Welcome back to Austen Promises!
Here is the beginning of Chapter 9.
For those who missed the first post, you can find it here.
The second post is here.
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With all the “excitement” of throwing up and sleeping all day, Liz totally forgot about the text messages she had received. That is, until she got another one, from the same number, the next day. This time, she did not reply, instead marking it read and ignoring it. She went about her day, pushing it to the back of her mind.
For several days in a row, Liz received these strange texts. She did not recognize the number. Part of her felt they were a wrong number kind of thing, but another part thought they had to be connected to the letters she had received, letters which had suddenly stopped coming once the texting had begun.
Eventually, though, Liz began to feel like she was going to have to do something about the messages. They began to be vaguely threatening, and made her uneasy. In the end, what to do was taken out of her hands when Will discovered the letters and photographs she had received.
On Thursday, as Liz and Will were getting ready to head to the airport and fly to Alabama, Will asked for her spare set of keys, which they always used on race weekends. Not thinking about the packet of envelopes in her purse, Liz gestured to where it sat on the dresser.
“It’s in the center pocket of my purse, I think.”
Will nodded, striding the two steps to the bag and unzipping it. When the keyring was not hanging from the hook, he began to pull items out and place them on the top of the dresser, beside the purse. When he picked up the bundle of letters, he paused, a crease forming between his eyebrows. Then, shrugging, he added them to the pile of other items and reached into the bag again, moving to the other pocket when the first revealed no spare key.
This time, the first thing Will found was a set of photographs. He was about to set them down when he noticed who was featured in them. “Whoa,” he exclaimed. “What the -!” He turned, pictures in hand. “Where did you get these?”
Liz looked over her shoulder and did a double take when she realized what Will was holding. She sighed deeply, dropping her chin and looking forward again. “They’re nothing. Someone’s sick idea of a prank.” She began stuffing items into the suitcase that sat on the bed in front of her.
“How long have you had them?” Will was disturbed and angry. He knew they were doctored, because he did not recognize the women who hung all over him in the pictures. However, he well remembered Liz’s reluctance to trust him when they first began dating. He didn’t think she’d suddenly distrust him after all this time, but you never knew. Plus, Will was well enough acquainted with the behavior of overly zealous fans and stalkers to know that the images could well be the work of a person with a demented mind and a tendency toward violence. “How did you get them?” Will strode to Liz’s side, examining her expression as she continued to fold clothes and arrange them in the case.
Liz shrugged at her husband’s questions. “They came in the mail. They’re nothing, Will. At best, they’re old photos taken before you met me.”
“I have no idea who these women are. I’ve never seen them before. Are there more?”
When Liz hesitated, Will recalled the packet of envelopes he’d pulled out of her purse. He returned to the dresser and dug through the pile until he found them. Removing the rubber band, he kept the top one in his hand and dropped the rest. Sure enough, he pulled out a photograph of himself and another woman, along with a piece of paper, which he immediately read. His eyes bulged as his blood pressure rose. “What the-?” He exploded as he began ripping apart more envelopes and reading the messages.
Liz rushed to Will’s side and tried to take the messages and photos away. “Honest, Will. It’s just some crazy person trying to mess with my mind.”
“Bull,” Will roared as he slid the pile out of Liz’s reach. “You don’t have experience with crazy. I do. This is not something you can just ignore and it will all blow over! How long ago did this start?”
Liz stared at her husband for a full minute before reluctantly admitting, “A couple of weeks ago.” She shrugged again and gestured to the pile. “I have not responded or anything, just kept them all in my office. I forgot to take them out or you’d have not found them at all.”
Will counted the envelopes. “How often did they come? What days? When did you get the last one?”
Liz turned red at Will’s interrogation, her features forming a scowl. Her hands fisted, landing on her hips “None of your business,” she snapped. “You’re blowing this all out of proportion. I’ve ignored them, for the most part, and so should you.”
“What do you mean it’s none of my business? Everything to do with you and your safety is my concern, and I’m not blowing it out of proportion! Stalking always begins with small things, but eventually, it moves on to bigger. You could be in danger, and you’re running around completely unprotected!”
Will could feel a vein in his neck throbbing. The urge to shake Liz was strong, but he knew better than to try; besides the fact that it would not solve the problem, it would make her angry and cause her to refuse to listen, which would potentially put her in even more danger. He looked away and took a deep breath. Letting it out, he tried to speak calmly. “Listen, I have been stalked. I know how it goes. Remember what I told you about Charles’ sister? She started out with small stuff similar to this. She left notes on my car, in my motorhome, and on my desk at the shop. When that did not garner her the attention she wanted, she began doing other things, like texting me and showing up at the shop on Tuesdays and trying to intrude on team meetings. She even got herself hired to work in Hospitality.” Will shoved his empty hand through his hair.
“I love you, and if anything happened to you, I’d never recover. Not fully. I’d walk around half a man, if I didn’t curl up and die alongside you.” Will took another deep breath. When he spoke again, his voice had turned pleading. “Help me, Liz. Help me protect you.”
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