Hailey and Brad were on top of the cliff face at Rattlesnake Point, oblivious they were being watched.
Below, Hailey’s stalker was viewing them through powerful binoculars, and now, rapidly snapping photos using a telephoto lens.
“I want you to see something else,” Brad told her.
He took her hand and led her through the trees until they came out to a fenced-off lookout point.
The ground fell away beneath them, revealing patchwork fields interspersed with blocks of woods.
Two red-tailed hawks described lazy circles above them, rising and sinking on invisible columns of air.
They stood in awe while Star sat at their feet, tilting his nose upward and allowing the wind to comb through his fur.
“I feel like we’re re-enacting a scene from Call of the Wild,” she laughed.
“One of my favorite books,” he smiled.
They spent an hour sitting and talking and then hiked back to the SUV and drove to a nearby coffee shop where they talked some more.
By the time Brad dropped her at home in mid-afternoon, Hailey felt as if they had spent a lifetime together and gotten to know each other very well.
Any hesitation or uncertainty toward him had evaporated and her heart leapt when he suggested a movie date on Friday night.
Life was beginning to fall back into place again.
She decided to phone Art Kendall and tell him she’d be resuming classes on Monday. Finally, a semblance of order was returning to her world.
Meanwhile, in a small farmhouse nearby, her stalker was at work.
He had been busily processing photos and now the last of the negatives were left to dry in a small darkroom.
He poured himself a glass of Yellow Tail and sat back on the couch to admire his artistry.
He especially liked the shot of her staring off into the distance, the wind punishing her hair.
There was something primitive about that one.
He had managed to exclude the cop from all but one of the shots—the one of her leaning back against him, sheltering from the wind.
Personally, he’d prefer to rip it to a thousand pieces, were it not for the beauty of the work. It reminded him of Wuthering Heights—all windswept and romantic—except she was with him—his rival.
They could have such a beautiful life together—if only she knew he was alive.
How long had he loved her? He really had no idea—forever, it seemed.
She was so perfect, so flawless, and what made her even more desirable—so totally oblivious of her own beauty.
How many photos would this make? —650, he smiled.
Close, so very close to the finale.
He had settled on this number for no other reason than a fetishistic urge—666, the number of the Beast.
It would only be a few days now and he would have enough to make up the sum. Then what? He had no idea—he hadn’t thought that far.
Still, he would do something—what it was, he had no idea, but it would be spectacular—one last, glorious, futile gesture and then…Oblivion.
He began trembling with fear, his teeth actually rattling in his head.
He balled his fist and then pounded it into the arm of the couch. He couldn’t make it stop.
Soon the thunder would come—the dark, menacing waves of rolling tremors that would pulse through his body and leave him convulsed on the floor.
He began to claw at the sofa arm, trying to bury his nails in the unyielding fabric.
The last thing he saw before succumbing was the ragged black treetops on the escarpment outside his window.
© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.