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Authors: T. M. Wright

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The Woman Next Door

BOOK: The Woman Next Door
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THE WOMAN NEXT DOOR
 

By T.M. Wright

 

 

Digital Edition published by Crossroad Press

Copyright
2012 /
T.M. Wright

 

Copy-edited by:
 
Anita Lorene Smith

Cover Design By: David Dodd

LICENSE NOTES
 

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.
 
This eBook may not be resold or given away to other people.
 
If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with.
 
If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to the vendor of your choice and purchase your own copy.
 
Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Meet the Author
 

 

Terrance Michael (T.M.) Wright is best known as a writer of horror fiction, speculative fiction, and poetry. He has written over 25 novels, novellas, and short stories over the last 40 years. His first novel, 1978's
Strange Seed
, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award, and his 2003 novel
Cold House
was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. His novels have been translated into many different languages around the world. His works have been reviewed by
Kirkus
Reviews
,
Publishers Weekly
,
Library Journal
,
Booklist
, and many genre magazines.

His first publication was the non-fiction study of unidentified flying objects, entitled
The Intelligent Man's Guide to Flying Saucers
(currently available from Crossroad Press) in 1968 for AS Barnes.
 
His seventh novel,
A Manhattan Ghost Story
, has had fourteen foreign editions and was optioned to be filmed in the 1980s.

He has written over forty short stories that have appeared in several magazines including
Twilight Zone Magazine
,
PostScripts
, Cemetery Dance,
Flesh and Blood Magazine
,
UpState
, and
Brutarian
.
 
He has also painted book covers and done illustrations for magazines including
Brutarian
.

 

Book List

 

The Strange Seed Series

Strange Seed

Nursery Tale

Children of the Island

The People of the Dark

Laughing Man

 

A Manhattan Ghost Story
series

A Manhattan Ghost Story

The Waiting Room

A Spider on My Tongue

 

Ryerson
Biergarten
series

The Changing

The Devouring

Goodlow's
Ghosts

The Ascending

Sleepeasy

 

Other Novels and Novellas

Blue Canoe

Boundaries

Carlisle Street

Cold House

I Am the Bird

Little Boy Lost

Sally Pinup

The Eyes of the Carp

The House on Orchid Street

The Island

The Last Vampire

The Place

The Playground

The School

The Woman Next Door

Visiting the Edge

 
 
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Acknowledgments
 

I would like to thank Pat
LoBrutto
, Joanie
Hitzig
, and Frederick Armstrong for their invaluable assistance in the preparation of this novel. Later thanks also to Bill
Basile
Jr.

For Mary Jane
Basile
and William G. Thompson

Prologue
 

June 19, 1961

 

A
fter many minutes, the babysitter turned the TV down; it was ruining her concentration. She glanced at the telephone on the small white table just inside the entrance to the kitchen.

Later
, she thought.

She crossed the living room, pushed the child's door open, and stood quietly, her eyes on the child. Finally, she reached around the right side of the doorway and flicked the light switch off.

She turned, went to the couch, sat and drummed her fingers—l-2-3-4—methodically on the armrest. She became aware of the fluid ticking of the grandfather clock near the front door. She glanced at it and grimaced. "Damn it!" she whispered.

One thing was certain: Six months of dull Friday nights shouldn't have ended like this. There was no reason for it to have come to this. Well, her own stupidity was the reason, wasn't it? Her own colossal stupidity. She grinned.
Colossal. Colossal stupidity
. She stopped drumming her fingers.
Colossal stupidity!
She'd use that phrase on some of the kids at school—Joanne
Vanderburg
, for one. "You're so colossally stupid!" she'd say. And then she'd walk off, leaving Joanne
Vanderburg
with her mouth wide open and with nothing to say. It was a nice thought.

Her grin vanished abruptly.

Now.

She stood, went to the telephone, picked up the receiver, dialed.

"Hello?" she heard.

"Is Mrs. Winter there, please?" she said.

"May I ask who's calling?"

"Her babysitter. This is her babysitter."

"Just a moment."

She heard, as if from a distance, "Evelyn, it's for you. Your babysitter."

She waited. Then: "Yes . . . this is Mrs. Winter."

"Mrs. Winter?"

"What is it? Is something wrong?"

"I don't know, Mrs. Winter." The babysitter paused briefly. "I mean . . . it's the baby—"

"The baby? What's happened to the baby?"

"Nothing. I mean . . . I don't know. She's so quiet. I think you'd better come home, Mrs. Winter."

"Quiet? What do you mean
quiet
?"

"Well, I mean she's breathing and everything, but she's not moving. She fell. Out of her crib. She fell." A short silence.

"Mrs. Winter?"

Then, again as if from a distance: "Oh, Jesus!" And a click, a dial tone.

The babysitter put the receiver on its rest. She went back to the child's room, turned the light on.

She saw that the child was almost exactly as she had left her—on her side at the back of the crib—except now her huge, impossibly blue eyes were open.

The babysitter glanced around the room, her face expressionless. Yes, everything was in order. She reached for the light switch. She hesitated.
The crib!
she realized.
The damned crib!

She crossed to it, put her foot on the small pedal beneath and unlatched the left-hand side. She pushed down. The side gave a few inches. She stepped away.

Her gaze settled on the child.

She saw that the child was staring at her. Hard. Not with a bubbling smile ready on her lips, as if the babysitter were merely an object of amusement or curiosity, but hard. And cold. In emotion so intense that the muscles of the child's face had frozen, and all the energy in her small, quiet body had massed in the eyes.

 

Two weeks later

 

T
he babysitter got comfortable on the big couch. Well, it was too bad, she thought. Really too bad. Almost enough to make you cry, if you were used to crying, if it made you feel more human, if it "salved your conscience" (a phrase she had heard the day before, in English class, and thought was a very interesting phrase). She remembered crying—at the hospital, in the waiting room, while the doctors were busy finding out what had happened to the child (not what had been done to her, but what had
happened
to her). She had cried right in front of Mr. and Mrs. Winter.

("I'm sorry, Mrs. Winter, Mr. Winter. I'm so sorry. I should have—"

"It's okay, it's not your fault, not really.")

It had been just the right kind of weeping—good, dry, hesitant, confused. She'd kept it up, too, right up till the moment the doctor finally came into the waiting room.

("This is extremely difficult for me, Mrs. Win—"

"My God, my baby is dead, my baby is—"

"No, Mrs. Winter, she's not dead. She has sustained some spinal injuries.")

 

A
nd that—the babysitter readjusted herself on the couch—really was too bad, wasn't it? That was . . . tragic. Terrible. But accidents happened every day. No one was really to blame for them. They happened and that was that. It was fate.

BOOK: The Woman Next Door
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