Daughter's Drawings

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: NBH Publishing


What begins as a fun family trip across the United States becomes a years-long ordeal from an unknown predator with a strange fascination with the Botic family daughter.

Submitted: May 20, 2018

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Submitted: May 20, 2018

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Daughter’s Drawings

 

A Diner Called Daisy’s

 

This whole thing started on a road trip  around four years ago. We left to go from Northern California to the East coast, travelling through the Midwest. It was me, my wife Kimmy, our 7 year old daughter Katie, and 5 year old son Alex. Everything went fine for the first few days. We took our time with the trip because we weren’t really on a constraint in that regard; we stopped at pretty much every landmark one can see whilst making a cross-country trip. But there was one night in a state in the midwest that would lead to a series of events that still hasn’t ended.

 

It was around 9pm on a Wednesday night, and we had collectively decided to stop at the next place we saw to eat. A few miles after that decision was made, we passed a sign on the side of freeway advertising Daisy’s Diner. We pulled off the next exit and made our way down the road, eventually pulling into a small parking lot. Night had just fallen, and we decided that after we’d eaten, we would find a hotel to sleep at.

 

Daisy’s Diner was a classic small town eatery, with road signs on the wall and a waitress that called everyone “hun”. It had a very classic “small town USA” feel to it, the food with a home-cooked taste. I could have certainly imagined this place being at it’s capacity on any given day, however, at the time we were there, there were only four other people in the restaurant. A man and a woman ate together at a booth, while two men separately sat at the counter. All four of the other patrons left before we did, and were replaced with two more men who came in at separate times. It was the last man to come in to bring what had happened to our attention. He informed me that if I was the one with the Hyundai truck outside, it had been ransacked.

 

I ran outside, and sure enough, the passenger’s side door was open and everything had been rifled through. CD’s were strewn about the seats, the paperwork from the glove box was on the passenger’s side floor, the backpacks my children had in the backseat with their belongings were opened and gone through. I was furious. I demanded to see camera footage, only to learn that the cameras were essentially for show. I asked to know who the people were that had left the restaurant before us. The solitary waitress only personally knew one of the men, and vehemently vouched for him. Against my better judgement, I decided to not pursue neither him nor the other, still unidentified man, instead choosing to let the police handle the situation.

 

I explained to the police that as far as I could tell, nothing had been stolen, and no damage had been done to the car. The waitress gave the name of the one man she knew, and the police knew him as well; not because he’d had run-ins with the law, but because he was a very active member in the local church, and was a man who was held in high regard by the entirety of the community. As for the other man, all I had seen was his back. Ultimately, nothing was done about the break-in, besides the filing of a record of the incident report and a casual “we’ll keep an eye out” from the police. I assumed the other man in the diner had seen our vehicle full of our belongings, out of our line of sight, and seized the opportunity.

 

We were directed towards a motel in the small town in which we had eaten. Since it was now close to midnight and my wife wanted to lay down and get some rest, we decided we were safe enough to stay there, assuming that since it was a motel, there’d be other people there. Whatever logic I could scrape together is what I used to justify staying there because I was admittedly too tired to keep driving, and there was no telling how far we’d have to go before finding another lodging option. However, when we got the the motel, it was as close to something out of a horror movie as could be. The sign had missing letters, and there were only two other cars in the dirty parking lot. That said though, the area was well-lit and would provide adequate shelter for a few hours.

 

The man who helped us at the counter had a strange vibe about him, but checking into the room went without incident. Indeed, until the morning, I thought the whole night had gone on without a hitch. When we were settled in the room and ready to go to sleep, I double and triple checked the locks on both the door to the outside, and the door that connected to the next room. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but such was the case that the only room with two queen beds was connected to another room. The clerk informed us that the only other person staying there was a woman at the complete other end of the motel, and went as far as showing us that the room connected to ours was empty. We all slept okay, in fact for much longer than we had planned. I woke up in the morning and opened the blinds to check on the car, which I had parked directly outside the room. Nothing seemed out of place, at least on the outside. There was a small piece of paper that had been slid under the door to our room, but assuming it was a check out receipt, I ignored it and got ready for that day’s drive.

 

After a shower I sat on the bed to watch TV while my wife inevitably took four times longer than me to get ready. It was then that I decided to take a look at the checkout receipt. I picked up the once-folded piece of paper and opened it. My heart sank when it turned out to be a drawing from my daughter’s backpack, but with a slight change. It was a picture of our family, but the thief had added a crudely drawn version of himself to it, as well as the words “nice to see you”. Being that the addition to the drawing was done in crayon just like original artwork had been, there was nothing about the man I could discern. All I knew was that whoever had broken into our car had followed us to the motel and slid this drawing under our door. Or at least that’s what I thought.

 

My son, the ever-questioning, observant young man that he is, was playing on the ground with some toy cars near the door, asked me what the rubber piece lining the bottom of the door to the outside was for. I explained that it was likely to keep things such as leaves and snow from blowing under the door, and keeping either heat or cold air in. It was then that I realized that the rubber strip would have prevented a piece of paper from being slid under the door. The revelation hit me like a ton of bricks. Whoever had set this drawing on our floor had done so from the inside. I checked the locks on the connecting door and found one of them to be unlocked. In an effort to spare my wife and children the horror I was currently experiencing, I just rushed them out under the guise that we’d slept late and I wanted to cover a lot of ground that day. I considered talking to the motel clerk, but by that time, a younger girl was working the counter, and I wasn’t going to stay there a second longer than I had to.

 

We got back onto the highway without interruption and continued our trip. My wife, who knows my emotions and moods better than I do, asked me what was wrong but I shrugged it off as still being tired. We made the rest of our journey with nothing out of the ordinary happening. Aside from the alarming incidents at Daisy’s Diner and The Whitmore Motel, our road trip was actually pretty fun. Our activities proved to be a good distraction from the uneasy feeling I had in the pit of my stomach.

 

I made sure to take a different route home, so as not to pass through the small town where the incidents had happened. We finally returned home about three weeks later. All of our mail was piled up on our front porch, so I grabbed it as I walked back into our house for the first time in nearly a month. Unpacking and getting situated took precedent over looking through the mail, but I eventually got to it, and things began again.

 

Towards the middle of the pile of mail, there was an envelope with no return address labelled “the nice family”. I opened it, and found a single handwritten note and a folded up piece of paper.

 

“The girl is vary good at pichures.”

 

I unfolded the paper and it was yet another drawing of my daughter’s. This one was of a black and brown dog. I figured whoever was doing this had gotten our address from our vehicle’s registration or some other kind of document after going through the car. I informed the police, who did a pretty shitty job of making me feel safe. I kept what had happened from my wife, as I knew she would just worry, and I wanted to keep my family as stress free as possible. I wondered how many pictures my daughter had in her backpack, attempting to set my mind own mind at ease by assuring myself that there couldn’t have been too many, but in reality, I knew it was quite a few.

 

Everything was fine for about a week, until one day we got back home from a day at the park. We got inside, and the kids ran over to the couch and turned on the TV. My wife walked into the kitchen to start making the kids something to eat while I went to the bathroom. When I got out, my wife was standing at the sliding door to the backyard. That’s when I heard it: barking. My thoughts raced, and I refused to believe it. But sure enough, a black and brown German Shepherd, about a year old, was tied to a fencepost in our backyard. By this time, our kids had heard the barking and came to check out what was going on. We all ventured outside, and I told them to stay back while I inspected the dog.

 

The leash was tied to the post in a way that made it look like the dog had jumped over the fence and gotten caught or something, I don’t know, it really didn’t make sense. It just wasn’t immediately completely obvious that someone had put the dog there intentionally. Upon meeting me, the dog licked my hand and rolled on his back to have its stomach pet. The kids, unable to contain their excitement any longer, rushed over and began showering the dog with love, which it wholeheartedly accepted. He seemed enthralled with the kids, who returned the affection in droves.

 

My wife found a soft spot in her heart and pleaded with me to keep the dog. It went against my gut, as I knew what the dog was a result of, but in my ongoing efforts to shield my family, I reluctantly agreed to keep him. We named him Roscoe, a name my daughter picked. In a weird way, I felt like I was giving whoever was doing this exactly what they wanted. I knew this hadn’t been a coincidence, I just didn’t know why it was happening. This dog incident didn’t come off as a threatening gesture. None of it made sense.

 

The dog quickly became a member of our family. He took a particular liking to Katie, which of course made me uncomfortable. While I was naturally pleasant to the dog and made sure he had a good life, there was a part of me that despised him. A part of me that hated what he represented, and that was the fact that there had been a strange man that had either personally or organized a dog based off of one of my daughter’s pieces of artwork being placed in my backyard. I felt like he knew we kept the dog, and that the dog was happy here. I felt like he had done this before and that he got off on it.

 

But I had no way of knowing. I had already called the cops and they essentially told me there was nothing to be done. The way I saw it, and I’m sure they would’ve agreed, is that I wasn’t necessarily dealing with what would one would call a “stalker”. I mean sure, there were stalking qualities to what was going on, but since we’d been home, we hadn’t been followed (as far as I could tell), we didn’t receive strange phone calls; the only correspondence was the letter that I had hid from my wife. There wasn’t exactly anything proactive I could do to protect myself and my family, so I figured I would just have to take everything as it came up.

 

The end of the summer arrived, and we always had a tradition: we would spend a week at my late father’s cabin. The thought of cancelling this year certainly crossed my mind, but I chose not to, as nothing else had happened since we’d been “gifted” with Roscoe. So we packed up the car and made the four hour trip to the cabin, which was on the edge of a small town called Long Lake.

 

A Town Called Long Lake

 

Long Lake is a small town of cabins that people vacation at; I don’t think there are any permanent residents, at least not in the immediate area in which our cabin is located. The people who work at the general store and restaurant there commute from the town about 20 miles away. By that late in the summer, people were scarce, if even there at all. When we arrived at our cabin, the neighbor we’d come to know over the years, an older man named Floyd who’d vacation there with his grandkids, was packing up to leave for the year. Apparently, he’d spent about three weeks up there that year, much longer than his normal week. It turned out that his grandkids were feeling as if they were “too old” for the annual cabin trip; I felt kinda bad for Floyd, I knew how much he looked forward to the time he got to spend up there with them.

 

After introducing Roscoe to our annual neighbor, we said our goodbyes to Floyd, who promised to return the following year, even if he did it alone. I had the wife and kids start unloading the car while I went and unlocked the cabin. Before I approached the door, I stood there, looked off into the distance over the lake, and filled my lungs to their limit with as much fresh country air as they could handle. It felt like a weight was off my shoulders being there, not having to worry every day, wondering if that would be the day I got another one of my daughter’s drawings in the mail. I felt truly at peace, even if only for that moment. That peace would quickly fade, though, when I got to the door of the cabin. It was already unlocked.

 

Now, chances are, it was just left unlocked from us the previous year. I really had no grounds to suspect anything other than that, even with everything going on. There was no way that the mystery man could’ve known where our cabin was, much less have gotten there before us. I had kept a keen eye in the rearview on the trip up to make sure we weren’t being followed, just to be safe, and I had no reason to believe we had.

 

I opened the cabin door, and the air was heavy and moist. There was a thick layer of dust on everything the eye could see, amplified by the rays of sunlight coming in through the windows. Everything was exactly as it was a year prior. I breathed easy, taking solace in the fact that it was more than likely myself a year ago that had made me worry so much presently. I walked to the master bedroom and fumbled with the fuse box until the power came on. My family entered the cabin, my children wide-eyed with excitement. They ran to the other bedroom, which contained bunk beds, and immediately began bickering over who would have the coveted honor of sleeping on the top bunk. My wife went back outside to get another round of bags and suitcases while I got the water going. Knowing I had to personally get the electricity and water running gave me even more peace of mind; it meant that no one had been using these utilities in at least the past while, as further evidenced by the thin layer of dust.

 

Things went well for the first day. We got settled, and I put off cutting the grass until the next day. We took a ride on the ATV’s and played board games, at night I built a fire and we made smores. The next day, I took my family to a spot across the lake that we’d taken the kids to every year. It had a small playground, and an actual beach, one of just three in the area. There was a raft a little ways out into the water that my daughter was now big enough to play on with my wife, and my son enjoyed trying to catch fish with his hands at the shore. We grilled out and had a nice meal, and stayed there until almost sundown. My plan was to cut the grass when we returned home, but as we pulled into the small rocky and grassy area we used as a driveway, I noticed that the grass was freshly cut. My heart once again sank into my stomach.

 

My wife commented that a neighbor must have done us a favor, and went on about her business. I looked around, and all the other lawns that I could see were still uncut. I knew who had done this. Well, not exactly who, but I knew. I truly was confused at the motivations of this mysterious stalker. So far, he had given us a dog who had quickly become a member of the family, and next, he cuts the lawn of our cabin for us? A part of me almost considered just accepting what was going on, as it seemed harmless. And that feeling only grew in me when nothing bad happened the next day. But then, the fourth day came.

 

It was about 7am, and my wife took Roscoe outside so he could run around and use the bathroom. She tied his leash around a post that had been designated specifically for him, and went inside to start cooking breakfast. Roscoe was a quick learner, and in the short time we’d had him, we’d trained him to do a few things, one of which was to bark when he was ready to come inside. My wife cooked breakfast and I woke up the kids, and we all sat down to eat. It wasn’t until we were nearly finished that Katie asked where Roscoe was. Strange, I thought, that he hadn’t barked when he was ready to come in. I figured he was just having a good time enjoying the openness of nature around him. I told Katie that mommy had put him outside and that I would go get him. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw when I walked out of that cabin.

 

Roscoe was on the ground, and his throat had been brutally gouged open, so much so that he was nearly decapitated. Then, from the horizontal throat cut was a vertical cut down to his testicles, and his innards had been removed from his body and placed next to him. His blood pooled in the grass around his small, lifeless body. I felt like I was going to throw up. I ran over to him and looked at his wounds. I could tell that it had been done with a blade of some sort, and was not a random animal attack. Before I did anything else, I ran back to the cabin and told my family to stay inside and not look out the windows. Kimmy began to stand up to see what was going on, but the look in my eyes told her to heed my words, and she sat back down.

 

As tears streamed down my face at the gruesome scene I was currently taking care of, I dug a hole for Roscoe. I gently placed him in the hole and pet his soft back one last time. I truly had come to care about the dog, no matter where he had come from. I filled the hole with dirt and went to put the shovel back in the shed. I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed it when I went to retrieve the shovel in the first place, but on the siding of the cabin was a message, written in what I assumed was Roscoe’s blood.

 

It simply said “GOOD DOGGY”.

 

I washed the message off before returning inside to my family, the entire time dreading explaining to them what had happened. I sat my kids down and told them that while we were inside, another animal, one probably much larger than Roscoe, had gotten into a fight with Roscoe and hurt him to the point where he had to go to doggie heaven. My wife and children cried, and I joined them, none of us able to believe that we had just lost the newest member of our family. With this, though, I told everyone to pack up, because it wasn’t safe to stay in the area with such a large animal on the loose. They obliged, and we were on the road within the hour.

 

We stopped at the gas station just outside of Long Lake to get gas, pick up snacks, and use the restroom before we set out on our four hour trip back home. We all went inside, and thankfully, I was the first to come out. I saw it from the gas station doors: an envelope under my windshield wiper. I sprinted to the car in hopes of getting to it before my wife saw it. I succeeded, and immediately checked the area around me for someone, anyone. There was no one. No cars driving in either direction, no one on foot anywhere for as far as the eye could see. I even made a circle both ways around the gas station, and did a check inside the gas station itself, and found no one that hadn’t been there already. I wanted to ask the gas station clerk to see the security camera feed, but a look around the place didn’t reveal any cameras; that, and I didn’t want to alert my wife to the note I’d found.

 

I waited for my son to get out of the bathroom and told everyone to wait by the door for me. Inside the bathroom, I opened the envelope and took out the folded piece of paper. This drawing was one of our house that Katie had done about a week prior to our road trip. I remember because I had hung it up on our refrigerator when she finished, only for her to take it down to put in her “portfolio”. This one depicted our family in the swimming pool in our backyard. The addition to this scene was the same crudely drawn man standing behind the fence, with a pile of wrapped presents next to him. There was writing on the back of the picture this time too. *“We are a hapy famly : )”*

 

I didn’t know what to think of this picture. My family and I had been swimming in our backyard countless times that summer, even after the incident in the Midwest, when my guard was 100% up. I was positive no one had been spying on us. My only rational guess was that the man had used the pool in place of the lake we had swam in days prior, and the fence to be the treeline from which he could have spied on us. Whatever the case was, I folded it up, put it in my pocket and got my family and I the hell out of there. I took random backroads and out of the way turns on the somber ride home, much to the confusion of my wife. I told her I was checking something on the car; I was obviously seeing if anyone was following us, and again, I found no evidence of that.

 

When we returned home, the first thing I did was cover up the pool for the remainder of what was left of the summer, much to the dismay of my family. I made up some bullshit about how the water levels had been affected in our absence; something that didn’t really make sense but got the job I wanted done.

 

I wanted to tell my wife what was going on. I really did, but at this point, I felt like I had already hidden so much that the focus wouldn’t be on the issue at hand, but rather on my evasiveness. So I resolved to continue the charade. I was the protector of this family, and I was going to do just that. This wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle on my own, I told myself. In retrospect, I could’ve used all the help I could get.

 

A Time For Giving

 

Things were fine for a few months, with nothing eventful happening. I found myself going crazy at the notion of not being able to do anything about what had happened. I’d forced myself to accept that the pool in the picture was a stand-in for the lake, and that this person had been watching us. I didn’t know what to make of the presents though. He’d already done...what he did to Roscoe. I thought maybe that was the present? But then he had already given the picture of the dog back to us when he gave us Roscoe, so that wasn’t it.

 

Also in this time, the kids went back to school, something I was especially apprehensive about. I had to quell my worries though, so as not to alert my wife as to why I didn’t want to leave my kids, ever. Luckily, as I said, for the first few months after summer, nothing happened. I was at a point where I felt more at peace than I had since this whole thing had started. Then, the Christmas season came.

 

We had just put our tree up, ornaments hanging and tinsel strewn about its small branches. We had a nice family dinner that night, I remember it vividly. Everything was great, peaceful. The kids were excited for Christmas, my wife and I were a little less excited for Christmas shopping at the sardine can we referred to as the Christmastime mall in our town. Our kids were doing great in school, Kimmy and I were excelling in our respective careers, and most importantly, there had been no contact with the stalker. The only thing that happened in this time of any importance was that my wife sort of called me out. She detected that something was wrong by my general attitude of worry all the time, but I played it off. We talked for a while, about all sorts of things, but we were happy at the end of the conversation. My rationale was that perhaps this was all over, why bring it up now?

 

That night, we all went to sleep happy. Now, I’m a heavy sleeper. That night, though, I woke up at about 3:30 in the morning. Normally if I wake up thirsty, I’ll just soldier through it and fall back asleep. For whatever reason, though, that night, I got up and went to the kitchen for water. As I went to walk back upstairs, something made me turn my head towards the tree. The moonlight spilling in through the window illuminated the tree, and that’s when I saw it. There was a present under the tree. I quietly but quickly made my way over to the tree and picked it up. It was a small box, wrapped in green Christmas style wrapping paper. There was a to/from card with a bow tied through it, though the “from” was just a “ : )”. The “to” was to Katie.

 

I remember standing there for a moment in utter shock; this man had just been inside our home. Before I did anything else, I went through the rest of the house, top to bottom, making sure he wasn’t still here. I went and checked on both the kids, as well as Kimmy. When I was satisfied after what felt like an hour of useless searching, I went back to the “gift”. I tore off the wrapping paper and ripped open the box. Inside was an envelope and a videotape.

 

I opened the envelope, already knowing what it was going to be. I unfolded the paper and sure enough, this one was of a princess my daughter had drawn. The princess was dressed in a pink ball gown with a tiara and a wand. The addition to this drawing was what I’m assuming was a pool of blood beneath her, and in the corner a tiny drawing of the man himself holding what somewhat resembled a knife. This one really got to me. I didn’t know if my daughter had drawn that picture imagining herself as the princess, or if the man himself had seen it that way; I had no way of knowing. I got rid of the box and wrapping paper so my wife wouldn’t find it, and put the drawing and videotape in my office.

 

The next day, I went to a pawn shop and picked up a VCR. I went home while the wife and kids were gone, and went to the basement, just in case they came home. I hooked up the VCR to the older television we had down there in our makeshift rec room, and inserted the tape. Before I pressed play, a million different things ran through my mind. I wasn’t sure what I was about to be watching. All I knew is that I wasn’t going to like it. I was expecting to see video footage of my family shot from a hidden location.

 

The first image was of a dark room with a white sheet hanging over a wall, running onto the floor, like a green screen. A person walks out from behind the camera, but not far enough to make out any kind of description. He’s off to the very far left side of view, with only his right shoulder in the frame. I hear a creaking of some sort, like something opening. Then I hear whimpering. A little girl whimpering. A voice whispers “go” and then out walks a little girl of about 8 or 9 dressed as a princess, a spitting image of my Katie’s drawing. Clad in a pink ball gown, tiara, and wand, the little girl walked to the sheet and turned around, now facing the camera, tears streaming down her face. The man went behind the camera and picked it up. His voice filled the hushed static that loomed over my basement.

 

He quickly whispered “Do it. Do what you’re supposed to do.

 

The girl started outright sobbing. A hand flies into frame and smacks the little girl. It made me wince. She stopped crying and began to…”act”. She curtsied, and introduced herself as “Princess Penelope”, the title of Katie’s drawing. Between sniffles, she went on to say how she was so happy she had been rescued by her prince, and how he had taken her to a huge castle to live happily ever after. She started sobbing again. The man’s voice spoke again, this time more sternly, though still in a whisper.

 

Keep...going.

 

The girl sniffled herself back to a point that she could continue. “My...my daddy was mean though. He didn’t want the prince to rescue me.” My heart sank. This poor child was being forced to narrate things as the man saw them. The girl continued, “so now, the prince is going to punish me because my daddy wasn’t nice to him.” The camera is set back on the surface it was on when the video started. The man then storms at the little girl and she screams, as he begins to stab her repeatedly.

 

I couldn’t watch, so I turned my head away. The sound was even worse. Her screams, they will never leave my mind. The man grunting as he thrust his knife into her will forever be burned into my ears. I looked back, because I had to know who this man was. Every part of me had hoped he was foolish enough to show his face on the tape, but I knew he wouldn’t. And of course, no such luck. In fact, he was wearing a mask of some kind. When he was finished, he intentionally walked around the camera’s line of sight, leaving only the poor girl’s lifeless body in the frame, before shutting the camera off.

 

I vomited. Repeatedly. Until there was nothing left in my stomach. The first thing I did was go to the police station. I regaled to them everything that had happened up to this point, from the car break-in to the dog, to this. Now that there was a murder, that definitely appeared legitimate and not staged, they seemed to take more of an interest. I told them I was keeping this ever-developing situation from my family, which they severely frowned upon and advised against, but said they would respect my decision, which I was very grateful for.

 

I got home later that day, and my wife asked where I’d been all day. I told her I went to conduct an interview with a detective for a project I was working on (I’m a writer), which she didn’t question. That night, she asked me what was bothering me. A few years of marriage under our belts meant that she could read me like a book. I had to play it off. I told her I was frustrated with my current project, and was having a hard time moving forward. Being the amazing wife she is, she gave me some encouraging words which, had I actually needed them, would have cured the problem instantly. This of course weighed on my conscience. Though I’d been tempted from the start, it was the first time since everything began that I’d actually considered telling Kimmy about it. Not so deep down, I wanted to, but in some selfish sort of justification, I felt I was doing a good thing by keeping them in the dark. In retrospect, I would obviously have told my wife everything from the very beginning. This was just a scary time for me; I wasn’t exactly in my right mind.

 

About a week later, the detective in charge of my case called me. He basically told me they had nothing. No idea who the girl in the video was, as she didn’t match any missing children profiles in the national database. There was nothing that stood out about the room in which the video was filmed. The only reason they knew the video was filmed any time recently was because there was a pack of cigarettes in the corner of four frames of the video, which had a logo that was new to the brand. I asked for a police officer to be stationed down the street from my house and at my children’s school in unmarked cars, and they obliged.

 

After this, nothing happened until March. While the police hadn’t closed the case, it wasn’t at the top of their priority list any longer, as a lack of leads made it come to a head. We no longer had police watching our house or the school. The calls from the detective got fewer and farther between, until I didn’t hear from him at all anymore. I knew it wouldn’t last though. Every day I felt like I was going to get another letter. Or rather, he was going to try to get another letter to my daughter. I had just been lucky enough to intercept them up to that point. But my luck ran out eventually.

 

A Change Of Scenery

 

It was March, the month of my daughter’s eighth birthday. As the days got closer, my anxiety rose; I felt like this would be prime time for this elusive, deranged stalker to do something again. We got all the presents Katie wanted for her birthday, and arranged to have a party at our house the day of, since it fell on a Saturday that year. We had a whole setup in the backyard. It was an arts and crafts themed party, which I was reluctant to do, for obvious reasons. But Katie was the embodiment of a true artist. Inspired, motivated, creative, and I was so proud of her. I just knew what some of her work had gone to and how it was being used, and it broke my heart.

 

The party went well. All of her friends showed up, everyone was having a good time. We all ate, and then she had begged enough to open presents and we finally let her. We had them all set up on a table in the backyard. The deeper we got into the presents, the happier she got. Then, we got to a present that had no “to/from” card on it. I locked eyes on the present. It was a box wrapped in the same wrapping paper as the box that contained the video a few months prior.

 

He had won. I couldn’t jump up and rip the present out of my daughter’s hands without alerting my wife of something. I also couldn’t let her open it. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have enough time to think, I somehow hadn’t even expected this. She opened the box and pulled out a piece of folded paper. I dropped my head. What was it going to be this time? Then she said it.

 

It’s one of my pictures that was stolen!” she said with a joyful tone in her voice. She clearly didn’t understand what that meant. My wife looked at me. I just shook my head. My wife stood up and took the picture from her, followed by the box. Katie questioned it, but Kimmy directed her to open another present, which she happily did. We walked inside while the other parents took over supervision. I took the box from my wife and demanded she give me the picture, but she refused, demanding to know what was going on.

 

I told her everything. I told her about the motel, where Roscoe came from and what really happened to him, the videotape, the police reports, I told her about it all. By the end, she was in tears, and I didn’t blame her one bit. She was furious at me for keeping it from her, and she was right to be, but I had felt like I was doing the right thing. At least we had kept our daughter from seeing whatever was inside the box, and that acted as a silver lining for us both.

 

After I’d told her everything, Kimmy opened the picture. This one was a painting. You have to understand, that when I say my daughter is a genuine art fan, it’s because one medium just won’t do. She draws, paints, uses crayons, markers, oil pastels, chalk. Anything that can create an image, she utilizes. And she makes pictures of absolutely everything: people, places, things, you name it, she’s made a picture of it. She always said that when she grows up, she wants to be an artist, and that she “wants to draw the world”. It’s actually really inspiring. She kept every piece of her work in what she called her “portfolio”. When this madman took it from her backpack that night at Daisy’s Diner, he took a piece of her.

 

This picture was of our son, Alex, and the addition was apparent. A set of bushes was painted, with a crude depiction of the man inside them to the side of our son. On the top of the picture was a message scribbled in red pen.

 

Me and your brother are frends now. When will we be frends?

 

This sent a chill down my spine. All sorts of scenarios went through my head. Had this man talked to my son? My wife ran outside to get him, and I looked in the box. It was a set of sketching pencils. On it was a formal note.

 

“Never stop drawing.”

 

Kimmy and Alex returned to the kitchen where I was in a cold sweat. We asked him over and over if he had spoken to or seen any men or women he didn’t know recently, and he denied it. We told him he wasn’t in trouble, and he insisted he hadn’t encountered anyone he didn’t know. We asked him if maybe it happened at school during recess, and he insisted nothing like that had happened. I believed him. He was a smart boy. My wife wasn’t so sure. She politely ended the party as soon as the presents were finished being opened, and one by one the children were picked up by their parents, while the parents who were there persistently asked if everything was okay; we said everything was fine, just that we had a family emergency.

 

The police asked my son the same questions we asked, and got the same answers. The detective came to the same conclusion I did: that this particular incident was meant to scare us, but what the painting depicted had not actually happened. Because of the long periods of time between happenings, police advised us to begin questioning friends, to make sure we weren’t victims of an elaborate prank. This would’ve made me laugh, if it hadn’t made me nearly blind with rage. The man who was doing this was a killer. I had seen it with my own two eyes. I knew this wasn’t a joke.

 

Things again calmed down for about a month. Every day, my wife was checking the mail. I don’t know if she was hoping for a new letter from the stalker to be there, or if she was relieved every day that there wasn’t. It began to take a toll on our marriage. Kimmy abhorred the fact that I had kept something so serious from her, and she began to resent me for it. She never did get over it, and again, I don’t blame her one bit.

 

Towards the middle of April, the kids and I returned home after I had picked them up from school, and Katie went upstairs to put her things away and start on her homework. She came back downstairs after about two minutes and found me in the living room. Her words fell so heavily on my ears that it physically hurt.

 

Daddy, someone left a letter for me.

 

I swallowed the lump that had instantly formed in my throat and stood up so fast that the chair I was sitting in nearly tipped backwards. I ran across the room and grabbed the letter out of Katie’s hands.

 

Dear Katie,

 

I would like so much to be your frend. I don’t have a lot of frends, but youre pichures make me so happy and they are so good! You are a vary vary good artist and to be a friend with someone so tallented would be so fun. I dont think youre mommy and daddy would want us to be frends thow so maybe it could be a fun secrit. I want you to draw me lots and lots and lots and lots of pichures so that I can look at them all the time. I hope we can be frends.

 

The letter was left unsigned.

 

I was hit with a flurry of emotions. Sadness, that my daughter had now directly been involved with this. Rage, that this man continued to haunt my family unscathed by any attempts to find out who he was. And perhaps most prevalent of all, fear, that I was virtually defenseless against this unseen threat. I called my wife, who immediately came home from work. We told the police about the letter, and they took it for evidence and tested it for fingerprints, which of course garnered no results.

 

Kimmy and I had a long talk, during which we weighed our options. It came down to keeping the kids in the house and/or with one of us at all times, including taking them out of school and all extracurricular activities, or moving away. We chose the latter.

 

We put our house up on the market and were moved out within a week and a half. After staying in an apartment in a different city until May, we then moved to a single story ranch in southern Colorado. We got the kids enrolled in school, and my wife transferred hospitals. All in all, the move wasn’t too difficult of a process. And for about five months, it seemed like it had worked. There was no sign of the stalker. Our summer went by without no incident. We took a successful road trip to Florida, which the kids loved. Kimmy and I repaired the strain in our marriage. Things seemed to be looking up for our family. That is, until we returned home one afternoon in late September.

 

Kimmy got the mail and we had a letter from an attorney. Its contents were the details of going over my mother’s will. My heart sank like it hadn’t in quite some time. My mother wasn’t dead. I immediately got my phone out and called her. It went directly to voicemail. I was panicked, I didn’t know what to do. I called my aunt, and again received no answer. My whole world was crumbling around me. I finally thought to call the at which my mom worked, and explained to the receptionist that we were having a family emergency, and that if she was there, I needed to speak to her immediately. I was told “one moment please”, still unsure of if she were indeed there or not.

 

I sat with the phone to my ear for what felt like an eternity, until finally, the phone on the other end picked up. It was my mother.

 

Hello?” Sshe asked, her voice sounding as sweet as ever.

 

Oh my God, mom, are you okay?

 

Well yes, sweetie, I’m fine. Why do you ask?

 

I just got a--

 

And that’s when it occurred to me. He had done this. He had found out where we lived and he had done this. I stuttered for a moment before I told my mom I loved her and that I would talk to her soon. Kimmy asked me what I was thinking and I told her; she agreed, this was a sick joke. When my wife sorted through the rest of the mail, there was another envelope, this one addressed to Katie. In it was a picture she had drawn of Grandma, the addition to this picture were two dark X’s over the main subjects eyes.

 

That image will forever be imprinted in my brain. It made me physically ill at the time. I cried. I felt I had no way of protecting my mother, not without leaving my own family vulnerable. I called the detective that had been assigned to our case back in California and told him the news. He agreed to put an undercover officer at my mother’s house and job for the next two weeks, something that gave me at least a little peace of mind.

 

Thankfully, nothing happened to my mother. His sick jokes were just that, jokes. I was at my wits end with this whole situation. I felt as if it would never stop. The next period of silence would be the longest one. Seven months of no contact from the stalker. Then something happened that gave me the motivation to get proactive in ending the terror that loomed over our family day in and day out. I received a box addressed to me, with a “:(“ marked as the sender. I opened it and found a small child’s hand.

 

It was badly decomposed, but the fingernails had been recently painted. The fingertips were burnt down to the point that any type of identification would be impossible. Along with the hand was a polaroid of a smiling little girl. It was the girl from the video I had received so long ago. If the police couldn’t, I was going to try to find out who she was. I was determined to get some answers. I was determined to end the torment.

 

A Trip Back

 

After making a copy of the picture, I took the contents of the package I’d received to the police. Just as I had figured, the fingertips were much too damaged for any kind of identification. They checked the box itself for DNA, but it was of course wiped clean before being sent to me; the only fingerprints on it were from mail personnel, who all checked out. They said they would keep the investigation open, but that was the same thing they’d said so long before then. With no help from police, I resolved to check it out myself.

 

I told Kimmy that I had to go out of state to do some research for my current project. I’m pretty sure she knew I was lying, but she let me go without too much of a fight. Not wanting to leave my family without their primary protector, we set up an elaborate plan to transport each of our kids to different places; our daughter went to my sister’s house in Wisconsin, and our son went to my wife’s parents back in California. I say elaborate because we had other people help out with decoy cars in the respective states for each trip to make certain they weren’t followed. Once I felt that my kids were safe, I made sure my wife was comfortable staying home alone, which she assured me she was. I made sure she had ready and immediate access to the gun we kept in the house, just in case, and I set off for the Midwest.

 

After just about 15 hours of driving, I arrived to the small town that was home to Daisy’s Diner, which I decided would be my first stop. I pulled into the lot that I hadn’t been in since the car was first broken into. It was dirtier than I remembered; the lot was littered with assorted garbage. This time, I parked directly in front of the large windows of the building, so I could see my car from the inside. I walked into the restaurant and the first thing I saw was the same waitress that served my family and I during the first visit, only this time I took note of her name, Roberta. There were a few other people in the restaurant; two men eating together at a booth, a man and woman eating together at another booth, and two men and a woman all eating separately at the counter. I didn’t recognize any of them. By her demeanor, I determined that Roberta didn’t remember me from our previous meeting. I sat down and she asked what I wanted to drink. I told her I wasn’t there for a meal.

 

I took out the copy I’d made of the picture of the little girl and asked Roberta if by some miracle, she had any idea who the girl in the picture was. She looked at it for what seemed like a long time, but ended up telling me she didn’t recognize her. As she handed me the photo back, one of the patrons said loudly ”what the hell is going on out there?” I looked to him, and saw he was directing his attention outside. I spun around, and there was a hooded man standing at the driver’s side door of my car. I immediately got up and ran outside; as soon as I got to the door the man took off running.

 

I gave chase around the corner of Daisy’s and that’s where I blacked out. The last thing I remember seeing was a mask under a hood, and something solid hitting me across the side of the head, knocking me unconscious.

 

When I woke up, I was in the dark. I wasn’t bound or gagged in any way, but I couldn’t discern my surroundings. I found myself able to stand up straight, and when I did, about 25 televisions of different sizes all turned on at once. They were all showing static, with the volume on full blast. I yelled ”HELLO?!” at the top of my lungs, but the sound of my voice was drowned out by the static. Then, so suddenly that it made me jump, each of the screens changed to a picture. It was the same room I’d seen in the video of the murder of the little girl. The same white sheet was hanging up, draping onto the floor, though this time, blood stained the bottom portion of the sheet. I assumed it was the little girl’s blood, but I had no way of knowing if that was his only victim. Somehow I doubted it.

 

A man came in the frame, but kept his back to me for the entirety of the video. He spoke to me in a high-pitched, yet gravelly voice. The best way I can describe his tone is that it was childlike. He spoke like an excited kid.

 

Hi Katie’s daddy. I’m glad you got my present. I don’t wanna do no harm to your daughter the great artist, I just want her to be my friend and draw me pictures! I sent back the ones that weren’t my favorite but I’ve kept the ones that are my favorites and those are mine now. All I want is a friendship with Katie. Katie Katie Katie. She’s such a very good artist.

 

His tone then changed, now markedly more angry.

 

But you won’t let her be friends with me! You’re making me get you out of the way and I don’t want to do that because friends don’t hurt friends daddy’s! I want to be a good friend and not a bad friend! So, I’m going to make this simple. Simple simple easy peasy. If you promise to let your daughter the artist be my friend, I’ll leave you alone. But if you still won’t be nice, I’m gonna get really angry. Do you promise to be nice?

 

I muttered out ”Y--yes?” unsure as to if this was a video or a live feed, or if I was being watched or not.

 

There were moments of silence, and then he spoke again, this time calmed down.

 

Good. But since you were such a mean mean person, I’m not gonna tell you how to get out!” Then he let out this sickening, childlike laughter. Then, the video simply cut off.

 

Now once again in complete darkness, I felt the walls around me for some kind of door. I had noticed that behind the televisions the space went farther back than I could see. I tried my best to move the TV’s, but there were some old, 50-60” sets that couldn't be easily moved. I then thought to feel around the ceiling, which was just above my head, and at one point, I was able to push up, and sunlight slipped in through the cracks.

 

Locked by nothing but a flimsy latch, I quickly got out and found myself in the middle of a large forest. There was a bag next to the hatch door that had all of my belongings in it. I took out my phone, which had as little signal as possible while still actually having some, and used its built-in compass after unsuccessfully trying to place a call to 911. After walking west (not sure why I picked that direction to head in) for about an hour and a half, I came to a road. Then after going north for another 45 or so minutes, a truck pulled up and asked where I was headed. I told him Daisy’s Diner.

 

At that point, we were only about a half hour from the restaurant. I guess I'd walked in the right direction after all. The man was quiet, and didn't ask me any questions, much to my appreciation. He dropped me off at Daisy’s and nodded his head as a goodbye, shaking his head at my offer of gas money for the help, then sped off. I got in my car and looked in the mirror, I had a cut on my forehead that had been stitched up and cared for, but it was throbbing in a pain I couldn’t recall having felt before.

 

I realized that I finally had a signal on my phone so I called the police. They came to me, and I took them back to the place I was held. The first thing they told me was that there wasn't anything in any direction for miles. No businesses, houses, cabins, nothing. They searched the hatch I had been in, but found all the televisions to be smashed, and the cords cut. They searched behind the TV’s, where I had suspected there of being a tunnel, but just around a small bend it had been collapsed. They again took a report and examined my injury, saying it had been properly stitched and treated. In the end, I was dropped back off at my car at Daisy’s and told I would be called with any further information, as they would be investigating the area around where I was held.

 

By now, it was starting to get dark, and my head was absolutely killing me, to the point I didn't feel comfortable driving for too long, so I headed to the only place I knew was close enough for me to get some rest, and the possibility of an answer. I headed back to the motel where I was given the first picture.

 

When I pulled in, I looked through the window of the front office and saw the man from those years before. I can't say for sure, but it almost seemed like when he saw me, he picked up the phone, said a few words, and hung up. At the time I thought it was just me being paranoid, because when I walked in, he didn't give off any signs of remembrance. He seemed genuinely curious when I brought up what had happened during my first foray at his place of business. After a short back and forth, I got a room for the night, went inside and passed out before I could even take any safety precautions. Luckily, I woke up and found that nothing had happened. At least until I went outside.

 

I exited the room and saw that all four of my tires had been gouged open. All I could do was chuckle, this seemed like such a pathetic action compared to the psychological torture my family and I had endured at his hands before this. I called a local mechanic and he was there within an hour to change all my tires. Then I was back on the road, again taking all the twists and turns I could to make sure I wasn't being followed. I returned home after about 20 hours of driving and over the next several days got my family back together. They had remained unharmed during my absence.

 

Things went fine for quite a long time. Over a year by my count. Then, one night, I woke up to a knocking on our front door. I got the gun from the safe and approached the door, which was repeating. Knock knock...knock knock. I disabled the alarm system, swung the door open and saw that there was a folded up piece of paper on the doormat under a small rock. I stepped over the picture and ran out onto my front lawn to see who it was, as they couldn't have gotten far between their last knock and my opening the door. I looked down the street in both directions and saw no one.

 

I'll admit I wasn't quite thinking clearly. Even with the adrenaline, I was still half asleep, and I turned around and walked back to my door. I picked up the piece of paper off the ground and walked in. After closing and locking the door and resetting the alarm, I opened the paper to see which picture it was this time.

 

This particular picture was a self portrait Katie had done, a full body drawing of herself. The addition to this one was that another thinly drawn version of the stalker was present, holding my daughter’s hand. Katie had written above the photo the word ”ME*, but now, there was a bold X through it, and written next to it was ”US”. Thinking it was just another attempt to scare us, I set the picture in a drawer and resolved to call the police, but first I went to check on Katie.

 

I went up to her room and pushed open her mostly closed door. I felt the color drain my face, and that ever familiar feeling of my heart sinking down into my stomach. But this time it was worse. This time it felt like it never stopped dropping. Katie wasn't in her bed, and her window was wide open, a breeze blowing in, her drapes waving. My daughter had been kidnapped.

 

A Man In A Mask

 

On May 18th, 2015, Katelyn Patricia Botic was kidnapped from our home in Colorado. Even in the absence of activity from our stalker, we had never let our guard down, although my wife and I agreed that we had a gut feeling that all the events that occurred were finished, a thing of the past. We thought we were free and clear. Obviously, we couldn’t have been more wrong. Me, my wife, the police, and the security company who had installed our alarm system agreed that the man, or men, waited until I disabled the alarm, and then went in through the window and got Katie. Knowing that made me feel as if it was my fault. I was absolutely devastated.

 

Strong efforts to find Katie were made over the following two months. Search parties, news segments, canvassing, Detectives even went to the midwest and questioned employees and patrons at Daisy’s Diner about that first incident that seemed so long ago, but nothing turned up any leads. My wife blamed me; she became very distant, refusing to sleep in the same bed with me, and only talking to me if it was absolutely necessary. Our son clung to her as I wasn’t in a proper place at the time. I hate to say it, but at the time, I was too broken up to care. The only thing I gave any mind to was finding my daughter.

 

After a while, the efforts died down. We had exhausted the resources that are at one’s disposal in the event of an abducted child. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I basically put my life on the backburner. I drowned my sorrows in heroin, something I’d given up so many years before, when I’d met Kimmy, when I’d made a good life for myself. By the time that next letter came, I was on the edge of being nothing but a shell of the man I once was.

 

About four months after Katie went missing, I received a letter, this time addressed to “Daddy”. As soon as I saw it, I broke down in tears. In my mind, just having that envelope in my hands was a response to the question that had plagued me since the day she vanished: was my daughter still alive? I tore open the envelope, and inside, as I had assumed would be, was a picture. On the folded piece of paper was a chilling message:

 

I’m home now

 

This one was one I’d never seen. It was a landscape. There were a lot of trees, what looked like a big field, and in the middle was another, though smaller, drawing of my daughter. The stalker had once again added himself in, again holding her hand, and this time he put a heart around the two of them.. Pure, unadulterated rage coursed through my veins as I gripped the picture, crumpling it within my fists. The next part, though, is what I wasn’t sure about. There was a half-done visage of a barn in the corner of the page, with an “X” on top of it, and a lazily done sky. Though it wasn’t like her other work, I could tell my daughter had drawn it. Seeing it on the same page as the man’s addition let me know that much; the styles were too different to have come from the same hand.

 

Then it hit me. My daughter was trying to let me know where she was. Or at least that’s what I made out of it. I looked in the envelope and found a handwritten letter from the kidnapper.

 

Helo new Daddy,

 

I hope you know that I am not a bad mean man I just rilly like the pichures and want all of them to look at all the time. I just rilly wanted her to be my frend and now she can live with me and make pichures all the time. I promise I will not hurt her becuse I do not hurt my frends if I did that I would not be a very good frend myself. We would like you to visit. If you can find us. I dont want to tell you rite away because then you will come rite away and I dont want you to take her away before you have had a chanse to calm down.

 

What I am saying sir is that she now lives here but if you can find us you can visit. But you have to come alone. If you bring anyone else, I will skin her like a dear before you evin get close.

 

Once again, unsigned. Before I had a chance to weigh my options, I had made my decision. The police hadn’t done a goddamn thing to help me so far. Despite this man’s clear lack of education, I wasn’t going to take his threats with a grain of salt. I had to do this alone, for the safety of my daughter. I retrieved the gun we kept in the house from the safe, and went to a store to buy more ammunition and extra magazines.

 

As I packed a bag after returning from the store, my wife, in a show of concern that was rare for the current climate of our incomplete home, asked what I was doing. I elected not to tell her what was going on; the only good it would do is bring up a barrage of questions that I was in no mood to address. She’s not a stupid woman either; I’m sure she put the pieces together shortly thereafter, if not immediately. I gave my son a kiss on the forehead goodbye and set out on the road towards the place this all began: Daisy’s Diner.

 

I pulled into the nearly vacant lot of Daisy’s Diner. I again saw the same waitress that had been there the other two times. I walked in, and the woman gave me an odd look, like she recognized me but couldn’t place it. I don’t blame her, it had been quite some time since I’d been there. She asked what I wanted and I ordered a Pepsi and two scrambled eggs. When she brought my drink, I told her I needed to talk to her about something that happened a few years prior. She was reluctant to talk, but agreed nonetheless.

 

I reminisced with her about the night our car had been burglarized, which, to my surprise, she actually recalled. I practically begged her to rack her brain and identify the man who had gone unidentified the night of the incident. She told me she could barely remember back that far, and that she hardly remembered the incident in general, much less that particular detail.

 

I asked the woman what I now realize was a rather vague question at the time. I inquired about any barns in the area. Much to my dismay, this was a farming community. The small town Daisy’s Diner sat in was surrounded by endless acres of farmland. I took a shot in the dark, hoping that this kind woman’s familiarity with her assumed hometown could provide some insight, and asked about any barn in the area that might have an “X” on the roof. She gave me a look that told me she knew something, but ended up denying any knowledge of such a place. I knew she was lying.

 

So I started on a wild goose chase of farmland. I drove around nonstop for hours. Down every dirt road, every side street, every mile-long driveway. It was dusk when I finally came across something that I thought might lead me to the right place. I came to a gate with a sign on it that read ”BiloXy Farms” with the ”X” much larger than the rest of the letters. As there was no way to drive my car in, I parked it on a small opening in the wooded area next to the gate that closed off the dirt road that led to God knows where and ventured off on foot, gun in hand. For reference, this ended up being about a 30 minute drive in the opposite direction of Daisy’s as the area I was put in the hatch. I must have driven past it twice in the dark, not seeing it until daylight started sweeping over the lonely land.

 

I walked on the dirt road until I saw three buildings in the distance. Right away, though it was far, I was able to just barely make out a structure with a large, probably wooden ”X” on the roof. I knew I was in the right place. There could have been a hundred farms with a hundred X’s on a hundred roofs, but somehow, I knew I was in the right place. Call it “father’s intuition”.

 

I was about a half mile from the area where the structure with the “X” was, and as I got closer, I saw two other structures. The closer I got, obviously, the better I could see what I was walking up to. I circled around the land, hoping to enter the immediate area from a point I wouldn’t be instantly spotted at. I was going to come in from behind. When I got close enough to see clearly, I saw a farmhouse, a barn, which was the structure that housed the large “X”, and what looked like a detached garage. I thought about Katie’s picture. Given that she drew the picture of the barn, chances are she was being held in one of the other two structures, so I resolved to check those first.

 

I made sure to keep a long distance between myself and the area the structures were in, keeping about a 150 yard perimeter. I walked through the tall grass on one side, ran through a small opening and went into a cornfield which led me to the rear of the structures. I surveyed the area for a while, and saw no movement of any kind in any of the three buildings. What I did see, however, was an old, beat up pickup truck parked next to the garage.

 

I flipped off my gun’s safety, and ventured inward. I made sure to be as quiet as possible as I travelled through the cornfield, which was next to impossible to traverse without being on the path that had been made through it. What should’ve been a few minutes walk took about 20 before I came to the clearing. I was about 15 feet from the backdoor to the farmhouse, which was wide open. I sat there for a few minutes, trying to get some idea of where somebody, anybody was. I’m glad I did, because just then, I saw the man that had kidnapped my daughter.

 

All those years earlier, while we were eating our meal at Daisy’s Diner, a man came in and told us that if we were the ones with the Hyundai truck outside, our vehicle had been broken into. The man who told us was the man who did it. Racking my brain, I vaguely recalled the man having a bag with him. If I were a betting man, I’d say that my daughter’s portfolio was in that bag when I thanked him for letting us know what had happened. I felt sick. He was one of the only people I hadn’t considered as a suspect, and in retrospect, I felt like an idiot for not doing so. Given all the commotion, I hadn’t even registered the man’s odd voice in my brain. Thinking back, if I’d have paid more attention to his voice, I’d have known it was him right away. My eyes filled with tears, but I got my bearings and got back on track. The man walked out the back door and over to the detached garage. When he entered, I made a break for it.

 

I sprinted across the backyard and leapt up the two stairs directly into the house. I still had no idea if anyone else was there, but I didn’t care. I was blind with determination. Thinking quickly, I ran to a door that I hoped would lead to a basement. It was my idea that the area the video was filmed in was the basement. I closed the door behind me and headed down the dark stairway, creaking loudly with every step I took. I made it to the basement floor and used the flashlight on my phone as a guide. There were dead animals lined up on the ground in some sort of pattern I didn’t care to figure out. Then I shined the light on the walls. Every foot or so, save for a few empty spots, were pictures my daughter had drawn hanging on the walls. It made me sick, but if there was any doubt I was in the right place before, there definitely wasn’t now.

 

I stepped my way around the dead rabbits, cats, dogs, and small animals like gerbils and hamsters (there must have been 100 dead animals down there, it smelled like absolute...death), and into another area. Sure enough, it was where the video was filmed. The sheet hung from the ceiling, draping onto the floor, blood stains still spattered over the bottom of it. Now that I knew I was absolutely in the right place, I decided to stop sightseeing and just scour every inch of this hellhole until I found Katie. Then I heard the screen door open upstairs.

 

I stood in silent wait as I heard the floor creak above me, doing my best not to gag on the putrid smell that engulfed me. The walking upstairs stopped for a moment, then picked back up as whoever was up there walked back to the back door and exited the house once again. I checked the rest of the basement, but she obviously wasn’t there. I quickly made my way back upstairs and back into the kitchen. I walked through a threshold into the living room, which was nothing short of being a product of hoarding. There was garbage covering the entire floor. What could once be used as a couch was now a home to maggot-filled takeout containers and empty soda and beer cans. To my left was a stairway leading to a second floor, where I saw something that put much of the entire years-long ordeal into perspective.

 

There were pictures lining the stairwell, and in these pictures were a familiar bunch. The waitress at Daisy’s Diner, holding hands with the man who ran the motel. Next to them was the man who had my daughter, and next to him were two of the cops that had helped me when I’d had troubles in this town. Finally, there was a picture of the man who had given me the ride to Daisy’s after I was abducted. I felt like everyone knew. Everyone in this town knew what was going on and they were in on it. When I was done with this, I was going to contact the FBI and blow the lid off this fucked up place. I found my mind wandering but I got back focused and went upstairs.

 

All I found up there was more garbage lining the floors in the hallway. There were two rooms on the left side, and one on the right at the end of the hall. At the top of the stairs was a bathroom, which rivaled the deepest depths of a sewer. Shit and piss covered the floor around the toilet, wet towels and clothing covered the rest. I walked down the hall and peeked into the first room on the left, finding literally nothing but garbage. The second room contained a solitary mattress, old, soiled and stained with only God knows what. The room on the right held nothing of any importance either, except that when I looked in it, I heard the door close once again. I stepped into the room and hid behind the door. I heard footsteps coming up the steps towards me. My first instinct was to go out the window, so I did. As quickly as I could, I got outside and shut the window behind me. I stayed up there for a few minutes, and then saw the man go back into the garage. I had a feeling that that’s where my daughter was. I crawled around the roof and climbed down some lattice to the ground. I sprinted over to the garage and took a peek inside a back window. It was set up like an art studio. The man was sitting at a desk, drawing.

 

As I watched him, he stopped. Without breaking his gaze that he had on the paper on the table beneath him, he reached down to his left, and pulled up a mask, placing it over his head. It was a plastic mask that had hand-drawn designs all over it. Suddenly, he turned his head and looked directly at me. All I heard then was a loud, shrill, child-like voice saying ”DADDY!” and the man stood up and sprinted out the front door of the garage. I ran around and found him running to the barn. I ran as fast as I could after him, and fired two rounds, missing both.

 

He ran into the barn and I quickly followed. The only light in the barn was from the sunlight coming in through holes in the ceiling. It was a generally wide open area, with one small vestibule in the far corner, and a stairway that led to a railing-less loft area that had plywood boards sticking up in random places. The floor was covered in a thin layer of hay and oil spots. Towards the back were some hay bales.

 

The man’s immature voice filled the open air of the barn. ”You see that, Katie? He’s finally come and visited us. I bet he wants to see your new pictures that you drawn here!

 

Where is she?!” I screamed.

 

She’s close!” he said before giggling uncontrollably.

 

I expected the man to be up in the rafters, so I sprinted across the open floor of the barn towards the blocked off area in the far corner. At the last possible moment, in my periphery, I saw him. He tackled me from the left side. He must have been hiding behind one of the hay bales. What happened next wasn’t a long, drawn out fight. I didn’t lose my gun in the ensuing brawl. There wasn’t any massive struggle where the odds shifted in and out of either of our favors. I learned very quickly that life isn’t like it is in movies.

 

He tackled me to the ground, I wrestled with him for about a second and a half, then, when he got on top of me, I pressed the barrel of the gun onto his throat and pulled the trigger, blowing a hole out the back of his neck. In what seemed like slow motion, blood flew up into the air, crested, and rained back down onto my face.

 

He struggled to breath for a few moments before falling lifelessly on top of me. I pushed him off and ran to the vestibule in the corner. It was locked by a large Masterlock, but a single bullet took it right off. I ripped the door open and found it empty. My heart once again sank. I stepped inside, frustrated, but instantly felt a hollow floor. I kicked the hay out of the way and saw a trap door. I opened it to find my daughter unconscious inside, bound at the hands and feet, with a sock in her mouth and tape wrapped around her head, securing the sock in place.

 

In tears, I picked her up and freed her from her restraints. I brought her outside and began to call 911, only barely recalling that the police knew the man who did this, and were likely friends or family of his. Long story short, my daughter regained consciousness. She sobbed uncontrollably as I held her in my arms. We quickly made the walk back to my car and drove off. We made it to a town about 40 minutes away where I then contacted the police. I told them what had happened, and they took it very seriously. Federal investigators were called immediately, and Katie and I waited at the local police station until they arrived about three hours later. I took them to the BiloXy Farm, where they taped everything off as a crime scene.

 

In what I thought was the end, they arrested the waitress at Daisy’s and the man who ran the motel. As it turns out, they were husband and wife, and the man who kidnapped my daughter was their son. I learned a few months later, after the motel owner turned state’s witness against his wife, that the wife and son had a child together, and the girl from the video was their daughter. The police that were photographed with these people were also investigated and jailed for various crimes related to their family. Apparently, this was the first time anything of this magnitude had been done by the family, but they were suspected for numerous robberies and attacks at the motel that the local police looked the other way on, bungling the investigations intentionally. The only thing that wasn’t found at the scene of the crime was my daughter’s portfolio.

 

The only information Katie could give about her captor was that he always wore different masks. When asked if there were multiple captors, she said she only saw one (I suspect that she only saw one at a time). He/they apparently forced her to sit in the garage, which had been fashioned into an art studio, and make pictures for him all day long, day in, day out. Nothing else. Thankfully, there was no evidence of sexual assault or physical abuse. When the man, whose name learned was “Atol”, realized I was in the area, he went to the garage, brought her to the barn, tied her up, knocked her out, and put her under the floor in the vestibule.

 

Additionally, the area under the trapdoor was a tunnel, something I hadn’t immediately noticed when picking Katie up out of it. These tunnels went under the entirety of the land on BiloXy farm, and much, much further. It connected to where I had been taken to after being knocked unconscious at Daisy’s, in addition to many other areas throughout the town. However, the tunnel had been collapsed behind the TV’s in the hatch I was taken to, more than likely to not give evidence of an advanced tunnel system.

 

I returned home with Katie to my ecstatic wife and son. Our family was finally back together, and the people that did this were either dead or in prison indefinitely. Everything was good, quiet, and uneventful for over a year. Our family got back on track. We got Katie acclimated to normal life again, and got her the professional help needed to get through her trauma, which was going quite well until last week, when an unmarked envelope had shown up on our kitchen table when we got home from a day at the museum.

 

Inside was a picture my daughter had clearly drawn. This one was of a man in a mask with all kinds of designs on it. I could tell the addition made to this one was a knife in the hand of the man, crudely drawn with a charcoal pencil. Above the picture, in scratchy writing was a message.

 

NOW YOUVE MADE US RILLY MAD



 


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