Burglars in the House
Walter lay under the blankets remembering previous carnivals. He'd been able to attend when he was just the same as other kids who hadn't yet had their first change. He remembered the excitement, the cheering, the games. All gone, all ended forever! He could never risk growing those strange hard patches again.
For what seemed like hours, the thoughts kept churning over in his mind. He was too unhappy to sleep.
Then he heard voices.
His family? Coming back already? But these were more like ordinary human voices.
Where? He couldn't be sure through the layers of blankets. But they sounded much closer than the street. In the front garden?
He wriggled his head out into the open air. Again he listened. The voices had fallen silent.
He kept very still. His heart was beating fast, the blood was pounding in his ears. Perhaps he'd imagined it?
He wanted to go and peep out through the window. But there was a problem. If he exposed himself to the moonlight . . .
What was that?
He listened in a new direction. The sound had come from downstairs. A creak? There it was again!
He had to find out! He threw back the blankets and got up in his pyjamas. He checked for hard patches on his chest and forearms. No, nothing growing there yet.
Very quietly, he opened the door and stuck his head out into the corridor. He was scared, but he wouldn't let himself panic. Even if he wasn't a proper werewolf, he was still a Grimm. He had to live up to the family name.
He could see light shifting on the walls at the end of the corridor. He tiptoed along to the top of the stairs and leaned over the banister. Torches were moving below in the hall. Burglars!
There were four of them. They wore black tracksuits and black sneakers. Knitted woollen balaclavas covered their heads, with holes for the eyes, mouth and ears.
They were whispering together.
'Seems nobody's home.'
'No alarm system!'
The voices belonged to two men, an older woman and a young boy. The man who mentioned the alarm system was built like a gorilla and spoke as though his nose was blocked. The man who mentioned the dogs wore a headband over his balaclava like a martial arts expert.
'Okay, let's move it.' The older woman snapped out orders. She turned to gorilla-man and martial-arts-man. 'You two go and check that there's nobody upstairs. We'll start collecting the stuff down here.'
'What if we find someone?' asked martial-arts-man. 'Can I karate-chop them?'
'Just tie 'em up. You know what to do.'
'Why can't we do the collecting?' grumbled gorilla-man. 'Why do we always have to do the tying up?'
'You wouldn't know what stuff to collect,' said the boy scornfully.
'Yes, I would. Money for a start. And and valuables.'
'What sort of valuables?'
'Enough.' The woman silenced them. 'I told you what to do. Now do it.'
As the two men turned towards the stairs, Walter stepped back out of sight.
Where to hide? There was only the bathroom or the four bedrooms. Already the men were climbing the stairs. Walter slipped into the bathroom and closed the door.
But wouldn't they check inside every room? He stood flat against the wall in the corner behind the door.
He heard footsteps stop on the other side of the door. The handle turned and the door swung open. Slowly, slowly, wider and wider. Walter held his breath. If it opened any more, it would bump against his feet!
It stopped swinging just in time. Gorilla-man raised his torch and came forward into the room. He directed the beam all around. But he didn't think to look behind the door. He wasn't expecting to find anyone in a bathroom in the middle of the night.
He grunted to himself and went out.
Walter waited behind the open door. He discovered what it was like to breathe again. He heard the two men checking inside other doors along the corridor.
He emerged from his hiding place and peeked out. The corridor was empty. At that moment, the two men had both gone into different bedrooms.
He didn't stop to think. He took four swift silent paces along to the top of the stairs. He began to descend in the darkness.
If the woman or boy had stayed in the hall, he'd have been caught for sure. But they'd gone into the lounge-room. The light was switched on and there were rustling clinking sounds. Walter guessed they were busy burgling.
He paused at the bottom of the stairs. What next?