|The Taylight Zone - Anthology Four
17 - The Stalker - Kaylin
Taylor Hanson cracked his fingers nervously.
The last week had been the longest, most terrifying one of his life.
Thank god it was finally going to be over. The detective who had been working the case was on his way to the Hanson house. When he had called, he’d told Taylor’s father that the person stalking Taylor had been caught on film.
Finally, he would know who was torturing him . . .
Zachary Hanson ran from his bedroom into that of his older brother. “Tay? What’s wrong?” he demanded, surveying the scene. Taylor was standing in the middle of his unusually messy bedroom, holding a small book in his right hand.
He looked at his younger brother accusingly. “You read my journal!”
Zac’s brow knit. “Awe, hell, Tay. No I didn’t,” he said. “God, make me come in here like that,” he muttered, turning to leave the room. “I thought you were hurt or something -”
Taylor grabbed Zac by the arm and spun him around. “If you didn’t read it, who did?” he demanded, blue eyes burning intensely into Zac’s brown ones. “And who messed up my room?”
Surveying the room once more, Zac shrugged. “Dunno, Tay. Ike maybe read your journal. Maybe Mom was looking for something in here - you know how she does that. Or maybe it was Jessie or Avie or Mack or something,” he suggested. After a pause, he added, “How do you know someone read your dumb journal, anyway?”
Taylor fanned out the pages before Zac’s face. Zac took the book from his brother and ran his fingers over one of the pages. “It’s blacked out,” he whispered.
“Yeah,” Taylor grumbled. “Someone took a black marker to half of what I wrote in here.” He looked down at Zac. “You really didn’t do it?” he asked.
“Really,” Zac agreed. “Now can I go?”
“Yeah, Zac,” Taylor murmured. He took the journal back and slammed it closed. “Time for a new hiding place,” he muttered.
“No, Taylor. I just told you that,” Isaac said firmly, pushing past his younger brother and walking into the living room.
“Ike,” Tay said in the whine he saved exclusively for family members.
Isaac spun around so fast that Taylor, who had been at his heels, bumped into him. “Taylor,”
llables as if he were speaking to his youngest brother, Mackenzie. “Like I said before. I did not touch your stupid diary.”
“Journal, Chewy. Journal,” Tay clarified.
“Whatever,” Ike muttered. “In any case, I didn’t touch it.”
Taylor threw his hands up. “Fine. Okay. I believe you,” he said. Then, spotting one of his younger sisters ascending the stairs, he deserted his interrogation of Isaac.
Once he reached the top of the stairs, he smiled. “Jessica . . .”
Quickly, his attention was diverted from his little sister to his mother, who was standing in his bedroom doorway. “Yeah, Mom?”
“What happened in here?” she demanded, taking a step backward, allowing her son to enter the room. “It looks like a tornado ripped through here or something.”
Tay shrugged. “I truly don’t know, Mom. I woke up and it was like this,” he told her. “Honest.”
His mother sighed and rolled her blue eyes. “All right, Tay,” she said. “Just . . . clean it up, please?” She paused momentarily. Then, quickly, knowing her son too well, she added, “I don’t care if you didn’t do it. I’m asking you to please clean it up.”
He groaned but nodded. “Okay, Mom. I will.”
“Thank you.” With that, his mother left the room.
Taylor looked at his ravaged bedroom and sighed. “This is the last thing I need,” he muttered, bending over to pick up a pair of jeans he hadn’t worn in months. He wadded them up into a ball and walked over to his dresser to put them away.
It was then that he saw it. A piece of white paper with thick black letters sprawled across it. Instinctively, he picked it up and read it.
He had to read the simple two line message at least ten times before the words registered, and at least ten more before he accepted what they said.
You don’t deserve to live
It’s my job to make sure you don’t.
Taylor took in a sharp, jagged breath and dropped the paper. His heart was pounding so hard it threatened to break through his chest. There was no way the paper could have said what it had, and yet, the words had been written so bluntly, there was no mistake in their meaning.
But things like this only happen in movies . . . he tried to convince himself.
. . . Right?
Something deep within Taylor said no. Somewhere inside, he knew that things like this happened in real life all to often.
He was being stalked.
“No, Mom, I’ll get the mail,” Taylor offered quickly, standing up from his spot on the living room couch. He slid past his mother and was out on the front porch before she had a chance to protest.
It had been three days since the incident with his journal and then note. There had been no further events since that day, however, he didn’t want to take any chances. If this was just a one-time thing, there was no reason to alarm his family.
He opened the mailbox and peered inside. Holding his breath, he reached his hand in and pulled out it’s contents. Hands trembling, he leafed through the envelopes. Bill, bill, bill, he thought to himself. Junk mail, bill, bill.
Nothing from the stalker.
He sighed and stepped up onto the porch. “Here,” he said, handing the envelopes to his mother, who was still standing in the front doorway.
“Expecting something?” she asked, cocking an eyebrow at him.
Quickly, Tay shook his head. “No, mom,” he told her.
She smiled at him and turned and walked into the house. Taylor was about to follow her when something stopped him. He turned around slowly to face the mailbox. He closed the distance between it and himself slowly, cautiously. Then, quickly, he thrust his arm into the box.
A letter was still inside.
His fingers closed around it and he pulled it out. The smooth white envelope seemed harmless. However, when he saw the handwriting on the front of it, he knew it was anything but.
He ripped open the envelope addressed to him and pulled the small square of paper within.
Watch out, pretty boy.
Danger is closer than you think. Beware.
Tay’s blue eyes widened. For the past couple days, he had been able to convince himself that this “stalker” had moved on. However, this note shattered that safe little hope.
He examined the envelope. There was no return address, but the post mark was from Tulsa. Somehow, that knowledge scared him more than it would have had it been from some other city.
Well, where else would it be from? he thought. This person has to be in the city if they could put that note on my dresser . . .
It wasn’t until that moment that he’d really accepted that someone had been in his house. Someone who was stalking him had been in his house; in his bedroom. Maybe if they weren’t always touring or something of the like he could have noticed that something hadn’t been right.
In my house.
Taylor felt as if the wind had been knocked out of him. He couldn’t breathe.
He immediately spun around to face the source of the voice. It was his mother, standing in the front doorway. Instinctively, he hid the note behind his back. “Yeah, Mom?”
“Aren’t you going to come in?” she asked.
“Oh,” Tay said obviously. “Um, yeah.” With that, he walked into the house, tucking the note and envelope in his back pocket as he did so.
He wandered into the living room and sat down on the couch. The TV was on, but he couldn’t make himself focus on it. His mind was racing.
After a few minutes of staring at the TV, Taylor made his way into the kitchen. For a while, he just walked around the room aimlessly, running his fingers over the countertops and various other items.
I should tell them, Taylor thought. Ike and Zac and Mom and Dad. However, he knew he couldn’t. Somehow, if they didn’t know about it, he felt they would be safe. An irrational thought, but a thought nonetheless: What you don’t know can’t hurt you.
Taylor removed his hand from his pocket and looked at his watch. It was a little past noon. He sighed. “Mom,” he called into the living room, “I’m going for a walk.”
“Fine,” she called back.
Taylor nodded and walked out the back door. He had to get away from the house. Anywhere, he felt, was safer than there. He walked around to the front yard and started walking down the street.
Walker Hanson checked his watch again. “Are you sure he left around noon, Di?” he asked.
Diana nodded. “Yes,” she said quietly.
Walker stood up from the living room couch. “And neither of you know where he is?” he asked of his oldest and third oldest sons.
Both shook their heads.
“No clue, Dad,” Isaac said simply.
Walker checked his watch again. “It’s nearly ten o’clock. Something must be wrong. Otherwise he would’ve called,” he said logically.
Zac and Isaac both nodded.
“So . . . We’re gonna go look for him?” Ike asked.
His father nodded. “Yeah. Isaac, you and Zac take your truck and search down by the old house. Your mother and I will take the van and go over to some of your guys’ friend’s houses . . .” He started for the front door.
Isaac, Zac, and Diana were at his heels.
“You’re gonna miss the driveway,” Zac told his older brother.
“I lived in this house almost all my life, Zac, I think I know where the driveway is,” Isaac shot back. He peered out onto the street past the outer reaches of his headlights for the hidden driveway that led to their old house.
“You passed it,” Zac announced, turning around in his seat.
Ike groaned. “You were distracting me,” he muttered, slowing and making a U-turn in the street.
“Yeah, sure,” Zac muttered, rolling his eyes.
Isaac mimicked his younger brother as he pulled into the driveway to their old house. “Tay, are you here?” he muttered more to himself than anyone, peering out into the darkness beyond the truck’s headlights.
“The lights aren’t on in the house,” Zac observed.
“Maybe he’s asleep,” Ike suggested, shrugging. “You know how he does that - falls asleep everywhere. Like in the tree house . . .”
Zac groaned. “The tree house. Mom didn’t check there,” he said. “I bet that’s where he is! I’m gonna kill him!”
“Get in line,” Isaac muttered. He stopped the truck and backed up, preparing to make a three-point turn. However, when the headlights swept over the darkened front yard, he froze. Immediately, he turned to Zac. “Go into the house and call an ambulance,” he instructed.
“What?” he asked. “Ike, I don’t have my keys -”
Isaac pulled the keys out of the ignition and gave them to Zac, not bothering to turn the truck’s headlight off. “Call an ambulance,” he repeated.
Brown eyes wide, Zac nodded. “Okay, Ike,” he said numbly, fumbling with the door handle. When he finally opened the door and got onto the front porch, Ike got out of the truck. When he was sure Zac was in the house, he ran over to the edge of the woods. Laying in a heap was Taylor. Isaac knelt to his side and examined him as best he could.
“Tay?” he whispered. “Tay? Are you okay? Please say you’re okay . . . God, Tay.” He touched his brother’s shoulder slightly and shook him. Taylor didn’t stir. Ike shook him again, more forcefully. Tay rolled onto his stomach.
“Oh, god,” Ike gasped. The back of his younger brother’s white T-shirt was black in the darkness. “God, Tay,” he whispered. It was then that he noticed a glint of metal in the grass to his brother’s right. Without thinking, he grabbed it.
Blood stained the blade.
A small moan escaped Taylor’s lips. “That’s it, Tay,” Isaac said, touching his brother’s hair unsurely. “Hang on.”
“I remember . . . A struggle . . .” Taylor took a sip of water from the paper cup at his bedside. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back. “It happened really fast . . .”
The detective cleared his throat. He was a tall man with dark hair and broad shoulders. Very professional-looking. “Anything you can tell me would help,” he said openly.
Tay sighed. “It was dark . . . I was in the old house most of the day. Then I just kinda looked up and realized Mom and Dad would be worried if I didn’t come home . . . So, I went outside . . . And . . . I don’t remember. It was all so fast . . .” He took another sip of water. “Then there was this pain in my back . . .”
The detective nodded. “Where you were stabbed.” It wasn’t quite a statement, but not a question either.
Taylor cringed. Stabbed. He had been stabbed in the back, just to the left of his right shoulder blade. According to the detective, it had been fingerprinted, but the only prints found had been Isaac’s, from when he had picked it up off the ground, and his own, from when he had pulled it out of his back.
“Yes,” Tay said, realizing he hadn’t yet answered the officer’s question. The man nodded.
After a few minutes more of questioning, the detective left the room. Taylor sighed and leaned back in his bed. Immediately, he sat back up, breath hissing. “Damn,” he whispered, rolling onto his side. He closed his eyes. “I have to get some sleep . . .”
“Three days?” Walker Hanson demanded of is second-oldest son. “This was going on for three days and you didn’t say anything?”
Taylor sank down into the couch. “Yes,” he said quietly.
“Jordan Taylor, why didn’t you tell somebody?”
“I’m sorry, Dad,” Tay began.
“That’s not what I asked you,” Walker said, cutting him off. “I asked why you didn’t tell somebody.”
“I . . . I,” Taylor stammered. “I didn’t think it was anything that big . . . I thought . . . I thought it was a joke . . .”
“Yeah,” Zac added in an attempt to be helpful. “When his journal was destroyed, I’m sure he didn’t think anything of it . . . Heck, he thought I did it!”
“But you told him you didn’t, correct?” Diana interjected, leaning forward in the reclining chair.
Looking down at the living room carpet, Zac said, “Yeah.” He then quickly added, “But that doesn’t mean Tay believed me. I’ve lied about reading his journal before . . .” His voice quieted to a mumble as he said the last part.
“I knew it,” Taylor grumbled.
“I’m sorry,” Zac said, looking up at his brother.
Taylor didn’t reply.
“Well, we’re having the best detective at the Tulsa PD work on this case,” Walker informed Taylor. “Hopefully . . . we’ll catch whoever is doing this to you soon.”
“Yeah. Hopefully,” Tay agreed.
Three days had passed since Taylor’s stabbing.
“I’ll go get the mail,” Isaac offered, walking out the front door before anyone could protest.
He hadn’t been allowed out of the house since he’d been released from the hospital two days prior. He felt like a prisoner.
Isaac walked back into the house, a blank look on his face. “Um, Tay,” he said dryly, “there’s one here for you.”
Diana, who had been busily changing ZoŽ, suddenly stiffened.
Tay grabbed the envelope Isaac was holding out toward him. He ripped open the simple white paper and took the small slip within. The note was simple as the last two; written in the same black lettering.
Next time, I won’t fail.
“Um . . . Mom,” Tay began . . .
And today was day seven - exactly one week since the journal incident and the first note. Taylor sat on the couch between his mother and father, awaiting the arrival of the officer that had information on who was stalking him.
There was a knock at the front door. Walker stood, crossed the room, and let the officer into the house. The dark-haired man walked to the center of the room and turned to Taylor and his mother. “I suppose you want to see this tape,” he said.
“Yes,” Taylor said quickly.
The officer nodded. He stepped to the Hanson’s VCR and pushed the cassette he had been holding into it. However, he did not push PLAY. “This was recorded outside of the post office - at the public mail boxes,” he informed Taylor and his parents.
“How do you know it’s our guy?” Walker demanded.
The officer gave a short grunt. “It was filmed three days before the last letter was received. The day of Taylor’s stabbing,” he explained. He then turned the television on and hit the PLAY button on the VCR.
A time lapsed film began playing.
“Is that him?” Walker demanded of the officer, looking at the man on the TV screen.
“No,” the officer said. “He’s coming up in a moment.”
Walker, Diana, and Taylor all watched the television expectantly. Suddenly, the officer hit the PAUSE button. “There,” he said, pointing.
It took a moment for Taylor’s eyes to focus on the guy on the screen. Though the picture was black and white, the features were still undeniable.
Putting a letter with thick black handwriting on the envelope in the mailbox was a guy with blond hair. Long blond hair. A broad nose, sharp chin.
“Oh, god,” Diana gasped.
“It’s me,” Taylor whispered.
“That’s right,” the detective said. “Only, you told me that you had spent the day of your stabbing at your old house.”
“I did,” Taylor insisted.
“Not according to this,” the detective told him.
“But I was,” Taylor cried. “I was there. I slept half the day -”
“Are you sure you were asleep?”
The question caught Taylor offgaurd. “Yes, I was asleep! What else would I have been doing -?”
“It’s called ‘losing time’, Taylor,” the detective said. Just as the words came out of his mouth, another man came in through the still-open front door. This man had light hair and was wearing a white lab coat. He crossed to Taylor.
“We can help you with this, Taylor,” the detective said, his voice soothing. “Help you to fuse your mind back into one personality . . .”
“No!” Taylor screamed. “No! Mom, Dad!” He looked to his parents for help. None came.
“You are the stalker, Taylor . . .”