“Murder?” Britney felt for her phone and tried pulling it out of her purse without Brad noticing.
Brad grinned and sped forward to an old building. There were a few cars parked out front.
“Where are we?” Britney asked.
“This place belongs to a friend of mine.” Brad parked his car and ordered Britney to get out, “What are you waiting for?”
“I don’t want to be here,” Britney whispered.
“I don’t want to be here,” she said in a stronger voice. “I want to go home.”
Brad looked disappointed, “I’m sorry Britney but we need to do this.”
“No we don’t. We really don’t,” Britney pleaded
“Are you scared?” Brad asked before getting out and walking to her side of the car. She locked her door and he laughed, pressing the button on his keys that unlocked the car. He opened her door and she struggled against him as he tried helping her out.
“What’s the matter with you Britney?” Brad asked, laughing.
“Get away from me!”
Brad suddenly let go and stepped back, “What’s going on Britney?”
“You tell me, Brad? Why are you all of a sudden talking about murdering people?”
A moment of silence passed between the two of them, Brad staring at Britney in disbelief. A large truck came up the road with several teens in the back, disturbing their solitude. They were hollering and laughing.
“I love paintball. Get ready to die Frank!” one of the teens shouted to the driver. They all ran through the entrance of the old looking building.
“Do you know where we’re at?” Brad asked Britney.
She shook her head in confusion.
Brad pointed up to the faded paint on the side of the wooden building. It was barely noticeable but if you looked closely, you could see it.
“Paintball?” Britney whispered.
“Paintball,” Brad answered. He shook his head in disappointment and made a tsking sound. He turned his back to Britney and spoke, “I brought you here because I know you’ve been stressed lately and I thought shooting people full of paint would make you feel better. Relieve some stress.”
“Oh my God. I’m sorry Brad…I just-”
Brad turned to face her, “You just what? Thought I really wanted to murder people? Why would you think that? Have I ever done anything to make you believe I’m some kind of psychopath?”
Britney immediately became defensive, “Well why did you say we were going to murder people? Sane people don’t’ say things like that!”
“This place is called Killer Paintball. The slogan is murder by paintballs. It was a joke!”
“Well it wasn’t funny!” Britney fidgeted in her seat. She was embarrassed. “I guess we should just go home.”
“You really don’t want to try it?” Brad asked.
“The paintball? I don’t know how. I’ve never played paintball before.”
Brad sighed, “I’m not going to lie…I’m still offended that you thought I was a murderer. Still, I can’t let you live the rest of your life without experiencing a good round of paintball. Rule number one: it’s just paintball. We don’t say play paintball. Got it?”
Britney giggled, causing Brad to ask, “What’s so funny?”
“Lots of things. How dumb I was a few minutes ago, that you’re way too into this paintball stuff, and that I almost called the cops on you.”
Brad laughed, “Yeah that would have been bad. Funny…but bad.”
“This is an interesting idea though. It’s different,” Britney smiled.
“Different good or different bad.”
“Different good. So how did you know I was stressed?”
“Your brother called me. He knew we were going on a date and suggested it.”
Britney laughed, “My brother told you to take me out to paintball?”
“Well actually, he told me to take you to a bar in the next town that lets you do mud wrestling…but I told him it probably wouldn’t be a good idea.”
“Good call,” Britney laughed. “Either way, thank you. I have been stressed by a lot of things lately.”
“Well you’re lucky enough to have a highly sought after psychologist at your disposal if you want to talk about it.”
Britney squinted her eyes as if she were in deep thought, “Highly sought after huh? How do I know you’re really good at giving advice or not?”
Brad looked away and smiled, “Well…I do have my own radio show.”
“Your own radio show?” she emphasized the word own.
“Well I share it with another doctor but she’s just there to be eye candy.”
Britney laughed, “Didn’t you say it was a radio show? No one would even see her.”
Brad laughed, “Oh that’s right. Well I guess she’s only eye candy to me since I’m the only one that’s lucky enough to see her.”
Britney blushed and looked down to hide her face.
Brad smiled and grabbed her hand to drag her inside the building. Britney was in awe at what she saw. Teens and adults were dressed in dark suits and goggles.
“Are we able to play in the dark?” Britney asked.
“Of course. It’s more fun that way,” Brad answered.
Britney regretted not wearing flats but decided to make the best of it. After they were dressed, the man working at the counter handing out paintball guns told them, “Don’t worry, it’s a lot of fun and doesn’t hurt a bit.”
Britney doubted that but took her paint gun. Brad taught her how to use the gun and the two of them prepared for paint battle. Britney was happy that she had joined Brad. She was having so much fun, shooting strangers with paint and running behind standing boards to hide. It was exhilarating. She imagined each person she shot was her stalker.
An hour later, they were on their way to Britney’ house.
“My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. Thank you Brad.”
“Are you kidding? I got to see the beautiful Britney Britney shoot strangers with a paint gun. People should pay money for that. You were vicious!”
Britney couldn’t help but giggle at herself. She was happy and she hadn’t felt so relaxed in weeks. They reached her house and Brad walked her to the door.
“Normally, I would try to kiss you goodnight but after seeing you shoot people with paint-balls, I’m not sure if I should risk it,” Brad told her.
“Well that’s too bad. I don’t normally kiss during first dates but I was willing to make an exception.”
“Is that so?”
Britney whispered, “Maybe.”
Brad began to lean in but they both jumped at the sound of a horn honking. They looked towards the street to see two teenagers driving past laughing. One of them stuck their head out of the window and shouted, “Get a room!”
Britney and Brad laughed, “Talk about bad timing,” Brad muttered. Britney lightly pushed him back.
“Thank you for the date Brad. I had a lot of fun.” She gave him a quick peck on the cheek and smiled at him as she unlocked her front door and went inside.
Brad was smiling up until she closed the door to her home. Britney was fortunate that she had closed the door and was unable to see Brad’s smile turn into an angry frown.
The Following Day: Home of Britney and Nicholas
“Nicholas I have groceries in the car. Go get them!” Britney was carrying plastic grocery bags in her hands as she walked into the kitchen. Sitting on one of her counter stools was Luke, Nicholas’ friend.
“Luke! What are you doing here?”
“I’m moving in,” he casually answered.
Luke laughed, “I’m here to visit Nicholas Britney. Why else would I be here?”
Britney gave him the stink eye and answered, “Oh I don’t know…maybe installing a security alarm.”
Luke grabbed an apple from her groceries, “I told Nicholas it was scheduled to be installed on Monday.”
“Really? He didn’t say a word to me.”
“That’s Nic for you.”
“Where is my brother?” Britney asked.
“Taking a shower. His black eye finally faded enough that he wants to meet up with some women I know.” Luke explained.
“Well good luck with that but in the meantime, will you be a doll and get the groceries from my car?”
Luke looked surprised but did as he was asked.
A few minutes later, Nicholas came downstairs, “Sorry to make you wait Luke.”
Britney looked at her brother and his friend, “What time are you two leaving?”
“Are you trying to kick us out?” Nicholas joked.
“I have clients today Nicholas. You and Luke have got to go.”
“Kicking me out of my own home so that she can see some wackadoos,” Nicholas shook his head.
The doorbell rang and Britney looked at both of them, “Give me ten minutes and then leave.” She ran to the front door and opened it to see Brad.
“Brad! What are you doing here?” she asked looking past him for Sylvia and Larry French who were her expected clients for the day.
“I’m sorry to show up unexpectedly. Are you expecting someone else?”
“Sorry, I’m waiting for some clients. Come in but don’t stay long. Oh sorry…that was rude.”
Brad laughed, “Don’t worry I understand.”
“Brad!” Britney and Brad looked to see Nicholas standing behind them. “How was the date last night? Did you get to third base?”
Britney punched Nicholas in the arm, “Stop being gross.”
He laughed and all three of them went back to the kitchen. Britney looked at the three handsome men in her house and told all of them to leave, “Seriously, you guys need to go.”
The doorbell rang again, “That’s them. I promise my clients their privacy so stay here and leave in ten minutes. Understand?”
All three men nodded and she smiled as she ran back to the front door.
Larry and Sylvia French were an odd couple but Britney really felt she could help them. She opened the door and allowed them in.
“Dr. Chong?” Larry asked as soon as he came inside, “Is it okay if I use the bathroom?”
“Larry! I told you to go when we were at home,” his wife scolded him.
“I’m sorry Sylvia but I didn’t have to go then,” Larry apologized.
Britney gave a fake smile, “It’s not a problem. Larry, there’s a bathroom down the hall. Sylvia and I will be in the study waiting for you.”
Larry nodded and walked towards the bathroom while Britney and Sylvia walked to her study.
“Dr. Chong, I have the journals you wanted us to write in,” Sylvia pulled out both journals.
“That’s great. Let’s wait for Larry to get back and we can begin reviewing them. Your first assignment was to write a letter to your spouse.”
“Dr. Chong, I’m paying for this hour, I don’t want to waste it waiting for Larry. I’m starting now.”
Britney tried stopping Sylvia but it was impossible. She pulled out Larry’s journal and opened it up to the first page and began reading.
“Kismet. Our love is kismet. There was a time that I felt so lonely I would pray the Lord took my life. I couldn’t stand the loneliness anymore. Then I met you and my whole life changed. I felt alive again. My hurt burst with joy,” Sylvia began tearing up.
“Dr. Chong can you believe Larry is so…so sentimental?” Sylvia asked. “I’m actually surprised. We’ve felt so distant. This is incredibly sweet.”
She continued reading, “My heart screams in pain when we’re apart and I know that someday we’ll always be together forever. You are my love for life…Dr. Chong.”
Sylvia looked up from the journal to an ashen faced Britney. “This says Dr. Chong. Are you having an affair with my husband?”
It was at that moment that Larry entered the study after using the bathroom. He saw an angry Sylvia and a pale Britney and asked, “What’s going on in here?”
Sylvia turned to him with an expression of pure venom, “How dare you!” She threw the book at him, which he dodged.
Sylvia ran towards Larry and began pummeling him. Britney shouted for her to stop. Larry pushed Sylvia away who fell to the ground. She yelled, “You want to hit me? I won’t let you get away with this Larry!” She jumped up and began picking up whatever was around her and tossed it at Larry.
“Stop it right now!” Britney yelled only to get the attention of Sylvia who began throwing things at her too.
“I hate you! You’re fired you husband stealer!”
Britney shrieked when Sylvia tossed a glass figurine at her. Larry shouted at his wife, “Stop it Sylvia. It’s not her fault that I love her!”
“Love? You love her?” Sylvia was livid. She turned back to Britney, “Let’s see how much you love her when I disfigure her face!”
“No!” Larry ran forward and hit his wife, knocking her out. Britney screamed and the door burst open.
“Brad!” Britney was relieved to see Brad standing at the door with his phone to his ear, “I’m calling 911 so don’t anybody move.”
Thirty minutes later the police had picked up Larry and the ambulance picked up Sylvia who would later be taken to jail as well. Britney and Brad had both given statements. Britney sat amidst the rubble of her once tidy study.
“Can you believe this?” she asked Brad who handed her a beer.
“It’s not uncommon for a client to fall for his psychologist,” Brad replied.
“Yeah but I saw his journal. It was so disturbing. At least it should all be over now.”
“What should be over?”
Britney didn’t want to elaborate. She hoped Larry would finally stop stalking her and this nightmare she had been living the past few weeks would be over. She had mentioned her friend’s murder to the police and they told her they would check if he had an alibi for that night. Britney was grateful to Brad for staying behind after her brother and Luke had left the house.
After Brad left, Britney walked upstairs to an awful sight. On her bed were the roses that Brad had given her the night prior. They were cut up into small pieces and the red rose petals looked like giant drops of blood against her white bedspread.
Later that Night: Gabby’s Apartment
Gabby sat in front of her computer. She was browsing the Heartbreakers website. Pictures of psychologists Britney Britney and Brad Clooney were splashed all over the screen with the heading “Braty” above them.
Gabby was on her cellphone, “Don’t tell me what to do. I have everything under control. Yeah…yeah whatever you say. Listen I’m busy. I’ll call you later.”
Gabby rolled her eyes when she hung up the phone and snorted as she read the comments about Britney and Brad being called Braty.
Her face contorted into an ugly expression as she poised her hands above the keyboard and typed, “Britney Britney is a whore. She needs to leave Dr. Clooney alone. I HATE HER!!!”
“What are you typing Gabby?” Ivy asked as she peered over her friend’s shoulder. She was shocked at the words on the computer screen.
“Britney Chong is a whore. She needs to leave Dr. Clooney alone. I HATE HER!!!”
Gabby was trying to come up with another comment to type out. She looked back at Ivy, “What?”
“When Mack called and asked that we get listeners riled up about Britney and Brad, I don’t think he meant in a negative way.”
Gabby and Ivy had met Mack two years ago at a party Britney was hosting. He was a bit unconventional but passionate about his job. Once he had found out that Misty, Gabby, Ivy, and Britney were best friends, he saved all of their numbers and would occasionally text them about upcoming events the radio station was having. Yesterday he had bribed both Gabby and Ivy into helping him promote Britney and Brad as a couple in exchange for some concert tickets.
“He said to get people talking,” Gabby lightly tapped her fingers against the keyboard.
“He didn’t say to start rumors. Delete it Gabby. I can’t believe you typed that in the first place.”
“Fine,” Gabby muttered, ” Misty would have sided with me.” She deleted her post about hating Britney.
Ivy scoffed, “No she wouldn’t have.”
Gabby ignored that comment, “What about something about her being pregnant? Or a secret marriage?”
Ivy covered her face in her hands, “Oh I can’t believe we agreed to do this for some Maroon 5 tickets.”
“Ivy, they’re front row tickets! Besides, we’re helping Britney and her show become more popular.”
Ivy groaned, “We’re probably going to Purgatory for this. Write the one about the secret marriage.”
Gabby giggled, “But why would they keep their marriage a secret?”
Ivy contemplated that, “Fine, scratch that. Ooh I know! Type out that they’re secretly engaged!”
Gabby and Ivy locked eyes and both of them smiled and said, “Perfect.”
The Next Day: Home of Britney and Nicholas
“What in the world?” Britney was in her study, reading her e-mails. She was getting an influx of congratulations in regards to her recent engagement to Dr. Brad Clooney.
“Hey sis,” Nicholas came strolling into her study, a tablet in his hands, “Are you getting married?”
“What?” Britney was surprised even Nicholas was aware of the engagement rumor.
Nicholas showed her his tablet which had the local society page up. Britney groaned, “This isn’t in the newspaper is it?”
Nicholas shook his head and answered, “No. This is too new so it’s just online. Are you and Brad engaged?”
“Yeah right Nicholas. Do you actually think I would get engaged and not tell you?”
Nicholas shrugged, “I don’t know. It kind of hurt my feelings…thinking you would keep it a secret from me. This sounds bad but I’m glad you’re still one of those old single crazy cat ladies that no one will marry.”
He grinned and Britney scowled, “First of all, I’m not old. Second…I don’t have any cats!”
“But you admit to the crazy part, right?”
He smirked and walked forward, wrapping Britney in an unexpected hug, “I’m sorry Britney. I just…I just want you to be happy and safe.”
“Where is this coming from all of a sudden? Are you okay Nicholas?” Britney asked.
Nicholas released her and gave a soft smile, “I’m fine. I just want you safe.”
Britney cocked her head to one side and studied her brother, “Are you on drugs?”
He laughed, “What? I can’t care about my sister?”
“Of course you can. But what’s with all the ‘I want you safe’ talk?”
Nicholas shook his head, “Nothing. It’s just with everything that’s been going on like the break in, Misty’s death, and now your crazy clients…I just want you safe.”
“Well you’ll be happy to know that I came to a decision yesterday regarding my practice.”
“I think I’m going to rent an office to see clients in. After what happened yesterday, I don’t’ want to take the chance of them invading my personal space anymore.” Britney didn’t tell Nicholas about the cut up roses she found on her bed. She figured it was another prank of Larry’s.
“My sister is finally seeing the light! Did you want me to go with you to look for your new office space?”
“No thanks. Brad already recommended a location to me.”
“And we’re back to Brad,” Nicholas smiled. “Did you just blush Britney? Is my sister blushing?”
Britney laughed, “I’m not blushing! I’m too old to blush about a guy”
“Ahhh so you admit you’re old?” Nicholas said wiggling his eyebrows up and down, causing Britney to lightly hit him on the arm.
“I’m not old!”
Nicholas laughed and changed the subject, “So did you hear anything about that Larry French guy?”
Britney shook her head, “Not yet. The police are supposed to keep me updated. Can you imagine? If he’s been the guy sending me notes, weird texts, and worst of all the person that killed Misty?”
“Don’t dwell on it too much Britney. There’s no way you could’ve known.”
Britney was going to respond when her cell phone rang. It was Mack. As soon as she picked up, he began talking, “Listen Britney. I did it for the show. I’m really sorry but your fans are eating it up, right now.”
“Are you also responsible for all of the engagement rumors, Mack?”
He didn’t respond and Britney groaned, “Mack how could you? I’m pretty sure this is some sort of harassment. And what were you thinking about…getting some creep to follow me and Brad around on our date? I thought someone was stalking us! Do you know how scary that was?”
“I’m sorry Britney. I wanted pictures for the website. It doesn’t matter anyway since you two deleted everything he had.”
“If you do something like that again- I don’t care how long we’ve known each other Mack. I won’t forgive you!”
“Okay…okay. I won’t use anymore subterfuge to promote Braty.”
“Mack, I’m serious,” Britney warned.
She could hear Mack sighing on the other end, “Fine! I won’t hire people to secretly take your picture with Brad anymore.”
“People? Did you hire anyone else Mack?”
“What do you take me for Britney? Of course not. It was just the one guy and he failed. If there are Braty pictures floating around…it’s not my doing.”
Britney sighed and she and Mack disconnected the call.
“What was that about?” Nicholas asked.
Britney began rubbing small circles against her temple, “You don’t want to know.”
Nicholas chuckled and then changed the topic, “By the way, I’m almost done cleaning the attic out. Are you sure you don’t mind me using it as my studio?”
“Of course not. Did you find a lot of junk up there?”
Nicholas shrugged, “A lot of old papers, clothes, trophies…stuff like that.”
“Yeah about our adoptions and newspaper clippings. Just stuff.”
“Adoption papers aren’t just stuff Nicholas. They’re important.”
“Well I have it all stored away. Just let me know if you need it.”
They both walked to the kitchen and Nicholas rubbed his stomach, “All this talking has made me hungry. I’m gonna go pick up a pizza. Is that cool with you?” Britney nodded and Nicholas left the house.
A sense of relief washed over Britney as she thought of her stalker being behind bars. In actuality, Larry had probably already been released from police custody but at least now she had a face to the man that was harassing her. If he truly did hurt Misty he would eventually be in jail and now Britney knew she had enough evidence to apply for a restraining order.
She thought of her conversation with Nicholas. He mentioned finding adoption papers in the attic. Britney wanted to see those papers. Fifteen minutes later, she walked upstairs and towards the attic’s entrance. It was amazing. He had really cleaned the place up.
Britney walked over to his desk and rummaged through the drawers. A small part of her discouraged her, reminding her that this was her brother’s space and she wouldn’t appreciate him going through her office drawers.
She spotted an unlabeled box to the left of his desk and opened it up. It was full of papers. “Bingo,” she whispered.
The corner of a bright red envelope at the bottom of the box caught her attention. It was hidden behind a bunch of other papers but she was able to easily pull it out.
Her heart stopped as she recognized the familiar red envelope. For a moment, she thought Nicholas had kept one of the envelopes her stalker had left. “No, those are still in my room,” she reminded herself.
Britney slowly opened the envelope to find pictures. Pictures of her from the past few weeks. She gasped as she saw a picture of herself at Misty’s funeral. There was another picture of her having lunch with Ivy, Misty, and Gabby. The last picture was of her and Brad leaving the paintball place.
She instantly felt nauseous. Why did Nicholas have these pictures?
She was so engrossed in the pictures, that she didn’t see her brother standing in the doorway of the attic. She jumped when she saw him, “Nicholas!”
“What are you doing Britney?” his eyes were on the red envelope in her hands.
“I was looking for the adoption papers. I found these,” Britney explained holding up the red envelope of pictures, “Nicholas did Mack hire you to take pictures of me?”
Nicholas slowly shook his head and walked forward, “No. Mack didn’t hire me.”
Britney took an unsteady step backward, “Then why do you have these pictures Nicholas?”
Nicholas took another step closer and asked, “Why do you think?”
Britney didn’t know what to think. As far as she knew, her world had just turned upside down.
“Nicholas…why do you have these pictures?” Britney asked her brother who looked upset.
“Why were you going through my things Britney?”
She took a step back, “These are pictures of me Nicholas. The kind a stalker or some kind of sick voyeur would take. Why do you have them?”
“Why do you think?” he asked.
“I don’t know what to think! It’s why I’m asking!” she was breathing heavily in fear and anger but mostly anger. Britney couldn’t believe that her brother would do something like this. It wasn’t possible. There had to be some plausible explanation.
Nicholas stopped moving towards her when he saw how scared she was. She unconsciously had one of her hands up in case she needed to ward off an attack from him. He sighed and crouched down to the ground, keeping his face in his hands, “I’m such an idiot.”
Britney stared at her brother in confusion, “Nicholas…you can talk to me. I’m your sister. Whatever it is…we can work through this together. I can help you.”
Nicholas laughed, still hiding his face in his hands, “Help me?”
“Yes, I can try to help you.”
“Britney you can’t even help yourself. How are you going to help me? Why do you think I’m even in this mess?” Nicholas had looked up to Britney and was shouting as he stood up.
Britney tossed the photos onto the desk and asked, “What exactly is going on? What situation?”
“Those pictures,” Nicholas pointed to them, “They weren’t taken by me Britney. They were given to me.”
“Given to you?”
“I found them in my truck yesterday morning. There was also a note that said if I went to the police they’d kill you,” Nicholas ran his hands in his hair.
Britney stared at her brother in disbelief, “What did he want?”
Nicholas looked up surprised, “How did you-”
“How did I know? Why else would he threaten to kill me if you went to the police? He wanted something. So what was it? What did he want?”
Nicholas shook his head, “I don’t want to talk about it. It doesn’t matter anymore anyway. They arrested that creepy client you have so we shouldn’t be bothered by him anymore.”
“They arrested him for domestic violence not for stalking or blackmailing. What did the note say?”
Nicholas shrugged, “It said to leave you in the house alone on Monday night.”
“What? And you were going to do it?” Britney rushed forward and began hitting her brother who tried covering himself with his arms.
“Owww…stop it Britney! I wasn’t going to leave you by yourself. Do you think I’m stupid or something?”
Britney stopped for a moment to respond, “You didn’t tell me about the pictures as soon as you found them…so yeah!” She proceeded to hit him until he grabbed her wrists.
“Look I didn’t know what to do alright? I freaked so I called Luke to come over and we talked about it. He was going to come in on Monday and install the alarm.”
Britney attempted to hit him again, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I didn’t want you to get more scared than you already were. You just went on a date with that psychologist. It was the first time in weeks that you weren’t walking around here on eggshells. How could I tell you that someone sent me their stalker photos of you?” Nicholas let go of her wrists and took a step back, “Admit it. If I told you about it…you would’ve been worse than you already are.”
“I’m fine!” Britney said loudly to convince her brother but somehow it sounded more like she was trying to convince herself.
“Are you? Because you don’t look fine,” Nicholas whispered and swiped a tear from her cheek.
Her face crumpled as she leaned into her brother for support, “Why is this happening to me Nicholas? What did I do to deserve this?”
Nicholas patted her back as she sobbed against him, “It’s okay Britney. That guy’s in jail and the alarm will be installed soon. It’s going to be okay. I promise.”
Meanwhile: At the Police Station
“Tell me again where you were that night,” the detective leaned forward against the wooden table that separated him and Larry French.
“I told you I don’t know that woman,” Larry said as he pointed to the picture of Misty Ward. “I wasn’t even in town that week. I was out of town on a business trip.”
“Is there anyone that can corroborate your story?” the detective asked.
“My story? Do you think I’m making this up?” Larry was insulted.
The detective leaned back and appraised Larry, “You’re not a bad looking guy. You make a good amount of money. I bet women throw themselves at you.”
Larry blushed, “I’m married!”
The detective shrugged, “So?”
“So I wouldn’t…wouldn’t do something like…like that,” Larry said, clearly flustered.
“You wouldn’t be the first to stray from the woman he’s been married to for years. Besides, I saw that journal. You know…the one where you wrote all those love letters to your therapist.”
“That was private!”
“C’mon Larry. Throw me a bone. How did you know Misty Ward?”
Larry slammed his hands on the desk, “I didn’t know her! I don’t know her! I don’t want to know her!”
“She was friends with your therapist…you know…the woman you claimed to love in your journal,” the detective smirked.
Larry’s eyes narrowed, “How dare you mock me. Those are my personal feelings that I wrote about!”
“I hate to break it to you but your Dr. Chong wants nothing to do with you. She’s probably filing a restraining order right about now.”
“I haven’t done anything! For the last time…I’m innocent.”
The detective stood up, “I’ll be right back Larry. You keep thinking of someone that saw you when you were out of town.”
The detective walked out to see Officer Shelby Diaz waiting for him. “Did you find out anything?” she asked.
“Nope. Not a thing. Honestly Shelby, I don’t think he’s the guy.”
Officer Shelby Diaz had told the detective in charge of Misty Ward’s murder all about the stalking of Dr. Chong and how the same person could be the murderer of Misty Ward. It was all connected but convoluted and Shelby wanted to get to the bottom of it. When Larry had been arrested for domestic violence, the journal he had written his love fantasies in was given to her by his wife Sylvia.
“Take it,” she said, “I may need it back as evidence for when I divorce him.”
At the time, Shelby just thanked Mrs. French and shook her head at the entire situation.
“I’m sorry Shelby but we’re going to have to let him go. There’s not much evidence to show that he’s the one that killed Misty Ward other than the connection to this stalking business and that’s pretty light to begin with. Besides, once he lawyers up, it’ll be easy for him to miraculously come up with an alibi.”
Shelby shook her head and thanked the detective. As she walked back to her desk, she spotted her partner Officer Dean Winters, texting on his phone. He didn’t look up when he said, “I told you it would be a waste of time.”
Shelby nodded. Maybe Winters was right. Maybe Dr. Britney Chong really didn’t have a stalker.
*That Evening: Home of Britney Chong*
Britney was sitting in her living room next to her brother Nicholas. They were still drained from their argument earlier in the day.
“Are you still mad at me?” Nicholas asked.
Britney shook her head, “I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed that’s all. I wish neither of us had to deal with this kind of thing.”
Nicholas nodded. He was about to speak when the doorbell rang. Britney answered it to see Brad with a box of pizza in his hands.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“Nicholas invited me over,” Brad smiled.
“Nicholas?” Britneylooked back to her brother who also smiled.
“His exact words were, ‘She wants some pineapple and anchovy pizza.’ At least I think that’s what he said,” Brad explained.
Britney turned to Nicholas, “How could you?”
“What? I was hungry,” Nicholas said as he stepped forward and took the box of pizza from Brad.
Brad looked at Britney in confusion until she answered, “Nicholas is the only one who eats pineapple and anchovies on a pizza.”
Brad laughed and said, “Then maybe you and I should go out to eat?”
“Smooth!” Nicholas shouted from behind them. “Britney you should go out with him just for that line alone.”
“Please forgive my immature brother,” Britney said loud enough for Nicholas to hear.
“He’s helping me spend time with you…so I don’t mind,” Brad whispered.
Britney smiled and went to grab her purse. Nicholas whispered to her, “Hey, I’m sorry but I thought you could use a break from all this stalker crap. Relax and enjoy yourself, okay?”
Britney nodded and hugged her brother, “I’m sorry Nicholas but thank you for always thinking of me. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“Probably become a crazy old cat lady,” Nicholas joked.
Twenty minutes later Britney and Brad were each eating a burger at a local bar that doubled as a karaoke joint.
“Do you sing?” Brad asked Britney.
He laughed, “I was going to ask you if you wanted to sing with me onstage.”
“Oh no way would I do that!” v balked at the idea.
“Not even for me?”
“Nope…not even for the Queen of England.”
Brad laughed and asked, “Well if I sing you a song would I get extra points?”
“Points?” Britney asked not following.
“Your brother told me you gave all your boyfriends a point system,” Brad explained.
Britney felt her face heat, “Nicholas told you that?”
Brad nodded and Britney said, “He’s lying! I don’t do that. Why are you asking Nicholas for information about me anyway?”
“I didn’t ask. He just offered.”
“Well you should never believe him. He’s always joking around.”
Britney nodded, “Yes.”
“I wish I had known that before-”
“I brought you to this Karaoke place. He said you’d love it,” Brad explained. “He said you loved to sing when you were upset.”
“He said that?”
“Yeah, he said it’s how he knew when you were pms-ing. You’d be singing all around the house.”
Britney wanted to die of embarrassment. She was going to kill Nicholas. Brad laughed at her expression.
“Just for that, you’re going to have to sing me a song,” Britney told Brad.
“You heard me. Sing me a song and it better be good.” Britney told him.
Brad leaned forward and whispered, “And what do I get if I sing well?”
Britney was blushing again and put her hands to her cheeks, “I’ll have to think about it.”
He winked at her and said, “I’ll be right back.”
Brad ran up to the stage and chose a song. The patrons of the bar quieted when Brad spoke into the microphone, “This song is for my date…I’m hoping to cheer her up today.”
A few woman in the audience thought he was sweet and Britney could hear them saying, “Awww.”
The beginning chords of the song began to play and Britney smiled. Brad was singing Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars. As he began to sing into the microphone, Britney giggled when a woman in front shouted, “Whoo hoo…white boy can sing!”
Britney watched Brad singing on stage, and couldn’t help but forget everything that had transpired earlier that day. All she could see was the handsome man serenading her with one of her favorite songs.
After he was done, the audience gave him a round of applause, some wolf whistles (by both women and men), and some people were even standing.
“My date everyone,” Brad pointed to Britney and everyone stared at her while she sat in her seat, surprised by the attention.
“Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!” a man at the bar began chanting. Before she knew it the entire crowd was chanting, “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!”
A lady wearing a denim dress pulled Britney to her feet and dragged her to the stage to stand by Brad. Britney tried hiding her smile and whispered to him, “I’m not one to fall for peer pressure.”
He chuckled, “Then how about you kiss me because you want to not because they’re telling you to.”
Britney looked up at the handsome man before her. He was grinning and he winked at her, causing her to melt. Brad leaned forward and Britney closed her eyes when she felt his lips tenderly brush up against hers. As the kiss deepened, Britney couldn’t help but think that the past few weeks had been a nightmare filled with darkness and fear…but perhaps there was a light somewhere in the middle of all that darkness. Perhaps that light was Brad.