Elliot didn’t sleep much that night. Every sound made him jump. The girls did a lot of tossing and turning too. Elliot finally got up at five that morning and went down to his truck for his running clothes that he’d brought, but forgot to take up to the room last night. The hair on the back of his neck stood up when he went out the building, and he felt like he was being watched. Looking around, he didn’t see anyone, but he couldn’t shake the feeling.
He went back to the room and found Cara had gotten up too. She was looking out the window. “I feel like someone is watching us,” she said quietly.
Elliot went to stand beside her. “Me, too.” He studied the parking lot of the hotel that was more than half full. He didn’t see any vehicles he recognized. “I’m going to follow you guys back today.”
Cara nodded. “That might be a good idea.” Cara looked down at where their arms were touching and noticed that she had goose bumps. She stepped away and sat down on the bed she’d shared with Megan, who was still sound asleep.
“I’m going to go down to the fitness center and run on the treadmill for a little while,” Elliot said and went into the bathroom with his bag. He didn’t think Megan and Cara would go through his bag, but he made sure that anything revealing, like his binding vest, were wrapped within other clothing items.
Running her hands through her tousled hair, Cara wondered for the thousandth time why she was having these feelings for Elliot. She’d identified as a lesbian since before she’d kissed Jenna the first time when she was sixteen. She’d always been attracted to other girls. Not once had she ever felt anything for a guy, so why did Elliot cause these feelings in her? She’d loved dancing with him last night. His arms around her made her feel like she’d come home. Could she be bisexual? Or was it just him? She didn’t know. Nor did she know if she wanted to do anything about it. She liked Elliot. He was sweet and intelligent. Cara knew he had feelings for her, she could see it in his eyes, but she was afraid to let him know how she felt. What if she tried things out with him just to find that she couldn’t do the sex with a guy thing? She’d hurt Elliot, and she didn’t want to hurt him.
Sighing Cara got up and looked out the window again. Once again she had the sensation of being watched. Surely Steven and his crew were not hovering around out there. Maybe they followed them here and got a room here too. Cara wasn’t sure what Steven’s deal was with her other than the fact that he was a big homophobe. She only had one more week before she was leaving to move into the dorm on the Eastern Kentucky University campus. After that, she hoped she never had to see Steven again, but she did want to see Elliot. If nothing else, she wanted them to be friends. Elliot made her feel cared for. It was so weird. They’d never kissed, or even held hands, but just being near Elliot made Cara feel special.
Maybe she should talk to Elliot about how she was feeling. He might want to give dating a try, or he might not be able to deal with taking the chance of her leaving him for another woman. Cara tousled her hair irritably.
“Frustrated?” Elliot asked as he stood next to the table with one foot on a chair where he was tying his running shoes.
Cara jumped and glared at him. “Yes. How are you so quiet? I didn’t hear you come out of the bathroom.”
“I think you were too deep in thought,” Elliot said and switched feet so he could tie his other shoe. He nodded toward the window. “See anyone?”
“No, but I still feel like we’re under surveillance,” Cara said.
“Yeah, it’s weird,” Elliot agreed. “Do you want some coffee or breakfast stuff before I go run?”
Cara shook her head. “I’m going to try to lay back down.”
“If you do decide to get something, have Megan go with you,” Elliot said. “Or wait for me to come back. There’s something creepy going on.”
“Okay,” Cara said and crawled back in next to Megan.
Elliot looked at Megan’s sleeping form with envy. He would love to be in that bed with Cara. “I’m going now,” Elliot said. He needed to get out of that room before he acted on the desire to kiss Cara.
An hour later, Elliot returned to the room covered in sweat and feeling pretty good. He watched the people around him vigilantly. He still had an uneasy feeling that he couldn’t shake. Elliot had called Mark while he was in the fitness room and told him about the weird feeling that he and Cara were both having. Mark said he would look into Michael Matthews’ location and make sure he hadn’t tracked Cara down and was following her, trying to get her alone so he could question her about Jenna.
Elliot knocked on the room door. Cara opened the door a crack and looked relieved to see Elliot. “Thank God it’s you.” She shut the door and unlatched it. When she re-opened the door, she peered out and looked up and down the hall.
“What’s going on?” Elliot asked.
“Some guy knocked on the door earlier,” Cara explained. “I cracked the door to see if it was you. The guy asked if Jenna was here.” The look of pure terror on Cara’s face was evident. “I said no, and then I asked Jenna who?”
“He said, ’Jenna Matthews,” Cara said and started pacing.
“Isn’t that the name of your friend that went missing?” Elliot asked. He tried to remain calm. This was very bad. Someone had tracked Cara here and thought she was with Jenna. Of course, she was. But Cara didn’t know that.
“Yes,” Cara sat down next to Megan, who put her arm around her.
“That is just too freaky,” Megan said. “How would someone know Cara was here, at this hotel? And how would they know to ask about her missing friend? This is just way too creepy.”
“Yes, it is,” Elliot agreed. He grabbed his overnight bag. “What did you say when he asked that?”
“I started freaking out,” Cara admitted. “I asked him how he knew Jenna and why did he think she was here? He seemed a little surprised that started I yelling at him. He moved back away from the door and said he must have been mistaken. And then he turned and started walking back toward the elevators.”
“And then someone called the room asking for Jenna,” Megan said. “That was even creepier. It’s like someone is trying to torment Cara.”
Elliot’s face hardened. That could very well be true. “Did you ever talk about Jenna to Steven?” he asked.
“Are you kidding? I just barely talk to him about drink orders. I’ve not said anything about my personal life to him since I told him I was gay that first day,” Cara said.
“Hmm,” Elliot paced and stroked his beard. “I’m going to get a shower and then we’ll talk about this some more. Try to think of any time that you talked to someone at the restaurant about Jenna. Think about who was around and if they were listening.”
Elliot grabbed his overnight bag and went into the bathroom. In the bathroom, Elliot pulled out the phone he used to contact Mark and text him with this new information. Elliot was very concerned that his father may have tracked Cara here. If that were the case, Cara would not be safe until his father was arrested.
Checking the door to make sure it was locked, Elliot began to undress. He hated being in bathrooms with big mirrors because they remind him that he still had all of his female parts. His breasts had always been small because he kept his body fat at a very low percentage through running. Now that he was taking testosterone, his body fat had shrunk even more and been replaced with more muscle. Elliot did a lot of chest exercises with his weights at home. The result was some decent pecs which almost took away his female breasts all together.
He quickly showered and put his clean clothes on to cover up any evidence of his femininity quickly. While putting on his clean, binding vest, he flexed his biceps and noted the scar that ran from his armpit and up to his deltoid. He’d gotten it climbing over a fence into a friend’s yard. It was one of the many times he was grounded. He wasn’t supposed to leave the house, but he was going to meet Cara at their friend, Amy’s house. Elliot’s shirt got caught on the barbed wire surrounding Amy’s yard that kept her father’s pit bulls deterred from jumping the fence. The spike on the top of the barb had dug into Elliot’s shoulder and dug a deep trench into Elliot’s arm. Cara’s mom took him to a doctor friend who patched him up. He wondered if Cara saw that scar if she would make the connection between Elliot and Jenna.
Cara and Megan were staring out the window when Elliot came out of the shower. “What are you girls looking at?”
Motioning over to them, Cara took hold of his arm when he got close enough and pointed to a white truck sitting in the restaurant parking lot next to the hotel. “We think we saw the guy who was asking about Jenna get into that truck. He left the hotel a few minutes ago and has been sitting in his truck ever since.”
Elliot smiled at the way Cara was clinging to him. Like she trusted him to protect her, and protect her he would do to very best of his ability. Right now, though, he wanted to know who this mysterious man was. “Keep an eye on the truck,” Elliot said, gently pulling away from Cara. “I’m going down there.”
“Elliot! He might have a gun or something,” Cara said alarmed.
“Well, then you may want to record what’s happening on your phone,” Elliot said as he sat down on the bed closest to the window and started putting his boots on.
“I don’t think you going down there is a good idea,” Megan said.
“We need to find out who this person is,” Elliot said. “If he came here looking for Jenna, he must have known Cara was here, which means he’s following Cara.” He looked up at Megan, who was facing him while Cara watched the truck. “Do you remember seeing the guy at the bar last night?”
“No,” Megan said, “but there were so many people there.”
“Exactly.” Elliot picked up the room card key. “I’m going to get coffee and breakfast stuff down there. Have any preferences?”
“Pastries,” Cara said, not taking her eyes off the truck.
“Me, too,” Megan agreed.
“Okay.” Elliot stood and picked up his iPhone and handed it to Cara. “Start recording what happens down stairs in case we need it for the police.”
“Be careful,” Cara said leaning into him and giving him a quick kiss on the cheek.
Elliot smiled. “I will.”
Both girls went to the window and prepared their phones for recording. Elliot left the room and began texting Mark with the truck’s color, make, model, and approximate year. Elliot’s goal was to get a plate number. He put the camera on his throw away phone to record and walked out into the hazy morning, heading straight toward the truck.
As soon as Elliot exited the building, the guy in the truck started the engine and started backing away quickly. Elliot ran toward the truck, but the guy kept backing up until he got to the road where he backed out in front of a couple of cars, did a one-eighty on the road and sped away. Elliot ran to the edge of the road still recording with the blares of the horns going off at the guy who’d cut everyone off.
Elliot managed to get part of the tag number. Hopefully, it would be enough for Mark to be able to track down the owner.
It was still early, only six-thirty in the morning, so most of the food in the continental breakfast area was still fresh. Elliot picked out a couple of pastries for each of them, three coffees, with sugar and creamer enough for everyone.
He was about to head up to the room when Cara and Megan came into the breakfast area. “Did you get a look at him?” Cara asked.
“Not really,” Elliot admitted. “It was a big white guy with short hair. That’s about all I got.”
“We already knew that,” Megan said.
“I know,” Elliot said. “I got a little of the license plate, but he was clearly trying to keep me from getting that.”
Elliot set the tray down at a table with four chairs, and the two girls sat opposite of him. Cara and Megan took a cup of coffee and started doctoring it to their liking. Cara picked up one of the blueberry pastries. “So should we go to the police with this?” Megan asked.
“Absolutely,” Cara said. “Jenna has been missing for over two years, and this guy finds me in a hotel miles from Evansville and asks me about Jenna. That is just too weird.”
“What is the whole story behind that?” Megan asked. “I mean, I know she was your girlfriend and that she disappeared, but what else happened?”
Cara recounted how things happened the night Jenna disappeared. She told them about arriving at Jenna’s house, kissing her, and then finding herself flung across the room. Elliot flinched instinctively when Cara told about the beating Jenna’s father was giving Jenna. Elliot could still feel those blows in the pain he felt in his face and head occasionally.
Then she told them about coming back to Jenna’s house with her mother, and the police telling her that Jenna was missing. “I just couldn’t wrap my head around what they were saying,” Cara said. “Jenna’s father was striking her; I couldn’t imagine her being to move, let alone walk out of the house on her own.”
“So you think he killed her?” Megan asked.
Cara nodded sadly. “For her not to have contacted me in all this time, it’s the only thing I can believe. If Jenna were still alive, she would have found a way to contact me.”
Elliot got up from the table, needing to escape the pain in Cara’s eyes. “I’m going to get some orange juice. Do you want some?”
“That would be great,” Megan said.
“Cara?” Elliot asked, but didn’t meet her gaze.
“Yeah, that would be great,” Cara said, frowning at Elliot’s behavior.
Elliot hurried over to the orange juice dispenser. It was killing him listening to Cara talk about what happened that night and how she thought Jenna is dead. He wanted to tell her who he is so bad, but he knows he can’t, not yet. He got the three of them orange juices and took the cups to the table.
“We should probably start heading back to Salt Lick pretty soon,” Elliot announced. “We all have to work this afternoon so will want to get back with plenty of time to get ready.”
“True,” Cara said with a sigh.
Megan sipped her orange juice and studied Cara. Finally, she asked, “What if Jenna is not dead? What if she just can’t contact you? What would you do if she did turn up?”
“I don’t know,” Cara said sadly. “I miss her so much, and I can’t even imagine what she’s been through. I know I will be blown away and I’ll want to get to know her again. I’ve never stopped loving her. I know it’s part of the reason I’ve not been able to have any other relationships. I just can’t let go of my hope that I’ll find her.”
Elliot almost gave in to his desire to relieve Cara of her pain, but the phone he used to contact Mark started vibrating in his pocket. He hit the stop button so that the girls wouldn’t hear the buzzing, but stood and said, “Morning bathroom call. Do you have a room key?”
“Yeah,” Megan said.
“You might want to give me about fifteen to twenty minutes and hold your noses when you come back to the room,” Elliot said, turned and hurried to the stairs.
“Wow, thanks for sharing,” Megan said as Elliot hurried away.
“At least he warned us,” Cara said.
“True,” Megan agreed. “Most guys would have stated that they were going to take a dump and ruin our breakfast.”
Cara laughed, “Like you just did.”
Megan laughed too but picked up her cream cheese and blueberry pastry. “Nah, there’s not much that ruins my appetite. I grew up on a pig farm. If a little smell bothers you, you’d never eat living with my parents.”
Cara laughed harder. “Oh no, you have Wilburs! How could you ever eat bacon?”
“Trust me, pigs are not cute and cuddly on the farm,” Megan said, “and I love bacon.”