by Winnie Kay
A keyboard error causes fatal results.
| Alice glanced around the second floor entry-way and jammed the key in the lock. With practiced, choreographic movements, she turned the key, opened the door, stepped into apartment 210, and slammed the door shut with her shoulder. Balancing the take-out bag in one hand, purse dangling from her forearm, she turned the deadbolt and engaged the security chain.
“Max? Here kitty, kitty. Mama’s home.”
In the late afternoon shadows, a familiar shape stood and stretched atop the TV. Ignoring his human’s greeting, Max began to groom his tail.
Alice was used to his games of aloofness. “Okay for you, Mister. We’ll see how interested you are when I rev up the can opener.”
She flipped the light switch and surveyed the sparse living quarters. Satisfied that all was just as she left it before her shift at the hospital, she headed to the kitchen and set the warm bag on the counter. The aromas of cheese enchiladas made Alice salivate, and rumblings erupted from her mid-section.
She proceeded to the bedroom and positioned her purse onto its designated place atop the left end of her dresser. Toeing off her medical clogs, she placed them side-by-side on the floor of the closet between her Skechers and her house slippers. She tossed her scrubs and bra into the hamper, tugged on an old t-shirt and pajama bottoms, and padded toward her computer in the living room. Alice stopped at the front door and checked the locks, just to be sure.
“Let’s see who’s in the chat room tonight, Max. Maybe that guy Larry is back on-line from last night.”
“Oh, it’s safe. He doesn’t even know my real name.”
Alice pushed the power button on the Sony tower and went to get her dinner while the whirl and whine of the CPU sang its boot-up song.
Soon she settled in front of the PC and logged into the chat room...
Alisa>>>Yeah. They make fun of my scrubs at work cause they have cats on em.
Larry>>>U ever get mad at em?
Alisa>>>Nah. They ought to see this t-shirt I‘m wearing.
Larry>>>I like seeing you in that t-shirt—
Alisa>>>Uh Oh—I gotta feed Max.
Larry>>>Max UR boyfriend?
Alisa>>>Hah... he just lives here. Besides he’s not my type. He‘s got 2 extra legs and fur.
Larry>>>LOL… BRB… Need more wine…
Hmm—Maybe I shouldn’t have told him I was alone. Alice shrugged her shoulders. It’s not like he knows where I live. She stretched her neck from side to side and glanced at the clock on the wall. “My God, Max, it’s a quarter to ten.” Alice pushed back her chair and gathered up the empty, Styrofoam take-out container. She stopped on her way to the kitchen to check the locks on the door.
“Come on, fur ball. Mama’s gonna feed the kitty.” Max came running at the sound of the can opener. Alice froze, the can half open, and listened. “Did you hear that Max?” Max was butting his head against her legs as if to hurry along the food preparation process. “Sounded like someone was outside.” Max began to vocalize his distress. “Okay... Okay... Here!” Alice scooped the cat food into his dish, threw the can in the trash, washed the fork, and checked the locks on the door.
She went back to the computer, head tilted, listening for the slightest sound in the darkness outside her apartment. All was quiet. Alice settled back in her chair and scanned the previous messages to see where they left off. “What’s this... WHAT?“ She stared at the words typed across the screen:
Larry>>>I like seeing you in that t-shirt—
She rushed to the front window of the apartment and peered between the slats of the blinds. A tall shadow of a man was standing in the yard below, across from her unit, just beyond the illumination of the complex’s floodlights. He wore a woolen newsboy cap, pulled low over his brow, and held an old movie camera. Suddenly, the figure aimed the camera up and seemed to be focusing on her. Alice jumped back, clutching the front of her t-shirt over her breasts. “Not again... I swear to God, it’s not going to happen AGAIN!” She stumbled into the end table and grabbed the phone from its charger. She punched 911 and checked the locks on the door. Her words came out in gasps.
“He... found me. Send someone. HURRY... the maniac found me! He must have tracked me down through the internet. How stupid could I be? Hurry... please... HURRY.”
Alice dropped the phone and ran to the bedroom. Under the mattress was her loaded .38 she purchased last month. She’d never fired the weapon but knew she wouldn’t hesitate to use it against another attack. Alice approached the front door, hands trembling as she gripped the gun.
A local police unit was dispatched to the scene of the 911 call. Officer Daniels, a veteran of the Houston PD, turned to his rookie partner, Jones, and rolled his eyes. “It’s Alice Young again. She‘s one of our regulars.”
Jones watched the road as if his eyes could control Daniels’ driving. “What’s her problem, Sir?”
“A year ago she was beaten and raped in her previous apartment by an unknown assailant. She didn't see his face. No clues—no DNA match in the system. Every time she hears a noise, she calls us.”
Daniels pulled in front of the woman’s apartment unit just as shots echoed through the upstairs' landing. Both officers exited the police car in trained, crouched positions. Guns un-holstered, they approached the source of the gunfire. They rounded the corner and found Alice Young at the bottom of the stairs standing over the body of a man in a newsboy cap, the .38 still aimed at his groin. Blood seeped over the concrete walk-way. A movie camera was lying by his side.
“Put the gun down, Ma’am.” Daniels pointed his automatic at the ground and spoke softly to Alice. “You’re Ms. Young, right? Everything's under control now, Ms. Young. Lay down your weapon and step against the wall.”
Alice looked up at the police officers and lowered her gun. Her face contorted in a sinister grin, and she boasted, “I got him. I got the son-of-a-bitch. He was taking pictures of me through the window and chatting with me on-line. He was coming after me.” Daniels stepped in and slowly removed the .38 from her hand.
Officer Jones checked the victim‘s pulse. He looked up at Daniels and shook his head. A key chain dangled from the dead man’s right hand. Spectators were beginning to gather around the scene. “He’s got a key in his hand,” Jones said. He bent down to get a better look, without disturbing any evidence. “There’s numbers on it—214.”
“Mr. Anderson lives in 214,” a woman shouted from the crowd. She was wearing a pink, terrycloth bath-robe and slippers.
“You know this man?” Daniels asked the woman.
Bath-robe-lady approached the body to get a better look. “Oh my, yes. That’s poor Mr. Anderson, alright.” She placed a hand against her cheek and shook her head from side to side. “He moved in last month. He collected and repaired old movie cameras and sold them at auction. Seemed like such a nice man."
Alice appeared to be oblivious to the conversation going on beside her. Additional police cars and EMT units blared toward the scene. As she was handcuffed and placed in Officer Daniels’ vehicle, she maintained the poise of a hero and repeated, “I got him... I got him...”
Upstairs, Max lifted his head from atop his paws as a soft ding came from the computer indicating a message had been sent in the chat room.
Larry>>>I’m back—Got a fresh glass of wine.
Larry>>>Let's see—where were we?
Larry>>>Oh yeah. I was saying how I'd like seeing you in that t-shirt—