At Laura’s home, Laura was on her laptop researching for her assignment. She was surprised at what she was finding out. There was very little privacy about Jessica’s family. Her friends had said that Jessica’s family was the wealthiest in Oberlin at that time. They weren’t kidding. From what Laura could see, everything about Jessica’s family and everything they did was in the news. From the car crash that the Smiths had when Jessica was eight to the dating life Jessica had with James.
Laura couldn’t help but notice that in every picture that had been taken of the two, James seemed to be trying to shield Jessica from the camera and Jessica was. Laura wondered why that was. Was it because James was really controlling and possessive like the story said he was or was there a side of Jessica that no one knew about or wanted to confess existed?
Laura looked at another article. At the top of the article, right under the title of the piece, was a picture. Jessica Smith Has Chosen A New Date For The Prom. The picture showed Jessica and a guy standing together, smiling for the camera taking the picture. Laura frowned. It looked like Jessica was forcing the smile and either the flash of the camera or bad lighting from the sun made it hard to see the entire face of Anthony.
Laura read more of the article. It talked about how Jessica had chosen Anthony for the prom and how there had been a big fight at the school between newcomer Anthony and bad boy James. Well, the newspaper made it clear who they favored being with Jessica. It went on about how the two new lovebirds had a good chance at becoming the king and queen for prom.
“No wonder James killed Jessica.” Laura said quietly to herself. Jessica had cost James the one chance at being seen as something rather than the bad boy. Jessica brought up an article about James Hathaworne. She couldn’t help but notice that James really did look like her stalker. The picture with the article looked like it was a mugshot of the entire Hathaworne family. The family looked poor and that they lived on the edge of town.
Jessica made a note to go to the house the family lived at to see if there was anyone there who could give her answers. She kept reading the article. James was the only child of Paul and Sue Hathaworne and that the parents had done everything they could to make sure that their son could go to school.
Jessica brought up another article about James’s parents. She didn’t like what the title said: Murderer’s Parents Split Up. According to the article, the town blaming James for everything that had happened to Jessica had been too much for James’s parents and they had split up only for the father to end up in prison from a bar fight and the mother died of a broken heart. Jessica shook her head. She could understand why the parents would do that. The town drove them over the edge.
“My parents were good people.” Laura jumped and looked over her shoulder. Her stalker was standing there looking at the computer. “They didn’t deserve the gossip and rumors that were spread around about them.” The guy continued.
“Right. Still claiming to be James.” Laura said, shaking her head before looking at her stalker. “What exactly do you know about that night and tell me the truth.” She told him. “Everyone believes that James killed Jessica. Why don’t you?”
The stalker looked at her. “I don’t believe he did because I am James.” He told her. “I didn’t lie to you. I woke up in her room, she was dead and I was a ghost.”
Wow. This guy was either really good or just really stubborn. Laura wasn’t sure if she should play along or kick him out even though the stalker had a knack for disappearing a lot without warning. “Let’s say you’re James.” Laura said. “Were you really controlling and possessive of Jessica as everyone said you were?” She couldn’t wait to see what the stalker would answer with.
The stalker looked at her before crossing his arms over his chest. “I wasn’t possessive or controlling like people thought I was.” He told Laura. “I was protective of her. Did people see that and assume I was possessive or controlling? Yes they did.” The stalker sat next to Laura. “It doesn’t help that I took the break up the wrong way.” He continued.
Laura wasn’t sure if she believed him just yet. This guy was the only one who was telling a different story about how it happened. “Okay. What about the fight between Anthony and you? How did that start?”
The stalker looked at her. “Jessica had just said yes to Anthony asking her to the prom in front of everyone. I saw what looked like fear in her eyes when she said yes. Everyone though thought it was because I was there and she saw me.” He said. “But it wasn’t what it seemed. When I went up to Jessica to talk, Anthony pushed me. We then fought because I saw the look on his face.”
Laura frowned. “What look?” She asked.
The stalker shook his head. “It was like the look of someone who was dangerous.” He explained. “Like he knew something no one else did.” He became silent. “Jessica whispered to me to help her but before I could, Anthony pushed me and I saw him try to grab Jessica so I fought him. The teachers called the police and they removed me before locking me up.”
Jessica realized what James was saying. That people naturally assumed that he had been up to no good and begging for trouble. She then realized that she started thinking of her stalker as James. “Why didn’t you try to explain it to the police when they arrested you?” She asked.
James snorted. “Like I didn’t?” He asked, making it clear that he had tried to tell his side to the police. “When the entire town has made up their minds about your family and how no one, especially Jessica’s parents approved of me being with their daughter, you don’t get a say in anything.” James said. “That’s why they naturally assumed it was me who had killed Jessica and then had decided to take myself out before they could arrest me again.”
Laura thought it over. “Everyone here I think thinks I look like an exact copy of Jessica.” She told James. “Maybe if you and I went to prom together this Saturday, you could get your side of the story told.” The way she was looking at it, it sounded like James was here because he had unfinished business. Sharing his side of the story and telling everyone what had happened. She wasn’t sure who all would believe him but it was worth a shot.
“One small problem.” James said. “You’re the only one who can see me. How can I be your prom date?”
Laura was silent. That was a problem. She wasn’t sure if people would walk through James or bump into him. That wouldn’t be good if they bumped into something they couldn’t see. It also wouldn’t do any good for her to try to reveal James’s side of the story in front of everyone. No one would believe her and just think she was the new girl trying to mess with the urban legend.
“What we need to do then is find out who really killed you and Jessica.” Laura said. “Find out who would benefit the most by framing you for the murder.”
James snorted again. “The only one I can think of who would get that would be Anthony.” He said. “He could make it look like he was the small town hero who exposed me as a killer.”
That made sense to Laura. She had seen frame jobs back at her old school from other classmates. Some of them had done it to get better grades from teachers. Others had done it to get rid of competition for certain things like scholarships or to be the new team favorite. If Anthony had really framed James, it would make sense as to why he would just disappear without a trace.
“We just need to find where Anthony is then.” Laura said. “Maybe if he really did the killing, it would mean that he had lied to everyone about finding Jessica’s body and it would also mean he was the tipper who tipped the police off to where they could find you.” As she said that, she realized that it made a lot more sense and that certain things added up. Anthony called the police and he was the one who had said it was most likely James which the police admitted to making sense when they couldn’t find him. As to why Anthony vanished quickly after the funeral or why there seemed to be no good picture of him would make sense. He didn’t want to risk being identified as the killer.
Laura looked at her computer. There might not be any pictures of Anthony in the town but that didn’t mean she could try to find him online. “What’s Anthony’s last name?” Laura asked James.
“It was Colby.” James replied.
Laura looked at James for a moment in disbelief. Anthony’s last name was Colby? That was a little hard to believe. Laura sighed and looked at her computer again before typing in Anthony Colby. A few results came up. Laura clicked a link to see everyone who had either first, last, or both names.
James looked over her shoulder at the pictures as Laura scrolled through them. He was silent for a few minutes. Laura was about to give up when James pointed at a picture. “That’s him.” James said.
Laura looked at James before looking at the picture. Her eyes widened when she saw who it was. She recognized the guy. “That’s impossible.” She said. “It can’t be him.” Laura looked at James again. “Are you sure?” She asked. James nodded. Laura returned to looking at the picture. “But it can’t be him.” She said.