Sandy swiveled her telescope to scan the front of the building across the street.
Beyond her balcony, Uptown was coming alive for the night. If she leaned over, she could look down and see people drifting in and out of boutiques, eating at outdoor cafes or standing in line for tickets at the art house movie down the block.
Her sixth-floor condo, north of downtown Dallas, was in the shadow of the skyscrapers that dominated the north Texas sky.
Sandy focused on the apartments directly across from hers, checking to see if any of her regulars were home yet.
Yes, there were Mr. and Mrs. Kinky, the young couple on the fifth floor. They were in their kitchen preparing dinner. Knowing them, dinner would be part of the evening’s foreplay.
Her spying on neighbors had begun accidentally a few months earlier but, during that time, she’d become attached to many of the people who lived across the street. In a curious sort of way, she felt like their guardian, keeping an eye on them. She’d even intervened once by calling the police when she’d thought someone was in danger. Of course, she’d called in the report from a pay phone down the street.
More tenants returned home and switched on their lamps. The flat face of the building across the street resembled a checkerboard with alternating squares of light and dark. She slowly rotated the body of the telescope, trying to find activity. Mrs. Blue Hair, the elderly woman on the fourth floor had been sick lately. Sandy was glad to see she was feeling well enough to host her Friday night bridge group.
The ringing of her telephone distracted Sandy from the scene across the street. For the space of another ring, she debated whether to answer it. If it were her mother, a non-response would start a cycle of calls every twenty minutes until Sandy picked up. Better get it over with now.
She rushed toward the living room, brushing past the closed drapes, and picked up the phone on the fourth ring–right before the answering machine kicked in.
“Hello,” she said breathlessly.
“You’ve been a bad girl, Alexandra Davis,” a male voice greeted her.
“Who’s this?” she demanded. It had to be one of her brothers or a friend.
“This is Justice.” He paused, and Sandy tried to decide if the caller was her older brother, Matt.
“You’ve been spying on your neighbors. How do you think they’d feel if they knew?”
Sandy’s heart stuttered. No! This couldn’t be happening. No one could have seen her. She’d been too careful.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she replied in her coldest voice. “I’m going to hang up. If you call me again, I’ll report you to the police.” She slammed the receiver down.
OhgodOhgodOhgod! She bit her lip and stared at the phone. What if someone had seen her? Maybe someone knew. Reality came crashing down. If this came out, she could be arrested. She’d lose her job. No agency could have a sex offender employed as a social worker, going into homes with families. And her mother! Oh, dear heaven, what would her mother say?
Sandy forced her mind to function through the mounting panic. First, she needed to get the telescope off the balcony. She needed to sit down and think this through . . .
The phone started to ring again. Sandy stared at it like a field mouse cowering before a snake. She made no move to pick it up. It rang a second . . . a third . . . and, finally . . . a fourth time.
The answering machine kicked in, and Sandy heard the male voice from before. “It’s no good, Alexandra. You can’t hide from Justice. If you don’t believe me, go check outside your door. I’ll wait.”