The Black Jacketed Man

Michael Collins


     It was a cold January morning, or, at least, as cold as January mornings could get in Florida.  I was sitting alone in my room, on a creaky black swivel chair that never seemed to stay level.  I had just finished tying my new black tennis shoes, which rounded out my tediously picked 'ensemble' of, in reality, whatever had happened to fall out of my closet that morning.  I took about five seconds to look in the mirror and mess with my hair, grabbed my school backpack, and walked into the kitchen to make something to eat before I walked to school.  I sat down at the table and began eating a ham sandwich.

     Suddenly, I heard a knock at the door.  Loud, quick, it startled me, and I got out of my chair to peek out of the kitchen window.  The beige colored blinds made a quiet rustle as I flipped them open. 

     There was a man standing at the door.  In a second's glance I could see that he was tall, appearing about six and a half feet in height, wearing a bulky leather jacket and pants the color of dark onyx that seemed to be of similar hardness.  His head was topped with a large-rimmed, black hat that cast a shadow upon the sunglasses he wore.  His posture was rigid and straight, the posture of someone with business either dire or demanding.  Even from this cursory glance I could feel a sort of ominous aura radiate from the man.  You could say that it was the night-colored clothes, or the military stance of the stranger, but I believed that it was merely human instinct which lead me to the conclusion that this man was extremely dangerous. 

     Feeling a lump in my throat and an unsettling in my stomach, I walked out of the kitchen and started towards the door.  On second thought, I hurriedly ran back into my room, found a steel baseball bat in my closet, grasped it in my hands, and ran back into the doorway.  I debated waking up my parents, but somehow I didn't think it would matter.  I set the bat down next to the wall, propped up, so that if the man asked I could say I had been playing ball the other day, and not arouse suspicion.  The insistent, demanding knock beckoned me forward again.  I walked to the door, slowly, feeling the heavy backpack fall painfully on my back.  My steps were quiet;  I knew it wouldn't matter but somehow the mood requested silence.  My heart was pounding like a furious metronome, pounding to the beat of a death march, perhaps.  I found myself wondering why I was so unsettled by this man, since I had no idea why he was at my house or what he wanted there;  but a mental image of the man formed in my mind and was enough to give me shivers.  There were times, I knew, when the human heart felt things that the mind could not or dared not explain.  I also knew that that morning was one of those times. 

     I reached my shaking hand towards the doorknob.  I felt the glossy metal on my fingertips, and began to turn the knob.  But then something came over me and I retracted my hand.  I put my eye to the eyehole and looked outside. The man was still standing there, looking riled and somehow calm at the same time.  He had taken his sunglasses off, and I could see his eyes.  They were bright with the light of intelligence and cunning.  His eyebrows were furrowed steeply, and his lips formed a grim, straight line. His pale white skin was framed by brown hair that curled around his ears.  A slightly prominent nose and large ears didn't lessen his intense disposition. I backed away from the door.  I found myself in conflict.

     What if I don't open the door? I thought.  Maybe I shouldn't.  He looks very dangerous.  He could be a robber, or a gangster, or a serial killer.   He might have a pistol in that jacket.  How could I know?  Then, reason started to overflow fear.  Don't be idiotic, I thought to myself.  If he was a criminal, why would he knock on the door?  Would he, when I opened the door, say: 'I'm sorry for bothering you, but do you mind if I plunder your house?'   Maybe he would say: 'Hello, I'm John Doe the Serial Killer, I've heard a lot about you and wanted to meet you in person.'  Of course not.  Then, I started wondering what he was at my house for in the first place. 

     If it's important, and I don't open the door, then he'll leave and my parents will be really mad.  Maybe he's here about their jobs, or something.  Maybe he's got information about an interview.  Maybe he's working for the government.  He might need to question my dad or something.  However, I dismissed those ideas too.  If he was here for their jobs, he wouldn't show up at seven  o' clock in the morning, and if he was working with the government he'd be in some sort of uniform, wouldn't he? 

     I still couldn't make up my mind, however.  If he was at my house to plunder and/or cause bodily harm to my family, it would be kind of moronic to open the door and get whacked unconscious or shot through the head.  Although I had seen neither gun nor club, I knew that he might have one hid in that humongous leather jacket.  He could be waiting for me to open the door, to pounce on me with such a weapon. 

     I can wake my parents up, I thought.  It's probably the smart thing to do.  It would take them time to get dressed, though, and they would probably be mad at me.  They would say, 'Why didn't you just let him go away?  If it was important, he would come back later.'  I had nearly decided to do just that, to let him stay there, so that he would eventually get tired and have to leave.  Then, I remembered that I had to get to school, and the only way was to walk out that door.  I walked back into the kitchen to look at the clock on the oven.  The shining red digital numbers told me it was seven-ten.  It took me ten minutes to get to school on my bike, and school started at seven-twenty.  Startled by this, I realized I had no choice.  I had to go and open the door and confront the black-jacketed man, or be late for school, sent to tardy hall, and grounded by my parents.  I tried to calm myself but my pulse didn't slow any, and neither did my racing mind. 

     Once again, I reached for the doorknob, slowly.  My arm shook with doubt.  I could almost see myself opening the door to be clubbed on the head with a steel club.  The mental image was frightening and I nearly forced my hand back again. The image of the black-clothed, ominous man was imprinted my mind, as if someone had beat it into my head with that same club.  However, I was determined not to stop.  My fingertips touched the doorknob.  I found myself wondering how mad my parents would be when they found out that I had opened the door at seven in the morning, for a complete stranger.  My left hand was clenching, as if my mind was grasping for the baseball bat propped on the wall without my knowing.  I slowly turned the doorknob, but it stopped turning suddenly.

     Is he trying to get in?! I thought, sudden fear gripping my heart like the clutch of Death himself, or perhaps the clutch of this black-jacketed man, squeezing my life away.  He certainly looked like the ideal image of Death, with his grim disposition and morbid black clothing. 

      Looking at the doorknob again, I realized with irritation that the door was locked. 

      I knew that the lock made a clicking sound when you unlocked it.  It was an old door, five years old, and the clicking sound would be loud enough so that the man would hear it.  I always heard it when my parents let me in after I got home from school.  If he heard the door unlock he would come in and get me, if that was his intent.  But that was silly, the rational part of my mind said.  It was now, or never. 

     Feeling the fear still running icy cold through my veins, my mind still arguing while my body moved, seemingly, of its own accord, I brought my hand up to the lock on the doorknob. 

     I don't have to open it...  I can just let him go away.  I could handle tardy hall for a day, and restriction.  If I explained it to my parents they might let me off the hook.  They'd probably think I was just making it up, though.  Still, it'd be better than getting knocked unconscious by John Doe, the Black Jacketed Serial Killer, also known as The Spirit of Death Come to Squeeze The Life Out of Me Second by Painful Second.

     Then I remembered something.  There was a group assignment in one of my classes that was due that very day.   I had been responsible for finishing it, and if I didn't turn it in, the teacher would give everyone in the group a zero, including the abominably nice-looking girl I had been trying to get to know since the first day of school.    

     Get beaten to death by a black-jacketed serial killer, or look like a fool in front of The Hottie?  I decided.  I'll take death over that any day. 

      I unlocked the door.  Surely enough, it made the familiar resounding 'click'.  It seemed to echo through my house as if everyone on the planet had unlocked their doors at the same time.  Next, I reached for the doorknob.  My palms sweaty from gut-clenching terror, I placed my hand on the knob one final, decisive time.  My mind was still fighting the idea furiously, but my hand was going on automatic.  The bat leaning on the wall seemed to be eager to be used.  I gripped the doorknob and turned it, then pulled the door open, hearing the familiar creak, and stepped away.

      It didn't happen at all like I had expected.

     Seeing the man in full was like introducing yourself to the devil.  I couldn't find any words to say;  I stood there, staring blankly.  The black-jacketed man seemed irritated, but, fortunately for me, didn't find any cause to smash my skull in, or shoot me, or any of a million bad things that I had expected him to do.  He looked at me as if he was nervous himself, and said in a low voice with what sounded like an Australian accent: "Does Sharon Brinkley live here?"

      I thought on that for a moment.  It was as if I couldn't believe my ears.

     "  Actually, she doesn't." My voice quavered.

     "Oh, sorry." he said.  It sounded strange to hear Death in A Black Jacket apologize to me. 

     "Wrong house, I guess.  My fault," he added.

      The black-jacketed man turned and walked away, his footsteps ringing in my ears like the roll of a timpani.

      I stood there for a moment, confused. 

      Then I started laughing.  It was a loud, embarrassed laugh that emptied my lungs. 

      I walked outside, closing the door behind me.  I walked in front of my garage, hopped on my bicycle, and started riding to school, watching the black-jacketed man knocking on the door of the house across the street and looking at some small paper he had in his hands. 

      I laughed all the way to school.

      It seems my instincts weren't as good as I thought.    


Back to Sonicblade's Works