Moon Underfoot (A Jake Crosby Thriller)
Author:Bobby Cole

Moon Underfoot (A Jake Crosby Thriller) - By Bobby Cole



CHAPTER 1




AS DARKNESS ENVELOPED the newly constructed two-story house, the sliver of moon added to the gloom that was a chilly autumn Mississippi evening. Scout was stretched out on the kitchen floor, sound asleep, with her favorite chew toy nearby.

Morgan Crosby had just finished cleaning the kitchen and strongly suspected she had math homework in her immediate future. A quick glance at the wall clock revealed that she was missing Dancing with the Stars, but she didn’t really care. She was happy. Typically Jake would have had a fire burning in the den by now, but he was at a business dinner and wouldn’t be home for at least another hour or so. It was blues night at Anthony’s Market, and Jake’s bosses loved to schedule business meetings around great food and the Delta’s music that flowed there on most nights.

Morgan was thrilled with Jake’s renewed interest in his career, but she still didn’t like being home without him. Her therapist had promised the anxiety would slowly dissipate. She just needed time. It had been almost two years, and Morgan was doing much better. The recent move to a gated neighborhood had helped tremendously. She finally felt safe. Her face glowed as she placed a hand on her stomach and thought about the surprise she had for Jake tonight. He had no idea she had been to the doctor.

Katy suddenly came crashing down the stairs with her books in hand, ready to conquer her fifth-grade math assignment.

“I’m ready, Mom!” she exclaimed, as if Morgan should drop everything and come running.

“Okay, let me wash up,” Morgan replied. “Go ahead and get started.”

“Yes ma’am. We started fractions today, and they seem easy,” Katy said with confidence.

Morgan dried her hands as she watched Katy enthusiastically dive into her homework. “Just let me know if you need some help.”

From across the kitchen, Morgan could hear the friction of Katy’s pencil against the paper. Morgan smiled, sat down at the table, and began flipping through the latest issue of Garden & Gun. She enjoyed the garden portion. Jake loved the guns.

When Morgan was halfway through the magazine, their normally silent cat grunted a meow, indicating he wanted to go outside. Morgan glanced up from a recipe. As she had done hundreds of times, she walked to the back door and with one hand flipped on the outside light switch. With the other, she unlocked the door and slightly opened it.

The black-and-white cat squeezed through the crack. When the tip of his tail cleared the door, Morgan slowly looked up to see the silhouette of a man less than fifteen yards away, the glow of his cigarette slightly illuminating his sinister face. He looked her dead in the eye before grinning and then stepping backward and disappearing into the darkness of the woods.

Morgan screamed, slammed the door, and quickly locked the dead bolt. Still screaming, she pushed the panic button on the house’s alarm, unleashing an immediate high-pitched shrill from the speakers, which were located in the attic. Katy was wild-eyed as she watched her mother race from the touch pad to the cordless telephone and begin dialing.

With remarkable clarity, Morgan Crosby explained to the 911 operator that a prowler was outside of her house and that she needed immediate help. As she ran to the kitchen window in search of the stranger, she quickly verified her name and address. The operator dispatched the police and stayed on the line to comfort Morgan, who was now shaking uncontrollably.

“The West Point police will be there in three minutes, Mrs. Crosby,” the young emergency operator said reassuringly.

“I don’t know what he was doing! He was just staring, staring in the windows…at me!”

“Can you describe him?” the operator asked calmly and then alertly mouthed to another operator to also inform the sheriff’s office.

“I don’t know! He was standing in the shadows,” Morgan said, shaking her head and realizing there was something faintly familiar about the man’s profile. “I need to call my husband!”

“You mean he’s not home?” the surprised operator asked.

“No! No, he’s not. It’s just me and my daughter.”

This increased the intensity of the situation. The operator snapped her fingers at a coworker and then mouthed, “She’s alone!”

“Listen, ma’am, don’t hang up, okay? I need you to stay on the line until the officers get there. Do you have a cell phone handy?”

“Yes! Yes! Right here!”

“Okay, use your cell and keep this line open. The officers are getting close.” The operator was trained to keep callers on the line, sometimes improvising to keep the situation under control.

“Please tell them to hurry!”

“They are, ma’am, I promise. I need you to turn on all the outside lights you’ve got, and then you and your daughter—what’s her name?”

“Katy.”

“Okay, you and Katy need to get away from the windows. Don’t hang up, but run, turn the outside lights on, and come right back. Can you do that for me?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Don’t hang up.”

Morgan wrapped her arms around the now-crying Katy in an attempt to calm her. She told Katy to sit on the kitchen floor and that she’d be right back. Katy started to protest, but Morgan turned around with a stern look and then took off for the front door. After flipping on the light switch, Morgan dashed back into the kitchen, turning off the light as she entered, hoping he couldn’t see her inside. The alarm continued to blare. She hugged Katy as she sat down beside her. She picked up the landline and said, “Okay, I’m back.”

“Good job. Now call your husband on your cell phone. Don’t hang up this phone, though.”

“Okay.”

Morgan picked up her cell phone and fumbled to dial Jake’s number. She started talking the moment the call connected.

“What? Just slow down. I can hardly hear you over the alarm,” Jake said. He was shocked to hear her hysterics, but he was already moving in the direction of the restaurant’s entrance.

“Some man was just in our backyard, looking in the windows!”

“Have you called the police!” Jake was nearly yelling as he ran toward his truck.

“Yes, I’m on the phone with them now!”

“Good. I’m on my way!”

“Hurry, Jake!” Morgan shrieked, tears of terror running down her cheeks.

“Ma’am, two units just turned into your neighborhood. But stay on the phone and don’t go to the front door until I tell you to, okay?” the operator asked.

“Pleeeease tell ’em to hurry,” she said frantically.

Morgan tightly squeezed Katy as they cried. The piercing alarm had surely scared off the Peeping Tom, but it was fraying both of their nerves.