Sarah’s heart started beating faster as another thump above her told her he was moving in a definite direction and not just going back and forth.
She shined the light around the room again, this time looking for a place to hide. She could try behind his desk, but what if he was headed for the desk?
No, she decided she would be more assertive. As the thumps from above faded from directly overhead to somewhere else off to the side, she tiptoed her way to the door and put her back up against the wall.
Sarah held the book in one hand, under her elbow, against her arm, and hugging her torso; much like a running back carries a football. She reached up to her forehead with her free hand and clicked off her light.
Sarah’s plan was brilliant in its simplicity. If he came in, opened the door and left it open, she would stand there frozen, shielded behind it. If he closed the door, she would hit him in the eyes with her light and punch him in the nose with her fist. Technically, that was called battery.
Should she pepper-spray him, that would be called aggravated battery. She had left her pepper-spray at home because if she had it with her, she would’ve used it and she didn’t want to get charged with aggravated battery again; lest someone do a background check on her someday and think she had some sort of anger management problem or something.
The direction and altitude of the thumps had changed. With the vibrations now under her feet with every step he took, he was clearly on the same floor as her. He was also coming closer.
Sarah pressed herself against the wall, wondering what the hell he was doing walking around his house at two in the morning when he had a woman with questionable morals young enough to be his daughter and horny enough to be his hump-buddy upstairs.
If he came in, turned the light on, and closed the door, Sarah would be well and truly screwed.
The thumps stopped. She held her breath and listened as hard as she could. All she could make out was a soft thunk. Was it the refrigerator door?
Sarah squeezed the classic book in her hands and felt the leather almost mold itself around her tense, sweaty fingers.
The footsteps pounding on the floor started again, but this time they felt like they were moving away from her. They stopped. She held her breath and heard four, distinct, loud, beeps, followed by more footsteps stomping away from her.
Sarah exhaled. She felt the stomps go up the stairs, then heard the ceiling shake above her as the thief went back to wherever he’d started from. She took a quick breath and stood still for another minute.
The complete silence was what she’d been hoping for. She inched her way to the door, felt around until she found the knob, gripped it, and slowly turned it.
Sarah stuck her head out into the black hallway. Still not hearing a sound and positive no one else was nearby, she reached up to her forehead and turned her LED light on. The hallway was empty.
She came out of the library with the book still under her arm like a football. Silently, she went from her end of the hallway to the kitchen. The only sound was the humming of the refrigerator.
She tip-toed through the kitchen and stepped into the hallway that led to the door to the garage.
Step after silent step, she quickened her pace. She felt she was almost out of the woods. That’s when she saw the bright green lights from the security system’s control pad. The door to the garage was closed and locked.
The control pad was behind the door to the garage, which was why she hadn’t seen it when she came in. It had also been dark because it had been off.
But it was on now. The digital letters on the control pad shined a bright green, reading the system was armed. And it wasn’t just any system. It was a Five Star Safeguard.
Sarah hated the Five Star Safeguard. The Five Star Safeguard was one of the reasons she had been forced to do so much explaining to the police in the past. She had been trained on how to disable most security systems but Five Star Safeguards were supposedly uncrackable. She had tried anyway and set them off. Three times.
First, the private security guards would come. Then, she would explain. Then, the police would come. Then, she would have to explain some more. Then, she would have to call her boss. Then, he would have to explain. Eventually, the homeowner would show up. Then, the homeowner would explain how whatever object Sarah was trying to retrieve was somehow not for her to retrieve.
The object would then be confiscated as evidence. If it went to trial, the object would eventually be returned to the insurance company.
Sometimes the company would have to be reimbursed for the money it had already paid to the policyholder because whatever terrible thing the policyholder had said had happened to the object obviously hadn’t happened.
And if all that weren’t bad enough, because of the clogged criminal and civil courts, cases sometimes took three or four years to go to trial. And then there were the appeals. To say nothing of all the times the policyholders had declared bankruptcy to get out of paying.
So, yeah, Sarah Jones really hated the Five Star Safeguard.
She stood there, staring at her object of hate. This time was like no other time before. This time, the homeowner was home.
What if he owned a gun? What if he had a violent temper? Could she wait him out and leave tomorrow after he went somewhere? Tomorrow was Saturday. What if he stayed home all day?
No. She was leaving tonight and she was taking the stolen book with her.
Although her running shoes were fantastic, there was no way she’d be able to make her getaway on foot. She needed his car. While she was sure she could eventually hotwire the car, she wasn’t sure she could do it before he came running down, possibly with a weapon.
And he would come running down because the bloody Five Start Safeguard would scream unholy hell the instant she opened the door to the garage.
The light on her forehead shined her way up the hall and toward the kitchen. The book was still under her arms like a football, but she was feeling much more relaxed than before. Her brain had shifted from the adrenaline pushing sheer panic of the deep-rooted flight or fight response to a calmer, more practical, problem solving kind of frame of mind.
She reached the kitchen. Her head turned, scanning the light across a kitchen table with nothing on it but a tablecloth. Sarah shined the light down on four empty chairs. She went deeper into the kitchen and for the first time saw it led to a family room.
She stepped inside and swept her light from right to left: an empty love seat, a coffee table with two remote controls and a half dozen magazines scattered across it, a couch with a couple of throw pillows at either end, and an HD TV against the far wall.
Sarah walked back down the hall, dreading the possibility that the keys weren’t on this floor. She went past the security pad and gave it another look.
She thought it was possible the entrance code might be his birthday, but that didn’t matter. She didn’t know his birthday. She didn’t even think she knew his real name.
She left the alarm alone and went back down the hallway, wishing the government would pass a law forcing security companies to do background checks on their customers before selling them alarm systems.