It felt good to be in a house that was locked down tighter than Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The security system was up and running, there were new locks on the doors, and the front door was no longer in splinters. Harlan had encouraged her to put security bars in her windows and a lock on her bedroom door as well, just in case. He had also made her change the security code after the installers had left so that only she knew what it was.
Dixie had just laid down to sleep with Louie when the phone rang. She glanced at the clock and saw that it was after 9 p.m. No one usually called after that unless it was family or an emergency. Angie was still in the hospital, so with a pang in her chest, she answered the phone.
“Hello?” she said.
There was breathing on the other end of the line, and she waited, thinking it was Angie disoriented from pain meds.
“Hello?” she said, and then her heart did a little flip in her chest. She glanced at the caller ID and saw it was an ‘unknown caller’ again. It wasn’t the hospital after all.
A strange, digitally disguised voice spoke, making the hairs on Dixie’s arms stand on end. The back of her neck prickled.
“How did you like kitty’s haircut?” the voice asked. “It didn’t like it very much. In fact, I had to grab it by the scruff of the neck to make it stop struggling.”
Dixie felt sick and wished she could reach through the phone and throttle the caller. Her experience with Mike had taught her to be quiet, though. The urge to hang up was strong, but she wanted to draw out the maniac who had hurt Louie.
“What do you want,” she said in a flat, monotone voice.
“You don’t seem upset, how strange,” the voice said. “I could always come back and finish the job. I wonder how you would look with a matching haircut?”
Dixie felt like she could crush her cell phone with her bare hands at that moment, but she waited. She knew that silence would make the caller irritated, and she was right.
“If you think that the police can protect you, you’re wrong, so wrong. I can get to you no matter what you do or wherever you go,” the voice said.
“What do you want,” Dixie said again in a low voice, ignoring the threat.
“I’ll let you know what I want when I feel like telling you. It’s a shame that technology is outsmarting you. I know those gears in your head are spinning, trying to identify my voice. There’s probably smoke coming out of your ears right now,” the voice said, and then laughed at her.
“How long do you plan on keeping this up?” Dixie asked, wondering if this was a crazed local or her ex-boyfriend disguising his voice.
“As long as it takes. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon,” the voice said, ending the conversation abruptly with a click.
Dixie looked at her phone and hit the off button. If Angie called, it would go to voicemail. Her hands shook, and Louie looked at her with his eyes wide, as if he knew what had just happened.
“Damn it, damn it, damn it!” Dixie said loudly, causing Louie to crawl further into his tent bed and watch her suspiciously.
Her annoyance grew when she realized everyone in town knew her cell phone number. She had a business ad in the church bulletins, the decal on her rear car window, every brochure she had handed out in most of the businesses, the post office, and the library. The maniac who called her could be anyone in town or any neighboring town as well.
The killer and the crank caller could be the same person, or there could be two different crazy people in town. The prospect of two stalkers was enough to make her stomach hurt.
Dixie lay down on her bed and stared up at the ceiling. She had to come up with a plan to stop the harassment, and she wasn’t sure if she could wait until the police did something. Their policy of wait and see wasn’t going to keep her safe.
She wanted to force her tormentor’s hand and hopefully, put an end to the terror gripping the town of Friendship. She considered what she could do by herself, and then what Harlan might be willing to do to help her. Anything was preferable to being a sitting duck.
“You are not going to win this time,” Dixie said through gritted teeth.