I'm still sitting near the door, thinking about anything we could be missing from the packs when I hear footsteps on the front walk outside. I immediately startle into a crouched position up next to the door under the window. I breathe and then I smile to myself because I'm glad my reflexes are quick but I'm probably a tad bit on the paranoid side. I know it's Joey and he's just come back from across the street.
I check my watch. 9:59am. That means he's gone over and come back from Diana's in four minutes? My heart races and I fight the urge to flee from my position. It's probably just Joey and you're being paranoid. I almost stand up but decide against it. No, stay down. Run this like a practice scenario. Practice makes perfect. I stay by the door, not moving. I listen again, the footsteps are definitely closer, almost at the door. I shut my eyes tightly, forcing my breathing to slow, forcing my concentration to focus. Think. Take inventory of where you're at. I already know that the door has a window. The entryway hallway has a solid wall on the left side from where I am. To my right the wall would be the same except that there's a large break in it, creating a large doorway opening, for access into the den and subsequently the adjacent dining room that's never used. I look around, there are long vertical windows about six inches in width that run along either side of the front door. If it's not Joey and you move from where you are, you'll be spotted and give away your position. There's no retreat so just stay where you are and maintain your position, they don't know where you are. I smile again because I'm proud of myself for thinking so decisively and tactically.
“Did you see something move?” I hear a man's voice question from beyond the door. It's like someone has poured ice water into my veins and a chill crawls up my spine.
“Nevermind. I thought I saw something by the window.”
Suddenly three loud knocks resonate off the door. Joey doesn't ever knock like that. Terror starts climbing up my throat. Another three loud knocks. Definitely not Joey. My heart is beating so loudly that I'm sure it's audible to anyone in a mile radius of me. I listen intently between my thudding heartbeats, there are more than just two footsteps that belong to just one person, there are two people. The ice water in my veins turns solid. My muscles all tense in unison, the fight or flight response has just come to immediate fruition, just waiting on my brain to give an order. That order will not be for flight. I can hear them murmuring to each other, “Maybe she's not home.”
“Nah, she's home. Her car is here. So is her kid's. That truck is his,” responds the other.
“Oh. Ya. Good point. So why isn't anyone answering?” The deeper male voice questions.
“Maybe someone broke in and has them gagged or something.”
“I doubt it, we've been patrolling non-stop. We would have seen anything out of the ordinary,” replies the man with the tenor voice, confidence in his words at his neighborhood militia group.
After a few moments of silence the pounding begins and my stomach lurches into my throat. I can feel the door vibrating against my side as it absorbs the abusing of angry fists. The resonating thumps are so loud that I have to bring my hand to my ears to try and muffle the sound. The door is shaking violently under the pressure and I hear the metal deadbolt clicking against its brass counterpart.
Just then I hear heavy, shuffling footsteps. My eyes fly open and I slowly turn my head in the direction of the footsteps. She walks to the hallway, a towel wrapped around turban style on her head and another towel draped around her body. The pounding stops.
One of the men recognize her, “Hey, Josephine, is that you? You okay?”
She tilts her head forward to nod and the towel slips, giving her an excuse to look down at me as she brings her hand up to catch it. The silent regard is there again. She props the towel back on her head and raises her voice to carry through the door, “Yes, I'm fine. Can I help you?”
“We just wanted to make sure you were okay. No one was answering the door,” said the deeper voice, obviously the kinder of the two.
“I was in the shower,” she responds flatly, gesturing to her attire.
“What about that boy of yours? He okay? He didn't answer either,” chimes the tenor with an accusatory tone.
Josephine sighs, “Ya, Joey is asleep; can't hear a thing. Sleeps like the dead.”
The deeper voice speaks up again, “Okay, just making sure everything is okay. Glad to see you're all right. We'll be on our way now.”
Josephine turns and waves that half-hearted wave that looks like she's shooing off a fly, “Thanks.” She starts walking slowly back down the hallway to her room again with having said nothing to me or about me.
I listen to the retreating footsteps both inside but more importantly outside the house. Once I can't hear either I breathe a sigh of slight relief before my mind races. Joey, he's still out there. Now they're going door to door? Everyone was ordered to stay in their house, no visits or excursions unless absolutely necessary. He'd be in trouble if they knew he was at Diana's. He could already be in trouble. I rub my eyes and sink against the door, the adrenaline having shot through my body and tired me out momentarily. I check my watch again. 10:05am. Joey has been at Diana's for 20 minutes. I watch my watch ticking because I can't bring myself to do anything else. The seconds seems to slow down as another minute passes and then they seem to drag as another one passes. Where the hell is Joey? What is taking him so long? Did he get caught? Do they have... My heart almost leaps out of my chest mid-thought because I hear footsteps on the front porch again. I listen intently, these are quieter. Then I hear knocking again, softly. Three knocks. Pause. Two knocks. Pause. Four slower knocks. Pause. One last final knock. The pass-code knock. I heave a quiet sigh and come back to a crouching position to reach up and unlock the door. I don't have a gun so I don't even care that I'm not asking questions as I turn the deadbolt slowly and hear it click softly. What little reserves I have left of energy are about to be used up as I prepare, my hand coming quietly away from the lock. Still crouching, I quickly half leap and half crawl around the corner into the den and lean against the wall, doing a corner check. I look up at the mirror hung in the den that reflects the doorway back to me to see blonde hair and a bandana slipping in and shutting the door quietly behind him. I slump onto my haunches relieved.
“Stacey?” Joey whispers. I stay where I am. I try to answer but my mouth opens with no sound escaping. Real life situations are much more stressful and taxing than all the preparation situations we trained for. “Stacey?!” he calls out quietly but panic is evident in his voice and so I peek around the corner. His back is to me but he's inches away and so I reach up and grasp his wrist. He whirls around so violently that my own hand is thrown from it's grasp on his wrist and falls to the floor. I lean the back of my head against the wall as I'm staring up into the barrel of a Sig P220.
Until Next Time,