Adam sat me down and pulled me to him, away from the view of the bed. I finally stopped screaming and then the tears started; tears of outrage and tears of fear.
Someone had been in our house and left another message for us and this time we couldn’t ignore it, not even if we wanted to.
On our bed lay the bloody body of a rat; a very large rat. It had been stabbed with a knife, probably from our own kitchen; impaled onto the bed itself. And lying next to it was another note, spatters of blood covering it so that it was almost impossible to read.
Adam stepped forward to see if he could read the note and I watched him with horrified eyes; not wanting to get any closer myself.
He read the note out loud and it chilled my soul to hear the words.
Betrayal is bitter
Deception angrily beats
back innocent souls
and scurries like a rat
through broken hearts
As actors heartlessly play their roles
I felt nauseous and had to take several deep breaths to get it under control. Adams face was pure white as he stood there, his hands clenched into fists at his side.
“Adam,” I said my voice little more than a whisper. Then louder, “Adam.”
It finally penetrated his thoughts and he turned to me, his face a grim mask of disgust and disbelief. “Yes?”
“We – we have to call the police…” I trailed off.
“Yes Sarah, I am aware of that!” he almost snapped at me and then was immediately apologetic. “I’m sorry love, very sorry. I don’t mean to snap at you.”
“It’s alright Adam. We’re both – uh, stunned.”
“Yes,” he answered absentmindedly, searching his pockets for his cell phone. He finally found it and pulled it open and dialed 911. “I haven’t a clue whether this will call the local police or California, where my phone service is,” he said while he waited for the number to ring.
I pointed to the regular phone on the night table and said, “Maybe we should use that?”
He nodded and closed his phone with a snap and reached for the land line phone. I stood there, staring transfixed at the gruesome scene on the bed while he punched in 911 again and waited for an answer.
I went into the bathroom and turned the cool water on and splashed it over my face a few times trying to dispel the sick feeling I had. The face that looked back at me from the mirror was pasty, with two bright spots of color on my cheeks. They looked like someone had painted red circles on them with lipstick. My eyes had a strange and brittle glitter in them that wasn’t natural at all. I started shaking then and waves of nausea rolled over me and I turned just in time to be sick in the toilet, heaving violently until my stomach was completely empty.
I sat down on the floor and leaned back against the cabinet were the sink was, resting my head against my knees. My breathing was still rapid, but I was starting to feel a little bit better.
I was disgusted with myself – with my reaction to all this. I needed to be strong for Adam and I was totally failing at it. He is the one who was being targeted and I needed to get myself together for him. I leaned my head back against the hard cabinet door and it felt cool through my hair. It actually felt kind of good and I decided that maybe I needed a cool washcloth so I stood up to pull one out of the cabinet and wet it.
Adam came in just as I finished that and had draped it around my neck. I leaned over and rinsed my mouth out as Adam reported his conversation with the police to me.
“I finally got them to transfer me to the local detectives. Detective Rodriguez had faxed them some information so they will be out along with a patrol car. The car should be here soon. How are you love?”
“Okay, I’ll be okay Adam. What about you?”
He shrugged his shoulders, but I couldn’t fail to notice how miserable he looked. His beautiful chocolate brown eyes looked muddy and dull and his face was still deathly pale. I reached up and brushed an errant curl back from his forehead and he grabbed my hand and pressed it against his cheek before kissing it. He let out an enormous sigh and I wrapped my arms around his waist and held him tightly to me, comforted by his steady heartbeat.
The doorbell rang soon after that and we went downstairs to answer it. It was the patrol car, here already as promised. There were two female officers standing there and we moved aside to let them enter.
Officers Mendoza and Porter were both very nice and I just felt better, having them here. They followed us upstairs to the bedroom and viewed the morbid scene on the bed. They were just starting to ask some preliminary questions about what we had done when the doorbell rand again and I left Adam with the officers to go answer it.
It was the detective from the Dallas police department. His name was Morgan and he just exuded an air of calm around him, which I appreciated a great deal. He said he knew Delilah Arnold, one of the detectives from Wichita and she had filled him in on all of this. I thought his eyes rather sparkled when he mentioned her, but who knows for sure?
He silently followed me upstairs where the two officers were looking at the bed and making notes. Adam was standing silently by watching them and I went to him and he put his arm around me.
“Hello Mr. Richland. I’m Detective Morgan and I’ll be working on this case for you here in Dallas. I think I have most of the history of the case from Detective Arnold in Wichita. I actually talked with her today in fact. They haven’t been able to get any clues from the notes so far, neither the note from California or Wichita. They are copies of copies of copies. They have no fingerprints on them and since they have been copied so many times it’s impossible to really tell where they might have been printed. We do know they were done on a PC computer using Times New Roman font, but that is about as much as we can tell. They could have been printed off anywhere. The blue fiber is from a Hanes sweat suit, but that particular color was distributed to thousands of locations in the US and that makes it impossible to trace. They are still working on the IP address from the e-mail. Now, let’s see what we have here,” he said, going to the bed to examine the rat’s body and the note.
I stood by the door, leaning back against the wall watching them examine the mess. Detective Morgan got on his cell phone and called for the forensics lab to come and process the scene and when he got off the phone he told us we all needed to wait downstairs.
In the living room I sat down on the couch and found myself rubbing my hands over my jeans, almost compulsively. It’s a habit I have when I’m nervous and when I caught myself doing it yet again, I stuck my hands under my legs in an attempt to keep them still.
Adam was sitting next to me, talking to the detective and the patrol officers, answering questions about what we did when we got home, what we had touched, etc. Adam was giving them a step-by-step rundown on our movements.
“Mr. Richland, did either of you touch the animal or the bed?”
“God no. I walked close enough to read the note, but that’s all.” Adam answered.
“Okay. Well, when forensics gets here we’ll be able to tell if the crime scene is contaminated or not. Do you recognize the knife?”
Adam frowned for a moment and then answered, “We just got here Sunday night. It could be from this kitchen, but we haven’t cooked much in there really, so I don’t know.”
“So you haven’t touched anything in there yet, the kitchen I mean?” the detective asked.
“We put away some groceries Monday evening, and Sarah made some dinner that night, but that’s all,” Adam said. “No we really haven’t touched much there at all.”
“That’s good, although I doubt seriously if our perpetrator has let any evidence; at least when you consider the previous notes.”
The perpetrator. Those words smacked me in the face and then in the heart. This was real. I mean, I knew before it was real, but we couldn’t pretend like it was going to go away any more. It was like war in a way and we couldn’t assume they were going to get tired of the game. The game in fact had changed; it was now deadly – at least for the rat.
What kind of a person could do that to a living creature I wondered? Even if it were only a rat; it still lived and breathed. Don’t get me wrong; I detest rodents, but to heartlessly, coldly impale it was cruel beyond imagining to me. The more I thought about all of this the angrier I got. I finally got up and went and looked out the windows. It was pitch black out tonight, the moon waning away bit by bit and only a quarter showing her dreamy face tonight.
Another vehicle pulled up outside and I went to the door and opened it before the man standing there had a chance to knock. His face showed a startled expression as I stood there looking at him. The detective and Adam were right behind me. It was a man from the security patrol from the complex. He had heard the call over his radio and wanted to know why we hadn’t called them first, which started a long discussion between him and the police who clearly had jurisdiction. The security officer’s point was that they had to be called first and refer it on to Dallas police as needed and I couldn’t stand to hear anymore then, so I stepped outside.
I just didn’t know where to go actually. There was nowhere in the house I could go without the concern of messing up the blessed crime scene and I couldn’t listen to it all anymore; I needed some distance to think, to get my head together. I felt brittle right then; ready to snap. I was angry, possibly angrier than I have ever been in my whole life. I sat down on a lawn chair on the small porch, pulling my knees up and wrapping my arms around them. I took a couple of deep breaths and closed my eyes, releasing the shaky exhale slowly.
The forensics people pulled up then and headed for the door; all sorts of equipment in tow. I pointed to the door wordlessly and watched them enter the house.
I suppose it wasn’t very nice of me to let Adam deal with it all right now but I knew I was close to losing it and frankly, I’ve had enough of cops lately to last me forever. Whether in Italy, Wichita, California or Dallas, they all have their notebooks where they take endless notes, each asking the same damn futile questions that don’t give anyone any answers.
I’m just so damn tired of it all.
The door opened again and I saw Adam come out, looking around for me for a moment before he spotted me, sitting off to the side. He came over and leaned against the railing by my chair and didn’t immediately say anything, just looked at me as if trying to gauge my mood.
He finally said, “They are examining the uh, bedroom right now; nothing for me to do.”
When I still didn’t say anything, he started to fidget. I looked at him; I knew he could tell I was upset and that I needed to talk to him about it, but I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t angry with him at all, but I was pissed at the world right now; at circumstances. I wondered how to tell him those things and make him understand that the anger wasn’t about him, not in any way. He was holding his hands in front of his body, one hand sort of picking at the nails of the other one and staring at it while he was doing it. I think he was afraid to look at me and I knew I had to do something to help him.
“Adam,” I said finally, watching him as he looked down at me. His face showed clearly that he was miserable; scared maybe too. I licked my lips, mostly to stall talking about my unorganized thoughts for another moment or two.
“I’m sorry Adam, I just had to get out of there – I, I felt like screaming. Sorry.”
He nodded his head silently in understanding, his lips pursed. He didn’t say anything and I didn’t know if that was because he was upset with me or he just didn’t know what to say.
“Adam, do you understand that I am not upset with you; not angry with you?”
“I guess I don’t really know what is wrong Sarah. I know you are upset. And that’s certainly understandable, I just – talk to me Sarah, help me to understand your feelings.”
“I’m angry Adam; blown away with anger. At, at this whole situation; whoever is doing this, at the police who ask endless questions but don’t really offer any real answers. I’m pissed because our home has been invaded; because we are being toyed with, taunted. They came into our bedroom Adam; killed a helpless animal – coldly, cruelly. Left a note, as if to explain their actions; but it explains, nor excuses nothing. They are a sick bastard but it seems they are some kind of damn genius too; they don’t leave any clues. They don’t give us enough information to help anything; which is the point – I understand that.” I took a long and deep unsteady breath before continuing on my ranting and rambling dialogue. “It’s personal Adam and we can’t ignore that any longer; we can’t afford to ignore it any longer because the game is getting more dangerous. The rat is dead; what or who is next? Where will this person stop or will they even? We don’t even know why they are doing this. I can’t imagine that you have ever done anything rotten enough to someone to warrant this Adam, it is just unthinkable to me. But they aren’t stopping, that’s for sure and so all we can do is just wait for their next move and hope that sooner or later we get a real clue; hopefully that will be before they kill you. It doesn’t seem to matter where we are, where we go, they just tag along. We’re helpless, have no control!” I spat out adamantly.
Which was the problem for me; the crux. It all goes back to my issues of control, I knew that, understood it but that didn’t help me a bit. I hated this feeling – vulnerability. My eyes had sort of glazed over and unfocused as I spoke, lost in another world somewhere maybe. I looked at Adam then, searching his face with frightened eyes, looking for his reaction to my harsh words.
I think I saw relief but there was understanding too and acceptance of my words. “I was just so afraid you were angry with me Sarah, so afraid. I feel helpless too and I haven’t a clue what to do about it either. You’re right; we’re getting no help from the police, although I do feel like they are trying Sarah. And I can’t imagine who is doing this.” He was quiet for a full minute or so, in fact I thought maybe he was done when he spoke up again. He was half-leaning and half-sitting against the railing, his arms crossed in front of him in an almost protective gesture; maybe vulnerable is a better way to describe it. “You know, I’ve really thought a long time about this and I can’t think of anyone. I just haven’t had that many relationships and most were never really relationships anyway. I mean, like Rachel; we went out a few times, but that was all. And fans? That just seems so unlikely and the same with disgruntled actors. This – this is something that is passionate in nature, not sexually you know, but someone feels very strongly about all this; that I’ve – I’ve grievously hurt someone. You don’t walk away from someone after something that does that kind of harm without knowing it, you just don’t.”
I believed him, I did. I don’t think he is just forgetting something or even deliberately trying to hide it; but somewhere in his past was the cause for all this. Somewhere in his past lie answers.
Adams cell started ringing then and he pulled it off the clip and looked at it. “It’s Tamara, or probably the boys,” he said as he flipped the phone open. I knew that he hadn’t talked to them for several days; maybe it would be good for him to talk to them, I just didn’t know. It was almost eight o’clock here which means that they were calling after the game. I hoped that Tristan’s team had won; it knew it meant a lot to him. But still, I only listened with half an ear as Adam talked to them.
I started thinking about them and sort of by default, Tamara. I knew inherently that she had nothing to do with all this, but since Adam had had so few relationships, I worried that they would strongly focus on her. As Adam had said, someone feels that he had grievously hurt them and that wouldn’t be someone he had known or been involved with casually. Unless they were seriously mentally disturbed or crazy that is. That thought was also chilling.
I knew that I was doing exactly what Tamara had said to me on the phone a few days ago; that I was up in my head too much – that was a given. I just didn’t know how to stop it, get out of my head that is. And maybe I shouldn’t.
With an ironic smile I realized I was doing it again – rethinking everything. I shook my head, trying to dispel those confusing thoughts about it all. I wasn’t solving anything or coming to any real conclusions; it was completely pointless and yet I did it so often. Maybe that should be a New Year’s resolution – STOP thinking, well so much anyway.
“Sarah,” I realized Adam was saying. He was holding the phone out to me, “Sarah, Tristan would like to tell you about his game.” He smiled at me, at my surprise over that fact. I pointed to my chest and he nodded his head and I reached for the phone, suddenly feeling so much better.
“Hi Tristan,” I said, eager to hear all about it. “So, tell me all the details, I can’t wait to hear!”
“Hi Sarah! It was great and we won, we really did. Well, 5 – 4 but anyway it was really cool!”
I laughed to hear his exuberance about it and wished we were there to see it. “Well, I guess the Tiger’s rule, huh?”
“Grrrrooowlllll!” he imitated their team mascot, which made me laugh.
“All right Tigers! Did you have fun?”
“Yeah, I scored a goal, and that was fun! Jimmy McMillian fell down though and Petey Rogers fell on him and he got his color bone broke. But it wasn’t bloody or anything.”
“Jimmy or Petey, broken collar bone that is?” I was sure he had meant ‘collar’ bone instead of ‘color’ bone.
“Jimmy. He was crying and everything ‘cause it hurt a lot. Now he can’t play for the rest of the season. And he runs really fast Sarah!”
“Wow, well then you’ll just have to run twice as fast! I bet you can do it Tristan!” I heard all the scoop about the game and I enjoyed every moment. Then Geoff wanted to talk to me and I waited as Tristan gave him the phone.
“Hi Sarah. What are you doing?” he asked with all the curiosity of a 5 year old. But it made me stop and think about exactly what we were doing and I wasn’t going to tell them about all that, so I thought of something else to say.
“We’re in Dallas and your daddy is working on a movie. I’ve been going with him and watching.”
“Oh, that’s kinda boring Sarah. He should let you do something fun!” He had really hit the nail on the head because it wasn’t fun at all, but I certainly wasn’t going to stay home now, not after tonight. I shivered then and pulled myself back to what Geoff was saying. “Mommy says we are going to come and see you at Thanksgiving. Do you make turkey Sarah? Daddy always makes our turkey but we’ll be at your house so will you let him cook it?”
I looked at Adam and smiled and told Geoff, “You bet your daddy’s going to cook the turkey. I bet he makes the best turkey, huh?”
All that made Adam smile and Geoff went on and on about how good Adam’s turkey was. The boys obviously missed Adam terribly and there wasn’t really a damn thing we can do about it.
Geoff started to wind down and he hadn’t talked to Adam yet so I handed the phone back and listened as Adam talked with Geoff, reassuring him about Thanksgiving and how much he was looking forward to seeing them. Adam then asked to talk to Tamara and I listened as he started relating what was going on here tonight. I could tell she was upset as I listened because Adam kept saying, “It will be alright Tamara, we’ll find out what is going on I promise you.”
Detective Morgan came outside then and asked us to come back in and stated that he had some questions for us. Adam told Tamara that he would call back later and we went inside and sat down in the living room. The security officer was still there, obstinately refusing to leave as long as the police were here, but he didn’t say anything, just listened to everything being said. The forensics team was just finishing up and I saw that they had the comforter in a plastic bag that they took with them. I shuddered as I watched them carry it out the door.
Adam was sitting next to me on the couch and I knew he must have seen that because he wrapped his arm around me and I just soaked up the warmth, the comfort from that simple gesture. I rested my hand on his leg and scooted a bit closer to him because I knew he was upset too; his whole body was tense and on edge, I could tell from the way he was holding himself, ramrod stiff.
“Mr. Keaton,” Detective Morgan started, indicating the security officer, “States that Krista Marshall signed for this unit for you and that his office gave her two keys. Do you have both of those keys in your possession?”
Adam nodded and said, “Yes, I have one and Sarah has the other.”
“Could we see them please? Mr. Keaton would like to check the serial numbers on both of them.”
Adam reached into his pocket for his key ring and I got up to get mine out of my purse. We each handed our respective keys to Mr. Keaton who compared them to numbers he had written on a notebook. “They are the correct keys,” he told the detective. “They do say ‘Do Not Duplicate’ on them, but you could probably find someone who would for a few bucks extra.” He handed them back to Adam and me and watched silently as we put them away.
Detective Morgan asked us if it was possible that someone could have got our keys to make copies. Adam and I looked at each other and we both shrugged before Adam answered, “Well, it’s possible. When we are at the studio there are lots of times that we are not in the dressing room and the keys are. It wouldn’t be hard for someone on the movie to know when those times are.”
“The dressing rooms don’t have locks on the doors?”
“Yes, but I mean, we don’t every really use them. There isn’t ever anything valuable in there.”
“You don’t consider a purse and keys valuable Mr. Richland?”
“Well yes, but you don’t expect someone to take them out of a dressing room. And everyone there works on the movie and there is also security on the set. It’s not like someone unknown is wandering around unchecked detective. I have made over 30 movies in the last 20 years or so and I don’t ever remember anything being taken out of a dressing room before.”
“I’m afraid that’s a rather naïve attitude Mr. Richland and obviously incorrect; since it is almost assuredly someone from the movie who is doing these things.”
“I’m afraid I don’t follow why it has to be someone from the movie necessarily.” Adam told them.
“Opportunity Mr. Richland. Someone knows where you are and has been to all the places you have been. And this issue with the key; someone got a copy of that key because they didn’t break into this house. They had to know when to get that key and get a copy made. Since you stated unauthorized persons cannot roam around the movie set that only leaves someone on the set.”
Those words were sobering to us both and we sat silent as we comprehended what they meant. Adam and I looked at one another and the reality of the situation hit us both hard. The detective had to be right; it could only be someone from the set. The implications of that were almost unthinkable; it means we don’t have a clue who we can trust, it could be anyone.
Detective Morgan was flipping though several pages of notes and commented, “In California there was some trouble with Rachel Tomlinson, is that correct?” When Adam nodded he continued, “Has there been any problems here with Ms. Tomlinson?”
I suppressed a groan and I’m sure Adam did the same thing. Adam told the detective everything that had went on with Rachel and he listened, taking copious notes and wearing a frown that creased across his forehead dramatically. After Adam finished with the description of events, Detective Morgan sat tapping his pen on the notebook as he thought about Adam’s statement.
“So the scenes you filmed with Ms. Tomlinson were this morning, correct?”
“Yes,” Adam stated.
“Where was Ms. Tomlinson this afternoon? Was she still on the set?”
We looked at each other blankly. I didn’t remember seeing this afternoon, after the scene was done and I just assumed she had left the studio. Adam confirmed the same thought. “But we don’t know that for sure,” Adam told the detective. “She could have been in her dressing room for all we knew.”
“Well, we can check on that, but it certainly seems as if she had the opportunity and she was very angry about the problems with the scene as well. She certainly sounds very impulsive.”
“Yes, she is and that is exactly why I can’t see her doing all this. Some of it has taken a great deal of forethought you know. Not exactly Rachel’s strong point detective.”
“Perhaps you don’t know her as well as you think Mr. Richland? Often times we underestimate what people are capable of, I assure you. Today was a totally impulsive act.”
“Yes, it was; at least the dead rat part. Which I cannot possibly imagine her touching. But that doesn’t account for the uh, note. That wasn’t impulsive; that was premeditated.”
“We’ll see Mr. Richland. We will check it out, I promise you. Now, will you be staying here tonight or going to a hotel in town?”
I hadn’t even given it a thought until now, but I had no intention of staying here. Not even a chance and when I looked at Adam he knew what I was thinking and answered that we would be going to a hotel. We gave the detective our phone numbers and told him we would let him know where we decided to stay and they all left and suddenly the house was empty again and I couldn’t wait to get out.
Adam had his arm around me as we watched them drive off and I leaned my head against his shoulder and sighed. We had to up to that bedroom to get the things we would need to go to a hotel and I dreaded going up to do it.
Adam’s phone rang again and he pulled it out and looked at it with a frown before answering it. “Yes Lyle?”
I listened as Adam filled him in on everything. He had evidently been notified by the complex company about the problems. He was two steps ahead of us; already had a hotel arrangement for us and told Adam that the schedule had been rearranged for tomorrow and that Adam didn’t need to report back until Thursday, which we appreciated a great deal. Adam thanked him and we went upstairs to grab a few things to take with us.
We both stopped at the door of the bedroom when we saw the bed. There was a large blood stain on the mattress as well as a hole where the knife had sunk into it. We tried hard to ignore it, but it was very hard. It was a tangible reminder of the scene here two hours ago; a scene fraught with horror and fear.
It didn’t take us long and we both practically flew out of the house and were on our way to the haven of the hotel.