The Stalker [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Susan K. Droney
eBook Category: Suspense/Thriller/Mystery/Crime
eBook Description: Jeremy Talbot is a lonely, troubled young man whose only friends are the voices he hears in his mind. As time passes, he begins to realize that the voices aren't his friends but his own demons, intent on taking over his life. Jeremy's obsession with Rebecca Walker leads him on a murderous rampage. He tries in vain to win her love and prove that the demons are wrong when they taunt him, declaring that she doesn't care for him. When Jeremy changes his identity and moves to Boston to be closer to Rebecca, the murders that have plagued Pittsburgh end--but begin in Boston. As the police get closer to learning his identity, Jeremy puts his plan in motion to claim Rebecca for his own.
eBook Publisher: The Fiction Works, Published: fictionworks.com, 2005
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2005
3 Reader Ratings:
"With skill and precision, Susan K. Droney takes us through the disturbing existence of Jeremy Talbot, stopping frequently on the way to fill us in with the lives of those who are unfortunate to associate with him. The Stalker is a gripping read. With every page delivering tension and intrigue, you can't go wrong."--Carrie White, One Reviewer
He watched from the window, the same streaked window from which he watched every morning. He'd been watching her for ten long years. He licked his lips in anticipation; his heart thudded irregularly in his chest just like it did every time he knew he would be seeing her. He moved the curtain slightly to get a better view. She was coming, and his heart raced. She bounded out of her door, hands tightly gripping those of her ruddy-cheeked, carrot-topped twin boys. He wished he could hear what she was saying, just as he wished it were he whom she was smiling at and talking to. The children continued looking at her, laughter in their bright eyes as their cherub faces smiled while she talked.
How he longed to hear her voice speaking to him again, but it was only etched in his memory forever. He watched as her boys scurried onto their school bus. She smiled and waved even long after the bus was out of view. How he ached for her all these seemingly endless, lonely years. Being apart from her angered him and brought the demons closer to the surface, forcing him to lurk even further in the shadows. The shadows were his only solace, where he could watch her with no one telling him it was wrong or that he was a freak. Time was passing quickly, much too quickly. He had to make a move. The time was nearing for him to come out of the shadows and finally claim her for his own. * * * *
Jeremy Talbot shifted uneasily in his seat, praying that the professor wouldn't call on him. He couldn't bear the humiliation of standing in front of the class with everyone's eyes focused just on him, smirking as they silently and verbally poked fun at him. His hands grew clammy, and beads of perspiration popped out on his forehead. His eyes moved nervously as he looked at Professor Burgess, briefly making eye contact. "Dammit," he muttered under his breath, hoping the man had enough compassion to know what calling on him would do to him. He looked down at his paper, then up again just in time to see the professor catch his eye again. Burgess looked away, and Jeremy breathed a sigh of relief, wondering who would be the chosen one.
"Mr. Talbot, let's hear your short story."
Jeremy looked up in surprise. His face reddened as the familiar terror engulfed him.
Burgess leaned back in his chair with an elbow propped on his cluttered desk as he nodded his head in Jeremy's direction.
Jeremy stumbled to his feet, hoping no one noticed his wobbly legs. His hands trembled as he tightly gripped the paper. His glasses slid partially down the bridge of his long, narrow nose, and he hastily pushed them back up, leaving a smudgy fingerprint on the lens. His throat dried out and his tongue felt stuck to the roof of his mouth. He closed his eyes for a moment, wishing he would be stricken dead this very moment; death would certainly be better than enduring the mocking glares of his fellow classmates. Why should he read his story to this bunch of morons? It wasn't like anyone in this room, including Burgess, would understand what his story was about anyway, since it embellished his deepest, most personal thoughts, thoughts no one else apparently had, but his thoughts haunted him in the darkest hours of the night. He'd turned his paper in with the expectation that Professor Burgess would be the only one to read his pained and tortured words, but now he was supposed to share those words with everyone in this room. They'd know his story was about his own life, even though he'd disguised it as fiction.
"Mr. Talbot, we're waiting." Burgess impatiently tapped a pencil on the edge of his desk, a look of contempt on his face.
Jeremy heard muffled laughter. His anxiety increased as the scorching tears threatened. He fought for composure. His classmates' contemptuous eyes burned into his flesh as his back smoldered under the intense heat of their scrutiny. Perspiration beaded up on his forehead, then made a slow descent down his face, and his eyelids grew damp with the sour sweat coming from his pores. He wouldn't cry; that would be the ultimate humiliation. He wouldn't let anyone disgrace him this way, so with blurry eyes he squinted down at the paper in his trembling hands. "I..." he stammered then swallowed hard. "I ... I can't," he whispered in an unsteady voice. His eyes caught Burgess' and pleaded with him for understanding. Surely, the man could see his obvious discomfort and would cut him some slack, he thought.
Professor Burgess tugged thoughtfully at his perfectly trimmed grayish brown beard. "Then sit down, Talbot." With a judgmental look at Jeremy, he flicked a piece of lint from his tailor made shirt.
Jeremy scrambled into his seat, staring down at the marred desk. All eyes were still directed on him, and he heard the laughter even though it was silent. He heard it every day even if no audible sounds were present; he saw it in the way they looked at him and the way they shunned him as though taking a moment to acknowledge him was too much of an effort. His face flamed as he waited for the inevitable condescending speech. The bastard never will get off my back, but someday I'll show him. I'll show them all.
"Talbot, why are you taking this course?" Burgess asked in a bored tone of voice slowly shaking his head as he stood in front of his students.
Jeremy raised his eyes. "I ... want to be a writer," he mumbled. His head pounded, and he placed his hands on either side gently massaging his temples as the demons whispered mocking him, too. Don't let him treat you like an idiot! For God's sake, for once in your life act like a man! Their taunting echoed throughout his mind.
"What makes you think you have what it takes to become a writer?"
Jeremy folded his perspiring hands and placed them on his desk. "I have a natural talent," he replied in a weak, wavering voice. "Writing is all I ever think about," he added.
Burgess laughed a low, husky laugh that gave evidence to his many years of heavy cigarette smoking. "There are thousands of people with a natural talent, but only a tiny number will ever succeed, Talbot. I'm afraid it takes more than just talent. You need to convince every one of your capabilities as a writer and why your work deserves to be read. What sets it apart from the next person's? It takes a strong, forceful voice to do that."
"I'm not a quitter, Professor Burgess. It's my dream and I'll see it realized some day."
Burgess studied him for a few seconds. "Have you taken a public speaking class?"
He shook his head. "Next semester," he mumbled, dreading that day with every fiber of his being, but if he wanted to graduate it was a requirement he had to fulfill.
"You realize that in my classes a big part of your grade comes from your oral presentations, don't you, Talbot? You're taking an advanced course next semester."
Jeremy heard the snickers and whispers. He cleared his throat. "I'm aware of that, sir."
Don't let him talk to you like that! He's making an ass of you.
"Shut up! Just leave me alone!"
"Excuse me?" Professor Burgess raised an eyebrow. "Do you have something else to add? Maybe you'd like to come up here and share it with the class."
"I ... I didn't say anything," Jeremy quickly answered, hating the way the man mocked him.
"God, Talbot's such a wacko," the student sitting behind him snickered to the girl in the next seat.
Burgess frowned insolently at him. "Leave your paper on my desk on your way out, Talbot."
"Yes, sir." He knew that Burgess was thinking him a pathetic squabbling mama's boy who'd never see a career as a writer, but he'd prove him wrong; they'd all be wrong. The sad thing was, though, he knew deep in his heart that no one would ever know his success but himself. * * * *
Later that afternoon he sat alone, as was his usual custom, watching others conversing and strolling hand-in-hand with their lovers. He longed for a girl to look at him with love in her eyes, knowing that her whole reason for living was he. He needed a woman to hold, touch, kiss, and make love to. He'd never kissed a girl, or even gotten close enough to one in that respect to get to that stage, but he'd fantasized about it night after night. Everyday he listened to his fellow classmates chattering, laughing about parties they attended or were planning to attend and their new conquests, and he ached to be included in the college social scene.
He was so lonely. Couldn't anyone see that? He blinked back hot tears of frustration. He wanted to be like everyone else, but the harder he tried the odder people thought he was. He often wondered when his difference had manifested itself, or had he always been different? He was trapped inside his own mind and couldn't always control the voices any longer, instinctively knowing that he had to live in isolation and forget about fitting in, or someone would find out the truth. But if he found the right girl, one who truly was concerned about him, she wouldn't care when he eventually told her about the voices and would love him and help him to cope with his demons.
When he was younger he had many friends and acted like any other normal, healthy boy, but by the time he entered junior high school, things had rapidly begun to change for him. That was when the voices started coming to him night after night in the death-like hours of darkness, seeping into his brain until they controlled him, at least for the night. Maybe they'd always been there, hiding in the recesses of his mind ever since he'd been born, waiting for the proper time to show themselves to him. He'd never relinquish control to them during the daylight hours, even though they fought him continually for total control twenty-four hours a day. He didn't know how long he could fight them off, but he had to at least until he could get out on his own and out from under his parents' watchful eyes.
He'd never been one for physical sports, but to please his father and gain his acceptance, he tried out for the junior high basketball team. When he was ridiculed and pummeled in the boys' locker room, then stuffed into the laundry cart under a pile of damp jockstraps, he knew he wasn't wanted nor accepted into their elite little group. His father never again pressured him into partaking of any athletic pursuits and in fact essentially excluded him from his own life and heart. His father made it clear to him that he was ashamed of him and ashamed that his only child, his son, was an unpopular weakling.
Jeremy filled his mind with books; books were his escape to a better place and time, a place and time that accepted him with all of his human frailties and where he never felt the pangs of seclusion. His true peace came from within the pages of the multitude of books he devoured. Then when he'd turn out the light at night the voices came slithering out of the dark recesses of his mind, soothing his non-existent self-esteem and filling him with false hope for a brighter future, a future never destined to be his. They tried to convince him that they were his only friends, and in the beginning he believed them and their continual warnings to avoid those who would hurt him, but as time wore on, he began to distrust them, too.
He sighed, pulling a paperback from his backpack. In minutes, his mind became oblivious to the noise around him as he quickly dove into the chapter he had left off at last night. His real friends were waiting for him within the words some author had penned.
"I'm sorry about what happened in class," a soft and very feminine voice said close to his ear.
He looked up, startled. "Are ... are you talking to me?" He raised his eyes and found himself looking into the eyes of the most beautiful woman on campus.
Rebecca Walker was not only beautiful, but popular as well. Why would she take the time to talk to me? he wondered, and then quickly tossed the question aside.
It didn't matter why; what was important was that she had. He refused to let his mind dwell on negativity right now lest the demons come to the surface and destroy this moment for him.
She smiled. "I don't see anyone else around."
He closed his book.
She leaned close to him. "Professor Burgess was too hard on you, Jeremy."
He shook his head, hating the sympathy in her voice. "No, it's just that I have a difficult time speaking in front of the class." He hoped she didn't notice the weakness in his voice. "Maybe I need to take more than one public speaking course," he heard himself say, knowing that in reality he was lucky if he got through the required one.
"Don't let Burgess obliterate your dreams. Many writers aren't comfortable with public speaking. Sometimes I believe that's what makes them such wonderful poetic writers; all those things they can't express verbally flow out on paper. I suspect that's the type of person you are, Jeremy." She gazed into his eyes.
He shrugged, trying to relax, but his stomach muscles twisted into a ball. She was so beautiful, and he wished he could think of something witty and clever to say, but nothing came to his lips so he remained silent.
"You're a beautiful writer, Jeremy. Many people speak poetically, but don't have the talent to express themselves on paper the way you do. Your words touch others deeply--at least they do me."
His eyes widened. It was as though she could see inside of him to his tortured soul. He was the type of person she spoke of, expressing himself on paper, but in person he was a blubbering idiot, and he learned a long time ago that he was better off keeping his mouth closed.
"Remember our assignment about relationships? You wrote such a tragic but gripping love story. I've never forgotten it," she said softly.
Too bad I haven't had the experiences like the guys I write about, he thought. "I've always wanted to be a writer," he awkwardly replied.
"Me, too, but I don't seem to have the discipline that you do. I can't force myself to write every day in my journal. It comes out flat and forced if I press it." She smiled.
"It just comes easily to me." He wanted her to go on talking forever. He could sit for hours listening to her melodious, lilting speech. He memorized every word she spoke and every gesture she made, catching the light scent of her perfume, sparking foreign emotions within him. The only woman he'd ever been this physically close to before was his mother, and he doubted that counted for much.
"No, I think you're a born writer, just like you said today in class," she continued enthusiastically. "Someday you're going to be a rich and famous author, and none of this will matter anymore. You'll have the last laugh on everyone, Jeremy."
Oh, it will matter. I'll never forget this moment for as long as I live. Why would I want to? Why would I ever want to forget you, Rebecca Walker? His face flushed as he shyly smiled at her.
She touched his shoulder.
Her touch filled him with a tender warmth with which he was unfamiliar. It frightened him and thrilled him at the same time. He wasn't used to anyone touching him, especially someone like Rebecca. He couldn't even remember the last time his mother had hugged him, let alone gave him a friendly pat on the arm or shoulder.
"You've got to have self-confidence, Jeremy. You need to get out and have some fun after being locked inside stuffy classrooms all day long." Her eyes narrowed. "I never see you around campus except for class. Why don't you come to some campus parties and let people get to know you?"
He frowned. "I usually go home after classes. I don't have much time for socializing." He was lying, but he couldn't tell her what a loser he really was and that the truth was that no one ever invited him to do anything or go anywhere. He suspected that she already knew that, though. He saw hundreds of people everyday, but he was still forced into his solitary confinement. He had no friends; no one knew that he even existed, or if they did, they couldn't care less about his existence. He tried to see a bright normal future, but more often than not he saw only the bleak, dark emptiness that was his life. His only friends, for better or worse, were the demons. He was never allowed human friends for long, the demons saw to that, even though at times he yearned for friends like he had so many years ago when he was a young boy, before he understood who the demons really were.
"You should join some clubs, get active and involved." Her eyes danced with enthusiasm.
"I don't know. Maybe." He yearned for the words that would show her what a charming conversationalist he was, but what he longed to say stayed trapped in his throat, not allowing him the pleasure of seeing her eyes light up with amazement at his eloquent speech.
She looked at her wristwatch. "Well, I've got to get to class. I'll see you on Thursday." She winked. "Hang in there, Jeremy."
He nodded, mumbling a quick good-bye, then watched her walk away, her curvy hips slightly swaying and her long, reddish-blonde hair falling gently over her shoulders. He couldn't believe what had just transpired. He pulled out a handkerchief and mopped his forehead. Rebecca Walker had actually paid attention to him. She'd noticed him and she'd taken the time to soothe him after his humiliation in class.
Why would she do that? She had even touched him. He could still feel her hand on his shoulder burning through to his flesh. What did this all mean? Could it be possible? Could a woman like Rebecca Walker actually be attracted to him? Was she making a play for him? Had he missed the signals most guys were aware of? He had no friends to discuss this with so he wasn't sure. Could he talk to his father about this wonderful event? His father was at work more than he was at home, and even if he were at home, Jeremy knew that dear old dad would offer him no hope, instead brushing it aside as wishful thinking on Jeremy's part. Nevertheless, hope was all he had to cling to.
He could barely wait to get home. He needed to look Rebecca up in the student directory. Maybe he would get the courage to call her tonight and ask her out. Yes, that was what he would do. He smiled at his newfound self-confidence, but as quickly as it had come, it disappeared as the demons of doubt entered his thoughts. Why would Rebecca Walker want to go out with a loser like you? the demons shouted through the corridors of his mind, laughing and taunting him. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to get them out of his thoughts. No, he'd prove them wrong. She did want him.