Running out the door like a happy gazelle, Alexis, daughter of Frank Game, leaves for cheer practice and wouldn’t return until supper. Frank missed the chance to say goodbye with the glazed cruller lodged in his mouth — a remedy for his unfortunate day at work. In his mind, it was about to storm pink slips and his employer didn’t care he had lovely Alexis to take care of, and a gorgeous wife he desired to keep happy. Seventeen years of marriage later, Frank never understood what Eve saw in his overweight and balding self, but he didn’t want to risk losing it. Letting the ladies of House Game down was not an option.
From the kitchen counter hip hop music plays. Alexis left her phone. Frank grabbed it, running out to catch her.
“Alexis, honey! Wait!… You left—” her ride speeds down the street blaring pop music… your phone.
Back inside, Frank glances at the device, and put it down, finishing his last bite of cruller. Every other second, his eyes return to the phone. He’s hesitant to peek, but does. The text was new, the full message shows on the home screen:
I want all of you. All day. Forever, once I take you tonight. You won’t see me coming. But I’ll find you. And I’m going to haunt your insides. I’m dying to take you away…
The text felt sinister. Something he didn’t feel comfortable with. Alexis went on dates with boys she grew up with in the neighborhood. Frank and Eve knew their parents. Frank knew those boys well enough to know none of them would send this text to his sixteen-year-old baby girl.
I could call Eve, see what she thinks about it… No, she’s busy helping her sister plan her wedding. I don’t want to ruin their fun. I could just wait to talk to Alexis about it, but it may make her feel awkward. Or I could ignore it. Maybe it’s nothing… Frank cringed. Leaving it alone was equivalent to leaving Alexis hanging on a cliff and not helping her up. Darn it. What do I do? I could contact the police. But this isn’t an actual emergency. Still, what if it becomes one? What if someone tries to follow through on these… wants?
“Haunt your insides,” Frank whispered. He grabbed his keys without another thought. His vehicle, however, sputters. Lights flicker on the dash and cease. The battery died.
“Really? Now?” Frank looks around his garage. Eve had the other car. There was Alexis’s pink and black mountain bike, but that’d be embarrassing, and the chain was broken. No time to fix that. He could bum a ride from a neighbor, but dreaded explaining a trip to the police station. Or worse, have the police come to him at home and get everyone worried. Only thing left to do was walk. Frank figured the station was about fifteen minutes away. He’d walked to the grocery store down the way years ago when they were in harder times. Coming back home with a cart of groceries after paying with every coupon in the world he and Eve could find. Sometimes you do what you must for your family.
Frank gets on running shoes and starts walking.
“Please! My daughter… she got a…” The rest couldn’t come out. Frank stumbled in wildly, slumped to his knees on the station floor. It was a half-hour walk, and his body wasn’t as young as it used to be. His chest is tight, gray polo painted with sweat. Officers surround him, all give suspicious looks. Hands hover above their holstered firearms.
“Sir, I’m gonna need you to stand up slowly. Drop the items you’re holding and put your hands up. OK? We just wanna make sure you’re alright. Then we’ll talk.”
Frank reads his tag: Captain L. Gomez. He put both phones down. “Please, Captain Gomez, I need some advice, maybe help. I’m not sure…” Frank tries to rise but falls back on his bottom, breathless.
“Hey Bobby,” Gomez points at a younger officer, rookie maybe. “Come over here, help him up and get his stuff. Put it over here on the counter.” Officer Bobby moves fast, helping Frank to a chair. “What’s your name?” Gomez asks.
“Frank… Game.” Bobby collects Frank’s things, staring at him with pity. “Please, on my daughter’s phone, there’s a text—”
Officer Bobby gives Captain Gomez a questioning look.
“A text?” The way Gomez says that makes Frank feel stupid. He stares at Frank like his boss does with that scrunched up nose and doubting eyes. “Wait. I remember you. I know you.”
Frank stiffens, he recognized him too. His eyes shift between the phone, now on the desk, and Captain Gomez’s disgusted gaze.
“You went to Deer Berry High. You did some of my homework. My God man, look at you. Still huge! Yo Murphy!” Gomez yells to another officer. “Remember Fat Frank from high school?”
Officer Murphy looks up from his newspaper in the back of the station, uninterested, and doesn’t answer.
“Ah! Fatty fat Frank. 3F!” Gomez continued. “Not sure how you have a daughter. She must be adopted.”
Some officers laugh, others stay quiet. Frank imagines clocking him, but there’s no time to settle old feuds.
“Listen. I’m here for my daughter. She got a text from an unknown number with a threat. It unsettled me.”
“Nothing wrong with a text. Block the number.”
“That’s not enough, I want to file a complaint.”
“You did nothing. Look at the text at least. Here, I’ll grab her phone—” Frank goes to the counter. Gomez follows him, smirking. Frank pulls up the text, holding it to the captain’s face. “See? He says he wants to haunt her insides. You know what that means!”
“How do you know it’s a guy? Doesn’t seem like a credible threat, anyway. Nothing we can do unless he comes to your door or something.”
“So, I just wait for my daughter to be attacked? My family?”
“Maybe it won’t come to that. You got a gun?”
“Better get one.”
“Wait. Are you going to help me? I feel like this is serious.”
“Sounds like your daughter has a horny boyfriend serious about getting some. You married?”
“I thought you were a smart guy. One of them nerds. You should have a gun. Make your wife tell your girl about the birds and the bees, lock your doors and get strapped. Nothing we can do here 3F.”
“Thanks for nothing,” Frank said, grabbing both phones.
Halfway down the block, a cop car pulls up beside Frank. It’s Officer Bobby.
“Sir? Need a ride?”
Frank smiles, fanning out his shirt. “Hey Bobby, that’d be great, thanks. I’m just down the road on Honey Lane, not too far. But maybe drop me off at the corner, yeah? I don’t want to worry my neighbors.”
“Understandable. Hop in.”
Frank enters on the passenger side, thankful. “Never rode in a cop cruiser before. I wanted to be a cop so bad when I was younger. Used to patrol my house even, giving my brothers and sisters tickets when they upset me.”
“Oh yeah? Why didn’t you?”
“Not enough confidence I guess.” Frank sighs, looking at Alexis’s phone. “Being in an office felt safer at first, but it’ll probably kill me all the same.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Bobby pauses. Frank didn’t expect him to add much to his gripes. He’s young, and likely wasn’t put through the ringer yet. “So, what’s going on there? The text you were talking about. You think there’s something to it?”
“I do. I don’t know why. Dad intuition, maybe. You have kids?”
“Nah. Can’t find the right woman. One day maybe.”
Officer Bobby pulls up at the corner of Honey Lane.
“Thanks for the ride. Kind of you.”
“Sure. Hey, I’m off duty soon, but can swing by your place after dark. Keep a lookout if that helps. Sometimes having a police car on the block can act as a deterrent to crime.”
“Yeah, man. Thanks a lot, that’ll give me some comfort. I’m at 19403, yellow front door.”
“19403. Sounds like a plan. I’ll come by around nine. Stay safe.”
Frank walked the rest of the way home. He arrives at an empty house, still thinking about Captain Gomez and his stupid insults. He hadn’t changed one bit either. A weak man, who confused Frank for one. Some things he could tolerate. Endangering his family was not one of those things. If I were in charge at that station, he would’ve been terminated for his unprofessionalism.
Taking matters into his own hands, Frank goes to his attic, retrieving the gun he said he didn’t have.
Alexis’s old Red Ryder BB Gun.