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2. An Intruder

July 2007

Brian filled the jug, plugged it in, and all the lights in the apartment went off. He flicked at the light switch.

Nothing happened.

He flicked it again. Still nothing.

He opened the fuse-box, checked the circuit breakers. No dice. The fuses looked alright too.

Well, he thought, that meant his bill hadn't got paid. Which meant his cheque had bounced. Which meant his bank account was empty. Which meant exactly what he'd hoped to avoid—he needed to find a job. Just the thing for a man with an anger-management problem.

He stomped down the hallway in the dark, into the living room, and grabbed the torch from on top of sideboard.

“Ah, hello, Brian.”

“What the hell?” Brian spun around, fumbling for the switch of the torch. He found it, flicked it, and waved the half-dim light frantically in the direction of the voice. There was a man sitting in his armchair.

“That's not nice, Brian. Where are your manners?” He was a tall, angular man, wearing a long dark coat over a dark shirt. His hair was dark and slicked back, but a stray curl hung over his forehead.

“My manners? You're in my apartment!”

“Brian, Brian, don't yell. We don't want anything bad happening.”

“You wha…” Brian stopped, and stared. “How did…” he whispered.

“I know all about your little life, Brian.” The man sneered.

“If you know anything, you'll know that you shouldn't mess with me,” Brian said, cringing as he heard the whining tone in his voice.

“You don't believe me, do you Brian? I did say I know all about you. I find your lack of faith disturbing.” He snickered.

Brian tried to focus his anger and fright on the man. Nothing happened.

“You're not still trying are you? Look, let me ask you a question. When the gods fought on Mount Olympus, did they smite each other with thunderbolts and plagues? There are rules, Brian, and you'd do well to follow them.”

Brian was lost. He was powerless.

“Besides, Brian, shortly the police are going to knock on your door, and they're going to want to ask you about the dead body in your bathtub. You probably want to come with me.”

Dead body? Brian gave the man a puzzled look, then his eyes widened. He dashed out of the lounge, down the short hallway, and into the bathroom. He pulled back the shower-curtain, and whimpered. He looked at the automotive paint across the crushed torso (a car, crashing into the side of a van), and choked back bile as he looked at the mangled remains of a face (a tangled mess of steel, sliding towards a postbox on the corner. A pedestrian, seeing the danger too late.) He retched over the sink, then stumbled out of the bathroom and back towards the lounge.

“YOU!” he shouted at the man, still sitting there as if he owned the place. “What are you doing? How did you get that… that thing up here?”

“God works in mysterious ways, Brian. Now are you coming with me?” The man rose from his seat and headed for the door.

“No! Are you stupid as well as mad? The last thing I'm going to do is follow the man who dropped a mangled freaking corpse in my bathroom. Get out and leave me alone.”

“Okay, okay. I'm going,” said the man. “Good luck with your alibi.” He tipped his hat and disappeared in the shadow of the front hallway.

With a dreadful feeling of curiosity, Brian went to the window, craning his head to see down past the window ledge. He was unsurprised to see three police cars parked across the road from the entrance to his building.

He walked quickly to the door; opened it just far enough to peer around. Voices, footsteps, but no-one in sight yet. He darted out, pulled the door closed behind him, and headed for the rear stairwell. He was three steps down the first flight when he heard a bang, and shouting, from behind him—that was probably his door. He started running.