[This is a multi-part story. Lexi Brown is trying to escape her past and create a new life for herself in Otter Village, 500 miles from where a traumatic event occurred 6 months ago. In our last episode, we read that Dan was heading north from the city toward Otter Village, but had stopped for gas and a late dinner at the halfway point. While at dinner, he’d met a pretty woman named Angela.
Here are the posts in order so far:
Lexi slowly drifted up from a warm foggy slumber in which she was on a boat with Kevin floating in a lovely clear ocean. She could see all the way to the bottom where people had normal lives, driving cars and going to work… work! Crap, it was Saturday and she was slated to be in the store for the entire day. She dragged her still aching body out of bed and took a hot shower, which helped a little. What had possessed her to ride her bike like such a maniac?
She grabbed her purse and gingerly walked downstairs. Found her orange juice in the fridge behind the soda. Stretched in front of the patio doors. Finally, she took a deep breath and checked her phone, expecting another stressful message from Vicky, but thank goodness–no. There was a message however, and it was from Kevin.
Hi Lexi, sorry to text so late. I bet you’re asleep… hope so. I wanted to call you earlier in the evening, but my thoughts are such a jumble. Anyway, it’s been an exhausting day, but I have been thinking about you. Thanks again for the delicious cookies. They were a welcome treat this afternoon. If you’re free Sunday, maybe we can check out the beach in the daytime… for comparison purposes?
Lexi smiled as she reread the message. It wasn’t the most ardent one she’d ever received, for sure. Most men would have referenced the kissing over the cookies, but perhaps Kevin thought she wouldn’t like to talk about kissing over text. Or maybe he was trying to keep things light. Then again, he wanted to see her Sunday. And he had said he was smitten with her…
Good morning! she texted back. It was nice to wake up to a message from you. I think that comparing the beach in the day to the night is a very important scientific project and I’m happy to participate. Have a good day at work. She added a smiley face but not any hearts. No need to spook him.
“Need a ride?” Carolyn asked. “I can drop you at your shop. I’m headed that way, up to Driftwood Drive and then the freeway.”
Lexi had just slipped on her jacket and was unhappily contemplating the three miles to work. Normally she’d easily walk or bike them, but today her muscles were still sore. “Thank you so much,” she said to Carolyn. “I really appreciate it.”
“Sure.” Carolyn beeped open the doors of her SUV. “I didn’t think you’d want to walk, given your marathon exercise session yesterday.”
Lexi laughed as she fastened her seatbelt. “That was a little crazy!”
The older woman slipped on her shades. “I hope everything is going okay for you here, Lexi. I like having you as a tenant.”
“Aw, thanks.” Lexi smiled at her landlady. “I know I haven’t been super social, but I do enjoy living in Otter Village. My job is going well, and I’m slowly making a few friends.”
Carolyn shrugged. “Not everyone is a big extrovert and that’s cool. As long as you’re happy. If you ever have a problem in the house or with another tenant, you can talk to me.”
Lexi wasn’t sure why Carolyn was saying this. “Everyone seems nice. So far anyway.”
“With men and women in close quarters, something always comes up.” Carolyn made a left onto souvenir row. “No pun intended!”
“Hah, I know what you mean.” Lexi figured there had been past incidences of flirting and unwanted advances at the rooming house.
Carolyn pulled up right in front of the Otter Emporium. “Glad we had a chance to chat.”
“Me too! And thanks again.” Lexi nodded toward the door. “Perfect timing. My boss is just opening up.”
Sales were brisk and Lexi was on her feet almost the whole day. She gave in and took Advil on her lunch break. “I think I’m going to indulge myself and call for a ride home,” she said to a coworker, who nodded in sympathy as they refolded tee shirts.
As Lexi thanked the driver, she felt her phone vibrate with a call. Butterflies swirled in her tummy at the thought of planning tomorrow’s beach date with Kevin.
“Hey there,” Lexi said as she walked up the path to the front door.
“Hey yourself,” came her sister’s voice. “Why do you sound so… flirty?”
“Me… flirty?” Lexi felt her face grow hot in the dark. “Vicky, I assure you that was not flirtatious at all!”
“Mm sure. Okay. Listen, there’s something weird.”
Lexi rolled her eyes and her good mood dissolved. She loved talking to Vicky, but lately it was always distressing. “Don’t tell me it’s about Dan again.”
“You know how he said he wanted to talk to you and Nick told him not to, but Dan didn’t act like he was paying attention to Nick’s advice?”
Feeling all her energy dissipate at once, Lexi sat down on the bench beside the front door. “Yeah.”
“Well… at around three in the morning I got a missed call from him. You know he’s called me a lot, texted me, et cetera. Mostly he pesters me for your info, but other times just rambles on.”
Wishing Vicky would get to the point, Lexi said, “Yes, you’ve told me that he’s a pain. Shouldn’t you just block him?”
“Maybe, but then I wouldn’t know what he’s up to. But listen, this missed call was really strange.”
“Why? Besides it happening in the middle of the night, you mean?” Lexi was so cold. Even though she wore long pants and a jacket, the ocean breeze began to give her chills down to her bones.
“Something recorded. Moans. Or words we couldn’t understand. Sort of like a butt dial, except it sounded like it was outdoors. Then a man clearly said ‘Angela,’ but it was not Dan. Nothing after that.”
“Freaky!” Lexi agreed. “But couldn’t Dan have lost his phone?”
“How would someone have unlocked it just enough to leave a message like that? In any case, Nick had it pinged. The message was sent about two hundred thirty miles south of you. Then Nick had Dan’s car geolocated. It was pinged at the same location, but now is headed back to the city.”
Lexi began shivering uncontrollably. “What does it mean, Vicky? Is Dan…?” No. She just couldn’t say the word. First Jim. Now Dan. It was too horrible. “Can’t Nick send some cops out to look for him?”
“Nick doesn’t have that kind of power. The police department is short-handed as it is. Plus it’s not even in the city.”
“Give me the geolocation.”
“Why? You’re not going to go looking for him by yourself.”
“I’ll get help. I promise.” Lexi gripped the phone. “What if he’s lying on the side of the road injured somewhere?”
“Hang on…” Vicky said something to Nick, Lexi assumed. “Okay, Nick is texting it to you, but you have to swear that you won’t go driving off alone tonight like a nut.”
Lexi’s promised through chattering teeth. “I won’t go alone.”
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