Reaching Out

Detective Ronan Booker held his badge in his hand, ready to identify himself the instant Esme Sanford opened the door. When it opened, he found himself face to face with an attractive blond-haired blue-eyed slender woman, nearly as tall as he was, which put her at about five foot eight inches tall. One was squeezed tightly to the door as if holding it protectively indicating she was ready to slam it shut if need be, the other hung limply by her side. She seemed nervous and it was obvious something had shaken her. When he’d identified himself, she seemed relieved, her body less tense. She seemed relieved at his presence. Despite his best intentions, Detective Booker found himself attracted.
“Thank you for coming,” said before inviting him inside.
He entered, noting a lovely pallet of colours, some bright some delicate but on the whole a very welcoming and pleasing environment. In some instances, the colours would seem frilly but in this case, presented an elegant friendly atmosphere. There were several bookshelves all lined with a variety of novels. When she sat, he took a seat opposite and asked, “How can I help you?”
“That’s just it, I’m not sure.” At his perplexed look, she continued, “There’s nothing I can point at to suggest what the exact problem is. First let me just say, I’m not the edgy nervous worrying type. I don’t invent problems where there aren’t any.”
“What I can say is that there are some issues I can’t solve and they all lead me to believe that I’m being stalked. Nothing else explains the current situation.” She had his undivided interest and that comforted her.
“What kind of incidents are we talking about here?” he immediately asked.
“Well, I guess you should follow me to the backyard, so I can point some things out which would help give you a picture.” They rose simultaneously and walked through the front room down a short hallway into a modern kitchen then on out the back door located just off to the left side of a kitchen in a vestibule. Outside on the back porch, she pointed toward the surrounding fence. “I installed motion sensor lights and as you can see, they are spaced every four feet surrounding the entire backyard.” He’d seen them before and waited for her to continue her story.
“For several weeks now, they’ve been going off at regular intervals. Two A.M. four A.M. six A.M. and then stop, and each time, it’s a different set of lights that pops on. In the beginning, before I noticed the exactness of the timing, I thought it was rabbits or raccoons, possibly the distant neighbours’ peacocks that keep escaping their property; all of which have ended up in my back yard on occasion. This is different.”
“I am assuming you went and looked to see what was up,” he suggested.
“At first, no, I didn’t because as I said, I thought it was just animals. When I began to notice a pattern, however, I did get up. As you can imagine I haven’t been sleeping much lately and no, I didn’t notice anyone out there. Either it was too dark or they were wearing camo of some sort – it’s so dark back here that if you were wearing black you’d disappear. There weren’t any rustling bushes, I didn’t see a person or persons anywhere. That’s what makes this so eerie.”
“So it’s become a regularly timed event for what, two or three weeks?”
“Yes, approximately. I even asked the neighbours on either side if they’d seen anything, and they didn’t although the neighbour on the right side mentioned the lights going on and off which they found annoying but for the most part, slept like the dead and when they did see the lights, figured as I did it was a stray animal, or a dog or cat. The fence is high on their side and dense bush surrounding the other two.”
“Any idea who might be interested in stalking you?”
“No. I can’t think of anyone that might do this, however, my editor told me she’s seen some interesting mail coming through lately. She only mentioned it because I asked. It’s normal to receive a variety of ‘junk mail, elated fans, ticked off fans, that sort of thing.”
“Your editor; you’re a writer then.”
“Yes, I write mystery novels with a hint of romantic involvement. Not to blow my own horn, but I’ve sold a few copies and have a following on Twitter and Facebook.”
“Is your personal information, address or phone number mentioned anywhere on the site?”
“No. I use my pen name – Ria Farnsworth. The only person that knows my real identity is my editor – Rosie O’Neill.”
“Surely your book cover includes a photo.”
“Yes, it does, but I’m a homebody when I’m here. I come here to get away from the rat race that is New Paris and it’s a massive city pretty much-guaranteeing anonymity.”
“I’d like to see some of the mail you’ve received, wrap my head around the thinking behind this. There are several types of stalkers…some just want recognition, some want to say I knew you when, have photos taken, while others are more involved, seeking a person (although non-existent) relationship and that can be range from worrisome to serious. But with the rise in threats against movie and television stars as well as musicians and even writers, we tend to take these situations far more seriously.”
“Have you written about anyone, in particular, say a real-life crime, or do you write fiction?”
“Sometimes what I write is based on a real case – but I take it to the extreme – total fantasy situation. There’s nothing in the story that could be connected with any case in particular. I take a what-if from one situation add another what-if from a different crime and continue, see where that leads me.”
“Perhaps one of your stories hit too close to home for comfort.”
“Possible, I suppose,” she admitted candidly.
“Any suitors or disgruntled male boyfriends?”
She smiled at that. “No, no, I wouldn’t say any of my boyfriends had anything to complain about. We moved on mutually. I have been totally involved with my career and haven’t been particularly interested in a long-term relationship and family.”
“I understand that perfectly,” he smiled in return.
“Do you have any cameras on the property?”
“No, that’s something I considered, but I’m not sure who to go with? I have done some background checks on a few but I’m a bit leary of allowing strangers into my house to hook me up. Call me a tad paranoid, but there it is.”
He opened his wallet and took out a business card. “This is a Company I can personally vouch for.” She looked at the card and back at him, “Family?”
“Yeah, my brothers are big into security, run security businesses, well known, highly recommended and you couldn’t go wrong with them. They’ll make sure everything is handled efficiently professionally and will explain what is required in advance so you can make modifications if necessary.”
“Thanks, I’ll look into it.” She seemed more relieved and her body language suggested she was more relaxed than she’d been in a while.
“If you’d like, I can get ahold of Lew and Marcel and set something up. Coming from me, they’ll move on it quicker than usual.”
“Why thanks, I’d appreciate that.”
“Any sense of relief at this point would be welcome. I’m trying to finish this latest book on time and the deadline is looming. I have a month and that might seem like forever, but in the literary world, it’s not. Especially if the words don’t flow. And with all this going on, I’ve been quite distracted, or at least too tired to concentrate fully.”
“I’d like to walk the perimeter of your property get a feel for what’s out there.”
“Certainly. You drink coffee?”
“Indeed I do.”
“Black, cream, sugar? I was going to pour a cup before you showed up.”
“Black would be great.” He smiled and hopped down the wooden steps to walk the backyard. It was a large property. Thirty feet deep by fifty feet side with a wide passage between the houses on either side of the property. It was neat tidy, well maintained with a manicured lawn and flowerbeds flanking both the left and far fence and planters along the right side. As he walked, he carefully inspected the beds spotting large deep footsteps. Oddly enough, they were only feet from the backyard lights. Which would appear odd unless it was a deliberate attempt at unnerving her, putting her on edge and making her nervous. It wasn’t a random act, that was a given. The right side fence was six feet high and quickly scaled it to peer over the top. More footprints, originating from the tree line behind. Same ones from the look of it.
Hopping back down, he continued wandering the yard to ascertain how close they’d managed to get to the house. Apparently, they’d stopped at the corner by the garden shed, fifteen feet from the back door but close enough seemingly content or too nervous to get closer. Not yet anyway.
“Yeah,” he whispered quietly, “Esme Sanford definitely has a problem.”
She’d walked silently out the back door, attempting to look casual. Her pink and black plaid top tucked into skinny jeans with slippers on her feet. But she wasn’t as relaxed as she’d have him believe. Handing him a coffee mug she waited. Taking a large sip, he grinned appreciatively. “Damn, good coffee!”
“Yeah, I like my coffee. It’s my one indulgence.”
“So what do you think?” concern was back in her voice.
“I’d say get in touch with a security company, get those cameras set up. I saw several footprints, all the same size indicating there’s probably only one individual involved, and you’re not exaggerating or hallucinating. Someone is displaying an active interest in you and your property. Now we need to find out who.”
“Well thank you for putting my mind at ease…I know that sounds weird, but I was beginning to think I was imagining it all even though I knew I wasn’t.”
“Those are solar-powered lights, aren’t they?”
“Yes. Newly bought, as in four months ago.”
“Good.” Draining the coffee cup, he walked inside the kitchen and rinsed it under the tap before placing it in the dishwasher.
“Damn, your every woman’s dream.”
Startled he asked why. “Your the answer to any woman’s heart.”
He laughed uproariously. “Mother would be proud. She was always on us about doing our part.”
He bid her adieu and upon leaving, walked to the neighbours to interview them. Although he didn’t get much information from either individual, he took note of their responses to the questions. The woman on the right side said she greeted her neighbour from time to time but they didn’t spend time together and she wasn’t aware there had been a problem but was concerned enough for her own safety under the circumstances to inform him she’d be keeping a closer eye out for anything unusual. The fellow on the right side was a big burly-looking man who had little interest and provided even less information. Still, there was something in his eye that had Ronan’s hackles up.
He took the time to contact his brothers and give them the 411. Lewis said he’d contact Esme Sanford immediately and set up a convenient time at her convenience. “If you’re concerned, I’m concerned, cause you know your shit.”
“Can’t put my finger on it, Lew, but there’s something. It could escalate quickly and get real messy. I’d like to avoid a calamity if possible.”
“Ok, I’m on it, I’ll let you know when we set up the meet so you can attend if you want to.”
“Thanks, Lew, I’d appreciate that.”
As soon as they’d finished their conversation, he dialled the number Ronan had given him and following a fifteen-minute conversation, arranged to meet at four o’clock the same day. He quickly texted Ronan and they agreed to arrive together.
They met up outside Sanford’s home and the teasing began. Ronan led the way and introduced them. He stood next to the woman who was attempting to conceal her concern and smiled warmly. “He doesn’t look like much, but he knows his job.” He laughingly reassured Esme. She laughed in turn.
“Hey, I’m not the single ready to mingle type…you are…so commitment phobia, much?”
“Took you long enough!” Ronan replied with a grin.
“I was waiting for perfection.”
Ronan’s smile spread, “Indeed you did.”
After walking the perimeter of the yard, assessing the front and back as a whole, he walked back inside and sat down on the sofa, while Esme took a seat across from him and Ronan sat on the love seat. “I can arrange for three cameras in the back yard, placed on each corner of the house with a sightline straight down the fence line on each side, and another secreted behind the pillar on the porch that covers the porch and some of the yard. Out front, I’d suggest one over the front door and again on either side of the house to catch anyone that might access the sides leading to your backyard. Your fencing is adequate, the lights a great idea and with the cameras, we should be able to capture any movement. They’ll be sensor activated. We’ll run a line to the main location that you can check regularly.”
“That sounds perfect. I don’t want anything intrusive that suggests I’m worried. I think that creates more problems than it’s worth.” They came up with an agreeable price that Ronan was aware was less than what they’d normally charge and after shaking her hand, bid them farewell but not before reminding his Ronan about the cookout on the weekend. Turning toward his client he said, “Pleasure, Ms. Sanford. I’ll be back tomorrow to install the cameras. Probably just after lunch.”
“Sounds good to me,” she assured him. “I’ll be here.”
Ronan stayed for a few minutes to ask if she had any questions and when she told him she was sure it was covered, he made his way to the door and left.
“Damn but that man’s attractive!” In other circumstances, she might find herself in serious trouble…cause well, that long lanky stride, the assuredness of his manner, the twinkle evident in his eye, the dark brown hair and brown eyes all added up to create an enticing package. “Phew!” She wandered back to her desk in the studio and began writing in earnest.

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