“Bridget” – Child Care Specialist, Homecare Solutions
Now, I’ll admit that “babysitter” is an occupation which already lends itself very easily to creepy stories and is a well-worn horror trope thanks in large part to John Carpenter’s Halloween. But the truth of the matter is that real babysitting is seen as such a benign task that its workforce almost entirely consists of teenage girls. You can’t exactly say the same for welding steel highrise beams.
Point being that, in the real world, caring for children isn’t considered much of a high risk work environment. And that’s because the majority of the time, it involves one neighbor hiring the daughter of another to watch their kids. Typically, both families are already well acquainted and the whole thing rarely ends with the hired party running from a vengeful psychopath in a painted Captain Kirk mask.
However, the same can’t be said for Bridget’s job as a professional babysitter. Her official title was “child-care specialist” and the way her service worked was “sort of like an Uber driver for your kids, minus the driving.”
Basically, Bridget would receive a request of availability when someone in her designated ranged used their app to schedule a babysitting job. She and whoever else was interested in the job would mark themselves available and the parents would then base their pick on whichever sitter’s profile they liked the best.
Though on the night in question, Bridget was sitting for one of her regular clients who she had originally met through the service; a single mother named Gale with two little girls, Sherry (age 11) and Parker (age 7) who Bridget absolutely adored.
Gale insisted that she wasn’t planning on being out too late and would probably be back well before Bridget’s four-hour minimum that the homecare service charged for a babysitting gig. Gale pulled Bridget aside so that the girls wouldn’t hear when she then whispered that her ex-husband was in town and she had begrudgingly agreed to have a drink with him.
Gale had only mentioned her ex once before… The second or third time Bridget sat for her, Gale had arrived home more than a little tipsy and while they sat outside waiting for Bridget’s Uber to show up, Gale confessed that his job was something to do with transportation and he was always out of the country and that she had eventually caught him cheating on her.
Naturally, Gale was far from thrilled by the prospect of seeing her ex again after all this time and was planning on making her escape as quickly as possible. Gale kissed her girls goodbye and left at around 7PM.
Bridget helped Sherry and Parker with their homework and then Sherry said she wanted to play Minecraft on her Xbox, which Gale had told her was okay as long as Sherry and Parker had both finished all their assignments. Parker wasn’t yet able to understand the game’s controls herself but loved to watch her big sister play and it would have been too distracting for her otherwise.
With both girls now fully absorbed by the blocky world filling the living room flatscreen, Bridget’s job suddenly became a whole lot easier and she took this opportunity to head into the kitchen and grab a fudgecicle. As she was standing there, scanning the open freezer, Bridget heard what sounded like a faint echoey voice shouting her name.
There it was again and this time, she had a pretty good idea of where it was coming from. Gale’s house was a bit on the old side and had an archaic version of central air that fed in through large vents set into the floor of each room. Bridget realized the voice was coming from the kitchen’s floor vent as her name was repeated once more, faint and yet clear as day…
Bridget had always been a very level-headed person and not the type to put much stock in abstract subjects like the existence of ghosts. But at that moment, as she stood there frozen with fear from the sound of her own name, the subject suddenly seemed a lot less abstract. Bridget finally manage to force herself into an awkward sprint as she started back across the kitchen, adrenaline mucking everything up and making it feel as if she were plodding through ankle-deep molasses.
Like most of the houses in that part of uptown, this one had been built on a slightly elevated foundation and even though her heart was pounding so hard that the sound of it was reverberating through her skull, Bridget was still certain she could hear something moving beneath the house as she hurried back down the hall toward the living room.
Bridget tried to keep her tone from sounding panicked as she told the girls to quickly turn off the game and come with her. Sherry glanced away from the screen to shoot her a questioning glare but before she could say anything, Bridget pulled a twenty from her purse and continued, “Your mom left me cash to take you guys for frozen yogurt but we gotta hurry because the place is about to close so come on.”
“Yah!” Parker cheered as she jumped up and started toward the front door, proceeding this with a deep (for a little girl) exaggerated voice as she shouted, “Frozen yogurt!”
Bridget could now clearly hear what she had sensed moving beneath the house as it followed Parker across the room and the excited little girl pulled open the front door. Bridget nearly dove across the den and managed to stop Parker just short of exiting the house.
Bridget then leaned out to see a frail, dirty figure in tattered clothing emerge from the narrow space beside the front steps. Bridget froze just long enough to realize that she was looking down at a badly beaten Gale crawling out from beneath the house.
Gale paused to listen as she looked up at Bridget with panicked eyes and raised a finger to her lips in the universal sign for quiet. Thankfully, there was a tall hedge that ran along the front of their house and at the angle from which her ex approached a moment later, he couldn’t see Gale crouched their just beside the steps.
“Daddy?!” Parker shouted as she spotted the nearing ex, who had a fresh cut beneath his left eye. He was sweaty, like he had just been jogging in the dress-shirt and slacks he was wearing. Bridget still had a hand on Parker’s shoulder, preventing the little girl from exiting, and thankfully she was also at an angle where she couldn’t see Gale.
The ex held up a halting hand and replied, “Go back inside, baby. I’ll be in to say high in a sec. Daddy’s still trying to apologize to Mommy.”
Bridget remembered that she was clutching her keys in her other hand, having reflexively grabbed them from her purse while she was attempting to rush the girls out of the house. More importantly, she remembered what was dangling from those keys just as the ex turned his glare on her and grunted, “Where is she?”
Everything seemed to happen in that next moment…
Bridget stepped out onto the front steps to make room for Gale to hurry inside as the ex started speed-walking across the front lawn and Bridget lifted the little bottle of pepper spray attached to her keychain, firing a stream of the noxious chemical directly into his eyes and open mouth as he neared…
Bridget was actually a bit startled by just how effective the stuff was. The pepper spray not only temporarily blinded him, abruptly halting his approach, but the bit that got in his mouth sent the ex to his knees in a gagging fit which gave Bridget ample opportunity to lock the door and call the cops.
By the time the ex managed to pull himself together, he seemed to realize how screwed he was and took off. The police found him less than an hour later at a nearby bar, trying to pay people to say he had been there all night. The guy was a real class act, in case the battered woman fleeing from him didn’t already tip you off.
Meanwhile, Bridget and Gale spent the rest of that night talking to the detectives who were called in when the responding officers realized this was well beyond your run-of-the-mill domestic violence charge. At first, Gale had difficulty even putting the words together but once the detectives arrived and they received radio confirmation that her ex was in custody, she was finally able to relax enough to tell them what had happened…
Gale’s car had stalled shortly after leaving to meet her ex for a drink and when she started to get out to check the engine, there he was suddenly driving up out of nowhere. Without saying a word, her ex exited his own car and walked over and started shoving Gale back into her vehicle.
She realized he must have sabotaged her car as he started beating Gale until she was unconscious and then he tore open her blouse and unclasped her skirt and was claiming he was going to fucking choke the life out of her for taking his kids away as he glanced down to undo his pants.
Gale was only feigning unconsciousness though and she used this brief distraction to claw at his eyes. She got him good in the left one (which was probably why the pepper spray had been so effective) and managed to scramble out through the passenger side door while he was still reeling from the pain.
Gale’s car had stalled out only two blocks from her home and in an effort to stay ahead of her ex, who started chasing after her almost immediately, she chose the most direct route back which involved her sprinting down the narrow dirt alleyway that ran behind her block.
Gale also had to cut through her own backyard, which was bordered by a large wooden fence that she had to hop, which was something her ex and his bad back couldn’t do. Knowing that the fence’s front gate was padlocked and it would only take so long for her pursuer to sprint down to the end of the block and back to the front door, Gale crawled beneath the house in a desperate effort to beat him there.
She was only trying to get Bridget’s attention when Gale shouted her name through the kitchen floor vent. And I’d say she succeeded in that regard with flying colors.
Though, for the record, Bridget still doesn’t believe in ghosts.