Officer Dean Winters stared at Dr. Britney Chong , his eyes unflinching, she looked a bit shaken up by the nervous fidgeting of her body but her story wasn’t making sense “So tell me again… you found this ring inside your purse?” he asked Britney cursed under her breath.
“What was that?” Brad asked.
She shook her head, “Nothing. It’s been a long day.”
“Hey you were great. I can’t believe you still did the show even though you were so shook up about the ring. Any other person wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
“I just thought that our topic tonight was important. Besides we also dedicated the show to Misty tonight.”
“How are you holding up?”
“I’m fine. I just need to get home.”
Britney smiled as she left the building but something was bothering her. She had a nagging feeling that she couldn’t shake. She felt like someone was watching her. She walked out into the parking lot and looked around. It had gotten late. The parking lot was void of any people. She scrambled inside her purse for her keys which she held in between her fingers. Years ago, her brother had taught her to hold the keys between her fingers, so if someone came up to try and attack her, she could punch them and the keys would cause extra damage that her strength didn’t carry.
She could hear the traffic of the city surround her and one of the parking lot lights was flashing on and off.
“This is like a scene from some scary movie,” she whispered as she heard the snap of her heels against the pavement.
She got closer to her car and noticed a red envelope behind one of her windshield wipers.
She froze. She was a few steps away from her car and she looked around.
She could still hear the steady hum of the nearby traffic. She took a step forward…and then another.
She reached an unsteady hand out to the small red envelope as her hand with the keys tightened.
Suddenly, the sound of an alarm blasted through the air. Britney realized that she had accidentally hit the panic button of her own car which caused the lights to flash and the alarm to sound off.
She fumbled with her keys to get it to turn off. Two quick beeps and it was off.
She sighed and laughed at herself. She quickly grabbed the red envelope.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
Britney turned around to see an old man standing in front of her. She smiled. It was Oliver, the security guard. He wasn’t a very threatening figure but his job was to watch the parking lot.
“Hi Oliver. It’s me Dr. Chong. I accidentally set my own alarm off.”
“What’s that in your hand? A valentine?”
“Uh…no. Not quite.”
“Well hurry up and get home. It’s not safe for a lady to be out in the dark by herself.”
“I will. Thanks Oliver.”
He nodded and began to walk away, when a thought occurred to Britney. “Hey Oliver. Did you see anyone leave this note on my car?”
“No. I can’t say that I did.”
She felt disappointment but smiled at him anyway, “Okay…I just thought I would ask.”
“The security cameras might have caught it though.”
“Really? Can we check?”
“Sure, let’s go back to my office.”
She followed the old security guard with the wobbly gait to his office.
He flipped on some mini television screens and frowned.
“What’s wrong Oliver?”
“My camera’s gone out. I’ve been training the new guy so I haven’t been watching the monitors in here. I’ll have to report this.”
Oliver made some calls and grabbed a small toolkit. “I’m going to check on the camera. I’ll be back. You stay here.”
“It’s okay…I should probably get going.”
“No, just stay here. I’ll be right back.”
She didn’t understand why Oliver wanted her to wait for him. She sighed as she held the red envelope in her hands.
“I guess I should open it.”
She slowly tore open the envelope. Inside was a card of an Amarillo wearing a cowboy hat and a sheriff’s badge. Scrawled inside the card was a message written especially for her.
“I’m still watching.”
She dropped the card in fear and jumped when she saw a man standing in the doorway of Oliver’s office.
“Why are you so scared Dr. Chong?”
Britney looked at Officer Winters and despite her dislike for him, actually felt somewhat relieved.
“Thank God it’s you. Someone left a note on my car.” She bent down and quickly picked up the note. She handed it to him and he looked it over.
“Interesting,” he said softly.
“I came down here because security called a report to the station. Since I was already here, they asked me to check this out. Who knew this building would be such a hub of criminal activity?”
“I’m telling you that someone is trying to scare me. They’re following me,” Britney pointed to the note he was holding. “Doesn’t that prove anything to you?”
He sighed and asked, “Listen Dr. Chong. How long have you had to share a show with Dr. Brad?”
“What? What does that have to do with anything?”
“Just answer the question.”
“Less than two weeks. Not very long.”
“Were you happy when you learned that you had to share a show?”
Britney didn’t understand where this was going, “Not at first but I get along fine with Dr. Clooney.”
“What’s that supposed to mean Officer Winters? What are you getting at?”
“When did you say you received the first letter?”
“It was an e-mail. Dr. Clooney read it on air. The man basically said he was my stalker.”
Officer Winters rubbed his chin, “It’s very suspicious.”
“Don’t tell me you think Dr. Clooney is behind all of this? He’s a respected psychologist. He’s written books. He’d be the last one to do something like this.”
“So you don’t think a psychologist can go a little crazy?” Officer Winters asked her.
“No. That’s not what I’m saying. It’s actually not uncommon for a mental health professional to require counseling. We have to listen to all kinds of stressful stories. I just don’t think it’s Dr. Clooney.”
“I agree,” Officer Winters nodded. “He has nothing to gain from this.”
“You agree with me? So then who do you think could be doing this?”
“I don’t think you’re going to like my answer.”
Britney fumed. She was getting very irritated with Officer Dean Winters, “I’m pretty sure I can handle it. Who do you think is writing me these letters?”
Officer Winters cocked his head to one side and answered her.
Dr. Britney Chong was fuming. She slammed the door as she came into her house, startling her brother, Nicholas, who was texting on his phone in the living room.
“Dang sis’ who pissed you off?” he asked.
“Ugh I hate…I mean really hate him!”
Nicholas didn’t know who she was talking about. “He sounds like a jerk. You want me to kick his ass?”
Nicholas had been joking so he started laughing at her response, “Okay…tell me who he is first.”
“Officer Dean Winters.”
“A cop? You’re upset with a cop? What did he do? Give you a ticket for putting on make-up while driving again?”
“Ha ha,” Britney laughed sarcastically. “That was one time when I was sixteen and no, he didn’t give me a ticket.”
“Then what did he do?”
“He basically accused me of being an attention whore that sends herself stalker letters to get police attention.” Britney sat down on the sofa next to her brother and crossed her arms.
“Wait. What?” Nicholas was trying to process everything his sister just told him. “Is someone sending you threatening letters?”
Britney sighed, “Yes.”
“And the cops aren’t doing anything about it?”
Nicholas stood up and grabbed his sister’s hand, “C’mon, we’re going to the police station right now.”
Britney laughed at his desire to protect her, “Nicholas, it’s okay. I’m fine. It just shocked me that an officer could be so callous to me.”
“Maybe you got his girlfriend to dump him,” Nicholas suggested.
“What are you talking about?”
“Oh c’mon Britney. Women eat up whatever crap you spew on your show. If you told women cops were horrible boyfriend material, I’m sure a few of your listeners would dump their police officer boyfriends.”
“One, I would never do that. Two, I don’t spew crap! Three, my listeners have minds of their own. They wouldn’t dump someone just because I said so.”
“Whatever, either way that officer shouldn’t’ be accusing you of doing something like that.”
“No, he shouldn’t. I took down his badge number to file a complaint on the chauvinistic pig.”
“What’s so funny?”
“You just called a cop a pig.”
“Grow up Nicholas,” Britney hit him with her purse as she passed him.
“Hey Britney,” Nicholas called out as she mounted the stairs, “Are you sure you don’t want me to go with you to the police station? I don’t like the fact that someone’s sending you threatening letters.”
Britney gave him a tremulous smile, “I’m okay Nicholas. It’s probably just some weirdo playing a prank.”
Nicholas crossed his arms, “If you need me. I’m here sis.”
“Thanks brother…but you should get back to your text, your phone keeps dinging.”
Nicholas smiled, “I get back in town and all the ladies are blowing my phone up.”
She gave a half-hearted laugh and went to her room.
She flipped on her laptop and checked her e-mails from her advice column.
My girlfriend recently cheated on me with a woman. She says it shouldn’t bother me because it wasn’t with a man and that she can’t help the way she feels. She insists that she still loves me but I don’t know if this is something I want in a relationship. –Confused Man”
Alex poised her hands above her keyboard and began typing,
Being bisexual doesn’t give you carte blanche to cheat with someone of the same gender. She’s in a relationship with you and cheating is a betrayal of your trust. If you’re not keen on an open relationship, I suggest you speak with your girlfriend and figure things out. This relationship will never succeed if you two aren’t in agreement about what is and isn’t acceptable in a relationship. Best of luck. –Britney”
Britney was about to look at the next e-mail when her phone dinged, notifying her of a message. It was from her producer, Mack.
“Don’t forget you have to do a Q&A at the college tomorrow.”
“Crap I forgot,” she whispered to herself. Several weeks ago, she had agreed to hold a question and answer session for the students at Wembly Community College about relationships. Students would be allowed to ask questions and she would answer them from a professional standpoint. After everything that had happened, she really didn’t feel like going.
“Do I even have anything to wear?” she asked herself. She yawned and got ready for bed, leaving her laptop on. She was too tired to think of anything else.
The Next Day: Morning
Ivy stood at Misty’s grave.
“HI Misty,” she softly spoke aloud. “I hope you’re doing okay. I’m sure you’re in Heaven. I know you’re probably surprised to see me. I’m the least emotional one out of our group. I just wanted to tell you that I miss you and I hope they catch whoever did this. I’m gonna keep bugging them until they do. Yeah…that’s all for now. I’ll see you in a few days, okay?”
Ivy bent down and placed some lilies over her grave. She began to walk away when she noticed a man coming towards her with a gorgeous bouquet of white roses.
“Those are beautiful,” she said to him without thinking.
He stopped and looked down at the flowers, “They’re for a friend of mine. We used to work together and I couldn’t make it to her funeral.”
“Really? That’s too bad. I was here visiting my friend.”
The man nodded and continued walking, Ivy watched him as he stopped at Misty’s grave and placed the flowers down next to her lilies.
Ivy didn’t recognize the man. “Excuse me!” Ivy raised her hand as she called out and he looked at her a bit surprised.
“I don’t mean to disturb you, but I couldn’t help but notice that you put flowers down next to Misty’s grave. You worked with her?”
The man nodded.
“She was my friend.”
“Really? We used to work together years ago.”
The man smiled, “I’d rather not admit it. It’s too embarrassing.”
He smiled at her and asked, “Would you like to get some coffee?”
Ivy was taken aback. She was in a cemetery and this handsome man that had just put roses down on her friend’s grave was asking her out to coffee. Ivy wasn’t sure if it was a bit too strange or if Misty was sending her someone special to offer some consolation.
Ivy nodded her head, “Sure. I’d love to. I’m Ivy by the way.”
He smiled back, “Nice to meet you Ivy. I’m Jake.”
Britney didn’t know what to wear for her session with the college kids. She was in her bedroom trying to choose between a red dress and a blue dress.
“I hate being a woman sometimes. We have the worst decisions,” she joked to herself. She looked at the time on her laptop. She only had an hour to get there.
“Blue or Red? Make a decision Britney!” she told herself.
Suddenly her phone dinged. She looked at the message. It was from a number she didn’t recognize.
“What time are you leaving?”
Britney was thrown off. She didn’t recognize the number so it couldn’t have been someone in her contacts list. She texted back, “I’m sorry. Who is this?”
“It’s me dummy.”
“Dummy?” now she was annoyed. “I think you have the wrong number,” she texted back.
“Oh. Sorry about that.”
“No problem,” she texted the anonymous offender.
She tried on the blue dress and the red dress, still unsure of what to wear. She looked at her laptop one more time. She only had thirty minutes but still couldn’t decide. “I don’t know which dress to wear!” she was exasperated and laid both dresses on the bed as she stood there in her slip and bra.
Her phone dinged again. She saw that it was the same wrong number from before. She read the message and gasped.
“I think you should wear the red dress.”
Fear pulsated through Britney as she stood by her bed and slowly looked around her room. When she didn’t see anyone, she quickly grabbed the blue dress and threw it over herself. Having clothes on made her feel less vulnerable. Her windows were covered with thick curtains so she didn’t understand how anyone could know that she was deciding what dress to wear.
“Is someone there?” she softly called out. “Hello?”
She looked down at her phone which was now quiet and typed a reply, her fingers trembling, “Who is this?”
She waited for a response.
She took a deep breath and began talking to herself, “Okay…think logically Britney. No one is in the room with you. No one can see you. There has to be a logical explanation.”
Her mind reeled as she wondered how anyone could possibly have known what she was doing in her bedroom a few minutes before.
Britney ran out of her room yelling, “Nicholas! If you think this is funny, you’re sadly mistaken!”
She ran to his bedroom and opened the door.
He wasn’t there.
She ran downstairs shouting his name. When she looked out the window and saw that his car wasn’t in the driveway, her heart sank.
Nicholas wasn’t home. She looked up to her bedroom and shivered.
“Maybe it was a coincidence,” she told herself. She couldn’t imagine herself dealing with a group of college students asking her about their relationship problems.
She quickly dialed Brad, her colleague, who picked up after a few rings.
“Hey Britney. What’s going on?”
“Brad, I need a favor.”
He laughed on the other line, “I’m fine, thanks for asking.”
“I’m serious Brad. I need you to cover for me tonight at the Q&A Mack mentioned the other day.”
Dr. Brad Clooney could hear the strain in her voice, “Are you okay Britney?”
“I’m fine,” she whispered, “Can you do it?”
“Yeah sure. When is it again?”
“Tonight…in less than thirty minutes. I’m sorry for asking but I can’t do it.”
“Are you okay? You sound off. Like something’s wrong.”
“I said I’m fine.”
“Don’t forget I’m a psychologist too Britney. I can tell when someone’s upset. What’s going on?”
“I’ll tell you later. Thanks for covering. I owe you big time. Call Mack if you have any questions. He’ll be there tonight.” She disconnected the call and looked upstairs again. She grabbed a baseball bat that she kept in her coat closet downstairs and put her phone in her pocket. She slowly walked upstairs carrying the bat. She wasn’t sure if someone was in the house with her so she didn’t want to call the police yet.
“Hello,” she called out again. She walked into her bedroom and quickly looked under the bed. She then dug the baseball bat into the curtains to make sure no one was hiding there either. She opened her closet and saw that it too was empty of any other person. She sat on her bed and looked at the text again to make sure she didn’t just imagine it all.
That’s when her phone dinged again.
It was another message from her anonymous caller. “You chose the blue. You look sexier in red.”
“Oh my God,” Britney tossed the phone away from her as if it were possessed by something evil. Then she realized she didn’t have a landline so she grabbed her phone again to call the police.
In Less Than Twenty Minutes Later
Nicholas had arrived home a few minutes after Britney had called the police. He was standing by her now, with his arm around her shoulders as she explained to the police officers what had been happening to her the past few days.
One of the officers was taking notes and seemed empathetic while the other looked bored.
“Is something wrong Officer Winters?”Britney asked him.
He shrugged his shoulders, “Nothing wrong with me. Please continue with my partner, Officer Diaz.”
Britney could feel Nicholas’ grip on her shoulder tighten. He was upset.
“It’s okay Nicholas,” Britney tried calming him.
Nicholas sneered at Officer Winters.
“You have a problem with me?” Winters asked Nicholas.
“And if I did?” Nicholas replied.
Officer Shelby Diaz cleared her throat, “Excuse me gentleman but we’re in the middle of something here.”
Neither man apologized and Shelby rolled her eyes.
“May I see your phone again Dr. Chong?” Shelby asked. Britney handed her the phone and Shelby double-checked the phone number. “We’ll track the number and see who it’s registered to. That may help shed some light on what’s going on.”
“Thank you,” Britney murmured.
Officer Diaz walked out of the living room leaving Officer Winters behind. “I still have my theory on who’s behind your stalking.”
Britney stiffened and Nicholas gave a bitter laugh. “So this is the cop whose ass you want me to kick?”
“Nicholas!” Britney tried to get him to be quiet.
“You think you can kick my ass?” Winters jeered.
“I don’t think. I know. Don’t act like you’re tough because you have a badge. A tough guy wouldn’t be picking on a defenseless woman.”
“I seriously doubt your sister is defenseless.”
Nicholas looked at Britney, “I told you. His girlfriend probably dumped him because of your show.”
“Nicholas!” Britney wanted this to be over with.
“Shut the hell up!” Officer Winters yelled.
Nicholas laughed, “Somebody better throw some mud down ’cause this pig needs to chill out.”
“What the hell did you just say?”
“That’s enough!” Britney shouted as she got in between both Nicholas and Officer Winters. Officer Diaz walked back into the living room and assessed the scene, “Winters let’s go before you get into trouble.”
Officer Winters stared at Nicholas for a few beats before he turned around and followed Diaz.
“We’ll let you know as soon as we find anything,” the female officer told Britney.
After they had left, Britney turned to her brother, “What the hell was that about Nicholas?”
“What? He was being an ass. I was just being one back.”
Britney sat down with her phone still in her hands.
“Hey are you okay?”
Britney looked at her brother who was concerned. She shook her head. “I was scared Nicholas. I thought someone was hiding in that room…watching me.”
“We already went through everything. No one was in there Britney.”
“I know…but it’s still scary.”
Nicholas sat down next to his sister and hugged her. “You know…I’m here for you right?”
“Yeah I know. Remember? You promised not to die on me.”
He laughed, “Yeah. I promise.”
Back at the Station
Officer Dean Winters was throwing a stress ball up into the air, when his partner snatched it.
“What gives?” he asked her.
“What gives? I should be asking you that. You want to explain what happened at the psychologist’s house?”
“C’mon Dean. Tell me what’s up. It sounds like you two had a run in before.”
“That was very informative. You mind giving me an answer that’s longer than two words?”
“Yes. I. Do. There, that’s three words.”
She playfully hit him on the head with the thin file that she was holding. “Asshole,” she laughed.
Dean had smiled at her remark but as soon as she walked away, he frowned.
Dr. Britney Chong
He thought of what her brother had said while they were at her house.
“I told you. His girlfriend probably dumped him because of your show.”
Nicholas Chong wasn’t completely off base. His girlfriend hadn’t dumped him because of Dr. Chong’s show. She had dumped him because of her friendship with Britney. Dean had thought Gabby Anderson was his soulmate. She wasn’t the perfect girlfriend but to Dean, she was very close.
He had put up with her constant comments on Britney’ theories of a healthy relationship. He had told her many times not to take what Britney had said too seriously but Gabby still listened to her friend. Dean remembered having to write up a dream journal because Gabby heard Britney talking about the benefits of having one. At times he felt like there were three people in his relationship with Gabby, and he had never even met Britney. He had avoided meeting the psychologist because he was convinced that she loved offering relationship advice to her friends. He thought that perhaps she adored the attention that came with being touted as a love expert. He didn’t really think that Britney was sending herself notes and trying to get attention. He did think it was probably all harmless and she was just making the notes into a bigger deal than they needed to be.
He thought of how Gabby had dumped him. It was when they were on the way to meet his parents. “Britney said that maybe I’m feeling anxious about our relationship because I’m not happy in it. I think she’s right.”
Dean had pleaded with Gabby to give him another chance. She refused and continued to quote Dr. Chong’s advice on relationships.
“Hey what’s wrong with you Winters?”
Dean looked up to see his partner staring at him.
“I’ve been calling you but you were in some kind of daze.”
She handed him a file, “The phone number that sent the texts to Dr. Chong. Guess who it’s registered to.”
“Look at the file and see.”
Dean opened the file and scanned the single sheet of paper that was in it. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“Nope. Now what do you think is going on here?”
“I don’t know, but I’m sure going to have fun finding out,” he smirked.
He left the open file on his desk.
The name linked to the phone number was none other than an Britney Chong.