Susan arrives home and gets a shock.
"Why did this have to happen today of all days?" Susan looked down at the fallen tree. The tracks nearby suggested that a bulldozer had pushed the tree over while clearing the area for a parking lot.
Across the dug up ground, she could see the framework of the main building. The foundation had been built weeks ago but it looked like it would be months before the project was finished. Several large pieces of machinery could be seen near the building, including a bulldozer. At one time, she could have continued to walk the dike trail all the way to the old wharf downtown. Now the construction site blocked any passage beyond this point.
While she understood the need for progress, it annoyed her when people destroyed the beauty of nature in the name of progress. The killing of her favorite tree was the last straw. Now she wanted revenge.
"Look at the bright side. Bad things only happen in threes. The rest of the day should be a breeze." Jill looked at the twisted old oak tree. One of the larger limbs was pressing into the ground as if the tree was trying to push itself up. "By the way, you never did explain what happened to cause you to get on the bus."
Susan tried to think of a way to avoid answering the question. "I guess there's no reason not to tell you. I was in the locker room changing and I saw a man spying on me. At least I think he was spying on me. When Ms. Kennedy came in, he ran away. I didn't get a good look at him, but I'm sure it wasn't anyone who worked at the school. I wish I knew what he wanted. I don't know if I should be scared or angry."
"Wow! I don't know what I would have done if that had happened to me. Scream probably. Do you think he'll come back?"
"I hope not. Maybe I'll ask Ms. Kennedy to guard the locker room when I'm in there."
"That's a good idea." Jill pulled back her sleeve and looked at her watch. "Look at the time. We really need to get home."
The girls hurried down the road and past a fenced in area that contained several cows. They crossed a train track and came to the end of Cherry Lane, the street Susan lived on.
As Susan came to her driveway, she asked, "Do you want me to walk you home?"
"No, that's okay. I'll see you tomorrow." Jill pulled off the sweater. "Here, we better change back. Thank you for lending me your sweater."
"You're welcome. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Good bye." Jill walked down the street, leaving Susan alone.
Susan watched her until she went around the corner, and then turned toward her house. My mother's car is here, she thought. I wonder if I should tell her what happened.
She looked up at the small, two-story house. When they first moved in five years ago, a train would pass almost every day on the nearby tracks, but now you wouldn't see one more than two or three times a month. They lived on a pleasant little street in a peaceful little town.
Susan walked up the path to the front door; past the rose bushes, which looked like thorn bushes this time of year. Fall can be nice with all the pretty leaves, she thought, but I can't wait until it's spring again.
She reached for the front door and was surprised to find it ajar. It's not like my mother to leave the door open, she thought, and Brad shouldn't be home yet.
She set her backpack and sweater beside the stairs going to the second floor, and walked past the living room to the kitchen. "Mom, I'm home," she called. She expected to hear her Mother's cheerful voice greeting her from the kitchen and was surprised to hear only silence.
Walking into the kitchen, she saw several bags of groceries on the kitchen table. It was not like her mother to leave groceries lying around. "Mom?" Where could she be?
She went over to the table to put the groceries away and noticed milk splashed on the floor. Walking around the table, she saw two smashed milk cartons.
The milk was splashed everywhere, as if someone had been dancing in it. What was going on here? Then she saw it. At one corner of the spill was the unmistakable impression of a foot print, the mark of a very large boot that belonged to a very large man.
Susan looked around the kitchen with new eyes. The cupboard doors, which she had assumed were opened to put away groceries, now revealed the fact that the cupboards had been ransacked. She also noticed that the utensil drawers had been opened and searched.
She backed out of the kitchen, afraid whoever had attacked her mother was still there. Where was her mother? Had she been kidnaped, or worse? Was the same man whom she had seen in the locker room responsible for this? If Ms. Kennedy had not shown up when she did, Susan thought, I might have been kidnaped as well.
Susan looked into the living room and saw that someone had been in there as well. She felt a cold breeze and realized that the back door was open. Moving closer, she saw that one of the glass panes had been broken and fragments covered the floor around the doorway.
She looked for the hall phone but couldn't see it anywhere. She looked for the cord and found that it had been ripped out of the wall socket. She needed to call her father. He was an officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and he would know what to do.
She moved toward the stairway, listening for any sign that the large man was still there. Starting to climb the stairs, she tripped on the backpack she had set down earlier. Her knee hit the corner of a step and pain shot up her leg. Sitting on the stair, she rubbed her knee until the pain subsided. This had got to be the worse day in the history of bad days, she thought. With my luck, I'll find a killer upstairs and that will put an end to it . . . and to me. Susan turned to look up the staircase. What if there really is a killer upstairs?
She sat for a long time, just listening. All she could hear was the soft whistling of the wind coming through the broken window.
Slowly she climbed up the stairs. Her heart beat faster with every step. Stop it, she told herself; panicking is not going to help anything. If she could just get to the phone in her room, she might be able to call her father. Her room was so messy that the thief may have missed her phone under her clothes. I hope he didn't go into my room, she thought. What if he sees my underwear? Now I wish I had cleaned my room this morning.
Cautiously, she looked into her room and was relieved to see that it looked the way she had left it. She searched for the phone and found it under some shirts on her dressing table. She started to punch in the phone number and then stopped when she heard the stairs creaking. Had the man returned for her?
Continued in "The Tree on the Dike - chapter 4"