A Real Life Story
‘What are those things?’ Lonnie asked.
‘They’re story dice,’ Ashley said, stopping just short of rolling her eyes. Most of what she said to her mother these days was tinged with that shade of contempt.
‘What are they for?’ Lonnie was taking a risk here. She wasn’t often admitted into her fourteen-year-old daughter’s inner sanctum, and there was every chance Ashley would shut her out. To Lonnie’s surprise, though, Ashley actually answered her with some enthusiasm.
‘They’re prompts, you know? To help give me ideas for stories. The pictures on them help me figure out what to write.’
‘Nice. Did Mr. Rodriguez hand them out in class?’
Uh-oh, here came the guarded expression. ‘No, I got them at WalMart. They sell them there.’
Lonnie backed off a little. ‘I’m glad you found them,’ she said in as noncommittal a voice as she could.
‘Yeah,’ Ashley said, visibly relaxing just a bit.
Ashley watched as her mother closed her bedroom door. Thank God she hadn’t kept asking questions! It wasn’t like Ashley was doing anything wrong. Mom knew she had joined WeWrite, so she could post stories. But Ashley knew her mother wouldn’t understand about Birdseye. Birdseye wrote the best fantasy stories Ashley had ever read. The stories blew her away, and she just had to reach out, so she’d sent a private message. And Birdseye had answered. Since then they’d been in touch a lot. That was the part Mom wouldn’t like. And it was Birdseye who’d told her about story dice. Ashley sighed and shook her head. Then she logged on to her WeWrite account. There was a message from Birdseye!
‘Let’s meet. RL this time.’
Ashley gulped. She wasn’t stupid. She knew what could happen if you met online friends in person. She’d read the horror stories like everyone else.
‘Sorry, I can’t.’
Terry smiled a little when he got Ashley’s message. It would only be a matter of time before he’d get her. They always wavered at first, said ‘no.’
That night at dinner, Ashley picked at her pizza. ‘Something wrong?’ Lonnie asked.
Ashley didn’t put on her usual false bravado. For a moment she sat silently. Then she said, ‘You’re going to hate me.’
‘I could never hate you. Now, what’s going on?’
Ashley told her. And once she started, she couldn’t stop herself. The words came tumbling out. About Birdseye, about the stories, about the message.
‘It just creeped me out,’ she finally said. When she was finished, she looked carefully at her mother. She could see it coming. No computer. No telephone. No Netflix. Her life would end in about five minutes.
Now it was Lonnie’s turn to sit silently. She leaned back and tapped her thumbnail against her top teeth. Then she straightened up. ‘I’m glad you told me. I promise, you’re not in trouble. But if this guy is a predator, he’s scum. I have an idea.’
He knew it! He knew she’d finally agree to meet. After that it’d be easy pickings. Terry read the private message again.
‘OK. Starbucks at eight?’
This Ashley kid was good looking, too. This was going to be fun. He typed up his reply quickly:
‘Sounds good. I’ll be wearing a blue sweatshirt.’
Then he carefully packed what he would need.
Two nights later, Terry pulled into the Starbucks parking lot. He looked around as he stopped the engine. Nobody was paying attention to him, which suited him. That was one advantage he had; he never attracted attention. Medium height, medium brown hair, medium everything.
He got out of the car and headed towards the coffee shop door. He paused to see if she was inside. Yup, there she was, long blonde ponytail, low-rise jeans and a black T-shirt. He watched as she reached into her pocket and checked her telephone. Then he smiled as he pushed the door open and went inside. Just a few more minutes now.
Terry didn’t see her when he got to the counter. She must have gone to the ladies’ room. Well, it didn’t matter. He could wait if that was what it would take. He ordered a dark roast of the day and went over to the pickup side of the counter to wait. Then he felt a tap on his shoulder.
‘Excuse me,’ the woman said. Nice-looking, tall, with medium length, dirty-blonde hair.
‘Yes?’ Terry asked.
‘I hate to bother you, but I’m wondering if you have jumper cables. I can’t start my car.’
Terry started to say ‘no.’ He didn’t have time to waste. But hell, it would only take a minute to start her car. And who knew? Maybe he could get her ‘phone number.
‘Yeah, sure. No problem.’
He took his coffee and followed her out the door. She led him to a Toyota parked not many spaces away from his. He pulled his car up nose-to-nose with hers and reached into the back seat to get his cables.
‘Straighten up real slow, you scum!’
Terry felt a sharp pain in his back. A knife or something. He put up both his hands and stood up.
‘My wallet’s in my back pocket,’ he gasped.
‘It’s not your wallet I want, pig!’ Then everything went black as the pain shot through him.
Lonnie looked down at the man slumped across the back seat of his car. The blood made her queasy, but the handcuffs and rope she’d seen on the floor earlier made her feel even sicker. She nearly vomited at the thought of Ashley with this guy. She took a breath of fresh air and reminded herself to keep her focus. Then she got in the front seat of the dirtbag’s car and moved it. She wiped the steering wheel and the keys with her sleeve, and got out. Then she went back to her own car and pulled around to the other side of the coffee shop, where Ashley was waiting.
‘You did fine, honey,’ she said as Ashley got into the car.