By Edele, Winnie
She did not notice the man following her until it was too late.
She saw the duck first. Seeing a duck downtown was unusual. It was standing by a bike rack, unperturbed, as if it were waiting for someone. It looked up at Cathy as she passed. Surprised, she stopped and stared at the bird. But she was going to be late for work so she continued on. The next duck was standing in the middle of the sidewalk, unconcerned about all of the people passing. It was obviously not the same duck. It was coloured differently and had a scrunched up foot.
Cathy shook her head in disbelief. Two downtown ducks in one day? Perhaps there had been some kind of a storm that had stranded them in the city?
She did not even see the goose. It was a big Canada goose, standing quite tall and waddling along the sidewalk. She was almost at the office, where she worked as an accountant, and she was checking herself in the window of the bakery nearby. Her short brown hair was tastefully arranged and her makeup completely natural. She was wearing her blue business suit, which made her frown because she had never liked the cut of the jacket. And then the goose pinched her bum. She jumped angrily, intending to shout down whoever had dared poach her derrière but there was only the goose behind her. No one else. It had to have been the goose.
Cathy laughed out loud. Goosed by a goose, she thought, how ridiculous. It was wildlife day in the city- she’d seen two ducks and goose. Duck, duck goose she thought. Duck, duck goose. She went up the elevator singing it in her head.
“What’s that you’re humming?’ Melinda asked. Melinda was the other accountant, though Cathy always thought that her friend didn’t do her share of the work.
“Duck, duck goose. You know that children’s game where you chase someone and tag them and they’re it and then they chase someone else and tag them? The weirdest thing happened to me today- I saw a duck, and then another duck and then a goosed goosed me. I’ve never seen ducks downtown before.”
“You’d better be careful.” Melinda advised sarcastically. “You may be in great danger.” Cathy’s quizzical expression prompted her to continue. “Duck Duck Goose is an old medieval thing. You know I have a degree in medieval literature.”
“Always a good choice!” Cathy teased.
“A lot of the children’s rhymes we have today go back to medieval times. Like ring around the rosy. It was actually a poem about the plague. We all fall down is about everyone dying.”
“Great fun for kids.” Cathy said. “What’s duck, duck goose about?”
Melinda shook out her long brown hair. “Hmm, I’m not sure I remember. Something silly about being followed and falling crazy in love, I think. Maybe if I’d spent less time partying in university I’d remember more!”
Exciting columns of numbers and invoices drew their attention next and Cathy got lost in the forest of accounts payable for a while. She completely forgot about her morning adventure until she was leaving for lunch.
“Duck, duck, goose!” Melinda called cheerfully after her as Cathy went out the door.
Perhaps Cathy was being extra watchful- on the lookout for ducks and geese- and that’s why she saw the man. He was an ordinary looking man. He had been looking directly at her and then turned away when she looked at him. It was nothing out of the ordinary really and yet a weird feeling prickled her shoulder blades.
Cathy liked to explore the little cafes and tea shops in the area for her lunches. She started to wander in the direction of some of the funky new places when she glanced back, and saw that the man was behind her. He was tall and thin with a blue coat and black pants. His face with thin and he had sandy brown hair. He looked worried. She shrugged it away as coincidence and kept going.
She settled on the Perky Rooster cafe and got a little table by the window. As she sipped her gourmet coffee she looked out through the glass. In the reflection she saw the man sitting at a nearby table, watching her. He hadn’t’ figured out that she could see him in the window’s reflection. There was a certain haggardness in his face- like he’d been awake for a long time. Also he looked vaguely familiar, but Cathy couldn’t place him.
She had only ordered a sandwich but her appetite had now deserted her. She picked at her lunch a little and then asked for the bill. There was a public park nearby with flower gardens and fountains. She’d walk there, she decided, and see if the man followed her. She was hoping it was all imagination and coincidence. Really, why would someone follow her? She was no one important. She was attractive enough on good days but no man had ever stalked her. Who was this person and what did he want?
She left the Perky Rooster as quickly as she could, hoping to confuse the man. She didn’t look back once and went straight to the park. It was late spring and some tulips were still blooming. There was a Canada goose swimming in the pond surrounding the big fountain, and when she glanced over her shoulder the man was right behind her. She tried to control her emotions but she could not. She was not the kind of person to panic- her default was anger and confrontation. She slowed a bit and let her follower get close. Without warning she whirled and faced him, her face red with outrage.
“What the hell do you want?” She screeched and grabbed his sleeve.
He was shocked and tried to pull away but she held onto his arm.
“Who are you?” She demanded.
“I- I- I- “ he stammered.
“Get away from me!” She shoved him back. “If I ever see you again I’ll call the police!”
His face sagged and then a wild look came into his eyes. A small knife appeared in his hand and Cathy raised her arms defensively, thinking he was going to attack her. With his eyes looking into her eyes, he stabbed himself in the chest once, twice, three times. He tumbled down onto the ground in a heap. He looked up at Cathy, bewilderment plain on his face.
She bent down to him. “Why were you following me?” It came out softly.
He was shaking his head. His face was extremely pale. There was a lot of blood on the paving stones beneath him. “I don’t know.” He said. “Just something about you. I saw you in a book store last… week….”
Cathy called 911 on her cell phone. The ambulance arrived first but they just covered the man with a white sheet. When the police showed up they interviewed lots of people.
“There’s nothing to worry about.” A handsome young officer told Cathy. “Witnesses said that he pulled that knife on you and then stabbed himself. And you don’t know him?”
“No!” Cathy answered, looking at the young officer’s freckled face. “He said he saw me in a bookstore last week. I guess he’s been following me ever since. It’s creepy.”
The young officer nodded in agreement. “It’s a creepy world sometimes.” Strands of his short brown hair bobbed as he nodded.
“I didn’t catch your name?”
“Officer Cordreau.” He said, smiling.
“Cathy.” She shook his hand, noting there was no ring.
“We’ll call you if we have any more questions. Or if we find out why he was following you.”
“I’d like that.” Cathy said, noticing that he smelled ever so faintly of delicious spicy food.
Officer Ian Cordreau walked back to his squad car to radio in and finish his paper work. He did not notice Cathy following lithely behind. He was surprised to find – of all things- a duck sitting on the squad car’s hood!