When I got home, my phone was ringing. The only person I gave my new number to was Aunt Helen, so it had to be her. “Hi, Aunty.”
“Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha,” came a hi pitched laugh. “You thought you could get rid of me, didn’t you? I told you that was impossible.”
“How did you get my number? I told no one.”
“You underestimate me Amanda Blake!”
“Now look here–.”
But it was too late. He hung up. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!” I slammed the phone down in its cradle then telephoned Aunt Helen. “Aunt Hellen, I need you to come over. He called again, and this time he used my new number.”
“I’ll be right over to pick you up. We’re going to the police, and this time they’re going to listen.”
When we reached the station, we were directed to Detective Blanche’s desk. His tough demeanor was accentuated with his crooked nose and broad shoulders. Maybe he was a football player at one time. Although, he kind of reminded me of a freight train that trampled everything in its path.
“Why don’t you start by telling me what’s going on,” he said.
Knot by knot, I unraveled my story, from the phone calls to the notes to the death threats.
“Well,” he said. “It’s obvious that it’s someone you know. He knows where you work and live. He could be a colleague at work. Is there anyone at work who’s been acting rather strange lately?”
I thought a minute.
Aunt Helen joined in by telling her story of Mr. Dodge.
“We’ll keep Mr. Dodge on the list of suspects. I don’t know about the janitor though. That might be just a coincidence. But I’ll keep my eye on it all the same. In the meantime, we’re going to bug your phone. And possibly trace some of those calls.”
“Is that all you’re going to do? Can’t you assign an officer to watch her house?” said Aunt Helen.
“No, because, as it stands now, no one’s made any attempt to break in or come near her at this point.”
“Oh, so you’re going to wait until someone tries to hurt her before you’ll actually protect her.”
“I’m sorry, but my hands are tied at this point. We’ll tap the phone, though.”
“Thanks a lot. Thanks a whole lot,” Aunt Helen’s dripped with sarcasm.
“Aunt Helen, it’s ok. You’re not going to change his mind. Let’s go. Thank you, detective.” I gave him my phone number and left.
The next day I decided to stay home from work. I figured that if the stalker was someone at work, then home was the best place for me. At this point anyway.
I was in the middle of laundry, when the phone rang.
“This is Detective Blanche. We traced some of those calls yesterday to a Mr. Dodge at the number in his office. He’s just been arrested.”
“You sound sure that he’s the guy. Maybe someone else stole his office key and has been using the phone in his office. Remember? The janitor said Mr. Dodge’s office key was missing.”
“Yeah, I’m way ahead of you on that.”
I leaned back into my recliner and covered up with my grandmother’s knitted afghan. The deafening silence of the house ground at my nerves, so I picked up the TV remote. Before I clicked the power button, a tap on the air conditioner broke the quiet. I listened for the noise again, nothing. Maybe it was a bird. I raised my arm again to hit the power button and froze as another tap sounded. The tap continued and crescendo-ed until it became a bang.
No, no way. There was only one person who had my land line number and that was my Aunt Helen. The phone continued to blast out another ring. She’s sleeping at this hour. Right? What if it’s an emergency? If I ignore it… Again, another ring. And something has happened to her, I’d never forgive myself. But, what if it’s that weirdo from before? Another ring. Damn, I had to answer.
“Aunty, are you ok?”
A creeky voice ground out the words, “I’m just fine, deary. Hahahahaha.”
This wasn’t my Aunt Helen. I slammed down the receiver. It rang again. I picked up and slammed it down. It rang again almost as soon as the receiver hit the cradle. I screamed and slammed the receiver down in repeated succession. Silence. My chest heaved out of breath. Hot breath tickled my ear and I jumped. “Damn it, Brandy,” I ground out.” The phone rang once more. This time I pulled the cord from the wall.
As I sat on the edge of my bed, I wondered about who the caller might be. It’s not that the person on the phone was threatening. No. It was the evil iciness in their voice that struck the hardest. In a way I guess it was threatening. The tone of it, like something was coming. The feeling of something behind you in the dark type of sensation. A shiver hit at the mere thought of it. I didn’t want to, but I laid back down. Brandy snuggled up on my left side, which helped in calming my heart rate down. The rest of the night proved uneventful, but the chill from the phone call still sat at the front of my mind, which made sleeping the rest of the night next to impossible. I nodded off somewhere around 3:00 am.
The next morning, I reached over to plug the phone back in but hesitated, then decided against it. My cellphone remained off as well. I fed Brandy and got ready for church. I needed a friendly face to talk to. When church let out, I went over to my aunt’s house. I always cherished my slightly plump Aunt Helen, with her brown hair always piled high on her head. I adored her soft pudgy cheeks, and her soft brown motherly eyes. After my parents died, when I was ten, she took me in and raised me from that point on. She’s been there for me through thick and thin and knew what to say and do to perk me up.
I pulled into her driveway. As I stepped out of the car, I could smell the chocolate floating out of the open kitchen window from the chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. Baking was a past time of hers, so she was always in the kitchen. I smiled and stepped inside.
My aunt had a thing for ducks. Her whole kitchen was decorated in a wallpaper with pictures of little ducks. In her kitchen window hung a stained-glass ornament of a white duck with a yellow bill and blue bow tie set in a kelly-green background.
“Hi, Aunt Helen. Those cookies smell delicious.”
“Oh, hello, sweety. How are you doing this fine Sunday morning? You look tired. Didn’t you get any sleep last night?”
“Uh, I, uh, no, I didn’t, as a matter of fact. It was too hot.”
“I know. It was terrible. Say, I have some good news for you. Come and sit own a spell, eat some cookies, and take a load off.” Aunt Helen beckoned.
I sat down at the round kitchen table. “Well, don’t hold me in suspense. Tell me what your big news is.”
“Friday, I went to that school that you work at. Oh what was the name of it now? “Don’t tell me. I’ll get it.” She drummed her fingers on her knee.
I knew the name of the school, but I didn’t want to interrupt her train of thought.
“I remember now. It’s the Central Adult Education of Washington, but you know that I suppose. Well of course you know that. Anyway, I decided to take some morning classes. I’m tired of sitting home all the time.”
“Aunt Helen,” I exclaimed. “That’s wonderful news. It will be good for you to get out of the house. Why didn’t you come and see me Friday? You could’ve told me about this then.”
“Well, I wanted to keep it a secret until later. You know me, I like to keep secrets. Secrets are fun you know. Besides, there’s something I need to tell you, and I didn’t want other people overhearing.”
“This sounds serious. What is it?” I asked.
“Well, you know I don’t like giving out my address and other information like that.”
“Yes, what about it?”
“Those people at that school said that it was very important that I put this kind of information on the application”
“Who told you this?”
“Oh, that illustrious tyrant you have for an executive director. What’s his name now? Oh yes, Mr. Dodge. He made it sound urgent too. Boy, that guy, with his black hair and dark glowering eyes, really gives me the creeps. If he just wouldn’t open his mouth and show those ugly teeth, he’d be quite handsome. At least he didn’t smile. He just stood there with a frown on the bridge of his nose, talked to us for about five minutes, and left as quick as he came.”
“Why would he tell you that? When did he tell you that?”
“He talked to us at orientation. They asked for a phone number on one of the forms, so I asked him if I could leave it blank, but he ignored my request.”
“That’s odd, about the phone number. I mean, yes, we should have it, but it’s an option. We communicate mostly through email. It sounds like he made it out to be too big of a thing,” I said.
“Darn, there’s the phone again,” said Aunt Helen. “People have been calling all morning. Hello.”
A perplexed look crossed her face.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Did you tell anyone you were going to be here today? Did you give anyone my phone number?”
“There’s someone on the phone asking for you. If you didn’t tell anyone you were going to be here, why are they calling for you?”
As I took the phone, my heart pounded, my throat went dry, and beads of sweat formed across my head.
The voice on the phone whispered, “You can run, but you can’t hide from me. I’ll always find you.”
“Leave me alone!”
“I love your emerald green eyes, and your silky, smooth body. I want to run my fingers through your luxurious blond hair.”
“How did you get this number? Who are you? Quit calling me!” I slammed the receiver down.
“Honey, what did he say? Come in the living room and tell me what he said. Come on now, you’re shaking like a leaf.”
“Oh, Aunt Helen, I don’t know what to do. I want to tell someone, but I don’t know who to tell.”
“Tell what? You can trust me, sweety.”
I followed her into the living room. After taking a few deep breaths, I told her all the events of the night before. When I finished, she stood up, walked to the window, and peered out.
“Gee, that’s spooky. That means he’s been following you, but who could be watching you? Where is he? There’s no one outside anywhere.”
“I don’t know, but I’ve got to find out the answers to those questions or I’m going to go insane.”
She turned away from the window and saw that tears built up in my eyes.
I felt like a helpless little kid who had just been beaten up by the school bully.
“We can talk to the police, okay? I’ll go give them a call,” said Aunt Helen.
Five minutes later, she came back with a stern look on her face.
“What’s wrong? What did they say?” I questioned.
“They said that there’s nothing they can do. That it’s probably some childish prank, and that you should change your number.”
Frustrated, I said, “I don’t understand.”
“Don’t worry, love, we’ll figure this out. In the meantime, why don’t you go home and get some sleep.”
(To Be Continued)
The day was shot. The sweltering heat killed any kind of motivation to do or enjoy anything. Add to that a broken air conditioner. The fans blew hot air around, so that idea didn’t help either. It was 11 pm Saturday night, and I still could not sleep. Having to wait until Monday for a repairman to come out and fix it felt more like two weeks instead of two days.
I swiped a piece of my long strawberry blond hair out of my eyes and propped my arm up on its elbow in front of the small fan on my bedside table. The air seeped through my fingers, tickling my cheek. The relaxing sensation it created caused my eyes to droop. A scent of roses floated by, if ever so very faint. The rose bush outside my open bedroom window did its job well. Then my eyes flew open. My window wasn’t open. Something shifted in the corner to my left, and I froze. Silence followed…then a weight flopped onto the bed and pounce on me with a lick on the cheek.
“Oh, Brandy. You silly dog. You scared me to death.” My three-year-old golden retriever let out a bark and licked my cheek once more in response. I wrestled her off of me and motioned to the end of the bed. She complied and all was quiet again.
I thought about the new job developer, Dan Hastings. He was charming with his sandy, brown hair that swept below the hair line and dark brown eyes, like velvet. The moment they looked at you, they knew you. At least that’s what it felt like. He appeared commanding with a straight nose and a look of such self-control. Perfect, he appeared perfect. Too perfect in my estimation. Rumor had it that he was a wiz with the computer. My cell phone startled me. Who could be calling at this hour?
Lord knows why I answered it, but I did. “Hello.”
“Shhhh. . . don’t say a word, my love,” said the screechy voice.
“Who is this? You have the wrong number,” I replied.
Whoever it was, hung up. A shiver swam down my spine. I tucked my arms into my chest as I peered around my dark bedroom. To calm myself, I chalked it up as the heat causing people to do crazy things.
Again, the phone rang.
I thought of giving whoever it was a piece of my mind. It rang a second time. Maybe not. I decided to ignore it. It rang a third and fourth time. The display read unknown caller. Again, I decided to let it go and not answer. The ringing continued. Odd, why wasn’t it going to voice mail? I picked the phone up once more. This time I swiped left to hang it up. Then I turned it off. I thunked my head back onto the pillow, blew out a breath, and rested my arm across my eyes.
Then the blaring ring from my land line startled me.
(To Be Continued)