Hailey was preoccupied with solving the message embedded in her stalker’s Caller I.D.
“I’ve tried wracking my brain about topics we’ve studied on the course, seeing as how he seems to be a student—but, nothing comes to mind. Of course, that’s assuming that U. R. Done refers to John Donne—maybe that’s a wrong assumption.’”
“Donne?” Brad furrowed his brow, “Wasn’t he one of those metaphysical poets?”
Nan’s eyes popped. “You know about Donne?”
“It’s a long story,” Brad countered, “but it’s a kind of interesting connection—I mean a poet preoccupied with religion and most of these stalkers are kind of flaky in that area too.”
“The Bible!” Nan shouted. “Revel could be Revelations.”
“Isn’t the usual short form, Rev?” asked Hailey.
Nan was not to be deterred. “Sure, but maybe your stalker doesn’t know that. Have you got a Bible around here?”
“There’s a King James Version on the shelf behind you.”
Nan picked it up and blew off the dust. “I see you don’t open this much.”
She flushed. “It’s been a while, I’m afraid.”
“Here it is—Revelations 17—the Woman on the Beast.” She got excited. “Listen to this: This title was written on her forehead: Mystery. Babylon the Great. The Mother of Prostitutes and of the Abominations of the Earth.”
“You really stir people up, don’t you?” Brad quipped.
“Stir them up? Listen to this last part,” Nan shouted. “They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” She looked up and saw Hailey’s horrified face. “Hey, don’t get all weird. It’s only metaphorical, isn’t it?”
Brad took the Bible and closed it. He turned to Hailey. “This has gone way beyond prank calling. It’s not safe for you to stay here. Have you got somewhere you can go?”
“She can stay with me,” offered Nan.
“No, that’s not necessary,” Hailey protested, “ My mother’s last wishes were for me to stay in the Lakeshore house for a year. So, I can stay there with Birdie.”
Brad looked puzzled. “Who’s Birdie?”
“My mother’s housekeeper—but she’s more than that, really—she’s like family.”
“Well, that sounds like a solution,” he offered.
She had a faraway look in her eye. “It is, I suppose—in more ways than one. I’ll phone her and let her know I’m coming tonight.”
“Meanwhile, I’d be careful about telling anyone your forwarding address—wait a while until we catch this guy. He’ll slip up—they always do.”
“That’s a comforting thought,” Nan grumbled.
“The K-9 Unit always gets their man.”
“Shades of Duddly Do Right and Snidely Whiplash,” she laughed.
“We have as good a track record.”
“That’s a pretty bad pun.”
“Just trying to keep things light.” He smiled encouragingly at Hailey. “You’ve got lots of support and a safe place to go—not everyone is so fortunate.”
“I know—I’m not complaining—just scared, I guess.”
Brad nodded soberly, well aware of Hailey’s fear.
“I don’t blame you, but use that fear wisely to keep safe. Don’t take any unnecessary risks and notify me the minute you see something suspicious.”
“I will. I guess you won’t have to come over and install the security light if I’m staying at my Mother’s place.”
“Your place, now,” Nan corrected.
“Right—this all seems so weird.” She looked lost.
“If you want, Star and I can drop by and visit you,” Brad offered.
“I’d like that,” she smiled.
There was an awkward pause.
“Well, I’d best be going. I’ve got your cell number, so I’ll give you a shout.”
She reached out and touched his arm. “By the way, thanks for everything.”
For the first time she looked deep into his eyes. It was strange, as if she had been waiting for her life to change before giving herself permission. She liked what she saw.
For his part, he discovered her eyes weren’t blue as he supposed, but violet, and incredibly fascinating. He could stare into those eyes for the rest of his life and never tire of doing it.
Nan cleared her throat and broke the spell.
“I’ll see you later,” he mumbled and awkwardly fumbled his way out the door.
Nan waited a few seconds before letting out a huge whoop. “Goodbye Sean Mappin!” she shouted gleefully.
Hailey colored. “Was it that obvious?”
“It was. Simple and basic—Chemistry 101.”
“But a policeman, Nan—and that shaved scalp?”
Nan grinned. “Who knew?”
Hailey shook her head. “Well, do you want to wait while I pack a few things and follow me over—maybe we can pick up a bottle of wine on the way?”
“And licorice,” Nan insisted, “There must be licorice.”
“We’ll get that too,” Hailey giggled.
“Do you want to help me pack?”
“Actually, I was going to ask where you keep your turpentine—I’ll remove that word from your front door.”
“Oh, right—there’s turpentine and rags in the basement closet at the foot of the stairs.”
“Aye, aye, Capitan.”
Hailey was already on the phone and dialling Birdie. Nan found the closet and supplies and went back upstairs to clean the door.
She could hear Hailey upstairs rummaging through drawers and closets, so she turned on the outside light and set to work removing the paint.
Fortunately, most of the paint was on glass—only half of the letter “T” had hit the aluminum frame.
It was eerie being out on the stoop with the dark laneway behind her. She glanced at the townhouses opposite, all of which seemed abandoned and silent.
It was still early—only just after eight, but it felt like three in the morning. Every time she turned back to face the door, she felt eyes on her, watching her every move.
She shivered and quickly finished her work and hurried back inside. Hailey was just coming down the stair with two suitcases.
“It’s really spooky out there at night.”
“Yeah. I chose this place because it was quiet, but I know what you mean. A lot of staff from the university rent units here and they seem to be on perpetual sabbaticals, making the complex feel as deserted as a ghost town.”
“I’ll never complain about my neighbors’ noisy kids again.”
“Okay, I’m good to go. Why don’t you warm your car while I lock up?”
When Nan was gone, she went around checking windows and turning on the odd light as a security precaution. When she was through, she paused a moment, looking back at her downstairs rooms.
It was a transition, not unlike other passages in her life, but this time it was different.
She was moving into her mother’s house and taking on her mother’s role. Was she ready for this? Probably not.
The words of a colleague ran through her mind: “Sometimes Hailey, life demands something from you, whether you can do it or not.”
I will get through this, she told herself, firmly closing the door on her townhouse and hopefully, on her past.
© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.