All was quiet when a knock came at the front door, it was 11.30pm and I wasn't expecting anyone. I crept stealthily into the entrance hall, and stood listening, trying to imagine whom it could possibly be. Footsteps along the side of the house warned me that whoever it was, they were up to no good and I expected trouble.
I walked silently across the unlit kitchen to the back door and through the reeded panes, saw the unmistakable silhouette of a man, a big man. Unmoving, I watched as he turned the doorknob, but the door was locked.
I suppose at this point I could have alerted him to my presence. Warned him that the house was not empty; but I didn't. Don't ask me why, I don't know why. If
Sharon had been home then maybe I would have, but she wasn't. There was just me and him, one big male dallying in mischief and one alert male who had become tired of these night-time prowlers who thought they could come and go as they pleased.
I had spent many evenings with
Sharon, observing her reactions as intruders and criminals ran rampant on television crime shows. Although she never voiced her concern, from the look in her eyes and the expression on her face, I deduced she greatly feared such an encounter.
Seeing her stressed was most upsetting, as for myself, having spent all my working life in the police force, involved in undercover operations with the drugs squad, I was familiar with tense situations and I handled stress competently.
I sneaked into the living room, avoiding the moonlight spilling across the carpet, and listened as metal grated against metal. Through the open curtains of the patio doors I watched as the stranger inserted a length of tyre-iron into the runners and with a latch cracking snap, carefully ease the door from its frame.
As the dark clad figure entered and moved towards the television cabinet I sauntered casually from the shadows, putting myself between him and his escape route. On the verge of opening the cabinet doors he froze. Realizing he was not alone, slowly, very slowly; he turned to face me. Even in this dimly lit room we made instant eye contact, making his previously steady breathing become perceptibly laboured. During the incredibly tense moments that followed, I read a mixture of emotions in his cautious darting eyes.
His instant gut reaction was fear, an easily recognizable sensation that often left the nerve endings jangling while allowing the muscles to stiffen and tremble uselessly. He tossed the tyre-iron from hand to hand, somewhat uncertainly, giving the impression he was considering a forced escape, so avoiding leaving empty handed. While his, so-called options, revolved around his brain, I capitalized on his indecision, leaping forward, closing the gap between us to an arm's length.
"Easy does it," he murmured, swiftly dodging sideways, putting the sofa between us: my sofa. The one on which I had spent many a comfortable night when
Sharon was away and the mood had taken me.
He was taller than me and looked heavier, but what I lacked in height and weight I made up for with speed and agility. His biggest mistake, apart from breaking in here in the first place, was putting his trust in the fact that he was armed and I was not. Unbeknown to him, I had completed special training in the police force and disarming an intruder, whether his weapon was a gun, a knife or a tyre-iron, was relatively easy. The trick was not causing too much damage during the disarming procedure. Not that the, frowned upon use of 'unnecessary force' ever bothered me. During my time I had broken more than one arm and had even been known to leave would-be-assailants, minus a finger or two.
After glancing longingly at the patio doors, he made a sudden feint to his left then quickly dodged right, but I wasn't fooled. Intoxicated with a lethal mixture of cruel menace and the desire to protect
Sharon's property, I leapt over the sofa, prepared to tackle this uninvited guest with savage gusto. He half raised his arm to ward off what must have looked to him like a clumsy lunge, striking hard and fast at my head with the tyre-iron, but I was far too quick for his sluggish movement. Before the metal could connect with my skull, attempting to splatter my brains all over Sharon
's prized Turkish rug, I seized his wrist in a bone-crunching grip. He tried to pull free, but couldn't and as he tugged I applied even more pressure.
For the big brute of a man that he was he yelped like a whipped puppy when his tendons snapped and his ligaments popped, forcing him to drop his weapon. Still yowling, he clubbed me across the side of my head with his other fist, but only the once. Before he could deliver a second blow I changed tactics and attacked his face. Together we staggered backwards, he eventually losing his footing, causing us to go down in a thrashing melee of arms and legs. He squealed like a piglet on market day as we wrestled around on the floor, his size advantage counting for nothing as I tore into him. I hated villains, had always hated villains and this poor unfortunate wretch was receiving all the pent up anger accumulated since my dishonourable retirement.
Attempting to defend himself he grabbed weakly at my throat and through my boiling rage, I saw the familiar signs of utter desperation etched into his ravaged face. I jerked free of his bloodied hands and stood over him; panting like a mad slavering beast.
Once again I had lost my rag and gone to town on a criminal. Two years ago I had committed the same offence while some drug smugglers were being arrested and to avoid embarrassment the force retired me. Me! The best on our division, the cream of the crop, suffering compulsory retirement and for what? All because I gave some thug a mincing when I had him cornered! The incident in question flashed through my mind with alarming clarity and I knew; this time, I must be merciful.
As the man lay whimpering, a beaten wreck, half his nose missing, his torn lower lip flapping loosely over his chin: we both knew it was over. In my heart I felt like finishing him. Doing him a favour. I knew I could get away with it; again. Instead, I decided to allow this cowering wretch to live.
Asserting some self-control, I went and sat by the patio doors. He's learned his lesson, I thought, as the fresh summer breeze wafted over my hot body, cooling my muscles and soothing my mind.
We remained where we were, listening to the mantle clock scythe through the final dying seconds of one day before heralding the arrival of another with the resonating tones of
Westminster chimes. I could see that he dare not move for fear of what I might do to him, but he needn't have worried. I had used up all my fight and unless he attempted to leave, I wouldn't cause him more harm.
The dawn chorus came and went, neither of us having slept, he because of the pain from his various wounds, myself, because I wanted to remain vigilant. Once a copper, always a copper, and I trusted no one. Not even a dirty thief who was injured and immobilized.
As the mantle clock struck nine, with its usual melodious accompaniment, I heard
Sharon's key turn in the lock, disengaging the newfangled dead bolt. The mistress of the house had returned and for the first time in nine hours I moved and went to greet her, giving the, would-be-burglar, a cursory glance as I passed.
"Hello Sam," she said, ruffling my hair.
She was pleased to see me, I could tell, and without a sound I gently tugged her sleeve, eager to show her what I had caught. The expression on her face turned to one of shock, followed by concern and she shot me a hurtful look that I didn't much care for. I recovered quickly though and licked her hand to show that what I had done, I had done for her. After all, what is a guard dog for if he doesn't guard.
The man recovered, I knew he would; but he never returned to thank me for sparing his life. Ungrateful folk burglars, thankfully, I haven't had any: for a while.