Things were fine for a few months, with nothing eventful happening. I found myself going crazy at the notion of not being able to do anything about what had happened. I’d forced myself to accept that the pool in the picture was a stand-in for the lake, and that this person had been watching us. I didn’t know what to make of the presents though. He’d already done…what he did to Roscoe. I thought maybe that was the present? But then he had already given the picture of the dog back to us when he gave us Roscoe, so that wasn’t it.
Also in this time, the kids went back to school, something I was especially apprehensive about. I had to quell my worries though, so as not to alert my wife as to why I didn’t want to leave my kids, ever. Luckily, as I said, for the first few months after summer, nothing happened. I was at a point where I felt more at peace than I had since this whole thing had started. Then, the Christmas season came.
We had just put our tree up, hung the ornaments and all. We had a nice family dinner that night, I remember it vividly. Everything was great. The kids were excited for Christmas, my wife and I were a little less excited for Christmas shopping at the sardine can we referred to as the Christmastime mall in our town. Our kids were doing great in school, my wife and I were excelling in our careers, and most importantly, there had been no contact with the stalker. The only thing that happened in this time of any importance was that my wife sort of called me out. She detected that something was wrong by my general attitude of worry all the time, but I played it off. We talked for a while, about all sorts of things, but we were happy at the end of the conversation. My rationale was that perhaps this was all over, why bring it up now?
That night, we all went to sleep happy. Now, I’m a heavy sleeper. That night, though, I woke up at about 3:30 in the morning. Normally if I wake up thirsty, I’ll just soldier through it and fall back asleep. For whatever reason, though, that night, I got up and went to the kitchen for water. As I went to walk back upstairs, something made me turn my head towards the tree. The moonlight coming in through the window illuminated the tree and that’s when I saw it. There was a present under the tree. I quietly but quickly made my way over to the tree, and picked it up. It was a small box, wrapped in green Christmas style wrapping paper. There was a to/from card with a bow tied through it, though the “from” was just a “ : )”. The “to” was to Katie.
I remember standing there for a moment in utter shock; this man had just been inside our fucking home. Before I did anything else, I went through the rest of the house, top to bottom, making sure he wasn’t still here. I went and checked on both the kids, as well as my wife. When I felt satisfied after what felt like an hour of useless searching, I went back to the “gift”. I tore off the wrapping paper and ripped open the box. Inside was an envelope and a videotape. Yeah, a videotape. Like what they used before DVD’s.
I opened the envelope, already knowing what it was going to be. Another one of my daughter’s drawings. I unfolded the paper and sure enough, this one was of a princess my daughter had drawn. The princess was dressed in a pink ball gown with a tiara and a wand. The addition to this drawing was what I’m assuming was a pool of blood beneath her, and in the corner a tiny drawing of the man himself holding what somewhat resembled a knife. This one really got to me. I didn’t know if my daughter had drawn that picture imagining herself as the princess, or if the man himself had seen it that way, I had no way of knowing. I got rid of the box and wrapping paper so my wife wouldn’t find it, and put the drawing and videotape in with my work things.
The next day, I went to a pawn shop and picked up a VCR. I got it for $3, can you believe that? Anyways, I went home while the wife and kids were gone, and went to the basement, just in case they came home. I hooked up the VCR to the older television we had down there in our makeshift rec room, and inserted the tape. Before I pressed play, a million different things ran through my mind. I wasn’t sure what I was about to be watching. All I knew is that I wasn’t going to like it. I was expecting to see video footage of my family shot from a hidden location.
The first image was of a dark room with a white sheet hanging over a wall, running onto the floor, like a green screen. A person walks out from behind the camera, but not far enough to make out any kind of description. He’s off to the very far left side of view, only his right shoulder is in the frame. I hear a creaking of some sort, like something opening. Then I hear whimpering. A little girl whimpering. I hear a voice whisper “Go.” and then out walks a little girl of about 8 or 9 dressed as a princess. She was a spitting image of my daughter’s drawing. Pink ball gown, tiara, and wand. She walked to the sheet and turned around, now facing the camera. Tears streamed down her face. The man went behind the camera and picked it up. His voice filled the hushed static that loomed over my basement.
He quickly whispered “Do it. Do what you’re supposed to do.”
The girl started outright sobbing. A hand flies into frame and smacks the little girl. It made me wince. She stopped crying and began to…”act”. She curtsied, and introduced herself as “Princess Penelope”. That was the title of my daughter’s drawing. Between sniffles, she went on to say how she was so happy she had been rescued by her prince, and how he had taken her to a huge castle to live happily ever after. She started sobbing again. The man’s voice spoke again, this time more sternly, though still in a whisper.
The girl sniffled herself back to a point that she could continue. “My…my daddy was mean though. He didn’t want the prince to rescue me.” My heart sank. I felt as if this was all allegorical to my daughter. The girl continued “So now, the prince is going to punish me because my daddy wasn’t nice to him.” The camera is set back on the surface it was on when the video started. The man then storms at the little girl and she screams, as he begins to stab her repeatedly.
I couldn’t watch, so I turned my head away. The sound was even worse. Her screams, they will never leave my mind. The man grunting as he thrust his knife into her will forever be burned into my ears. I looked back, because I had to know who this man was. Every part of me had hoped he was foolish enough to show his face on the tape, but I knew he wouldn’t. And of course, no such luck. In fact, he was wearing a mask of some kind. When he was finished, he intentionally walked around the camera’s line of sight, leaving only the poor girl’s lifeless body in the frame, before shutting the camera off.
I vomited. Repeatedly. Until there was nothing left in my stomach. The first thing I did was go to the police station. I regaled to them everything that had happened up to this point, from the car break-in to the dog, to this. Now that there was a murder, that definitely appeared legitimate and not staged, they seemed to take more of an interest. I told them I was keeping this ever-developing situation from my family, which they severely frowned upon and advised against, but said they would respect my decision, which I was very grateful for.
I got home later that day, and my wife asked where I’d been all day. I told her I went to conduct an interview with a detective for a project I was working on (I’m a writer). She bought it. That night, she asked me what was bothering me. A few years of marriage under our belts and this meant that she could read me like a book. I had to play it off. I told her I was frustrated with my current project, and was having a hard time moving forward. Being the amazing wife she is, she gave me some encouraging words which, had I actually needed them, would have cured the problem instantly. This of course weighed on my conscience. It was the first time since everything began that I was actually tempted to tell my wife about it. As I’ve said, deep down, I wanted to, but in some selfish sort of justification, I felt I was doing a good thing by keeping them in the dark. In retrospect, I would obviously have told my wife everything from the very beginning. This was just a scary time for me, I wasn’t exactly in my right mind. So give me a break.
About a week later, the detective in charge of my case called me. He basically told me they had nothing. No idea who the girl in the video was, as she didn’t match any missing children profiles in the national database. There was nothing that stood out about the room which the video was filmed in. The only reason they knew the video was filmed any time recently was because there was a pack of cigarettes in the corner of 2 frames of the video, which had a logo that was new to the brand. I asked for a police officer to be stationed down the street from my house and at my children’s school in unmarked cars, and they obliged.
After this, nothing happened until March. While the police hadn’t closed the case, it wasn’t at the top of their priority list any longer, as a lack of leads made it come to a head. We no longer had police watching our house or the school. The calls from the detective got fewer and farther between, until I didn’t hear from him at all anymore. I knew this wouldn’t last, though. Every day I felt like I was going to get another letter. Or rather, he was going to try to get another letter to my daughter. I had just been lucky enough to intercept them up to that point. But my luck ran out eventually.