It’s late at night, and one by one the after-hours crew is sneaking out of the office.
Which would be fine, except now Sammi’s working alone.
And something is waiting in the dark…
This story originally appeared in Short Sips: Coffee House Flash Fiction Collection 2, published in March 2012 by Wicked East Press. Let me know what you think! -Stefanie
If It’s An If
“What if I can’t give you a baby?”
His hand stilled on the taut skin of her belly. “Of course you will, my love. Don’t trouble yourself about it.” It resumed its lazy path around her navel, seeking lower.
She pushed it away and pulled the blanket up.
“And if I can’t? What then? Did you know Sylvia down the street is expecting her third? Her third, John. She’s younger than me, too, by a year.”
She felt his chest rise against her cheek as he inhaled deeply, then lower again as he sighed. He said nothing.
“I worry sometimes, is all.”
He leaned his head against the top of hers. “Hmm? About what?”
“Oh, about any number of things. That we’ll never fall pregnant. Or that we will, but I’ll be too old by then and it’ll have something wrong with it. Even more, I worry…” She looked down at her fingers twisting the hem of the coverlet. She whispered, “I worry that you’ll leave me.”
He kissed the crown of her head. “Darling, don’t think of it. You know the doctor says worry won’t help. Remember?”
She nodded. “I just want to make you happy.”
“When it happens, you’ll make me the happiest man alive.”
“When, when, when. You never say ‘if’. What if it’s an if?”
“Well.” He thought for a moment. “If it’s an if, we’ll just take Sylvia’s.”
She was sure she’d misheard. She turned her face up to meet his. He returned her gaze with a placid one of his own.
“Oh, yes. There’s still a few months left before she brings home the new baby. We’ll keep trying for our own in the meantime.”
Her brow furrowed. Surely he didn’t mean it. Couldn’t possibly.
“Listen, we’ll only do it if we haven’t managed on our own by then.”
She began to feel dizzy.
“We’ll use the spare key. It’s under the rock by their door; I’ve seen Henry use it once or twice. He’s gone all day, and she always putters around in the garden while the kids nap. So: she’ll go out the back door, and we’ll come in the front. Simple.”
His face had relaxed into the same wistful expression it wore when he talked about the lottery. But now there was a certain sharpness in his eyes that made her breath catch.
“We’ll take him — I so hope it’s a boy, don’t you? — and drive up to the lake house for a while. There shouldn’t be many people around this time of year. We’ll have to find someplace new to live, after, of course. And we’ll need new names. Mine will be…Richard, I think. You can pick his.” He sighed again, contentedly this time. “A whole new life. We’ll be so happy, the three of us.”
He reached over and snapped off the light.
“Now get some rest, dear. Good night.”
“Partners Garrick and Ortega are assigned the stakeout of a suspicious house, using a thermal imaging camera. But when the equipment picks up a strange presence nearby, their mission takes a dark turn.”
Here’s a teaser:
“Holy shit, Eric, lookit this! Eric!”
“Seriously, check it out. Number 126.”
“We’re supposed to be watching 124.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Dude, just look.”
“Quit calling me ‘dude’.” Garrick snatched the thermal scanner out of Ortega’s hand. “What am I looking at, exactly?”
“Heh. You’ll know.” Ortega leaned his seat back so Garrick could aim the thermal past him. Its screen changed colours as he traced the house across the street.
“Which one’s which, again?”
A small wisp passed over the screen as Ortega exhaled loudly. “I told you. Red is hot, blue’s cold. It’s not hard. You shoulda been paying attention in training.”
“Right. Well, us big boys sometimes have other things on our minds.” He twisted the gold band on his finger and thought about belting the kid, just once. “You keep your eyes on 124 while I’m looking at…whatever you find so interesting.”
“Uh-huh. I’ll let you know if I notice a nice man carrying a bushel of marijuana over his shoulder… See it yet?”
Garrick had traced the front bushes and first floor of the house: nothing but faint glimmers from the electricity in the walls. Now he raised the machine, sweeping back and forth as they’d been trained. Paid attention to something, you little shit, he thought. The screen reddened slightly as he aimed the imager up the stairs and past a warm room — a bathroom, someone probably had a shower — then at once the screen blazed with colour. There was movement, repetitive and rhythmic. “What the hell?” It was something living, for sure, but it was much bigger than a person…
Grab a copy and see what’s going on at Number 126…
What could be going on right next door to you…