At around nine p.m. Rachel walked back to the room with her mom.
“Mom, I’m going home.”
“Why?” She spun and looked at Rachel. Her eyes held more concern than disappointment. Mom was convinced that Rachel had been touched by God. She had told Rachel as much once she finished her conversation with Carol Adnaw.
“This has been a lot for me to process. I think I need to be alone for a little bit.” She needed to go home and face her fears. The constant fear she lived under now seemed ridiculous from the outside. A twinge of fear rattled around but she pushed it down with every logical explanation against what she was feeling.
“I’ll try to be back in the morning but there is something I have to do tonight.” She wanted to reassure her mom that she wasn’t trying to skip out on their women’s retreat. Her mom raised a skeptical eyebrow at Rachel.
“How ‘bout this. I’ll grab my toothbrush and deodorant and leave everything else here. I’ll get it when I come back in the morning for the rest of the conference.
Her mom’s face softened, “All right. I’ll see you in the morning then. They’re starting breakfast at eight.”
“I’ll be here.” Rachel hugged her mom, grabbed the cosmetic bag from her suitcase and headed straight for her car.
The door thudded behind her and threw her into darkness. Only the few security lights in the parking lot and dim solar lights casting circles of yellow along the sidewalk invaded its domain. The evening air clung to Rachel’s arms. Behind her something scraped and she let out a small squeal until she saw the leaf skitter past her on the sidewalk.
She paused for a moment and looked back at the door to the lodge. What was she really trying to prove by going home? She took a step toward the lodge trying to come up with a reason for her change of heart.
“No.” Her voice echoed from the door and briefly stopped the chatter of crickets. She jammed her hand in her purse to retrieve her keys and walked along, her boots clanking out hard on the sidewalk.
He could have followed her.
She started walking faster to her car. It would take longer to get back to the lodge then to get in her drivers seat. She pushed the button to unlock the doors. The dome light flooded the interior. She opened the door, got inside and locked it behind her in one fluid motion. She turned her dome light off and let her eyes adjust again to the darkness.
There were no moving forms, no shadows approaching. She didn’t feel any less vulnerable alone in this locked car than she had alone on the dark sidewalk. But now she was committed to going home. She stuck her key in the ignition and let the car idle for a few minutes playing the slide show in her head again. Each rose and where she had found it didn’t paralyze her with fear but neither did she feel as invincible as she had inside the lodge.
She drove down the winding tree-lined road that would take her back out to triangle park. Overhead the trees sliced lines across the moon. Carol had assured her that everything was going to be fine. She had said she’d be protected. However, what she said was contingent upon God existing the way they believed. If they were wrong there was no protection.
A tear slid down her cheek. The only way she had a promise that she was going to be safe was if her mom was right about God and Jesus. If Rachel was right she could be driving home to her death. The Fratboy would get her.
She had tried denial, anger and tears and nothing had worked. She wanted Carol to be right. At least this time.
“God if you’re out there give me the faith to believe what I’ve heard is true.”
She came to the end of the wooded area and made the jog to Triangle park. Her breathing slowed a bit. The streets were empty most of the way home. Nine o’ clock on a Friday night it seemed people were at their destinations.
She turned down her road and drove slowly along. The street was deserted except for a man petting the brown dog a few doors down from her house. Her house was dimly lit with the few lamps she’d left on with the timer. She pulled up her driveway and around to the back of the house.
“I’m going to be fine.” She said as she took deliberate strides to her back door. She denied the terror digging its icy fingers in her body.
“I’m going to be fine.” She repeated with emphasis. The deadbolt clicked as she turned the key and pushed the door open. The clock ticked out the second and she pushed the door shut behind her.
The blinking red light on her answering machine caught her attention. She pushed the play button and removed her shoes.
“Rachel this is Curtis. Welcome home. I wanted to let you know I’ve been praying for you tonight. I miss you. Call me when you get home.” The machine beeped at the end of his message.
“I thought I left more lights on.” Her voice boomed in the silence of the house. She stepped in the living room and turned on the television eager to hear a voice to silence the one in her head. It boomed on and made her jump. She fumbled with the volume down on the remote. Maybe it had been a mistake to come back here. The women at the retreat were wonderful, not judgmental at all. What did she have to prove by coming back to the house? That she wasn’t scared.
By coming home she had proven that the Frat boy had complete control over her. She was happy at the retreat and she wanted to leave that to prove that he didn’t control her. She plopped down on the couch.
She was home and it was now almost nine thirty she decided to order a movie on pay-per-viewher cable, throw on her pajamas and enjoy the rest of her evening. She flipped on the dining room light on her way to the steps. The candlesticks in the middle of the table were gone and in its place was her mail and a single white rose.
The icy fingers of terror grabbed her and squeezed. She stood planted with her eyes fixed on the flower. She had been gone for only three hours.
He could be here now.
Her feet gave way and she ran for the kitchen. She dialed Curtis and grabbed a knife out of the kitchen drawer.
“Hi, I hadn’t expected to hear from you tonight.”
“He’s been here.” She blurted out. “Please come.”
“Who?” Curtis’ voice was firm. “Rachel, who was there.”
“Him. He’s been here.” She paced in a five-foot section of her kitchen and adjusted her grip on the knife.
“I’m getting in my car now. Rachel, hang up and call the police.”
“Curtis, don’t hang up please.”
“Rachel, if someone is there you need to hang up and call the police now.”
“Please. I can’t be alone.”
“Honey, I’m coming but I won’t be there for ten or fifteen minutes. Please hang up and call the police.”
She grabbed her home phone and balanced the cell on her shoulder. “Curtis, don’t hang up. I’m calling the police with the land line. She tried to dial but couldn’t balance and the knife fell from her hand. She jumped and dropped the cell. The knife skittered across the floor and hit the wall blade first.
“Are you still there?” She yelled then grabbed the phone tight against her ear.
“Yes, are you okay?”
“I dropped the phone.”
“Call the police Rachel. Set the cell on the counter. I won’t hang up but call 9-1-1 now.”
She bent down for the knife and took it to the corner of her kitchen then set the phone and the knife beside her and dialed. She told the dispatcher what had happened.
“We have a patrol in your area, hold the line.”
Rachel picked up the cell, “They have someone close by.”
“Good, don’t talk to me. Talk to them.” Curtis said, sounding much calmer.
Rachel’s breathing slowed.
“Ma’am?” The dispatcher said.
“Yes. I’m here.”
“We have a car less than a mile from your home. I need you to stay on the line until he arrives.”
Red and blue flashed in her living room when the car pulled in the driveway. “Curtis, the police are here. I’m going to hang up.”
“I’ll be there soon. I love you.”
“I love you too.” Rachel said and flipped the phone shut.
“Ma’am, I’ve had radio contact. That is our patrol car. It is safe for you to hang up with me. They will take care of everything.”
“Thank you.” Rachel pushed the phone off and let the officer in the front door.
She gave him the name of the detective who had been working her case and told him about the evening.
“Rachel.” Curtis burst in the front door.
“Sir.” The officer took a step toward Curtis.
“It’s okay. He’s my boyfriend.”
The officer relaxed. “And you did not come to her house today and do this?” He asked and scratched something on a notepad.
“No I didn’t.” Curtis said pulling Rachel against him. “She was supposed to be gone until tomorrow.”
The officer turned to Rachel, “Who else knew you were going to be out of town?”
“A few people in the office. But I have an alarm.” She pointed to the alarm panel on the wall.
“Who has your code?”“My mom and I but I was with my mom.”
He turned to Curtis. “Does he have it?”
“No.” Curtis answered.
“Just a moment.” The officer took a couple of steps away from the two of them and spoke into the radio clipped to his shoulder.
Curtis walked Rachel into the kitchen away from the officer. “It’s going to fine. We’ll find out who broke in.” He pushed her hair behind her ear as he spoke. “I want you to stay at your parent’s house until this blows over. I don’t want you to be alone.”
“Can’t I stay with you?” She didn’t want to be alone either but running to mommy and daddy’s house meant the Frat Boy was winning.
Curtis hesitated for a moment. “I would love to have you there but I don’t think that’s best right now. I’ll come by the office and follow you to your parent’s house every evening. You don’t have to be afraid.”
“But I don’t want my mom to worry.”
“Rachel” He tilted her chin up so she was looking straight in his eyes. “I’m not worried about that. I want you safe.” His voice was firm. “I love you, Rachel. I can’t have anything happen to you.”
The words ignited a fire in her chest and made her completely unable to respond. She reached over and wrapped her arms around him. Going to Mom and Dad’s house would put her closer to him and would work fine for the time being.“
Curtis, I can’t keep running away.” She stepped back to face him. “If I do, this will never stop.”
“Rachel, this man is crazy, not a genius.”
“But he. . .”
“But he never comes when other people are around. He only wants to scare you.”
“He came when you were over the other night.”
Curtis’ mouth dropped open and he took a step back. “Did you see him here?”
“No, when you left I went out to the porch to put a letter in the mailbox and there was a rose.”
“How do you know he hadn’t left it earlier?”
“Because I got the mail before you came.”
His face went ashen and he stared past Rachel.
“Ma’am?” The officer stepped into the kitchen.
“The detectives will be here shortly. Did you touch anything on the table when you got home?”
“No way.” She shook her head for emphasis.
He nodded and stepped back in the other room and she looked over at Curtis.
“Rachel, I still want you with your parents unless you can think of some place else safer. I need to know you’re safe.”
She looked down.
Curtis touched her arm and she looked back up at him. “How long has this been going on?”
“Since around the time you and I met.”
He crinkled his eyebrows and raised his voice slightly. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“At first I thought maybe it was you.”
“Breaking in your house?” His voice rose slightly higher.
“No, the first couple of roses were sitting by my car or at the office.”
“How many have you gotten?”
“Ten?” He lowered his voice a bit. “You’ve had this happen ten times and this is the first you’ve told anyone?”
“No, Shannon knew.”
“You’ve had this happen ten times and this is the first you’ve told me.” It sounded like hurt.
“I didn’t want to.”
“It’s…I understand. So then?”
“When I found the one at the office in my desk we let the police know.” She looked out at the officer in the other room. He didn’t seem to be doing anything but waiting. “They increased patrols in my neighborhood a few weeks ago.”
“Lot of good that did.” Curtis shook his head. He ran his fingers through his short blond hair and turned his face up to the ceiling. “Okay God, now what.” He sounded as if her were talking to someone in the room with him.
“He hasn’t tried to contact me or get near me. I think if I stay with my parents like you said and always have someone with me for a while it will give the police time to try to find him.”
Curtis nodded his head and pulled her to his chest. “I am so sorry I didn’t protect you.” He squeezed her tight.
“Ma’am? The detectives are here.” The officer said.
“You ready to go talk to him?” Curtis pushed a bit of hair back from her face.
She nodded and they walked in to the other room.
You are reading A Face in the Shadow by Tiffany Colter.
Tiffany is a writer, speaker and writing career coach. She is a frequent contributor to print and online publications in addition to her regular marketing blog at http://www.writingcareercoach.com/
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This story is copyright Tiffany Colter. 2007. It may not be copied, distributed, sold or included in any larger work without the expressed written permission of Tiffany Colter.
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