We went in to get dressed before the police arrived. I was shaking like a leaf; I no longer felt safe, not even here in my own home. After I dressed I went into the kitchen to make coffee; more just to have something to do. I certainly didn’t need the coffee; I was frantic enough as it was.
The police got there quickly and Detective Arnold was right behind them. She told us that Detective Rodriguez was off today, but she already knew about the first note in California.
“Detective Roberts faxed a copy of that first note to us yesterday so I’m familiar with the situation,” she confirmed. “Now, tell me exactly what happened this morning.” We were all sitting at the table in the kitchen and I had poured us all coffee.
We told her exactly what had happened, what we had done. “And neither of you touched the note?”
“No, we knew not to. It was right there, we could read it as it was,” Adam verified. His hair was sticking up in places where he had repeatedly run his fingers through it and he was very pale. He was sipping a cup of black coffee, holding it between his two hands as if to warm them.
I sat there stirring my coffee pensively. I had poured in some cream, but I couldn’t bring myself to actually drink it; I was too afraid my stomach would reject it. I was still in shock; whoever was doing this had certainly wasted no time with the second note. I was pissed and scared and outraged all at the same time about this. They were turning our lives upside down with all this shit and I had certainly had enough. Unfortunately we weren’t playing by my terms or Adams. It was a game of wait and see and I didn’t do that very well.
Detective Arnold nodded her head at Adam’s confirmation and made some more notes. “And you didn’t hear or see anything else?”
“No, no we were sound asleep when the doorbell rang. It took us a minute or so to get dressed and come out to the door. Sarah wouldn’t let me open it at first, so we turned on the porch light and then looked out the blinds next to the window. But I couldn’t see anything or anyone. It was after I looked out the peep hole again that I noticed something on the outside door, so I opened the inside door to see what it was.”
“Did they ring the doorbell only once?” she asked.
“No, at least twice, that—that we heard. We heard the first one while we were still in bed and then the second one was maybe a minute after that, probably not that long actually.” Adam said, replaying it in his mind. He looked at me for confirmation and I agreed.
“Yes, I’d say maybe more like 30 seconds. It seemed like a long time, but that was because we had been startled awake and were still sort of disoriented,” I added.
“And you didn’t hear any cars start or any other sounds? I read on the report from Laguna Beach that you had heard a motorbike.”
“No, I didn’t hear anything,” Adam answered. He looked at me and asked, “Did you hear anything love?”
I shook my head emphatically and I affirmed, “No, there weren’t any other sounds. I didn’t even hear any dogs barking. But it was probably two minutes or so after the door bell rang before we opened the door.”
“Okay,” she told us. She then started going back over other notes and said, “Here is what we have discovered about the tea. I think you’ll find this interesting. First off, there were no fingerprints on the pitcher except yours and what turned out to be your daughters. Did she tell you that she went to the police department in Lawrence to have her fingerprints done?”
When I shook my head no, she continued. “Well she did, but those were the only ones on there. When we ran the tests on the contents, at first we couldn’t find anything. There were no narcotics nor amphetamines or poisons; nothing that we could find in normal testing. However, our technician got curious and started testing for substances that we don’t normally screen for and that’s when we discovered what was in there. Care to make a guess?”
Adam and I both sat there mutely because we had no idea. “The tea here and probably in Italy was laced with liquid nicotine. In small regulated doses, it helps people to curb their craving for cigarettes. In larger doses, it does exactly what it did to you; makes you jittery and causes vomiting. In even larger doses still it could actually kill. This dose wasn’t enough to do that.”
“My God,” I said. I felt dumbfounded and my mind was reeling from all the possibilities. “So are you saying that they weren’t trying to kill us, or Adam?”
“Yes, that is what I’m saying. For some reason, that is becoming more apparent now, they seem to be toying with you Mr. Richland. If they wanted to kill you, they certainly could have.”
Adam and I sat there stunned, thinking about everything that had happened. But if they weren’t trying to kill him, maybe things would be a little better? We asked her about that.
“Well, I wouldn’t feel too secure. Most of the time stalking situations continue to gather momentum. After awhile, they don’t receive the attention they want and they become progressively more aggressive. You are still in danger Mr. Richland, do not doubt that.
Your stalker has gone to a lot of trouble, on two different continents to cause you problems. This is very serious. Now, according to Detective Roberts, you had an altercation with Rachel Tomlinson?”
“Well, I wouldn’t call it an altercation—I mean, there wasn’t anything physical. But she showed up at my house and I’m not even sure how she knew where I lived. I know that I haven’t ever given her the address. I made her leave, we had family there that day and they were just arriving. And she came back yesterday morning, after the detective talked to her. She was extremely angry that time.”
“She was livid Adam. Whether or not she is the one, she can certainly cause trouble I’ll bet. But Detective Arnold, if she is the one, I think she has help,” I interjected.
“Yes, that is what Detective Roberts said. And while she certainly seems antagonistic, neither I nor Detective Roberts feel that she is the one behind this. Someone who is a stalker is not usually as self-absorbed as she apparently is. She is wrapped up in what is going on with her and probably wouldn’t take the time away from that to go to all the trouble of stalking someone else. She just doesn’t fit the profile of a stalker.”
“Excuse me, but what IS the profile of someone who stalks? I mean, what kind of person should we be looking for?”
“Stalkers can vary a great deal, but there are some common statistics relevant to many stalkers. Often they suffer from lack of self-esteem or confidence, so in order to be noticed, they focus their attention on someone else and live vicariously through that attention. They will often be around the person who is being stalked, to sort of share in the lime-light. Some of them have psychological disorders, personality or mental problems. They often are fascinated with assassinations and have a ‘detachment’ disorder, often stemming from being abandoned as a child. 87 % of all stalkers are male, but usually when a male stalks someone, male of female, they don’t really know them. When females stalk, it tends to be someone they have had a relationship with that ended badly.”
Adam and I both considered that for a minute. I couldn’t think of anyone in Adam’s life that description fit. And it hadn’t really even occurred to me that it could be a man. That seemed to make it even worse.
The CSI crew had been called out to remove the letter from the door and check for fingerprints and one of the investigators came in then with the letter.
“It doesn’t look like there are any fingerprints on it detective, but right here on the corner of a piece of the tape is a fiber strand. We might at least be able to get what it’s from.”
Adam and I looked at it and a chill went up my spine. It was dark navy blue, the color of the person’s hoodie in Italy. I looked at Adam and we nodded; I knew he thought the same thing.
“Detective Arnold, I think we know what that is from,” Adam told her. “It looks like the same color as the hoodie the person in Pisa had on. I mean, we could be wrong, but Sarah and I both think so.”
The investigator nodded and said, “That would seem to be consistent with what I think. The interesting thing is that it doesn’t look like it was a mistake that it’s there, I think it was placed there on purpose.”
“To make sure we knew it was the same person,” I said, feeling sick to my stomach again.
“That could be,” Detective Arnold stated. She was looking at the note itself and added, “This looks like normal Times New Roman font, but we’ll check it to be sure. It’s a bit distorted though; the lab will find that out too. We’ll let you know. And, hopefully we will have some information come in from Laguna Beach today as well.”
Adam sat there, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. I could see how stressed he was about all this. I felt the same thing. It seemed to be snow-balling, rapidly.
“I have to leave for Dallas tomorrow night; I have a flight at 9:45. I am worried sick; I can’t possibly leave Sarah here now.”
“Adam, you have to. And I mean, if you’re there, they probably won’t bother me, don’t you think Detective?” I said. After I said that I realized it sounded like I wanted him gone so I would be safe. That wasn’t true at all; I just wanted him to careful.
“I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that. I do believe Adam is the target, but often time’s stalkers fixate on people close to their targets because they are jealous of those people. However, I’m not at all sure you would be any safer with him than here on your own,” she finished.
“I think we need to make some security changes around here. I’ll have an alarm system installed immediately and motion-sensor lights as well. And Sarah, what if we get Bobby to come back until I come back next weekend?”
“Oh Adam, I don’t know that all that is necessary. I don’t want to bother Bobby any more; he was nice enough to stay while we were gone, but I hate to ask him for anything more,” I said. I didn’t want to feel like a burden to anyone. Especially if we had a security system and lights, what more did I really need?
“I agree with Mr. Richland, those things are necessary. Unless you would rather go and stay somewhere else? That could work as well,” the detective said.
“Yes, you could go and stay with your parents, love. That might not be a bad idea anyway since you still can’t drive,” Adam offered.
I was starting to feel trapped. He was trying to be kind, but staying with my parents was a horrible idea. And I certainly didn’t want them in any danger. Bobby would be a better solution, but I still hated to ask him.
“I’ll take care of asking him love, and I bet he’ll be glad to do it. He actually seemed to like being away from your aunt a bit.”
I sighed. I had the sudden realization that I was not going to be able to talk my way out of this. I decided that the best thing I could do for Adam was just to go along with his idea, that it would be one less thing for him to stress about.
“Okay, what ever we need to do,” I agreed.
“Alright then, we’ll get on that right away. I’ll be back here no later than Friday night. That will give you the whole week to spend with Cassie. Do you think you could come to Dallas with me the next week?”
“Yes, probably,” I agreed. “Unless of course something is going on that I need to be here for.”
“Alright, it sounds as if things will be under control here then. Mr. Richland, will it be okay to communicate with Ms. Marcus about anything that comes up?”
“Of course. She has a need to know anything that I do, so please, do include her.”
“I do realize that, but it was necessary that I verify it. Ms. Marcus, Mr. Richland, please keep me informed on anything that happens. I will also take the opportunity to fax some information to the Dallas police department, just in case. I have a friend who is a detective there,” she told us, preparing to leave. “Oh, and as soon as I hear back from Laguna Beach I’ll be in contact.”
We walked her to the door and saw her out. It was cloudy and gloomy today here in Wichita. It seemed somehow even harsher when compared to the past sunny days in California. Memories of swimsuits and shorts seemed cruel reminders of those days and frankly, I wished we could go back; back before Thursday night, when things had been carefree. I thought about when Adam and I were last in the tub, how we held one another and his almost, sort of proposal. That was the most important thing I could imagine at the time; now it didn’t seem to hold a candle to all of this.
It was 8:30 and the dismal day stretched before us and I knew that day would be a struggle to get through. Adam pulled out the phone book and started hunting for alarm systems. Knowing Adam, he would not only have the best; he would have it here and installed today.
I bent over him as he was sitting at the table and wrapped my arms around him; I needed to feel him, to touch him. “Are you hungry? Can I fix you some breakfast,” I asked.
“Hmm? Breakfast? That would be good, I am a bit hungry.”
I wasn’t sure what to make and so I started digging around in the fridge and the cabinets looking for something that sounded even the most remotely appetizing. After Adam’s gourmet breakfasts and today’s situation, nothing sounded tasty at all. I finally decide to just make some southwestern style scrambled eggs and toast and as I got busy with that, I felt a little better. It was just having something to do I guess. I listened to Adam on the phone and I could tell he had found someone that met his ideas. They were coming at 1:00 to install the alarm and lights apparently and then he was making payment arrangements with them.
Which brought up something else, I thought. It’s my house, I should be paying for all this and yet I knew that Adam wasn’t going to allow that. He had got this into his silly male brain that it was all his fault, so he was going to take care of it.
He can afford it—I know that. But that’s not the point. I don’t want him paying for everything all the time. I make good money and I can afford some of these things. Which made me stop and think about how the future was going to look.
I acknowledged that Adam and I do have a future. I feel sure that we will get married. But that is in the future for us, I know. We have never actually talked about finances and things like that. I mean, he has the code for my house and I have a key and have the security codes for his. I know that I felt totally comfortable at his house, like I was home there. I believe he feels the same about my home. But that was about as far as we have gotten.
“Adam,” I began. “I think I should pay for this myself. I mean, it’s, well, I mean it’s my house, I should pay for it.” I watched his face as I said this. I wanted to be firm, to stand my ground.
“I do understand that love, but I really feel the need to do it. Call it a guy thing or something; I need to take care of the woman I love. Since I can’t be here, this is the next best thing I can do. It’s important to me.” He looked at me face and saw that I was determined. “Sarah, I feel so strongly about this. Please, I need to do this. I need to be able to go away and feel that I am protecting you in some way.”
I swallowed hard, thinking about that. He did feel strongly about it, I could tell. But so did I. I had to be able to maintain some sort of independence, that was important to me. I feared we might be at a standstill.
“Adam, this was all your idea, the whole concept. I’m just taking care of the mechanics of it.” I was quiet for a moment, trying to gather my thoughts before I continued. “I know that you worry about the expense of things for me. There is no debate here about the fact that you are better able to afford this, I know that. But to me, it isn’t really about the amount of money. It’s about the ability to take care of myself. I’ve been doing it for a long time now.”
“Yes Sarah, you have done that, and done it well. My God, you are putting Lissa through medical school without her having an enormous amount of debt when she graduates. You have proved to everyone that you certainly can take care of yourself and your kids. You did it because you had to, because you had no real support from their dad.”
I blanched when he said that. I hadn’t mentioned that to him when we talked about my ex. So most likely Lissa had told him about that. It stung to have him know that; he is so devoted to his kids and would never do what my ex had.
After pausing for a moment, he continued, “Sarah, you aren’t alone in life any longer. We are together. We are a family; we take care of each other. It’s all right to lean on me a little. I – I need that Sarah; I need to know I am doing my best for you. Until we marry and all the financial things are worked out, this is something I can do. Please Sarah…” he finished.
I don’t know what threw me more, the reference to marriage or his heartfelt plea. He seemed to take it for granted that we would marry. I did think we would marry, even if we hadn’t set a date yet or even officially gotten engaged. I knew in my heart that we were going to be together; married together.
This was a tug of war between his pride and mine. What do I have to win by getting my way I asked myself? Independence? Sort of but he is right, we’re already a family so in some ways that independence is already changed. I no longer think in terms of ‘me’, I now think in terms of ‘us’. It won’t make me any more independent if I do it by myself. Stubborn maybe—definitely; but no more independent.
How would I feel if I do it, let Adam take care of it that is? My pride would be stung a bit, I knew that. But since I already think of Adam and I as ‘us’, what else? I would eventually feel like it was just something we did together; as a couple, as a family. It’s just that he did so many things for me, already. I couldn’t possibly begin to repay him; except with my love, my belief in him and in ‘us’.
Adam waited patiently as I worked through all this. He said nothing, but the look on his face told me how important it was to him. I reached my hand out to his and squeezed it, then took it between both my hands.
“Alright Adam.” I was next going to say ‘you win’, but it wasn’t a case of winning or losing. We both win by sharing our lives. “I see how important it is and I believe in the long run, it is about us, not just about me. But its hard Adam, it really is.”
He stood up and came around the table and took me in his arms to hold me. I couldn’t help it, I cried. It’s just so hard – I’ve never had anyone to depend on, not really. Except Cassie and that was never financially, but I got all the moral support I ever needed. Which made me think about visiting her today.
“You said they are coming at 1:00 to install the system?” I asked him. It was about 9:30 now. If we got ready, we could be up there to see her for a couple of hours before we had to be home. “Adam, I’m thinking about Cassie. Do you think we could go up there this morning before they come to install the system? If we hurried?”
“Sure. C’mon, I’ll help get things put away,” he told me, already rinsing dishes so they could go into the dishwasher. We were done in 5 minutes and I hurried in to take a really quick shower.
A half hour later we were both showered and dressed and out the door. The new rehabilitation hospital was very near my house, so it didn’t take much time to get there. Soon, we were standing outside her door and I was taking a deep breath, trying to steady myself before going in. I didn’t have any idea at all what to expect, so I was trying hard to keep an open mind about it all. Adam, sensing my anxiety put his arm around my waist, as if to lend me his strength. I finally pushed open the door and we entered the room.
Only to find that it was empty. There was a board on the wall and on it was Cassie’s therapy schedule. It had never occurred to me to ask about that. According to this, she was in aqua-therapy and would be for the next 10 minutes or so. We decided to sit down and wait for her. I looked around the room and I saw a bit of Cass’s personality here and there. There were funny cards and pictures hanging up and several bouquets of flowers too. I got up and read the cards. Okay, I’m nosy. Besides, I wondered if any of them were from Dr. Gorgeous?
There were some from her parents and co-workers at the bank. And there was a bouquet that said it was from Adam and me. I hadn’t even thought about sending her flowers, especially when she was in the hospital because I knew that they would just be something to have to move. But these were beautiful pale pink roses and I looked at Adam in amazement.
“When did you think to send these Adam? They are beautiful!”
“I had them sent the day she was transferred. I wanted her to have some. I thought I had told you about it. ”
“No, I don’t remember anything about that. But thank you for being so thoughtful because I never even thought about it.”
We didn’t have time to discuss it further because the door opened and they wheeled Cassie in then. She was glowing, or maybe it was just that her smile was a mile wide and she looked so happy.
I got up to run over to her to hug and kiss her and she said, “Hey, back off there Quick Draw McGraw! Watch THIS,” she said and after they had wheeled the chair pretty close to another chair and locked the wheels, Cassie stood up!
All the way, on her own. Well, the nurse was standing very close to her, but after she stood up, she took the couple of steps to the chair and sat down. “NOW,” she said, “You can hug me!”
And I did. I was afraid that I might hurt her by hugging too tightly, but still, she felt wonderful! We were both crying by the end of that hug. Adam waited and then bent down and gave her a kiss on the cheek and lightly squeezed her shoulder. The nurse asked if Cass needed anything else and at her negative shake of her head, left us to our visit.
Cassie told us all about her week and about the different kinds of therapy she was receiving. She was progressing much faster than they thought she would, but I told her that they just didn’t know her the way I did, that it didn’t surprise me at all.
We told her all about California and she wanted to know if we had the pictures developed yet. I looked at Adam and realized I had totally forgotten them. I told her that I hadn’t gotten them done yet but that I would this week and bring them in for her to see.
I looked at Adam then, trying to decide whether or not to tell her about everything that was going on. I decided not to, not today. She was in too good of spirits and I didn’t want to spoil that.
All too soon it was time for her next therapy session and we told her we would come back tomorrow. We decided to come during her lunch hour and she said we could even bring her some real food. We told her we would and hugged her goodbye.
When we got back home, it was almost noon and Adam and I decided to lie down for an hour. We were both wiped out and I think we were both asleep before our heads hit the pillows. It was a good thing that Adam had set the alarm or we might have slept right through the installers.
Adam was outside with the installers and they were deciding what to do, or maybe what kind of system to install. I was trying to read, but mostly I was just half sitting/half lying on the couch, sipping a bottle of water.
In the last month, I had had very little time to just veg out; we had been running around all the time and I was starting to feel wiped out. We did have a few days in California that were really relaxing, but it’s just not the same as just doing nothing. I didn’t even have the stereo on; I was just enjoying the quiet.
The phone rang and I regretfully picked it up to answer it. It turned out to be Tamara, which surprised me because she always called Adam’s cell phone. I wondered if he hadn’t answered it and that’s why she called on this one, but I soon had an answer to that question.
“I just thought I would try this number, I hope that’s okay. I wanted to get you instead of Adam,” she told me.
“No, its fine that you called this number, I’m happy about it in fact. But actually we were going to call you soon anyway. Tamara, there has been something else that happened.” I told her what happened here this morning with the note.
“Oh my God Sarah. This is horrible. They had to have followed you right back from LA. That’s so creepy. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I guess so. Adam is outside right now with some people who are installing a home security system. He practically refused to go to Dallas unless I agreed. Then there was the debate over who was going to pay for it. He feels like it’s his responsibility, but it’s my house Tamara.”
“Um hm. I understand that. So what happened?”
“I ended up letting him pay for it. But it was a hard decision to make. He and I both already see us as a couple and that we will eventually get married. But I still have to have some independence; and he just doesn’t want to see that.”
“Adam has been caring for people all his life Sarah, I think you know that. It’s his instinct; it’s part of his personality. I know that Adam wouldn’t look at you as being any less independent because you let him do this, please believe me on this. He loves you so much Sarah, he needs to feel like you need him.”
“I know that, but I have just had to do everything myself for so long its hard to hand over the reins, so to speak.”
“It will get better, I promise. You and Adam are so good together; you sort of balance one another. That’s something he and I never did.”
“What do you mean? You two were such good friends, it’s hard to imagine that you weren’t good together.”
“Well yeah, as friends we are great together Sarah, but as life partner’s; it was awful. Imagine a see-saw. When things are good, both ends move up and down smoothly; in balance so to speak. But Adam and I, well, one of us was always hung up in the air, feet kicking and swinging in the wind. We never really worked together to make it balance. Adam, believe it or not can sometimes get so caught up in the day to day that he loses sight of what is really happening. He gets down about things and just sort of pulls into himself. I can do the same thing. When we are friends, we have enough detachment that we can keep each other down to earth. As romantic partners we became so mired in it all we couldn’t do that, we had no space. You two are totally different.”
“I’m not sure I understand Tamara. Adam and I are pretty different, true, but we tend to think alike about a lot of things.”
“Okay, please don’t be upset when I say what I’m about to say. It isn’t meant as a criticism, only an observation.” When she heard me say okay, she continued on. “All right, you can be a little high strung Sarah. I mean that you get something in your mind and you just replay it to death. I saw you do that this last week, several times. Your feet just sort of float up and someone needs to yank you back down. Adam is so grounded that his problem is just the opposite—he needs someone to pull him up. So together you are perfect. He brings you back to earth and you keep him from being too serious all the time. I saw him laugh and smile more this last week than I ever have. Balance,” she said.
I was quiet while I thought about what she said. It was interesting to me because I haven’t seen too much of that Adam; only little bits occasionally. As far as I’m concerned though, she is totally right. Adam does help keep me balanced, he really does. And his deeply grounded personality was exactly what I needed to feel secure enough to take a risk with him.
“Yes, I do understand that Tamara; I guess I’ve just never considered it quite like that before. I am aware that he has this very serious side, and I have seen it; just not that often. This morning’s discussion was an example of it. He took it very seriously, that he needed to feel that he was protecting me in some way and he believed that was the right way to do it.”
“Yes, that would be so important for him Sarah. Indulge him a little; I don’t believe it would be a bad thing.”
I laughed for a moment and finally agreed, “Yeah, you are probably right. How are the boys?”
“They are fine. Tristan has another game this week and he wants ‘his dad and Sarah’ to be here for it. It was very sweet, how he asked for you too. And they are both talking about going to Dallas to see you, but Sarah, I don’t think it’s safe to do that,” she told me and she sounded suddenly sad.
“I know, we don’t think so either. Adam and I have already talked about it Tamara. We don’t feel it’s worth the risk to them. I know he is really sad about that too,” I said. Right then the door opened and Adam walked in and caught those words.
“Sad about what?” he asked as he bent down to kiss me. He was rubbing his hands together, trying to get them warm. It was still cloudy out and the temperature apparently was dropping.
“This is Tamara,” I told him. “We’re discussing the boys. Here, would you like to speak to her?” At his nod I handed the phone to him.
They talked about the situation for about 15 minutes and then Adam told her goodbye and they hung up. He sat there on the couch, next to me and I could tell that he was fretting about everything.
I picked up his hand and kissed it. “Have I ever told you how much I love your hands Adam?”
“No,” he said, shaking his head.
“They are wonderful hands; strong, capable. They can hold me tight when I need that and they can touch me in the tenderest of ways. One caress from your hands makes me come alive and they make me feel so good, but not just physically. I feel secure with you because of them. And that is really just a metaphor for how you make me feel.
Tamara pointed out to me how well we balance one another and she’s right; we do. I’m going to hate this next week without you. Not because I won’t feel safe, but because I won’t get to wake up next to you each morning and I won’t get to kiss you each night.” I was looking deeply into his eyes when I told him these things; I wanted him to know how much I meant them.
“Thank you love. I think I really needed to hear that. I’m feeling so miserable about all this. I’m scared to death to leave you here and I’m scared to have you with me. I just want to keep you safe and I honestly don’t know how to do that. Have you called Bobby yet?”
I started to protest and he raised his hand up against my protestations. “Sarah, please just this one more thing for me. I’ll call Bobby; I don’t think he’ll mind at all.”
“Alright Adam. For you…”
“That’s my girl. We’ll get through it, I promise.”
I could only nod my reply; I didn’t trust myself to speak. What if something happens to him? And I realized I couldn’t bear the thought.