WARNING- Please read: This story is extremely disturbing, with images of violence, torture and rape. This story deals with some pretty heavy issues, some graphic in nature.
If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com
Silver and shiny. Suffocated light creeps in through heavy, dust-covered drapes, bouncing off row upon row of quarters, glued to the plaster behind them. Like little, round soldiers, they march across the wall, ending on a calendar, heavily marked in small, red writing. Nothing discernable, nothing making sense. The sink, a double stainless steel model, is spotted and heavily fingerprinted.
A kitchen. Linoleum tile is old, bubbled up in places, the pattern long since rubbed away by shoe tread and bare feet. The piss-yellow fridge door is covered with alphabet magnets, some forming words, mostly just jumbled together to form incoherent sentences- no real rhyme or reason, other than they’ve been grouped according to color: red blends into blue, which leads to yellow, then green and finally orange with purple as the caboose. An army of plastic letters to perhaps go to war against the quarters, all heads up.
Stairs. They’re wooden, making the hollow thudding sound as they are climbed or descended. A ware-smoothed wooden rail runs along the left wall, which is painted a muddy orange, though it quickly ends, abrupt and shocking, into gray, cold cement, the seam edges not entirely smooth. Peaked edges could prick the hand or fingers of someone not careful. Down the stairs into darkness, chased away only by a single, naked bulb, shedding light only on the water-stained ceiling above it, and dust-riddled air below it.
With a gasp, Remmy bolted upright, eyes wide as she looked, unseeing, into the images in her head. She could still hear it, hear that awful, scary, blood-curdling scream. Chest heaving, she blinked sweat-soaked brunette bangs from her eyes, gulping in several lungfulls of air. Finally she was able to focus on the room around her, the small, smelly motel room. Blindly she reached to the bedside table for her pack of cigarettes, remembering belatedly that she quit last week.
“Jesus Christ,” she blew out, pushing the thin, scratchy sheets and comforter from her legs as she swung them off the bed, feet hitting the floor. The fabric of the dream was beginning to come apart at the seams, stitch by stitch, until all that was left was the tattered remains. “That was a doozy.”
Remmy pushed off the bed and padded to the bathroom, clicking on the light. Leaning on the badly scarred vanity, she leaned forward, studying her face in the mirror. Her eyes were rimmed with red, making the blue color of the irises seem unnaturally vibrant. She looked tired and worn out, far older than her 24 years.
The lid of the toilet hit the tank with a loud crack as Remmy sat herself down, face cupped in her hands as she relieved herself. With a heavy sigh, she let the dream images go, and allowed the earlier exhaustion to seep back in. Maybe she’d be able to get back to sleep.
Julie Wilson was on her feet, cheering on her 8 year old nephew as he shook himself out of the shock of actually hitting the ball, the crowd yelling for him to run.
“Drop the bat, Skylar!” Julie’s brother, Matt yelled, hands cupped around his mouth. The boy nodded vigorously, nearly hitting the ump with the aluminum bat as he took off like a shot.
Julie laughed, watching the man of her dreams round first and heading strong for second. She had no children of her own, and the way her love life was going, wasn’t sure she ever would. She tried to shake thoughts of Ray out of her mind as she cheered for the little league Brewers.
“Man, that was a great hit,” Matt said, his grin huge as he watched his only child give him a thumbs-up, which he enthusiastically returned. “I really wish Lori were here to see it.”
“Me, too, Matty,” Julie said, wrapping an arm around her brother’s waist. Since the death of her sister-in-law four years ago, Matt had been so lost, trying to raise their son on his own. Julie had stepped in, playing mom to Skylar and confidante to her big brother. It was hard, and sometimes downright heartbreaking watching Matt go through the different facets of being a single dad. She often wondered why he didn’t date, didn’t even blink when a woman looked his way. She’d once asked him about it, and his response was simply that he had his family, and was content. Translated, she knew that meant he was terrified of losing someone again like he’d lost Lori.
As promised, the mini-Babe Ruth was taken out for pizza and Dairy Queen. Skylar sat proud, cleated heels banging a happy beat on the booth he sat in, hot fudge dripping from the corner of his mouth. Julie didn’t have the heart to tell him to wipe his face- he was still basking in the run he’d scored for his team. The fact that they’d lost to the Yankees didn’t matter. He’d scored!
“So, are you ready for the new school year to start?” Matt asked, digging his red, plastic spoon into the depths of his peanut buster parfait, trying to scoop as much of the gooey chocolate from the bottom as he could.
“Yeah. I’ve been going in off and on over the past couple weekends to get the classroom ready.”
They ate in silence for a moment before Matt spoke again, his light brown hair falling into his eyes, just like Skylar’s. “Heard from Ray?”
Julie sighed, running her spoon through the soup that had become of her sundae. “No,” she said finally. She chewed on her bottom lip, tucking a piece of short, blonde hair behind her ear. She was warring with the idea of talking to her brother about what had been bothering her. She was about to open her mouth when Skylar boomed.
“Dad, are we still gonna go to the park later and practice my catching?”
Relieved, Julie kept her mouth closed. No doubt she was being paranoid, anyway. She rested her cheek on her fist, listening to the men in her life prattle on about baseball, tee ball and sports in general, a subject Julie wasn’t entirely enthralled with. Even so, listening to them got her mind off other topics.
Soft Italian music played in the background, the portable CD player tucked into a corner by the washer and dryer. Sergio Venti sang along softly, more of a hum, really. He went over to the fridge, pulling open the door and grabbing the carton of eggs he’d bought with his large grocery purchase the day before. He just hoped she liked eggs. They hadn’t really gotten that far in their conversation yesterday. His grin would be infectious if he weren’t alone in the kitchen, cooking for him and the beautiful woman waiting for him.
As Sergio chopped up bell peppers and ham to mix into the eggs, he thought about their time together the night before. All night they’d made passionate love. He could still hear her cries in his ears, eyes closing at the memory and chills racing down his spine. She had loved it, just as he promised her she would.
Sergio heard a thud at the front door, and wiping his hands on the thighs of his immaculate slacks, headed that way, through the living room. Unlocking the knob and locks, he pulled open the door, waving at the young boy who delivered his paper. Bending down, he picked it up, reading the above-the-fold headline as he stepped back inside his house, closing the door soundly behind him:
ANOTHER GONE MISSING IN THE WOODLAND AREA. POLICE BAFFLED
The building inspector shook his head. “How sad.”
Tossing the paper to the coffee table, he headed back into the kitchen, feeling energy flowing through him as his favorite aria came on. He cranked up the CD player, closing his eyes and singing out with Placido Domingo as he sang of his pain and agony, losing the woman he loved.
“I understand your pain,” Sergio said, once the song had ended. Finishing his breakfast preparations, he loaded everything on a tray. “Are you hungry, my love?” he called out. Not getting an answer, he smiled and shook his head. “She’s deaf sometimes, I swear.” Whistling softly under his breath, Sergio grabbed the tray and headed out of the kitchen.
“God, it’s hot,” Remmy muttered, hitching her backpack up further onto her shoulders. She turned around, walking backwards down the lonely highway, thumb pointing toward the heavens. She had only seen three cars in the past two hours, and both had rushed past her, leaving her in their dusty wake, just like the pick-up truck that was zooming past. “Asshole!” she yelled, throwing the driver a single-fingered salute. “Damn it.”
Turning back to face forward, Remmy began walking again, cursing the empty water bottle she still carried. She couldn’t bring herself to litter. So, instead she tapped it against her leg as she walked, head bobbing to the tune she heard in her head. She’d lost her DiscMan back in Phoenix, and hadn’t had the money to pick up another one, which sucked. Remmy loved music, any kind at all. She’d go through phases- one week it was R&B, the next country with a mix of bluegrass. This week, for some reason, it was Italian opera. She wasn’t sure what it was, but suddenly one day she heard the 3 Tenors belting it out. Luckily today it was Bon Jovi. It would suck trying to keep herself entertained with Madam Butterfly.
She began to sing ‘Bed of Roses’ out loud when the sound of a car engine pulled up behind her. Glancing over her shoulder, she grinned when she saw a small, white Miata pull to a stop. A woman was behind the wheel, short, blonde hair tucked behind an ear.
“Hey,” the woman said, leaning over the passenger seat to look up at Remmy through the window, which was slowly buzzing down. “Looks like you need a ride.” The blonde looked out through her windshield. “Not much around here for miles.”
Remmy grinned. “You are all that is holy and good.”
The woman smiled. “I don’t know about that, but I will give you a ride.”
Remmy happily climbed into the tiny car, shoving her backpack to the floor between her legs. She didn’t bother with the seatbelt, a little trick she’d learned along the way- if she weren’t belted in, she could get away faster. She’d learned that the hard way.
“Where are you headed?” Remmy’s savior asked.
“Anywhere where there’s a toilet. I’ve had to pee for two hours, and,” she indicated the barren landscape around them. “Not much privacy on this highway.”
The blonde woman laughed. “No, that there’s not. I know there’s some civilization about four miles up the road here. Will that do?”
“That’ll be peachy,” Remmy nodded. She glanced at the blonde again, seeing her smile. Remmy’s own smile melted from her face. The blonde glanced at her, her gaze hidden behind the lenses of her sunglasses. That didn’t matter:
Darkness. Cold. Pain. Back is hurting. Water dripping- drip, drip, drip… No! No, please, no! A shadow, dark and foreboding, coming. He’s coming. A naked light bulb.
Remmy gasped, her heart pounding out of control in her chest. She swallowed, throat and tongue cold from sucking in the cool air in the air conditioned car.
Remmy was startled by the feel of a hand on her shoulder. She blinked several times, face tight from too much sun in her travels. The blonde woman was looking at her, concern in her green eyes, sunglasses shoved up on top of her head. Remmy realized the car had been stopped, a convenience store off to the right. When had they arrived there?
Remembering the woman’s question, she nodded. “Yeah. Sorry. I just…” her voice trailed off, not sure what she had just had. Am I awake?
“We’re here,” the woman said, nodding toward the gas station. Remmy followed her gaze, then nodded. “Are you sure you’re okay? You’re pale. Look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“No. Really, I’m okay.” Remmy gathered her bag, grunting as she heaved its weight to her lap, hand on the door handle of the tiny sports car. She was about to pull, but stopped, glancing at the driver. “Be careful. ‘Kay?”
The blonde grinned. “This from the woman who takes rides from strangers?” She studied Remmy’s face, sobering. “Okay. I will. You, too.”
Remmy nodded, then climbed out of the car. She watched until the little white Miata was out of sight. Looking up into the gathering clouds and rumbling sky, she cursed softly under her breath. Walking into the store, she nearly ran to the bathroom, whistling as she came out ten minutes later. Remmy dug into her pockets to see how much money she had left- $8.15. It was enough to buy lunch, convenience store style.
The tired clerk behind the counter barely looked at Remmy as she laid out her bottle of Quick chocolate milk and ham and cheese sandwich. He ran nimble fingers over the keyboard of his register, announcing a total and taking the proffered money with little fanfare.
“Hey,” Remmy said, getting the kid’s attention. “You guys hiring here?” Without a word, the clerk reached behind the counter, sliding an application across the scarred surface of the veneered counter. “Thanks. Got a pen?” The pen followed as rudely as the application had.
Remmy took her $3.93 in change, shoving it in the pocket of her jeans, and then retrieved her goodies from the counter, along with the application, and headed for a table toward the back of the store. She quickly filled in all the information, just as she’d done a hundred times before. If she let herself think about how many jobs she’d had in the past eight years, she may actually think she was a loser.
The clerk glared at her as she once again interrupted his magazine reading. She slapped the application and pen on the counter with a victorious grin.
“Is your manager here?” she asked. The kid nodded with an annoyed sigh. He reached for a small walkie-talkie hidden behind the register. Pressing a button, her spoke into the speaker.
“Joan, some chick here to see you.”
“Thanks,” Remmy said, stepping away from the counter to peruse a jerky display and wait for Joan. Within a few minutes, a rather plump redhead approached Remmy. She wore a dark green apron with the store’s name and logo stamped in crumbling white ink.
“Can I help you?” she asked, eyes supported by heavy bags, finely tweezed brows, as fiery as the hair on her head.
“Are you Joan?” Remmy asked, holding her hand out. Joan took it, nodding as they shook.
“I just gave your clerk there an application. See, I don’t have a phone, heck, I don’t even have a residence, yet.” She grinned. “Just got into town. “I need to know if I’ve got the job or not. Good worker, ethical and friendly,” she assured. Joan just stared at her for a moment, seeming unsure of what to think of this stranger.
“Josh, lemme see the ap,” Joan said, reaching back toward the counter. She took the piece of paper in her hand, scanning over the information on it. “No address?” she asked, not bothering to look up.
“Uh, yeah, uh, well, just got dropped off, actually.” Remmy grinned. “So, if once I begin working, you can point in me the direction of someplace I can stay where I won’t have six-legged roommates, I’d be grateful.”
Joan looked up at this girl, who had some set of big ones, walking into her store like that, all but demanding a job. Even so, she couldn’t help but like the girl. She had tons of experience, that was for sure. From the look of the girl, she was a drifter, dark hair pulled back into a ponytail, skin deeply tanned from what Joan assumed, were many hours out on the roads. “How long you plan on staying in Woodland?” she asked.
“As long as I got a job.”
“I see.” Joan glanced over at the clerk behind the counter, who had been watching the exchange with mild interest. “Josh, go get me an employment package. They’re in the top drawer of my desk.” Joan turned back to her new charge. “Okay, Remmy Foster. I’ll give you a chance.
The rain pounded on the rag top of the Miata as Julie pulled into her driveway. She shut the car down, and looked out over the landscape, seeing plants and trees pelted nearly to the ground. She squealed as she dashed from the tiny car up the few stairs to her front door, hair plastered to her head by time she go the door open. Two very excited Yorkies met her, barking and whimpering.
“Hello, my babies,” she cooed, falling to her knees to be attacked by tiny pink tongues. “How’s my Bonnie and Clyde?” she asked of the brother and sister. The sweetness of her words got their entire bodies wiggling with the speed of their stubby tail wags. Pushing up to her feet, Julie looked down at herself, groaning at the drenched clothing. Tugging her shirt off over her head, she tossed it into the laundry room on her way toward her bedroom. The two dogs followed, growling and playing with each other along the way.
The teacher pressed the PLAY button on her answering machine as she passed the phone/machine combo on her dresser. She had a message from her nephew, thanking her for spending the day with him, and for going to his game. Julia felt pride swell her chest, as love for Skylar washed over her. She pushed a drawer closed with her hip, a fresh, dry shirt in hand. She was about to pull it over her head when the next message came.
“Julie, this is Ray. I know you’re at your nephew’s game, and I know what time you’ll get home. I still want to talk to you, and I don’t care how many times you say you don’t wanna talk. We will talk.” Click, as the line went dead.
Julie hurried over to the machine, making sure to save the message, as she had done with the others. Never were they threatening, per se, but they made her uneasy, all the same. She pulled the tape from the machine and walked over to her closet, pulling one of the double doors open. Inside, on the top shelf was a small box. Inside it were other tapes, pulled from the machine at different times. Each tape contained a message from Ray- some rude and mean, others demanding, like the one she added to it now. All were being kept for evidence, should it come down to that.
Julie decided not to worry about it, instead she’d feed her babies, then get to cleaning the house. She had intended to do it earlier in the day, but Skylar’s pleas for her to go to his game and dashed those plans. In all honesty, she’d much rather watching him run the bases than mop the floors.
The three bedroom house had been purchased four years ago. It was a ranch-style, decorated in bold colors and contemporary styles. She loved the house on Poplar Street, and planned to live there for the rest of her life. It was large enough and had enough storage so that the dreaded clutter was an issue, yet it wasn’t too much house, or impractical, for a single woman with her two micro-dogs.
She and her ex, Ray, had been together for a year and a half, but she never would let him move in, no matter how hard he tried to push her into it. Something just felt… wrong. After their break up a few months ago, Julie had felt a relief like nothing she’d never known. She’d tired of his demanding, controlling ways, and couldn’t take it anymore. It had been messy, to say the least. Ray hadn’t heard the word ‘no’ aimed at him very often, but Julie had to. Ray was sucking the life out of her, and she couldn’t do it anymore. So, one day she came home from work, a full day of school behind her, with rowdy sixth graders, and walking into the house to the sound of some sort of sports, and then tripping over empty beer cans. Ray had been drinking more and more over the past six months, and when he drank, he got mean.
Independent and self-reliant, Julie decided she wasn’t going allow herself to depend on a man- or anyone- again. She had a job she loved, a home and car payment, and was fine on her own. It wasn’t as though she’d exactly found a relationship that really sustained her, anyway. Almost 30, and she would have figured she’d a been at least married by now. Matt and Lori had been high school sweethearts, and had married on Matt’s twentieth birthday.
Long since an internal battle, Julie had always wondered if it were something wrong with her: was she too picky? Was she too independent? Why did men think they could treat her however they felt? It truly made no sense. When her parents had been alive, her father had treated their mother like a queen, and he and his little girl had been extremely close. Matt was a great guy, treated Lori like gold, treated Julie like gold. Julie had often had this discussion with herself, trying to get to the bottom of the reasons that she picked the men she did. The basic conclusion she’d come to is simply this: for whatever reason, she wasn’t ready for a relationship, so subconsciously picked men that she knew were bad for her, or would leave or cheat on her, or would beat her up, then that way she would be kicking them to the curb. No muss, no fuss.
Julie walked into the kitchen, intent on grabbing the broom and dustpan from the small closet in there when she cried out, hand going to her chest. From the back window, she swore someone had just been looking in at her. She hurried over to the sink, raising up on her tippy toes to look out in the yard. Seeing nothing, she hurried to the French doors, pulling them open and looking left then right. Though she saw nothing, she swore she heard the squeak of the back gate.
“What the hell?” she breathed, closing the doors and locking them. She felt uneasy, a feeling that wasn’t new to her. Over the past few weeks she had felt that she had been followed on more than one occasion, and two nights ago, when she’d taken the garbage out to the curb, she had the distinct feeling that someone was watching her. All that coupled with the messages Ray had been leaving on her phone, Julie decided it was time to go into action.
Remmy tossed her backpack to the bed, watching it bounce back up. Well, at least she wouldn’t be sleeping on a brick. The room was small, painted in an orange hue from the drawn curtains, 1977 orange, which matched the comforter that had nifty threads of gold and olive green throughout. Bad motif aside, it wasn’t an all around bad room. She picked up the receiver on the phone that sat on the bedside table, satisfied to hear a dial tone. Not that she had anyone to call, but wanted to make sure it worked, all the same. Placing the handset back into it’s cradle, she began to hum an aria from La Boheme, doing a little jig toward the bathroom as the music began to swell in her mind.
The bathroom was very typical- itty bitty tub with cheap, plastic shower curtain. Plain, white toilet with the cheapest toilet paper possible formed into a little arrow flap on the roll. A goodly amount of towels were folded neatly on the rack mounted above the toilet tank, which was good. Nothing worse than stepping out of the shower and no towels.
Leaving the shower for another time, Remmy headed back to the bed and her backpack. Unzipping it, she pulled out the contents, her worldly belongings. She set out the framed picture of her and her beloved cousin, Monica, whom she hadn’t seen in more than seven years. She wondered where Monica had landed. Their early years had been spent experimenting with everything from alcohol to drugs to sex. Sadly, Monica had never gotten out of the life, and had disappeared from sight.
Deciding not to dwell on something that could be far too easy to dwell on, Remmy finished unpacking and then counted what was left of the advance her new boss had given her. She had enough left, after paying for a weeks stay at the motel, to pay for a modest trip to the grocery store. She was glad that the room had a teeny fridge in it. That would make things easier.
The small grocery store at the end of the block was quiet, a few patrons milling about. Remmy pushed her buggy through the aisles, snatching microwavable foods and a few cases of bottled water. She loved water, and besides- soda made her dreams even more vivid and strange. She didn’t need her sleep to be any more interrupted than it already was.
Groceries in hand, Remmy headed out into the mid-August heat, like a blast furnace on her face. Times like this was when she really wished she had a car. She had one… once. So driving at high speeds over a mountain pass isn’t wise. If only someone had told her that two years ago. Ever since then, she hadn’t been working or living in one place long enough to afford another one. She smirked as she headed back to the motel, remembering when she’d gone into a bank once to ask for a loan. That had not been pretty.
Remmy whistled happily as she entered the motel parking lot- not a trouble in the world. Juggling her packages to one hand, she dug the key to her room out of her pocket, inserting it into the lock and letting herself in. The room was exactly as she had left it. The tune in Remmy’s head continued as she played a game of Tetris to fit all her purchases in the tiny fridge. She walked over to the bed, throwing herself down, exhausted after a long day- walking, getting a job, a place to live and food to eat. She deserved a break.
As she lay there, eyes closed, brows drew as sounds of groaning began to filter in from the wall behind her. Blue eyes popping open, Remmy listened, a slow grimace sliding across her lips. Sure enough- a quickie over lunch met her ears.
“Lovely,” she growled, grabbing a pillow and putting it over her head as she turned onto her side. “Not nice to tease someone who hasn’t had any in more than a year,” she whined muffled from the weight of the pillow. Finally Remmy decided to ignore it, determined to get some much-needed sleep.
The light flickers. Dizzying. Gray wall, cold, cold against skin. Sharp edges. Blood. A form, shadow, someone, coming, holding out their hand. Something shiny- small, centralized bit of cold on skin.
Pain! Burning pain, it won’t stop! No, stop, stop! Please, stop!
“No!” Remmy cried, thrashing in the sheets with her nocturnal attacker, finally rolling off the bed. The hard landing brought her back into the world of the conscious, her eyes wide, frantically looking around the dim motel room. The sun was going down outside, leaving the room in an eerie orange/red glow.
Getting to her feet, Remmy ran a shaky hand through her hair, pushing it all back from her face. She was trembling, the fear still gripping her stomach in a vise-like grip. Typically as wakefulness gained, the fear and images faded. Her heart was still pounding, and no matter how many deep breaths she took, it wouldn’t slow. The brunette began to feel fearful. She switched on the bedside lamp, looking around at her room, trying to think of what she could grab to use as a weapon. As the fear clung to her, she began to check the room- bathroom, shower stall, under the bed and behind the curtains. Nothing. She was as alone as she had been when she’d fallen asleep.
“My god,” she whispered, taking a final deep breath.
Julie sat, seemingly patiently, her tapping toe the only evidence that she was actually quite antsy. Sitting on a hard, plastic chair in the lobby of the Woodland police station, one leg crossed over the other, she watched the goings on in the busy building. She watched at the counter as a handsome black woman stood talking to an officer. By her clothing- a pantsuit with badge on a chain hanging around her neck- it seemed that she was either someone in a supervisory position, or a detective. She was listening intently as the officer gesticulated over some papers he was holding, trying to show her. Julie couldn’t hear what they were saying but it was obviously important. They were also what the teacher was waiting on, as they had the desk clerk involved in their animated conversation.
Finally, the suited woman patted the officer on the arm, and turned away, headed toward the front door of the station. She glanced at Julie, giving her a small smile before pushing through the glass double doors.
“Can I help you, miss?” the desk sergeant asked.
Julie pushed up from her chair, small box of answering machine tapes in hand, and walked over to him. “Hi. My name is Julie Wilson, and I need to file a report about a stalker.” She set the box on the counter. “I have some answering machine tapes here, too.”
“Alright, ma’am. Hold on a second, and I’ll send an officer out to speak with you.”
Julie smiled politely and turned toward the lobby as she waited. She was tired of feeling afraid. Less than six months after getting with Ray, she had the distinct feeling that she had maybe gotten in over her head. After the first year, she knew she was. Afraid of the man, whom she’d been introduced to through mutual friends, Julie hadn’t been sure what to do, or how to get herself out. For the next six months, she had been trying to get out of the relationship, until finally she’d managed to force Ray from her life for, what she thought, was for good.
“Julie?” The blonde turned to find a uniformed woman standing not far from her. The redhead smiled when she saw she had Julie’s attention. “I’m Officer Renee O’Reilly. I’ll be handling your report, today. Come with me.”
Julie followed, scanning the long halls of the station, officers and staff passing her on their way to one destination or another. Some nodded in greeting, others ignoring her completely.
“Here we go,” Officer O’Reilly said, pushing a door open for the petit blonde. Inside the small room was a table with two chairs on either side. The officer took one chair, indicating the other for Julie. “What do we have here?” she asked, tapping the box Julie set on the table.
“Tapes from my answering machine.” Julie gently pushed them toward the other woman.
“Okay.” The officer had a notebook with her and uncapped her pen. She looked up at Julie expectantly. As Julie told her tale of the doomed relationship with Ray, Officer O’Reilly took careful note, asking a few pointed questions to clarify. After the fifteen minute interview, Julie shook hands with the kind officer. “Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, ma’am.”
“Thank you. You do the same.”
As Julie stepped out into the warm day, she pulled her cell phone from her purse, flipping it open and dialing the number she knew by heart. Her brother, Matt answered. “Hey, Matty. I’m just heading to the school now, so I’m going to be late.”
“I thought you were headed to the school an hour ago?” the older Wilson asked.
“I was. I got… held up.” She unlocked her Miata, tossing her purse to the passenger seat and climbing in behind the wheel. “I want to tell you something, Matt. But,” she held up a finger, unseen to her brother. “Before I do, I want you to promise you won’t go all crazy on me.”
“Okay,” Matt drawled, confused, and mildly concerned.
“I’m leaving the police station right now. I just got finished filing a report against Ray. The police lady also advised I get a restraining order against him, so I’ll do that at the court house tomorrow, when they’re open.”
“What? Why?” Matt’s voice was low, dangerously low. He had always hated Ray, never trusting the son-of-a-bitch with his sister.
“I think he’s been following me, watching me.” Julie glanced around the parking lot, half-heartedly looking for her ex’s truck. “He’s also left some messages on my machine that were less-than warming.”
“Oh, Jules,” Matt sighed. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I wanted to be sure. Well, now I’m sure. So, you have nothing to worry about. The report is being filed as we speak, and he’ll get served with his restraining order tomorrow. So,” she smiled with a shrug. “All’s well.” Inserting her key into the ignition of her car, the engine roared to life. “So, that said, tell Skylar I’ll be by around five or five-thirty.” She grinned, thinking of her beloved nephew. “I bet he’s already packed to go, isn’t he?”
“Are you kidding? Spending the night with his Aunt Julie? He’s been packed for two days!” Matt smiled at his sister’s laughter on the other end of the line. He sobered. “Listen, I’m not going to ‘go crazy’ as you said, but I do worry. I’m glad you’re taking care of this.”
“I am. Don’t worry.”
“Okay. See you later, then.”
Julie flipped her phone shut and headed out of the parking lot, headed toward the school where she’d worked for a few years, and which she loved. The new school year would start soon, and she wanted to make sure her classroom was up and ready to go for her new batch of monsters.
Remmy watched carefully as Josh showed her how the cash register worked. She memorized each button and what it did, filing it away in what she’d always referred to as the filing cabinet in her mind. Her cousin, Monica used to call her the ‘steel trap’, as the brunette rarely forgot anything once she’d seen or heard it. She was killer in trivia games.
As she continued to pay attention, she adjusted the nametag that was pinned to her shirt, yet again her name stuck to a plastic card with a safety pin attached. The bell above the door jingled, grabbing both Josh and Remmy’s attention.
Just outside the large windows and glass doors was an non-descript blue van, with some sort of red and yellow logo painted on the side that Remmy couldn’t quite read. The dark-haired man who had climbed out, was now heading toward the coolers toward the back of the store. Remmy turned her attention back to what Josh was trying to show her. Within moments, she felt a presence at the counter. Looking up, she saw the man- dark, neatly styled hair, tinged with gray on the sideburns. His dark eyes were dancing as he took in the two gas station clerks.
“This, and thirty dollars with in gas on pump three,” he said, his voice rich and accented slightly. Remmy thought it might be Italian.
Remmy looked at the shaven face, a hint of stylish growth above his lip and on his chin. He was a handsome man, but as her gaze made its way up the straight, though slightly prominent nose, she met his eyes, which were on her. He smiled, though the smile did not reach those dark, impenetrable eyes. She was struck, the air leaving her lungs at the wave of fear that gripped her.
“Hey, you gonna watch, or what?” Josh asked, irritated that the new-hire wasn’t paying attention.
“Uh, I…” Remmy backed away, unable to take her eyes off the bewildered customer. “I gotta pee.” With those muttered words, she hurried out of the bullpen, nearly knocking over a display of candy bars in her haste to get to the back of the store, and into the restroom.
“Is she okay?” the man asked, looking at the bored teenager he was left with. The kid shrugged.
“That’ll be $31.99.”
Sergio Venti passed his credit card across the counter, eyes straying back toward where the pretty brunette had disappeared. He searched his mind, but couldn’t remember ever seeing her before, or knowing her from anywhere. Strange. He signed the card receipt, grabbed up his Coke with a smile of thanks, and then was on his way.
Julie grunted as she reached up, trying to put the last piece of tape in place. She cried out as the chair she stood on was rocked beneath her. Looking down, she nearly growled at a fellow teacher, Tommy Rosa, who had been a colleague for the past two years.
“Damn it, Tommy!” she exclaimed, using his shoulder to balance on as she stepped down. “You scared the hell out of me.”
The seventh grade science teacher chuckled. “Sorry. Couldn’t help myself. Saw your light was on, so decided to say hi.” The 33 year old teacher looked around the room, hands on his hips. He nodded his approval. “Looks good.”
“I’m glad you approve,” Julie said dryly, heading over to her desk to set the Scotch tape on the calendar blotter. She liked Tommy okay, but didn’t like the way he constantly felt the need to flirt with her- especially since he was married. “How’s your room look? Did you end up getting the Salzer twins in your class?”
Tommy nodded with a heavy sigh. “Yeah. I dread that, lemme tell you. Those two are evil.”
Julie chuckled, nodding. “Tell me about it. I had them last year. Hopefully Donald won’t send spit wads sailing across your room, too.”
“Yeah, well if he does…” Tommy slammed a fist menacingly into his other hand, leaving no need to finish his sentence. Julie rolled her eyes.
“Good luck with that one.”
“Yeah, well a guy can hope.” He fingered the tape dispenser Julie had just set down. “So, when are you going to go have that drink with me?”
“How does never sound?” the blonde teacher asked, a brow raised. “Not unless Marcy is planning to come, too.”
“Eh,” he waved her off. “My wife doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a teacher, you know? Doesn’t get how tough it can be.”
“Well,” Julie said unsympathetically, “I’m sure she would if you’d tell her.” She glanced at him. “Ya think?”
“Maybe. Who knows.” With a sigh, Tommy stepped back from Julie’s desk. “Well, I’m going to head out. Have a good day, and I’ll see you next week. Sucks we have to come back so much earlier than the monsters.”
“Welcome to teaching 101.” Julie watched her peer leave the room, leaving her with a small wave. “What a schmuck,” Julie muttered, turning back to the other remaining posters she’d bought over the summer. The posters were filled with words of encouragement for her students, as well as amusing little anecdotes for life- sixth grade style.
Within an hour, the room was completely finished, and Julie would be able to enjoy the rest of her week with Skylar, a week she very much looked forward to. This thought in mind, Julie gathered her belongings, shouldering her purse and snatching her keys from her desk. As she flipped off the lights and closed the door. She headed toward the office to let the principal know she was leaving.
“Hey, Bob,” she said, leaning into the older man’s office. It was so strange to see him sitting behind his desk dressed in Bermuda shorts and a tank top, thinning hair covered by a baseball cap. Her boss looked up at her. “Thanks for letting me in, I appreciate it.”
“No worries,” he said, pen tapping on the tablet he was scribbling on. “I had some stuff to do today, anyway. You outta here?”
“Yeah. See you next week.”
“Have a good one,” the principal said, turning back to his work.
Julie dug her sunglasses out of her bag as she headed out through the double doors of Woodland Elementary. Her little white car was one of three in the parking lot. The other was Bon’s sedan, and the third an unoccupied blue van with the logo for a plumbing company. She gave it an uninterested glance, then took the tiny security remote into her hand, the car chirping to life as she pressed the unlock button.
Julie took hold of the handle on her car door, pulling it open, the oppressive heat from inside the car wafted out at her. She tossed her purse inside, when suddenly she was grabbed from behind She cried out, though it was muffled by the iron-like hand that covered her mouth. She could feel hot breath against her cheek, the feel of a strong body behind her.
Reality struck the teacher as she felt herself being pulled off her feet. She struggled, kicking wildly, the heel of her tennis shoe making contact with a shin. She heard the short grunt of her attacker, but the grip did not let up, only getting tighter. She tried desperately to peel the fingers from her mouth, but then her arms were pulled roughly behind her, wrists held by a single, calloused hand. She was drug back further, feet kicking uselessly as she was half-carried, half-dragged the short distance toward the fan. Her arms were released for a short moment as she heard the metallic slide of the van door. True fear trickling down her spine, she began to kick and thrash wildly, doing everything she could to not be put into the van. Pain radiated through her hip as it was smacked on the side of the van as she was heaved inside.
Tears sprang to Julie’s eyes when she saw the van door slide into place with finality, the hand on her mouth not moving. Arms and hands still free, she began to claw frantically at the arm attached to the hand, and reaching back behind her, trying to pull hair, gouge out an eye, anything she could do. Her assailant made not one sound, said not one word. Julie’s struggle was cut short as a rich, dark pain engulfed her head, her vision going black around the edges. She was having trouble breathing from the hand over her mouth, which partly covered her nose, as well, just from its sheer size. She fought weakly, sensing that if she lost full consciousness, it was all over for her. She tried to fight, digging desperately toward the light of the fading day, but to no avail.
Julie was gently laid on the flooring of the van, right next to the plumber’s wrench that still had her blood and bits of her hair on it. Breathing heavily, and looking at the scratches that littered his arm, Sergio made his way up between the front two seats of the van, buckling himself in behind the wheel. Glancing around the parking lot, he saw that no one had seen. Starting the engine of the van, he put it into gear and headed out.
Skylar looked out the window again before returning to his pacing. His bag was packed, filled with all his favorite video games to play with his aunt. His shoes were already on, too. He hated shoes, but his dad told him Aunt Julie would be there by five-thirty, so he was ready.
“Skylar,” Matt called from deeper in the house. “Did you grab your toothbrush?”
The boy ran up the stairs, feet pounding, as he headed into his bathroom, snatching the Oral-B from its holder in the wall. When he scrambled back down, hoping that maybe his aunt’s car would be in the driveway, he saw his father standing at the front window, looking out, then glancing at his watch. Matt me his son’s eyes.
“She’s still not here?” he asked. The boy shook his head. It was nearing six. He’d give it a few more minutes before he called Julie’s cell phone. She was notoriously on time, and in fact, usually early. “I’m sure she’ll be here soon, buddy,” he said, ruffling his son’s hair.
Return to the Academy