigs eventually return to the front of Karen’s house. Although Mercer knows it’s only been fifteen minutes since the second cop arrived, it feels like an hour.
Another fifteen or so pass. At 9:47, the cops finally head out. Yeah, get the fuck out of here, Mercer thinks. Go back to your piggy donut trough and leave me and my woman alone.
Mercer starts treading back toward Karen’s house.
He keeps an eye on the neighbors. Their dumbfuck nosy faces are gone.
Finally. Mercer smiles, his heart pounding with joy and excitement. Just Karen and me.
As he steps near the edge of the woods, Mercer sees a light go out in Karen’s house. He stops. Another light goes out. And another. The entire house becomes dark.
Oh baby, you want to pretend like I’m surprising you in the dark? Will that make it more exciting? He starts to grow hard again.
A flash of light. Mercer’s eyes try to open wide but are held in check by his scrunching brow. That can’t be…
But it is. A nimbus around the garage. It diminishes as a rumble signals the closing of the garage door. It turns, momentarily shining a spotlight on a neighbor’s house. Then, Karen drives away.
“FUHHHHHHHCK!” Mercer breathes, a muffled scream. She left. She really left. She knows I’m out here, and she left. Oh fuck. Oh fuck fuck fuck. Oh what the FUCK! How the fuck could she DO that?
He jitters, arms and legs moving erratically, mind spasming.
Mercer comes to his senses. Glances at the neighbors’ houses again. Still doesn’t seem like anyone has seen him.
He looks at the shadowy house. Over his shoulder at the black woods.
I know what to do, Mercer Evans thinks. Yeah. I know EXACTLY what the fuck to do now.
* * *
Karen Raylor strokes Mr. Totsley’s neck and back. “Sorry, Tots. I’ll be back early in the morning.” She fills up his water dish and bowl of dry food. “Hold down the fort, okay?”
He seems to sense that she’s leaving; he meows loudly and winds himself around her legs. “I know, Tots, but I really have to go.” She thinks about Mercer. He could be in the woods right now, and the police just left. I HAVE to go. Karen opens a cupboard door, grabs the bag of cat treats, and drops some on the floor. She gives Mr. Totsley one last rub before jogging to turn off the lights.
She glances back into the darkness before pulling the door closed behind her. Gets in her car. Starts it up. The fan blasts cold air on her legs; she turns it off. Backs out. Punches the button to lower the garage door. Leaves the neighborhood.
As she drives, Karen dreads the questioning. It was fine with the police — that’s their job. But she knows she’ll be captive to her friend’s interrogation. Jamie will eventually pick up on Karen’s mood and call it off, but not soon enough. Karen is exhausted just thinking about it.
Still, it’s always great to see Jamie, and part of Karen feels like a schoolgirl again, heading for an overnight. Once Jamie’s flood of questions abates, it might actually be a fun couple of hours before Karen has to go to bed. Well, she thinks, more like an hour. Ish. I DO need to get up a little early so I can come back home first. Although, maybe I could skip my morning run just this one time. It’s not like I’m going to grow chubby overnight. She puts a hand on her belly and pinches the fat that nobody but her would think twice about. I hope.
Karen pulls into Jamie’s two-lane driveway, staying near the street to avoid blocking Jamie or Paul’s cars. Wow. Or Amelia’s, she thinks, realizing that the vehicle outside the garage probably belongs to their older daughter.
As usual, Paul is a little too eager to see Karen, nearly as much as their two dogs. He’s never cheated on Jamie — Karen knows that her friend is highly intuitive, and would sense it no matter how careful he was — but he does get overly attentive around women he finds attractive, and Karen has known for many years that she falls into that category. She remembers Jamie saying one time, “Yeah, that’s my hubby. Not a drop of Italian blood, but he definitely has Roman eyes.” Karen new that Jamie was mostly at peace with it. He was generally a good husband, and definitely a great father.
Karen greets Paul, unable to avoid a hug, patting his back while he squeezes hers. She’s acutely aware of their chests pressing together and knows that he derives a hint of illicit pleasure from it. After having Mercer back in her mind, she wants to push Paul away, but she puts a good face on the situation, knowing she can soon be alone with Jamie.
Amelia and her sister, Lori, are in the living room. The TV’s on, but both girls’ thumbs are flying madly across what Karen assumes are the virtual keyboards of their phones’ messaging apps.
“Girls,” Jamie projects, “look who’s here!”
They each glance up and double-take. They smile, say variations of, “Hey, Aunt Karen!” — the honorary title stirs Karen’s heart a bit — and immediately resume their flurries of typing. Jamie gives Karen a look of equal chagrin and affection. Karen understands; if smart phones had been around when Jamie and her were teens, they would have been glued to them just as badly.
“Bedtime in ten minutes,” Jamie states. “Yeah Mom, we know,” they reply in unison without glancing up.
Paul is hovering. “Get you something to drink?” he asks Karen, smile a bit too wide.
“We’re good, honey,” Jamie interjects. “Just need some girl time.”
Disappointment flits across Paul’s face, but he recovers his smile quickly. “No problem. Have fun.” He grabs a recliner. Karen is surprised; just a few years earlier, he would have waited for the women to leave the room before he sat down, no doubt hoping for one more interaction with Karen. The show of nonchalance is mildly impressive.
Jamie and Karen take seats in the dining room, pulling chairs from the table so they can huddle near the bay window. Both dogs follow them and flop down on squishy beds nearby. Jamie tries to convince Karen to have alcohol, but it’s already after 10:00, and Karen is fully aware that she would have normally fallen asleep by now. She sticks with water.
As Karen expected, Jamie grills her about the metal sculpture and the police. Karen endures the parade of questions. After fifteen minutes, Jamie blessedly realizes that Karen would rather discuss something else. She apologizes, but seems unable to think of an alternative topic. For two seconds. Then, she starts on about clothes and alcohol and dogs, and Karen mostly listens, content with merely enjoying her friend’s presence.
By the time the microwave in the nearby kitchen shows 11:00, Karen is yawning badly. “Past your bedtime, Kay?” Jamie asks.
Karen smiles and nods, eyes heavy.
“Okay, come on. I’ve got a spot for you in the office. It’s free of dog hair. Mostly.”
Karen chuckles. “Thanks, Jay.”
Door shut, light off, Karen settles down to sleep. Her mind is surprisingly alert. She wonders if it’s due to being back in the dark and quiet, the same state her house was in when she left. She knows there’s no way Mercer is outside, but it’s hard to completely dispel the notion.
Rochelle, her mind unexpectedly throws out. She’s a PI. The police are involved now because of the sculpture, but I doubt Mercer left any prints on it. Even if they stop at his house, they won’t have a warrant. They’ll just question him. He’ll snake his way out of their suspicion. Probably be all warm handshakes and smiles. Have some BS alibi with a slimy buddy. Rochelle, though… she could get some useful info.
Karen tosses the notion around her mind, knowing she has to decide before she’ll be able to sleep.
Chapter 10 Choice: Should Karen hire Rochelle as a private investigator to gather information on Mercer?
- No: Don’t do anything to escalate the situation. (17%)
- Self: Investigate Mercer herself. (0%)
- Yes, tomorrow: Call Rochelle during lunch. (67%)
- Yes, weekend: Talk to Rochelle after karate. (17%)
This poll closed on December 18th, 2017.