My dad gulped. I could tell he was going to say something he really didn’t want to say.
“I haven’t been completely honest with you,” he said. “There’s…something I need to show you.”
The video my dad pulled up on his laptop couldn’t have looked more innocent at first. I was watched a trio of pre-teen boys I vaguely recognized from the neighborhood throw dunks into a swimming pool basketball hoop in a sun-drenched suburban backyard.
“Russell Miller, you know, from down the street, his dad gave me this video…a few months ago.”
I was about to ask my dad why I would care about Russell Miller and his little buddies holding a pool slam dunk contest, but was interrupted by the bright scene getting interrupted by a close-up of Russell breathing hard in the dark of night.
Russell started to talk in between labored breaths.
“We’re eggin’ every house up and down this block. No one is safe I swear, not even that big ass guy down the block with the scary-ass German Shepherd.”
The video cut to a dark shot of the front of my parents’ house slightly obscured by some bushes that were next to the camera. The sound of young boys panting heavily served as the soundtrack until Russell stepped into the shot with an egg in his hand. The boys snickered.
Russell cocked back his arm to launch and I watched the first couple of eggs splatter just above my childhood bedroom window. He grabbed a couple more eggs out of the pocket of his hoodie and cocked back to launch them.
“What the fuck?” Russell whispered and ducked back down behind the camera.
“What happened? What happened?” the cameraman asked.
“There’s someone out there,” Russell whispered with his eyes glued to my parents’ house.
The camera panned through the brush and focused in on my parents’ white house that was shining in the pale street light. It took a second for the shot to focus, but my breath disappeared once it did. Standing off to the side of my parents’ house, crouching down next to small shrubs was the unmistakable silhouette of a man.
“What the hell is he doing?” the voice of the cameraman whispered.
Scott’s gaze turned towards the bushes where the boys were hiding.
“Holy shit. Holy shit.” The boys’ voices cried out over the final frames of the video.
I looked to my dad with tears in my eyes. He looked like a dog that had just been scolded for going through the trash.
“How did you not tell me this?” I asked with a shuddering jaw.
“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to make you feel even worse.”
“What the fuck, dad?”
“And there’s something else I found out I haven’t told you about yet. I found out our home security company was owned by the same company Scott Lynn worked for. It just had a different name. I didn’t know, but it might mean he could…”
“Tweak your security system,” I said with disgust in my voice. “How did you let this happen?”
“There was nothing I could do.”
The morning air in my parents’ living room we were sitting in suddenly grew cold upon my skin. I thought I could never feel worse than I did a few days ago when we found out about Scott’s move to Atlanta in that cramped little office, but I did. I couldn’t believe I had been living at my parents’ house for so much of the time when Scott was lurking at least outside of the house…and maybe even inside.
“Do you think he got in the house?”
“I have no idea. There are no cameras or anything in here, just the alarm system, but I swear to you, I check every inch of this house in the morning, when I get home from work and before I go to sleep. Even the guest room. I swear to you.”
It was fitting that Scott looked so much like a ghost, because he pretty much was. The police started taking my case a little more seriously when it was revealed Scott had followed me to Atlanta, but they couldn’t find out a single thing about him.
The cops found no birth or census records for Scott. The paperwork they received from the security company was light and contained what was believed to be mostly false information. His name may not have actually been Scott Lynn for all anyone ever knew. The only information anyone got was from the security company who was able to track down a technician who said he got drinks with him a few times after work said he liked whiskey sours.
I was not the least bit surprised, but Scott had zero social media presence at all. This confirmed my theory that everyone under the age of 35 who has zero social media presence is probably some kind of violent or sexual criminal.
Well…that’s not entirely true. Scott had a social media presence, it just wasn’t his own.
Immediately after hearing about Scott’s move to Atlanta. I started doing social media digging into my cousin Felicia. Despite my pleas of never putting me on her profiles, Felicia would still occasionally put pictures of me on Facebook or Instagram in various group shots.
I was reviewing Felicia’s posted photos from the past few months to see how many I was in and if there was some way I could be tracked in them when I noticed something that would make my stomach drop just the same way it had when I watched the video of Scott lying next to me. There was a presence in nearly every recent picture Felicia had posted on social media that included me in an open public place in the past few months: The silhouette of Scott.
There we were smiling in the park for a friend’s birthday and a tall, slender, dark-haired figure lurked in the distant background. At a bar, there he was off in the distance saddled up to the bar. The last picture I clicked on was the worst. It was a small get-together with friends in the grassy courtyard of the apartment building where I lived with Felicia. I saw a faint figure walking on the sidewalk across the street from where we were picnicking.
I couldn’t even handle it anymore. I wanted to throw the laptop across the room, go up to my room, curl up, and die. I felt helpless. I didn’t even feel safe in the room I grew up in — even with the door locked. Worse yet, I didn’t trust my dad anymore. Why had he not told me about the video of Scott when he first got it? Maybe this was why mom lost her mind all of those years ago?
This is where I have to explain I haven’t been completely honest while telling this story and why I can’t completely call my dad out without feeling like a hypocrite. I may have been referring to the house as my parents’ house, but it had pretty much just been my dad’s house for the past 14 years.
We never figured out exactly what it was. After a lot of waffling, the doctor’s eventually just said my mom had a stroke. I thought it was extremely early onset Alzheimer’s or late onset schizophrenia, but what the hell did I know, I was just a teenager. Regardless, 14 years ago, my mother completely changed. She went from being an outgoing social and financial stallion who was a partner at a law firm, to a nearly bed ridden shut-in that had a lot of trouble forming coherent sentences.
I was young, but I could tell my dad didn’t really know what to do. There was nothing physically wrong with my mom. I guess her blood pressure and cholesterol ended up being a little high and she had to take medication for it, but other than that, all of her problems appeared to be with communication.
What ended up happening with her pains me to even try and explain. I try to hate my dad for it sometimes before I am able to convince myself I wouldn’t really know what to do in the situation either. My mom ended up moving to the guest room next to my parents’ room and down the hall from mine. For the past 14 years, my mom has spent 99.9 percent of her time in that room mostly lying in bed and watching TV. Every once in a while she would come downstairs to get food, but mostly my dad and I just brought it to her. As far as I knew, she had never left the house during the entire 14-year stretch.
Whenever I was home, I would come into her room and talk to her for at least a few minutes or so, but it was not easy. She would get very upset when dad and I got too far into the room. All she seemed to be able to talk about was what was directly going on in the room, or what was on TV. Usually our conversations revolved around her complaining about the color of the walls of the room, a loud toilet, or about Dr. Phil. It was pretty fucking awful.
I could tell my social media revelations rattled my dad just as much as they did me because he called the police and screamed at them for 10 minutes about how they should have an officer permanently parked outside of our house at night. He also called Felicia and demanded she follow my routine of living at her parents’ house in the suburbs until Scott was apprehended. I asked my dad if he could also follow up with the family lawyer about a restraining order we had tried to file against Scott, but he reminded me that you cannot file a restraining order against someone who technically doesn’t appear to exist on paper.
My next demand to my dad was that we go spend the night in a hotel but he wouldn’t move on it either. His explanation was understandable. He didn’t want to leave my mother in the house alone and there was no way in hell she was going to go stay at a hotel. He didn’t want me going to stay in a hotel without him either.
My dad came up with a solution that worked for me. He spent the rest of the afternoon scouring the Internet for the scariest-looking private investigator he could find in the LA area. We settled on an Armenian guy named “Buddy,” who looked like the character Zangief from the game Street Fighter and who had excellent reviews on Yelp. Before nightfall, Buddy was parked on the curb in front the house in a black Cadillac chain vaping and listening to hardcore rap.
Buddy’s presence and the appreciation I had for my dad spending the entire day helping me had soothed me enough to where a few drinks over the dinner we ordered from my favorite pizza place from childhood sounded like a good idea. The herby-sweet gin and tonics my dad knew how to mix up so well were working like chamomile tea to my haunted soul.
The world’s oldest sleeping medication, alcohol, had done the trick. Not long after dinner, I climbed the stairs up to my room with such exhaustion I could barely conquer the handful of steps. Utterly gassed, I stumbled into my room, shut the door and locked in behind me and tucked myself into bed.
I awoke to the sound of feet shuffling outside of my bedroom door.
I had managed to fall asleep for the first time since I had heard about Scott’s move to Atlanta but my slumber didn’t last long. An alarm clock that read 12:34 am meant I hadn’t even been asleep for an hour.
The amount of alcohol made me a little calmer than I should have been, but I was still right back on edge for the most part. I jumped up out of my bed and scrambled for the mace that now permanently rested on my nightstand. My eyes shot over to the little slice of light that cut through the crack in the bottom of the door, but there was nothing there.
A touch more at ease, I jumped back upon the bed and sat up with my back against the headboard. I tried to catch my breath and ease for a moment and focused my eyes on the moonlit window.
I immediately noticed something out of the ordinary with the window. There was something slimy and shimmery stuck to the top of the window with little flecks of something white in it. I got up from the bed and took a closer look. I could tell what it was right away. It was an exploded egg.
The sight of the egg took me back to a hazy memory of the night before – awaking for a brief moment after hearing a couple of thumps. It was one of those memories that you at first aren’t really sure if it was a dream or real because it was so brief and clouded by the blanket of boozy sleep.
This memory sparked a realization…the video my dad showed me wasn’t really from months ago. It was from last night. It made much more sense. The neighborhood kid had probably been caught last night and his parents probably gave my dad the incriminating video this morning. But why would my dad lie and say it was from months ago?
I didn’t have time to think up my own answer. There were footsteps again, but this time there were shadows of feet in the crack beneath my bedroom door.
I let out a shallow scream and ran back over to the pepper spray.
“Katherine,” I recognized the voice that whispered through the door so quietly I could barely hear it.
It was my mom.
“Mom,” I whispered back.
My mom quickly jumped into her usual cadence. She could say words, brief sentences about something recent in her environment, but it was always patchy and vague.
“Skinny. Fucker. I can’t smile,” my mom started in.
I wanted to ask for something more. More clarity, but I knew it was hopeless, I just let her go on into my door.
“He’s, he’s, he’s, he is,” she stuttered. “He is staying. Ugly black hair.”
All it took was that last line to make me know what my mom was talking about and realize another lie my dad had told me. He had said he checked every inch of the house when he did his thorough search of the house earlier every day, but he had probably never, or at least rarely checked my mom’s entire room. My mom would physical attack you with her rarely-clipped nails if you did too much prodding in her room. I bet he just opened the door and called it good.
I frantically thought of where my cell phone was to call the police, but quickly realized I had left it downstairs in my drunken absent mindedness.
My mother’s voice interrupted my frantic scrambling.
“He’s been in room. Days. I think, looking, for you.”
Just as my mom finished, another pair of shadowy feet appeared in the bottom crack of the door and I screamed as loud as I could.