I saw him first on the bus. He was sitting in the back with an old-school fedora nearly covering his eyes and suspiciously wearing sunglasses on a dark bus. There were only two other people on board and he definitely, strangely stood out. His long trench coat reminded me of something from the ’50s. Maybe he was a spy, I thought. But a spy living in Michigan? I don’t know about that.
I quickly forgot about him though as I went on about my day. But I saw him the next day too, on the same spot on the back of the bus, at the same time. I am pretty sure I had never noticed him before. But he was gone the next day and the day after that, at least as far as I know. It was on the 5th day that I noticed him at the park. I often went to Sunny Side Park to just get away and think.
I was taking a walk when I passed him sitting on a bench. That had to be the same guy, right? It looked just like him. Same sunglasses, hat, and trenchcoat. Coincidence, I told myself. But the next day I saw him again. Not on the bus and not at the park, but at a four-way intersection downtown. He was standing diagonally across the street from me. I purposefully walked the opposite direction.
Still, I wrote it off. It probably wasn’t the same guy, I told myself. But after another day of not noticing him, I saw him again. I was riding my bike to work, along the greenway, and I passed by him walking towards me. I sped up and got out of there as fast as I could. Who was this man and why did he keep popping up?
I ran into work in a panic and my coworker asked me if I was alright. Yeah, yeah, it’s nothing, I told her. But was it nothing? Was this guy following me? Was he a stalker? Was he a killer or a rapist? What did he want from me? I was a young, attractive female, so maybe he was targeting me as his next victim. Great, I thought.
The next day I was walking home nervously, as nightfall had snuck up on me. I took the short-cut through the alleyway that I usually took, but I was more freaked out than usual. I hadn’t seen the man today but what if he was following me? What if he was stalking me from behind, in the shadows?
The sound of something banging into a trashcan made me bolt out of there. I didn’t stop running until I reached my front door. I ran inside, locked the doors, and closed all the windows. I set my alarm and called my mom. I wasn’t taking any chances.
I ate a quick dinner and then retired to my room and locked the door. I lived alone in a single-unit condo and now I wished I had a roommate. But I didn’t even have a dog. I took a deep breath and told myself to relax, that it was all going to be okay. But was it?
I laid wide awake in bed, with my phone close by, nearly all night. I finally found my eyes unable to stay open, just as the sun shone through my window. I slept for an hour before I had to go to work. That went on for the next three nights, but there was no sign of the man. Just when I thought I was out of the clear, there he was!
I was about to walk through the doors of my job when I felt the need to turn around. He was there, across the street, just creepily facing my direction, probably staring at me through those sunglasses. When I stopped dead in my tracks to look at him, he quickly turned and walked away. Gotcha! I thought, but I didn’t think he would just go away and never return like that. He was clearly stalking me.
I didn’t see him again for two days and then, just like that, he returned! I went into the local supermarket and as I was loading my car with groceries, I looked up and across the street. There was the man, sitting in his car, sunglasses and hat on, clearly watching me. I threw the rest of the bags in the car and got out of there. I called my mom again in a panic but she just told me I’d be fine.
But I had had it. If this man was planning to take me out, he had other news coming to him. He didn’t know who he was messing with! Little did he know that I wanted to be Nancy Drew as a kid, a serious investigator, who nothing ever got past. If he was going to kill me, he was going to have to try harder than that. It was on!
One more day passed and there was, fortunately, no sight of the stranger. But I knew better. I kept my phone on me and made sure to check all of my surroundings at all times. I made sure to set my alarm when I left the house and to not go to any isolated places. I got home before it was dark and ran as little errands as I needed to.
This seemed to be working, as a couple more days passed and I didn’t spot him anywhere. But I still wasn’t ready to accept the fact that he had moved on. If anything, it made me a little more nervous that he was possibly still somehow watching me, without me knowing. I talked to my mom again and she told me I was just being paranoid but I wasn’t the type. I even told a Co-worker, in case I went missing.
One week had finally passed and the man was nowhere to be found. I made sure to watch the news and read up on if any strange men had been caught up to no good in the area. Nothing. But that didn’t matter. I knew he was out there, probably still stalking me.
I told my best friend over the phone and she freaked out. I assured her just to keep me in her thoughts and prayers and even invited her over to stay a few nights. Then, I went over to her place and stayed for three nights. After two weeks had passed, I finally began to feel like the man had gone for good, so I started to relax.
Big mistake. As soon as I let my guard down, he came back! Not only that, but he actually approached me. I got home from work and was standing at my front door trying to unlock it. “Stephanie.” A voice I didn’t recognize said my name and I turned around in horror to see the man walking up to me! I wiggled the key even faster!
He spoke again. “Are you Stephanie Gridlock?” I opened the door and ran inside, despite him telling me to wait. I immediately called the cops but he was gone by the time they arrived. They couldn’t do much for me, as I didn’t have a good enough description of him since I never saw his eyes or hair or any other physical features.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep the whole night and I was terrified to leave my house for work. He must have caught on to the fact that I had involved local law enforcement because he went missing again. Three days later, I came home to find a mysterious note on my door.
It read: “Stephanie, I believe I am your father. I know your mother told you I was dead and rightfully so. But I’d like a chance to get to know my daughter. I know you might find this hard to believe but I am real and I do want to be a part of your life. Please give me a chance and I ask you don’t call the cops on me again.”
Yeah right, I thought. My dad is dead, mom wouldn’t lie to me. This guy is a creeper trying to get me to let him in and get the cops off his trail. I’m not dumb. But I decided to call mom just in case.
What happened next shocked me! Mom wept on the phone as she explained that my dad had been a Serial Gambler and blew all of our money on the slots. I was just three years old when she kicked him out and she decided it was better for me to grow up and think that I just didn’t have a father than know the truth. I couldn’t believe it.
Was this man really my father? But he didn’t even sign his name or leave a number or any contact information. And he certainly was handling this all creepily, that’s for sure.
The next day I walked home from work because I was tired of being on edge and changing my life for this psycho. I went inside, turned on the TV, and was just about to order a pizza when I heard a knock on the door. I looked out the peephole and it was him! To call the police or not to call, that was the question. I ignored him but he knocked again. “What do you want?!” I yelled through the door.
“Did you get my note?!” He yelled back.
“Yeah, but how do I know you’re my father?! And how do you know I won’t call the cops?!”
“My name is Tom Lucas, your mother is Linda Gridlock. And you won’t call the cops.”
“Yeah?! I might! And it’s not that hard to find out someone’s name!”
“You were born on November 19, 1987, in Dover, Delaware. You have a birthmark on your right ankle shaped like a star.”
Okay, I would give him that. “Tell me more!”
“You are an only child and you graduated Magna Cum Laude. You work at the Regional Bank and you love to read.”
“Still doesn’t prove you’re my dad.”
“Please, Stephanie. Let me in.”
“What’s my favorite color?”
“Well, when you were a little girl, it was turquoise.”
“Fine, what’s my favorite movie?”
“You used to love watching 101 Dalmations and The Rescuers.”
This guy was good, good enough to be my dad.
“You don’t have to open the door but I just want to say I am sorry. I am sorry for never being there to watch you grow up. I am sorry I went away and had a gambling problem. I was young and foolish. But I have learned a lot over the years and I want a chance to make up for lost time if you will have me, Stephanie Marie Gridlock.”
I knew down deep in my gut this man was telling the truth. He was my father. So, I slowly opened the door.
“Stephanie.” His whole face lit up and he hugged me tightly.
I knew this mystery had been solved but there were still a lot of unanswered questions that I had.