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Joan pushed open the doors of her twenty-story office building; the cool October breeze hit her like a welcoming embrace. She loved the smell of the city; the smoke from thousands of car exhausts, the spicy aroma that floated from the hot dog vender's and occasionally the quick whiff of fresh air that only the most experienced New Yorkers can detect. Joan tightened her designer coat around her waist and clipped her knife onto her coat pocket. Ever since the accident three years ago, Joan could never be too careful. She always carried a knife on her person when she was in the city, and she even went as far as to become licensed to carry a handgun if she felt necessary.
Her black Prada heels created the familiar click click of a confident young woman of twenty-five who was headed quickly for a big promotion at Advance Publications. Her boss, Mr. Aarons said she was one of his most impressive journalists. Always going above and beyond to get all the information she could, then presenting it to the public in a style that captivated her audience. That was how he first heard of her- through her writings. He told her that he’d fallen in love with her because of the way she used words. “No! I will not let him invade my thoughts!” Joan thought with urgency. She was shaking her head clear when she bumped into someone on the street.
“Sorry!” she said immediately, turning to face the person she’d run into.
“It’s okay, it was my fault” the stranger said. Joan froze; that voice was so familiar. That voice belonged to a man who was supposed to be behind bars. That voice belonged to the one person who could bring fear faster than anything Joan had ever encountered. She looked at the stranger fully, only to realize that he wasn’t that man. Joan let out the breath she’d been holding in. She smiled at him and again apologized then started heading home again. She couldn’t let him get to her. He was in her past and he wouldn’t be able to ever get her again. She was about to turn the corner on to the street where the parking garage was located when she felt this pull to look back behind her. When she did, all the color drained from her face and a gasp left her lips. He was standing on the parallel street, directly across from her, smiling.
Joan quickly rounded the corner and put her back to the wall of the building. She tried to slow down her breathing. No! He can’t be out yet! He’s supposed to be in jail for life! She thought. Joan took a deep breath know full well what she was going to do. She let all the air rush out and peeked around the corner. A sigh of relief left her when she saw no one there, but that didn’t stop her from about-facing and heading for her car as quickly as possible. He was not there! It’s just your imagination! She began to curse the black pencil skirt she’d chosen to wear instead of the dress pants. She’d only worn the skirt in order to get Greg, a guy at her office, to notice her. He didn’t, and now she was starting to chafe. Joan shook her head trying to clear it. She didn’t have time to think about anything else but getting to her car.
When she finally made it to her car, she was almost completely drenched in sweat from physical exertion and fear. She felt like she was going in slow motion when she tried to unlock her car. She got in, checked the back seat, shut the door, and locked herself in, then laid her head on the steering wheel and tried to calm her breathing. Joan tried not to remember the last time she’d felt fear this great. She tried to focus on her breathing and clear her mind.
In, out, in, out, she told herself. You’re imagining things. Work has you stressed and working irregular hours. You’re just starting to hallucinate ridiculous things due to exhaustion! There is no way he is out of jail! With those lies set in place in her mind, Joan headed home. The lies didn’t stay long, and soon her mind wandered to that forbidden subject.
Joan started working at Advanced Publications when she was twenty-one. Her boss was so impressed with her writing that she was promoted quickly. Her works began to get published regularly, and she developed a major fan base. About a year after this, her boss wanted more readers and seeing that Joan was beginning to become more popular, urged her to start a blog under the company name. She did and it was a huge success. She encouraged her fans to either blog or write her the issues they wanted her to write about. Things were looking on the up and up, until she started receiving some disturbing messages and letters. They were all from the same person: Biggestfan<3. At first she just blew off the creepiness of the letters, thinking that they were from an easily excited fan. Then, the letters became more urgent and frightening. Biggestfan<3 would say things like “I wish I could see you” “You look very pretty in pastels” “One day we will be together, forever”. Joan thought she was handling it by gently replying back to him, but that only seemed to provoke him. He began writing more urgent letters, requesting that they meet, and if she’d only let him, how he’d make her the happiest woman on earth. She kept it quiet and away from her boss, until the day she accidently left a message up on her screen and his secretary found it. She was forced to tell the police about Biggestfan<3. Within a week the police traced the letters from a Mr. Derek Cole. He was a low level employee who worked in the office building next door to Joan’s. The police gave her a picture of him just in case he ever approached her. He was six feet tall, well built, dark brown shaggy hair with black eyes. He was exactly opposite to Joan’s five foot four, long blonde hair, and green eyed figure.
Even though she knew his description, and the police knew about him, he kept writing her. Then somehow he got her phone number, home, office and cell. She didn’t know how he was doing this of even why, all she knew is she wanted it all to stop! She remembered one phone call almost as if it had happen yesterday. She’d been keeping herself busy trying to forget him for a little while when the phone rang.
“Hello Joan, you look mighty lovely today. Is that a new suit?” a dark sadistic voice answered.
“Who is this? Derek?! You need to stop calling me!” Joan tried to speak calmly even though she could feel the terror creep up in her voice.
“No, you need to turn around,” he retorted.
“Turn around.” The line went dead. Joan slowly turned around to the window that faced another office building. She screamed as she saw him standing in that building directly across from her smiling. Security around Joan got tighter after that incident; but there wasn’t enough security to protect Joan for what happen next.
She’d been escorted home every night by an officer for three weeks since the phone call. Once in her house she was left alone, for an officer had been patrolling the perimeter all day. Tiny, her puppy wanted out, so she let him out into the back yard, but the door didn’t open with ease as it usually did. Joan peeked around to the outside of the door and let out a blood curling scream. The patrolling officer was leaning up against the door with his throat slit. Joan backed up crying until she slammed into something hard. She turned around and let out another scream. Derek was standing there, in her kitchen with a bloody knife. He moved fast for a man of six feet, snatching her up, tying her to a chair and gagging her so her cries were muffled. While he was doing this he kept telling her how much he loved her and how he wanted to spend an eternity with her and that the only thing that would separate them was death. He took his knife and cut her wrist, then his and pressed them together, saying they were now bound by blood. Joan never forgot the crazy look in his black eyes, the look that chilled her down to the bones.
He kept her there for tied up in her own house for twenty-four hours before the police broke in and saved her. He went to jail, serving a life sentence. Joan went to a psychiatrist, trying to forget him. She was getting better every day, or at least that’s what her psychiatrist said. She still woke up screaming almost every night from vivid nightmares, although they’d subsided within the last year. She carried a knife for protection, even though she’d never used one. It made her feel safe.
She didn’t feel safe now, even with it clipped onto her pocket. No, Joan, he’s in prison serving a life sentence. He can’t get you anymore. You’ve been working really hard and this is just your mind playing tricks on you! She pulled her car into her driveway and parked it as she told herself those thoughts over and over again. Taking a deep breath, she got out of the car and walked quickly to her front door. As she open her door to a dark house, her cell phone began to ring.
“Joan? This is Detective Jones. I’m afraid I have some disturbing news.” The strong voice of the detective answered.
“What news?” Joan asked, feeling terror tingle down her spine.
“Derek Cole has escaped from jail.” Joan dropped the phone. He was out, and coming for her. Suddenly, a hand clamped around her mouth, quieting a startled scream. Derek bent down and whispered in Joan’s ear.
“Till death do us part.”