The Secret Admirer

“Hey baby.”

Chrissy’s eyes barely opened enough to make out the text on her phone. Who the hell would text someone at two in the morning? It must be a wrong number.

She put her phone back on her nightstand and rolled over.

Buzz. Buzz.

Chrissy picked up the phone again and saw “I miss you baby” staring back at her in her text notifications.

“I’m not your baby. You have the wrong number,” she responded.

Before she could turn the phone off, it rang. She answered it.

“Hello? I’m sorry. But I told you. You have the wrong number,” Chrissy said.

“No I don’t. Why are you being such a tease? You want me to come over, don’t you?” The voice was strangely familiar, but Chrissy couldn’t place it.

“No. I don’t know you. Please leave me alone.”

“You know who this is baby.”

“No. I don’t,” Chrissy insisted as goosebumps formed along her arms.

“You know me baby. And I know you want me,” he said.

“I’m hanging up now.” But he jumped in before she could.

“You do that baby. I’m just up the road at our favorite little pub. I’ll be at your apartment in less than five minutes.”

She froze as he hung up. She worked at a pub up the street from her apartment. She worried it wasn’t a wrong number after all.

Plenty of guys worked there and hung out there regularly. Staff contact information was easy to come by. It was kept behind the bar in case someone needed to call around for fill-ins. And anyone who saw her there could have followed her home to find out where she lived.

She grabbed her phone, purse and car keys and headed out her front door to the stairwell. But she saw headlights pulling into the parking lot in front of her building from the window there. That could be the guy.

She turned around and pounded on the door of her neighbor across the hall. If he was heading to her apartment, she wanted to be anywhere but there. The neighbor, a woman of around Chrissy’s age, answered just as the headlights dimmed. Seeing how frantic Chrissy was, she let her come inside.

Chrissy ran to the neighbor’s living room window that overlooked the front parking lot. She saw the man walk up to the exterior door. His face was highlighted by the floodlights pointing down at the doorway. He looked up towards the window where she stood.

She recognized him. He was a regular at the bar.

She was horrified to see him pull a key out of his pocket and use it to open the front door.

“Oh my god,” Chrissy cried. “I should call the police.”

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Chrissy could hear the man’s footsteps as he approached the floor of her apartment. She held her breath, not sure if he’d shout, bang on her door, or quietly leave if he couldn’t get in.

Instead, she heard a key go into the lock of her neighbor’s door. The doorknob slowly turned as Chrissy started dialing 9-1-1.

She stopped when her neighbor squealed.

“Oh sweetie, you almost scared us half to death” she said as she flung her arms around the man. “Chrissy, this is my boyfriend, Mike. You’ve probably seen him around.”

Chrissy let herself breathe again, pushing out a huge sigh of relief. Maybe it was a wrong number after all.

“Hey baby,” he said, turning his smile to Chrissy.

Her breath once again escaped her. She glanced out the window towards her car. It sat barely ten yards away, but, to Chrissy, even that suddenly looked like miles.


This story is loosely based on a real incident. The texts and call happened almost exactly like this, but dragged out over more and were far more lewd. The apartment setup here was based on mine at the time. And the pub scenario came from a similar incident related to my ex-fiance who worked in a restaurant very close to the apartment.

In my case, thankfully the individual on the other end of the line was too far away to show up. It was an ex who had been stalking me for about two years. After a long break where he’d finally left me alone, I didn’t recognize his voice, and he’d used a different phone number, though I did later get confirmation. At the time, the incident was rather unnerving. 

Sweets Thief

Every weekend when Maggie visited her grandfather, he let her choose any piece of candy she wanted from his sweets bowl. Her favorites were butterscotch candies, twisted in shiny golden wrappers.

Last weekend during Maggie’s visit, it disappointed her to find that he had run out of her favorite sweets.

“What’s wrong?” asked Grandpa, watching Maggie dig in the sweets bowl.

“I can’t find butter candy,” said Maggie.

“Butterscotch,” Grandpa corrected, helping her sort through the candies in the bowl. “Hmmm. I know I put some in there yesterday.” He couldn’t find any butterscotch left in the bowl either.

“Did you eat them all?” asked Maggie.

“No sweetie. I put some out just for you. Maybe I forgot to put them in the bowl. Let me check the kitchen.”

There was a small empty bag of butterscotch candies in the kitchen trash can. But where could they be if he didn’t put them in the candy bowl?

Her grandfather went back to the dining room to give Maggie the bad news. The butterscotch had vanished. And he had no idea what could have happened to them.

That is, he had no idea until he walked by the living room. A little flash of golden light caught his eye from near the window. He went over to investigate, and Maggie came running behind him.

It was a butterscotch candy, lying on the living room floor next to Grandpa’s favorite chair.

“Now how did that get here?” asked Grandpa.

“Look!” squealed Maggie, falling to the floor to crawl behind the chair. “Here’s another one!”

Her grandfather joined her on the floor, and sure enough, he pulled out several more pieces of golden candy. He reached under the chair too, and feeling a hole in the chair’s lining, he reached inside. When his hand emerged, it was filled with butterscotch, caramels, and other wrapped sweets.

“Why did you hide candy in your chair Grandpa?”

“I didn’t. But I think I know who did,” he answered, looking at the sofa across the room. There sat a gray ball of fur, watching them intently with an annoyed look on its face. “I don’t think old Dusty is happy that we found his secret stash,” he said.

Dusty forgave them quickly when Maggie crossed the room to give him a good scratch behind the ears. After all, he could find another hiding spot later.


 

Author’s Note: This story was inspired by a real “sweets thief,” my cat named Tubs. I used to keep wrapped candies out for guests, until I noticed that some had gone missing. It turns out Tubs had torn a hole in the bottom of my living room chair (which I didn’t even think he could get under at the time).

He would swipe wrapped candies one at a time and store them in the chair’s lining for later (along with other things, including money!). He never actually ate the candy, but instead thinks they’re toys because he likes the crinkling sound of the wrappers. Here’s a photo of Tubs with a caramel candy. 

Sweets Thief

Cozy

Beth inherited a cozy little cottage in a seaside village when her great aunt, Patty, passed away. That’s how the attorney described it at least. She hadn’t seen Aunt Patty for more than ten years when they both attended her parents’ funeral after a car accident.

It sounded like the perfect place to start over. Beth finalized a nasty divorce only a month ago, and she felt burnt out with her job on the anemic local police force. She needed to get away for a while.

Beth assumed her boss felt guilty for making her miss the funeral because it surprised her when he approved her request for time off. She took it as a sign, packed her bags, and drove north to New England, not stopping along the way despite the half a day’s drive.

“Cozy little cottage my ass,” Beth said as she pulled up to the property. It looked nothing like she imagined after talking to the lawyer. Shutters dangled on loose nails. The walls showed more exposed wood than paint. And overgrown hedges nearly blocked the path to the front door, which might have been a good thing because the gate on the picket fence had fallen off its hinges.

Beth couldn’t turn around and leave then, or she would have. She needed to rest after the long drive. I’ll just stay the night, she thought to herself. I’ll sort through some of Aunt Patty’s things tomorrow, and then I’ll go home.

The cottage’s interior rivaled what she saw outside. Floors creaked with every step. Much of the antique furniture sat in disrepair. She saw a puddle near one of the windows. No one thought to close it when her aunt’s body was taken away, despite it being the rainy season. Beth closed the window and rolled her luggage to the bedroom.

She turned on a lamp. I guess this is where Aunt Patty died, she thought. Just an observation, as Beth wasn’t easily creeped out. I might as well get started. The sooner I go through this stuff, the sooner I can leave and have it put on the market. She had no interest in making the fixer-upper a more permanent residence.

Beth started with the bedroom closet. She neatly folded Aunt Patty’s clothes, boxing them up for Goodwill. She came across some old family photos and other mementos from Aunt Patty’s, and her grandmother’s, childhood. I should hold onto these, she thought as she set them near her suitcase.

She went through the nightstand drawer next, finding some empty pill bottles but not much else. From the labels she could tell Aunt Patty suffered from a heart condition before her death.

By that point, several hours had passed and Beth felt drained. But the only thing left to go through in the bedroom was a secretary desk, so she pressed on.

The desk drawers overflowed with personal papers, from old letters to paid bills. Beth sorted them into two piles, things she could throw away and things she should keep for a while, like utility bills for accounts she would need to cancel.

As Beth began to close the secretary, another paper caught her eye, tucked tightly between the last mail slot and the edge of the desk. How did that get there? Beth wondered.

She removed the piece of paper and unfolded it. Her eyes widened as she read.

The paper contained her aunt’s handwritten will, signed by Aunt Patty and her lawyer just days before her death. But this will wasn’t the same one the lawyer showed her. It didn’t only leave her the cottage. It seemed Aunt Patty went on a casino trip with some of her church friends several months earlier, and she won big. Despite her modest surroundings, Aunt Patty was worth millions, and she left it all to Beth, her last living relative.

Beth took another look at the pill bottles in the nightstand drawer. A wave of sadness overcame her. Sadness, and anger. She unpacked her suitcase. She wouldn’t head home the next day. She would make herself cozy here after all. In the morning she would meet with her colleagues from the local police department. That, and she would confront Aunt Patty’s lawyer.

Falling Off the Wagon

A crowd gathered around The Wagon Wheel, a hundred foot tall ferris wheel at the Franklin County Fair. A passenger, twenty eight year old Rory Daniels, fell from one of the upper gondolas to his death.

The other passengers remained on the ride until police arrived to question witnesses. All the passengers stayed except Rosemary Wynn that is.

Rosemary, Daniels’ girlfriend, rode with him when he fell. The attendant let her off The Wagon Wheel, concerned keeping her on the ride in her hysterical state might result in another accident.

At least he assumed it was an accident. That’s what the police came to find out.

The Wagon Wheel’s record was clean: no injuries and no deaths, until that night. The gondolas didn’t pose a risk, as long as you followed the rules. No standing. No leaning over the edge. No shaking or swinging your car. For an accident like this to happen, the victim or someone else on the ride had to ignore those safety precautions. The police needed to investigate anyway.

They spoke to Rosemary first. She gave her account of what happened.

“I asked him to stop. I begged him to stop.”

“Stop what?” asked the officer in charge.

“Stop shaking the car.” She paused, trying to fight back tears. She lost that fight. “I asked him to stop shaking the damn car. He knew I was terrified of heights.”

“Then why did you get on the ride?” asked the officer.

“I didn’t want to. Rory wanted to go on The Wheel before we left, and they don’t let you get on alone.”

The officer looked at the ride’s operator who nodded to confirm the “no single riders” policy.

“I asked him to stop,” Rosemary said again. Her tears flowed harder as the emergency medical personnel moved Rory’s covered body into an ambulance. “I screamed at him to stop, but he wouldn’t quit messing around.”

It was clear he wouldn’t get much else out of the traumatized girlfriend, so the officer left her with a colleague while he talked to other passengers. Those not in a position to see or hear anything from their seats were sent on their way.

He started by talking to the riders in the cars on either side of Rory and Rosemary’s. They both confirmed Rosemary’s account of her shouting at her boyfriend. But other than hearing her screaming “Stop!” they couldn’t offer more insight into the conversation. Neither could view the victim’s gondola from their positions above and below. The riders above didn’t even realize what happened until the cars rotated so Rosemary could get off the ride.

The only other passengers who witnessed anything included three high school students whose car sat across from them, on the other side of the wheel. They heard Rosemary screaming but sat too far away to hear what she said. The girls did notice the car shaking though, with both Rory and Rosemary on their feet.

“I think they were fighting,” said one of the girls. The other two shook their heads in agreement.

“She was holding on,” said the second teen. “He kept grabbing her arms.”

“Maybe he tried to scare her,” said the last of the friends. “Like something my idiot brother might do. Then he fell.”

The officer glanced at the other girls and they continued to nod, signaling they witnessed the same incident. It sounded to him like Rory’s death was nothing more than an accident with a young man horsing around trying to freak out his girlfriend. He fell backwards out of the gondola while she held on and begged him to stop.

After offering condolences to Rosemary, the officer sent her home.

He went back to the scene the next day to meet with members of the forensics team. Mechanical failure and negligence on the part of the fair staff needed to be ruled out. But with consistent witness statements it seemed, to him, like an open and shut case.

That opinion was about to change.

Not fifty feet away from The Wagon Wheel, he noticed a familiar face: Rosemary’s. He didn’t think anything of it at first. She was just a grieving girlfriend, visiting the place where she last saw her boyfriend alive.

Then he caught it. A hint of a smile crossed her face before she finished off an ice cream cone and got in line for the fair’s biggest attraction, The Wooden Racer. It was the fair’s roller coaster, the tallest one in the state.

The Big Win

Grandpa’s funeral occurred not even two weeks ago. Mom recently lost her job. And my parents forced Grandma to move out of her home, and in with us, because they didn’t think she could take care of herself without Grandpa. The atmosphere in the Tucker household was solemn at best.

That made it all the more surprising when dad came home from work looking ecstatic, calling for a family meeting.

Mom, Dad, Grandma, my brothers Frank and Bill, and I gathered in the living room for the big news.

“We won!” shouted Dad. “We friggin’ won!” He bounced around like an excited school boy.

“We won what?” asked Mom.

“The lottery! We won the lottery. With all the crap this family has been through, we finally caught a break. We won the damn lottery! Three million dollars!”

Dad’s frozen grin stared back at us as we all sat in stunned silence.

“No way,” said Frank. “You read the numbers wrong.”

“Yeah,” said Bill. “Let us see the ticket.”

Dad ran into the kitchen.

“Where is it?” he yelled from the other room. “Susan, where did you put the ticket?”

“I didn’t put it anywhere,” said Mom. “I read you the numbers when you called this morning, but I didn’t move it.”

Dad stormed back into the living room.

“Alice, Mom, boys.” He paused, looking each of us in the eye, one by one. “Where is the lottery ticket I stuck on the fridge?”

My brothers and I shrugged, and grandma flipped the television on, bored with her son’s tantrum. That’s when we saw the six o’clock news.

“A local church received a surprising gift today,” said the anchor. “An anonymous donor left a winning lottery ticket for the preacher — a ticket worth three million dollars. The church plans to use the money for much-needed repairs and outreach programs for the poor.”

My dad’s eyes looked like they might pop out of his head. I thought he might faint. His eyes darted around the room, wondering who robbed him of his big win.

I didn’t. My mom wouldn’t without consulting my dad first. And while my brothers always looked guilty of something, I doubted it was either of them. No, only one person could have donated the lottery ticket.

Grandma grinned, fixated on the local preacher gushing thanks on TV. She showed dad that day. Grandma was perfectly capable of taking care of herself, and still able to teach her son an occasional lesson.