Note: There’s a tiny bit of light cussing later on. It’s not much, barely worth the notice, but don’t say I didn’t warn you 🙂
My investigation into Blaine was slow going after that. I knew I couldn’t do anything from work, but the case the Chief had given us kept me busy and my mind preoccupied so I barely had any time when I was at home, either. I was working overtime more often, so the time I actually got to spent at home was limited. I was starting to feel drained when I was home and between work and my workout routine I knew I couldn’t keep going like this for much longer. Emery did a great job and I was as focused as I was with every other case, but I still felt like we were hardly making a dent. The feeling that the Chief had given me this particular case on purpose would not leave me, and eventually my head hurt so much from it all that I knew I needed a break.
Eventually, I decided to treat myself. I had never been to a spa before but I knew Mum loved all the treatments they had, and I was overworked enough to need the relaxation. Most of the massages and other treatments were expensive but I had some money saved up which had been supposed to go into renovations, and decided to spent a day getting pampered instead.
Yoga really helped me think through everything that had happened lately. My mind had not felt this calm in a long while, and it helped immensely in thinking things through. I knew I had to tell someone about the note and my worries about the Chief, but who could I tell? I did not feel very fair to tell Mum and Momma about it or my Grandparents, but I definitely couldn’t trust anyone at work right now. There was Emery, but what if he was involved? We had been working together for several months now, and not once did I have the bad feeling about him I had had about the Chief all along. I was pretty sure I could trust him, but what if I was wrong? My gut instincts were usually always correct, but I was only human. This stalker was the last thing I wanted to be wrong about. I couldn’t say that I knew nothing about Emery. He had told me a lot about himself and his family, but what if he was lying?
Not realising that I was physically shaking my head, I lost my balance and had to start over. No, my instincts had never let me down. I could trust Emery. There was no one else in the entire station I could trust right now, but my partner at least was safe.
My mind wandered easily under the skilled hands of the professionals. I had never received such a wonderful massage before, and could easily have fallen asleep if my mind had not been so preoccupied with what Mum had said during the party. Did Emery really look like Marvin? I supposed he did a little. He had a very similar hair colour and equally similar bright eyes, but the rest of his features were nothing like Marvin.
I could not believe Mum had tried to set me up with my partner, and knowing her I doubted that she was done trying, too. If Gramma knew what Mum was trying to do she’d be mad, and in a way so was I, but for every different reasons. Gramma would be angry because I was not supposed to fall in love and live happily ever after with the big family I wanted. I was hurt because it was my life, because I did not feel that way for Emery, because he was my work partner and I did not want to make things awkward between us, and because who I dated was my business only. I appreciated that she was willing to give me the leeway Gramma would never allow me, but I still wanted to chose myself. No matter how convinced Mum was.
Feeling completely at ease, I sighed happily as I tried to get these thoughts out of my head. Preoccupied as I had been, this had still been the most relaxing day of my life and I was thinking about buying some of these things myself. I could turn my home gym into a small wellness room, adding a yoga mat and maybe one of these low seats for meditation to my punching bag. It would not be the same as this spa, but it would be better than nothing and I knew my job was about to become a lot more stressful. I’d need this feeling of calm in the months ahead, I could sense the brewing storm even now.
By the time I got home I felt like a whole new person. My whole body was relaxed, and every step felt like I was floating.
Until I got into my bedroom. I wanted to change into PJ’s and spent the rest of the day watching TV, when a small note on my mirror caught my eye. My hands shaking already I unfolded it, resisting the urge to sit down and shut all the windows. With a heavy lump in my throat, I began reading.
This is your last warning.
No more words were needed. I knew exactly what this was. I had not opened another file regarding my father at work since my Chief had told me off. All my research I had done from home, but somehow these people knew all about it anyway. There were no windows facing my computer screen, unless… I felt sick. Had they set up cameras when they had left the first note?
To make things worse, they had been inside my house – my bedroom – while I had been out. Immediately I ran around inspecting all the locks, but everything looked fine. There were no signs of any broken mechanisms, and as far as I could see nothing was out of place. Whoever this was they had walked into my house like it was theirs, had watched what I had done on my computer for who knows how long, and had left me another note in my bedroom.
If I had been scared the first time they had threatened me it did not compare to this. I felt panicked, my whole body was shaking.
Desperately not wanting to be alone I called Emery. Mum lived too far away and would no doubt be caring for Momma anyway, but Emery lived nearby. I knew he could be here very quickly.
My stomach turned as I wondered whether my stalker was watching me right now. It turned even more when the uncomfortable thought that my stalker was Emery echoed in my mind. But if I could not trust him…
Suddenly I felt hot and flushed, and made it to the bathroom just in time to throw up into my toilet rather than on the floor. No criminal had ever made me feel the way two simple notes had done. Everything they suggested and implied had me wanting my Mum for the first time in years. I had never wanted to catch anyone so badly, not even Blaine, but if they monitored my computer screen I was not convinced that I would be able to. How would I do my research now?
I jumped when the doorbell rang, and remembered my call to Emery. I rushed to the door, all doubt I had had about him gone when I saw his concerned face. He looked about ready to punch whoever had me in this state, and I had never been more grateful to have him as my partner. At least now he would be with me if they tried anything.
Fast I shook my head, burying my face in his neck. He smelled nice. Had he always smelled this nice?
“Come on, Sophia, don’t give me that shit. What happened?”
Again I wondered if I should tell him. I needed to tell someone, I knew that. I couldn’t tell anyone in my family because they already had enough to worry about with Momma Gemma, and I didn’t want to get them involved. My instincts were usually always right. I was a pretty good judge of character, and was as sure that I could trust Emery as I was sure that our Chief was involved in something he should not be involved in. I had known from my first day in this job that something had not seemed right about him. He had proven me correctly when I he had called me into his office. Equally, Emery had never done anything to make me suspicious of him.
I took a deep breath in. If I couldn’t trust him I couldn’t trust anyone outside my family.
“Something happened. Someone’s been in my house, Emery, someone’s been here while I wasn’t and they-” I whispered every word, paranoid that they had installed something to spy on everything I said. When tears started welling up the rest of my sentence got swallowed in a raspy, shaky intake of breath.
His arms were around me immediately. I had never realised how strong he felt. I knew he worked out, but I had never been this aware of the muscles he was hiding under his jumpers. And he was fast, too, I knew that from our joined arrests. If he wanted to hurt me he could have done, but he had never even raised his voice against me.
I felt all my anxiety wash away as he held me like that, gently stroking my shoulder as I tried to calm down. Then I told him everything. I told him about both notes, about the Chief and that he was hiding something, and I told him that I no longer felt safe in my own house.
Once I had said everything he pulled me over to the sofa, gave me a quick kiss on my forehead and asked me to stay put.
“What are you doing?”
“I’ll search your house for bugs. Wait here, I won’t be long.” All I could do was nod while he carefully inspected every room in my house. I felt myself blush at the idea of him searching every inch, including my underwear drawer but reminded myself that I wanted him to be thorough.
When he came back he sat down next to me, a worried expression on his face.
“The good news is you aren’t bugged. I found nothing.”
“And the bad news?”
“They are watching you somehow. There is nothing in this house that I can see that would allow them to do that. I think they must have hacked your computer.”
Slowly, I nodded as his words were beginning to make sense. If they had hacked my computer they could easily have known what I was researching without needing the screen to face a window, or without cameras pointing at it.
“They’ve been in my house, Emery.” I hated how frightened I sounded.
“We’ll change the locks. All doors and windows look fine to me, too, which implies that they very likely have their own key. Can you think of anyone?”
I shook my head, feeling like a little child. The only people with keys to my house were myself and Mum.
“Make sure that she still has the key. You can do that in the car, come on.” He was already up on his feet while I was still trying to remember where we were going. “We’ll get you new locks” he smiled, answering my unspoken question. “And some small cameras. We can hide them easily, and the next time they break in we’ll have them.”
I didn’t leave his side once while we were out. The feeling that we were being watched did not leave me once, and it was only when we were back home and Emery had hidden all the cameras and had installed the new lock that I was starting to relax.
“Are you hungry? I’ll make dinner if you want.”
With that smile I had come to know so well he nodded. “I won’t say no to that!” I smiled in return, busying myself in the kitchen while Emery gave my house another once-over.
“Thank you for doing all this. I really appreciate your help.” With the house smelling of pasta and Emery sitting opposite of me the uneasy feeling slowly faded.
“I’m glad you called me. I knew something was up, I couldn’t stand the idea of you terrified.”
“Why’s that?” Confused, I forgot to reload my fork with more spaghetti.
“It’s your own house and I’ve seen you with criminals, you’re never scared.” His explanation seemed rushed and I had the feeling that there was more to it, but I did not want to press him for more answers. He had done me a huge favour today. Making him dinner and not questioning him was the least I could do.
Mum’s words replayed in my mind once again. She was so sure that Emery felt something more than friendship for me. Could it be that she was right? I felt myself blush. How could I tell him, gently, that I wasn’t interested if she was correct?
I blushed even more when I realised that he had been watching me.
“Erm… Again, thanks for coming over. I don’t know what I would have done without you.”
“Any time, Sophia. Let me help you wash up.” I wanted to protest but he was already up and collecting our plates before I could get the words out.
“You really don’t have to do that.”
“You cooked. It’s only fair if I do something to repay the favour.”
“And you’ve already rushed over on short notice, listened to me whine and complain, drove me to the hardware and computer store, and installed new locks and cameras in my entire house. You don’t need to repay me for anything.”
He winked at me, and I felt light-headed. I hadn’t realised how tired I had been but after the afternoon I had had I wasn’t surprised. The day had started so beautifully, but I was ready for a good night’s sleep now.
“Why don’t you go on ahead to bed? I’ll get the rest of the dishes, and won’t disturb you. You won’t even know I’m here.” My stomach did an uncomfortable flip at the implications.
“Are you staying the night?” Where was he going to sleep? My breath caught in my throat. I only had the one bed, and that was a double, but-
He laughed when he saw my face. “I’ll sleep on the couch. If you feel better tomorrow I’ll clear off, but for now I’ll be here if you need anything else.” There was something in his smile I couldn’t put my finger on. I wasn’t sure how I felt about him staying over but I was glad that he was sleeping on the sofa, and I definitely didn’t want to be alone. The new locks and cameras made me feel safer, a lot safer, but the last note was still so recent that my head was still hurting at the memory. I wanted to throw it out or burn it, even, but knew that I might need it as evidence.
I smiled. “Okay. I guess I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Sleep well” he said, giving me another of his warm smiles. I nodded, hoping that he was right and I could sleep well tonight. I did not fancy a long night of lying awake with my own fears.