Standing on the corner with her heart pounding Ellen considered her options. She felt like running but she was wearing heels. She turned away and crossed the street trying to act casual. Willing herself not to look back she began calculating the distance to the next major street in her head.
Picking up her pace a bit when she was out of sight of the cross street she finally succumbed to the urge to look back. Dear god, he was following her. At a leisurely pace, but following just the same. She prayed a taxi would come along but the street was virtually deserted.
Continuing down the street at a quicker pace now she tried to calm herself. He wouldn’t dare attack here in the open if that was what he intended. There was too much chance of someone seeing him. Every business she passed was closed. She tried to remember if there was restaurant or pub down this way; perhaps she could lose him by ducking in to one.
Crossing the street at the next intersection she glanced behind her again. He was still coming, but seemed in no hurry. She was about to continue when her brain registered a neon sign that was lit on the side street she was now just past.
Turning abruptly she hurried back to the corner and toward the sign. It was a restaurant and as she got to it someone inside was turning the sign over to say they were closed. She banged frantically on the door and a waitress pulled the curtain aside and peered out at her.
Gesturing that she needed to get inside she saw the waitress shake her head and mouth the word sorry. Beside herself now Ellen screamed loud enough to be heard through the glass.
“Please, help me, I’m being followed.”
The waitress hesitated and then nodded and unlocked the door. Rushing inside Ellen gushed her thanks and explained what was happening. Coming out of the kitchen the owner had overheard the story and rushed over to console her.
“Don’t worry, you’re safe in here. I can call the police if you like.”
“I don’t know if you should. He hasn’t done anything, it’s just that I saw him staring at me last Friday night in a pub and I think he’s been stalking me but I can’t be sure. I don’t know what to do.”
The owner nodded and thought for a moment.
“I’ll go outside and see if there’s anyone out there.”
Shrugging, he came back in a minute later.
“There’s no one out there, Miss. Are you sure you were being followed?”
“Of course I’m sure. Look, I’m not making this up, I was in danger!”
The owner and waitress exchanged a brief look and Ellen felt foolish.
“Look, if I could stay in here a few minutes I would be really grateful. In fact, if you could call me a taxi that would be great.”
“Sure, no problem. Have a seat. Melissa will get you a glass of water, or a glass of wine if you like. It’s on me.”
He left to make the call and Melissa got her a glass and sat with her while they waited. When the cab came she thanked them both profusely and left for home. When they arrived she asked the driver to wait until she was inside before leaving.
Walking up the path she realized she had forgotten to retrieve her mail and went back to the box. There was a small envelope without a stamp on it. She took it out and opened it and read the one sentence written on the crisp white vellum inside and felt her face go white.
I want to smell your blood.