I move around the house with the lights out. My feet are bare, and make little noise on the hardwood or the carpet, so the creak of the floorboards underneath is the only sound to mark my passing. My parents and sister have been reduced to the sound of faint breathing coming from darkened doorways; the dogs are asleep, the older one gone deaf; the cats are up to something in the basement; even the outdoor noises have died away, the local teenagers grown bored of egging and TPing and moved on to other things.
I touch the object cradled in the crook of my left arm, feel cold metal and rough leather. And I wait.
The tick of the clock seems loud in this sleep-muffled house. The soft tapping of wood settling in the cold, the raspy hum of the refrigerator, even the click of the heat coming on–they are like firecrackers, like jet engines, like gunshots. I close my eyes and go further, tuning out sound after sound as though I were flipping through encyclopedia pages.
Then, the one I want. A scrape, a scratching, a sound as faint as a wasp walking on a windowsill. Again I am in motion, but moving away from the sound, to the door on the opposite side of the house. A creak, a step, and I am outside, the air cold on my bare arms and feet. I wish I had thought to dress warmer. No matter. I melt into the blackness of the gardens, become one with the dogwood tree, and disappear.
On the far side of the house, a squat figure picks at the basement window. He might have passed for normal, save for a ratlike elongation of his face, a sharpness of his teeth. He is intent on the window, prying at it gently. At last a click of the latch and an intake of breath from the figure, but before he can do aught else my foot comes down on his hand. I slide Vanmoriel from her scabbard, three feet of gleaming steel singing in the night air, and place her tip against the figure’s throat.
“There was no lantern!” he wheezes, startled.
“I need no lantern,” I say.
He writhes, squirms, tries to pull away, but is unable to dislodge my foot. “Release me!”
“By and by,” I say.
A little while later, I slip back into the house, Vanmoriel sheathed and resting in the crook of my arm. In my hand, five fresh Fetch claws clatter against each other. I ghost into the basement, hang Vanmoriel on her hooks near my bed, and place the claws in a jar with the others.
One of my cats is sitting on the sill of the window that the Fetch had been jimmying. The look on his face is clear: “I don’t know why you interfered, we had everything under control.”