Rochelle Turner sits in her idling gray sedan, gas tank full, almost a block from the house of Mercer Evans. According to the professional profile she found online, he works as a document specialist. A simple call to his company asking to be transferred to him had resulted in his voicemail, which stated that he worked third shift and was normally in the office from 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM. Rochelle blocked her number in case the company’s phone system had caller ID.
She would have preferred to tail him after he left work but knew that staking him out on private property was illegal. She also didn’t know what he drove; he was noticeably absent from casual social media, and the only picture she had been able to find of him had been on his professional profile. That only left her the option of waiting near his house.
It’s 7:00 AM now. Rochelle hopes that Mercer comes straight home, although she’s been in the PI gig long enough to know that she can’t expect anything. She once waited a full eight hours for someone without seeing a thing, breaking only for ten minutes when she left to use the bathroom at a fast food place. When she has to, she can run on very little water.
Another hour goes by. Still no Mercer.
Rochelle is grateful that she’s a PI in the age of portable computers and widespread internet availability. With her tablet online thanks to her phone’s ability to act as a Wi-Fi hotspot, Rochelle can update client documentation in the cloud and research people from anywhere in Riverside. She even has a case for the tablet with a bluetooth keyboard so she doesn’t have to type at a snail’s pace.
9:00. A few dozen cars have gone by, but none turned out to be Mercer. Rochelle completes her digital action list for work and shifts to a favorite website where people share and rate recipes. She finds one for shrimp gumbo that sounds amazing and pins it for later reference.
It’s nearly 10:00 when a muscle car around twelve years old snarls its way down the street. Rochelle’s instincts tell her it’s Mercer well before he pulls into the correct driveway. She locks her tablet and closes its case, setting it aside. Picks up her binoculars.
The subject stops in the driveway. Rochelle makes a mental note that he doesn’t park in the garage.
He gets out. Through the binoculars and her tinted windows, Rochelle makes the ID. Mercer Evans. He raises his left palm to pat his ear, which looks red and angry. Despite that, Mercer carries himself with the complete self-assurance Karen mentioned, but even stronger than Rochelle anticipated. She wonders if he completed a work assignment that was especially gratifying or perhaps triumphed in a difficult social situation.
Mercer enters his house. The frontside windows are unobstructed by blinds or curtains, and she sees him walk through what she assumes is the living room. He returns, one hand pressing a toweled bundle to his ear and the other grasping the necks of two glass bottles that Rochelle guesses are beer.
As Mercer moves to a spot that likely has a couch, he sits, disappearing from view. While Rochelle waits, she hooks the binoculars onto a special latch on the center console and picks up her tablet to document her observations of Mercer Evans. She types while keeping her eyes on his house, only occasionally lowering her gaze for brief moments to ensure she hasn’t made any major blunders. She’ll fix the minor stuff later.
Hefting her digital camera and its weighty telephoto lens, Rochelle snaps a rapid-fire series of Mercer’s car. She leans forward to capture the images through her untinted windshield, which improves clarity but still won’t let her see the license plate. She hopes he leaves so she can tail him and eventually add the plate to her album.
Photographing the car reminds her of the search results for Mercer’s criminal and civil records. No real trouble since his incarceration in Nevada save for a couple tickets for parking and one for speeding. Rochelle is shocked that Mercer has either controlled himself to such an extent or been very lucky about avoiding law enforcement.
Noon rolls around. Rochelle hasn’t seen anything more exciting than Mercer moving to the kitchen and coming back to the couch with some manner of lunch.
A little after one o’clock, Rochelle sees Mercer coming back to his front door. She sets equipment aside and clicks her seatbelt. Her adrenaline hits a minor spike just thinking about doing a tail. It’s the most exciting part of her job, having no clue where a subject will go, feeling the pervasive concern that she might lose them or they might realize what she’s doing.
Mercer’s muscle car roars to life. Rochelle’s pulse quickens.
Mercer backs up. Which way, Mercer, which way… she thinks.
He angles the back of the car away from her.
Shit. He’s coming this way.
Rochelle previously scouted the neighborhood with online maps. There’s not really a clear way he “should go” when he gets to the intersection behind her, although the street one block to the east draws more traffic.
She punches it and reaches the intersection ahead of her at about the same time he gets to his. He doesn’t use a turn signal. Neither does she. He starts to turn left. East. Rochelle makes a lightning-fast check to the west; still no traffic. She turns right, gunning it.
Half a block to the next street. Being a somewhat major vein for that part of the city, it’s a four-laner.
Rochelle has no clue whether to turn left or right, and there’s a car in each lane. Fortunately, nobody is behind her. She stays in the right lane, back a bit so she can shift over if necessary. She peers south, eyes narrowed, breathing shallow.
Mercer’s car. He catches the end of a green light and turns right, pulling into the outside lane. Shit, she repeats in her mind, her favorite and most commonly used swear word.
Rochelle’s in the correct lane, but can’t turn because the car ahead of her is going straight.
She glances at the indicator light for the crosswalk that dissects her lane. It’s flashing an orange hand, blessedly accompanied by orange numbers counting down. Nine seconds.
Rochelle looks again in Mercer’s direction. She still sees his car. The stoplight ahead of him, two intersections from Rochelle, turns yellow with plenty of distance to catch him. She blows out a breath of relief.
Four. Three. Two. One.
The car ahead of her takes two years to accelerate through the intersection. Rochelle’s tires briefly squawk as she nearly brushes the car’s bumper and revs the corner.
The stoplight ahead is green, but its crosswalk lights are counting down and already at six.
Shit shit shit! It’s only a city block, but it seems a mile long.
Rochelle rockets to seven past the speed limit, the most she’s willing to go over.
A slower car is in her lane. Rochelle intuits that the driver is not planning to make this light. She swerves left just a hair less quickly than what she knows would draw the attention of a police officer, managing one blink of her turn signal.
She still feels a football field away.
Rochelle’s eyes are stuck to the bright yellow circle. Please don’t change please don’t change please don’t change.
She’s through. Her heart thunders. She doesn’t think it turned red while she was in the intersection.
Top priority is Mercer. She spots him, his light just changing to green.
Second priority is the law. She glances frantically around. No flashing lights, no chirps or woops.
Rochelle Turner grins and makes a sound that is half laughter and half gasp.
She slows it down. Stays in her lane, not switching to Mercer’s for a block and a half.
Two cars separate them. One turns right, increasing the distance between her and Mercer. She thinks of passing the remaining car but knows it would look suspicious if he were paying attention, so she deals with the added stress. All part of the game, the rush.
He puts on his right turn signal. The inconsistency with which many drivers use their signals is so common for Rochelle that it doesn’t even register.
She also puts on her right signal. Slows down.
Mercer turns. The car between them continues on. Rochelle turns.
Sterling Springs. A nursing home.
Rochelle is briefly surprised that someone like Mercer would be sentimental enough to visit a nursing home, but then she checks her assumptions and acknowledges that even the most violent citizens will visit elderly people they truly love.
Mercer parks. Rochelle picks a spot some distance away that still lets her see his car — and, thankfully, his license plate. He goes inside; she immediately lifts her camera and shoots the plate.
Her bladder sends a clear signal that Rochelle has neglected it long enough, somewhere on the order of six and a half hours. Gambling that Mercer will stay in Sterling Springs for at least twenty minutes, Rochelle zooms to the nearest fast food place and hits up the restroom. No need to grab food; there’s plenty in her car. She’s back to the nursing home in under fifteen. Mercer is still there.
Mercer doesn’t come out until 2:27. Wow, over an hour, she thinks.
The tail is back on, although far less thrilling than the prior one. In just a few minutes, Mercer pulls into Randy’s World, seller of porn and toys for adults. Rochelle smirks. “Of course,” she says. While Mercer is inside, she takes photographs that feature his car and the store.
Mercer emerges a short time later with an unmarked brown bag. It’s wide and tall but rather thin, just the right size for magazines. Rochelle would love to take the picture, but the risk of him noticing is too high. He gets back in his car.
This time, Rochelle does lose Mercer due to stoplights, but she remains calm, figuring that he’s heading straight home with his smut. Pulling onto his street and nearing his house, she finds that she’s correct — his empty car is in the driveway. It’s almost three o’clock, the end of a full shift for her, and there’s nothing of interest indicating that she should stick around. Rochelle heads home, thinking, he’s probably just in there rubbing one out anyway. Recalling the fact that Mercer raped Karen on their wedding night, Rochelle disgustedly pushes away the idea of Mercer expressing any sort of sexual desire. Girl, I hope my investigation can help you avoid this asshole.
* * *
Mercer Evans enters Sterling Springs, fairly certain that the unfamiliar gray car he saw on his street has followed him. Yet, he still rides a wave of ecstasy from his triumph over shit dick faggot, the hours since having diminished the feeling only slightly. The fuck do I care if some bitch wants to follow me? he thinks, although the back of his mind registers that it likely means trouble.
As always for a Thursday afternoon visit, Mercer finds his mom in her room, watching TV. She loves her programs, but she punches the power button on the remote as soon as she sees him.
“Mercy! My dear boy. Come in, come in.” She rises to her walker, grin wide and eyes on his face as much as possible.
“Mom, hey, come on, you don’t need to get up,” he says, even though he fully expected it. This is their routine.
“Oh, no trouble, no trouble,” she says through a wince that compresses her grin. Both her hips are in rough shape.
Mercer gives her a hug that is firm but tender, not wanting to squeeze her aging body too roughly.
“Oh now, what happened to your ear?” she says, overly concerned.
“Nothing, mom,” he says, taking a nearby seat so she’ll sit back down. “Just banged it with the bathroom door. Careless.” Got punched by a spineless pussy faggot bitch before I kicked his damn ass, he thinks.
“You want to get some ice on that, now Mercy!”
“I did mom, I did.”
“Okay, well, still looks really angry. Make sure you get more ice on it again as soon as you get home!”
“I will, mom,” he replies, knowing he probably won’t.
Silence, but he guesses that she’ll stay on the topic if he doesn’t change it.
“What’s new?” he says, unable to summon inspiration.
“Well, as it turns out, I just finished a marathon! Yup, ran around the track all morning. Put an extra few miles on that bitch, too.” They both laugh at the old joke.
“Wow Mom, what does that make? Ten marathons for you now since you started living here? Twenty?”
“Thirty-seven, Mercy! Don’t shortchange your dear mother’s accomplishments.”
Mercer chuckles again, sounding as innocent as when he was a boy. “Of course not. Sorry, mom.”
“How about you, Mercy? Found anyone special? You know how I hate to think of you living all alone when you could make some lucky woman so happy. And that cock of yours, just like your dad’s… such a waste!”
“Mom! Jesus Christ!” Mercer says, unable to keep a tone of satisfaction from his voice, focusing on the easy confidence of being well hung instead of the ancient, stale angst of his mom mentioning a father he never knew.
“Well, I’m just saying. Women do like the big ones.”
“Mom, seriously,” Mercer says, laughing and looking away.
“Knock knock!” a voice interjects. Mercer looks up to see a hot twenty-something standing in the doorway. From the way she glances at Mercer, he guesses she overheard his mom’s comment.
“Got your afternoon meds, Ms. Evans,” the woman says, carrying two small paper cups, one with pills and the other with water.
“Well now, Vanessa, I’d like you to meet my son, Mercer.” His mom sounds as though she’s offering a free pair of diamond earrings.
“Hello,” she says, professional with a hint of personal warmth.
Mercer watches Vanessa as she helps his mom take the meds. Hair back in a wavy ponytail, face pretty, arms thin, tits not quite large but firm, stomach flat, hips wide, ass a high bubble. He should have endless interest in such a creature, but he couldn’t care less if she were fifty and built like a puff of cotton candy.
“Hey,” he says with pure indifference.
“Now, Mercy,” his mom objects, “is that any way to greet such a nice young lady?”
Mercer meets Vanessa’s gaze for an instant. They seem to be on the same page; Mercer isn’t interested, and it’s very unlikely she’s single. Still, Mercer can tell she’s surprised by his lack of interest. Obviously, a woman who looks like that is accustomed to drawing eyes wherever she goes. Fucking slut, Mercer thinks, turning away and not replying to his mom.
Nobody says anything else until Vanessa is ready to leave. “All set, Ms. Evans. Have a great day!”
“You too, deary!” his mom replies, disapproving eyes on Mercer. “Come back and see my son again next week! He’s here the same time every Thursday, very reliable!” Vanessa chuckles once as she disappears.
“Mercy, what the fuck is wrong with you? You turnin fag on me?”
Mercer has to squash an overwhelming desire to backhand his mom. Any other woman, he would have.
“No, mom. Of course not.”
“Then why did you act like that? Vanessa is nice, and hot! Didn’t you see that body? Goddamn!”
“Yes, mom, I saw it, but…” he smiles and gazes at a random spot on the wall, not really seeing it.
“Wait,” she says, eyes lighting up. “You got somebody? You do, don’t you Mercy!”
“Yeah. Yeah mom, I do.”
“Oh, Mercy! That’s so wonderful! Tell me about her!”
“It’s… it’s Karen, mom.”
“Karen? Like the Karen? Your ex?” His mom’s face is ice, matching her tone.
“Yeah. That Karen.”
“Mercy, you sure you can trust her? After how she annulled your marriage and abandoned you? Just ran away from my precious boy, making up lies that put you in prison and kept you away from me?”
“Well, that was a long time ago. People change.”
“Sometimes. I dunno.”
Mercer can tell that she wants to believe it. She thaws a bit.
“It’s really better this time? She ain’t gonna fuck you over again?”
“No, mom, I don’t think so. It’s good. She’s good.”
“Okay, well, you are a grown man. I hope you guys can make it work this time.” She reaches out and grasps Mercer’s hand.
The rest of the visit is small talk, his mom seeming mollified of her pervasive worry about him being single.
As Mercer leaves, Karen is strong in his mind. Although he had no interest in Vanessa, seeing a body like that did arouse his desire to fuck. He heads to Randy’s World and picks up some smut mags, that bitch in the gray car following him again. He has half a mind to confront her, but he wants to go home and focus on Karen. He smirks to himself as he leaves the store, wondering what the strange bitch thinks about him buying slut books.
Back home, in his basement shrine to Karen, Mercer pauses. He looks at the candle-lit, naked bodies of not-Karen on the corkboard. Glances down at the glossy magazines in his hand. Drops them like a handful of snakes.
“Fucking sluts. Fucking sluts!”
Mercer moves rapidly, tearing the nude images from his shrine, careful not to damage any printouts of Karen.
He steps back. The shrine is now Karen. Only Karen. Pure. He looks in disgust at the tits and waxed pussies on the floor. Scoots them into a pile with his foot. Glances at the velvet cushion of stained glass visors; sets them on the floor as well, withholding his desire to smash them, not wanting to chase down dozens of shards. Mercer leaves the shrine, gets a broom and dustpan from his workshop. Sweeps up all the filth into a trash bag. Ties it. Puts that bag inside another one, ties that. Sets it out in the main room. Re-enters the shrine. Closes the door.
“Karen,” he whispers. In his mind, he caresses her face and body. He drops his pants. Despite having no images of nudity in sight, Mercer achieves the best orgasm he’s had in years, maybe since he was actually with Karen.
As he cleans up, he thinks, Time for the real thing, my love.
* * *
Karen Raylor is elated at having ordered a taser. The online vendor promised delivery late the next day, Friday. She heads out for her morning run.
Five minutes later, something darts into her path.
A squirrel. She jumps to the side, twisting her ankle as she lands. Cries out.
It’s been a long time since she sprained anything. She thinks that’s the extent of it, but she’s never broken a bone, so it’s hard to be certain. It hurts enough that she wonders.
Five minutes. If she got this far in five minutes of running, it will take her twenty to hobble back. Maybe thirty. No major streets between her and home, just neighborhoods.
No phone. Karen doesn’t like the bouncing weight against her body, and she fears dropping it from her hand.
Running clothes. Not meant for extended wear in the cold. She’ll grow uncomfortable pretty fast.
Karen quickly considers her options.
Chapter 13 Choice: How should Karen get home with an injured ankle?
- Hitchhike: Head toward home, but try to get a ride on the way. (0%)
- Houses: Knock on random doors until someone answers. (0%)
- Walk: Tough out the cold and head back home, ignoring motorists. (100%)
This poll closed on January 15th, 2018.