(Wednesday, October 25th)
“Wait,” Michael said skeptically, looking at Max across a table at the Crashdown. “Liz thinks she’s having visions in her sleep.”
Max sighed, trying to explain. “She’s really upset about these murders…”
Michael shook his head, cutting him off. “She’s crazy,” he said, dismissively, motioning to Liz who was serving customers across the cafe.
“She had visions before,” Max pointed out. “All I’m saying is maybe…”
“No way,” Michael said. He stopped, his eyes focusing on Max. “Unless you two are …” he trailed off, raising his eyebrow.
“No,” Max said, glancing at Liz and shaking his head.
“There you go,” Michael said decisively. “She’s not having any visions without you.”
“I don’t know,” Max said. “Liz contacted me in New York, and Ava said she was changed. We don’t really know what that means.”
Michael’s brow creased. “So you’re buying this?”
“I’m not sure,” Max admitted. “She is so positive, and I want to support her no matter what is happening. Not to mention two women have been murdered, and if she is having visions, maybe they can tell us something.”
Michael nodded, watching Max closely. “You also didn’t mention that you are using this to get close to her.”
Max didn’t answer. “So she had that weird experience at the haunted house last night.”
“Yeah,” Michael said, “Maria told me.”
“Liz is convinced that it was the killer,” Max said.
“Right,” Michael scoffed. “A psycho-killer is working at a haunted house.”
“So after school,” Max continued, “I took Liz to see Valenti, and she told him the whole thing.”
“What did Valenti say?” asked Michael curiously.
“I don’t know if he believed her, but he said he’d look into it.” Max glanced at Liz again. “It seemed to calm her down a little.”
Michael shook his head. “She’s just seen one too many horror movies.”
“I’m not sure,” Max admitted. “But it was definitely strange, and she was really upset.”
“Well,” Michael suggested, “why don’t you offer to let her use you to try and get a vision.”
Max scowled. “Right. Hey, Liz, I know we aren’t together, but I’ll let you make out with me to see if you get a vision.”
“You don’t have to phrase it like that,” Michael said. “Just offer to connect with her, and see if you get a flash.”
Max thought about it for a moment. “I’d like to, but I don’t want to push her.”
Michael shrugged. “So,” he said, “what are you going to do?”
“I’m going to be there for her,” Max said, watching Liz walk across the restaurant, “and I’m going to keep her safe.”
After her shift at the Crashdown, Liz talked to Max for a while in one of the booths. He’d absolutely refused to leave until the place was locked up securely and he knew she was safe for the night.
By the time he left, it was getting late, and she went directly up to her room.
Turning on her light, she crossed to her desk, to do her homework, but stopped as something outside caught her eye.
Going to the window, she was surprised to see a bouquet of roses out on her balcony.
She opened her window, climbing out to get a closer look.
A large bouquet of orange and black roses, tied with a black ribbon was sitting on her lounge chair. It was unusual, but beautiful, and appropriate for the season. She’d never seen either color before.
Her first thought was that Max had left them for her, and she felt a rush of happiness
Walking over, she picked them up, holding them to her nose and inhaling deeply. The scent was strong and sweet, and she smiled, but it quickly turned to a frown.
Underneath the roses was another bouquet of black, white and orange suckers.
The roses weren’t from Max, they were from her secret admirer.
Maria, of course, thought it was so romantic, but Liz just found it annoying. With everything else going on, the last thing she needed was to drag some poor guy into her life. She couldn’t give him any kind of relationship. She was still so much in love with Max.
She doubted she’d ever have a real relationship again. After Max it just seemed impossible. How was she supposed to settle for ordinary when she’d had perfection? How was she supposed to love anyone else, when she’d found her soulmate?
Whoever this guy was sending the flowers and candy, she was doomed to break his heart.
And why was he waiting so long to say who he was?
Maria had a theory about that too. She thought he was working his way up to asking her on a date. Maybe even to the upcoming school Halloween carnival.
If that was the case, he wasn’t giving himself much time. The carnival was only a few days away. And how did he know she wasn’t already going with someone?
Searching through the flowers, Liz finally located the note.
Her kiss is sweeter than cherry pie
A shiver of reaction went through Liz.
Maybe it was meant to be romantic, but she thought the note was kind of creepy. Who was this person thinking about kissing her?
And he’d been on her balcony. How did he even know about it? Had he followed her?
Suddenly she had the feeling that someone was watching her.
Looking around, she quickly scanned the dark buildings nearby, but saw nothing.
She’d never really thought about how vulnerable she was on her balcony. Hers was the only light, and anyone around would easily be able to see her.
Scooping up the roses and candy, she climbed awkwardly though the window, shutting and locking it, and drawing the curtains.
She put the flowers and suckers aside and took the card over to her computer. She’d meant to look up the lines on the other cards anyway. These new words sounded even more familiar. Maybe it was supposed to be some kind of clue.
Sitting down, she went to a search engine, and started to type.
The search brought up hundreds of thousands of entries. Way too many to look through.
She frowned, thinking, and then remember to put the words in quotation marks.
Clicking search again, she was surprised to see there were no results.
She was sure she’d heard the words before. She entered them again, only using some of the words, in different combinations. There were some results, but nothing that matched the card.
It was possible that whatever the source was it hadn’t been entered online, she supposed, but she didn’t know another way to find them.
Suddenly she had an idea. Internet searches weren’t her best thing, but Alex was brilliant at computers. She needed his help.
Picking up the phone, she pressed his number on speed-dial. It was late, but she knew he’d be up.
He answered after only one ring. “Liz, how are you?”
She smiled, hearing the concern in his voice. “I’m fine, Alex. I called with a favor.”
“Sure,” he answered. “What do you need?”
“I told you about the suckers I’ve been getting,” she explained, “and the cards with them. Well the last two sayings on the cards have seemed really familiar, and I was wondering if they were quotes from a book or movie, or maybe a poem.”
Alex caught on immediately. “You want me to do an internet search.”
“Yes,” Liz said, relieved. “I tried, but I couldn’t find anything. I’d really appreciate it if you’d work some of your magic.”
“No problem,” Alex assured her. “So, you don’t have any idea who is sending them?”
Liz shook her head. “Not at all, and it’s starting to creep me out. Tonight there were roses and more suckers on my balcony.”
“He was on your balcony?” Alex asked concerned.
“I’m not just overreacting then,” she said. “That is creepy, right?”
Alex didn’t want to upset her. “Well,” he started, “maybe he thought it would be romantic, and didn’t consider the fact that he his actions could be considered stalker-ish.”
“Maybe,” Liz said. “But that is why I’d like to know who it is.”
“Of course,” Alex agreed. “Is there anyone you suspect? Some guy who talks to you in class?”
“I talk to all kinds of people, every day,” Liz said. “I’ve known ninety percent of them my whole life. We’ve been to Elementary, Jr. High, and now High School together.”
“Well,” Alex said, “is there anyone who’s been paying more attention to you than usual. You know, flirting with you, or trying to be near you?”
Liz shrugged, forgetting Alex couldn’t see her on the phone. “I don’t know. I can’t think of anyone. I never really pay attention to that stuff.”
Alex chuckled. He should have known. Liz was beautiful and smart, but she’d never thought of herself that way. And he knew no guy had a chance with her. She only had eyes for Max.
“Okay,” Alex said, “give me the lines from the cards, and I’ll start looking. We’ll see if we can figure out who he is.”
“Thanks, Alex,” Liz said gratefully.
Liz completed her homework in a little over an hour, and by the time she was finished, she was completely exhausted.
She shortened her bedtime routine to only brushing her teeth, and then she pulled on her warm pajamas and climbed under the blankets.
Closing her eyes, she fell asleep almost immediately.
It was the whistling that woke her not long after.
She jolted up in bed, clutching the sheets around her as her eyes quickly darted around her room. She didn’t see anyone, and everything seemed to be in place, but then she remembered her dream.
As she lay asleep in bed, a shadowy figure had come onto her balcony, opening her window and silently slipped into her room. He’d walked around, touching her things, and then he stood next to her bed, watching her sleep.
For a long time his eyes slid over her, and finally he reached out, stroking her hair.
She stirred a little under his touch, and he leaned in, deeply inhaling her scent. He continued to stroke her hair as he whispered in her ear. “Soon.”
Lightly trailing his fingers down the blanket, along the line of her body, he made his way back to the window. Climbing out, he closed it again, but stopped to look back at her, and started to whistle, in low, long, out-of-tune notes. The same whistle she’d heard in the alley the night of the first murder.
That’s when she’d jolted awake. The killer had been in her room, touching her.
Heart racing, she leapt out of bed, rushing to the window and throwing the curtains aside, expecting to see him on her balcony. But no one was there.
Reaching out, she pushed at the window she’d seen him use in her dream, but it was still locked.
Disappointment and relief flooded her. No one had been in her room. It was only a dream. She’d been thinking about the murders so much, it was no wonder she’d dreamt about it.
With a sigh she went back to her bed, and started to climb back in, when something caught her eye.
On her bedside table was one of the heart-shaped Halloween suckers.
(Thursday, October 26th)
“Come on, Liz,” Maria exclaimed, as they walked down the hall at school. “You said yourself that your windows were still locked. No one could get into your room.”
“I know,” Liz said, trying to explain, “but what about the sucker. I didn’t put it there.”
“You don’t remember putting it there,” Maria corrected. “You said yourself you were exhausted. You have dozens of those suckers lying around, and you got more last night. So you forgot and put one on your table.”
Liz shook her head. “I don’t think...”
Maria smiled putting an arm around her, already dismissing the subject.
“You know, you have way more suckers than any one person should eat, ever. We should start selling them at the Crashdown, or giving them away with the purchase of a meal. You certainly shouldn’t eat that much sugar. It isn’t good for you. Not to mention what it could do to your hips.”
She continued on, but Liz didn’t hear anything she said. Again she felt like someone was watching her. Looking around, she didn’t see anyone out of place. Maybe it was her secret admirer.
Or maybe, she thought, the killer was someone from the school. It could be a student, a teacher, a janitor, a counselor, anyone.
Studying each face carefully, she felt a chill run through her body. She’d never considered she might know the killer. And that would explain why he was working at the haunted house too. It was mostly staffed by students from around the area. She’d probably known half the workers there.
Scanning the area quickly, she tried to see if anyone was paying attention to them. A few people smiled or waved when she looked at them, but nothing that seemed weird or out of place.
Down the hall, she saw Michael, and when she caught his eye, he dipped his head in acknowledgement. And Liz wondered if Max had asked him to watch out for her.
A chill raced through her body in reaction.
Maria calling her name, brought her back to the present.
“Liz. Liz, you’re shivering.”
“It’s freezing in here,” Liz lied. She knew Maria would never believe the real reason that she thought the killer was in the school and watching them.
“Um, yeah,” Maria said dismissively. “So put on a sweater.”
Liz nodded. No matter what Maria, Alex, or Max believed, something weird was going on, she was sure of it.
Max watched Liz carefully across the table at lunch. He’d been watching her a lot lately, especially since the murders started.
He told himself it was to make sure she was safe, and that was part of it, but the more he watched her, the more he could tell she wasn’t okay.
Sure, she was upset about the murders and her dreams, but something else was really bothering him about her, and he couldn’t shake it off. Yes, the murders were more important, but he kept wondering about her actions with Kyle.
It was obvious she wasn’t with Kyle. She wasn’t sitting with him, and hadn’t looked at him once. Kyle was sitting with Tess, and they were laughing about something.
Max was sure Liz had never slept with him. So why all the lies? Why the elaborate plan with Kyle?
The more he thought about it he was sure that was a set up too.
It was on the night of the Gomez concert, and she had to know he’d be coming by her house to try and change her mind about going. She hadn’t closed her bedroom curtains to keep out prying eyes, and Max knew she wasn’t an exhibitionist.
And why bother to stage a scene to make it appear that she’d slept Kyle unless she had witnesses? Otherwise no one would ever know.
He was sure of it. Liz never had any intention of sleeping with Kyle, she had simply set him up to see her in bed with Kyle, to push him away.
Although he was sure he was right, he struggled with what to do with the knowledge.
He wanted to confront her, and get all the lies out in the open, but he didn’t want to upset her more. With the murders and Liz’s dreams, it couldn’t be a worse time.
Maybe he should offer to connect with her to see her dreams, and hope instead to see something about Kyle. But that didn’t feel right. He didn’t want to lie to her, and it seemed like he was invading her privacy.
Throughout the rest of the day, he wondered what to do, and finally he decided. He would go to the Crashdown after school, get Liz alone, and talk to her about it.
Alex hurried into the Crashdown, excited to share his news with Liz. He’d been searching in his spare time all day at school, and finally he’d found what she was looking for.
Liz was sitting in a booth in the back with Max, and Alex smiled. He’d always thought they belonged together, and he was glad to see them together so much lately.
He was also glad to see Liz so relaxed. She’d been so upset the last few days. Being with Max was good for her, even if she didn’t realize it.
“Hey,” he said, sliding into the booth next to Liz, “I got that information you wanted. It’s lyrics from a song.”
Liz smiled. “I knew you could do it. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.”
“You weren’t doing anything wrong, I’m sure,” he said. “At first I couldn’t find anything either. I just searched for smaller groups of words, and finally found it. The original song was written to a guy. Whoever is sending the notes changed it to a girl, and they also changed some of the other words.”
“Well,” Liz said excitedly, “what song is it?”
“It’s called Lollipop,” Alex said.
Liz shook her head. I don’t know that song.
“Me either,” Max said.
“I’m sure you do,” Alex assured them. “It’s one of those classic songs that they use in movies and on commercials.” He started singing softly. “Lollipop, lollipop, Oh lolli lolli lolli, Lollipop.”
“Oh sure,” Liz said, “I’ve heard that before, but I wouldn’t have known the lyrics were from that song.”
Alex reached into his satchel. “I printed out the sheet music for you.”
He handed it to her, pointing out the lyrics on the cards.
Liz studied it closely, frowning. “I thought if I knew what song it was, I might know who was sending the suckers,” she shrugged, “or I guess they must be lollipops, to go with the song.” She sighed. “But I still don’t have any more information than I did before.”
She looked from Alex to Max. “Does this song mean anything to either of you?”
Max shook his head. “I’ve heard it, but that’s all.”
“Well, thanks for finding it for me,” Liz said. “That’s one less thing on my mind, anyway.”
“No problem,” Alex assured her. “Glad to help.”
Max looked at Alex, begging with his eyes for him to understand. “Would you let Liz out?” he said. “I really need to talk to her privately.”
Alex saw the intense expression in Max’s face and got of the booth. “Sure. No problem.”
“Can we go in the back?” Max asked Liz. “It’s important.”
Liz looked slightly worried, but she nodded.
When they got into the back room, Max made sure no one was around before he spoke.
“Liz,” he started, “I know you didn’t sleep with Kyle.”
She opened her mouth to protest, but he cut her off. “Let me finish,” he said. “I know you didn’t sleep with Kyle, and I know you set me up to see you in bed with him. And I’m assuming you did it to push me away.”
Liz remained silent, her eyes wide, and shining with the start of tears.
“But what I want to know,” he continued, “is why? Why would you do that to us? Why would you throw away our love?”
“Max,” Liz said softly as tears gathered in her eyes, “I had to. We can’t be together. We can’t be in love. You have to be with Tess. You know this.”
He shook his head. “I don’t know that. And who says I have to be with Tess? Some book that we don’t even know how to read? I don’t love her. I never could.”
Tears spilled down her cheeks. “That’s why I had to make you fall out of love with me,” she explained. “That way you and Tess would at least have a chance.”
“What are you talking about?” Max asked. “Love doesn’t work like that. You don’t just get over it.”
He cupped her cheek wiping away the moisture. “I never stopped loving you,” he said fiercely, “even when I thought you’d been with Kyle. You broke my heart, but I never stopped loving you.”
“It’s impossible,” she whispered, “you couldn’t still love me after that.”
“I’ll always love you,” he promised. “Nothing could turn me away from you.”
Liz shook her head. “But that’s not right,” she said, mostly talking to herself. “Something changed. Something happened.”
Max’s brow creased in confusion. “What do you mean?”
She looked at him panicking. What was she going to do?
At that moment, Sheriff Valenti came through, looking haggard and worried, and Alex was right behind him. “Something’s happened,” he said.
Liz looked from Valenti to Alex. “What?”
Max could see the strained expression on Liz’s face and went to stand behind her. He put his hands on her upper arms reassuringly, preparing for bad news.
“What’s going on, Sheriff?” Max asked.
“There have been two more murders,” Jim said, looking at Liz, “and one of them was exactly like in your dream.”
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