“I’m sorry, I have guests,” Lily-Rose lied.
A man named Malcolm tilted his head and glanced over her shoulder as she stood in the doorway. “I don’t hear anyone.”
Lily-Rose felt the tiny hairs on the back of her neck prickling and stinging. She started to close the door.
He put his booted foot in the way. “You have nothing to fear. Just listen to the word I have come to tell you, and I will leave again in peace.”
His body was so close to her body that she instinctively took a step backward. This allowed Malcolm to enter her kitchen.
He closed the back door and locked it. Lily-Rose bolted towards the living room and the hall and the front door, but Malcolm caught her by the arm. He took her back into the kitchen, where he saw knives in a polished pine holder on the counter, and took out the smallest one.
“Do not scream,” said Malcolm.
Zach and Hilda were slowly cruising down the street on Zach’s motorcycle. “I thought it was 766, but it could have been 768, or 764,” said Zach.
“Helpful,” said Hilda.
They pulled over to the curb. Zach said, “Well, we can knock on the door of this one. It could be Bernard’s, and if not they can tell us which house is his.”
As they approached the front porch, Hilda noticed a shadow, closing the drapes. “There is at least someone home,” she said.
But no one came to the door when they rang the bell, or when they knocked. They thought they heard a noise from inside, like a chair scraping on a floor.
“Bernard would answer the door,” said Zach.
“Can you text him?”
“Then let’s try 766.”
Zach hesitated, but they walked across the lawn, which connected to the next house without a fence or hedge, and when they rang the doorbell, Bernard answered the door.
“Zach!” he exclaimed. “And this must be Hilda.”
“Your neighbour, that one,” Zach said at once. “There is something going on.”
“What?” said Bernard.
A golden retriever almost bowled Hilda over as it careened out the front door, down the steps, across the lawn to the front porch of the next door house. The dog started to bark, loudly, and would not stop.
“Call 911,” Bernard said.
When he and Zach got inside, by quickly breaking one of the panes of glass on the front door, they found Lily-Rose and a man, a middle-aged man, the same one who had come to Bernard’s back door not half an hour earlier.
“Oh my god,” said Zach.
The man lay on the living room floor, on his stomach. He had his left arm behind his back. Standing upright on this man was Lily-Rose Roades, with one foot on the back of his neck and the other on his wrist. She held a paring knife. A thin red line scarred her neck, on the left side. A trickle of blood made a slow path down to her collarbone. She had bruises on her arms.
They could hear sirens. Bernard helped Lily-Rose to the floor, and gave her a tissue for the cut on her neck. Zach sat on the man, who was dazed and unresisting, until the police arrived.
“I had a teacher,” Lily-Rose told Bernard, a little breathlessly. “She taught me to be strong in my heart.”
Bernard hugged her gently.
“But,” said Lily-Rose, “she also taught me to be strong of body. She had everyone in her class take martial arts, everyone. I still go to Aikido, Wednesday nights.”
Bernard watched two police constables escort the intruder from the house. He had a large bruise on his cheek. Another took Lily-Rose aside and asked a few quiet questions. Bernard couldn’t hear their conversation, but she looked tired, very tired. Zach and Hilda and the dog, Maxine, waited outside on the porch. A few neighbours, drawn by the noise and flashing lights, had gathered and stood in small groups on the sidewalk.
Bernard had often wondered where Lily-Rose Roades went on Wednesday evenings.