The sliding door to the gas station opened and closed in front of me as I watched the car pull away with the young girl inside that could potentially have the answers as to where Ellie was at if she was alive.
I pulled myself together as a pregnant breath took hold of me as it finally escaped my mouth. I blinked, finally realizing the night air was chilly beyond anything I wished to feel. It woke me up, though, from my shock as I stood motionless.
The ringing of the bell at the register tore me away from my stance — a customer wishing to check out. I didn’t even realize there was someone there. I was in my world for the better part of five minutes or so.
The older woman made small talk with me, and I feigned interest in her conversation. She was going on about how she hated traveling at night, and hopefully, our gas station hotdogs would be just what she needed.
I smiled, handing the older woman her change. When she left, I returned to the poster of the young woman with the Bichon.
Did it look like Ellie, or was I losing my damn mind?
I resigned to the fact it did look like my sister. I thought of calling the police, but the last thing I wanted was to involve Detective Phelps. Chances were he wouldn’t believe me anyhow. Plus, he had better things to tend to than potentially my outlandish suspicions.
The night dragged on as I realized that I had to do something. I didn’t want to take the poster down, in case it brought the person back to the gas station. I did take the number down and called it when I was finished with my night shift.
The number did not provide any answers to me as the voice mail came on after the first ring. I didn’t bother to leave a message. Instead, I went home sleeping like the dead for the first time in over a year. I woke to a phone call.
I looked down at the telephone number and didn’t recognize it.
A sweet voice returned my own.
“Hello, my name is Annette, and I was calling to see if you were interested in a new way of depositing your cash online.”
Stupid telemarketer. What time was it? It was shortly after ten in the morning, and I hung up my phone.
I got up to shower, as I was alone this morning. I stood in the shower for a long while, letting the water wash over my naked body. It felt so much like my reality had shifted back to normal. I could feel something for the first time in a long time, even if it was the rushing of hot water.
I got out and walked to my bedroom and turned on the television absentmindedly. The news came on, something I never watched any more. It was always something political or something sad and depressing. It was suitable for background noise, and that was about all.
I dried myself off and got dressed in some sweats and a t-shirt. Then I heard something that caught my eyes.
“Another mysterious murder in the Glen area, a sad reminder that we never know who our neighbors are…” the newsman was saying.
They showed a photo of a young woman that for whatever reason, reminded me of the similar images of the young women from before, my sister Ellie included.
“A suspect has not been caught, but a witness identified the man as having dark hair, very dark eyes, and ashen skin. The suspect was wearing a dark brown jacket and was driving a white and brown station wagon. Last seen picking up Lucy Giles just outside of August Ridge.”
When I heard a witness had identified a white and brown station wagon, that is when I knew it was related to Ellie. That was the exact type of station wagon that was spying on my sister when she disappeared.
I looked at my phone and decided this time I was going to find the fucker that hurt Ellie or may even be holding her against her will. I didn’t want to have any hope she was not dead, but what if we all got it wrong? I needed answers.
I dialed the number from last night, and the voicemail came on again. This time I left a message.
“Hello, my name is Jack. I saw your poster about the missing dog. I think we both know there is no missing dog. Call me back.”
Two minutes later, I received a phone call.
It was Amanda Kline’s voice.
“What did you do to my sister? I know you had something to do with her disappearance.”
“Slow down, Jack, I think you misunderstand. It isn’t what you think, and I had nothing to do with Ellie’s death.”
“Don’t lie to me, Amanda!”
“I told you not to call me that. There is something you don’t know. It is why I’ve been hanging up the posters.”
“Why are you hanging up the posters? All of them are of missing girls. Missing girls that end up dead.”
“I can’t talk to you anymore.”
“Don’t hang up!”
“If you want to talk, you will know where to find me.”
“Think Jack. See you at five tomorrow.”
The phone went dead, and I quickly re-dialed the number.
The phone number emitted only a busy signal.
The only place I could think of was Greyson Park. That was where most of the posters had been hung. It was where I began to figure out that there was a connection between the log dog posters and the missing girls.
I didn’t want to, but I decided to go. I spent the rest of that evening trying to figure out how I was going to keep my composure meeting someone that could be Ellie’s murderer.
I prepared myself as best I could mentally. Physically, I arranged to protect myself in case she tried something funny by ensuring I had a pocket knife handy. I also wasn’t sure if I should tell anyone what I was up to the next day. I didn’t want to get the police involved, and I was afraid to tell my family because I didn’t want them to worry about me. I was sure I would be fine. I was six-foot-two and not exactly lanky.
I had a hard time sleeping that night, and the next morning, there was absolutely no reason to be nervous.
More bad news.
I was eating breakfast with my family as the television was blasting in the next room.
“A long search has now ended for the family of a local girl, Amanda Kline.”
I stood up and walked into the living room where the television was. My mom followed me having heard the same thing as me.
“That girl,” she said, placing her hand on my shoulder.
“Amanda Kline’s bruised and beaten body was found just outside of town near August Ridge. So far, authorities say there were no signs of a sexual assault. Currently, there are no suspects in her death.”
“I feel so horrible for her family.” My mom said, tears in her eyes. She knew all too well how the Kline family felt.
I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I was supposed to meet Amanda Kline at five that afternoon, and now she was dead.
Was she, though?
Who had I been talking to?
If it was Amanda, then any chance of me finding out more information about my sister was gone forever. If it wasn’t Amanda, then there was every chance that the person I had been talking to on the phone was alive and well and would still be there at five later today.
I was willing to take my chances.
Five o’clock, the wind and sleet whipped back and forth against my cheeks. I pulled my coat up higher around my neck and looked around. I looked down at my phone. It was already dark outside, which added to the shadows that seemed to creep up and look me dead in the eyes from under street lamps.
I waited for what felt like hours and then finally I decided to call the number from the day before.
Again a busy signal.
I was beginning to resign to the fact that someone had just been messing with me, why I didn’t know. I mean people do stupid shit all the time. It didn’t mean that some psycho wasn’t just targeting me now that they knew I was curious about my sister. Maybe I had a stalker that was doing this on purpose.
I stood and looked around and decided to leave.
I walked quickly back to my car, feeling frustrated and stupid. I was sitting in my car when there was a knock on my car window.
I rolled the window down.
“What are you doing?”
“Why are you here?”
“I followed you. I was worried about you after your reaction to the death of that Amanda girl. So I followed you.”
“How did you know where I was?”
“It was a hunch. I walked all the way here. Open the door; it’s freezing out here.”
Brianna got in the passenger seat of my car. I looked at her, and she had this hopeful shine in her eyes. “Is it about Ellie?”
“I think maybe you just wish she was still alive. If anyone knows that they could be messing with you. Just like Old Man Red”
“Maybe,” I said, starting my car.
My phone rang then.
I looked down at it an UNKNOWN number.
I looked at Brianna.
“I thought you would be alone.” said a voice. It sounded nothing at all like Amanda’s voice. It was almost as if it was purposely being disguised.
A chill ran up my spine as the voice on the other end of the phone began to get deeper and deeper. My hands trembled at what they were now saying.
“I see you. You think I don’t know what you have been doing. Do you think I didn’t plan this from the beginning? I know everything you have been doing since you figured out my little game. I’m closer to you now than I ever have been. I’m here now. Turn around.”
The passenger side door tore open. A stranger in a black mask pulled Brianna out of the seat, and then my door opened, and another figure pulled me out. They used what I could only guess as chloroform. When I woke, I was in a room chained to the wall of something that looked like a storage unit. Brianna was nowhere in sight.
I looked around there was barely any light, in the room except there was a small spotlight shining on the opposite wall.
I stood up, walking as close as I could towards the wall where there now adorned a wall-sized photo with my sister Brianna’s face along with mine holding Pete. It was an old photo from a few years ago that Brianna had taken and posted on Instagram.
I looked at it, focusing my eyes as they were drawn to the top.
My stomach was nauseous as I looked above our faces at the words hanging like a death sentence.