The Case of the Stalked Starlet

Written by Jamie, the winner of our short story contest!  

     When I went to church that Sunday morning, the last thing that I expected was for someone to be kidnapped after the worship service. However, on this particular Sunday, that was exactly what happened.

     Although I didn’t know it at the time, it had begun the previous Sunday. When I pulled in the parking lot that day, I noticed that there was a car parked there with California license plates. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but you tend to notice when a car from California is at a church in Ohio. At least, I tend to notice things like that. I should mention that my name is James Irons and I’m a private investigator.

     I walked inside and was surprised to see my friend Sally sitting in one of the pews. She was sitting with her two sisters and her aunt, who, along with their uncle, had adopted the three girls when Sally was thirteen. She was all grown up now and had moved to Los Angeles after her high school graduation to pursue her dream of being an actress. She definitely had the look for it. She was very pretty with long, black hair that hung midway down her back and brown eyes that shined like new pennies when the light hit them right. She also had the talent for it. Many people from the congregation, including myself, had come to see her in her various high school plays and musicals. Surprisingly, many of the high school actors and actresses were very talented, but of all the stars, Sally easily was the brightest.

     I walked up and said, “Hi, Sally! This is a surprise. I didn’t know that you were coming home.”

     She said, “Yeah, Uncle Don is really sick, so I thought it would be a good idea to come home and see him while the show’s on hiatus.”

     Most young, potential actresses who travel out to L.A. with dreams of fame and fortune usually don’t find it, but so far, Sally had done well for herself. After a few walk-on rolls in various television programs, Sally had been cast in a recurring character on a Disney show. With the right combination of talent and luck, she just might be able to use this role as a stepping stone towards bigger and better things.

     I said to her, “I’m sorry to hear about your uncle, but I’m glad to see you. How long are you home for?”

     She said, “At least a few weeks. The new season doesn’t begin shooting for a couple of months.”

     I could see that they were getting ready to begin the service, so I said, “I’m glad that you’ll be here for a little while anyway. I’ll talk to you after the service.”

     As I walked to my normal pew, it was then that I noticed the stranger sitting in the back row. He had a suntan, dark hair, blue eyes, and was at least a few years older than me. I always try to welcome new people so I made a mental note to talk to him after the service.

     When I did, I learned that he was from out of town. In fact, the car with the California license plates was his. He said his name was John and that he was from Los Angeles. He was in town to visit friends and decided to go to church while he was here. I welcomed him and told him that I was glad that he had come and then went on my way.

     The next week, his car was in the parking lot again when I arrived. I walked in and found him sitting in the back row again. I told him that I was glad he came back. He said that he was still visiting and that he had enjoyed the service so much the week before that he wanted to come back. Coincidentally, Sally was also there again.

     After the service, I went about the process of greeting people like I always did. Lots of people were glad to see Sally and made a point to talk to her while she was there. Apparently, she was going out to eat afterwards because I overheard her tell her family to go ahead and get a table and that she would drive herself there in a little bit after she was done talking. It seemed a little odd to me that John from California was hanging around even though very few people had spoken to him, but I figured maybe he wanted to talk to the pastor or something a was waiting for everybody else to clear out.

     Before I could leave, an old lady named Patty asked if I could carry some things upstairs for her for the rummage sale the church was going to have in a couple of weeks. I said yes, but when I got to her car, I was surprised to see that it was so full of stuff that there was barely any room for her. It made me wonder how she had packed it in the first place and, for that matter, how she had managed to drive here with so many things obstructing her view. It was going to take a while to unpack the car and take everything upstairs, but I had already said that I would so I just had to grin and bear it.

     After a little while, the only cars left in the parking lot were mine, Sally’s, Patty’s, the pastor’s, and California John’s. Sally was talking with Patty while John was having a conversation the pastor. I had made several trips upstairs with my arms full and was putting the latest load away when I heard the scream. I looked out of the window of the storage room so that I could see the parking lot and was horrified to see John from California grabbing Sally from behind with his hand clamped over her mouth and nose. In his hand, he was holding a rag and I had a sneaky suspicion that it was doused with chloroform.

     I ran out of the upstairs room as fast as I could, tripping over the junk that had piled up several times as I did. I took the stairs two at a time and arrived outside just in time to see Patty faint and John throw Sally’s limp body into the backseat of his car. The pastor, who was elderly himself, was standing there with a shocked look on his face, not knowing what to do. John got in his car and tore out of the parking lot with his tires screeching.

     My arrival seemed to break the pastor out of his trance. I yelled to him, “See if Patty’s ok and call 911. I’m going after them.”

     I jumped into my car and took off in hot pursuit of John and Sally. In my line of work, I had been in a few car chases and using my skills that I had learned previously, I caught up to them in no time. I reached for my cell phone and tried to call 911, myself. Unfortunately, the church that I attended was out in the country and so was the road that we were now driving on. That meant a lack of cell towers, so I was unable to even get a signal. I spit out a curse and threw my useless cell phone into the passenger’s seat.

     I took great pains to stay close enough to John so that I could see him, yet far enough back so that I didn’t arouse his suspicions or cause him to panic. Sally’s safety was my main concern. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what I was going to do if I had to confront John, because I didn’t carry my Colt .45 to church with me. Even though I had my concealed carry permit, I didn’t think it was a good idea to bring a gun to church. Some members of the congregation had enough of a problem with me already because I, on occasion, had to kill someone in the line of duty. I didn’t want to ruffle their feathers any more than I already had, but right now I would give anything for the comfort the Colt brought me.

     Eventually, John’s car pulled through a rusted gate and went up a long driveway that led to what appeared to be an abandoned farmhouse. I drove on past and decided to double back so that he didn’t realize that I had followed him. At the next turn, I parked my car by the side of the road and crept back towards the farmhouse.

     By the time I got back to the farmhouse, John had already carried Sally inside. I stood at the gate looking at the front door. I had an awful, foreboding feeling in my gut as I wondered what John’s motivations were and what he had planned for Sally. I tried my cell phone again. I still got no reception. I had to decide the best course of action and decide quickly.

     On one hand, I knew where he was holding her. I could drive around until I got a signal and call the police. However, God only knew what was going to happen in the meantime. Also, by the time they got there, it might be too late. On the other hand, I could go in there and try to rescue her myself. I had experience in this sort of thing and maybe my experience could pull me through. However, if I went into that house, I was walking into the unknown and I was unarmed. I had no way of knowing the layout of the house or what weapons John might have. If I went in there by myself I could easily get myself killed and end any chance Sally had of being rescued. I could also get her killed in the process. I didn’t know what to do.

     I closed my eyes and prayed. I prayed for God to guide me on the right course of action. In that moment, it all seemed to become clear to me. Maybe you are a believer like me or maybe you’re a skeptic. Maybe, like me, you believe the hand of God was guiding me or maybe you think it was just my macho ego deciding for me. What is important is that somehow, I knew that Sally didn’t have much time. I couldn’t waste a moment trying to find cell reception. If she was getting out of that house alive, I had to be the one to save her and I had to do it now. I summoned up all my courage and approached the front door.

     I was on guard as I entered the house, ready to hit anything that moved. I moved as quietly as I could, searching through the darkness for Sally. It was a two-story house. The downstairs had a living room, what used to be a kitchen, a bedroom and a bathroom. I crept from room to room, but found no sign of Sally or John. They had to be upstairs.

     I started to climb up the stairs as slowly and as quietly as I possibly could. It was an old wooden staircase and I was afraid that one of the boards was going to creak and give me away. Miraculously, I made it to the top of the stairs without making a sound. When I reached the top of the stairs, I saw a glow coming from one of the upstairs bedrooms. I approached the open door and carefully looked inside.

     Inside, the room was filled with lighted candles. There was a champagne bucket in the corner that was filled with ice and a bottle of champagne chilling in it. Was this John’s idea of romantic? Most importantly, I saw Sally. She was sitting in an old wooden armchair. Each wrist was tied to the corresponding arm of the chair. Similarly, each ankle was tied to the corresponding front leg of the chair. Her eyes were open and she was moving her head, telling me that the chloroform had worn off. There was a strip of duct tape over her mouth, keeping her from yelling. Although she was bound, she seemed unharmed.

     John was nowhere to be seen, but I knew he was lurking around somewhere. Maybe I could get her untied and out of there before he returned. I started towards her, holding my finger over my mouth indicating that she should be quiet. The look in her eyes told me she understood. Then, the look turned to horror. Too late, I realized John was behind me. He had the champagne bottle in his hand and bashed me over the head with it. The bottle didn’t break, but the blow knocked me to my knees.

     I thought to myself, “Stupid, stupid, stupid! You should have taken him out first and then came back for Sally.”

     My self-assessment was right. I should have dealt with John first, but seeing Sally tied up like that did something to me. I couldn’t stand to see her like that. All that I could think about in that moment was getting her out of there. I had been sloppy and now it seemed like we would both pay for my mistake.

     He struck me with the champagne bottle again. Again, it didn’t break. This blow knocked me face-first to the floor and left me seeing stars. My head was spinning. Desperately, I tried to raise myself up. He rained a third blow down on the back of my head with the champagne bottle. This time the bottle shattered and as it did, my world turned to blackness.

     I don’t know how long I was unconscious, but it couldn’t have been too long. When I came to, I was in a heap on the floor where John had left me. My head was wet from a mixture of champagne and blood. I could feel a gash on the back of my head. I didn’t know how bad it was, but it felt as wide as the Grand Canyon. My head was pounding. I felt dizzy, nauseous, and my vision was blurry. I was certain that I had a concussion. I was just lucky that he hadn’t finished me off when he had me down. Who knows, maybe he thought I was already dead.

     I was aware of John standing in front of me. He was so fixated on Sally that he wasn’t paying any attention to me. He was talking to Sally. I strained, trying to gather my wits about me enough to understand what he was saying.

     He said, “I knew we were meant to be together. From the moment, I first saw you on tv, I knew you were the one. You’re always so nice and friendly on tv, not like all those other girls. That’s why I started following you. I followed from the studio to your apartment. Then I started following you every day. I would follow you from your apartment to the studio and back. It always made me feel so good when I saw you. I knew I had to ask you out, but there were always people around and I was too shy. That’s why I followed you here from California. I thought maybe here, away from everybody, I could actually get up the courage to talk to you. Then, it happened. Last week, you said hi to me at church. I was so happy! But there were still too many people around. I couldn’t say anything back. That’s why I brought you here. I found this place this week. Isn’t it perfect? Not another person around for miles. I had it all planned out. If I could just get you alone and tell you how much I loved you, I just knew you’d fall in love with me too.”

     This guy was a lunatic. He was an obsessed fan, who had fallen in love with the character Sally played on tv. God only knew what he expected her response to be when he professed his “love’ for her. I was terrified of what he might do, if she didn’t respond the way he wanted.

     I wasn’t going to have to wait long for her response. He said, “Darling, is there something you want to tell me? Hold on, let me remove the duct tape.”

     After he pulled off the duct tape, Sally remained silent. I don’t know what he thought that meant, but he leaned in to kiss her. As he did, she called him a freak, spit in his face and head-butted him in the nose, causing blood to splurt out.

     This was not what he expected. He backhanded her across the face, calling her a terrible name as he did. He screamed, “I thought you were different! You’re just like all the rest! You think you’re too pretty, too perfect for a guy like me! Well, I’ll fix that. Once I’m done with you, you’ll never want to show your face in public again!”

     With that, he produced a huge knife. He pointed the blade at Sally’s face and started to move towards her. He was going to maim her!

     She screamed and cried, “Please. Don’t. Don’t hurt me. I’m sorry.”

     With a sinister smile, he said, “Oh, you’re sorry now? Well, not as sorry as you’re about to be.”

     I had to do something. The trouble was, my brains were scrambled. I wasn’t even sure that I could make it to my feet. Even if I did, I was no match for him in this condition. What could I do?

     Sally screamed again. In a mocking voice, he said, “Hold still little girl, this might hurt”

     That was it. I couldn’t stand any more. I pulled my senses together as best I could and mustered all the strength I had left in my body. I scrambled to my feet and launched myself at him, tackling him from behind. Simultaneously, I grabbed for the wrist of the hand that held the knife and, with my last ounce of strength, forced it upward towards his chest. I must have caught him by surprise, but the momentum from my tackle sent us both falling forward as I forced his knife hand upward, which caused him to stab himself right through the heart. We landed in a heap on the floor which pushed the knife even deeper into his chest. We lay there on the floor like that for a moment with him lying face down and me face down on top of him and then a pool of blood began to form under him. He was dead.

     The physical effort had made the room start spinning again and I could see black around the edges of my vision. I looked up at Sally and said, “I’ll be right with you. I’ve just got to rest for a minute.” Then, the blackness enveloped me again.

     When I came to again, Sally was still tied up and John was still dead. I pulled myself together enough to realize I had to get her untied before I passed out again. The quickest way to do that was to cut the ropes and the only utensil I had to do that was John’s knife. I rolled him over and yanked the knife out of his chest. I made my way to my knees and cut the ropes on her ankles first. Then, I managed to get to my feet and I cut the ropes on her wrists. I dropped the knife and she stood up and hugged me tight. I was still pretty wobbly and she nearly knocked me down. I leaned on her and she wrapped her arm around me.

     As we walked out of the room, she looked back at John. She said, “Wow. My first obsessed fan. Maybe I don’t want to be an actress after all.”

     I didn’t know what to say about that, so I left it alone. I told her where I had parked my car and handed her the keys. I quipped, “I think you had better drive. I had too much champagne.”

     She smiled and helped me down the stairs and out of the house. The walk to the car seemed like miles, but we made it. She helped me into the passenger seat and drove us to the hospital.

     We both got checked out. She had not really been hurt as I had taken John out before he could touch her beautiful face with his knife. I, on the other hand, had a big gash on the back of my head that took several stitches to close up. I also had, as suspected, a concussion for which they kept me 24 hours for observation.

     Sally picked me up and drove me home the next day. On the way, she told me that after she had been abducted, the pastor had called 911 and gotten the police for her and an ambulance for Patty. Patty was ok; the shock had just caused her to faint. She said, “I’m ok too, thanks to you.”

     I just smiled at her and said, “What are friends for?”

8/13/2013 12:23:35 pm

I tagged you.


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