He Found Me(2)

By: Whitney Barbetti

I opened the door and walked onto the landing of his apartment’s four-plex before softly shutting the door behind me. I stood there for a moment and took in a deep breath of the evening air. October was normally a chilly time of year for Michigan, but tonight was actually a relatively warm night and quiet too.

I made my way down the stairwell as softly as possible, to avoid alerting any neighbors to my presence. Once I was on the sidewalk, I wrapped my hand more tightly around the bag and walked purposefully to the dumpster that was situated between two apartment buildings. I looked to my right and left and breathed a sigh of relief for the dark windows that faced the dumpster. I ducked behind the dumpster and ripped open the garbage bag, digging out my tennis shoes that were hidden under the cardboard. I threw off my flip flops and flung them into the dumpster. After sliding on the tennis shoes, I grabbed the black windbreaker I’d also stuffed under the cardboard and then took out the small backpack I’d hidden in there. I pulled the backpack over my shoulders, trying to be as quiet as possible, and then slid my arms into the sleeves of the windbreaker, concealing the backpack.

Zipping up the windbreaker, I looked around once again, to make sure I wasn’t seen. My hands were still shaking so I rubbed them against my jeans for a minute before glancing at my soon-to-be former apartment. I’d planned this for months, and knew exactly what my next steps would be. But I was still human, and as far as I knew humans were capable of fear. Fear trickled slowly into my veins, weighing down the confidence I felt at my impending escape.

Despite the fear, I had no apprehension. I pulled my hair into a bun before I set off on a run through the weeds and into the trees behind the apartments. The garbage men would be emptying the dumpster at seven the following morning, taking my ripped-open garbage bag along with them. I knew the sleeping pills would keep the Monster asleep at least until then. I’d tested the pills out several times months in advance. I’d done it initially to keep him from visiting my bedroom, before I’d fully developed my plan. I was nothing if not thorough.

Ten minutes into jogging, I chanced a glance behind me. Even though I felt sure that he would be too incapacitated to follow me by now, I couldn’t help the shiver of lingering fear. Then, reminding myself that I would soon be finally free of him, the adrenaline kicked in and I ran another two miles before reaching my destination.

My destination was a former schoolhouse. It sat off a sleepy road and was surrounded by dead trees, with branches from those trees littering the ground around its three-story structure. It was dilapidated and ugly, with brick falling off the sides of the building, exposing the white plaster beneath. Broken windows and a boarded up door were what greeted me as I slowed to a quick walk, making sure to walk around where the piles of leaves sat, neglected. This school was a historical landmark – which is why it wasn’t torn down yet – and the nearby neighbors did their best to keep it from looking completely decrepit from the outside by raking the lawn in the fall. This worked in my favor, as I knew stepping on dead leaves might sound my presence.

I’d staked the area out in the summer, made note of the neighbors, their habits, and if they had dogs. Thankfully, most of the neighborhood was home to the elderly and their tiny, ankle-biter dogs, the kind that barked at the wind, or a bug, and therefore posed no threat of alerting their owners to my presence. I listened for any noise, just in case, but I knew this run-down building was perfect for the next step in my plan.

When I reached the side of the building, I looked around just in case and flexed my hands, still tingling from the adrenaline. I tried to keep focused on my task at hand, knowing full well I was not safe yet. I stood on my tiptoes and peeked in a few windows, making sure no vagrants had taken up residence inside, before continuing along to the back door of the building.

The back door was not boarded up, but it did have some pretty heavy duty locks. Luckily, that had not deterred a former squatter, who’d likely broken the bottom window pane and later mediocrely patched with some cardboard. I pulled off my windbreaker and then the backpack before putting the windbreaker back on. I reached into the backpack and pulled out the pocket knife I’d stashed inside, using it to cut open the cardboard. Once through the puny barrier, I carefully reached in and unlocked the deadbolts and the lock on the door knob before quietly easing the door open.

The smell of must greeted me instantly. I snuck inside and used the bottom of my shirt to preemptively wipe away my fingerprints before closing the door, using my hand inside the windbreaker to close it. I traded the knife for a flashlight before putting the backpack back on.

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