Ted Gerome’s lanky, frame lay sprawled across a bed in his, dingy, basement bedroom.
Even as the early afternoon sun scorched the tarmack outside,this room was cooler and darker than night fall. A black-out curtain across its only window casing made sure of it.
Faint traffic and the perpetual road work noises filtered in from fifth avenue. More effective than the white noise machine he’d been gifted at Christmas, it’s comforting drone, and the accumulated night shifts, lulled him into a blissful sleep.
Traffic was slowing to a crawl as the afternoon rush hour approached.
Two shadowy figures slunk across the lawn and crept silently up the front porch stairs. The lock was not a difficult one to negotiate. The first man was a deft hand with a lock pick, and the two men were inside in under a minute.
Jewelery from the master bedroom. Laptop, Ipad, and a valuable coin collection from the den.
Antique silverware and Paintings from the dining room, which looked like they could be authentic originals. Why this place wasn’t wired with state of the art alarms, was anyone’s guess.
Down below in the basement, Ted Gerome stirred. He lay in abject silence for a full minute before he heard the telltale signs of a creaky floorboard and subsequent footfalls in the hallway above. Someone was definitely creeping around up there.
He reached for his cell phone intending to call 911. When he heard footsteps on the basement stairs getting closer and closer still.
His heart leapt into his throat and adrenaline coursed stiffly through his throbbing veins.
He rose from the bed stuck the phone in his pocket and crossed the room in two strides. His trusty Pete Rose Baseball bat felt cool and solid in his hand as he retrieved it from it’s brackets on the wall.
The footsteps were receding, as whoever was out there, was making their way towards the workshop at the back of the house.
Ted dialed 911 and gave his details to the operator in a hushed tone.
Then, as he stood with his ear pressed to the door. He could hear a second set of creaky footsteps moving around on the floor above, and knew. There were at least too intruders in the house.
He opened the bedroom door slowly and quietly, then made his way gingerly down the hallway past the stairwell and toward the workshop. In the darkness, he could see a flicker of light coming from under the big heavy double doors.
His knuckles tightened around the old wooden bat, as he waited in the shadows. His mind sped through a million and one possible scenarios. What could be taking so long in there? There’s nothing worth stealing in the shop, is there? What about dad’s old blue prints, was there value in those?
Nah, boring old buildings and none of them banks!
The other intruder was still moving around upstairs, but would he or she, soon be joining his cohort in the basement?
Just then the Work shop’s double, doors swung open, and a shadowy figure emerged.
Ted Gerome’s heavy bat crashed down on the stranger’s head. The flashlight slipped from his hand and clattered to the concrete floor. The man followed suit, but unlike his light which somehow remained aglow, he was out cold.
Gerome froze with terror, he could see well enough to know what the, dark, puddle spreading beneath the man’s head represented.
“Omigod, I’ve killed him!” These words reverberated through his mind as acid churned in his stomach and bile licked away at the back of his throat.
There was no time to be sick though, the upstairs man was on the move.
Ted grunted and wheezed as he dragged and prodded the limp body, an inch at a time back into the workshop.
The door at the top of the stairs was opened and a beam of light danced, nimbly, down the railings, and came to a rest on the hallway floor.
“Quin,” hissed a voice, “what’s keeping you, Bro? You find a stash down there, or somethin?”
The voice was getting closer, as it’s owner carefully navigated the stairs.
“come on, we gotta get outta here!”
Gerome took one last glance at the corpse. No one could blame him for this, it was self defense, wasn’t it? He quietly closed the double doors, picked up the bat and turned off the flashlight.
Ted could hear his heavy breathing as the other man came towards him down the darkened corridor.
The tall, slender policeman, Officer, Joe Kennedy regarded Ted Gerome with a sweeping, sidelong glance as they stood at the front gate.
“Sir, I assure you, there is nothing down there!” His voice was even, but the undertone of impatience was evident from his anguished, expression. “Officer Harris And I have been over this house with a fine toothed comb.” He studied his note pad for a moment, then continued, “There were no corpses, no traces of blood. The workshop floor is dusty and hasn’t been disturbed for some time. Your baseball bat has quite clearly, not been handled in months.” Kennedy enhaled deeply, in an effort to stay calm.
Judith Harris had been partnered with Joe, long enough to know his breaking point. They had been over this stuff a dozen times already. She calmly stepped in.
“Mr. Gerome, you stated that nothing of value has been removed from the premises, did you not?”
“Yes, but I know what I saw and did! I’m not an idiot!!”
Harris nodded calmly
“Look, no one’s saying that you are, Mr. Gerome. I’ve seen what too much consecutive night shift work can do to a person though. Get yourself a good day’s sleep and you’ll be right as rain.”
Ted watched the squad car as it pulled into the downtown traffic.
They seemed to be in quite a hurry to get away.
“Useless public servants,” he muttered! “They couldn’t find a needle in a frickin’ pin cushion!”
Then he smiled to himself, If he hadn’t killed those guys, at least he’d given them one heck of a headache.
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