Fourth post for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.
Short Story. “the Doorstep” 788 words.
This story is inter-related to the last. I write thrillers. Expect a crime.
A word from the author:
The Doorstep will be the last short story published on this blog for a while. Although I intend continuing on with the series, writing a new short story each day, I remain unsure as to the popularity of the fictional format on a blog like this.
To catch up on the story, read the Announcement , the Bean and the Court Reporter. The full story line will be completed, and the thriller wound up by X, Y and Zen. I am thinking about other publishing formats for the series of shorts.
Blue clapped down the stairs, liking the sound of the solid clomps her new boots gave. She glanced at the hall table on her way out. No mail deposited by Mrs Fields into her mail tray, which was a good thing lately with her budget. She swung her scarf more tightly over a shoulder, and pulled at the outside door.
‘Is your boyfriend in?’
Blue spun around with the door handle in her hand, yanking the door open against her leg.
Behind her, a woman had stepped out from the stair shadows, looking vaguely familiar. Maybe Blue had seen her on campus somewhere, the only place she really knew nowadays. Unless…sudden dread. It was any psychologists nightmare, meeting with somebody they’d previously met in prison. Blue focussed on the woman’s face, but she couldn’t see it in HMS Holloway, where she’d done a tenure as a trainee forensic psychology student a couple of years back.
Still, the woman’s appearance, one of dishevelment, and something else – anger – it didn’t look like she was a university tutor.
‘Your boyfriend…’ The woman stepped forward, one step away from Blue now, who took a defensive step backwards into the door frame. Behind her, the wind blustered into the hallway. The woman looked in her late thirties, grey strands giving away her age, arranged on bushy curls sitting overtop of a plump face.
‘You must be mistaken, I’m sorry,’ Blue said, ‘I don’t have a boyfriend.’
The woman’s brow creased. ‘Fiance then. Is your fiance in?’
A local accent, like Blue’s. So not somebody she should remember from her travels. Blue felt her shoulders relax. Just a mistake.
She smiled. ‘No fiance either. Must be mistaken.’
‘Oh don’t lie, Madeleine, I saw you in the bloody paper.’ The woman stepped forward again, pinning Blue to the frame. Blue stood a good few inches taller than her accuser, but she’d seen what such women were capable of before.
She shook her head, and said slowly, ‘I’m not Madeleine. I don’t know a Madeleine, I’m afraid.’
The woman frowned, and stabbed a finger at her. Blue felt herself pull her stomach in away from the digit. ‘You’re not American,’ the woman said.
The finger withdrew hesitantly, and the woman looked puzzled. Then she washed it from her face, covering it over with a fierce vehemence. ‘You’re right. I wasted my time with the wrong person. You’re blonde, though. And she’s…’
‘Are you looking for somebody who lives here?’ Blue asked, filling in the blank lead from the woman. Trying to be helpful for someone she was now feeling a little sympathy with. It could be embarrassing getting people mixed up.
‘He lives here, I know,’ the woman said, glancing over at the table. Blue lived in a small converted share house. There were five other apartment dwellers here, plus Mrs Fields who lived in half the basement. But there could only be one person the woman was referring to, the other man was in his sixties.
‘Professor Llewellyn, is that who you’re looking for?’
‘You do know him!’ The woman looked at Blue like she had suddenly been found out in a lie.
Blue shook her head, over-emphasising the negative to make sure the woman picked up the cues. There was something dangerous about this situation. ‘I only know him from the university. I’ve not actually seen him around here, but I know he moved in a while back. That is who you’re after, right?’
And God help the man, Blue thought.
The woman laughed then, a manic laugh. ‘I should be, we’re getting married, you know?’
Blue felt the vein in her temple begin to throb. This couldn’t be true, could it? The woman had just mistaken her for the Professor’s fiance. ‘Really?’
‘Well, congratulations, then,’ Blue said quickly. She wanted to ask the woman’s name, to report her somewhere, maybe the police. Of at least to the Professor.
The woman saw the next question on Blue’s lips, and it must have frightened her. She opened her mouth to say something, then clamped it shut.
‘Wrong person, silly me. Just realised. Sorry.’ the woman said, and she pushed at Blue again.
Blue stepped to the side, and the woman rushed through the open door, down the steps, out onto the street.
She didn’t glance back at all, as Blue gazed on her receding back, heading towards the corner.
Blue stood in the hallway. All this psychology training was making her paranoid. She would have to learn to stop reading way too much into what could pass as a normal everyday encounter. A little mistake, even. Still, she’d look up the Professor’s phone number from the university, just in case.
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