A terrible eavesdropper
fiction by Glynis Scrivens
When Kari saw her daughter’s face, she knew something had to be done. And quickly.
Otherwise she’d lose her.
Alice had tried to conceal the bruise with makeup but it only made it more obvious to her mother. Especially as Alice didn’t normally wear makeup.
“What’s he done this time?” she asked tightly.
Alice cowered at the tone of her voice. It was only too evident she’d been bullied again. It sent an intense anger and guilt through Kari.
She made herself breathe in and out slowly several times before repeating her question in a gentler tone.
“He overheard me on the phone,” Alice began. “I was talking to Mona about wanting to leave him.”
And Kari learned how he’d use the phone to strike her daughter. Not for the first time.
“Since when has he been an eavesdropper?” she asked.
Alice shrugged. “He’s always listened in. I’m usually more careful. I didn’t realize he’d come home.”
Kari could just imagine the scene. Thomas creeping silently into the house, hearing her voice, positioning himself to listen in. She shuddered. What kind of lowlife did that? And how on earth could she protect her daughter, when Alice didn’t seem to have the strength left to defend herself or walk out? Talking about it wasn’t enough.
It was a nightmare. One she wrestled with continually. It wasn’t doing her own health any good either. Only yesterday the doctor had warned that her blood pressure was creeping up again. Was it any wonder? Thomas made her blood boil.
So he was an eavesdropper? Well, maybe that was the chink in his armor?
As she poured tea and urged Alice to eat a chocolate chip muffin, her brain raced. A plan was forming. But she’d need Alice’s cooperation, wouldn’t she?
Looking at her daughter, as she sipped her tea, her eyes wearing a lost expression, she wasn’t sure she could depend on Alice to carry out her part of any plan.
So be it. She’d manage on her own. That was something she’d had to do for a long time now.
After she’d listened to Alice’s latest problems with her boyfriend, Kari went online. It wasn’t difficult to track down what she needed and authorize payment.
A week later she was ready to put her idea into action.
Heart pounding, she dialed her daughter’s number. Knowing that Thomas would be home, having his dinner. After several bad experiences, his food allergies had forced him to stop dining out.
“I’ve decided to keep your grandmother’s jewelry at home now,” she began. The valuables had always been held in a bank deposit box, as Kari had a fear of burglars.
“Are you sure they’ll be safe?” Alice asked.
In the background Kari could hear Thomas saying, “Would what be safe?” And then she heard him sneezing.
“It’ll mean I can occasionally wear the rings,” she said, hating having to lie to Alice. But what were her options? Allow Thomas to continue the way he was?
“I brought it all home today,” she said.
“Maybe you should just keep a few rings at home?” Kari said. “Rather than the diamond necklace or the gold chains. You should take those back to the bank.”
This time she didn’t hear Thomas. He must be too busy listening. Or stifling sneezes.
“They’ll be safe,” she said. “I’m storing them in an old biscuit tin in the pantry. Thieves don’t check the pantry, do they?”
“In a biscuit tin in the pantry?” Alice echoed. “That doesn’t sound very safe.”
As she started to say goodbye, Alice said something about needing better security if she was going to have such valuable jewelry at home.
“I’ll organize that tomorrow,” Kari said.
It was eight o’clock. Outside there was a full moon. She made herself a pot of coffee and waited.
At ten o’clock she turned off the lights and went upstairs. She wouldn’t sleep, but she wanted the house to appear quiet.
Her room was full of shadows. Outside her window the full moon shone brightly through the heavy canopy of pine trees. She sat up, her back propped against two pillows, quietly sipping her coffee. Waiting.
She must’ve dozed off because suddenly she was alert. She opened her eyes, ears straining. And then she heard it. The sound of one of the downstairs windows being slowly opened. Movements. She held her breath, wishing she’d locked her bedroom door. Was it too late now? Was she safe?
Her breath came in shallow gasps. She dared not move.
And then in the still of the night came a terrible scream.
Kari didn’t move a muscle. Not until she heard a crashing sound several minutes later. That was when she phoned the police, describing what she’d heard.
The patrol car arrived ten minutes later. It was only when she heard a knock on her front door that she ventured downstairs.
“The scream came from my kitchen,” she said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Sounds like a burglar to me,” said one of the officers. He was fairly young, about Alice’s age, with kind eyes. If only her daughter had found a nice man like him, she couldn’t help thinking.
“You stay here while we check it out,” said his partner. Kari hadn’t expected a female officer. She wasn’t sure why.
She stood by the front door, ready to flee, while they walked down the hall and through into the kitchen. She could hear their voices but not make out what they were saying. Now I’m the eavesdropper, she thought wryly.
Then the female officer returned. “You’ve had an intruder,” she began.
Kari shuddered. It was a genuine shudder, not a feigned one. The idea of Thomas creeping around in her kitchen in the middle of the night was indeed frightening.
The policewoman phoned for an ambulance.
“Is he injured?” Kari’s voice was barely audible.
“I’m afraid he’s dead.” The officer finished her call and rejoined her colleague.
Something inside Kari heaved a massive sigh of relief. The burden was lifted. Her daughter could be free.
But first she had to ensure her own freedom.
“Perhaps I should just make sure nothing was taken?” she said, from the kitchen doorway.
Her knees buckled. The officer with the gentle eyes dashed forward to grab her as she slipped down to the floor. The sight of Thomas sprawled across her kitchen tiles with that agonized expression on his face was more than she could bear.
“You can’t come in here until forensics have gone over everything with a fine-tooth comb,” said the female officer.
The sky was beginning to lighten and a pink flush heralded the dawn by the time they’d all finished and left. Kari watched the police cars drive away. She finally had the house to herself again.
Slipping into the pantry, she quickly spotted several biscuit tins on the floor. Lids removed. She picked up the old tin. It was empty now. Carefully she put all the tins back on the shelf.
There was only one thing left to do. She phoned a pest control company. The whole house would need to be fumigated. She wasn’t taking any chances. To her relief they could do the job today.
Kari booked to stay a few days in a posh hotel in the city. When she came home on Friday, it’d be safe to give everything a good clean.
She wondered if she’d find the spider’s body.
Glynis Scrivens writes short stories and has been published in Australia, UK, Ireland, South Africa, U.S., India, and Scandinavia. Her book Edit is a Four-Letter Word includes what she has learned in the process (see www.glynisscrivens.com).
This article originally appeared in the October 5, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.