Nancy – a short story


I’m re-posting the short story, Nancy after making some pertinent changes.

Toiling at the keyboard deep into the wee hours, nursing a cold that kept me from the peaceful sleep of the blessed which I’m used to, this is what came out of my fingertips. It was “interesting” transporting myself to a land and place I have never seen, and coming across “tournures” of language that left me baffled.  How do you write English, British style when all you know is Canadian English?  The result is a bit of a mish-mash of culture, but I wanted the fog-filled streets of a mid-size coastal English town with a harbour, and I wanted London in the picture.  You see, this is meant to be an introduction to a longer story, perhaps a novel, though I find writing novels intimidating, particularly in the amount of research a good novel demands.  Well, without further ado, I’ll post this and if you feel like it, you can let me know if “Nancy” is believable.  If not, well, she can get married and have a nice uneventful life as a doctor’s receptionist.  Or a computer programmer.  Or a private investigator.

a short story, by Sha’Tara

Every sound was muted in the thick fog that rose from the strand in those late November nights when the sky was clear, the air crisp and cold. She didn’t mind the fog, in fact she’d been raised here and fog was a standard aspect of the city’s night life. She enjoyed the sense of mystery and romance the street light haloes cast over the streets. As usual when she walked home from work, she was alone on the street.  There was no traffic to speak of.  Sometimes not a single vehicle passed by during her walk.  She heard the growl of two cats having a serious discussion in a garden behind a low cement wall.  A dog gave a mournful howl into the night then all was silent but for the clicking of her shoes.

 “Night Nancy!” had called her mate when she’d left the pub. Nancy worked weekends at the Bosun’s Place to cover her college expenses and she liked the work. It was not a rowdy place as some closer to the harbour could be and she knew most of the regulars. 

On a usual Saturday there might be two or three strangers come and go, but it had been the usual crowd this Saturday except for a tall, too slim, dark-haired woman who had come in alone late in the evening, ordered a pint and sat quietly at a small round table, seldom looking about. She’d left about an hour before closing time, her face pinched, angry.

Nancy’s work shoes clicked rhythmically on the worn cobbles, the sound quickly lost in the thickening fog. She could hear the fog horn from the cape across the bay, and a ship’s horn as it entered the harbour.  She always knew if the ship was going out or coming in.  It seemed to her that being aware of your surroundings and interpreting smells and sounds was not only wise, but sometimes intriguing as well.  She felt happy. 

 Tomorrow she would get her monthly pay and run to the bank to collect it during her break. Later there would be “the gang” which consisted of her older sister and her current love; maybe her younger brother Ian whom she would tease silly in front of his date, and of course David would be down from London with whatever friend he’d call over for a drink or two.  Ah, David.  It had been almost a month since they’d spent time together and it might as well have been an eternity.  You don’t get many breaks when you’re a young physician’s assistant.  She sighed in the darkness, visualizing his serious looking face as he contemplated her. She smiled in the dark.

 She still lived at her parents’ bungalow, in an attic bedroom she’d transformed into a kind of private apartment. Gallant David would pretend to be a country swain, climb a near-by apple tree and slip into her place through the open window.  It was a game; everybody knew they slept together up there whenever David was in town, but nevertheless, it was exciting.  David, she thought.  She could see his face in her mind, his smile, his curly auburn hair that always needed cutting or trimming.  

 That’s when she first heard the footsteps following her. She was halfway home, just five more blocks to go.  She wasn’t too concerned but she knew better than to dally.  She speeded up her own steps, then crossed the street, stopping in the darkened entryway of a second hand shop she was familiar with.  She listened intently; the steps crossed the street and were definitely coming closer. 

 Nancy’s shoes were not designed for running and would likely trip her, or make her slip or slide dangerously or painfully on the wet stones if she tried it. So she abandoned that idea.  She had the advantage of surprise: she knew exactly where the steps came from; she knew they were definitely a man’s tread, so she would have to deal with a man. But her position inside the doorway meant her assailant, if he was an assailant and not just some lost soul or wandering drunk, would give her side and back protection.  She slowly and noiselessly put down her handbag, took off her shoes, keeping one in her right hand, and waited.

 I need to tell you something about Nancy. She’s not your typical girl.  I mean, most typical small town girls don’t usually go in for martial arts, much less work their way up to a second degree black belt.  She had that, and she had the temperament that allowed her to use it with impunity.  She didn’t ask permission, if you get my drift.  She would attack her opponent, disable her, him or them, then stand back slowly swaying on the balls of her feet and wait to see what the other, or others, would decide to do.  If they had any intelligence at all, they’d admit defeat, if in a tourney, or scamper if it was a street encounter. 

Nancy had decided to take up martial arts for self-defence years before, but intensified her training after her older sister was raped, beaten and left unconscious outside of town some months back.  Jenny was healthy and strong.  She’d bounced back quickly but the incident had marked Nancy probably more than her sister. She had a deep, deep desire to find the perp and make him pay.  He’d never been found and the police had totally botched the investigation, which made Nancy suspect the rapist was on the police force and they knew, or suspected and were covering up for him.

 She heard the footsteps slow down, as if the man was hesitating and wondering what to do next. Nancy forced herself to take deep silent breaths.  She sensed her entire body, loosening arms and legs, waiting, anticipating, almost wishing for the attack to begin.  The steps began again, slow, hesitant, closer and closer.  By now she knew this was an assailant and that he knew she was holed up in a doorway.  Finally she saw his outline in the fog.  She couldn’t judge his height but she could see he was stocky – and she thought to herself – like a policeman: he had the bearing of one.  She judged it prudent to assume he was armed, perhaps with a knife, or even a hand gun.  There would be no word, no negotiation.  She readied herself to attack and deliberately uttered what sounded like a small frightened moan.

 The man turned in her direction and saw the entryway. He moved towards it now, confident, certain.  He had his quarry cornered. Nancy fancied she could read his thoughts. “I’ll knock her out, carry her into the alley, tie her and gag her, then get my car, throw her in the trunk and the fun begins.”  She allowed some of her anger to mount but controlled it.  Enough, just enough to do the trick. Her sensei had cautioned her many times about using anger: “Anger is good, yes, it can be useful, but it’s also a poison.  It blinds you; makes you foolish to take chances, makes you want to attack too soon, take shortcuts.  Anger is a dangerous tool, Nancy.”  Then she had demonstrated, making Nancy angry and defeating her with her own calm approach.  For the sensei there was never any battle, just a problem to be solved.  She had learned.

The attacker jumped into the entryway only to meet with, what he must have thought, if he’d had time to think, was a banshee from hell. She kneed him straight in the groin, elbowed his face, cracking his nose, broke his right wrist, then throwing him out on the street, kicked him sideways in the head.  He rolled onto the cobbles, his head lolling.  He groaned, once, then lay still. 

She searched him, found those plastic ties cops prefer to handcuffs these days, and trussed him.  She took his wallet and walked over to the closest street lamp.  “Yes” she said to herself triumphantly, “that’s a cop’s ID.  I’ve got the bastard, got him!”  She walked back cat-like in her bare feet and rolled the man over.  She recognized him.  He’d been coming to the pub as a regular all this time.  He’d been stalking her, waiting for his chance.  First my sister, then me, eh?  My turn, you bastard.  She listened carefully, looked up and down the foggy street: no traffic. Had there been, and had someone stopped, she had her story ready:  “He’s drunk, I’m getting him home.  Don’t worry, ain’t the first time.” 

 She got her handbag, pulled out her phone and called her brother. In a voice that broached no argument she said, “Ian, come over to Main and Heather now, I need the car.” She quickly closed the connection, pulled the Sim card, crushed it, and threw the phone and the card down a storm sewer grate. 


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