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SEARCHING FOR INTRUDERS/ Stephen Raleigh Byler THIS WAS WHILE Alethea's cancer was taking over again, but before we realized it. We had been getting along well again, renting a house back in Reading. There was a heat wave, and we had no air conditioner. It was late, almost 2:00 A.M. We were naked in bed. She was caressing me, and we were about to make love when we heard the screams. What was that?" she said, stiffening. "I don't know," I said, sitting up myself. I crawled out of bed and tiptoed across the room, naked, to turn off the fan, which was oscillating and whirring. I switched it off and sat back down on the bed at Alethea's feet. She had pulled the sheet up over her breasts. "Whatever it was, I didn't like it," she said. She looked pale, terrified . "Shh. Listen," I said, putting my finger up to my lips. We heard it again, or thought we heard it. It was so faint that it was hard to be certain. It was a kind of a high-pitched squeal, followed by what sounded like it might have been a human voice saying, "No!" "Did you hear it that time?" she said. "I think so." "What was it?" "I don't know," I said. I was still naked. I stood up at the foot of the bed and pushed the window up higher than it already was. I put up the screen and stuck my head out. I listened for ten or fifteen seconds, but I didn't hear anything else. I sat back down at the foot of the bed and looked back at Alethea. She was still in the same position, with her beautiful long, dark, but thinning hair spilling down onto the sheets she had wrapped around her body and chest. "It might not be anything. It's probably some drunk people coming out of the golf course clubhouse," I said. She pulled her knees up to her chest and locked her hands in front of her shins. "Wait, there it was again," she said, dropping the sheet, sliding up to the end of the bed next to me. She covered her chest with her arms and peeked out the window. "Didn't you hear it?" she said. 152 ยท The Missouri Review "I think I heard it," I said. "What was it?" "I don't know." "It sounded almost . . . inhuman," she said. "It sounded like a dying rabbit," I said. "Like what?" "Like a dying rabbit. Rabbits squeal like that when they're dying. They sort of scream." Just as I finished talking, the sound came again. A faint, barely audible, high-pitched moan. "That doesn't sound like a rabbit," she said. "No, probably not." I dug around and found my boxer shorts balled up in the sheets at the foot of the bed. I got out ofbed and put them on. "Where are you going?" she said. "I don't know." I flipped the light on at the top of the steps, went downstairs into the kitchen and out through the back door onto the porch. I was barefoot, without a shirt, so I felt a bit naked, a bit exposed, but I didn't feel like going back in and looking for clothing. The porch light was on. I reached inside the door and turned it off and then came back out and stood on the edge of the porch. I listened for a while from there, and then walked out into our yard and listened some more. I bent down, squinting , trying to get a clear view through the trees. I knew there was a set of tennis courts beyond them and, on the other side of the courts, the eighteenth green. For some reason, though I couldn't even see the green, I pictured a man and a woman there. I imagined the woman pinned in the sand trap, screaming for help. I held my breath for a few seconds, staring through the trees, listening. There was a noise behind me, and I wheeled around. It was Alethea. Shewas.standing on thebackporch withher arms...


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