“You’re a fairy,” he said.
I almost choked on my water. Was this guy serious? From the look on his face and the fact that he was waiting for me to respond answered that question. This was officially the last internet date I was ever going on.
“What makes you say that?” I could have easily said no, but what would have been the fun in that?
He stared at me for a moment longer while he cut his meat. “Your hair is too perfect, and your skin glistens in the moonlight.”
I laughed behind my napkin. “Thank you. I’m not sure that the three hours of work I up into my hair should be what qualifies me as a fairy.”
“Also, you don’t wear any iron,” he said with a mouth full of well-done steak.
Yep. He was officially nuts. “Would you excuse me for a moment?”
I could still hear him gnawing on the leather as I made my way to the bathroom. How could this guy be that much off his rocker? I was praying the bathroom would be a multi-stall so I could hide all the way in the back while making a phone call. That way, I wouldn’t have to worry about Mr. Fairy Hunter pressing himself against the door and listening.
The women’s door was the first in the hall. Why is this the one time that the emergency door is nowhere to be found? It would have been perfect to slip right out and not have to go back to the crazy man.
I opened the door to find a perfectly pristine single bathroom. This would never happen if I really had to go. I pressed myself as far away from the door as possible and called my roommate.
“So, how’s the hot professor?” Sarah chirped.
“Awful. This guy is a lunatic.” The doorknob wiggled. “Someone’s in here!”
“I’m sorry, but your date is asking if you are alright.” The sixteen-year-old hostess yelled through the locked door, clearly embarrassed.
Sarah gasped. “Oh no, he didn’t!”
I think the hostess heard my palm smack against my forehead through the door. “Tell him I’ll be out shortly.”
“I’m so sorry.” She said again before running down the hall.
I flushed the empty toilet. “You heard that, right?”
“Dude, he is batshit.” She was so excited at my bad date that I could hear her bouncing around on our couch.
“Sarah. He asked me if I was a fairy.” I knew from her laughing she was now rolling around on the floor. “It’s not funny. He was serious.”
“Okay, okay.” She was choking back tears. “So, where am I picking you up from?”
“Cafe Chardonnay.” I just realized how stupid I had been. I had a total stranger pick me up from my house, and now he knows where I live. My father will chew me out the moment he gets wind of this.
Sarah started to salivate. “Oh, Caroline, please bring me your leftovers.”
If I hadn’t had heard her car keys rattle, I would have been pissed by her request. But she was less than ten minutes away, and I didn’t want to give her any reason to be late or leave me stranded. “No can do. I’m feigning food poisoning.”
I dabbed some water across my hairline to make it look as though I’ve been sweating. I was already super pale, so I didn’t know how to make myself look any sicker besides having dead eyes.
I slowly made my way to the table. I didn’t need to fake being sick anymore. Just as I saw him, my stomach started to churn. For a moment, I thought I might throw up.
“There you are. I was starting to worry about you, Caroline.” He held out my chair for me.
Why did he have to be crazy? He was polite, and, up until now, he was able to hold a decent conversation. Sitting across from him was easy since he was mildly attractive. He was about 5’10 with small shoulders, he kept saying how he lifted weights during our skype conversation, but it seems he missed his upper body. But what annoyed me throughout dinner was his hair. I guess you can only do so much with so little hair. I would have loved to say he had a nice smile because that was the first thing that made me like his profile. But in person, when he introduced himself, there was something about his smile that just gave me the creeps.
“Yep, here I am,” I said in my wooziest voice.
“Are you alright? Here sit down.” He tried to force me into the chair.
I’m not sure how I was still standing. He was surprisingly strong. “Elliott, I hate to do this, but I have to go.”
He was alarmed and whispered, “Is it because I know?”
“No, no, not that.” I stopped myself from knocking him in the head. How could a thirty-five-year-old man believe in fairies? “It’s that I don’t feel well, and I’m not a fairy.”
Before he could protest, I was already heading to the door. I didn’t look back. I couldn’t. Even though he was strange, I felt bad for upsetting him. I wasn’t sure what was worse, getting stood up or having your date walk out on you.
The bath I ran for myself did nothing for me. I couldn’t get the last look Elliott gave me out of my head. It was a mix of betrayal and disbelief. I knew I shouldn’t have looked back, but Sarah wouldn’t stop staring at him.
“Hot beverage?” Sarah asking knocking on my door.
“Sure, whatcha got? Because anything that would knock me out right now would be highly appreciated.” But I knew that Sarah didn’t believe in pills, so this was going to be interesting.
“I promise it tastes better than it smells.” She handed over the smelly concoction. “It’s just honey, tea, and some herbs.”
“Thanks.” I tried to drink what smelled like old gym sock juices, but no matter how much I wanted to avoid it, I knew it would help me sleep. “Make sure you lock the windows.”
Sarah whined, “But it’s so nice out.”
“You’re the one who wanted to live on the first floor.” I almost shut the door before saying, “Thanks again for saving me.”
She smiled. “Now you just owe me dinner.”
The next morning was rough. I felt worse than I should have. Maybe Sarah’s tea didn’t mix well with my one glass of wine. Or maybe it was the weird dreams. Whatever it was, I was taking it out on my toast.
Zombie Sarah came out with rollers still in her hair and only one eye of makeup done. She headed straight to the coffee pot.
“You look like shit,” I said.
She gave me the stink eye. “Yeah, thanks to you and your late-night visitor.”
That unnerved me. I thought when I heard Elliott’s voice last night. It was in my dream. “No one was here. I passed out after I finished your magic juice.”
The zombie left as Sarah bolted to the front door. She stepped out and almost onto a vase of a dozen long stem roses. It was 6:30 in the morning, and there wasn’t anyone around who delivered flowers that early. Sarah picked up the card and read it.
“I think you’re going to need a gun and a restraining order,” she said, handing me the card.
Written on the back of a picture of me from earlier in the week was:
You’re the most beautiful dreamer.
“Do you have anyone you can stay with?” I wasn’t going to subject her to my stalker.
“You know I’ve been saving up my vacation time. I might as well use it now.” Sarah dumped the water and roses into our bushes. “At least the vase is pretty.”
It was almost nine before the police arrived. They would have been called earlier if I hadn’t had called my dad first. The ex-marine, now judge, did not take kindly to his baby girl being stalked. After an hour of arguing, I agreed to let him send Greg to pick me up.
“I trust him with my life.” He said when I finally gave in.
“Alright, Dad, have him here as soon as he can. I should be ready to come home by then.” I needed to come home for a visit, but not like this.
“Caroline, you’ll be breaking your lease.” He said flatly. “I’ll cover everything for your and Sarah’s new place.”
“Thanks, Dad.” I can’t say I wasn’t used to him making these decisions. I had spent my life moving with him because of the Marines and a few more times because some crazy people found out where he lived and wanted to kill him.
Sarah started packing as the police knocked on our door. After a few questions, they asked me for Elliott’s picture. I tried to pull up his dating profile, but it was gone. When I logged into my email, I saw I had a new Facebook notification. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Do you agree with this relationship change?
The cops wrote down all his information before asking me about last night. “What exactly did you hear?”
“I couldn’t really tell you. I was out cold.” I hated not having more to give them.
“I can tell you what happened.” Sarah came out of her room. “It was three in the morning, and I heard whisperings outside.”
“One voice or two?” The officer asked.
“Well, I thought it was Caroline, but I know now it wasn’t. So, I’m really hoping it was only one, or that’s going to make this even stranger.” Sarah shuttered. “I heard footsteps going past my window and to the patio. Someone rattled the door, but thank god for that stick.”
“Florida security at its finest,” the female officer joked. “Was there anything else?”
“No, I couldn’t really make out what he was saying.” Sarah was holding my hand. I was shaking.
The cops left after a nice long chat on internet dating safety. They told me they were placing an undercover officer to watch my door till Greg and I left.
I didn’t hear a knock till eleven. There was a small part of me dreading looking through the peephole. Thankfully there was only one green eye smashed up against it.
“You got to move,” I called to him.
He stepped back, and I had to give the cop getting out of his car a thumbs up.
“Sargent Macoy, you’re looking well.” I bit down on my lip to keep myself from laughing.
“Alright, smart ass, get your stuff.” He looked at my four large duffle bags and sighed. “Moving?”
“Yep, you know, dad. The first sign of trouble and I have to hide,” I shrugged.
Greg tossed one on each shoulder. “Well, maybe if you weren’t so small, he wouldn’t have to.”
“Because I can really help that.” I picked up a set of picture frames and followed him out the door. “I can still outrun you.”
We finished loading the truck before Sarah emerged from her room. “So that’s Greg?”
“Yep.” I wasn’t going to rehash everything with her when I had to spend four hours in a car with the person who broke my heart.
Greg came out of my room, wiping his brow. “Do you need to be packed anything else before the movers come?”
“Nope, everything that matters is in the truck.”
“Or about to be,” Sarah whispered.
I hugged Sarah goodbye. I knew we would be seeing each other in about two weeks, but this was the first time since freshmen year of college we would be apart. With both of us being only children, we bonded to each other. She always said I was the sister she never had, and the same was true for me.
The road trip was going to be a long one of corn, cows, and no talking. I’m not sure what possessed my father to send Greg, but the father knows best, right? Guess he forgot about the months of torment I went through after Greg sent me a Dear John letter while he was in Afghanistan.
“What’s up, little one?” He broke my train of thought.
My cheek was moist. Damn it. “Nothing. Just exhausted.”
I could feel his eyes on me and knew he was refraining from calling me out on my lie. “So tell me about your stalker. How did you meet him?”
After telling my dad and the cops the story, it just fell out. “We met online, talked on Skype for a week, and I gave him my number.”
“After only a week?” He was judging me.
If I had been driving, I would have hit the breaks. “Oh, because that is worse than a guy three years older than me grabbing my phone and putting his number in it?”
“We were in class together. It’s not like I was some stranger.” He didn’t like being compared to Elliott.
“Right.” I stared back out the window. “We talked for hours for a few nights and sent a bunch of texts. He seemed so normal. It was nice to talk to someone like that again, you know?
“I don’t.” He wasn’t looking at me. He kept his eye squared on the road, both hands white-knuckled on the wheel.
“That was your choice, remember?” I can’t believe we were doing this now. I’ve graduated from college and buried those feelings long ago.
“Caroline, we were young.” The wipers went across the windshield, wiping off the rain.
He was still a man of little words. “Yet here we are, years later, and you are still rescuing me from the bad guys.”
I don’t know how long we sat in silence because I fell asleep. I only woke when I heard the truck’s tires going over the gravel drive. All I needed next was to hear the howls of the foxhounds, and I would know I was home.
My dad’s call was louder than the three dogs. “Caroline!”
I was a bit groggy still from the ride, but I tried to muster up the same excitement. “Hi, Daddy.”
Greg was already pulling my duffle bags from the truck bed. As I gathered my pillow and blanket, I noticed he had hidden something on his dash in front of his speedometer. The thing looked like it had been to hell and back, but I knew exactly what it was. I was surprised to see he kept it.
“Greg?” I stopped him before he grabbed another bag. I held up the bulldog that was now missing a leg. “Why did you keep it?”
He snatched it back and carefully placed it back in its spot. “You need to talk to your father.”
I didn’t move from that spot. I watched them both unload the truck before stopping to shake hands and talk a bit more. What had my father done?
“Have you been to see your mother?” Dad asked as he poured me a glass of wine.
“I figured we could go together after dinner.” I liked going with dad to visit mom’s grave. He gave me the strength to talk to the cold stone.
It wasn’t till he brought out my favorite dessert did I finally ask him. “Why did you send Greg?”
“Like I said, I trust him with my life.” He served me a slice of warm apple pie.
“Even after how he broke up with me?” I watched my father, a judge who has dealt with murders and child molestation cases, become speechless. “Dad, what did you do?”
“He was going to propose, but you were only eighteen,” he stated. “You had so much going for you. I wasn’t going to let you waste your life being a military wife.”
“Are you saying mom wasted her life on you?” I couldn’t believe this. I had grown up hearing him say that serving was the greatest honor of his life.
“No, but you aren’t your mother.” His tone signaled he wanted to end the conversation.
“I think you wanted to keep me close, and you knew with me moving around with Greg that wouldn’t happen. Me leaving would have been harder than you’d like to admit.” I waited for him to stop me.”I’m going for a run.”
Pick me up. I texted Greg.
I laced my shoes as I heard my dad talking to Greg downstairs. Thankfully, there wasn’t any yelling between the two of them. I pulled up the zipper on my jacket before skipping down the stairs. I was going to plant a giant kiss right on his lips just to piss off my dad. But when I hit the landing, the voice I heard wasn’t Greg.
“Young man, I don’t want to tell you again. Get off my property before I let the dogs out on you. “ My dad was blocking Elliott from getting in.
This couldn’t be happening. I didn’t see any cars following us on our way up. How did he know who my dad was and where he lived? I never told him anything that personal. My phone vibrated. It was Greg. I did my best to make it up the stairs without making a sound.
“He’s here,” I whispered into the phone.
“Caroline, hide. If you can, lock yourself in the attic.” He sounded like he had thought this through before
“You know I hate the attic.” But I ran and pulled the steps down.
I could see Greg’s truck pull into view as a gunshot went off.
“No, no, no.” I forced myself to stay upstairs. I had to keep from pacing. There was someone beneath me. No one called my name, so I knew it was the fairy hunter.
I heard the front door slam open, but it was too late. Elliott was pulling down the attic string. The waving string probably gave away my hiding spot. I balanced myself on the window frame. If he came too close, I was going to jump.
“Don’t worry, little fairy. I’m not going to hurt you.” Elliott was holding a net in his hands.
“I’m not a fairy, you fucking creep!” I couldn’t hold back. He had ruined my life and shot my father. In what world was I not going to be afraid of him?
Elliott ran with the net, ready to ensnare me. I shoved the window open and let the frigid December air kiss my face as I fell. I quickly tucked my legs to my chest and let my body rotate. I only had a few moments to have my head and arms ready to brace for the impact of the water.
“She flies!” I heard Elliott shriek from the darkness above.
The police sirens were muffled under the water. I looked up and saw Greg smiling at me through the ripples.
“I knew you’d figure it out,” he said, pulling me from the water.
“Guess all those years of diving really paid off.” I shook a bit as we walked. “My dad?”
“He’s alive. I stopped the bleeding in his arm, but he’s going to need surgery.” He took off his jacket and wrapped it around my shoulders. “Doesn’t he know that you’re a mermaid, not a fairy?”
A police officer called me over. “Ms. Crommett, we would like to take your statement now, if you don’t mind.”
I passed Elliott, locked away in the car and shouting at me. The officers shook their heads, embarrassed for him since he didn’t have the sense to be on his own. My dad groaned as they lifted him into the ambulance.
“You okay?” I asked.
“Oh, this? It’s nothing.” He hurt his arm when he tried to laugh. “I told you I trusted him with my life.”
“So you did. I could have gone my whole life without knowing that.” They shut the doors after I hugged him goodbye.
There wasn’t much to go over with the authorities. I wasn’t sure how Elliott found my father’s house, and I didn’t care enough to find out. If I never saw him again, life would be grand, but the officer had already told me I’d probably have to be at this trial.
“I promise there is no need for you to stay, officer.” Greg stood next to me, holding my hand. “I’m in good hands.”
“Are you sure? Because I don’t need Judge Crommett coming after me if anything were to happen to you.” Officer Stevens shook Greg’s hand.
Greg laughed at the look he was given. “Don’t worry, Mike. Things have been smoothed out.”
The police officers drove off, finally giving me the chance to change into something warm.
Greg called from the bathroom door. “Do you want to stay here or go to my place?”
As much as I would have loved to cuddle with him in my childhood bed like we did when we were in high school, my house was giving me the creeps. “Yours.”
Greg picked me up the moment I came out of the bathroom. Our noses touched before he finally kissed me. “You know I never wanted to write you that letter.”
I smiled. “You never did seem like the Dear John type.”
With my arms wrapped around his neck, he carried me down the stairs. We went out through the back door instead of the front. The cleaning crew was coming in the morning, making it even better that we weren’t staying here tonight.
We picked up pizza and talked the entire night. It was as if the past six years never happened. When we finally made it to bed, my phone vibrated. I ignored it since it was just Sarah checking in.
“Why did you join the military?” I had always wondered this.
“When your dad said I wasn’t good enough for you, he was right.” Greg turned the light off and kissed my forehead. “I was in college, but I was lost. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself other than be with you. So, I took a chance hoping one day your father would change his mind.” There was a pride in his voice that I had heard a million times over with my father.
“Thank you,” I said, snuggling closer to him.
“For what?” he asked.
“For being you.” I drifted off to sleep fairly quickly after that. It was wonderful to have no dreams or fears that some lunatic was going to break into your home.
When I woke the next day, I picked up my phone. There were three messages.
One was from my father sent at 9:45 am. I’m done with surgery. I don’t care what they say. I need out of here. My dad was never one to handle hospitals well.
The other came from Sarah around two in the morning. I was already well asleep by then. Hey, how are things with you and lover boy? Greg stirred next to me. He had already gone for a run, showered, and climbed back into bed. I couldn’t wait for her to really meet him.
The last message. The one I got right before I went to bed, I had to look at the time stamp four more times to be sure it said 10:00 p.m. But how could that be? The police picked up Elliott at 8:45. He should be rotting in jail right now. I opened the message to see a picture of Greg and me carrying out our pizza. The text read You’ll pay for this.
“What do you mean he made bail?” I stuttered into the phone. “That doesn’t even make sense.”
“He must have had his lawyer on speed dial because he met us at the station,” Officer Stevens informed me.
I couldn’t stop pacing the waiting room. “This is just bullshit. What am I supposed to do? Should I just sit around and wait for Stalky McStalker to show up at my door again?”
Officer Stevens let out a sigh. “Will you take the security detail now?”
“Fine.” I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of having a bodyguard again. At least it’s not going to frighten off Greg like it does with other guys. “Who’s it going to be?”
“Does it matter?” he asked sarcastically.
“Has it ever?” Greg took the phone from me before I could come up with something worse.
“Your dad wants to see you,” he said before walking off.
The door to the recovery room swayed open, exposing me to an overly sunny room. My dad, lying in his bed, looked older than I expected.
“Hi, Daddy.” He could still make me feel like I was five years old.
“Hey, Baby Girl.” He smiled.
“How’s your arm?” I sat on the edge of the bed. I wasn’t sure how to bring up anything from the past few hours.
“Greg is taking you to get a gun.” It was good to see the bullet didn’t stop him from giving orders.
“Are you kidding? You know how I feel about those things.” It wasn’t so much that guns bothered me. It was the noise they made.
“Caroline, there’s no arguing. It’s happening.” His stern look bore right through me.
“Fine. But I’m getting a dog.” Dogs were the subject of our never-ending fight since mom died.
“No small yappers.” He sipped his water. “You need something big and loud to scare people away.”
“You know that chihuahuas bite more people than any other dog?” I retorted.
“Did you know that I could kick one across a football field?”
“You wouldn’t dare. You would succumb to its cuteness.” It was fun to banter like nothing was wrong. “How much longer till you’re a free man?”
“They want to see how the surgery went. There’s a possibility for another one.“ He spoke as if he was getting his hair cut.
“Why don’t you get out of here? There’s no reason for you to be moping around this place. It’s already depressing enough.”
“Thanks, Dad,” I said sarcastically before tackling him into a bear hug.
As I was walking out the door, I noticed his reason for suddenly shooing me away. I said, “Hello,” as a nurse in her early fifties shuffled past me and took my place next to my father’s bed. I gave my dad the eye, and all he said was, “Bye, honey.”
As I left the room, I could hear his deep laugh behind me.
“I wonder if that’s Janet?” Greg asked, startling me. “Sorry. Thought you knew I was back.”
“It’s okay.” I relaxed my fists. “Who’s Janet?”
“A recent divorcee with no kids who just loves a man in uniform,” he repeated, doing his best impression of my father.
It was weirding me out how much Greg had changed. “How much time have you been spending with him?”
“How about that puppy?” he asked.
I squinted at him. What were those two plotting? "Aren't you supposed to get me a gun?”
“That was your father’s idea. Besides, I just got you back, and I’d really love to keep you alive.” He didn’t even brace himself when I swatted at him. “I have enough guns for the both of us.”
Greg seemed to have the dog situation planned out way more than I did. The only dogs I had ever been around were my dad’s hunting dogs. I bet if he kept them in the house instead of the kennel out back, they would have eaten Elliott, and this whole mess would be settled.
Greg flicked his blinker on. “Mike is meeting us at the at the pound.”
“That’s my undercover cop?” I laughed. “What kind of b.s. is that? It’s just going to be high school all over again.”
“Who better to guard you than Officer Stevens? He already knows your house and every bit of your insanity.” Greg turned into the parking lot just as Mike was stepping out of his black Mustang.
“You finally ready to get that dog of yours?” He greeted me with a hug.
These were going to be the strangest few months leading up to Elliott's arraignment. “Oh, you know it. How did you get this detail? Isn’t it under your pay grade?”
“Nah. Babysitting the Honorable Judge Crommett’s little angel will probably be the most dangerous job I’ve held.” At least that's what I thought he said. Most of it was drowned out by the loud barking.
I hated coming to these places. I wanted to bring home every animal in there. We walked down three rows of dogs, petting them and handing out treats as we went, but we couldn't pick one.
Greg loved all the bully breeds, and there were so many to choose from. As I walked past a dog that was jumping so high that he was banging into the roof of his cage, I saw a smallish dog resting in her bed. She was the only dog that hadn’t jumped up or barked at the gate. Her tag said she was a two-year-old beagle-chihuahua mix named Daisy. I put my hand up to the gate and called her name.
“She’s too small,” Greg told me as the black and white pup approached me and licked my hand.
“She might be better than a giant dog. Smaller ones bond quicker, and most places around here only allow the little ones in.” Mike stopped Greg from saying anything else. “Besides, what’s stopping you from getting your own dog?”
I got an attendant to bring Daisy out to the play area. I was hoping that she would wake up a bit, but the moment I saw her prancing next to her caretaker, I fell in love. Not once did she pull on the leash and, the moment she was unleashed, her nose went to the ground sniffing everything she could.
I squealed in delight. “Yep. She’s mine.”
I bent down and, once Daisy got a good sniff of my hands and face, she planted herself next to me as if she approved of me as well. Greg found a tennis ball and threw it across the pen, but instead of chasing after it, Daisy paused and looked up at me. It wasn’t until I gave her a “Go get it!” did she take off after the ball. Her sudden burst of energy surprised us all.
“Why is she here?” I asked the attendant.
“Her owner was killed in a drunk-driving accident, and her next of kin didn’t want her.” The woman could have tried sounding more heartbroken forty-eight-hour, but I was already sold.
“Can I take her home tonight?” I asked.
“There’s usually a forty-eight-hour hold-”
I interrupted her as I pulled out my father’s checkbook. “What if I made a sizeable donation?”
She folded her fingers around the check. “I’m sure we could work something out.”
I felt victorious sitting on the couch with Daisy using my leg as her pillow. Mike had pulled out Elliott’s case file, and we were going over everything again. He was bent on proving that Elliott knew me from somewhere else besides the dating site.
“So, until you created the profile, you had never seen or heard of Elliott Hawking before?” Mike asked for the fifth time.
“Oh my god, no!” I said too loudly. Daisy scowled at me. “Sorry.”
Mike called out. “Greg, you need to feed her. She’s getting moody.”
“Like I told the other officer, Elliott was a former Calc professor at USF, and he was trying to get picked up by Lynn, which is why he moved down south.” I watched as Mike’s face scrunched up. “What?”
“When did you go to UF again?” he asked.
“I graduated in 2012, a little late since I traveled too much.” I was trying to think back, but nothing stood out to me.
“Caroline, he has no records for teaching anywhere other than UF. How did they look over this?” Mike was pissed. He was punching numbers into his phone as he left the room.
My dad’s hounds started barking in their kennel. Greg had just fed them, so they weren’t hungry. Then Daisy started to growl, and the fur on her back stood on end. I looked around, but both Greg and Mike were missing. Daisy ran to the front door snarling. I thought for a second that the guys were playing a trick on me, and then something slammed into the front door rattling the living room window. I screamed and scrambled for Daisy. She started barking furiously as we ran from the room.
In the dining room, the curtains were drawn open, and the light from inside made it impossible to see who was out in the dark. A howl came from the other side of the house. How many were out there?
Greg found me crouched under the table with Daisy guarding me. She snapped at him as he tried to reach for me.
“I’m not the bad guy,” he told her.
Greg pulled us from under the table. We heard Mike yell “Stop!” outside the window. Without warning, three shots went off. I heard tires squealing as they kicked up gravel from the driveway.
Greg pressed himself against the wall nearest to the window. “Mike, you alright?”
“I’m fine, but you guys are going to want to see this!” Mike yelled from the porch. “And use the side door. The front door is now a crime scene.”
The flashing red and blue police lights reflected off a pool of blood on the porch where an officer, now covered in blood, was standing. He was holding a severed deer’s head that he had just removed from the front door. It was impaled there with a machete.
“Why is the head wrapped in iron?” He asked me.
I rolled my eyes. “Because fairies are supposed to be hurt by iron.”
I kept looking at the floor of the doorway. My father’s blood, from the day before, was now replaced by fresh deer blood. Another officer told me the kennel was encircled with blood as well.
“Caroline, we’re going to put you into protective custody.” Captain Reilly told me.
I nodded. I was numb. Mike said he had seen four guys jump into the cab, and he shot at five others who all came scrambling from different directions. They hopped into the back of a truck before it went peeling off.
The captain handed me a note he found impaled on the deer’s head. He gave me a skeptical glance. “Have you had any contact with Mr. Hawking?”
“No.” I unfolded the note to read. Burn the fairy. “This is bullshit.”
I didn’t speak on the car ride to the police station. I wasn’t allowed to ride with Mike or Greg because they were being questioned. Mike’s own unit was questioning him! He was on the phone with the station when everything went down. I felt all eyes on me as I walked to Captain Reilly’s office.
“Is there a reason why my case wasn’t being taken seriously?” I demanded.
“We didn’t see Mr. Hawking as a threat any longer. He was on house arrest and hadn’t even stepped foot outside the front door.” He gestured towards his computer monitor.
“I don’t know what that is. Look, he called me a fairy on our date. He left me flowers at my apartment with a picture he took of ME SLEEPING! And you are the one who gave me that burn the fairy note. I don’t know how many people you think consider me to be a fairy, but he’s the only one on my list.” I stared at my father’s so-called friend. “For crying out loud, he shot a judge!”
“Caroline, I don’t think you understand how connected Mr. Hawking is.”
“Enlighten me.” There was no way the captain was going to cover his ass.
“His half-brother is Congressman Bradford, and once Judge Haver heard that she let him go.” He sounded defeated. “But that wasn’t till after she revoked his passport and put him on house arrest.”
I didn’t care who he knew. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life fearing some weirdos who thought I was a fairy. I wished I was a fairy, if even for a moment, so I could at least make them disappear. “Are you even bringing him in?”
“He should be here any minute. We sent a patrol car to pick him up when your alarm system went off.” He quickly dialed a number on his cell phone and stepped away from his desk.
I watched him pace. In the quiet of his office, I could hear the phone ringing through the receiver. Whoever he was calling kept him waiting, and he would not make eye contact with me until he got someone on the other line.
“What do you mean he isn’t there?” he shouted. “His tracker still shows him at home!”
No doubt, Elliot was just at my father’s house. This was the one time in my life where “I told you so” wasn’t a victory.
“Find him.” He hung up the phone.
I crossed my arms. “Yeah, if ya could go and let Greg and Mike out of custody, that would be great. Seeing as they are the only people I trust to be able actually to handle this problem."
“There’s no need for the attitude, Caroline,” he chided.
“There’s a reason for that and more, Carl. You guys have completely botched this whole thing. Not only has a man who is stalking me been set free, but he is also the same man that shot my father. At this point, you should consider yourself lucky that I haven’t called the media to tell them about the Congressman’s whack-job brother. I’m going to be pressing charges against that bitch, Haver. She flops for anyone who can help her move up in the world.” I slammed his door behind me.
It didn’t take me long to find Greg. He was sitting alone on a bench holding Daisy. He tried his best not to let his frustration show, but he never really knew how to get rid of his scowl.
“You alright?” he asked.
I let my shoulders drop. I had used the last bit of my facade on the captain. “As I’ll ever be.”
I looked around and saw that Mike’s desk was empty. “Are they really still questioning him?”
“Nah, he’s in the media room. The officer that brought in Elliott said we had to listen to what his dashcam caught. Mike was just making sure there was nothing that would upset you.” He stood and took my hand.
I expected it to feel strange walking down the hall holding his hand again. I spent so many months after our breakup trying to figure out what went wrong. It was nice to know now that it was nothing between us. I wanted to be mad at my father, but he was right. We were too young to understand anything. I was happy that I finished college. I might have done it sooner if I didn’t spend my first semester as an emotional mess.
Greg looked down at me. “Where you at, little one?’
I squeezed myself tight against his arm. “Just thinking about how great of a man you’ve become.”
“Are you saying that I wasn’t?” he teased.
“You were going down a questionable path.” I stuck my tongue out at him.
He held the door open to a windowless room. Mike was glowing from the monitor's light. He unfolded his arms when he noticed us come in.
“How this guy made bail is beyond me,” he said, shaking his head.
“Easy. Judge Haver found out that Elliott’s half-brother happens to be Congressman Bradford.” I couldn’t wait to take that woman down.
“You’re shitting me. That bible thumper shares blood with this nutjob?” Greg was stunned.
It was hard to believe the junior congressman from the great state of Florida would even want to tarnish his name by helping out Elliott. He was already in deep water for failing to get the government to help with the last hurricane relief. He was also caught on tape right after the disaster saying how he was happy that Lake Okeechobee's levees failed to wash away the welfare dependents. He really didn’t need a gun-toting lunatic messing up what his P.R. team had already repaired.
Mike pulled out a chair for me to sit in. “Ready?”
“I don’t think I ever will be, so why not?” God, this chair felt like it was kept in a freezer.
The tech started the tape from the beginning. I watched myself walk by the front of the car. I hadn’t realized I had blood on me before. Most of what Elliott was yelling about made no sense till Officer Jeffreys got in the car.
“Mind calming down back there?” Officer Jeffreys asked.
Elliot lowered his voice. “You are ruining everything.”
“And what is that?” Jeffreys asked.
“The balance of the universe. We must sacrifice her before the harvest moon, or the gods will be furious.” Elliott spoke with conviction.
Jeffreys raised his voice. “Now, why would you want to go and sacrifice Ms. Crommett? Believe you me, there ain’t nothing magical about that girl. I’ve known that poor thing my whole life, and if she were what you think she is, she would have saved her mama years ago.”
“That’s just it. That bullet wasn’t meant for her mother. It was meant for Caroline. The order has been haunting her entire life.” Elliott was foaming at the mouth being able to share his mission. “You see, changelings have been poisoning this world for centuries.”
“I do believe you were read your rights, and one was to remain silent. I suggest you do so.” Jeffreys had never been known for his patience. “Her mother was killed during a mugging. Your kind ain't going to take credit for an already horrific act.”
“You know how I know she’s a fairy?” He wasn’t listening.
“No, and nor do I care to learn.”
“I’ve seen her fly.” Elliott sounded wicked.
“Son, she didn’t fly out of that window. She is a trained driver.”
“Not just tonight, but I have followed her. I’ve seen her fly from buildings. Her wings were glowing against the night sky.” Elliott stopped talking after that.
The police cruiser slowly rolled into the station’s parking lot. Jeffreys turned off the car and, with that, the video went black.
I stared at the computer, waiting for more. I wanted to hug Jeffreys for letting the madman rattle on, but it still didn’t tell us where I could have known him from.
“What did he actually teach?” I asked Mike.
“I double-checked your schedules with what he taught, and there was only one class that ever crossed.” He read the file. “He was a lab T.A. for your Anthropology class.”
“We had a lab? No wonder I got a C.” I thought back to the lecture. I tried to remember if there was anyone out of place. “Oh my god.”
“What?” they both asked.
“He was the annoying guy who stood in the back of the class during the test. He would clear his throat like forty times a class.” I was getting angry thinking about the sound.
“Did you ever speak to him?” Greg asked.
I shook my head. “Never. I couldn’t even stand to be near him. I would move if he were behind me since he reeked of cigarettes. Usually, he spent most of the class outside chain-smoking. And the only time he did say something to me was a smart-ass remark about how I was late to class. That was after I was stuck in the rain.”
“Can you explain why he thought he saw you fly?” Mike was a full-on cop.
“I did a few short movies for some film majors. They had me covered in LED lights, and I would free run across a few buildings.” I asked the tech to pull up the online video.
We watched as I hid behind bushes and snuck up on people while they walked down a dark hallway. At night I ran across the top of a parking garage and jumped to the closest building. I would do flips if space allowed me, or I would quickly run up walls. The lights on my black clothing would randomly change colors. If Elliott has seen this video, I could understand why he would confuse me with a ninja, but not a fairy.
“See, there’s nothing,” I said as the video finished.
Right before the tech closed the screen, something popped up at the end of the video.
“Caroline, what’s that?” Greg asked.
Someone had tagged me in the free-running video recently. The tag attached my name to about fifty other videos that I had never uploaded. Some were of me walking around school, while another was of my first retail job during my freshman year of college. We pulled all fifty of them up. It was scary watching my life unknowingly documented.
The last video was of a group of friends and me at the Renaissance festival. We were blissfully unaware of the camera as we drunkenly danced around the maypole. We had peasant dresses on and flowers in our hair. As I spun around the pole, my blatantly fake wings glisten in the sun as a voice could be heard saying, “caught ya.”
I didn’t know if I was more creeped out or angry after watching everything. “So, about that gun training. When can we start? Because I’m shooting the next guy who points a camera at me.”
“Let's just start with you not cowering every time one goes off.” Greg should have laughed. He always had before.