Music shredded the desktop from the tiny speakers hidden behind a clutter of wires, pop cans, and three single-sized pizza boxes. A tweeting chime announced new motion on a cam-link, another bird checking in. After slurping down the last pizza slice, Tom licked his fingers clean and tapped his trackpad.
The notepad screen came to life, and Tom moused over to the icon with the red blinker indicating the alert. The cam view opened full screen revealing a gray house cat preening. As the feline turned away, her tail swooshed closer blurring out of focus. Tom chuckled. Since joining Thrush Forum, he never knew what he’d find when one of his alerts came in. He closed the window and flipped to one of his favorite cams. Dark, but he could make out the bed before sheer curtains glowing by moonlight. Waiting, he looked over the frumpy shapes of the bed covers.
A loud pop, and a creaking noise.
Tom cut the music, and listened to the silence. It was always like that. Strange sounds in the background, but whenever he turned the volume down, nothing but quiet. Probably the wind.
A chime, and Tom tapped the alert.
The exploding view revealed a bearded man leaning close enough to make out each whisker. The image blurred and shuddered as the man tapped the camera on his end. The idiot banged at the indicator light beside his camera at the top of the notebook lid, probably wondering why it was on. The first few times were funny, but after awhile it became boring watching them go through the same damn routine: swiping, poking, showing someone else, frustrated faces, and usually it would end with the clamshell lid closing on darkness.
Growing bored with the man poking at the keyboard and scratching his beard, Tom flipped back to his favorite. She still wasn’t there, even though it was nearly her bed time. Before bed, she usually sat at her computer chatting on Facebook. Tom didn’t use a key logger. It was like watching a silent movie, guessing at the conversation. And she sometimes mouthed some of the words as she typed.
Tom liked watching people going about their normal activities. Getting started was easier than he had expected. He had downloaded the tools from the Thrush Forum and sent out the birds. He packaged his birdies inside a casual game, and people loved games, especially on Facebook. Idiots opened anything. Very few of them ever figured out that he was watching, indicator light or none.
A ding alerted him of a new email. It was JokerMan from Thrush Forum with another set of cam clips showing teen girls in various stages of undress. JokerMan liked them young, too young for Tom’s taste. He closed the email and went back watching the empty bedroom.
It was getting late, and she still wasn’t there. Was it date night again? She had that new boyfriend with the goatee even though she was still close with the guy from the café. He should have guessed from the start she was a two-timer. All the pretty girls were.
A dimly lit room shown on the screen. It took a moment to make sense of the image, but he recognized the gurney parked in the corner. Empty. Sometimes the gurney held a corpse. An older man, sometimes a young woman, worked in this morgue. Whenever one of them worked with a body, Tom couldn’t help but watch. It never was much really: painting make-up or embalming. Still, watching someone work on the dead felt thrilling somehow.
A noise, and Tom killed the music. This time he heard it plain, the neighbor dog yapping away. The poor dog went ignored most of the time, and barked like crazy trying to get the family’s attention. He clicked the music back on. Glancing at the empty pizza box, he considered ordering another.
He flipped through the cams, twenty-one in his regular rotation. Twenty-two if he counted the new bearded guy. The stupid oaf was leaning over the keyboard and staring intently at the camera indicator appearing even more frustrated than before. Flipping through, Tom stopped at a woman making kissy-faces. Her arm outstretched held the device, likely an iPhone, while her other hand pinched her bare nipple. Sexting. Far more common than he had realized before joining Thrush Forum. The woman wasn’t really all that good looking, and she’d be at it for a while working through her usual poses, so Tom moved on quickly flashing by empty rooms and a handful of images showing people going about their daily routines in the background. Boring mostly. Returning to his favorite bedroom, he watched the empty bed resting in the moonlight glow.
The chime tweeted. A new birdie checking in. Tom tapped the indicator.
At first, confusion flooded over him as he tried to make sense of what he was looking at. As he leaned closer, so did the man on the screen. It was like looking in a mirror! He spotted the green indicator light glowing beside the camera lens. How could this be?
As Tom leaned back in his chair, a familiar face came into view over his reflection’s shoulder. It was her! And standing beside her, the dude with the goatee. Their menacing faces was the last thing Tom saw.