My phone trembled, drenched in sweat from my palms and my cheek. My body felt hot and cold all at the same time, and it took me all of the will I could muster to say,
“Oh. That must be quite a shock.”
“How did you know he was shocked?” for the last time, she asks questions like she’s the host of a show for three-year-olds.
“…I didn’t. I mean, it must be quite surprising for him to die so suddenly. How do you feel about it?”
There was silence on the other end for a good thirty seconds. “I don’t know.”
Frankly, I wasn’t surprised. “It’s normal for some people to feel numb when they grieve. Besides, you probably have very conflicting feelings about his loss. Don’t try to force anything until it’s ready. Is there anything else you want to say?”
Another thirty seconds of silence. “No.”
“That’s alright. Call me anytime you feel you need to. I’ll see you Saturday!” The upbeat rise on that final note was almost impossible to feign. Could Rebecca tell? I had no idea. Still, we ended the call, and I finally dropped the facade.
There was no way that Mr. Murdoch’s death was a coincidence. Those men, whoever they were, they wanted something with Rebecca, something they didn’t want him to know about. I was a part of their design, that much was obvious. They’d know if I tried to tell anyone else, that much was obvious too.
How did they know I told him? Did they intercept cell towers? Did they have spyware on my phone? Was my apartment bugged? Could they see me? Were there cameras? Surveillance teams? Could they see my internet searches? Were they following me throughout the day? Were they watching me right now?
I started to hyperventilate and cry as these questions and more spun around me like a hurricane of raw terror. I ran to my bed and threw myself onto it. I squeezed my eyes and tried my hardest to wake up in a world where I was safe, but nothing happened. I was awake as always, and nothing would change that. However, after a while, my breathing started to slow, I found that I was able to get up. I lit a few scented candles, sat down as comfortably as I could, and desperately tried to meditate. It didn’t rid me of the lump in my throat, but I at least found that I could think clearly again.
I was so certain that those people killed Alex Murdoch, but was that really the case? I didn’t know the circumstances of his death. Really, I didn’t even know whether the men who kidnapped me even existed! I did very clearly remember losing a tooth that I very clearly still had. Had he just happened to have died the night I told him about my situation? Sure, the convenience was off the charts, but that didn’t mean it was impossible.
I felt better when that occurred to me. Maybe I was being paranoid. Once again, I started to giggle in relief when I realized this. Yeah, that was it. It was just a nightmare that was scarily timed. Who knew? Maybe that phone call was a part of the nightmare too! I grinned widely at this. Yeah! There was nothing to worry about at all. Sure, I didn’t remember falling asleep but that, that wasn’t unusual! I had all kinds of nightmares on the occasional night where I could sleep at all! I fell asleep without knowing it. I had nothing to fear. Everything was fine! It was fine!
I still felt a nagging itch in the back of my brain, but I took care of it. I took a long, hot shower, threw on a casual, yet somewhat fashionable outfit, complete with my leather jacket. I went out into the crisp November air and had one of the best omelets at the best breakfast restaurant in Cobalt City. I skipped and ran about the streets just because I felt like it. I watched several movies in a row with all of the candy I could smuggle into the theater. I visited every park in town and walked around for who knows how long. I rode the Metro for hours, just watching people get on and off, on and off, on and off. I ate a burger with extra fries at Cyberia and a hearty steak at Muller’s.
I even walked by that impossible coffee shop. I admit my hands shook a little when I reached for the handle of the door, though they always quiver a little bit. I squeezed my eyes, I was frankly scared to look into the windows, but when I opened the door, I let them open again. The place was lit by warm, golden, totally exposed lightbulbs. There were small wooden tables and chairs, but there were also some very comfy looking, pastel-colored couches and chairs by some wide coffee tables. There were fairy lights on the walls, along with some posters and chalkboards featuring the available drinks. It looked homey, pleasant even. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the place at all. This place looked lived-in, used, like a real place. Could I have really missed this place being built all of this time? It was possible. It was, I decided, true. I even ordered a coffee there. It was strong, it was just the right warmth, and, overall, quite delicious.
By the time I came home that evening, my belly full of my heavy steak dinner, I was wearily content from my long day out. I put on some relaxing music, brewed myself some hot tea, and sat on my couch, fully prepared for a hot bath, and, if I was lucky, a good night’s sleep. Then, I saw the envelope. It was plain, white, nothing written on it at all, and it was sitting on the coffee table right in front of me. Suddenly, I could barely taste my tea at all. Hands trembling yet again, I put down my teacup as gently as I could, barely noticing the drops that I spilled. Gingerly, I took it in my hands, and, breathing deeply, I opened it. Inside, there was a tiny slip of paper.
Rebecca Murdoch has lost someone close to her. Under these circumstances, it is common for people to consider joining their loved ones in death. This course of action has not occurred to her. You will rectify that.
We are watching,
I cried a little bit. I remember how vigorously I ripped that paper up. I couldn’t get rid of the message, though, just like I couldn’t get rid of the men in the suits. Something really was wrong. Why on earth did they want me to tell Rebecca something that common? What would they tell me to do in the future? What did they want with me? What did they want with Rebecca? What did they have to do with Alex Murdoch’s death? What on earth did 8803 mean?
I don’t know when the thought occurred to me, but once it did, it took hold of me. What right did they have to boss me around? What right did this group have to keep these secrets from me and expect such cooperation from me? I sighed, I clenched my fist, and I made my choice. I’d do what they told me to, I’d cooperate with them, I’d be their little pawn, but I would find my answers. I would learn what they were doing. I would learn everything. Then, once my curiosity was slaked, who knew? Maybe I’d have enough of a case that the police could finally help me.