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Crouching in shadows is hell on my back, but at least it’s better than digging graves I ache for days after that. I see her walking but she does not see me. I am a master of the shadows that I hide behind and my silhouette cast by the street lamps is masked by the obscurity of the night. I wonder what she would say if she saw me, if I stepped out into the light of the moon. She stops in place, as I pray she didn’t hear me, and looks in her purse for her car keys. The street light she stands under casts a brilliant glow against her porcelain skin making her look like an angel sent down from heaven. The wind whips her long blond hair in her face momentarily masking her piercing green eyes. I see a shadow run by from the corner of my eye and my killer reflexes kick in. I turn quickly to see what it was and trip over a tree branch in the process. By the time I decide it was just a stray cat and turn around she is already rushing into her blue Audi. My time with her tonight has come to an end, she is probably on her way home to that little white house with navy blue shudders. It really doesn’t matter though, I”ll see her again soon anyway. Bella, what a perfect name for her.
I am just barely awake when the floorboards begin to creak at the threshold of my bedroom. From the corner of my eye I can see a shadow approaching slowly and when the figure bends towards the bed I bolt up ready to fight and came face to face with my friend Cameron.
“Oww Are you trying to give me a concussion?” Cameron said as he glared at me in an accusatory fashion while clutching his forehead.
“You have enough brain damage already without my help.” I replied. Even though I was joking around I still needed a minute to get my heart rate back to normal.
“Very funny. Were you about to attack me?” Cameron asked as he pushed his shaggy dirty blond away from his face so he could continue to glower at me with his hazel eyes that seemed to turn more amused than exasperated.
“Yeah, sorry about that. I guess I’m just a little bit jumpy.” I replied. Truthfully I keep getting the feeling that someone is watching me. It could just be my paranoia but I swear I heard someone following me tonight and step on something. After that I ran to my car but I spent the rest of the night periodically looking over my shoulder.
“How did you even get in my house?” I ask, no one is home and I always lock the doors (my paranoia again).
“Your mom leaves a spare key under Gary the garden gnome in the front yard. By the way, isn’t it sad that your mom is out partying with her friends and your in bed at 10:30 at night?”
“No, what’s sad is that you know where the spare keys are and I don’t.” I replied.
“It’s a moot point anyway. Get up and get dressed we’re going to the party a few streets down.” Cameron says as he makes a futile attempt to pull me from my bed. At this point my best friend Alice shows up at the doorway.
“Is everyone just breaking into my house tonight?” I sigh.
“What’s taking so long, Jason is still waiting in the car. I only left because I got sick of listening to him complain about how much he hates waiting.” Alice said as she flopped down next to me on my bed. Alice has been my best friend since fourth grade but for the most part we are polar opposites. Her hair is jet black with a pixie cut that offsets her translucent turquoise eyes. With the ways she dresses she often reminds me of some sort of dark fairy that you would see in some Tim Burton movie. Alice was a bloodhound when it came to finding parties so it didn’t surprise me that she was here. My mom is afraid that she is a bad influence on me.
“I know that you guys live in a magical land where you can party all night and sleep until four in the afternoon, but I live in the real world where I actually want to do well in college and keep my job” I said to both of them.
“Hey ” Cameron said while he mocked being offended. “We have classes too, we just choose to sleep through a couple of them.”
“Come on Izzy don’t leave me alone with Beavis and Butt-head ” Alice pleaded.
“Wait am I Beavis or Butt-head? Can I be Beavis, he had way cooler hair ” Cameron chimed in.
“Do you see what I deal with” Alice muttered under her breath.
After a few more minutes of begging and groveling I finally conceded to going out.
Jason tried to talk us out of dragging Izzy out of bed for a party muttering something about sleeping and classes but as per usual I won the argument. Jason was the only one of us that didn’t go to college, he decided it wasn’t for him and works as a landscaper instead. His hours are pretty flexible so he always tags along when there is a party. He spent the entire car ride flipping his mess of black hair around. It’s so long now he can’t see without adjusting it every couple of minutes making it look like he is twitching, I swear one day I will attack him with a pair of scissors and cut it for him. I really thought that a party would be good for Izzy, she has been in some sort of mood lately that I don’t understand. When we get to the party a walk around and make sure I talk to everyone. Every time I look back at Izzy she seems more distracted than ever, fidgeting with her necklace and nervously looking around. I make a mental note to talk to her about that later. About an hour after we arrived Cameron and Jason come up to me.
“Hey ” Jason shouted over the pounding music. “Cameron isn’t feeling well so I’m gonna give him a ride home now. Can you bring Isabelle home in your car?”
“Sure, no problem. Tell Cameron I hope he feels better.”
“I will. See ya” Jason said as they turn and leave. Almost immediately after they leave I feel someone tap my shoulder and I notice my friend Candice.
“Hey ” She said, “I’ve been looking for you.”
“What for?” I asked.
“Well we kept meaning to make plans to go to that club and I figured this party is boring so why not go now.”
“Yes I’ve been dying to go there. We can take my car.” I say as I did in my pocket for my car keys. We walk to my car and talk about random things on the drive there. While driving I vaguely remember that I promised to take Izzy home. Oh well. I’ll send her a sorry text tomorrow.
I search everywhere for Alice until I realize that she left without me. Typical Alice. I think I would probable be angry or offended if I didn’t know her so well, she probably went to another party. The walk home isn’t very long but with the winter winds and snow covered ground it feels like miles. As I walk home I get the feeling that someone is following me again. I quicken my pace and silently curse Alice in my head. Soon my anxiety gets the best of me and I reach for my cell to call someone to come get me. It is then that I realize that I let Alice hold my phone because my outfit didn’t have pockets. “Just great” I grumble. I feel alone and helpless, the night has never scared me so much. I finally arrive home fifteen minutes later. I lock all the doors in the house and go straight to my room. I look out the window and see someone standing across the street, but as soon as I look he recedes back into the shadows. That settles it, I am definitely putting get mace at the top of my to do list.
I can’t believe Bella’s friend forced her to walk home all by herself. Doesn’t she know what kind of awful people are out there? Isabelle could have been hurt, and she must have been so scared to be out there all by herself. Luckily she was not alone, I was there to protect her unseen in the shadows. I was watching over her. I am always watching her. She seems different lately, distracted maybe. I know just what will make her feel better.
I knew I shouldn’t have gone to that party last night because today I could barley function. By the time I get home from work I want nothing more than to just crawl into bed and give into the contentment that only a good nights sleep can bring. I drag my feet up the stairs and flick my lights on, that’s when I see it. A big brown teddy bear is sitting on my bed. I feel the icy gust of wind coming in through my window which is odd because I never leave my window open in the winter. I walk over to the window and look outside, there are faint footprints in the snow leading from the sidewalk to the tree beside my bedroom. My window pain is drenched with snow, I quickly shut the window and walk over to my bed with this gnawing feeling in my gut. As I walk to the bed I slip on water that I knew was tracked in from the window. When I pick up the bear a note falls onto my bed. It reads:
Dear Isabelle,I have been watching you for awhile in relative silence but I think it’s time you know about me. I’ve noticed how distressedyou have been and I feel terrible about it. I thought this bear might cheer you up a bit. I will reveal myself to you in time, but not yet. Until then stay safe, and don’t go wandering out by yourself anymore, it makes me worry.
I sit on my bed in silence staring at the typed letter. It takes every ounce of strength I have to pick up my phone and call Alice with shaking fingers.
“Hey Izzy, about last night I’m really sorry it’s just–“ Alice tried to say before I cut her off.
“Listen it doesn’t matter, can you come over now?” I ask barely recognizing my own voice.
“Are you ok? You sound terrible.”
“No I’m not, just please come” I hung up without waiting for her reply. About five minutes later Alice came bursting through my door demanding answers.
The second the door flies open I see Isabelle sitting on her bed clutching a bear in her hands. She is visibly shaken and her eyes were filled with more fear than I had ever seen. She was always the composed one with all the answers and I always came to her with my many problems. Seeing her this way made me freeze in place for a moment until the shock wore off and I rushed to her bed. With a little coaxing she told me the whole story. I must be the worst friend in the world to not notice what has been going on. She has been more withdrawn the past few weeks but I just chalked it up to too much schoolwork. I haven’t been the best friend to her lately but that had to change now.
After a long pause Isabelle looks up at me and asks “So what do I do?”
“You need help.” I respond
Izzy tilts her head to the side momentarily confused “That’s why I called you”
“No I mean real help, you have to go to the cops”
“Maybe I’m just overreacting”
“No you are underreacting”
“Is that even a word?” She asked
I tried to give my voice a commanding don’t mess with me tone when I said “Look we both know this is no joke so either you go to the cops or I drag you there first thing in the morning.”
“Your right, I’ll go tomorrow. Do you want to meet for lunch after?”
“Sure, and if anything happens call me right away.”
“Promise. I should probably get some sleep.”
As I turned to leave Isabelle gets out of bed and walks over to the window to lock it. On the drive home I almost turn around and go back to her house. I feel the need to be there and comfort her but she should sleep. I made sure that every door and window was locked before I left so there should be nothing to worry about... I hope.
I knew that I should have slept but I did nothing but toss and turn the entire night. Dark figures hiding in shadows holding knives that caught the light of street lamps haunted my dreams. I awoke several times with a racing heart and clammy hands. By 6am I was running out the door to the police station. When I arrive at the station it looks like a ghost town, apparently most people don’t wake up this early to come tell the police about their bad dreams. I ask the women at the main desk who I can go to with my problem and she directs me down the hall to the second door on the left to see Detective Chase. I follow her directions but realize that I must have misheard her because sitting at the desk was a man who didn’t look that much older than me, mid twenties maybe. He is wearing a dress shirt and black pants, his blond hair is cut short and it wasn’t until I looked into his blues eyes that I realize I had just been standing there staring at him.
“Can I help you?” He asks
“Sorry I think I’m in the wrong place I was looking for Detective Chase.” I said as I started backing out of his office.
“That would be me.” He said
“Oh, no offence but I was sort of hoping for someone a little older with more experience considering my life may be in danger.”
“I may be the youngest but I’m also the best detective that you will find here.” He replied.
“Well, someone has a bit of an ego.” I mumbled
“You know, for some one who wants help you sure aren’t doing yourself any favors right now”
“Sorry” I sat down and recounted the whole story for him while he sat in silence taking it all in.
After I finish he just sits there and stares at me. “So what do you think?” I ask
“I think you should have said something to someone sooner, but besides that I think I want to check out your house.”
I gave him the address and he promised to stop by later and look around. After the meeting I went to go have lunch with my friends.
Something about how nervous Isabelle was made me want to go look around her house sooner rather than later. I hop in my car and enjoy the ten minute ride to her house. I step out onto the snow covered sidewalk and realize belatedly that I can’t get in her house without a key. Instead of wasting a trip down here I decide to look around the outside of the house, especially by her window. The tree beside her bedroom window seemed easy enough to climb but it was still a pretty high climb and it was covered in snow. The person must have been pretty athletic to make it up to that window. As I inspect the tree I notice a glove hanging onto one of the branches. I’m not dressed for climbing trees but I really need that glove. I latch onto the tree but I only have to scale a few feet before the glove is within my reach. I jump down to examine the glove, it is not your typical winter glove but rather a work glove. There is no doubt in my mind that whoever is following her accidently left this behind. The more I think about it the more I think whoever this is someone she knows, not just some stranger. Before heading back to work I take a detour to my house to change clothes. When I arrive back at the station I look for my friend Margie.
“Margie Hey I’m so glad I found you” I said as I hurried to keep pace with her.
“Hey Chase, what do you need this time?” She asked
“What makes you think I need something? I’m hurt that you would think that, what if I just wanted to talk”
“I know you too well, so what do you want.”
“Can you run background checks on Isabelle’s friends?”
“Sure. Anything specific your looking for?”
“A history of stalking would be nice, maybe some restraining orders. I doubt you’ll find anything but it’s worth a shot” I said as I walked back to my office. I spent the rest of my day staring at the glove. It’s like the glove was mocking me saying “I know something you don’t know”.
When I get to the pizza place my friends are already there. I walk over to the table and the second I sit down Alice bombards me with questions.
“So how did it go? Wait, you did go didn’t you?” Alice asked
“Yes I did go and it went fine. The detective seems nice and he was going to stop by my house later to check things out.” I replied
Alice let out a breath of relief, “Good, I told you that you had to go to the cops.”
“Wait Wait Wait” Cameron said “Why did you go to the cops?”
I told the story again so that Cameron and Jason were up to speed. Unsurprisingly they were both appalled that I hadn’t spoken to them sooner. After lunch Cameron and Jason left and Alice and I decided to go to the movies to get my mind off of the mess that my life has become.
How dare she go to the police Her friend is always ruining everything, she told her to go to the police and Isabelle listened. I care for her so much but she just wants to leave me. I won’t let her. I refuse to give her up not this time.
After a long night of fun with Alice I feel better than I have in weeks. It’s times like these when I remember exactly why she is my best friend. I may have been able to loosen up a bit tonight but the concern in her eyes never waned. It took a few minutes to convince her that I would be fine at home by myself and she finally relented. I grab the house key from my pocket as I walk up to the door. I start to put the key in the lock but I realize the door is already open. My mom is on a business trip for the week so I’m home alone, I know I locked the door before I left. I slowly walk up to my room and when I look in I can see writing on my mirror.
YOU CAN'T LEAVE ME!
It’s written in blood red marker, without hesitating I call Detective Chase and he answers on the first ring.
“Isabelle is everything alright?” the concern in his voice was palpable.
“He broke in again. I came home and the front door was open, there’s writing on my mirror.”
“Hang on I’m on my way.” He said just before he hung up.
Human life is so fragile, such a delicate balance. So easy to extinguish a bright burning flame and turn it into nothing but a pile of ash. Soon a life will come to an end. Soon this will all end.
After spending the night watching over Isabelle while she slept I’m dead tired by the time I make it into work the next day. She wouldn’t have been able to sleep if I didn’t stay there but I wish I at least got some sleep. The second I walk in the door Margie charges at me.
“I’ve been looking everywhere for you, I found something on your case.” Margie says as she hands me files.
“Well what is it?” I reply, I know I sound grumpy, but that’s because I am.
“I looked up her friend Jason Mills and there was nothing on him.”
“Then why are you wasting my time?”I ask, my patience is wearing thin and I start to walk away.
“No, I mean there is nothing on him because he doesn’t exist. I looked into it more and found out that his real name is Clyde Green, a landscaper from Michigan that when off the grid a few years ago.”
“Why the sudden disappearance and name change?” I ask completely lost, I really should have had a cup of coffee to help me focus.
“Clyde Green was the only suspect in the murder of his girlfriend, Jamie Price. They thought she was missing but the police found her buried in the woods by his house. The evidence they had against him was circumstantial at best so he was free to go. Then he just vanished.”
“Why would he want to kill her?”
“Her friends said that she thought he was too controlling and she was going to leave him. I didn’t even get to the best part of the story yet, Jamie Price looks exactly like Isabelle.”
“I should have known the work glove was for Jason’s landscaping. Who knows how many people he killed under different aliases. I have to go, I’ll call for back up if I need it.” I ran out the door faster than I thought possible and barreled into my car. Now that I know how dangerous he is I have to find Clyde now. There’s nothing like an adrenaline rush to wake you up.
I was waiting for Jason for about ten minutes before he finally showed up. We decided that since the weather is a little better today we should go hiking along the trail. Something looked a little off about him today but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. He seemed to be in some mood
so we spent the first few minutes walking in silence. I am the first to break the silence and ask him about the first thing I can think of because the quiet is getting awkward.
“So, nice weather today huh?” I say. He laughs at my attempt to make conversation and smiles, something about it still doesn’t feel right. His laugh was forced and sounded like nails on a chalkboard and the smile was menacing.
“That’s what you want to talk about?” He said
“Well what do you want to talk about?” I ask, every instinct in my body is telling me to run but I don’t know why.
“Lets talk about Isabelle.” He said. His voice was cold, his face expressionless.
“Ok... What about her?”
“She’s been having a hard time lately and all you seem to care about it parties, you are a terrible influence on her. Why would you tell her to go to the police? You are driving her away from me ” He yelled the last part but for some reason I was frozen in place.
“What are you talking about?” I shouted back.
“You didn’t let met finish. I was about to say that’s way you can’t be in the picture anymore.”
In that second it all hit me, I knew that it was him and now I was trapped in the middle of nowhere with a psycho. The fight or flight instinct kicked in and I turned to run, I was never much of a fighter. I tripped over rocks and didn’t make it very far when I feel his hands close around my arm and pull me back towards him...
I fly down the highway and break every speed limit on the way to Clyde’s house. I hope I didn’t figure this out to late but now it’s just a race against the clock. My tires screech to a stop in front of his house. All the lights are out and there are no cars in the driveway. I pound the steering wheel in frustration and put the car into drive once again. There’s only one other place that he could be.
When I get home from work I think about calling detective Chase and asking him if he would keep me company again but I decide that I’ve bothered him enough lately. Instead I call Alice but I get her voice mail. I try her cell a few more times until I give up. She always answers her phone so it makes me nervous that she won’t pick up. I brush it off and decide she’s probably just at a party. I walk up to my room but the light is already on. Inside Jason is sitting on my desk chair and he looks up when I come in. He looks disheveled to say the least, there is dirt all over him and it looks like blood on his shirt. It took me a minute but it finally clicked, the hand writing on my mirror was identical to his. I try my best to appear unconcerned but I have a bad feeling about something else now.
“Hey, have you seen Alice today. I tried to call but she wouldn’t answer.” I tried to keep the fear out of my voice.
“Lets just say Alice fell a little too far down the rabbit hole this time.” He said and then chuckled at his own joke.
“What is that suppose to mean?” I said unable to hide my fear this time.
“It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be afraid of me I wouldn’t hurt you”
“I just want to know what is going on.” I try to conceal my phone while I reach for Detective Chase’s speed dial. Apparently I didn’t do a very good job because Jason jumped out of the chair and slapped the phone out of my hand before I could make the call.
“Why are you trying to leave me? I though you were different, but your just like everyone else, your just like her. It’s ok I can forgive you , but we have to leave now, it won’t be long until they realize Alice is missing.”
“I am not going anywhere with you ” I yelled as I slowly backed away, putting distance between us.
“I did this all for you Isabelle, you are so ungrateful ” He bellowed.
I couldn’t stand there anymore I had to run, but I knew that I couldn’t take him. I know that my chances are not good but I have to try, I can’t give up with out a fight. He ran right after me and tackled me to the ground. I turn and punch him in the face, this surprised him long enough for me to get up and start running again. He started to run at me again and he almost caught me when a figure came out of nowhere, jumped on him and pinned him to the ground. They fought for a few minutes but I couldn’t see what was happening in the darkness. I frantically search the wall for the light switch and turn it on. I turn around to see Detective Chase on top Jason handcuffing him. I hear the distant sound of police sirens coming down the street. If detective Chase came a few minutes later who knows what he would have found. Detective Chase passed Jason off to the other cops and came over to comfort me. I curl up into his arms and cry. I cry for my best friend. I cry for the other people Jason has hurt. And I cry for the life that I almost lost.
I’m sitting at my desk playing solitaire when Isabelle walks in.
“Are you too bust to come have lunch with me?” She asks.
“Too busy for you? Never.” I reply.
“Good. I’ll wait for you in the car.” She said as she turned and left.
It’s been months since the incident with Jason/Clyde but she still working on getting over it. She couldn’t believe that Jason was never who he said he was, and she still wonders if she had gone to the police sooner would Alice still be alive. Somewhere along the way with all this we became friends, I guess there really is a silver lining to everything. Jason is being held without bail until his trial in which Isabelle was asked to testify. She isn’t back to normal yet but she is strong, she will be better soon. Now that all of this is done she can finally look to the future. The hardest thing for her to believe was that Jason pretended to be her friend and created a whole new identity with no one catching on. Clyde was one of the best actors I have ever seen.