NIGHT WATCH by Nancy Sweetland

He waited.

Hunkered down, hidden in the thick hazelnut bushes that grew around and between the cottages on the lake, he watched.

And waited. Again. Night after night.

She would come home soon, turn on the light in the big picture window looking out over the lake. Shrug off her coat, if she wore one, and hang it on the brass tree just beside the door.

The Watcher knew these things. He’d lived with her for five years.

But now?

Now she wanted nothing to do with him.

He tugged the cork from his bottle of Merlot, always at the ready. Took a deep, satisfying pull, careful not to spill, draw the hovering bugs to the sweetness.

He waited. He loved her. Wanted her back. She knew it.

The light in the back bedroom went on; rays fell from the window onto the small yard. She’d be undressing now.

He could go around the house and watch. But there wasn’t as much cover there. Anyway, he’d seen it all before. What remained was what he was going to do next. Confront her again?

She wouldn’t listen. He’d tried. At first, she just said no, they were over, she didn’t want to see him any more. Then she got the restraining order. After five years together! “What wasn’t good?” he’d asked.

“Oh, it’s all good,” she’d answered. “Just not good enough.”

What did that mean? He took another pull on his wine bottle.

She wanted marriage, he didn’t. Simple as that.  Kids? They both liked kids. “But not without a ring,” she’d said. Not fair to them, or to her.


Lost in a fuzzy reverie, remembering the good times, at first he hardly noticed the headlights turning onto the driveway beside the house. They dimmed, went out before reaching the building. He almost smiled. I used to do that, he thought. Try to surprise her. But at this hour?  He punched up the lighted dial on his watch. Close to midnight. What the hell!

Full moonlight illuminated the tall man carrying something that glinted in the dark. He strode up the steps and opened the door without knocking.

I used to do that, the Watcher thought. Never had to knock; she knew who was coming. He pulled a face. Maybe she knows now, too. The wine did a flip-flop in his stomach.

No one appeared in the picture window. Must have gone directly to the bedroom.

He got up slowly, muscles cramped from squatting for so long. She’d be busy now, no use hiding; might as well get the whole show. He walked softly across the sparse grass around the building. Stopped just outside the lighted area and looked in.

Dressed only in lacy bra and panties, she faced the guy across the room; he could see the man’s reflection in the old mirror on the far wall. Her mouth opened. The Watcher couldn’t hear but he knew she was saying, “No!” She’d said it to himself enough times.

He frowned. What was wrong with this picture? She’d left the door open, hadn’t she? Or had she just forgot to lock it? He’d told her a thousand times to lock that door.

The man took three steps toward her. He carried a long, thin-bladed knife. She backed away, pulling her arms across her chest, putting the bed between them. “No!” she cried, her face a mask of terror. “Please, no!”

The man advanced, rounded the bed, backed her into the corner, lifted the knife–

Heart stopping, the Watcher threw himself at the window, pounded, smashed the glass into a thousand sparkling shards. “Stop!”

They turned toward him, eyes wide. “Drop that knife!” He heaved himself halfway through the window, ignoring the glass that still clung to the frame and dug into his midsection.

“Sure, Buddy,” said the man, grinning. He tossed the knife onto the bed and opened his arms to the woman.

She hugged him, her face alight. “It worked!”

The man strode to the window, pulled the Watcher the rest of the way into the room and drew out a badge. “I’m arresting you for trespassing and harassment and violating a restraining order, along with drunkenness and lascivious behavior. Turn around.”

Handcuffed, the Watcher stared at his former lover. “What…?”

She shrugged. “I’m sorry, but I had to stop you spying on me night after night. Meet my brother Tom. He’s a cop.”

Nancy Sweetland has published over 100 short stories, romance and mystery novels, juvenile picture and chapter books. A member of MWA, Short Mystery Fiction Society, RWA and Wisconsin Writers, she lives Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Copyright © 2016 Nancy Sweetland. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. 

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