Chapter Forty-Four

February 21, 2002

Over the next few weeks, Rose gave Lovejoy copies of all of the letters, cards, and e-mails she had received from her stalker. She also took note of the time of every obscene phone call, and the number it came from if the caller ID showed it.

Lovejoy reported to her that Cal hadn't shown up at the tennis courts since the day Rose had confronted him, but he did show up at the country club on a regular basis—often while Rose was there. Rose glimpsed him in the restaurant one night while having dinner there with her mother, but other than that, she didn't see him at the country club.

Nevertheless, he still showed up at other places that Rose and her friends frequented—most often while Lovejoy was at work at the country club, making Rose wonder if he'd found out that he was being investigated. Once, Rose was sure she saw him watching her house from his car, but the car drove away before she could be sure—after all, luxury cars were common in her neighbourhood, and she didn't get a chance to see the license plate.

Rose tried to stay with other people as much as possible, even going grocery shopping with her mother—one of her least favourite activities—rather than staying home alone. Sometimes she felt like she was imposing on her friends because she was with them so often, though they insisted that she wasn't.


Rose was changing back into her regular clothes after cheerleading practice when her cell phone rang. Aggravated, she picked it up, expecting another obscene phone call—when she had turned her phone on after school, there had been seven messages on her voicemail, all of them nothing more than heavy breathing.

To her surprise, the call was from her mother's office. Hitting the talk button, she asked, a bit uneasily, "Mom? What's going on?"

"I have a meeting tonight—my boss just called it. It may run a little late—are you going to be okay alone?"

Rose bit her lip, glancing at Dawn, who was watching her with concern. "How late might it run?"

"Probably not later than eight o'clock, but I can't make any promises."

"Are you sure you have to go to this meeting? You can't say you're sick or something?"

"I wish I could, Rose, but I suspect my boss would make me go anyway."

"I don't suppose I could come to your meeting."

"No…it's confidential company business."

"Mom…I got seven heavy-breathing voicemails today." Rose's voice shook. "I can't be alone…what if he shows up at the house?"

Ruth was silent for a moment. "See if you can stay with a friend…I'll call you when I come home, and we can call Spicer then to see what he's come up with."

"Mom, please…"

"Stay with a friend. Bring them over to the house if it makes you feel safer."

"Can I invite Jack over?"

"Rose…"

"We won't do anything, Mom. I promise. He might not even be able to come…he might have to watch his cousins or something."

"Rose, you know how I feel about you having a boy over when you're alone."

"Jack's nothing like Cal, Mom. He won't hurt me."

"Nevertheless…"

"Please, Mom? I'd feel better if someone was with me."

"Rose, I really don't think…" Ruth hesitated, then finally relented. "All right, Rose. Just this once. But if I find out you've done something I don't want you doing…"

"Nothing's going to happen, Mom. I promise. If Jack comes over, we'll just…study, and eat, and maybe watch a movie. We won't even watch a romantic movie. Jack thinks they're boring anyway."

Ruth sighed. "Okay, Rose…but if you watch a movie, watch it downstairs, not in your room."

"We will, Mom. And if he can't come over, I'll…I'll go to the library or something. Someplace where there's people."

"Call me when you decide what you're going to do. Even if I'm in the meeting by then, I'll still take your call."

"Okay, Mom. Thanks. I'm not trying to cause trouble; I just don't want to be alone."

"I know you don't, Rose. Whatever you decide to do, stay alert, and if you feel threatened, call the police, then call me."

"I will." Rose's phone beeped, indicating that the battery was almost out. "My phone's about to die, Mom. I'll talk to you later."

"Okay, Rose. Stay safe."

"I will. Bye, Mom."

"Bye."

Rose turned off her phone, then turned to Dawn, who had been listening to Rose's side of the conversation. "Mom's got a meeting tonight. She might not be home until eight or later."

"So you're going to invite Jack over?"

"Mom said it was okay. She doesn't like me having boys over when I'm home alone since what happened with Cal, but she knows I don't want to be alone, and Jack's nothing like Cal."

Dawn grinned, trying to lighten Rose's mood. "Alone, in the evening, with your boyfriend…"

"Nothing's going to happen. Mom would kill me if I wound up like you."

"Oh, thanks a lot!" Dawn scowled at her. "Did you tell her?"

"No…but you haven't made up your mind yet about what you're going to do…and if you decide to have the baby, people are going to find out."

"I know…but that still doesn't help me make up my mind. I don't know if I'm ready to raise a baby, though."

"Then that leaves you with two options…or three, if Tommy is willing to take the baby. What has he said about it?"

"He said he'll support whatever decision I make, but hasn't said what he thinks I should do."

"No pressure, huh?"

"No help, either. I actually have a doctor's appointment in half an hour, and he's going to meet me there. Then we'll talk about what to do." She glanced at her watch. "I need to get going."

"I'll walk with you to the parking lot. Can I borrow your cell phone to call Jack?"

"Sure." Dawn handed it to her. "How come you can't hang out with Helga or Fabrizio?"

"They have some kind of reception for foreign exchange students and their host families tonight. And Tommy said earlier that you two were doing something this afternoon, so I knew I couldn't stay with you."

Rose punched Jack's number into the cell phone and put it to her ear.

"Hello?" a little voice answered.

"Hi. Is Jack there?"

"He's doing his homework," replied the voice on the other end.

"Well, can I talk to him, Sandy? This is Rose."

"Yeah." There was a moment of silence, broken only by the sound of pounding feet. Then Rose heard Sandy screech loudly into the phone, "Jack! Your girlfriend's on the phone!"

"Gimme that." Rose could hear Jack arguing with his young cousin over the phone. "No, you can't tell her what you did at preschool today. She called me." There was a wail from Sandy. "Okay. Fine. You can tell her, but make it quick. I want to talk to her."

Sandy came back on the phone. "He says I can tell you what I did at preschool today."

Rose sighed. "Okay, Sandy. What did you do?"

"I drew a picture of you and Jack! Only Danny wouldn't share the red crayon, so I made your hair purple, and he wouldn't share the yellow crayon so I made Jack's hair pink."

Rose couldn't stifle a giggle at the thought of Jack with pink hair. "That's cute, Sandy. Can I talk to Jack now?"

"Okay."

A moment later, Jack picked up the phone. "Hey, Rose. What's going on?"

"Mom called and said she has a meeting this evening, and she said that since I didn't want to stay home alone, I could invite you over."

"Your Mom's letting you have a guy over when she's not home?" Jack sounded a bit shocked.

"I promised we wouldn't do anything—I said we'd just study, eat, and maybe watch a movie. She made me promise we'd stay downstairs, too."

"Let me ask my aunt if I can go over there."

Rose waited while Jack went to find his aunt, hoping that she'd let him stay with her. After a moment, she heard muffled voices over the phone, and then Jack came back on the line. "Rose?"

"What did she say?"

"She said I could go over to your house, but I have to home by nine because it's a school night."

"Mom thinks her meeting will probably be over by eight."

"How long does it take her to get home?"

"About half an hour or so, depending on traffic."

"Then I'll have time to get home before nine, and you won't have to be alone."

"I got seven heavy breathing voicemails on my cell phone today."

"He's getting worse all the time, isn't he?"

"I just hope Mr. Lovejoy can find some proof that he's the one doing this. I think that's the only way the police will believe me."

"It'll be okay, Rose. We're all there for you."

"I know you are." Rose stopped when she reached Dawn's car, which was just a few spaces away from her own. "Do you need me to pick you up, or can you drive yourself?"

"I can drive myself."

"Okay. If you're not there when I get to the house, I'm just going to stay in the car until you get there. I'm not going to give Cal a chance to wait in the dark for me. Since he always seems to know where I am, he might know that Mom is at a meeting and think it's a good time to get me."

"I'll be there as soon as I can, okay?"

"Okay. I love you, Jack."

"I love you, too, Rose, and I'll see you in a few minutes. Let me just get my books together so I can finish my homework at your house."

"Sure. Bye, Jack."

"Bye."

Rose hung up and handed the phone back to Dawn, who was looking at her worriedly.

"What?"

"Do you want me to follow you to your house to make sure Cal isn't around? I can stay until Jack gets there."

Rose shook her head. "No. It's okay. I don't want you to be late for your appointment, and Tommy is probably waiting for you."

Dawn sighed. "Okay, Rose, but seriously, if anything happens, call me. Actually, call me later anyway, after Jack leaves. I want to know how it went without your mom around."

"Nothing's going to happen!"

"You just keep reminding yourself of that." Dawn grinned at her as she got into the car. "Remember, I want every detail."

"Dawn!"

"Have fun, Rose." Dawn closed the door and started the engine, waiting until Rose got into her own car before driving away.


By seven o'clock, Jack and Rose had both finished their homework and were sitting on the couch in the living room, watching a DVD of Pearl Harbor. Rose leaned comfortably against Jack while he played with the remote, trying to skip the warnings about copyright.

Rose had put a bag of popcorn in the microwave, so when she heard it beep, she got up to get it from the kitchen while Jack gave up on trying to skip the warnings and just let the DVD play.

Rose walked into the kitchen, reaching for the light switch as she did so. She stopped, suddenly alert, as she realized that she had left the kitchen light on—and she had been the last person in there.

When she switched the light on, she saw the person standing near the stove, his eyes squinted against the sudden bright light.

"What are you doing here?" Rose demanded, her voice loud and shrill as she stared at Cal, wondering how he had gotten in.

"I just want to talk to you—"

"Get out! You aren't supposed to be here!" When Cal moved towards her and grabbed her arm, she screamed. "Jack!"

The kitchen door burst open as Jack, wielding the remote as though he planned to hit someone with it, came running in. He took one look at Cal and Rose, dropped the remote, and launched himself at Cal, making him lose his grip on Rose's arm.

"Rose! Call the cops!" he shouted, trying to propel him towards the basement door, which was standing open, a cold draft emanating from it. Rose realized how Cal had gotten in—someone had either forgotten to lock the outside door to the basement or had left it ajar, allowing him to sneak in when he thought only she would be home.

Rose ran for the phone as Cal broke away from Jack and gave him a shove, knocking him back against the counter and heading for Rose again. Jack recovered quickly, turning on Cal with his fists and driving him away from her.

She grabbed the kitchen phone and dialled 9-1-1. "Pick up! Pick up!" she begged, watching as Cal hit Jack back.

After two rings, someone answered. "9-1-1. Please state your emergency."

"My ex-boyfriend broke into my house and he tried to grab me. He's fighting with my new boyfriend right now!"

Rose looked up as Jack shoved Cal against the counter again, trying to pin him there. Her eyes widened in horror as she saw Cal grab a knife from the rack above the counter. "Jack, look out!" she screamed.

Before the warning was fully out of her mouth, Cal lunged at Jack with the knife. He jumped back, holding his hands up to defend himself and receiving a stinging cut to one hand. Cal charged blindly at him again, this time piercing through the thin fabric of Jack's shirt and stabbing him in the stomach.

Jack dropped to his knees, his eyes wide with shock as he clutched his stomach, his hands quickly turning red with blood. Cal stared at him, looking almost as shocked as Jack, then dropped the knife and ran for the basement door.

"Ma'am? Ma'am, what's going on?" the 9-1-1 dispatcher asked.

"Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Cal—he…he just stabbed Jack in the stomach. Send an ambulance! He's bleeding all over the place!"

"Ma'am, try to stay calm. Is this your address?" The dispatcher read off a street number.

"Yes…yes, it is—Jack!" Rose dropped to her knees beside him, the phone cord stretched almost as far as it would go. "There's blood everywhere…send someone quick—hurry!"

"Ma'am, please stay on the line until the police get there. I'm sending them now."

"And an ambulance! We need an ambulance!" Rose grabbed a dish towel and pressed it against the wound in Jack's midsection, trying to stop the bleeding.

"I've called an ambulance, too."

Rose dropped the phone as she crouched beside Jack, who was lying on the floor, his hands clutching at the towel she was pressing to his stomach. His face was pale, and he moaned in pain as she pressed the towel harder against the wound.

"Jack!" Rose took one hand off the towel and touched his face. "Don't pass out on me, Jack. There's an ambulance coming."

He groaned again, trying to push her hand away from his stomach. "That hurts…shit, that hurts…" His voice was weak.

"It's going to be okay, Jack. They'll be here in just a few minutes. Just…just hang on."

"Rose…"

"You'll be okay. I know you will. You have to be!" Rose took both of his hands with one of hers and pressed the other against the blood-soaked towel again.

"They…they have to believe you now, don't they? Now that he's…hurt somebody else…"

"I hope so. God, I hope so. Just hang on, Jack. I think I hear a siren."

Jack didn't reply. He had fainted.


Two minutes later, the doorbell rang. Realizing that the front door was locked, Rose got to her feet and, with a last glance at Jack, rushed to open it, taking only a moment to make sure it wasn't Cal.

"He's in here!" She rushed to the kitchen, the paramedics following her.

Rose knelt down beside Jack again, pulling the blood-soaked dish towel away. "Jack!" She shook him. "Jack!"

"Young lady, we need you to move out of the way." One of the police officers took her by the arm, trying to lead her away from Jack.

"Jack!"

"Let the paramedics help him, young lady." He pulled her away from Jack, stumbling over the phone Rose had dropped on the floor.

"Oh!" Rose bent to pick up the phone. "Are you still there?"

"Yes, ma'am. Have the police arrived?"

"Yes, and the paramedics. Thank you."

"You're welcome, ma'am. I'm hanging up now."

"Okay." Rose hung the phone up. Turning to the cop who had pulled her away from Jack, she said, "It was Cal who did this! Caledon Hockley, my ex-boyfriend! I've complained about him before, but you guys never listened—"

"Let's get him taken care of. Then I'll take your statement. Is the perpetrator still here?"

"He ran into the basement and is probably far away by now." Rose pointed to the basement door.

The cop went to the basement door, stepping inside cautiously, then flipping on the light and looking around. "There's no one there, but the outside door is open."

"What if he's still in the yard?"

"I'll take a look."

A few minutes later, as the paramedics wheeled Jack's gurney towards the front door, the police officer returned, a shocked Ruth following him in the door.

"Rose, what is going on here?"

"Mom!" Rose ran to her mother and hugged her. "It was Cal! He got in through the basement and tried to grab me, and then Jack hit him, and then he stabbed Jack with one of the kitchen knives…" She turned, pointing to the blood-stained knife. "He threw it over there before he ran away." She looked at the cop. "Did you see him? Was he still in the yard?"

"I didn't see anybody, but a couple of other officers are looking around."

Rose broke away and raced to the front door, watching as the paramedics placed Jack in the ambulance and shut the doors. Ruth followed her a moment later, restraining her as Rose started out the door.

"Mom, I need to be with him. This is my fault!"

"It isn't your fault, Rose, and you need to let them take him to the hospital." Ruth held onto her daughter.

"I'm going to follow them!"

"No, you aren't. I don't want you driving in this state."

"But, Mom, Jack needs me!"

"Rose, listen to me." Ruth made Rose turn to look at her. "He needs more help that you can give. Let them take him to the hospital where he can get the help he needs. I'll drive you there as soon as the police are finished here."

"Mom, please…"

Ruth gripped Rose's shoulders and shook her slightly. "Rose, I need you to calm down. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly."

"Mom…" Rose sagged in defeat. "I need to be there. What if he…" Her voice broke. "What if he dies?"

"The doctors will do everything they can for him." Ruth gave her daughter a hug. "Now, why don't you sit down and give the police a statement?" Ruth steered her towards a chair. Looking into the kitchen, she told her, "They're dusting for fingerprints now. This time, they'll have solid evidence that Cal's the one who's been stalking you."

Rose sat down on the couch in the living room and stared blankly at the movie that was still playing. Ruth turned the television off and sat down beside her, putting an arm around her as the police officer Rose had first spoken to sat in a nearby chair, a pad of paper and a pen in his hands as he prepared to take her statement.