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Yuki: A good late evening to you all. Thank you so much for joining us again. We’re finally closing in on the signal that’s had us stumped for some time now.
Assistant: Got it locked now. Ready when you are.
Yuki: You don’t seem confident at all.
Assistant: I mean, all the previous attempts we’ve not seen a single trace of the human torch. Everything shows here as positive in letters and numbers, but the second we step into The Void, nada.
Yuki: It is strange. Well, let’s not waste our time. Only one way to find out.
The time between Kathryn Roberts fumbling for her keys at her doorstep and running back out of her townhouse in a panic was approximately forty-five seconds. From the time she dialed triple-0 to a police cruiser pulling down the driveway was just under six minutes. And then another thirty minutes before the cops left without finding anything amiss and left Katy feeling both relieved and embarrassed.
Constables Jacqueline Pari and Michael Bevan comforted her upon arrival and brought her down from near-hysterics.
‘—on the kitchen floor and then there was a creak from upstairs.’
‘Calm down, Miss Roberts,’ Constable Pari put her hand gently at Katy’s back. ‘It’s okay. We’re here now.’ She led the distressed woman back over to the car while Bevan walked slowly around the side of the complex to ensure no one came out the back way. Which would have been difficult to miss anyways, the rear courtyards each had tall aluminium fencing, as did the adjoining property from the next street over. The effort to get in or out would have caused a hell of a clatter and unwanted attention in the quiet of the night.
‘—I got in the house. I put my bag on the couch and went into the kitchen to get some orange juice and a broken mug was there in the middle of the floor. That’s when I heard the noise upstairs.’
As Katy was calmly wrapping up, a second cruiser pulled to the kerb. Two more cops emerged.
Pari looked over her shoulder, ‘Hey guys. Mind if you keep an eye out up here while we take a look inside?’
‘B and E?’
‘Looks like it.’
Both of the new arrivals nodded.
‘Alright Ma’am, stay here with Constables Drake and Auburn. We’ll be back.’
Bevan joined Pari at the front courtyard. ‘No sign of anyone walking around out the back. No mud or dirt on the fence; doesn’t look like anyone’s climbed it.’
‘Yeah, nothing in the front either.’
They scanned the small enclosure: numerous potted plants, a greens bin, a garden gnome, and a doormat. Quickly, they checked beneath each of them; Bevan produced a key from beneath the gnome. Both cops looked at one another and agreed silently with a nod. They entered the dwelling and carefully swept the area. The aforementioned mug lay shattered in five distinct pieces as the woman had told them.
Bevan grimaced as he looked over at the counter. ‘Check it out, Jacquie.’
Pari crossed the lounge room to join him. ‘What is it?’
‘Seems our Miss Roberts may have given herself a bit of a scare. Look.’ He nodded to the dish drainer to the right of the sink. Bowls, plates, mugs, and a couple sauce pans were piled up past capacity. A ceramic bowl was threatening to commit suicide along side its fallen companion. Bevan removed it from the heap and placed it right-side up on the counter. ‘I think our work here is done.’
Pari sighed. ‘She reported footsteps, too; we still need to check them out.’
Bevan put an index finger to the air and put the other in front of his mouth. His eyes glanced upward. Pari listened and heard the reported footsteps above them—although muted—from above the far side of the kitchen.
‘Sound’s coming from the other side of this wall,’ Bevan jabbed his thumb behind him, toward the stove. ‘Lady saw the mess and heard a sound and got all freaked out.’
‘There have been break-ins all over the news lately.’
‘Exactly. And she’s given herself a bit of a fright.’
Constable Pari rolled her eyes. ‘I’m still gonna check upstairs. If you’re gonna stay down here can you take a look out back? And check that other door in the lounge room. Probably goes to the garage.’
‘Sure,’ Bevan yawned. He crossed the threshold to the laundry room—nothing. He opened the back door and poked his head out to the rear courtyard. Empty, save for a cafe table and chair set and an empty clothesline. ‘More nothing,’ the tired cop muttered under his breath and returned to the lounge room (Pari’s footsteps wandered overhead) and tried to enter the garage. Locked. He eyed the key still in his hand and took a stab in the dark: he inserted it into the lock and turned.
The door swung inward to the garage. The room housed no car, only old furniture and heaps of boxes. In the shadows, the water heater sat in a little nook beneath the stairs. Bevan sighed and shook his head. He removed the key from the door and shouted up the stairs, ‘Nada!’
A resigned sigh echoed down, followed by footsteps and creaking floorboards. ‘Same,’ Pari replied.
The constables reassured Katy and handed over the key found under the garden gnome. ‘Probably keep this on you or give it to a friend for safe-keeping,’ Bevan told her. They further explained the state of the dishes and that the sounds were coming from next door.
A flustered Katy apologised profusely and thanked them for checking.
‘Better safe than sorry,’ replied Constable Pari.
‘And boring days with nothing going on are preferred for us, too,’ added Constable Bevan.
Katy thanked them all again and stayed out in the driveway until the cruisers departed. Red-faced still, she headed back into her home and locked the door behind her. She checked her watch—just after seven and it was already pitch black. She crossed the lounge room and put the kitchen light on. She gathered up the larger pieces of the mug and binned them.
Rain started to patter down on the roof and a low rumble of thunder built up in the distance. If Katy had only paused for a second longer before going to fetch the broom out of the laundry, she would have noticed the flicker of lightning from the crack of the garage door…and the silhouette of the figure emerging from behind the stacked boxes.
Yuki: My thoughts exactly. It was worth a shot looking into. But I was working out something while we were in there.
Assistant: What’s that?
Yuki: I got the same feeling while I was checking the mainframe last week. What if we’re being misled on purpose. Being diverted from the trail.
Assistant: Wait a minute…being put down the wrong path? That would mean…
Yuki: Yes. They’re aware of us. They know we’re watching.