The Stranger

Jamie Lee Scott

The house was supposed to be finished by August, yet there I was, in September, sitting on the floor in what would eventually be our dining room, using a crowbar and hammer to pull up six layers of flooring, and remove nails.

My husband, Chet, and I had spent months pounding away at the plaster and latticework on the old walls, gutting the house down to the studs, so we could remove the outdated, and dangerous wiring. The electrician had finally installed new wiring, and we had electricity and lights, so I could work after dark.

We hadn’t installed the new plumbing, or put in central heating and air, so I had every door and window in the house wide open, as the Indian Summer had brought ninety degree temps in late September.

Tired of fighting with my husband over every aspect of the remodel, right down to the paint colors, I took my frustration out on the floors. I ripped, tore, and yanked at yellowed linoleum and cracked ceramic tiles, bobbing my head to the classic rock playing on my iPod.

Something in my lateral vision moved, and I looked up from my project.

“Holy shit,” I screamed at the top of my lungs. My heart racing, the crowbar coming up in a futile gesture of defense. “Get out of my house.”

I ripped my earbuds from my ears. I’d intended to jump off the floor, but I’d been sitting in the same bent leg position so long, my legs screamed at me when I tried to stand.

He stood not ten feet from me, dressed in blue jeans and a white T-shirt, heavy boots on his feet. “Is this the house that’s for sale?”

Finally, my legs cooperated, and I stood. “No, it’s not for sale.”
Did I mention our country house was nine miles from town, and our nearest neighbors couldn’t hear a dog bark if we had one? I could have screamed bloody murder and no one would have heard.

“I’ve been driving around the area. A friend told me there was a house for sale out this way, but didn’t have the address.” He stepped forward.

I stepped back. “It’s not for sale, but my husband is downstairs, I can ask him if he knows of any homes on the market.”

I blatantly lied. My husband wouldn’t be home for hours. He worked late every other night, and since we still lived in town, I didn’t expect him to come out to the house that night. He’d head straight home and pass out on the couch. Likely not even make it to bed, or even realize I was still at the house.

“No, that’s fine. I’ll just keep looking. Sorry to bother you.” He turned to walk out the door, then turned back. “It must be a hassle, living out here and only having one car.”

I realized then, only one car was parked in the driveway.
“It works out fine.” I gripped my crowbar in one hand and my hammer in the other.

Without another word, he walked out the open door.
Even though the sun had gone down hours before, the house felt hot as Hades. No matter, I closed and locked the door behind the stranger, then closed and locked the back door. As I ran to the living room to shut and lock the windows, I realized, I hadn’t seen any headlights. Not before the stranger stepped into my house, and not as he left.

No way was he on foot out here in the country. I didn’t take time to peer out the window and see which direction he followed. I rolled the windows closed and locked them, then ran down to the basement.

Other than remodeling tools and equipment, we’d brought out a water cooler, a rocking chair, and a shotgun. My husband had grown up in the country and insisted we have a shotgun by the back door. 
I unzipped the case that held the shotgun, then loaded it. Walking back up the stairs, I sucked in some air and tried to regulate my breathing. Turning out all of the lights, I walked from room to room and looked out the windows, to see if he was still outside, or if a car had parked up the gravel road. Nothing.

 I sat down in the antique wooden rocking chair and rested the shotgun across my thighs.

I needed to get my head straight. But I kept thinking the stranger would return any second and rape and murder me. I rocked back and forth, trying to figure out how the man had gotten to our property on foot.

Eventually my heart rate and breathing slowed to normal. I sat in the dark and listened to the creaking of the rocking chair on the wooden floor. And then I heard it. Someone was trying to get in the back door.

I stood and walked toward the door, the loaded shotgun aimed, and waited for the door to open. I only knew he’d gotten the door open because of the sound, and the moonlight streaming in, and blasting his shadow on the floor.

The next light was the blast of the shotgun, as I fired and the intruder slammed back against the open door, then slumped to the ground.

I turned around to flip on the lights and grab my cell phone from my pocket. It wasn’t there. I looked around. Frantic. Afraid to look at the doorway. My phone sat on the floor. I picked it up and realized, it was almost midnight, and I had at least a dozen missed calls from Chet.

I dialed 911, then got up the nerve to look at the man slumped in the doorway.

I gasped. “Oh. My. God.”

There in the doorway lay Chet, his chest blown apart, and blood splattered all over him, and across the walls.

As I sat in the investigation room at the police station, I told this story for the third time.

“And you never heard your phone ring?”

“Like I told the officer at the house, and the other detective,” I said between sobs, “the only thing I heard was the rocking chair creaking and the person trying to get in the back door.”

“I just need to get my notes straight,” he said reassuring me.

Yeah, believe me, I knew the story like the back of my hand. I’d rehearsed it for a month. No way was I going to get tripped up on the details.

Jamie Lee Scott is the USA Today bestselling author of the Gotcha Detective Agency Mysteries, and a produced screenwriter.

Her short film, No One Knows,  made its television debut in January 2015 on DirecTV, where it was voted Editor's Choice on ShortsHD.

She lives on a farm with her family, 2 dogs, 2 cats, and 3 horses.

When she's not writing or reading, she's riding horses and competing at barrel races.

Check out her website at

Carole Oldroyd - 10/22/2016 11:34 AM
WHOA. That was seriously demented. In the most excellent kind of way! :-)
Shane P Carr - 10/22/2016 1:39 PM
Quick, Brilliant, and Brutal! Loved it!!
joey - 10/22/2016 8:18 PM
Oh my! Great twist!
Jordan - 10/22/2016 11:50 PM
Oh wow, that was great!! Thank you, Jamie!
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