Watch Them Die
He was crushing her, but Rae didn’t complain. The last thing he probably needed right now was her barking instructions at him. He seemed so nervous and awkward. He acted as if this were their first time. And it wasn’t.
She was trapped beneath him on his unmade bed. All around the darkened bedroom, strategically placed votive candles flickered. A couple of incense sticks were smoldering in an ashtray on the nightstand. The smoky, spicy scent had become overpowering. Rae thought about asking him to open a window, but she didn’t say anything. All the windows were closed, along with the blinds.
He’d already stripped off his shirt, and now he was on top of her, unbuttoning her blouse. If only he’d climb off for a moment, she could get a breath and maybe wriggle out of her clothes herself. She wanted this to be pleasant for both of them.
He’d been so good to her lately, a godsend. Anyone else would have dismissed her as a crazy, dumb, paranoid blonde. But he took her seriously. And he wanted to protect her.
For the last six weeks, someone had been following her. Rae had even caught the shadowy figure videotaping her on a couple of occasions. Both times, she didn’t get a good look at the man. Once, he was in an old burgundy-colored Volvo outside the hotel where she worked as an events coordinator. The sun reflected off the car window, obscuring his face. But she could make out someone holding a video camera. She never saw that Volvo again.
Rae caught him filming her a second time during a date with Joe. It was just a week before Joe died. They were dining at a fancy Italian bistro, where they’d been seated by the front window. She’d heard somewhere that máitre’d’s often placed good-looking couples near the front windows because they attracted business. Rae and Joe were discussing this when she noticed the man with the video camera standing in a cafe across the street. By the time she pointed him out to Joe, her “secret admirer” had disappeared.
Joe hadn’t taken her very seriously. He never called her paranoid or crazy. He merely humored her, making maddening little remarks like This stalker character must have good taste to go after you.
Joe wouldn’t have thought it was so cute if he were the one getting those strange calls in the middle of the night. Half the time, Rae was afraid to answer the phone. And whenever she stepped outside her apartment, she was constantly looking over her shoulder.
Though he’d made certain she never really saw him, this stalker obviously wanted her to know she was being followed. He wanted her to be scared. He even let her know in advance that Joe would die. He’d left her a sign, forecasting Joe’s death from a rooftop fall.
When Rae tried to warn him that his life might be in danger, Joe had just nodded, smiled, and said he would be careful. If only he’d listened to her and believed her, how different things might have been.
The police said Joe Blankenship had been “under the influence” when he’d toppled from the roof of his apartment building. But Rae knew better. She was the only one who knew.
Whoever said “Knowledge is power” was wrong. Rae had never felt so alone and vulnerable after Joe’s death. Yet a man who truly wanted to help her had been there all the time. For a brief period, she’d actually thought he might be the one stalking her. How silly. He wanted to look after her. He took her seriously.
He talked about turning