This story is by Victoria Collins and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
The phone rang two times before stopping. A few minutes went by and it rang again.
“Rathbone, it’s Morrow.”
“Good morning, Sir. What’s new?”
“It’s Nash. We have reason to believe he knows where you are and has plans to confront you. I’d like to ask you to help us.”
“Of course, Sir. What do I need to know?”
“Only that we’ll be ready when he comes.” The line went dead.
* * *
It was little things. A light would be left on. The picture in the back hallway would be bumped to one side. I would come home to find that Scott, my gray cat, had been let outside. A lot of people wouldn’t notice these things, but I’m the kind of person that always does. I turn lights off, I keep things neat, and I never let Scott out before I head to the bakery each morning. The man who was the reason I had gone into hiding had found me.
I was sitting in my usual spot at the bakery when I spotted him. He’d been in my house the night before. I was beginning to expect to find him waiting for me, but so far, all I ever found were the traces he left behind.
He had his back to me which meant he was waiting for me to leave. I decided not to keep him waiting. Before I even made it all the way out the door, I heard his chair scrape the floor. I kept my normal pace and walked on, like I had done every morning since I’d moved here. After I turned onto 7th Street, he started taunting, “You knew I couldn’t let you disappear. What did you think? That you’d be able to take up the quiet life of some pathetic old man?” I kept walking as though I couldn’t hear him. His frustration became clear as he shouted, “Answer me!”
By now, I was heading up my front walk. He continued, hurrying his pace in an attempt to catch up, “I’ve been watching you. You know that, don’t you? I’d like to come in for a little visit, Rathbone. Catch up on old times.” The smirk on his face was joined by cruel laughter.
I turned to face him. Tucking my newspaper under my arm, I reached into my pocket for my keys, “By all means.” I unlocked the door and gestured for him to head inside. I needed to trust that Morrow knew what he was talking about. He said they would be ready.
I closed the door and began unlacing my shoes. Nash didn’t waste any time, “I’m here because you’ve taken up writing. What is it that you write? I can’t have you telling all of my secrets.” His eyes were calm, but the rage was moments away. He was asking questions and he wasn’t waiting for answers.
I went to the back door to let Scott out. “Scott is a nice name. You know what else is nice? Knowing that I’m about to get what I’ve been waiting for all these years. Now, where are they, Rathbone? You’re not a normal person who writes on a computer or in notebooks. I want to see what you’ve been writing about me! Well? Say something!”
So, that’s what this was about. That’s why he was after me.
“I’ve known where you were, Rathbone. I’ve watched as you kept on living. Must have been nice being able to spend your days however you wanted, huh? Some of us had to make a living. Some of us had to work for everything that got taken away from us.” I listened and headed to the kitchen to get what he was looking for. He charged ahead of me and shoved me backwards.
“Not so fast,” he was mocking me now, “I’m in charge here! Ask permission.”
“I’ve got something to show you.”
“Ask.” He was enjoying this too much.
“May I show you something, Nash?”
Stepping aside, he sneered, “That’s better. Yes, you may.”
I pulled one of the scrapbooks off of the shelf in my kitchen. There were two of them filled with the pieces I typed up on my typewrite. It wasn’t much, but I knew it was what he thought he was after.
“A scrapbook? Quit wasting my time!”
I held the scrapbook out to him, “Open it.”
He reached forward and yanked it out of my hand. As he cracked it open, his eyes lit up. He had come to the realization that they had been there all along and that the binding had thrown him off. He felt foolish and that angered him. “Are there others? Get them. NOW!”
I remained as calm as I could. I returned to the shelf and removed the other scrapbook.
“That’s it? You better not be hiding anything else, Rathbone.”
He slammed the books down on the table and tore them open, scanning the words as quickly as he could, “Let’s figure out how we’re going to do this.” His brow furrowed. He looked up at me. He flipped through the pages and scanned some more. He pulled the other book over and started going through it. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” His cruel laughter had returned. “What is this junk, Rathbone? What is wrong with you? Who are all these people? You’ve given up your life to do this?”
“They’re people from around here, I –“
“Don’t interrupt me,” he read some more, running his hands through his hair. “I’ll admit, this isn’t what I expected to find, but I’m getting tired, Rathbone. This is where it ends. You ruined my life and it’s time to pay.”
I took a deep breath. This was it. He was about to do what he came to do. My time was running out and there hadn’t been any sign of Morrow. That’s when I saw it. Scott, who had been pawing at the window, raced across the yard. We weren’t alone.