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Moonglow Road

On a dark, drizzly night, a low-life burglar targets a house full of suckers who don't even have guns. (fiction)

An image with 60's Icons Barbie, I Dream of Jeanie, Doris Day
The stone mansion at 525 Moonglow Road

Garth had always been proud of his cleverness in fooling people. In his teenage days, he had shoplifted frequently and gotten away with it. He had bragged to his friends about it. That was in another place and time. Now he was on to bigger and better things, although he might have recently acted a little too boldly when he embezzled the latest $4,000 from his company. He knew one of his coworkers was suspicious. But the sucker couldn’t prove anything. Garth wasn’t worried.

Embezzlement wasn’t the only crime he excelled at. He had already pulled off two burglaries in recent months without leaving a trace. Who would suspect him, a respectable accountant? He chuckled to himself. He was too clever for the cops. But he didn’t get much from those robberies and needed more money to pay off some rather large gambling debts. Garth studied the map. He wasn’t going for any small stuff this time. He would choose his mark carefully, a place worth his while. He searched for the big fancy stone house at 525 Moonglow Road. 521 was there. 525 was not! Ha! They weren’t on the map! They could have unregistered guns, but probably not. He had seen the family around town. They were the kind of upstanding citizens who followed the rules. Suckers!

He knew they helped at the food bank and with fundraising for the children’s hospital because they had been honored on a local news show. He sneered. Morons! Having no guns to contend with gave him a safer work environment. And he knew they had a slew of antique 20-dollar gold pieces, among other items. Harv, the local coin dealer who had fenced some silver for Garth, told him. They were frequent customers at the coin shop. And lately the price of gold was off the charts, to say nothing of how valuable the coins themselves would be. He wondered: Why wouldn’t they own a gun — or several — when they surely had to be a target for break-ins? And being isolated like that at the end of a road by the woods? Strange. Oh, well, it wasn’t his problem.

Maybe they had a good security system. He would check that out tonight. It was a typical late October day in western Pennsylvania, cold and rainy. Garth opened the door to check the temperature. The wind felt like it carried ice crystals from the drizzle that had started. He shivered and closed the door. It was near dinner time, and he had begun to feel hungry. He poured himself a cup of coffee and took a ham sandwich from the refrigerator. He paced the floor as he ate and drank. He had to make a plan for tonight. The shortest distance to the house on Moonglow Road was a path through a wooded area. He only had to walk down a couple of side streets to get there. He could take the well-worn route through the narrow main path that would bring him out in a field near the backyard of the house.

In a little while, it was dark enough to start out. He could hear the rain hitting the windows. Garth hoped it would let up, but it didn’t look like that would happen. He put on a raincoat with deep pockets and a waterproof hat. He shoved a ski mask, a small flashlight, and a pistol into one of the shallower pockets on his right side. He also threw a bag of doggie treats into a pocket in case he needed a bribe. He stowed a rolled-up drawstring canvas bag and a crowbar in a deeper pocket on the left side. As he shut the door of his house, he heard a howl coming from a couple of doors down the street. It was probably Mrs. Budinsky’s dog. It howled when she sang. He always wondered, did it want to join in the singing, or was it a protest? With his hands in his pockets, Garth sauntered down a side street, made a left turn onto a short lane, passed the last house, and cut across a grassy area toward the woods. No one was around. Finding the main path, he entered under some overhanging branches. Thorns from some bushes latched onto his jacket as if hands with pointed nails were grabbing him.

Angrily, he flung them away. He couldn’t wait to get through the woods. Turning on his flashlight, he pointed it ahead of him. The path was narrower than he remembered. Twigs and brush crackled under his feet. Large tree trunks rose on either side of him. The forest thickened as he got closer to his destination. Not much of the rain was filtering through the trees onto the path, but he could hear it hitting the branches and leaves above. He thought he heard something moving a distance behind him but brushed it off as his imagination. Suddenly, he heard twigs snapping and something large crashing through the brush a way off to his right. He stood as still as a stone. In three seconds, it happened again. He heard a howl in the distance. That wasn’t Mrs. Budinsky’s dog! His entire body trembled.

As soon as his legs would move, he began to run, tripped over a root, and fell forward. Adrenalin yanked him up on his feet, and he barreled through branches and underbrush as he sprinted toward the edge of the woods. An involuntary shudder ran over his body. He couldn’t get out of there fast enough. In a few more minutes, Garth was in a clearing at the back of the houses on Moonglow Road. He sighed loudly with relief, but his heart was still pounding, and his knees felt as if they were about to buckle under him. He had come out near the end of the road and wasn’t far from his target. It was still drizzling, but the cloud cover had broken up, letting the moonlight through. He kept in the shadow of the oak trees planted around the yard’s perimeter and moved toward the front of the house. The moon was a giant shimmering opal pouring its light over the house and large front yard. He might not even need his flashlight. A plaque displaying the house number was attached to a porch post. Moonlight glinted off the big silver 525. The house was completely dark. He didn’t hear a sound. No cars were outside. They were probably out for the evening. The front porch light was on. They probably left it on for when they came back. There were only three in the family, a man, his wife, and a young daughter. Suddenly the moonlight dimmed.

Garth looked up at the sky again. Some clouds scuttled across the moon’s face. It looked eerie. He would need his flashlight after all. His coat was wet from the rain, and the icy dampness chilled him. He decided to circle the house to see if there were any motion detectors or signs of an alarm system. When he made the circuit, not a light came on, and there were no signs saying, “protected by such and such a security system.” He snorted. You’d think they’d have sense enough to have some kind of protection. All the better for him. He started to circle the house again to see if there was a way of entering. The ground was soggy from the rain. He stepped in a shallow hole, lost his balance, and fell. Shining his flashlight where he had stepped, he gazed at the indentation. It almost looked like a large paw print. But it couldn’t be. Other than deer, there were no big animals in the area.

Or maybe there were. What had run through the woods? No. Maybe he had heard only thunder and imagined it was something else. Probably his stumbling had changed the shape of the hole. Some kind of beastly noise came from the direction of the woods in back of the house. That wasn’t thunder. It made him shiver. No way would he trek through those woods on the way home. For a moment, he thought of leaving — but no, he had come this far. And the house was an easy mark. Not only that, if no one was home, he would be inside, safely away from the woods. Now that he was here, he would see what loot he could snatch. He continued circling the house, checking out the windows. The ground was uneven. Garth pointed his flashlight downward and stepped carefully to avoid any other holes like the one he had stumbled into. He would try the basement windows.

He stopped to examine each window as he came to it. And then he pulled out his crowbar. The cellar window near the back porch was actually open about an inch. More luck. Garth was able to push the window up. His hand brushed against something that made him yank it back. It was a tuft of fur caught in a corner of the sill. He drew in his breath, paused, and decided to keep going. Shining his flashlight around inside the cellar, he saw no one. Gingerly he climbed through the window and let himself down to the floor. He slapped his hand over his nose and mouth.

The place reeked strongly of wet dog. They must keep a big one down here for it to smell that bad. He moved the flashlight to his left hand and pulled out his gun, preparing to meet up with a watchdog or three. He directed the flashlight into the corners of the basement.

A pile of bones cluttered one corner. He felt for the doggie treats in his pocket. At the top of the cellar steps, the door was ajar. The only sounds were his breathing and rapid pulse.

Garth ascended the stairs slowly and tiptoed through the door into the kitchen. No lights were on. He shone his flashlight around. It was immaculate. Didn’t they cook? Didn’t they eat? Were they just that neat? Everything looked brand-new. The room contained a granite-topped island in the middle with a counter on one side of it and three high stools. The knobs on the cabinets gleamed like polished brass buttons.

He listened for growls from a dog. Nothing. No one was home as far as he could tell, but he crept around trying not to make a sound, ready to shoot if necessary, moving from the kitchen into the dining room. Nothing stirred. He laughed. They must have taken the dogs with them. He shouldn’t let his nerves get the best of him. He was sure no one was home. Feeling more relaxed, he put away his gun and flashlight and switched on the light. There were no large pictures on the wall, nothing that could hide a wall safe. Maybe they didn’t have a safe. Maybe they kept things out in the open. A long, lacquered mahogany table with high-backed chairs filled the middle of the room; a matching China cabinet covered one wall, and a sideboard sat against another. Garth snickered when he saw a large teddy bear propped in one of the chairs with a full place setting in front of it. He would see what he could find in this room first. They might at least keep their silver in the sideboard. The house was as quiet as a hearse. Friday night. They wouldn’t be home early on a Friday night. Maybe they were even gone for the weekend.

There should be plenty of time to check upstairs. He rummaged through the top drawer but found nothing of value. He opened a small cabinet door in the sideboard, pulled out tablecloths, and threw them in a pile on the floor. In the very back was a good-sized carved wooden box. He felt his pulse race. Maybe this held the gold pieces. If it did, he was sure it would be enough to buy him a condo at that ritzy new place on Marigold Boulevard. Then that snobby broad in the purchasing office would pay attention to him. His anticipation was followed quickly by deflation. The box was empty. “What are you doing?” a high-pitched voice from behind him asked.

His heart bounced from his chest to his feet and back again. When he turned and saw her, relief flooded over him like a shower of cool water on a hot summer day. He laughed heartily. She was a slightly built young girl of about 10 or 11 in a pink nightgown and fuzzy slippers. “Who are you, the security guard?” he snickered, thinking he had made a good joke. He grabbed his gun and pointed it at her. “Don’t do anything, and you won’t get hurt. Where do you keep your weapons?” “We don’t have any.” “Oh, yeah? Why not?” “We don’t need them.” She stared at him. Her irises were an odd yellowish color. He laughed. “Oh, really? What do you do, defend yourself with your bare hands? Are your parents asleep?” “No, they’ll be home soon.” She kept her eyes fixed on him. Garth grinned. What a weird kid. She might be useful in leading him to the valuables. “I know you have gold coins here. Where are they?” She looked defiant but didn’t answer. “Not talking, huh?” His coat felt cumbersome, and he took it off and threw it over a chair so he could work unimpeded. The doggie treats fell out, and she looked at them as if they were a box of chocolates.

His heart bounced from his chest to his feet and back again. When he turned and saw her, relief flooded over him like a shower of cool water on a hot summer day. He laughed heartily. She was a slightly built young girl of about 10 or 11 in a pink nightgown and fuzzy slippers. “Who are you, the security guard?” he snickered, thinking he had made a good joke. He grabbed his gun and pointed it at her. “Don’t do anything, and you won’t get hurt. Where do you keep your weapons?” “We don’t have any.” “Oh, yeah? Why not?” “We don’t need them.” She stared at him. Her irises were an odd yellowish color. He laughed. “Oh, really? What do you do, defend yourself with your bare hands? Are your parents asleep?” “No, they’ll be home soon.” She kept her eyes fixed on him. Garth grinned. What a weird kid. She might be useful in leading him to the valuables. “I know you have gold coins here. Where are they?” She looked defiant but didn’t answer. “Not talking, huh?” His coat felt cumbersome, and he took it off and threw it over a chair so he could work unimpeded. The doggie treats fell out, and she looked at them as if they were a box of chocolates.

He put his gun away, grasped her arm, and shoved her into a chair. She didn’t flinch. “OK, honey, you be a good girl. Sit there and don’t move.” “My parents will be home soon,” she repeated. “Oh yeah, Miss Pink Nightgown? Where are they?” “Out running.” She lifted her chin as though she were sniffing the air. “They’ll be back any minute. They’re always back by 10 o’clock. It’s almost 10 o’clock now. You’d better leave, or you’ll be sorry.” Garth smirked. “Yeah, I’m shaking in my boots.” He quickly turned and started to pull items from the bottom drawer of the sideboard, tossing them on the floor. He flung some behind him and knocked over the chair next to the one where the teddy bear sat. “Don’t you hurt Captain McFuzzy,” the girl ordered, her lips tight together and her forehead creased in a frown. “You know you’re getting annoying, little girl!” He picked up the teddy bear from its perch on the chair. “Is this Captain McFuzzy?” he said in a high-pitched mocking voice. She nodded. “Here’s what I think of him!” He hurled the teddy bear across the room hard enough that it bounced off the wall. He immediately went back to his search. A howl sounded outside.

A faint odor of wet dog crossed his nostrils again. He heard a snarl behind him. He spun around. The girl seemed to be changing shape. He squeezed his eyes shut and opened them again. What was he seeing? Claws shot out of her fingers. Fangs glistened in the light. Hair sprouted from her arms. He felt the first swipe of the needle-like claws gash his face. He screamed as he fell to the floor. A burning pain stung him, and rivulets of something liquid streamed down his neck. He saw her hovering over him, and two larger creatures appeared behind her. Delirium cascaded over him. Confused thoughts tumbled around his mind like torn scraps of paper in a gale. No guns…. No protection…. Gold coins…. Tomorrow! Tomorrow he would write a letter — a letter telling that stupid editor of that stupid newspaper what a stupid idea he had. As he slipped into unconsciousness, somewhere in the house a grandfather clock began to strike 10.

Lois Conway

While working at Carlow University in Pittsburgh, Lois earned a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing with a concentration in poetry and a Master of Fine Arts in fiction writing. She has had two short stories published in Carlow’s anthology, Voices from the Attic, and a one-act play performed by Carlow’s Theatre Group. She has written a children’s story that was available from the International Ministries website. She frequently writes essays.

Lois Conway Western Pennsylvania Mensa | Joined 2008