Note: This mystery suspense story is a loose combination of the two above Reedsy prompts. This story is for mature audiences.
Annabelle hadn’t the faintest idea why she was here. Her husband of five years had passed away in a tragic car accident ten months ago. Her friends had urged her to consider moving on and looking for love again, as Annabelle was, after all, twenty-seven and had her whole life ahead of her.
She took their advice, even though her heart was not in it and downloaded a dating app. She found a match who had the same interests as her, both loved to ice skate and swim, and both were in Milan, Italy four years ago, at exactly the same time, without even knowing it. His named was Dominic, and Annabelle was excited to meet him for the first time after a few days of back and forth texting.
At the bar, Annabelle was sitting facing the TV screen which showed a baseball game. She had ordered a martini, and was waiting for Dominic. She saw as the bartender, who looked to be in his late twenties, prepared a drink for a waiting customer, a woman, with blonde hair and a striking striped pantsuit. Anabelle continued to look around her surroundings at the happy and cheerful people socializing, eating, and drinking. Anabelle looked next to her. The seat next to her was empty.
She imagined her date next to her, smiling as she talked about herself, and asked questions to him. Her thoughts were interrupted when a man made his way towards her, and sat down in the empty seat. He was older, in his early fifties, but looked well-built and trim. He was distinguished looking, with curly brown hair, and an expensive black suit. Annabelle didn’t pay much attention to him, until he pulled something out of his pocket, and began surfing through it.
It was a 5"x8" diary.
The man seemed to be intrigued with the contents of the diary, even though it looked odd for someone like him to own. First of all, it was bright red, with tea leaf colored pages. On the the cover were the words DIARY in bold gold letters. Second of all, there were sparkles on the cover. She couldn’t see what was written inside and didn’t want to appear obvious that she was interested in what was written, but she couldn’t help but wonder if this diary belonged to him or someone else. She kept looking at the man who was reading this diary. The man looked up, and fixed his gaze on hers for a brief second, causing her to look away towards the TV screen, half heartedly watching the game.
She then wondered where Dominic was and what was holding him. He said to meet at the bar at 6:30 pm. It was already 6:40 pm. She decided to text him, asking him his whereabouts. A text formed on the screen seconds later.
I'm so sorry, I have to cancel our date. I really apologize.
Annabelle felt like yelling out loud in frustration. Why didn’t he let her know he couldn’t make it before hand. She texted, asking him why.
I have to be honest with you Annabelle, my wife found my phone, and read our texts. This is the last message I can send you. I’ve really enjoyed our conversations, and looked forward to meeting you. But I was given an ultimatum, and I’m afraid this is it. I wish you a good luck in your life.
A wife? Dominic was married?! Shouldn’t he have told her that the first thing they matched? Why was he even on a dating app if he was married?! Ugh. The frustration building up inside, made her abruptly stand up and text an angry reply back.
You’re married and didn’t tell me?! I’m very disappointed. I don’t want to hear from you again. Thank you for nothing.
Tears formed in her eyes as she put her phone down. How was she supposed to move on when people like Dominic existed? It gave her no hope to finding someone who could take solace in her pain, someone who actually cared about her. She realized that no one could ever replace Steven, her late husband. He was the best thing that happened to her. Why did the universe have to be so cruel to take him away from her?
She wiped the tears from her eyes, and walked out. She cried to herself for a good two minutes while standing at the entrance. She looked back at the texts she and Dominic exchanged, feeling so stupid for falling for a fraud like him.
“Ma’am? You left your purse on the seat!” someone called out, startling her. Annabelle turned, and it was the bartender she saw previously. He had her purse in his right hand.
“Oh, thank you so much!” She took it and looked inside making sure everything was still there.
“Oh, and you left your diary as well. It was on your seat as well.” He showed her the diary, which was in his other hand. It was red with sparkles, the word DIARY written on the cover.
“That doesn’t belong to me,” Annabelle said. Then she remembered the man with the black suit reading a red diary with interest. “It belongs to a man who was sitting next to me.”
“He finished a drink and left. He said it belonged to you.”
Annabelle scoffed. “No it doesn’t. It’s not mine.”
“Hmm, okay. I guess I’ll put in in lost and found—”
“Wait.” Annabelle thought for a moment. “I’ll take it. I know who it belongs to actually.”
“You do? Great. Here you go.” The bartender handed her the diary.
“Thank you very much, have a good night,” Annabelle said.
“You too!” The bartender went back inside.
Annabelle stared at the diary in her hands. She suddenly didn’t know why she took it, why she lied about knowing who it belonged to, and why she didn’t allow the bartender to put it in lost and found. Part of it was because of temptation to see what was inside, to figure out why the man was reading it with intent, and most importantly, why he left it behind and claimed it belonged to her.
But she realized she shouldn’t open it out of respect for someone else’s privacy. She also watched a lot of mystery movies, and wondered if reading a stranger’s diary would open a Pandora’s box that had been filled with secrets, and put her in potential danger.
She clutched the diary in her hands as she went to her car parked across the road. She unlocked her door and sat inside. She placed the diary and her purse on the passenger seat. Then she adjusted her mirror. To her horror, she saw someone sitting behind her.
“Hello, Annabelle,” the man said. It was the same man from the bar, the one sitting next to her.
She had no words. What was he doing here in her car? Did she forget to lock her car door?
“I have your diary,” she said, handing it over to him.
He pushed his hands out, in a refusing manner. “I don’t want it. It belongs to you.”
“No it doesn’t. I didn’t look inside, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“Oh, you didn’t read it? Why don’t you read it now?”
“I don’t want to.” She still motioned the diary towards him.
“Suit yourself then.”
“Who are you? Who does this belong to?” Annabelle asked. She couldn’t trust people these days. Especially not people who snuck into peoples’ cars.
“Open the first page and I’ll tell you.”
Anabelle felt tempted. She wanted to know so badly what was written inside. But she wondered if this was a set up. Did he by chance know Dominic or was he connected to something shady and dangerous?
“I don’t trust you, to be honest.”
“Well you can open it here or we can do this somewhere else, your choice.”
Annabelle felt her nerves tingle in fear. He was going to do something if she didn’t read it! She had no choice but to read the first page.
She opened up the diary gingerly. The first page read:
THIS BELONGS TO REBEKA FOWLER
The font was obviously written by a female, due to the hearts, and smiley faces surrounding the words. In the middle was a small picture of a smiling brunette at the beach, glued on. Underneath the picture read the word, ME.
“Does that name look familiar to you?” the man asked.
“No.” Anabelle looked at the man. “I read the first page. Now tell me who you are.”
The man looked down at his pocket, and for a moment she thought he was going to pull out a gun, but instead it was a badge.
“My name is Agent Adrian Hopkins. I work with the FBI and we are investigating Rebeka Fowler’s murder. She was found shot to death in a residence a week ago. We are trying to find out who did this.”
“Oh my god.” Annabelle put her hands to her face in shock. “I don’t think I heard about this in the news. But why are you telling me this? What does her death have to do with me?”
Agent Hopkins smiled for the first time, which Annabelle found unnerving. “That’s a good question. I have the answer.” He pulled out a plastic bag from his suit pocket. “Does the name Dominic Azure ring a bell to you?”
Hearing Dominic's name made her eyes go wide. “What about Dominic?”
He handed her the bag. “Don’t open it, just look from outside. We found this ID next to Rebeka’s body, which was found in the basement of a farm house out of state.”
Annabelle felt her throat go dry as she heard this. Poor Rebeka. She stared at the photo of the man she had communicated with. Dominic Azure. Dominic, who shared so much in common with her. Who was actually married, and didn’t tell her. And now who was possibly a cold blooded murderer. “Did Dominic kill Rebeka?”
Agent Hopkins didn’t answer her question. “We have enough evidence for a warrant for his arrest, that’s all I can tell you. What you should know is that we had his phone tracked and we know he messaged you several times in the past few days. Despite him being married.”
“I know nothing about this Rebeka girl. He never mentioned her to me. I’m shocked. We were supposed to meet in person today but he cancelled, which made me mad. And hearing about the fact he’s married… don’t get me started. But now I’m glad I didn’t meet him.”
The agent nodded. “It’s a good thing. I was keeping watch the whole time. I was there, making sure you weren’t in trouble, just in case. Or if you were working alongside Dominic, withholding information, I had to make sure you weren't out of my sight. So at the exact same time as the date, I got a group of our men to watch his house and arrest him. I asked one of the agents to message you a last reply, cancelling the date.”
That explained why it sounded so formal. Good luck in life. Dominic never texted like that. He was always informal, and used emojis, which this text didn't have.
But it was all for the better.
“Thank you for telling me this,” Annabelle said. “I’m grateful my life wasn’t put in danger.”
“Yes, I’m glad you are safe now. I apologize for breaking into your car like this. I had to speak with you before you drove off with the diary in your possession.”
“Why’d you leave it behind in the first place?”
“Because I knew you would want to read it. I noticed the way you were looking at it with interest.” Annabelle gave him a judging look. “Anyways, I saw you leave briefly, so I left it on your seat.”
“I left because I received that text from “Dominic” saying he wouldn’t make it. I was angry about that.”
“Right, well, I didn’t realize you were leaving for the night. That’s why when I saw you didn’t come back, I had to station in your car. I apologize for my unethical approach, but I wanted to know the truth from you, if you knew Rebeka or not, given you were in communication with Dominic.”
Anabelle nodded, then stared at the diary. “I don’t know her, as I said. If I did, I would have told you. And I assume this means I was never meant to read this.”
Agent Hopkins took the diary from her. “Yes. You're right. I believe you when you say you don’t know Rebeka. I’m trained to know liars, but something about you makes me believe you are being truthful. One of the reasons I believe you is because of your self control. I really took a risk, leaving the diary behind as bait, for me to see if you were perhaps going to get rid of it. Perhaps you were covering for Dominic, who knew? But you did the exact opposite of what I expected. Thank you for showing class and not being tempted to read it.”
Anabelle sighed. “Now that I know the whole story, I assume that some damaging stuff must be written in this that is connected to Dominic. So it feels wrong to even want to know what’s in this. Poor girl. I hope Dominic gets the right sentence for his crime. He’s lied to me this whole time.” She let out a sob. “I was just looking for a second chance at love. My husband died recently, so my friends told me to try my luck in finding someone to fill the void. And I thought Dominic would be a good match. Now I realized that no one can replace my husband and I will probably be alone my whole life.” She didn’t know why she had to let loose her feelings out loud to a man she didn’t really know. But she felt the need to, given he was actually a good person, who wanted justice.
“I’m sorry you had to go through that,” Agent Hopkins said. “If it’s any consolation, my twenty-nine-year old son just started a position with the FBI academy, and is in the market.”
Anabelle scoffed. “Are you setting me up with your son?”
“If you would like to consider a more safe option.”
She smiled. “I guess I can consider it. Thank you.”
Agent Hopkins patted her shoulder, then stepped out of the car, pressing his hands to his ears. He was talking to someone through a wireless headphone. “Got it. And I also have confirmation. No connection involved.”
He then got back in, this time sitting in the passenger seat. “I took the bus to get here. I would like for us to go to the station, so that I can have your statements regarding Dominic, recorded.”
Annabelle nodded. “Sure. I’ll drive us there. Thank you very much, once again.”
TWO WEEKS LATER
Anabelle sat at the same bar, waiting for her date to arrive. His name was Claudio. She didn’t have to wait long, because he showed up right on time.
“Hello Anabelle,” he said, sitting next to her. He really resembled a younger Agent Hopkins, with his angular jaw structure, and piercing brown eyes.
“Hi! How’s it going?”
“Good. What would you like to drink?”
“I’ll have a…margarita.”
“I’ll have the same.” He winked. Once they ordered, they started talking.
“I heard you were big help for the case my dad was working on,” he said. “Thank you.”
“The least I can do. I’m glad he helped save me from danger. I read on the news about Dominic’s life sentence.”
“It's all about bringing justice to those who need it."
“Yeah. I feel so bad for her, what a bright young woman she could have been”
He patted her shoulder. “Yeah, I agree. Now, let’s talk about something bright. The reason we both are here.”
“I have your dad to thank for that as well,” she smiled. “For setting us up.”
“Yeah. When he told me about you, I was intrigued. I wanted to know you more. So when you said in your texts that you have been across the globe many times, I wanted to hear about that.”
“I’ve been to 10 countries, mostly in Europe, and South America.”
His brows raised in interest. “Tell me all about it.”
And so Anabelle went on. About her hikes in Costa Rica, her wine tasting adventures with Steven in Milan. Her increased historical knowledge regarding architecture of Old Prague. Lastly, to attending the Carnaval celebration in Brazil. And he listened with interest, taking her hands, and looking fondly into her eyes. And then she directed her question at him. What motivated him to be an agent like Agent Hopkins? And he said this: “I want to make the world a better place than it already is. If I have the ability to change lives for the better, that’s al the satisfaction I need.”
For the first time she felt contented, at peace. She felt understood. Someone wanted to know about her interests. Someone who she could trust. He couldn’t be her husband, of course, but perhaps she could find it in her heart to have a meaningful connection with Claudio, who was just as charming and held the same values as she did.
Thank you Agent Hopkins and...Rebeka Fowler’s diary for changing my life, she thought. I’m on to brighter and better things now…