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“This all ends if you do what we tell you to,” said the voice on the phone.
Eve nodded into the receiver, her heart jack hammering in her veins. She hadn’t said anything in the last few minutes. How could she? Until this moment she hadn’t known if this was a practical joke or if she was in real danger.
The phone call had changed all that. This was real.
The photos had been slipped under her door while she slept. She was none the wiser as she tore open the envelope with avid fingers. Eve lived the fairytale life away from her past, well as fairytale as she’d ever let herself dream. There wasn’t a man in her life or untold wealth; all the same, it was plain freedom. That’s all she’d wanted, for the time being. That was the fairytale and as the blood slicked cold and thick in her veins she realised she’d been living the placebo version all along.
Her heart leapt out of her throat when she saw the photos. Oh no. They were black, white and grey like old school spy pictures and so clear, so very clear.
She was in all of them. She, guilty of nothing. She, guilty of association.
She thought she’d been cautious. She thought she’d been safe. She thought. The photos were followed by one singular line typed on the back.
We will contact you shortly.
Eve’s reaction had been imminent. Even if it was a joke, it meant her secret was no longer safe. It was a sick joke at best. She grabbed her bag and started packing.
Thirty seconds in, the phone rang.
On its first ring, Eve blanched, her neck craning to it, her expression frozen, hands trembling.
On its second ring, it sounded like a police siren come to collect her.
It rang one more time.
“Hello,” she’d hesitated. Her hands shook to the point she’d had to press the receiver hard against her cheek, pinching her out of any hope that it was a dream. It was a sick nightmare and she was squat in the middle of it.
“Eve,” the voice said, like Hamlet’s ghost in the middle of the night. “Don’t run Eve, we can see you. You cannot hide,” the voice was lazy deep with a slight hiss to it. She had the gut churning image of a man-eating Komodo dragon leaping out.
Her gaze scattered to her bedroom unit, to the windows, to the building opposite. As if she could feel those eyes on all sides. As if she could confirm it, she was boxed in. It was a feeling, one she couldn’t trust, an instinct she’d long learnt to ignore. She’d lived most of her life with that feeling and when it didn’t go away she’d had to bury it and move on. It came back today full on; no depth could bury that haunting prickling sensation on the back of her neck.
“We will find you again; we have the resources, no matter where you go.”
No matter where you go. Eve froze like a deer in headlights.
“These are your instructions,” hissed the voice.
Her chest beat so hard she could hardly what that was being said.
“Is that clear, darling?” said the voice. Darling? Eve stared at the receiver, her hand in a death grip, fist white. He’d called her darling.
“Yes,” she stuttered. She swallowed down and closed her eyes. The panic had flared overshadowing her thoughts. For the first time she had a second to process what was going on. “How did you find me?” her gaze skittered across the room again. If they could see her, from where were they watching her?
There was a piercing laugh on the other end, the Komodo had teeth.
“It was too easy. What you have to know is if we can find you others can too. Help us and we’ll make sure you stay off the radar next time.” Next time.
“And once I do as you say, you’ll leave me alone?”
“Then we’ll see.” There was an intake of breath on the other line as if the Komodo was about to widen its jaws and swallow her whole. “You will wait for further instructions.”
“Why me?” she stammered, “I’m just a temp.”
“Oh Eve, you’re more than that.”
“Please, I didn’t do anything”-Eve gripped the receiver hearing the dial tone.
The line was dead.
The blackmailer put down the phone.
The girl sounded scared and completely on edge. Good. It meant she had no control of her situation, none whatsoever, which meant he had it all. His source came through about the girl. She was a prime target who would be willing to do anything he wanted, they always were. It was merely a question of how far he could push her and where she would seek solace.
His fingers drummed along the bench. Indeed, there was something intriguing about her. All the others before her had had real secrets worth keeping, incriminating sick secrets. Eve’s secrets made her a victim, made her different and he would use that against her. She was young and pliable; he’d create a monster out of her yet, in due course…She was fresh meat.
He pulled back his sleeve staring at his silver wristwatch. Years of planning were finally falling into place and if all went accordingly, Eve would be the last part of that puzzle.