It was almost a year since Alex and Brad had started dating. They had been living together and been engaged since December. They were finally going to set a date and finalize some of the wedding plans this weekend. They had to get away from her best friend and publisher and from his mother; they had good intentions but were driving everyone, especially Brad and Alex, batty with their obsession over every little detail. So instead of hanging around obsessing over seating arrangements at the reception, they decided to take off for the weekend and go camping.
Everything was set; they weren’t going far so they decided to drive. The weather for the entire weekend was supposed to be beautiful; sunny and 75 during the day and clear and low 50’s at night. Because of the forecast, they decided to take the tent instead of renting a cabin and since it was the off season, they figured they could have their pick of campsites. Of course they wanted the most isolated site they could find. Now that the day was here, Alex found herself becoming extremely excited; this was the first time she and Brad had gone away for the weekend. She went through her mental list of preparations one last time and then vowed that, from this point forward, she was not going to worry about the time or phone calls or deadlines or anything except savoring every minute spent with Brad.
Alex left a note for Marlene (her publisher) about when to feed Max, her English bulldog, and then she locked everything up, got into the Expedition which was already loaded, and headed into town to pick up Brad. She found a parking spot right across the street and parked there. She called up to his office and his secretary told her he was on his way down. While she waited she began thinking about the weekend. As long as the weather holds, they would be able to get some waterskiing in; this was one of her favorite pastimes and she looked forward to doing some of it this weekend. The longer she waited for Brad, the more anxious she became. All of a sudden, Alex seemed to have run out of patience and felt like a child waiting for all the wonders of summer vacation.
Finally she saw Brad coming out of the building. She got out and went to the passenger side; Brad liked to drive and that was fine with her. He got in, kissed her hello, and pulled out onto the street.
“How was your morning?” Alexis asked.
“It’s a madhouse in there. Walter Pennington is back in town and driving everyone nuts about the details of his divorce. But I don’t want to talk about work that’s a depressing way to start our first weekend away together. I still can’t believe we’ve been together a year and have not taken a trip together. I’ve been looking forward to this ever since we decided to do it,” he reached over and took her hand, “no work, no Marlene, no mother, just you and me. Have I told you today how much I love you?”
“I love you too. And I’ve been waiting for this trip since we first talked about it as well. I have not been camping or waterskiing in forever, I can’t wait,” and with that Alex put in a cd and she and Brad slipped into a comfortable silence as they put the city behind them. Just about an hour later they were at the campground setting up their tent. They got it all set up and unpacked all their gear. Tonight they were just going to grill some burgers and sit back and enjoy the scenery. Tomorrow they were renting a boat and going waterskiing and fishing. They also planned on spending some time tomorrow evening finalizing wedding plans. Alex could barely believe it. All of a sudden everything seemed to be happening very fast. She was happy; there was no question about that, Brad was good for her. She just could not shake the feeling that something terrible was going to happen and she would lose him just as she had lost her parents. She tried to put that thought out of her mind and enjoy the weekend. After dinner they had gone for a walk in the woods and then sat around the fire talking about their future: how many kids they wanted, where they wanted to buy a house, what their dream house would be like, and so forth. Before long they grew tired so they put the fire out, went in the tent, crawled in the sleeping bag, and fell asleep in each others arms. Saturday went just as they planned. It took Alex a couple of tries but she finally got up and was skiing like she had been practicing every day. They were not as successful at fishing and they were glad that they had brought a couple of steaks for tonight just in case. The day was perfect and they both had a terrific time. While the steaks were cooking they talked about caterers and food for the reception.
Alex went in to the tent to get the list of caterers and the list of bands so they could go through it and make a decision on both. Brad was flipping the steaks when it happened. From the tent Alex thought she heard gunshots and she called to Brad to see if he heard it and if he knew what it was, but he didn’t answer. She got a sinking feeling and part of her did not want to go back out of the tent but she knew she had to.
As she came out of the tent she saw Brad lying on the ground. She rushed over to him and saw that he had been shot in the head and chest; there was nothing she could do, he was dead. She ran to the truck, grabbed her cell phone, and called 911. While she waited for the police she stayed locked in the truck, clutching her phone and constantly looking around to see if whoever it was was still out there and if he was coming for her next. She couldn’t believe it, everything changed in a matter of minutes; she was in shock.
As she was waiting for the police, her cell phone started to ring. She answered almost without being aware of what she was doing.
“It took a little longer than I had hoped but I finally got him out of our way. I know you’re in shock right now but when things settle down we’ll be together. Until then I’ll keep in touch. Oh, don’t worry; I’m fairly sure the first shot killed him so he didn’t suffer.”
The phone went dead as the caller hung up. Alexis thought she must be imagining things. Surely she did not just get a call from the man who shot and killed Brad. She didn’t know what to think. One thing that occurred to her was that the caller talked about a future with her in it so she knew she was safe for the time being anyway. She hung up her cell phone and got out of the truck as she saw the police pulling up to the campsite.
The police were there for several hours asking all kinds of questions and searching the campground as best they could in the dark. Alex told them about the phone call and they insisted she call someone or let one of the officers take her home, or better yet to a friends’ house; if he had her cell number it was just as likely he knew where she lived. She finally agreed to call Marlene, her publisher and best friend.
It was late when the phone rang. In fact Marlene had already been in bed for a couple of hours and she was trying to break out of that just waking up fog when she answered the phone. “This better be good,” Marlene practically yelled into the phone.
“Marlene, it’s Alex. I’m sorry to call you so late but something terrible has happened. Brad’s dead,” and she began to cry and could say no more.
Marlene sat up in bed, wide awake now. “Alex, where are you?”
“I’m at the campground, the police are here and Brad was shot twice and he’s dead and I need you to come get me,” she was rambling and crying but got enough words out that Marlene understood where she was and she told her to hold on, she would be there as quick as she could.
Alex talked with the police while waiting for Marlene. She was still in shock and disbelief. The officers let her go into the tent and get her things to take back with her. The gunman shot from a distance so they had no reason to keep anything from the site for evidence.
Although it took Marlene a little under an hour to get there, it seemed to Alex as if she had been waiting for hours. She ran over and put her arms around Marlene and immediately began crying again. Marlene held her and let her cry. When she had settled down Marlene gave her an ativan for her nerves (Marlene had a prescription) and they put her stuff in Marlene’s car and, leaving Alex’s truck there and giving names and phone numbers to the police, they headed back to Santa Cruz and to Marlene’s condo.
“You’re going to stay with me for awhile. I don’t want you staying alone. Besides the cops told me about the nut that killed Brad calling you; you can’t stay at your house, at least not for now.” Marlene knew how upset and out of it Alex was when she did not even argue with her about going home. God, this is horrible, Marlene thought to herself, who would want Brad dead?
Sunday morning Alex woke up and was disoriented at first. It was almost 11:00 am, she never sleeps this late. Also she was at Marlene’s condo. What was going on? As she sat up in bed everything started coming back to her. Some psychotic madman had shot and killed Brad while he was grilling steaks. She also remembered the phone call and became scared. She got out of bed and went looking for Marlene.
Marlene was sitting in the kitchen having coffee and reading the paper.
“Good Morning, Alex. Can I get you a cup of coffee?” Marlene got up to get the coffee and motioned for Alex to sit down with her.
“How are you feeling this morning?” Marlene asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t think everything has sunk in yet. The guy called me, Marlene, he called my cell phone. The guy talked about us being together. He killed Brad and he has my cell number. It all seems surreal, like a horrible nightmare. I don’t know what to do,” Alex began crying again and Marlene went over and held her like she had done the night before and will probably do numerous times over the days to come.
“First of all I don’t want you to worry about this guy. You are staying with me and the police are watching you 24/7. They want to put a trace on your cell and home phones; they are fairly certain the guy will call back. This Detective Komis is leading the investigation and he needs to talk with you. I am supposed to call him when you are ready. You want me to call him and tell him you’ll be ready in an hour or so?”
“Yeah, I guess I will have to sooner or later. Tell him an hour that way I can get cleaned up some. I have clothes here don’t I?”
“Whatever you had in the tent is in the room you slept in last night and there are towels and washcloths in the bathroom. Take your time, I’ll call Det. Komis. Alex, I am so sorry, if there is anything else I can do just let me know.”
“Marlene you have already done more than enough, I’ll never be able to thank you.”
Alex put her coffee down and went upstairs to shower and dress. She was grateful that Detective Komis was coming to Marlene’s place; she hated police stations, those places always seemed so rundown and dirty, the atmosphere itself was enough to depress the happiest, most go lucky people, as far as those who are already depressed, this atmosphere not only depressed them more but caused them to feel completely disheartened, gloomy, and spiritless as if the life was just sucked out of them. After the interview with Det. Komis she still had to call Brad’s family and his work colleagues. God, she hated even thinking about those calls, especially to his mother. Then she will have to make funeral arrangements; why can’t she just grieve, alone? It’s ironic: someone you love dies a senseless death and everyone tells you to take your time, take it easy, let us take care of things around the house, there is no rush just whenever you feel like coming back to work, (my favorite) we’ll leave you alone, just let us know if you need something. These very well-meaning people make it impossible to have any privacy in order to grieve alone. Maybe all this, the phone calls and the arrangements, was supposed to keep people busy so they didn’t go insane with grief. Either way she was not looking forward to any of it.
The interview with Detective Komis went better than she expected. He was very polite, well-spoken, and kept the interview from being too upsetting. After the interview, the Detective told Alex he was arranging for an officer to be nearby, keeping an eye on her and the people around her; he was also going to put a tap on her cell and home phones. There was no doubt in his mind that this man would call Alexis again.
“Ms. Sparks, this man will continue to call but I don’t believe you are in any immediate danger. You heard for yourself that he wants to be with you and he believes that after you get over Brad’s death, you will want to be with him. The taps on the phones and the surveillance is more to aid in apprehending him than it is for your protection. Of course they are there to help if it even looks like this guy might make a move. We just don’t expect that to happen.”
“Please call me Alex, Ms. Sparks sounds so old. I want to help get this guy. What can I do?” asked Alex, almost desperate to help.
“That’s a deal Alex, but only if you agree to call me Steve. And there is something you can do for us but it might be very painful, emotionally. When this guy calls again, and he will, try to keep him on the phone as long as possible and let him do most of the talking. First, it will help to locate him when we get the taps on your phones, and second, the longer he talks the better chance of him tripping up and saying something that might help locate or identify him, or both. I know this is a lot to ask and I will definitely understand if you say no.”
“I’ll do it. I want to do anything I can that will help catch this guy,” Alex was determined to be involved in the investigation and if she is helping than she will be involved and kept up to date on how things are going.
“Well just be careful and if you’re on the phone with him and you find that it is too difficult just hang up. About those taps, I’ll need to get into your house so if you have an extra key, I’ll be sure to get it right back as soon as I am done. As for your cell I need you to bring it down to the station in the morning so our tech can work his magic. So I’ll see you at the station in the morning with the key and your cell phone?”
“I’ll be there. Thank you for all your help.” Alex dreaded going to the police station but she would have to do it this time.
After Steve left Alex made all the phone calls. This was probably the most difficult part; she had to repeat what had happened to Brad to everyone she called. She had never been so relieved to finish a task in her life. Marlene was home and offered to listen if Alex wanted to talk, but Alex felt like being alone for a while so she decided to take a walk on the beach.
She took her cell phone with her so she would not miss a call from Brad’s mother about flight times. She wasn’t on the beach for more than a few minutes before the phone rang. She was surprised that Helen (Brad’s mother) was able to book the flight so soon.
“Hello Helen. That was quick. Give me a few minutes to get back in the house where I can get pen and paper and I’ll write your flight info down,” Alex turned and started heading back to Marlene’s.
“My name isn’t Helen and I’m not flying anywhere anytime soon. I just called because I have not heard your voice yet today.”
“What the hell do you want? Can’t you just leave me alone? You already killed my fiancé, what’s next,” Alex screamed into the phone. She wanted to hang up and throw the phone into the ocean, but she had promised Steve she would try to keep him on the line and talking.
“My dear Alexis I could never walk away and leave you alone. Why, if I did that what would have been the point of getting Brad out of our way? No, Alexis, I’m afraid leaving you alone is the one thing I cannot do for you. I called not only to hear your voice but to let you know that I will be checking in with you every day to see how you are doing. This way I will know when you are ready to quit grieving and get on with your life. I had been watching you as well as calling you but you are not staying at your home these days and I don’t know where you are staying. I cannot very well keep an eye on you if I do not know where you are. So tell me, where are you staying? It is okay if you do not want to tell me, it will take a little longer but I will find out on my own if I need to. Just remember I will be here when you are ready. I will talk with you tomorrow, my love. Good bye.”
Alex tells him to go to hell, but she is not sure he heard it before he hung up. She kept him talking for a few minutes but the tap has not been put on her phone yet so she went back to Marlene’s and wrote down everything he said. She will give it to Steve in the morning.
When she got back to Marlene’s she took a long, relaxing bath. She was exhausted physically and emotionally but knew she would not be able to fall asleep without some help. So she asked Marlene for another of her sleeping pills, took that, changed clothes, and went on to bed even though it was only 7:00pm, she needed the rest.