“Hey, Lucille. Umm, do you think you could stop by my office later to collect the book you requested for last week?” I turn around with a smile to wave at Eileen, a shy mother of an eight-year-old boy who attends the charter school where Bob, my husband, is a tutor. I had actually met my husband through her. “Oh, that’s fine, Eileen,” I reply. “I’ll drop by later. I’m on my way to lunch, by the way. Want to join me?” But Eileen is shaking her head, saying, “I have to go out later to get my lunch. I have a brief meeting with ‘the clan.’” ‘The clan’ refers to staff members in Operations, which happens to be her department also. I decide to go out to Dunkin Donuts, a block away from the office. On my way, I meet Andy and Sean, fellow workers heading back to the office with their lunches. They are both beaming. What could they find so amusing to smile about? I wonder idly, giving them a small wave. They wave back at me, laughing at some private joke. They could be mischievous at times, but they were still fun to be with.

Feeling suddenly hungry, though I had some cheese and crackers for breakfast, I order a bagel sandwich of bacon and fried egg with lettuce, a slice of Oreo cake, and some soda; I’ll worry about the calories later. I get through my lunch eventually, then, glancing at my wristwatch, I feel my cell vibrate in my bag. I open my bag to retrieve it. It’s Bob. Giving a wide smile, I say “Hello!” We speak for about six minutes, then hang up. We are both satisfied with our work schedules, as they give us time to connect with each other more, and we are planning to visit Jamaica in the summer.

Back at the office, the time seems to pass quickly. I glance over my notes. Everything seems to be in order. Stifling a yawn, I look at the latest draft sent to me by the advert executive assistant, which is displayed on my computer. “Getting bored with the routine? I can tell,” Andy says with a chuckle. Flicking my hand through my braids, I blow a raspberry. But he is already moving away, still giving that hateful chuckle. I feel foolish for what I have just done. Really childish. But Andy could be so annoying at times. I turn my attention back to the draft once more, taking some more notes.

It is my eighth month working at Flair, an advertising company in Birch, Maine. I had gotten the job through an advert in a paper. I had holed in with my aged parents right after my dark encounter with Geoff, back in Arlington, Virginia. They live in Brunswick, Maine, and fortunately, I never discussed much about them with Geoff throughout the time we were together, so it was safe being with them for a while until I got the job at Flair, then I had to move. They had insisted that I stay with them, considering the ugly experience I had with Geoff, and I had equally insisted that I had to leave, though I had promised to visit them occasionally. Then I had met Bob, and we were married within five months. Bob knew about my panic and anxiety attacks, and he had been really understanding about it. I had been a bit vague about Geoff, though. Just mentioned that he was my ex-fiancé, but leaving the unpalatable details out. I felt that would be a whole lot of unnecessary baggage being unloaded all at once on Bob. I still feel a bit guilty about it, though. Geoff is extremely dangerous, and Bob has a right to know what kind of person his wife was formerly engaged to.

I look up as I hear a gentle cough close to me. It is Andy again and he is holding two steaming cups of coffee in his hands. Giving a sigh, I take one cup from him, saying thanks. I continue to work for the next couple of hours without further interruptions. Then it is time to go home. I twist my neck this way and that, trying to get the kinks out. I feel my cell vibrate and glance at a message from Bob. He’s out in the office parking lot in his car, waiting for me. My car—a Toyota Camry—is at the mechanic’s. Something wrong with the brakes, so Bob has been dropping me off and picking me up at the office for the past two days. I get up with a smile after shutting down the computer, moving with a spring in my step to meet him.

“Hey you,” I say to Bob, as I get into the passenger seat. He turns around to give me a kiss. “You taste good,” I say to him. He laughs, saying, “Probably the gum I was chewing earlier.” Making a move, I reply with, “Wonder what my breath is like? Bearable, I hope.” But Bob laughs heartily as he backs out of the parking lot. “You’re such a worry wart, Lu,” he says good-naturedly. Lu is a fond name he uses for me. I had teased him about it initially, saying that it sounded corny, but I had come to love it eventually, just like I love everything about him.

As the happy couple exits from the parking lot, they fail to see a slate blue minivan pull up a few minutes behind them in the parking lot, following them.


A black middle-aged lady in yellow cardigan and brown slacks walks her dog, a Scottish terrier, past a tree-lined lane in Birch. The weather seems unusually warm this evening as she observes some 20th century-styled bungalows. She loves this district. Reminds her of better times in Connecticut with Bill, her husband. He had suffered a coronary that proved fatal and she had come to live with her twin, Shanda, in Birch thereafter. Shanda’s home is one of the apartments in a four-story condominium. She was a veteran of the U.S. Marines and had lost her husband in a boating accident three years ago.

A young blonde female with a stroller passes the middle-aged lady. They give each other polite smiles. Her terrier is excited by the evening walk and is wagging his tail like crazy, running around in circles, to the squealing delight of the toddler in the stroller. “Never mind Jack,” the black lady, named Shonda, says to the blonde. “He always gets like this when I take him out on these walks. It’s all I could do to keep him still on this leash, with all the twists and turns he does. Makes me all giddy,” she finishes with a heartfelt sigh. The blonde nods in understanding, saying, “I see that my baby is excited about him, too.” As if in agreement, the little girl in the stroller squeals again in glee. “See that?” Shonda says, smiling. “Jack is a smart and nice dog and everyone likes him.” The blonde replies with an answering smile and a nod, moving on. Shonda pulls on the leash as the terrier tries to run after them. “Not so fast, mister,” Shonda says in mild rebuke. “You’re a smart and nice dog. Never forget that.” Jack gives a short bark in reply. Shonda says with a short laugh, “Let’s get to the next corner on the street then head back home, okay?”

As Shonda thinks about the leftover lasagna and some chicken she would later heat in the oven for dinner, she hears a little whine from Jack. Looking down at the dog, wondering what the problem could be, she almost cries out as she notices a stranger in dark clothing standing about five feet away from them. Though he seems distracted as he observes his surroundings, something about his stance seems off. Quickly gathering her almost scattered wits, Shonda says to Jack in the steadiest voice that she could muster, “Come on Jack, let’s move on. Quit idling.” She had purposely left out the word “home” because she didn’t want to give the stranger any ideas. He could be some psycho. Who knows?

Shonda arrives at the apartment she shares with Shanda. As she grabs her key from her jacket to open the front door, Jack gives a nervous bark then a little squeal, like he’s been hurt. Looking at the dog and trying to get him to be quiet, although nervous herself especially after seeing the stranger, she opens the apartment door to complete darkness. Closing the door quietly behind her, she fumbles for the light switch and is faced with total chaos. Tables and chairs seem to be overturned. Books are thrown about, with some pages torn out of them. Heart beating, she retraces her steps to the front door, then thinking better of it, she gets out her cell to dial 911. Jack has been running around all this while, barking furiously. However, as she tries to make the call, the front doorknob begins to turn of its own volition; or, rather, someone is turning the doorknob. She backs away, dropping her phone and losing her balance as she slips on an opened book on the rug. She cries out as she falls, but not before observing the blurry figure of Jack lunge itself at the intruder, followed by a yelp of pain, then silence.

Resting on her sore elbow, which she is sure is beginning to swell, she observes in fascination as the stranger she saw some minutes ago grabs a throw, making for her in silent strides as he brings it down with brute force on her face. She immediately goes limp, playing dead as she faintly recalls Shanda’s past narration of her ordeal as a survivor of an assault while serving in the Marines. She begins to lose consciousness for real and almost begins to struggle against the painful feeling building up in her lungs, when she feels the weight lifted off her chest as the stranger moves away, but the throw is still resting on her face, albeit lightly. Resisting the sudden impulse of taking in lungfuls of air to her peril, she hears the sweetest sounds she had always thought so annoying. Sirens! The cops are here. But who could have called them? she wonders as she listens to frustrated expletives coming from the stranger as he quickly moves towards the door, making a hasty exit. Daring to slowly rise to her elbow again at this point, body wracked over in pain, she gasps for air. Three cops enter the room, making for her side. They gently help her to her feet, leading her to the nearest sofa that is not overturned like the rest of the furniture. Still in pain and taking deep breaths, she haltingly asks about her dog. “Over here,” one of the cops say. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but it’s…” The cop never gets to finish the sentence as Shonda cries out painfully and feebly. “Oh dear, Oh my…Jack!” she continues to cry out, then she faints for real.

As Shonda is wheeled out of her home 30 minutes later on a stretcher, she’s unaware that the stranger is watching balefully from the confines of his minivan, vowing silently to break her neck the next time he got a chance. “A damn shame that her twin is away at some stupid veteran’s rally in California,” Geoff thinks as he starts the minivan. “He would have succeeded if it weren’t for the stupid cops.” He backs slowly out of the parking space he had found earlier before following the old lady and her silly dog that were out on a walk.

Geoff had found out, after a frustrating six months of searching, that Lucille was holing up in Birch and is taking some consulting classes on advertising with the black woman in her apartment. He had planned on killing her and lying in wait for Lucille when she came in for a scheduled visit this evening. He found this out from the Janitor, whom he learned was a drunk and quite a talker. He sniffs in disgust. He could have offed Blabbermouth too if he had got the chance, but the sorry figure wasn’t worth it. He had planned to just abduct his ex-fiancée and teach her a lesson she would never forget. “Not that she would have lived to find out if she would or wouldn’t,” he thinks furiously as he negotiates between lanes on the highway, hands gripping the wheel in frustration. A blinding anger engulfs him as his thoughts turn to Bob. He almost brushes up a vehicle moving alongside his and the driver blares his horn in reply. Geoff makes a rude gesture in response. “A simpering idiot,” Geoff says silently to himself, referring to Bob.” Can’t wait to teach him a lesson as well.” He gives a quick shake of the head as he thought of the break he had in his frantic search for Lucille. This came in the most unlikely of places: a TV program. He knew she was so shy with regards to the media. She had said that often enough when they were together. Maybe she had been pretending, and this thought fueled his anger all the more. He had wanted to kill her back at Arlington but had decided against it for two reasons. First, he would immediately become a prime suspect, and he wasn’t ready to go to jail because of some slut. The other reason was that he wanted to make her squirm until she went completely crazy. He had learnt that she was taking some pills to ward off anxiety attacks and other medical conditions, with their fancy names. But once he gets his hands on her, she’s not going to be taking any more pills, but instead, she would give in to the hellish experience awaiting her. The slate blue mini-van, which appeared dark in the gathering dusk, veers away from the highway to a narrow road leading to a noisy district, where there are some townhouses. He hated living in this section of Maine, but his rental was for a single purpose and for just a couple of weeks.


For all installments of “Echo of Silence,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Prologue