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It had been the first time in weeks she had been around other people. She was feeling the lights and the air drain out of the small building that the company had rented for the Christmas party. She hated this feeling. It wasn’t normal as she watched the people, she had worked with for the past few years interact with each other while she sat at the sidelines. The cattiness of teenage years seemed, even more, stinging at this point in her life then at anytime prior. She was alone in a room full of people.
“Get up and go talk to someone.”, she heard a voice coming from in back of her that she would know anywhere.
“No one wants that, Aaron.”, she replied without looking up from her drink which she had taken to stare at the carbonation bubbles rise from the bottom.
“Why do you say that?”, he asked as he pulled the grey fold-out chair on the left of her and sat down.
“Aaron, no one wants me around them. You know that.”, she said as she turned and looked into blue eyes that were so much lighter than her own.
“Kid, come on. None of this is your fault.”, He said with a sigh.
“I have a bullseye on my back. Everyone knows it too. No one wants to be caught up in this.”, she said.
“Has it really been that bad?”, he asked as he tilted his head to look at her. “Have you even eaten yet?”
“I can’t.”, she said.
“You look thinner than you already were and super pale. Kid, you need to eat something.”, Aaron said.
“I can’t.”, she replied again.
“You can’t keep going on like this.”, Aaron said as he shook his head in her direction.
“Until he is caught Aaron, I can’t do much of anything.”, She said softly.
“Is it really that bad?”, Aaron asked as he noticed different units looking in their direction.
“I am locked away in a basement at work. I have guards on my street at night. Yes, Aaron, it is that bad.”, she replied. ”I can’t do my work. I can’t even look at my emails without a chance that he will reach me there. It is never-ending. He is now laser-focused on me because of… well, you know.”
“The book..” Aaron stated.
“I guess he sees it as a challenge..” she replied. “He drove four people to suicide with his actions and the haunting nightmares that resulted. I should have thought this through more when the idea went through.”
“How could any of us know what he was going to do?.” Aaron said.
“I should have known..” she said as she let her head hang down. “I should go. I am making people uncomfortable.”
“You are not..” Aaron stated.
“Look around you. I am.” she said as she blinked rapidly as she stood up. She wasn’t going to cry. She really wasn’t going to cry here in front of people.
“Kid?.” Aaron said as she grabbed her bag and started out the door. When she had passed through the open door into the awaiting darkness, her friend stood there and watched thinking it was almost apt that was the way he saw her. She was always going into the abyss that was the darkness. The tiny doctor was the one they called in when things had hit the fan, and she never seemed to bat an eye at anything. He knew better as he watched her deal with it on her own for so many years that when this case came in five years ago, no one expected that it would result in a five-year-long chase for a ghost.
The ghost had struck two more times since then. Every time she had been called into the scene as everyone else had been called out. She would do a walk through and then start doing her job. She had become somewhat of an expert on everything as she got a little older. With her photographic memory, she could see parallels that no one else could. She was one of the ten that first took the case, five years later she was one of five that were still alive.
She walked to her car that was only a few yards away from the building. She never felt like she was utterly alone, but that was due to the fact she did have the guards around her even though she didn’t always see them. She knew they, the ones who pushed her to release the book, were trying to protect her. They had hope as well as she had that it would push him to make a mistake. A mistake that they could see and would allow them to catch him before too many others died as well. However, all it did was focus his attention on her. The growing span of time was becoming alarming to her as they had to move her from her office as flowers were being delivered to her. The gifts arrived like, and when they moved her office to three different buildings and then to the basement, the gifts began at her house.
The emails were the worst of everything he did in her mind to her. She could picture the details he had so eloquently captured on the keyboard were enough to make anyone scream. He was a stickler for the details. She had blocked his email from one address, but he always found a way to get around that. If it wasn’t on her work computer, they showed up on her personal accounts. She was living in fear. Fear was something up until she looked into the mind of a psychopathic depraved killer she had no real concept of. He wrote things to her that would make even the best horror authors cower in the corner. She would have been on his list anyway he had done this to them all, sending the taunts and even calling in the night to leave voicemails for them to start off their seemingly ordinary day. Suicide was the way out for them, and this killer had driven them to it.
It wasn’t a way out for her. She knew that when she had the book published. In a way she saw herself as the protector of the last four men left, she would take the brunt of his wrath so they could focus on catching him. The problem was, in the end, how do you find a ghost? No one thought that far ahead or clearly. This had become too personal for them all.
She thought back to an hour ago as she had walked into the building and people looked at her. The haunted looks in their eyes as she tried to plaster a smile on and continue as if she was an average person instead of the shell of one. They all held the fear as well. As if being in the same room as her would mean certain death for them as well. They all nodded as she walked passed praying, she didn’t stop to talk to them. She was becoming used to the looks and that feeling of being isolated. She thought was didn’t they realize she was doing all that she was to keep them safe, but she knew no one cared about that side of it. No one wanted to see anything but their own safety. It was one thing to put your life on the line in the call of duty but not so much anyone else’s issue if you drew the attention of a maniac away from everyone else so they could go home at night to sleep peacefully. She couldn’t remember the last peaceful night of sleep she had gotten.