In the Presence of Danger
"This above all, to refuse to be a victim."
— Margaret Atwood
He had probably been watching her for a while. We aren't sure—but what we do know is that she was not his first victim. That afternoon, in an effort to get all her shopping done in one trip, Kelly had overestimated what she could comfortably carry home. Justifying her decision as she struggled with the heavy bags, she reminded herself that making two trips would have meant walking around after dark, and she was too careful about her safety for that. As she climbed the few steps to the apartment building door, she saw that it had been left unlatched (again). Her neighbors just don't get it, she thought, and though their lax security annoyed her, this time she was glad to be saved the trouble of getting out the key.
She closed the door behind her, pushing it until she heard it latch. She is certain she locked it, which means he must have already been inside the corridor.
Next came the four flights of stairs, which she wanted to do in one trip. Near the top of the third landing, one of the bags gave way, tearing open and dispensing cans of cat food. They rolled down the stairs almost playfully, as if they were trying to get away from her. The can in the lead paused at the second floor landing, and Kelly watched as it literally turned the corner, gained some speed, and began its seemingly mindful hop down the next flight of steps and out of sight.
"Got it! I'll bring it up," someone called out. Kelly didn't like that voice. Right from the start something just sounded wrong to her, but then this friendly-looking young guy came bounding up the steps, collecting cans along the way.
He said, "Let me give you a hand."
"No, no thanks, I've got it."
"You don't look like you've got it. What floor are you going to?"
She paused before answering him. "The fourth, but I'm okay, really."
He wouldn't hear a word of it, and by this point he had a collection of cans balanced between his chest and one arm. "I'm going to the fourth floor too," he said, "and I'm late—not my fault, broken watch—so let's not just stand here. And give me that." He reached out and tugged on one of the heavier bags she was holding. She repeated, "No, really, thanks, but no, I've got it."
Trusting your instincts