"I don't mean to brag… but I'm an extremely important man."
Sam maintained eye contact with the woman standing in the doorway. For the last three hours, he had tried his absolute best to come across as a suave and sophisticated gentleman. It had taken all his energy, but he was pretty sure that he'd managed to pull the wool over her eyes.
Mary leaned against the door frame and looked the slightly disheveled, middle-aged man up and down. She absent-mindedly sucked on the corner of her lower lip – something she did when she was unsure of how to proceed. His clothes were old and well-worn. The hallmark of either a decided skinflint or that of a man who put little thought into his appearance. Neither prospect made any part of her tingle.
"I'm sure you are, Samuel. Thank you for a nice evening."
She tried her best to present a warm smile, but she knew her eyes would give her away. With any luck, the poor sod would catch on quick and be on his way without making a fuss. She hated it when they made a fuss.
"You're very welcome, my dear," he said with manufactured charm and straightened up a little. He wasn't sure if it made him sound stuffy when he used his sexy words. He was fairly certain that he was about to be invited in for a nightcap though.
The strained attempt at gratitude slid off Mary's face along with the smile. Of course he didn't get it. Just as he hadn't managed to glean the fact that she had been bored to tears for the last three hours of their marathon date. She stood erect and mirrored his pose. He had left her no other choice. She knew what she had to do next. Her feelings for him had now turned from annoyance to contempt.
"You know…" he said with a little twinkle in his eye.
Contempt turned to panic as Mary found herself stepping back and slamming the door in one smooth action. She felt badly that that was the way it had to end, but really, it was his own fault. Any man who failed to understand the most basic subtle signals deserved to have the door slammed in his face.
A muffled voice spoke through the door. "I'll call you."
Sam cocked his head to the side as he listened to Mary scamper from the door and make a high-pitched screeching sound. Perhaps she really had to use the toilet. It was good of her not to announce that.
Mr. Wiggles looked up at the sound of Sam's key turning in the lock. He leapt to the table and sat at attention to honor his master's entrance.
"Sorry," Sam said as he extended a hand to his trusted companion, "it's just me again. No new friends for either of us to rub up against I'm afraid."
The cat sniffed Sam's fingers and made a few cautious licks to taste his master's evening activities.
Sam let out a long sigh as he started into the bowels of his tiny apartment. The tiny hovel was packed to the roof with evidence of his wasted life. Everything from old newspapers to never-opened action figures stood in silent salute as he shuffled by.
A lighted window in the building across the street caught his attention. A sly grin spread across his face as he flicked off the living room light and fumbled for his binoculars. "At least the evening won't be a total loss."
The French woman across the street never failed to satiate his secret lusts. He wasn't actually sure if she was French or not – but the idea sat well with the beast inside.
Mr. Wiggles instinctively defended the woman's honor as he leapt to Sam's lap and replaced the view with his back-end.
Sam huffed with annoyance. "No Mr. Wiggles. Bad kitty. Daddy is busy right now!"
The free show across the street abruptly ended as the curtains were drawn and the lights shut off.
Sam cursed under his breath.
"Two fabulous blondes and a red-head. Not a bad," he mused to himself as he entered work the next day. The early morning bus ride had yielded favorable scenery. He hoped it was a sign of things to come for the week ahead.
"Package for you, Mr. Green."
Sam's shoulder's stiffened as the words hung in the air. He turned to see Mrs. Hutchinson, the crotchety old secretary at the front counter, wave a box wrapped in brown paper at him. The box was heavy and rattled a little as he made his way down the hall to his office.
The tiny room was akin to his apartment. Stacks of paper lined the walls partially obscuring posters of half-naked women. A single bare bulb hummed to life as Sam sunk into his dusty old chair.
He turned the package over in his hands. No other markings appeared on the package besides his name.
"OK, this let's just take a little peek here," Sam mumbled and opened the box. He dumped the contents onto his desk. A severed human hand landed on the pile of paperwork he was supposed to have finished three days ago.
Sam yelped and almost fell backward in his chair. "Mrs. Hutchinson! Mrs. Hutchinson!"
The elderly woman appeared in the office doorway a few moments later. "Yes Mr. Green?" Her eyes followed his to the grizzly object on his desk. The color drained from her face and Sam wondered if she would topple over. "Oh, that is ghastly! Who would send such a thing?"
Sam shook his head in disgust. "I don't know! Get it off my desk!"
"I'm not touching that! I'll catch the plague!" the old woman fired back and disappeared down the hallway.
"Well call the coppers at least!" he shouted after her.
"What a day, Mr. Wiggles," Sam said with a sigh and flopped down in his living room chair. "Someone left me a hand in a box. The police weren't much help. They just said they would ask around to see if someone reported losing their hand. Useless."
The cat was seemingly unfazed by the unpleasant news and began sniffing its master's socks.
A light in the apartment across the street flicked on. Sam reached for his binoculars.
Mrs. Hutchinson gave Sam a little nod as he walked into work the following day. Another package sat on his desk when he entered his office and turned on the light.
"Another one?" he called to the elderly woman.
"Found it outside first thing this morning, same as yesterday," she yelled back.
"If this is the other hand, I'm not sure what I'll do, Mrs. Hutchinson. Have the police uncovered anything yet?"
"Not that they've told me."
"Fine, fine," Sam mumbled to himself as he picked up the new package. This package was slightly smaller and not as heavy compared to the one from the day before. He tore open the package and gave a blank stare at the object looking back at him.
"Mrs. Hutchinson!" he cried out.
"It's not another body part is it?" she asked as she hurried down the hall toward Sam.
He turned the container so she could see. A confused look crossed her weathered face. "A sandwich? Why would someone send you a sandwich?" The elderly woman hovered over the box and give a distinct sniff. "It smells fresh. I'd better call the police. It could be poisoned or something horrible like that!"
"A human hand and a fresh sandwich?" the detective asked with a confused look on his face. "Any idea what the connection might be?"
Sam shook his head.
"I'll have it sent to the lab for the boys to run some tests. The hand had to be a threat of some sort. If the sandwich was meant to poison you, we'll know soon enough and take action from there." The law man gave a little nod and tipped his hat to Mrs. Hutchinson as he departed.
Sam entered work looking a little worse for wear the next day. Thoughts of the disturbing packages had robbed him of a good night's rest. He looked at Mrs. Hutchinson but said nothing. She returned the stare and slowly nodded her head.
Sam flicked on his office light. A third package sat on his desk.
"Oh fer the love…" he hissed and tore open the parcel. He didn't have to call for the elderly secretary this time. He heard her heels hurriedly clicking down the hall toward him.
"Sleeping pills," he said with an incredulous look on his face. "A bottle of sleeping pills!"
Sam's evening ritual was interrupted that night by a sudden loud rapping on his apartment door. "Oh of all the poor… it's yoga night for heaven' sake!" he hissed as he stood and replaced the binoculars.
He approached the front entrance and pressed his eye to the peephole. A woman stood in silhouette on the other side. The dim and distant hall light was insufficient to reveal the details of her face.
Sam's heart began to race a little. No woman had ever entered his domain before. Glancing around, he was suddenly keenly aware of the sorry state in which he lived. He pressed his eye to the peephole once more.
Sensing his presence, the dark female gave a little wave.
He opened the door a crack, the flimsy door chain still latched in place. "Yes? Can I help you, Miss?"
"Have you been enjoying the view?" the mystery woman asked.
Sam's heart suddenly felt as though it would burst through his chest. Tiny beads of sweat appeared along his receding hairline.
"I… I don't know…" he stammered.
"She's quite beautiful, isn't she? I don't blame you for wanting to watch."
"W… who are you?" he managed to croak. An uncomfortable lump had begun to form in his throat.
The woman continued, "I always keep my lights off because I know several of you could be watching at any time – but you're by far the worst one over here."
"Who are you!?" Sam loudly demanded a second time.
"I'm the one that watches the watchers, of course," she said in a low tone. "You've been my favorite for quite some time now. How long has it been? Two years? Three? You and that cat certainly enjoy the view every time my neighbor comes home at night."
Sam swallowed hard but said nothing.
"It took me a while to work out which apartment you were in, where you worked and what your name was," she said with a little giggle, "but I'm not built like my neighbor, so you probably didn't even notice me following you around, did you?"
Sam was visibly sweating now. "I'm not hurting anyone! And you can't prove a thing! What do you want!?"
"She knows, you know?" the woman continues. "She leaves her curtains wide open because she likes an audience. Poor thing. I hurts me to see her objectifying herself like that, so, I thought I'd give her a hand." The woman pauses and Sam thought he could see her smiling in the dim light. "But then I changed my mind and thought I'd give you a hand instead. Did you get it alright?"
Sam leapt back from the door, visibly shaken. His eyes were wide and his breath came in short gasps.
The mystery woman pressed her lips to the partially opened door. "But then I thought you were probably hungry due to all the hours you spent in that chair, so I thought I'd send over a little snack. Did you enjoy the little snack I sent over? Or have you been too busy watching to eat it?"
Sam vigorously shook his head as he slowly backed into the squalor of his apartment. "Go away! I'm calling the police!"
She continued despite his threats. "And then I thought to myself, maybe the poor lonely man is just having trouble sleeping, so I sent over something to help with that too."
Sam fumbled for the phone half buried behind a stack of perverse magazines. "I'm calling the police!" he repeats.
The woman lets out a hoarse laugh. Something about it completely unnerved him and he stumbled to the floor. She continued again in a loud voice. "But then I thought that you'd be too busy with your looking to bother taking the pills, so I've come to help you sleep myself!"
With that, the woman screamed and shoulder checked the door. The flimsy chain easily gave way with a loud snapping sound. Sam barely registered the heavy-set, middle-aged woman as she stepped into the light. The last thing he remembered before his world went dark, was the woman as she reached down for his throat and the fire that flickered in her eyes.
"Sleep now, Samuel. Sleep."