Bumps In The Night

-Based on an idea sent to me in an email.

Characters: Owned by me.

Plot: Owned by…?

Karen Conley jabbed her finger at the 'off' button on her remote control and stood up. Her light pink night-dress swirled around her ankles as she rose carefully to her feet, one hand pressed to her hip. It was troubling her again, her arthritis, more painful than ever. Today would have to be an early night.

On the fold out table next to her sat a tray of empty plates and glasses, the last remnants of her TV dinner. It was a long time since she last cooked, being unable to stand over the stove or oven to cook anything fancier than a boiled or scrambled egg. Or baked beans.

With a heavy sigh she picked up the tray and carried it with her into the kitchen, flipping on the radio as she did so for the sake of a little sound. The silence in the house was almost deafening. And only worsened since Debbie left.

"Ah Debbie," she said softly, "I wonder how you and Frank are doing right now and that fresh new house of yours."

Curled up in a large wicket basket lined with a chequered blanket lay a smooth haired Yorkie, currently watching Karen with his tongue hanging out.

"At least I still have you Maxie, I still have you." Bending as best she could as her hip creaked in desperate protest, Karen stroked the little dog. The creature licked at her hand lovingly, sensing his mistress's pain and doing his own little bit to comfort her

"That's alright." She murmured softly. "I'll be fine, just get ready to come upstairs with me."

"…Last week and so we warn all home owners in the Enfield area to be especially vigilant this evening." The new reader on the radio news briskly read out her instructions and Karen paused to listen. "The thief has been known to strike late at night whether the home owners are home or not, it seems he has no wish to remain unidentified. If anything it is almost as though he wants to be found. He last struck on Flashflint Street where a Miss Patricia Maxell awoke in the middle of the night to find her valuables missing. We ask that all homeowners in the Enfield area keep anything of any value locked up and safe. We also ask that anyone with any information to come forward-"

Karen snapped off the radio with a disgruntled sigh. "Is nothing safe these days?" She picked up her walking stick leaning against the sink and began the long and hazardous walk up the stairs to her room. The venture took her five full minutes and by the time she reached the top stair her heart was thudding uncomfortably hard against her ribs and her breath was scraping painfully through her withered lungs.

"I'm too old for this." She murmured, shuffling across the landing to her own room.

The room was the largest in the house with her bed up against one wall and a vanity and wardrobe on the opposite side. Kicking off her slippers with vigour unusual for someone her age, she lowered herself onto the double bed and pulled the sheets over her thin frail body, patting the pillow as Maxie leapt up to join her.

"You're on guard tonight." She said softly, almost half asleep already. "That burglar wouldn't dare come near us with you watching over me would he?"

The tiny dog, almost as old and frail as his mistress merely yawned and licked her hand, hopping clumsily to the floor and curling up in a ball.

Karen was asleep in seconds.

***

For the first time in years Karen was plagued by bad dreams. She heard thumps and bumps and a hand clamped down over her mouth, pinning her down, stopping her breathing.

"No!" She cried, thrashing herself awake with a particularly violent lunge for freedom from the tangle of her sheets.

As the terrified thump-thumping of her heart began to slow she lay back in the bed, wiping a thin film of sweat from her forehead.

Enough was enough. More distressed by the newscast than she'd originally realised and left all alone in a huge house with nothing but a dog for company had taken its toll. Tomorrow she would call Debbie and stay with her and Frank for a couple of days.

"Maxie, are you there?" She dropped her hand over the side of the bed, feeling the air for her dog. "Ahh, there you are…." Comforted by the warm tongue grazing her hand and fingertips she rolled over and fell back to sleep again.

As soon as she awoke the next day she knew something was wrong. Drastically wrong. It was just there… in the air.

First of all the window was open. That was odd since she distinctly remembered closing it before watching Jerry Springer.

Karen yawned and rubbed her eyes swinging her feet out of bed and ignoring the sharp cracks as she forced her bones to move.

There was another problem. The jewellery box ordinarily on her vanity was lying up-ended on the floor. She nudged it with her toe and turned it over, alarmed to find it empty. Completely empty.

"No." She murmured softly. Her wedding ring had been in that box, her watches, her earrings, necklaces and bracelets. Anything of any value had been in that box.

"Maxie? What's going on! Someone has been here and you never said a word! Maxie?" Karen hobbled out of the room not even bothering with the walking stick. She checked Debbie's old room and the spare room calling all the while.

Irrational panic suddenly gripped at her heart and she told herself again that as soon as she'd found Maxie she'd call her daughter and ask to stay with her for a while.

The only room left upstairs was the bathroom and she opened the door to check not expecting much. The dog was far too small to reach the handle and the door was firmly shut. She looked in.

Karen's eyes slowly widened at what she saw. The sight before her so surreal and grim that she could hardly be sure it was truly there. Her mouth dropped open into a long wide 'O' of terror.

Then the screams began.

***

"Heart attack." The coroner jabbed his pen at his clipboard in a decisive gesture, putting a definite end on the conversation between himself and the man glaring down at him.

"You're sure?"

"Yes I'm sure, detective." Muttered the man icily. "I know my job. Someone came in and frightened the hell of her and she had a heart attack. Or maybe it was what she saw, there's no way of telling that. We think it might have been that guy whose been robbing the area recently but that's your job isn't it? Now if you don't mind we need to finish up here."

Detective Inspector Edison watched the man go through slitted eyes. "Prick." He murmured before entering the house again. He'd only just arrived, called in by his partner Inspector Gellon. Some little old lady had died and he suspected foul play. But heart attack didn't quite say foul play… it said- well; heart attack.

Edison wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and walked up the stairs, dodging aside as a faceless figure run past him a funny shade of green. "What's wrong with him?" He queried at the top of the stairs.

"You'd be sick too if you saw what he'd just seen." Gellon was standing at the top of the stairs holding a cigarette. He was a curious shade of white and his fingers were trembling, ash from the cigarette falling and burning the carpet.

"What is it?"

"The Enfield Thief strikes again, but he left us a present this time."

"But how do you know it was him?"

"Same style entry as the others… glass cutter on the window, matching footprints on the sill and a hair sample on the carpet."

"But why is he…?" Edison trailed off as Gellon pointed.

"Just take a look. I barely know what to think. Just take a look." He repeated.

With an impatient sigh Edison pushed past his partner towards the bathroom where everyone seemed to be crowding. The photographer stopped snapping and took a heavy ragged breath.

"I doubt I'll sleep after this one," he murmured, stepping aside to let the detective pass.

Edison was about to snap back with something rude and belittling but stopped mid-gesture with his mouth hanging open. "Fuck me…!" He breathed.

"I know." The photographer slipped off leaving Edison alone with the grisly sight.

The white tiles of the bathroom were splattered red with thick lashes of blood. The floor was equally slick with the congealing red gunge and the air was simply saturated by the smell of death. But that wasn't the worst of it. The worst of it was the furry bloodied something hanging from the showerhead. It took him a few moments to realise that the something was actually a dog. But the carcass was so badly mutilated that he could hardly be sure.

His gazed drifted about the room as the bile began to rise in his stomach and all at once he lighted upon something else on the wall just behind the body. He looked, then looked again and ran from the room holding onto his heaving stomach.

Gellon watched him pass with a wry smile. "I did tell him." He murmured walking back into the bathroom and gazing at the wall.

Behind the dog, against the wall in foot high letters someone had written something in blood. He looked up at it, the confusion finally overriding his revolution. "What does it mean?" He turned and left the room.

The blood on the walls, long since dried still carried their grisly message, a message that no one but poor Karen Conley would ever understand….

Even humans can lick.