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The ensuing weekend wasn’t perhaps one of Caitlyn’s better weekends, but it was by no means her worst.  Her worst was likely that one in college where she’d gotten well beyond drunk on vodka and cranberry juice and — well, it was best to forget that weekend and focus on the present.  She spent the better part of Saturday cleaning up the rubble that had once been the wall between the living room and the second bedroom.  She’d thankfully left the studs intact, so there was merely a big gaping hole of wooden framing between the two, and she vowed to learn once and for all how to hoist drywall and apply spackle properly, ideally before the apartment supervisor did his quarterly rounds.  At least this time she’d be strong enough to lift the stuff herself.

On Sunday, in an attempt to relax her nerves, she made up a giant bowl of popcorn and tried to watch the Mets get abused by Washington.  But with the score at 6 to 0 by the fifth inning, she concluded there was little reason to keep watching, and flipped the tube off, winging her Mets hat back into the closet for another week.  They really hadn’t been any good since they fired Elonzio.  It really wasn’t his fault that he’d changed for the first time in the middle of a season.  He hadn’t even changed that much:  Horns and talons barely even counted.  It wasn’t like he could run any faster or hit any harder.  The league rules were so discriminatory, which made sense to keep the game fair, she supposed, but it still didn’t seem right to ruin Elonzio’s career or an entire Mets season over it.

So to her dismay, the remainder of the day involved doing laundry, since she couldn’t think of anything better to do, and she ended up cleaning all her dirty clothes, her bedsheets, blankets, curtains, and even the placemats and tablecloths that she never used for her dinner table.  It was work that was overdue, and to keep herself busy while she was waiting for the washers and dryers, she pondered over an ancient Rubik’s cube that an old boyfriend had given her some years before.  It wasn’t anywhere near solved, and never had been anywhere near solved, but she liked to think that if she spun it randomly enough times, it might get closer.

By Monday morning, her apartment was surprisingly neat and tidy, if one ignored the dangling drywall and giant hole in the living room wall, and she felt relieved to go to work, as work gave her something at least semi-productive to do with her time.

The other secretaries were less than impressed with her story from Friday, and Elaine rather pointedly told her that she should have called Wils’ phone number early Saturday morning.  Despite weighing more than several of the rest of them put together, Caitlyn ended up feeling very small and incompetent, and she spent the rest of the day huddling in her cubicle and trying to avoid eye contact.  Thankfully, her boss was on a business trip this week.

And so as she rode the subway home on Monday night, she was in a relatively sedate mood, feeling a little sorry for herself, thinking that the day had been a miserable waste, and hoping that tomorrow was going to be different.  Which, in a way, it definitely was.

*  *  *

She entered the apartment building as usual, and the concierge greeted her as usual.  She squeezed herself into the elevator along with two other people, pressed the button for the seventh floor, and got out when the elevator stopped.

She could see her apartment door at the end of the hallway, and for some reason, it looked like it was ajar.  She walked closer.  There was no doubt that it was ajar.  A book, lying on its side, was stuck in it, haphazardly, and with one of the pages torn.

The book was hers.  A cookbook, not terribly important by itself, but it was hers.  She pushed the door open.

The sight that greeted her was nothing like she expected.  Papers were strewn everywhere, the couch cushions had been thrown about, and the couch itself had been tipped over.  Drawers were on the floor.  The closets were open, and their contents on the floor.  Every cupboard was open, and dishes were smashed.  It looked as if no stone had been left unturned —

“Oh, shit.  I’ve been robbed,” said Caitlyn, and darted down the hallway to her bedroom.

The bedroom was in just as bad a shape as the rest of the apartment, but to her surprise, nothing was missing.  It was all on the floor, but it was all still there.  The diamond bracelet her grandmother had given her.  The earrings she never wore.  The three hundred dollars cash she’d kept hidden on the top shelf inside the fake book, which was sitting on the floor beside the bed frame in a messy pile.

She righted the bed, placing the mattress back on the box springs, and sat down on it.  “I don’t get it.  Who robs an apartment and leaves everything behind?”

She went back out to the other rooms and surveyed the place.  Everything seemed oddly intact.  All her belongings were around somewhere, and nothing seemed to be missing.  It was as if the Dirty Fairy had just broken in, waved her wand, and left.  Caitlyn hadn’t lost a penny, save for some smashed dishes.

She righted the couch and sat down on it.  She didn’t especially feel like cleaning up anyone else’s mess, so she turned on the TV and flipped through the channels.  Something caught her eye.

It wasn’t on the screen.  On the back of the apartment door, there was a little yellow note posted with some cheap beige masking tape.

She stood back up, ran to the door, and snatched the note.

The handwriting was soft and pretty, in blue pen, with little flourishes on some of the cursive letters.  “Caity —  I’m sorry.  I made a mistake and I got you involved.  You need to leave.  It’s not safe here.  They think you — well, I’ll find you and tell you later.  I’m sorry again.  — K.”

Caitlyn looked up from the note.  “Aw, dammit, Kat...  Geez...  What have you gotten yourself involved in this time?  Crap on a cracker, you stupid little black...  Man, I wonder if they were hunting for drugs or something?  I knew that guy looked fishy.”

She sighed.  Monday never had been her best day of the week.

*  *  *

It perhaps came as little surprise that the police didn’t entirely believe her.  “Really, I swear, the wall was already like that.  I was angry, and tore that apart, and then when I came home from work, the rest of the place was a shambles.”

“The apartment was clean when you left, ma’am?”

“I spent all Sunday cleaning it.”

“But the wall was torn off?”

“Yeah, clean except for that.”

The policeman eyed her warily.

“Look, I found this note on the door.  It’s from my neighbor, Kat.”

The policeman’s partner took the note and read it.

“What exactly is the procedure in all this?” she asked.

“Well, if nothing was stolen, and nothing was really damaged, we can really only write this up as vandalism,” said the second policeman.

“But — two of my dishes were smashed — and they broke in — ”

“Are you certain the door was fully closed and locked, ma’am?”

Maybe — maybe it hadn’t fully closed.  She hadn’t left in a rush this morning, but she hadn’t really checked the door, either.  She had nothing to say.

“We’ll write this up as vandalism, but I don’t think there’s enough damaged here to make a claim on any insurance you might have,” said the second policeman.  “Sorry.”

“Have there been any other incidents like this around here?” she asked.  “I mean...  it’s weird, isn’t it?”

“Look, if you get some kid whacked out on blue dogs or M-sicles, there’s no telling what can happen.  We had this one call a couple months ago where the entire apartment had literally been turned upside-down when some kids broke in looking for easy money.  The furniture had been melted into the ceiling.  You should consider yourself lucky.  They were probably so messed up that they didn’t even know what money looked like by the time they got to it.”

Caitlyn sighed.  “I guess you’re right.  I don’t suppose you’d be willing to help clean up?”

“Sorry, ma’am, we’re on duty,” said the second policeman politely while the first was scribbling madly in a notebook.  “If we didn’t have to be back in twenty minutes, I’d probably be happy to.”  He smiled, waggling an eyebrow.

The first policeman looked up.  “Dammit, Jerry, would you quit hitting on every female-shaped thing you see?  She’s not even close to your species, for Chrissake.”

Caitlyn frowned.

He turned around.  “Ma’am, I’m sorry about the mess, but there’s nothing we can do unless they strike again and we can catch them in the act.  That’s all we can do.  Good day, ma’am.”

“But — what about the threat?  The note — ”

“They make door locks for a reason, ma’am,” said the first policeman dully.  “If someone actually comes after you, you know how to use 911.  But until then, this looks to me like nothing more than a couple of kids thinking they were robbing you for drug money.  So I’m sorry we can’t do more, it’s a travesty of justice I’m sure, end of the world and a letter to the editor and whining to your congressman and all that, and now if you don’t mind, we have places we have to be, and they ain’t here.”

The two left, and Jerry tipped his hat toward her as he turned the corner.

Caitlyn slammed the door behind them.  “And good riddance!” she shouted at the closed door.  She sighed again.  “Damn cops,” she muttered.  There wasn’t a police officer or taxicab in the entire city that would treat her like a human being, even though they all claimed to the newspapers they would.  She shuddered, wondering what kind of man Jerry was.  He’d looked a little creepy for her tastes, and she wondered what he was hiding in that moustache.

She bent down and started cleaning up the scattered rubble and then paused, spying the cookbook that had been stuck in the door.  She picked it up, stared at it, rubbed the dust off on the side of her pelt, and set it on a shelf near the door, smiling.  “Perfect,” she said.  Perfect, that is, for beaning that little black furball Kat over the head the next time she saw her.
Well, here's part 5. Caitlyn's life continues getting messier, and so far, there doesn't seem to be that light at the end of the tunnel yet.

By the way, I will not mark the entire chapter as "mature" just because she uses the S-word once in it; these are real characters living in a real world, and that word is part of the real world: The average kid has heard it in his own home a thousand times by the age of ten, so marking an entire chapter "too mature for even teenagers" for a single use of that word is absurd. But I promise she won't curse often; she's not the cursing type. Besides, if you can't curse in the circumstance that causes her to curse, when the heck can you curse?

As usual, if you like the story, please comment; the comments really do keep me going, and when they stop, the story probably will too.

Part 6 is here. Part 4 is here. The introduction and author's notes are here.
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Catgoyle Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2010
(chuckles ruefully) I can see the point the officers are making. With so many "real" crimes out there, someone trashing someone else's home does tend to rate a bit low unless it keeps happening.
Jaala Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2009
when's the next installment comming?
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
There's a link to Part 6 in the comments. All thirty-five chapters have been posted, some for over a year ;)
Jaala Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2009
MadJackalDelta Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2009  Student Writer
Good on you. I think you made a very valid point about that mature content filter thing.

*reads next chapter eagerly*
Kramnhojpapermario Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2009
well written!
flying-katana Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2009
...Dang, now I'm wondering if she still has the guy's phone number, or if that was stolen. AND I'N NOT SURE IF I'M SUPPOSED TO WORRY. Gargh...
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Just keep reading — you'll find your answer ;)
AnnoyingRooster Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2009
aw man, how come i have to go to college now? *sighs* i wanna read more

As usual, if you like the story, please comment; the comments really do keep me going, and when they stop, the story probably will too.

if you like your story, and you enjoy writing on it, then cheer up ^_^ comments aren't always necessary (even though they are the delicious fudge brownie mixed in the chocolate ice cream lol) i used to post stories on another site a long time ago and always asked for more comments because they kept the story going and kept me motivated on writing on it, until i realized "hey, who gives a crap? i like this, i'm gonna keep writing" lol
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Glad you like it so much! And don't worry; I'm sure your classes don't last forever — they probably just feel like it sometimes.

And as regards the comments, they really were fuel that helped me continue with this. I had a story to tell, a rock to unearth as Steven King put it; but I wasn't at all convinced anyone would want to read it, especially at the beginning, so the comments were like crack for an addict when they appeared, and they made much of the fully story possible. I doubt I'd have gotten much past chapter three without them.
AnnoyingRooster Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2009
that is completely understandable :aww:
i kno classes don't last forever :XD: they end in 4 weeks =D then winter break :party: lol but right now they deprave me of my time to read your story :cries:
zerotozune Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2009
Oh, my...I hope she checked on Muffy some point over the weekend. *is worried*

This story has a lot of 'reader value', it stays interesting enough from chapter to chapter.
...and I used to love Greek Mythology and centaurs myself, hehe... ;)
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm sure she did; she's reasonably conscientious.

And, to your second comment, I've tried hard to imbue this story with a lot of reader exigency, to give the reader every reason to keep reading and find out what happens next. Every chapter of every book should give the reader a solid excuse to keep reading, a reason to ignore the dog and the dishes and the laundry and the homework and snuggle in that comfortable chair, enveloped in the world of the story. What, really, is fiction for if not first to entertain, and how then is any fiction a success if it doesn't entertain? If I can't get you turning pages, I've failed as a writer, and no matter how much goodness the story might have to contribute to your life, you'll never get any benefit if you set the book down prematurely. Writers must write to encourage their readers to read; it should never be a chore to read a book.

...and yes, I love centaurs too, as is no doubt obvious from this story and the rest of my gallery. Seriously, if you take the two best species on planet Earth and apply liberal quantities of glue, how can you not end up with a great result? :)
Calyptra Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
Urgh, walking into an apartment messed up like that. And after cleaning it all weekend too!

I'm intrigued though.
*continues reading*
Uncle-Ben Featured By Owner May 10, 2009
When it rains, it pours.

Good chapter. -tries to figure out where this story is going-
Catprog Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2007
Getting quite interesting now.
FluffysTenseiga Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2007
This story is so cute. I loves it. you should draw pictures of the characters, I wanna see how oyu picture them. :D
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Sorry, but as I told a few other people: I very intentionally will not be drawing portraits of Caitlyn or any other characters in this story; I want their appearances left somewhat to the imagination. I think that produces better characters in the long run, because each reader can insert his or her own thoughts and ideas and background there, and that helps to make the reader sympathize with them. If anyone wants to draw fan art of the characters or story, they're welcome to do so; and their art will always be both right and wrong, an accurate depiction of how they perceive the characters, and likely completely different from how anyone else perceives them.
FluffysTenseiga Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2007
Hey, hey. all right then, xpect a picture of Caitlyn sprawled out on the floor with a bump on her head to appear in my gallery at some point. :XD:
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
*laugh* Well, draw whatever inspires you! :D
betherfly Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2007  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Oh wow this is really exciting! And mysterious! Whee!
Rogue7 Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2007
When she has a bad day...

I hope the rest of the week is better... much better
Artificer-Urza Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2007
Well, to be fair the said they'd treat her the way they treat everybody else, they never said they treated everybody nicely, did they?
DonSimpson Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2007
Ah, good; now the complications begin. More, please!
phantom-inker Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Complications? You mean this story is going somewhere? I thought it was just a bunch of weird pointless stuff that happened... *innocent whistle*
DonSimpson Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2007
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October 20, 2007
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