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Cuckoo in the nests
Cuckoo in the nests

Cuckoo in the nests

Lev821Lev821

She always took more than the recommended dose of estazolam sleeping pills, enough to knock out a horse, or at least a pony, but she had never suffered side-effects and had taken two pills every night for the past two years since her doctor had recommended them for her, failing to mention their slightly addictive quality, which she denied, telling herself she wanted to take them, and could stop anytime she liked.

When she downed them with a cup of horlicks, out she would go, sometimes literally before her head would hit the pillow, her sleep being so deep fireworks could explode outside her house and she would barely twitch an eyelash.

She swallowed her pills and drank the water and felt drowsy as she switched off the lamp and lay on the bed.

As the grip of sleep circled her consciousness and took her to the land of dreams, outside her bedroom, above the top of the stairs, the loft entrance moved slightly, and then moved altogether. A rope descended, followed by feet, and gradually a man climbed down into her house.

He had done it many times before, because in the loft, was where he lived.

Barbara Mullens who was in the room, currently dreaming about blue frogs, was the only occupant of the large house, a house which was in the middle of three terraced housing on the outskirts of a town, within walking distance of a supermarket, but far enough away to have one toe in the countryside.

He stretched and made his way across to her bedroom, opening the door and standing before her sleeping form, just watching her. He knew she wouldn't wake.

She had never seen him. Never known about him. Yet he had been doing this several times a week for three years. There was a street lamp further along the road, and the fringes of its light seeped into the room, and once his eyes had adjusted she was not in total darkness.

His name was Dale Chandler, 59 years old, only wore a bathrobe and slippers, and he lived in the three lofts, because in the walls separating them, holes had been made in the brickwork, so when he knew the occupants were out, he would come down and help himself to food and television.

The house to the left of Barbara's held a youngish couple, possibly in their thirties, and to the right a man in his sixties who was hardly ever there because he spent most of his time down the local pubs.

When he first came to the houses he had been searching for a place to stay, and had found one empty. He had stayed in the house as a squatter, but when estate agents started coming around, he retreated into the loft, and created the holes between the houses, one covered by a large sheet of plywood, the other by a decrepid chest of drawers. To this day he never knew how they had got up there as the loft entrance looked too small.

Sometimes he would lie next to Barbara in her double-bed, getting under the sheets and stroking her hair, her shoulder, enjoying the feeling of what it would be like to be a married man.

For now though, he sat at the end of the bed and just stared at her.

After a few minutes he got up and left, and went downstairs into the kitchen, made himself a one-sugared tea and watched some satellite television, sitting on the sofa, feet up on a coffee-table.

After a couple of hours, he tidied up as best he could, covering his tracks and climbing up the rope, back to his own abode, replacing the loft entrance.

When he had decided to call this place home, and after he had knocked through into the other lofts, he had carefully pierced a small hole in the bedroom ceilings as close to the light-bulb as possible so he could watch them sleep, or anything else that went on in bedrooms.

Barbara seemed like the type of woman who was a permanent spinster. Men did not feature much in her life, and when they did it was on normal, friendly terms, none ever crossing the threshold of her house, nevermind the bedroom. Also, Barbara to him, wasn't the highest on his list of most attractive. She reminded him of a kindly grandmother, and her clothing cupboard was never more than practical. No daring lingerie, as he'd discovered when rummaging through her clothing. She always wore passion-killer underwear, but it didn't matter. Sometimes he would take an item of her clothing up to his bed in the loft. Half of it consisted of her things. A towel, a bra, a jumper, a cushion.

He also liked to have a little fun to amuse himself when he was in the house. Basically he enjoyed moving things around, and tonight he put the television remote-control on the bottom of the stairs.

He lived mostly in the dark, as he had quite adapted to it, and also because if he put any form of light on it may be seen coming through the small hole in the ceiling.

None of the occupants ever seemed to venture here. Only once had the occupants at number 40 came up while he was in the next loft, but it wasn't for long, and it was only to store something. Even though for one hour he had hidden in the corner of the loft of number 38. In this house there were sparse furnishings and even less in the loft. A few old suitcases with some knitting patterns, plenty of asbestos insulation and some yellowing photographs of people who probably lived in this house possibly three or four occupants ago. They will have no relation to Mr Rutherford who lay asleep in his clothes without a sheet covering him, as he did most nights after the pubs had kicked him out.

He would be zonked out until morning. Dale moved across to the loft entrance, and was soon putting down the rope he had by all the entrances. These lofts were quite high up and he guessed he would hurt himself if he dropped, so the rope was the best he could do.

Mr Rutherford's kitchen was sparse and he didn't have much in the way of food, but he made himself a cheese sandwich and sat down to watch television until dawn broke.

Rutherford, back in his heydey, was an infantry corporal, and when that petered out he took to earning money as a taxi-driver. Fifteen years he was fine, nary a point on his licence until he started to enjoy a slight tipple below what was legally required to drive. However the limit got closer and closer, and he would basically drink and drive, getting away with it, because in his mind he thought he would be fine, until one day it caught up with him, ploughing his taxi into a street-lamp. The two passengers in the back had skin lacerations from flying glass. Rutherford lost his licence, his job, had to pay damages and a large fine. Not only that but he was ostrisced by those in his locality, people who knew him, people who he crossed paths with. Only his true friends stuck with him, and that only amounted to about 2 or 3. However, the alcohol also stuck with him, becoming his most loyal friend. He managed to keep the house, but not much else. His dignity, his honour, any sense of respect he once held, all poured away down the drain. A man without any interests besides sport and politics.

Dale's moving of things around didn't really work too much, because Rutherford hardly noticed, believing he had put them there, maybe in a drunken haze, he would just assume it was him, but Dale did it anyway.

As he watched him sleep, Mr Rutherford kind of reminded him of himself, having nobody to really rely on, no-one who cares.

Down in London four years ago, having been long-term unemployed, Dale had been sent by the job-centre on work experience in a supermarket. Trouble was Dale was not used to being told what to do, let alone being talked down to. His manager was a rigid, straight-laced perfectionist. A place for everything, and everything in it's place. So when he told Dale to go and brush up the car-park, he told it in a patronizing way as though chastising a child.

'Now you, go and brush up the car-park'.

'You what?' said Dale, 'Who d'you think you're talking to? Don't you speak to me like that'.

'I will speak to you however I like. You'll do as I ask or I'll tell the job-centre to get your money stopped. Don't think I want to employ alcoholic drug-addicted reprobates like you...'

'What! you cheeky...' and Dale saw red, and punched the manager in the face, then proceeded kick and beat him, grabbing a nearby wine bottle and striking him with it. It didn't break, but had it done so, Dale would probably have used the jagged weapon. Other workers soon came to the manager's rescue, but the damage had literally been done.

Three months in prison and one-hundred-and eighty-hours community service.

It was during the fourth hour of the service that he and a few other workers had been tasked with removing graffiti from a railway bridge, that he saw a window of opportunity to escape. The supervisor was at the van. The others were on a break, and Dale found himself out of the eyeline of all of them, and ran, realizing after about two miles that he was still wearing a yellow high visibility jacket which he discarded.

He soon found the house for sale, broke in, and it wasn't long before he was calling the lofts his home.

He believed the police would be hunting him down. Little realizing, that although they would be looking for him, he wasn't high on the list of priorities. He was hardly fugitive number one, but he had visions of armed police patrolling the streets, possibly even a reward, as even the public may give him up. So in the loft he stayed, as the house gained a new occupant.

He made his way back up there, closing the hatch behind him, not that Rutherford would notice he guessed, but he still did it anyway, and made his way back to the middle loft of Barbara's house where he had his bed. He looked through the hole in the ceiling and saw she was still in dreamland.

He wondered if he should venture into the third house, as it was more dangerous in there, the chance of being caught being much higher.

He had assumed it was a married couple, but it seemed more like a marriage of convenience, perhaps business was their pleasure. Occasionally he would see what he hoped to see through the hole in their bedroom ceiling. Good old-fashioned love-making, but mostly only one of them slept in the bed, the other downstairs in a makeshift sofa-bed. He believed it was because one worked irregular hours, as sometimes one would be up through the night.

He knew they were trying to go into business together, and guessed it must be something to do with computers because there was an office desk in the lounge with an expensive looking PC and sheets of paper scattered around.

When he knew they were out, or when he guessed they would be away for a while, then he would have the run of the house, and with it being quite messy anyway, his presence was not obvious. They had a lazy house cat who would stare at him when he entered. Then it would lose interest and go back to lounging on the sofa.

As one of his jokes, Dale would put food from the fridge in the cat bowl. Slices of bacon. Salted peanuts, carrots, and he would put his ear to the spyhole and hear them arguing over it: 'Well it wasn't me', 'and it wasn't me!'.

Tonight though, he could see Chantelle in her bed, reading, Philip downstairs.

He couldn't work out their routine, but still, he got some good things out of it. They had a penchant for organic food. One of them must have been a vegetarian and he would help himself sometimes to them as despite not being vegetarian, he quite liked the food. The bathrobe he always wore had belonged to Phil.

He wondered when he was going to go back down there, but there was no rush, and went back to his makeshift bed.

After another week, business was as it was, careful not to step loudly up there, but in Rutherford's case it didn't matter too much because he probably wouldn't have been too aware anyway, but as it was he was out as usual in whatever pub took his money, and Dale was lounging on his sofa channel surfing.

Suddenly he heard the gate outside open and footsteps. Dale panicked, but when he heard the letter-box slam he breathed a sigh of relief. Sometimes that happened, someone would knock, or the postman would deliver. It always produced fear in Dale and he would search for a hiding place in the time it took for him to realize it wasn't the occupant.

He saw it was a small envelope, and wondered if he should open it. Leave the door ajar so it looked like somebody let themselves in and read it. Why not? this can be his little joke while he was in the house, so he opened the envelope, saw it was a card inviting him to a funeral. If he's sober, Dale thought. Must be an old friend of his. He put it back in the envelope and threw it on the floor, then opened the front door slightly, and went back into the loft.

When the sky had thrown its blanket of dark over the houses, Dale was spying on Barbara as she sat on the edge of the bed, taking her tablets. It seemed like she was taking more than normal, but she lay down and switched off the bedside lamp.

Soon she'll be in slumberland, he thought, and it wasn't long before he was going through her kitchen, rustling himself up a supper of chicken noodle soup with slices of wholegrain bread, and after he'd sat and watched some television he went back up in to Barbara's bedroom. He put on the bedside lamp, and the first thing he noticed was all the tablets around a half empty glass of water. She must be getting worse, he thought as he went around the bed and got in beside her. He lay down and snuggled up, putting his arm over onto her stomach. Despite never really having much in the way of affection, from anybody, he did, at some level, desire company. Somebody who really knew him.

Something wasn't quite right though. Barbara was cold, and very still. He flinched and quickly got off the bed. It didn't take him long to work out she was dead.

He left the room and walked around and around, down the stairs, up the stairs, down the stairs, anywhere but the bedroom, until he finally knew he had to go back in there, once his anxiety had burned to a manageable level.

What am I going to do? he thought, staring at her. He was never going to call anybody, but he wanted to, to let somebody know.

So after much deliberation, he worked out what to do. It would probably involve more people around for a while, but still needs must, and he gathered what food she had left in her kitchen into a few plastic bags to take into the loft, and then set about doing the only thing he could think to do whilst retaining his secrecy.

He pulled the duvet back and grabbed her feet, then dragged her out to the top of the stairs.

He went down to the front door and opened it, feeling a breeze on his skin, something he had not felt in a long time. He wanted to check there was nobody around. At 2am all he could hear was the faint sound of an engine, probably a distant taxi, and on the corner of the road there was the street lamp that lit up most of next door. For now, all was muted, and he worked quickly, and dragged Barbara down the stairs, out onto the pavement and into the pathway of Rutherford's. He had already opened the front door, so opened it wide, and placed Barbara at the gate. Half on the pathway, and half on the pavement so she could be easily spotted.

He also decided to go and grab all of her pills and scatter them on the pathway, in the hall, up the stairs and around Rutherford's still sleeping form on the bed, creating some form of half-cocked crime scene. The police could scratch their heads trying to decipher it.

Dale decided to take Mr Rutherfords food, what little he had of it, along with Barbara's back up into the loft, where he knew he would stay for a long while.

Despite feeling sad for Barbara, he did fall asleep and was woken in the morning by the sound of a police siren.

Dale had retreated into Chantelle and Philip's loft, setting up his bed in the corner. He had covered both dividing holes as best as possible, and had listened as the police had come around, loud footsteps, loud voices, and in both other lofts somebody had come up and shone torches around, but he had kept quiet as a mouse up there, and Phillip and Chantelle had also been interviewed, and he had tried to listen at the hole in the ceiling, but all he could hear was muffled voices. Muffled voices that sometimes grew louder, and when it seemed that they had wrapped up their investigations with Mr Rutherford and Barbara, the police seemed to take an unnatural interest in Phillip and Chantelle, having found a separate lead or reason to raise suspicion.

At one point when the police were not around, the couple were in the bedroom arguing, and he could hear everything:

'The police have got nothing on us. We can sue them'

'Look if they find out though that our business is illegal, then we're getting put away' said Chantelle.

'Not if we're careful. I can create a temporary internet file where all the accounts will be stored and our hard-drives clean, and I can make it password locked, encrypting it with only administrator permissions'

'But the police can get round this stuff'

'Not all of them, certainly not if I use a dormant emulator programme to scramble the information inside, and when we get back to it I can just unscramble it. It'll be fine'.

'Yes, alright then'.

Still, for the next few days, they were visited by the fraud-squad, and on a few occasions the police came into the bedroom and he would watch as they would rifle through their cupboards and drawers like legal burglars.

When one of them looked up, although he didn't catch his eye, Dale realized that with the police being unnaturally thorough, using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, sending in the army and riot-squad to rescue a cat from a tree, he guessed soon they would be up into the loft, and he didn't want a torch in his face, being recognized and sent back.

So into Mr Rutherford's loft he went, setting up his bed, and the next day the police came into Chantelle and Phillip's loft, but found nothing of any note, and they soon lost interest, then he heard raised voices, almost screaming:

"...can't do this to me...", then:

Silence.

For two days, Dale stayed and barely moved much, until he realised, everything was quiet from all the houses.

It seemed as if they had all moved out, and Dale decided he would brave a trip down into the couple's house.

Some of the commotion he had heard must have been removal men because the place was more sparse than what it used to be. All the electrical items had gone and it was just furniture and some crockery. He wasn't to know they would spending time locked away for fraud. Their business was in website design with a few hidden trojan horses in the programming design to hijack personal information such as bank details and passwords, so they could covertly relieve whomever was using the sites of thier finances, and the blame would come directly to the person who had had the site built. It was only when police were making investigations regarding Barbara that when they came in to ask a few questions, people's bank statements were seen printed out and scattered around the place, so they had more questions to ask.

Yet, the removal men had not finished, not in any of the houses, and what food he had he had to make last, because there was no more. Decorators and landlords came, and in Mr Rutherfords workers were there for several days. They even cleared out the loft, and, quiet as a midnight lake, Dale huddled in the corner of Phillip and Chantelle's house, and waited.

He had made more of a thorough job with Mr Rutherford than he could have comprehended. The finger of suspicion was pointed at him and he was charged with murder and put away for two years. His house was since repossessed, and after a while, there was complete silence for several days in all the houses.

He decided to go down to Barbaras and felt rather sad as he looked at the bed where she used to lay, and standing at the bedroom window he could see the front gardens of all three houses, and in all of them there was a 'for-sale' sign, and it dawned on him that he would be getting new neighbours, new people to kind of get to know, to embrace.

Yet he knew he could just leave, could rustle together some clothing from up in the loft and take his chances out there. Would they still be looking for him? he thought. His case would probably not be closed, so there maybe someone who would recognize him.

He knew he wouldn't be on the most-wanted list, but still, had visions of police-cars screeching up and guns being pointed at him.

Yet, being in the loft wasn't so bad. It was a roof, a bed, regular food.

He wondered if he could perhaps live down in one of the houses until it became occupied.

For a few days, he tried living in Barbara's house, as it was the most furnished, but in none of the houses there was a television, and he wasn't used to sleeping on a bed, and it was of a morning that he heard the front door open and voices filter through.

This snapped him awake, and he knew what it was. It was a potential buyer being shown around. There had been several in all the houses.

He walked out onto the landing and the voices were too close.

"...ok, so through here we have the lounge.." That was Dale's opportunity to clamber back up into the loft and close the hatch quickly trying to be as quiet as possible.

Soon the buyer was on the landing having looked through all the rooms.

Dale could hear them clearly, literally being around seven feet above them.

"Well, yes, this house would be ideal for me and the wife, our three kids and two dogs. I would love to buy it".

New neighbours, thought Dale, and smiled in the darkness.

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Lev821
Lev821
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20 Sep, 2021
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