For the first time since the burglary, she was alone at home. Her husband tried to avoid the trip, but his boss was adamant he had to go. It was only a couple of days, and he would be calling home every night anyway, he said, trying to calm her down. They just had installed an enhanced security system, and the back door, through which they broke-in a few weeks back, had been replaced by a new one reinforced with steel, almost unbreakable, or so the leaflet claimed. The night was quieter than usual, and far from calming her, it heightened her senses. The smallest drop of water – from the broken tab her husband would not fix, or the old radiators – would wake her. She was unable to sleep, in spite of having drank all the warm milk and valerian root pills she could find around. She tried to watch some tedious TV shows, in an effort to be bored into sleep, but that did not work either. Frustrated, she decided to grab a phone and lock the bedroom door from the inside. At least if they came back in, she would have time to call the police, and hope they come on time this time around.
She went back to bed and switched the TV on again, but soon got bored and decided to look outside for a while. It was dark in the room, with only the faint light from the bedside table lamp illuminating her. She walked carefully from the bedside and peered through the wide, panelled window but could see nothing moving. Not even the usual foxes sniffing through the trash cans. Her own car was missing from the driveway – her husband took it to get to the airport – and so there was this strange emptiness, a break in the continuum of parked vehicles below her property. She sat on the window sill for about 20 minutes just looking out, fixing the gaze on the horizon, and she started to feel a bit tired. She was grateful for that, and promptly returned to bed, falling sleep almost immediately but leaving on the faint bedside light, as she was still afraid of the dark.
No more than 20 minutes had passed when a clunking noise woke her again. It was a solid, metallic repeating sound, like somebody rhythmically banging a hammer against metal. It was clearly coming from below, and it was getting closer and closer to her. She was terrified and could not move, but after the sound had stopped for about 10 minutes or so, she mustered the courage to get up and look through the lock hole of her door. She could not see any light or movement outside. Definitely nobody had broken into the house, it all being dead quiet for a while now. She then moved back to the window and carefully looked at the street outside. In the empty space in front of her driveway there was a small red car, badly parked. She could not see inside, but managed to catch a glimpse at the hand of the driver as he moved his arm to place his phone on the dashboard by the car window – “Who is this man and why has he parked in front of the house?” she kept repeating in her head, trying to make the connection between the mysterious noises she heard earlier on, and the presence of this man, sitting quietly inside his car in the early hours. She grabbed the phone and returned quickly to the window, where she stood still for a while, peering through the curtains, waiting for the man to make his next move.