Following an exhausting mission, Steve drove to his house with intent to soak in a hot bath before diving into bed to sleep through the weekend. As he entered, horror struck him. The living room was a complete shambles.
He treaded warily across the room, striding over objects scattered on the floor to make his way down the corridor leading to the bedrooms. He scanned each one from ceiling to floor, checking every closet for anyone hidden. When he opened the guest bedroom, he let out of gasp.
“What in the hell?” Steve exclaimed in shock upon seeing fellow OSI agent Janice Turner painting his wall.
“Oh Steve! You’re back!” she squealed with delight. She climbed down the tiny ladder where she had perched herself to rush to his arms; only he kept her at bay, holding her at arms length. “What’s the matter? You don’t like the color?”
“How did you in my house?” he asked on a stern accusatory tone.
She reached into the pocket of her worn out paint-smeared jeans to pull out a key that she dangled in front of Steve. “My key.”
“Where did you get that?”
“I made it from the one you gave me.”
“You made it?” Steve’s spewed out between teeth clenched in suppressed fury. “Who gave you permission?” He swiftly snatched the key from her fingers and returned a glare that bore a hole into her. “I told you to leave me alone!”
“Oh Steve, you don’t mean that. I can see that you’re tired. I’ll come back later when you’ve had your rest.” With a seductive smile, she stepped up to him and reached out to brush a velvet hand against his cheek.
Sickened by the very thought of her touching him, Steve grabbed her wrist and pushed her hand aside. “Don’t touch me! Get out of here!”
“You don’t need to be mean about it, Steve,” she replied insolently. “I just want to make you happy.”
“You want to make me happy?”
“Of course, darling.”
“Then leave me alone. Don’t make me call the authorities on you.” Steve’s threat washed over Janice who simply cast an amused grin before walking to the door.
“I’ve made several other keys, just in case I should lose this one,” she hinted malevolently with a sneer that raised Steve’s hackles.
“They won’t work ‘cause I’m having the locks changed.” He grabbed her by the arm and unceremoniously shoved her out the door.
He suppressed the overwhelming urge to drive his fist through the wall to release the pressure mounting within him. He leaned against the doorframe and heaved out his anger in a loud exhale. He was desperate for a solution to eradicate this nuisance before it drove him insane.
He yawned his way to his bedroom where he plunked his weary shell on the bed and allowed sleep to claim him. The upsetting encounter with his stalker goaded his mind to rove back on the day Janice first came to the OSI. Steve was instantly smitten with the lovely, shy brunette whose charming, magnetic disposition lured men like bees to honey. Steve’s natural charisma was no match for the many suitors whose request for a date would fall on deaf ear. Janice only wanted to drown into those fetching pools of blue and be caressed by the sweet, mesmerizing sound of his voice.
His restful slumber was soon plagued by a series of flashbacks of the once delightful woman turned possessive. He tossed and turned as he struggled against the viscous tentacles reaching out to throttle the life out of him. He tried to escape the slimy feelers tightened their hold around his neck, suffocating him, dragging him under. His arms flailed wildly about in a desperate attempt to reach the surface. As he felt himself drowning he gasped out a breath and sprung up in his bed.
His terrorized eyes darted around, scanning every inch of the room to detect the smell of an evil lurking in the shadows. Once his mind was rested at ease, he flung his legs on the floor and sat on the edge of the mattress with his hands clutching his throbbing head. He heaved himself out of bed to shuffle his way to the bathroom to splash cold water onto his drawn features. His head jerked up at an ominous thud coming from the living room. He tossed the hand towel aside and proceeded down the hall to reach the source of the dull sound, which, to his relief, revealed to be a book that had fallen onto the floor.
“I can’t let this get to me.” He drew in a cleansing breath to perk himself up and went to the kitchen to fix himself a glass of milk. A faint lopsided grin grazed his lips at the picture of a female Dr. Jeckle metamorphosing into a Mr. Hyde. He preferred viewing the situation from an amusing angle to avoid sinking into a whirl of insanity.
He took another gulp of milk and picked up the phone to call the locksmith. The matter settled he ambled up to the window to contemplate the pink-tinged dusk in its entire splendor. Although enchantingly peaceful, this particular sunset somehow bore a portent of evil; a sense of doom that chilled Steve to the marrow and needled him to go march into the OSI offices first thing in the morning to take the bull by the horns. But tonight his intent was to double bolt all windows and doors and indulge in a twelve-hour slumber.
“Steve!” Oscar exclaimed in utter surprise; then glanced down at his watch and frowned. “It’s eight fifteen in the morning. I thought for sure you’d be in a coma until noon.” Oscar quickly swallowed his snigger as his attempt at humor failed miserably. “What the matter?”
“Janice Turner, that’s what’s the matter,” Steve hissed.
“Oh, her again.” Oscar mocked in a small titter.
“Don’t you dare be condescending, Oscar,” Steve raged with eyes ablaze with anger. “It’s serious. She broke into my house yesterday.”
“Broke? I thought you gave her a key?”
“I did when we were going together but I asked for it back when we broke off. She told me she made a duplicate. That’s how she was able to sneak inside my house and start remodeling.”
“Have you had any other similar incident involving her?”
“Not like this one, no. I know for a fact she’s been stalking me. Everywhere I go she’s there. She kept ringing me in the middle of the night until I finally took the phone off the hook.”
“She’s a persistent little devil, isn’t she?”
“She’s a leech. She’s been sucking the energy out of me and what’s worse is that she’s starting to eat away at my sanity.” Steve distractedly wrung his hands together as he began pacing the floor.
“She’s the best computer technician around. I’d hate to put her on probation over this incident.”
“I don’t want you to suspend her from work, just issue a warning. If she persists I have a hunch this will end in tragedy.”
“I’ll do that. And to make sure she heeds our warning I’ll post an agent outside your house.”
“Thanks Oscar,” Steve heaved out a grateful sigh. “Normally I would handle it myself but under the circumstances I’d rather not. I might lose my temper and risk doing something I’ll regret.”
“Let me handle it. If she bothers you again, you let me know.”
Oscar took it upon himself to privately discuss the delicate matter with Janice. She apologized profusely, feigning innocence, stating that her actions were purely selfless and in the best interest of her former beau. She was a past master in the art of manipulating the quarry’s entourage into believing she was the victim, but much to her dismay, her performance appeared to have little effect on her boss. Repressing the anger simmering beneath the surface at the reprimand she received, she silently vowed to exact revenge on the triggering element, namely Steve.
“Cassie! Cassie!” Steve hailed from down the hall. She stopped turned around and broke into a wide beam.
“Steve! You’re back!” She flung her arms around his neck and kissed him on the cheek. “Good to see you.”
“Good to see you too.”
“When did you get back?”
“Why didn’t you call me? I could have fixed you a nice dinner at my apartment.”
They started walking alongside each other towards the elevator unaware of the pair of jaundiced eyes watching them.
“You sure it’s not trouble, 35? We could go out instead.”
“Nonsense! You need some good homemade cooking in a quiet environment.”
“You’re right about that,” he sighed dejectedly.
Cassie’s brow knitted in concern. She slanted her head sideways to read Steve’s doleful eyes. “Something’s wrong, isn’t there?”
“I’ll tell you all about it tonight.” With a hand in the small of her back Steve assisted his friend into the elevator.
No sooner had the door slid shut that Janice approached a co-worker with personal questions about Steve and Cassie.
“No, not that I know of. Steve and Cassandra have been friends for years. I’m sure he told you about her when you two were an item,” answered the woman, dubious of Janice’s questions she considered rather intrusive.
“Yeah he did, but I can’t help but wonder if he’s in love with her. That would explain why our relationship was a failure.”
“I can’t answer that, Janice. But I’ll be honest with you; all of us here think there is indeed something going between them, but they keep denying it.”
“Thanks.” Janice’s innocent look swiftly turned into a dark scowl as she plotted her next move to eliminate the competition.
At night on her way to Cassie’s apartment building for his dinner date, Steve dropped the liquor store to purchase a fine bottle of French wine and turned the corner to the florist to choose a beautiful bouquet of carnations for his Brown-Eyed Girl. After this exhausting mission he barely escaped with his life he was craving a nice quiet dinner with his favorite girl.
With a bounce in his step he walked up to Cassie’s apartment and knocked on the door.
“It’s open,” invited the voice from inside.
Steve nudged open the door, closed it behind him and he made his way to the living room to place the bottle and flowers on the coffee table. “Cassie?”
“Cassie’s not here, Steve,” Janice said sultrily as she appeared in the room wearing an apron around her waist.
“What are you doing here?” Steve hissed, his eyes roaming over the room for any sign of Cassie.
“Cassie is sorry but she won’t be able to make the dinner date. She called me to take her place.”
“She wouldn’t do that. Where is she?” Steve insisted with blood boiling.
“Her mother’s had an accident. She had to fly to New England.” She fashioned a sarcastic smile and stepped up to him to wrap her arms around his neck.
Steve grabbed her wrists and pulled them down firmly as his once baby blues turned dark evil. “What have you done with her?”
“Steve, you’re hurting me,” she cried, trying to wrench herself free from his powerful grip.
“Good! I won’t let you go until you answer my question. WHERE IS CASSANDRA?” he shouted angrily.
Steve’s rage brought a cunning grin to Janice’s lips. “Some place where she will never come between us ever again.”
“My God,” Steve cringed in repugnance. “You’re sick!”
“Sick with love for you, my darling,” she purred, making another attempt at caressing Steve’s cheek.
“DON’T touch me!” he threatened with an icy stare that bore a hole into her. He pushed her aside and started for the bedroom to search for any clue as to where Cassie might be.
“I told you, she’s gone,” Janice insisted as she treaded on Steve’s footsteps. “I told her to leave us alone once and for all.” She slowly grabbed the phone as Steve opened the closet door.
“Oh My God, Cassie!” As he reached for his unconscious friend tied at the bottom of the closet he felt his head explode and the curtain of darkness drop before his eyes.
Janice bound Steve hand and foot and left him at the bottom of the closet while she bodily dragged the limp body of his friend to the bed, where she proceeded to dress her accordingly for a night on the town. Once finished, she gave the room one last cursory look after which she grabbed Cassie’s car keys before pulling the uncooperative listless body to her feet. She wrapped an arm around Cassie’s waist to get leverage as she dragged her to the door and down the elevator to the parking lot where she sat her in the passenger seat. “It’ll all be over soon. With you out of the way Steve won’t have any reason not to love me,” Janice crowed maliciously, already relishing her victory.
She drove a few miles to a dimlit country road where she stopped the car. She got out, pulled Cassie’s still unconscious to the driver seat and let the car freewheel down the hill. She hurried back to the main road where she called for a taxi to drive her back to Cassie’s apartment.
She was relieved to notice that Steve hadn’t moved an inch since leaving the apartment half an hour ago. She opened the closet and lugged Steve’s heavy form to the sitting area where, with a loud heave, she hoisted him onto the sofa. Seeing how he was still unresponsive she removed his binding and laid a blanket over his sleeping form. She gazed upon his angelic face and sighed contentedly. “There’s nothing or no one standing in the way of our love. We’ll be together forever.”
Her smile turned to a concern frown as Steve emitted a low groan. Quickly she hurried to the kitchen to retrieve a butcher knife then returned to the living room to sit in the armchair across from the sofa. “Welcome back, Blue Eyes,” she said huskily.
“Cassssssie?” Steve slurred in a semi-conscious state.
The name pricked Janice but she swiftly collected her composure to air a seductive smile. “No, it’s me, darling. It’s Janice.” She stood and stepped over to the sofa as Steve strived to establish focus. “It’s just you and me now.”
“Janice?” Steve exclaimed in surprise. He surveyed the room for any sign of Cassie. “Where’s Cassie?”
“I told you, she’s not here. In fact she won’t ever come between us ever again.”
Steve sat up abruptly and groaned from the pounding headache. He closed his eyes to stop the room from spinning and breathed in a cleansing breath. “What are you saying? What have done with her?”
“Steve, forget about her. She isn’t good for you,” Janice mewled as she reached for his cheek.
An irate Steve clawed at her arm, twisting it until her face distorted in pain. “I asked you a question? Where is Cassandra?” Steve was livid with rage.
“Steve, you’re hurting me!”
“Good! Now where is she?” he barked angrily, tightening his grip until the woman was on her knees.
“I told you. She left,” she whimpered. She risked an eye up to establish her best course of action in this situation. She clenched a fist and rammed it where it hurts. Steve momentarily lost her grip on Janice to grab his sore spot. She in turn staggered to her feet and grabbed the butcher knife. She brandished it in the air and aimed for Steve’s neck when out of the blue Cassie kicked the door open and pounced on the assailant with a blinding rage. She thrust her to the ground, smacking Janice in the face to render her unconscious. When the task was done, she reached for the knife and yanked it out of the she-devil’s hand.
“Blue Eyes, you okay?” Cassie panted, taking a breather on the floor.
“I should ask you that question,” Steve replied with a wince.
Cassie fashioned an amused smile at his obvious discomfort. She hoisted herself off the floor and assisting him to the couch. “I could get you some ice for that.”
“No thanks. I’ll be all right…in a week or two,” he jested with a light chuckle that caused him to groan in pain.
“Don’t worry. You’ll still be able to have children.”
“Does that mean that you’ve finally accepted my marriage proposal?”
Cassie smiled and leaned forward to brush a kiss on his cheek. “Ask me in a year or two,” she countered with the same humor. She then motioned to the unconscious form sprawled on the floor. “It’s sad when you think about it.”
“Yeah,” Steve sighed dolefully. “She was so sweet and caring when I first met her.”
“She just went off the deep end when you broke it off with her. Who can blame her? You’re quite a catch,” she teased nudging him in the side. “Are you feeling better?”
“No,” Steve sighed heavily. “Because of me you almost got killed.”
“Hey, I’m here and I’m okay…well aside from a few bruises and a killer headache.”
“She placed me in a car and let it freewheel down the hill. I came around in the nick of time and leapt out of the car just as it crashed at the bottom of a ravine.”
“It’s over Blue Eyes. She’ll get the help she needs and won’t bother you ever again.”
“Are we sure of that?” He stared gloomily at Cassie whose enthusiasm quickly turned to pessimism.