There was no sense of disturbance when Jean woke at her usual, seven thirty. The cat had sneaked in during the night and slithered under the covers. “Slumpy, what are you doing? You know that’s naughty.” She smiled as she stroked his black, sleepy body. They both knew that the disapproval was only for appearances sake and he rolled over in the warm, peered at her through half closed golden eyes and then stretched and curled into a ball. “So, having a lie in, are you? It’s alright for some people.”
It was only when she was in the bathroom, rubbing at her face with a flannel that the awful events of the previous afternoon intruded. She stopped and leaned against the wash basin. Every now and then she would use a real life happening in one of her books, nothing that could be traced back to the people involved, but would it ever be okay to use this? Last night when she had been typing she had been excited by the start of something, a short story maybe or, if she was lucky something longer. Already the girl had come to life for her, a sort of back story had begun.
Well, if it did turn into a novel it would be a long time before it was ready for anyone to read it, so maybe it wouldn’t be disrespectful.
She would change the description later, make the corpse unrecognisable, invent a new location.
The ideas bubbled in her brain. She knew that if she went into the office now, before breakfast then the chances were that it would be hours before she ate. She mustn’t. “Breakfast first, lady.” She admonished.
Once on the landing it was clear there was something wrong. Out here it was cold, much colder than her bedroom and en-suite bathroom. The curtains at the window, by the turn on the stairs, moved in the draught. She felt a jolt of fear.
Her phone was in the hall, she had told herself over and over that it would be sensible to take it into the bedroom with her at night but then, she just hadn’t. So, there was no choice but to go down. She glanced around. There was nothing here to take with her, no weapon to give her courage. “Hello.” She knew, of course she did, that it was silly to call out but, she did it anyway, “Is there somebody there?”
Unsurprisingly, there was no answer, the silence grew thicker, more threatening.
Jean took in a deep breath and forced her feet to move. She pulled her dressing gown more tightly around her, reached a hand for the banister rail and took the first step down the staircase.
The front door was slightly ajar. Perhaps that’s all it was. Perhaps in her disturbed state she hadn’t locked up properly, and then, maybe Slumpy had pushed it open.
There was no sign of disturbance in the hallway. She reached to the table for her phone and was surprised that it wasn’t there, in the usual place beside the vase. Her keys were there but no phone. She muttered to herself. “Still in my pocket. It’ll be flat now. Dammit.”
She moved on, there was nothing untoward in the kitchen. All tidy and neat. She could see through to the sun room, her jacket was in a heap on the floor. It had slid hadn’t it, slipped off the back of the chair.
She pushed open the door to the lounge. Later when she thought about it she remembered that she had closed her eyes at this point. Afraid of what she might find, but in the event, all was well. No mess, no damage. So, she had simply been careless and had got away with it. Blowing out a breath she lowered to the chair near the door and gave herself a moment for her nerves to calm.
After two cups of tea and a piece of toast she was feeling much better. She felt stupid but had learned a lesson. She must be more careful. It was odd, it had never happened before and she was convinced that she had locked up in the usual way. But, the evidence was undeniable, the door had been open. She opened and closed it a few times but there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with the locks. Maybe what she should do was have something more substantial fitted. It was so quiet here, in this little Midlands village, and in her own cul-de-sac. At the end of the day, modern times had modern dangers and the single Yale was probably far from ideal. She would deal with that today. Call a locksmith and find out what would be involved in upping her security.
It had been a lucky escape.
The sun was shining, so very different from yesterday. Maybe if the weather had been better there would have been more people about, she wouldn’t have been the one to find that pathetic, dead girl. Maybe the poor unfortunate wouldn’t have slipped in, or if it turned out to be the case, been able to kill herself in such an awful way. Strange the incidental things on which mighty events depend.
She shook her head, climbed back upstairs, tidied the bed, pulling Slumpy out from under the duvet. He grumped at her, and she heard his feet thud on the stairs and then the click of the cat flap as he went out into the back garden.
She pushed open the door to her little office.