An Unexpected Guest
A person lacking Margo’s training would surely have slept through – or completely disregarded – the muffled thump from the first floor.
The digital clock on the bed table read 3:13 AM.
She widened her eyes and quickly did the math: in bed for six hours and twenty-three minutes, plenty of time to have entered N3 sleep and therefore she could be 60-80% sure that the thump she’d heard was the initial stimulus.
Her two-year-old daughter, Ursula, was warm and still at her side. Margo put a hand on the child’s shoulder, which rose and fell with comforting regularity.
No one else was in the bed.
Margo snapped her head around.
There it was again: a soft impact tremor emanating from below, but closer this time.
Someone was definitely coming up the stairs.
Margo emerged from under the blanket and swung her feet soundlessly down to the carpet, being careful not to awaken the child.
Adrenaline tingled up and down her torso, front and back. She closed her eyes, tried to remember her training: shallow, silent breaths; a posture she could hold without lactic acid accumulation; and most importantly, a vantage point that kept her concealed while allowing the maximum flexibility for aggressive response.
Margo’s mind flashed through questions and answers:
Q: Does Abrams have another job to push on me?
A: I haven’t heard from him since entering the program.
Q: Someone I crossed while I was active?
A: I left most of them dead or maimed. Can’t recall anyone with this kind of stealth ability or the contacts to track me down here in the program.
Q: Did Abrams finally decide I know too much to be running free in suburbia?
A: Unlikely, given the fact that he’s aware my attorney is in possession of a detailed affidavit in a sealed envelope with instructions it be made public in the event of my ‘accidental death.’
Q: A random B-and-E? Maybe a rapist?
A: I can only hope it’s that straightforward.
A breeze blew in the open window. Margo heard the rustling of the linden tree’s leaves and wished the window were closed so she could focus more clearly on the approaching danger.
She stepped quickly to the walk in closet and removed all the hanging clothes from one of the wooden rods. She eased the rod out of its brackets, and moved to the side of the master bedroom door. Margo assumed a batter’s stance and, like a slugger with three balls and no strikes, prepared to swing away.
Directly outside the door now.
Suddenly Ursula started to whimper.
Margo raced back to the bed like a panther. She lifted the little girl with one arm and cradled her against her chest.
She bounced by slightly flexing her knees, trying her best to keep the child asleep and quiet.
Night terrors. At times, the girl would begin screaming for no apparent reason. As a single parent, it fell to Margo to manage each of these incidents, cooing, cradling the child until the terror passed, and she was able to drift off again.
Of course, Margo blamed herself for these episodes. Felt they were in some way related to the incident with her first daughter, also named Ursula. Many years ago.
She often wondered if it could be possible that the horror of her first daughter’s death could have been passed on to this Ursula. Could the horror held deep in a mother’s heart be passed to a child during pregnancy? Margo’s guilt compelled her to think it could be so.
The doorknob turned.
Margo placed Ursula in a laundry basket in the closet and, as quietly as possible, slid the door closed.
She then resumed her position next to the bedroom door.
The door fell ajar, letting ambient light from the hallway spill into the bedroom.
A large man entered. A hulking but silent shadow.
Although just a silhouette, Margo could tell he walked with a slight left-sided limp. She immediately decided to pulverize that leg once she’d incapacitated him with a head shot.
Margo took no chances.
The man was holding something in his right hand, but she couldn’t make out what it was.
He was completely in the room now.
Margo swung hard, hitting him directly at the base of the skull. She didn’t swing to kill. She needed information.
The man fell forward onto the carpet.
Margo strode forward to attack the left leg as she’d planned, but the man whirled around and clutched her ankle, pulling her down on top of him.
“You are so dead,” she said, gritting her teeth.
“Margo, stop,” the man said.
She stood and drilled his left knee with the end of the rod.
The man held his leg with both hands and moaned. The thing from his right hand lay on the floor next to him.
Margo ran to the light switch by the bedroom door. “Now, let’s have a look at your sorry ass before I take another pot shot at your leg.”
When the overhead light came on, Margo nearly passed out.
How could he be here?
“I’m sure that knee will need replacing.” He dragged himself up to a sitting position.
On the floor next to him were a doll and a toy pistol.
He noticed what she was looking at. “I didn’t know what to bring. Did we have a boy or a girl?”
Tears filled her eyes. “Dan?”
And Margo slammed him again with the rod.
Chuck Wendig is at again with another flash fiction challenge. This time out, the story needed to center on the concept of ‘an unexpected guest’. Well, I simply couldn’t resist another Margo story. If you’re new to this blog, you should read earlier Margo installments (“Margo in Rome” and “Hermosa Beach Heartache”) just for some context. As I’ve noted previously, I’m serializing Margo’s bizarre story in this blog. It’s great fun (and a great challenge) to approach each installment as a stand-alone flash piece as well as another addition to an ongoing story. Hope everyone enjoys the story!
Image by Nathan Eckinrode