Excerpt from Chapter Thirty-Seven of By Chance
Desperate for a better view, Leanne strays toward the side of the home. Above an outdoor generator, a window is slightly ajar. Hoisting her weight atop the steel box, she stoops beneath the window. From her crouch, she rises and peeps over the windowsill, spying a laundry room on the other side. Certain no one’s near; she throws her leg astride.
“Leanne! No! Are you crazy? Get away from there!”
Startled, Leanne wobbles on the ledge. “Shhh! someone could hear you.”
“What are you doing?” Tara asked.
“I’m just going to check the first floor.”
“Are you crazy? He could be inside.”
“I’ll be careful.”
“It’s too dangerous—”
“We won’t get another opportunity. Just stay and keep watch.”
“This is foolish,” Tara grumbled just as Leanne slips inside.
On top of the dryer, Leanne pauses, listening for sounds beyond the adjacent pantry and kitchen. Only silence echoes through the dark abode. On the floor, next to the dryer, a hamper of dirty laundry spills onto wooden flooring. Sliding off the dryer, her ankle grazes the basket, throwing her into a trance. Instantly, she’s the stalker, withdrawing and piling scorching sheets atop the washer. She stares through the window into the dark night, glimpsing a gaunt, pallid reflection. Frightened, Leanne wakes, stumbling over the basket and landing on a mound of dirty laundry, marinating in a foul stench. Again, she’s assaulted with the stalker’s essence. Scooting backward, she hustles to disentangle her hands and glides forward on a damp T-shirt. A cloying musk assaults her nostrils sending her into another trance.
Weakened with fever, she moves toward a night breeze flowing through the window, letting air cool sweaty flesh. She removes the drenched T-shirt and pants; throwing them atop the laundry basket. Gripped with dizziness she claws the doorframe. A bitter liquid rises in her throat . . .
Leanne wakes with a lurch and tight grip to her throat. Her face blanched with the phantom illness of their stalker. Another brush of her fingers against clothing triggers a maelstrom of images. Colliding retrogressive dominoes send her helter-skelter, backward in time.
A powerful thrust lands her in a car seat beside a strange woman as she states, “Mr. Cavanaugh, several vacant lots are available. How much land are you looking for, and what square footage are you seeking to build?” A view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Martis Camp’s golf course appears. Another surge of images thrust her behind the wheel as she drives behind a Northstar bus. A swoosh of light and she walks the aisles of an airplane, searching countless passengers. A sweeping leap and the domino images crash to a halt. She stares at the Vermont home through a rearview mirror.
Leanne wakes aghast, supine on the floor, and buried in laundry. With haste, she scrambles to her feet, scoots atop the dryer, and out of the window.
Tara, beside herself with fear, breathes a sigh of relief when Leanne reappears in the window. “I’m having a heart attack out here.” Noticing the ghastly pallor of Leanne’s face, she races to her side. “What happened?”
“Let’s go,” Leanne said, grasping Tara’s arm and pulling her along at a quick pace.
“What did you see in that house?”
Copyright 2014 by E. Denise Billups
Art: Courtesy of Pinterest