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Stalking   the Watcher

Tamara Jones

Tamara Jones is an ex-languages teacher pleased to be devoting all of her time to writing, a lifelong ambition that now can be fulfilled.  Beats lesson preparation and marking any day.  She lives out the back of beyond, on the edge of a forest and when not writing, spends inordinate amounts of time gardening and watching the wildlife

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Hostile eyes watched as she jogged obliviously past, intent on keeping her breathing regular and her stride even.  Not a fool this one, she stuck scrupulously to the wide avenues when she ran, not once had she ventured onto the smaller paths that wound through the glades and heaths for which the park was famous. 

          The eyes blinked and a hand released the branch behind which they hid.  Bad move.  She’d noticed and stopped jogging, looking back, looking hard at where she’d glimpsed the movement amongst the shadows in the gathering gloom of the autumn evening.  She hesitated, puzzled and anxious.  Had she seen something or was it her imagination again, this sense that she was being followed.  She’d never actually seen anyone though, and given her track record of nerves and panic attacks chances were it was just her anxiety on overdrive.  Or so she told herself, as she squashed her fear and jogged on, her footsteps crunching loudly on the freshly fallen leaves strewn across the path.

         The eyes blinked again and a dark shape moved silently onto the avenue, where it stood and watched the running figure recede in the gathering mists and turn towards the park’s exit.  Soon.  Soon it would be time


Lizzie shut and locked the door immediately she came into her flat. 

         ‘Garfield,’ she called, kicking off her jogging shoes.  ‘Garfield?  Come on Garfers, it’s dinner time.’  She pushed open the kitchen door and was rewarded with a heavy bundle of orange fur hurling itself at her shins.  Reaching down to pick up the cat she nuzzled him and smiled.  ‘Who’s a handsome boy then eh?  Who’s my lovely big fat orange marmalade Garfield cat?’  Garfield as usual struggled and pushed her away with his big paws but before she could set him down she froze and stood listening, the cat squirming in her arms.  Sure that was a noise she heard, just outside. 

          She strode to the front door and wrenched it open, stepping right out and peering up and down the street.  Nothing.  No-one there.  She looked over at the park on the other side of the road, shrouded in darkness, its trees and bushes presenting a seemingly impenetrable black wall now that the last of the evening light had leached from the autumn skies.  Nothing again.  No-one and nothing anywhere.  She closed the door and locked it. 


Lizzie jogged her usual park route as calmly as she could, but she was becoming increasingly unable to ignore the sensation of being watched.  She stumbled several times, preoccupied with eyeing up every figure that passed her instead of concentrating on where she was placing her feet.  She’d even bumped into one of the figures, a young woman as it turned out, who was deeply apologetic even though it was so clearly Lizzie’s fault.  She felt horribly unsettled and decided to cut her run short, wouldn’t hurt to miss out on a few hundred metres would it?

          She made her way towards the exit, which was already wreathed in autumn evening mists and looked insubstantial like a gateway to hell, with long fingers of tree branches heavy with moisture reaching down on either side threatening to seize her as she passed.  She turned back on an impulse and her heart leaped.  There was a figure not far behind, just standing and staring at her.  At least it looked as if he were staring right at her, in the gloom it was difficult to tell.  She stared back.  There was something familiar about him.  She strained her eyes to make out his features, but in the next moment he turned aside and vanished into the trees. 

           Lizzie slammed the front door behind her, dropping the key in her haste.  Garfield came mewling out from the kitchen demanding to be fed and his complaining yowling and big furry orange presence served to distract her momentarily from her fears as she prepared to feed him. 

          But then she heard it again, the same noise that had alerted her the other night.  This is too much, she thought, noticing that she had started trembling.  She picked up her phone ready to dial emergency, and silently slid to stand beside the door.  On the count of three she flung it open, realizing as she did so that she’d not locked it earlier.  In the same moment that she pulled the door wide open an orange shape hurtled past her. 

          ‘Garfield!’ she called, annoyed and upset.  ‘Garfers come back, right now!’  But the marmalade cat had already disappeared round the corner of the row of terraces.

           Lizzie crept down the concrete steps and peered all around and up and down the street.  Nothing again.  Her limbs were shaking now and her whole body felt like jelly and her imagination was in overdrive.  Got to calm down, she told herself, breathing deeply several times.  She stopped at the top of the steps and called for Garfield again before finally giving up and closing the door behind her.  He’d turn up eventually.

          Only he didn’t turn up and it was getting late and Lizzie was becoming anxious about him.  Several times she opened the door and called for him, several times she ventured outside looking for him.  At one point she thought she saw something on the other side of the road, just outside the gate to the park, too big to be Garfield though, could it be a person?  She was jumping at shadows but she couldn’t put it all down to nerves, she was sure there were grounds for her fears.  Should she phone someone, she wondered, tell someone her fears, just in case… in case what, in case something happened to her?  She rolled her eyes at herself and gave Garfield one last call, then went back inside.

           A loud banging on the door frightened her so much she dropped the spoon with which she’d been stirring soup and stood frozen while whoever was out there started banging again. 

          ‘Who’s there?’ she called, fear giving her words an edge.

          Muffled sounds came through the door, but definitely a woman’s voice.

          Lizzie carefully opened the door to reveal the young woman whom she’d nearly mown down earlier in the park, she recognized the bright blue fleece and matching boots.  She stared at her wondering obscurely whether she’d come to complain about their earlier encounter.  And how had she known to find Lizzie here…

         ‘Hello, I’m so sorry to bother you,’ said the woman, ‘but I thought you ought to know that you’re being followed.’

          Lizzie stared in horror at her.  After a few moments the woman coughed and started shuffling. 

          ‘Perhaps I could…’ she began.

          ‘You’d better come in,’ said Lizzie at the same time, glancing outside before shutting the door and motioning for the woman to follow her into the kitchen. 

          ‘I really am sorry and I wouldn’t normally dream of bothering someone like this,’ said the woman, looking earnestly into Lizzie’s eyes.

          ‘I should introduce myself first though shouldn’t I?’ continued the woman.  ‘My name is Cheryl, and I walk most evenings in the park.  I see you jogging.’  She glanced quickly away.  ‘The thing is, there’s a man following you.  It’s not a coincidence like I first thought, I’ve seen him standing behind trees and when you come jogging past he moves from tree to tree following you – discreetly of course!  It’s only because I noticed him and thought he was acting a bit oddly that I began watching him and saw what he was up to.  I thought I’d better come and warn you.’

           She paused and coughed again.  Lizzie said nothing but stood looking at the floor, her mind remaining blank despite the panic she knew was curling at the edges.  She was right!  She knew she was being followed.  But there was no comfort in being right, none whatsoever. 

           ‘I really didn’t want it to come to this,’ continued Cheryl, ‘but the fact that he’s following you leaves me no choice.’

           Lizzie looked up sharply, what an odd thing to say, what did she mean?  And then she laughed despite herself, a strangled sound that held no mirth and was full of stunned shock.  For Cheryl was holding what looked like a small pistol aimed at Lizzie.

           ‘Are you for real?’ goggled Lizzie.  It looked like a toy, one of those tiny cap guns that used to come in old fashioned christmas crackers.  Her mind was refusing to take in the circumstances, this was surreal, this was not happening, she was imagining it all.  She continued to stare blankly at Cheryl and the toy cap gun in her hand. 

          ‘Don’t be misled by how it looks,’ said Cheryl sharply.  ‘It’s a derringer and it kills.’ 

           Lizzie felt her stomach spasm as terror rapidly replaced the numb shock of a few moments earlier.  She’d let in the very person who had been stalking her, this madwoman, not a man at all.  She couldn’t move, none of her limbs obeyed her commands to run run run for her life.  Instead they shook and trembled and once again she felt as if she were made of jelly.

          ‘What… what do you want?’ squeaked Lizzie finally.

          ‘What do I want?’ repeated Cheryl and stared at Lizzie.  ‘This for a start.’  Lizzie heard a loud bang and felt a shard of white heat enter her thigh as she crumpled to the floor, staring in shock at the wound in her leg from the bullet that Cheryl had just fired.

          ‘Oh my god oh my god,’ she wailed.  ‘Why are you doing this?  I don’t know you, what have I done to you?’

          ‘You stupid little slag,’ spat Cheryl.  ‘You’re such a waste of space you really don’t know what you’ve done.’  She knelt down beside Lizzie.  

          ‘D’you remember Glen?’ she hissed, her breath hot on Lizzie’s cheek. 

          Glen!  How could Lizzie forget Glen, with whom she’d had a brief and disastrous fling that had ended his marriage and had had him trailing around after her for months after she’d tried to break it off with him.

          ‘You’re his wife,’ she said faintly.

          ‘His EX-wife!’ shouted Cheryl, gobbets of spit spraying onto Lizzie’s face.  ‘If it hadn’t been for you, we’d still be together.  If you’d had half an ounce of decency, you’d have sent him back home, to me.  But no, you had to have what you wanted and never mind anyone else, you selfish cow.’

          And then Cheryl smiled, a ghastly rictus that terrified Lizzie even more than the lethal looking butcher’s knife that she had suddenly produced and was now gently pirouetting in front of Lizzie’s face.

          Lizzie felt a fresh wave of terror knot her guts.  For some reason it distressed her more that she was going to die in her own shit, than that she was going to die at all.  Oh god someone please help me she thought feebly.  My poor Garfield, who’s going to look after Garfers.  And then realized that this madwoman had probably already killed Garfield.  With a surge of rage-fuelled adrenalin, Lizzie hauled herself to her feet. 

          ‘You bloody bitch!’ she yelled as she lunged towards Cheryl, pushing her off balance so that she toppled backwards and dropped the knife. 

           In the same moment there was a pounding on the door and it crashed back against the wall as a man rushed inside, his sudden appearance momentarily paralyzing both women.  But a second later Cheryl ducked to one side and with a loud wail of fury and frustration threw herself out of the open door. 

           Lizzie stood barely upright, her whole body shaking and her teeth chattering and her mind suddenly went black when she looked at the man in her house and recognized him.  The man from the park, he had been following her, and it was Glen, Cheryl’s husband.  Her one-time stalker.  Oh my god she moaned, despair overtaking every other emotion and perception.  They were both out to get her.  She moaned again.

          ‘It’s alright,’ he said, his voice low and gentle as he reached a hand towards Lizzie.  ‘It’s ok.’

          ‘She said you’ve been following me,’ said Lizzie stupidly, ‘You have been following me.  Again.  Oh my god…’

          ‘No!’ he said.  ‘I’ve been following her.  I knew she was stalking you and I was worried about what might happen.  I do still care about you, you know, very much.’  He looked closely at Lizzie.

          ‘Are you alright?’ he asked.

Lizzie sagged against the wall as the tension suddenly drained from her limbs, and in the same moment a ball of       orange fur came charging through the open door into the house. 

          ‘Oh Garfers,’ cried out Lizzie, gathering up the cat and burying her face in his fur.  ‘I thought…’ she began to weep.  ‘He’s safe, thank god he’s safe.’  She looked up at Glen, ‘But Cheryl’s gotten away.’

          ‘Don’t worry,’ said Glen, ‘we’ll call the police in a minute, are you ok?  There’s blood all over you.’ 

          ‘No,’ replied Lizzie, aware for the first time of just how not ok she really was.  ‘I don’t feel very good at all.  She shot me.’  She looked in bewilderment at Glen.  ‘Could you call an ambulance too please?’

          Glen didn’t respond immediately and looked thoughtfully at Lizzie.  ‘I didn’t think she’d do something as drastic as this,’ he said, almost to himself.  He stood looking down at her for so long that she started to feel uncomfortable.

          ‘Aren’t you going to call the police and an ambulance?’ she asked finally.

          Glen walked to the door and gently closed and locked it.  He turned back and smiled and Lizzie suddenly felt very very cold.

          ‘Not just yet,’ he said, still smiling.

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