“We’re looking for Annie Callia. We’re told that she takes this class and should be here.”
I paused in my steps. A flood of emotions rattle through me as I take in what’s being said. I’ve been dreading those words ever since I started this course, and I’m left reeling with anticipation of what’s to come next. My heart began to beat ferociously, and I could feel my forehead breaking out in a nervous sweat.
“She’s usually late but you’re more than welcome to wait outside,” I could just imagine the professor’s scrutinising gaze looking over them in disdain as she did when she addressed anyone. She paused as they refused to move. “Gentlemen, this is a Tort Law class and as police, I don’t think this class would be appropriate for you to listen in on. So wait outside.”
I knew this day would come but I didn’t expect for it to come now. I knew the plan that had been set in stone for the last few years but my main priority was escaping the two officers without them realising that I was Annie Calla.
I slowly began to back away without them noticing my presence. I turned my back towards them as my chest heaved up and down, staring at the bulletin board and scanning it as if it had the answers for my escape. My hand clutching my coffee cup was white, my knuckles almost piercing through the skin.
I couldn’t just run the opposite direction – no doubt they’d notice and catch up to me realising that I am in fact, Annie. The narrow hallway felt suffocating as they stepped foot outside Professor Jensen’s lecture hall waiting for me to make an appearance. Little did they know Annie Calla was just a mere few metres away from them and had no intention of entering that hall, let alone talking to them.
I pretended to be engrossed in the bulletin board. It was the first time I had come across it as it detailed extra-curricular activities, catch-up sessions, and office hours. I wanted to catch a quick glimpse of the two officers who were talking quietly with each other but I was worried that it would cause suspicion.
I knew they had no picture of Annie Calla; she simply didn’t exist. She was one of the many aliases that I had created to prevent this very thing from happening. I took great care in never leaving a trace – always cash, no social media, no pictures. Even though the college has pictures of their students per their student ID card, I was an exception. I cited it as a religious belief to never have pictures taken and luckily, it wasn’t questioned.
I had been at the bulletin board for more than a few good minutes now and I figured it was starting to get slightly suspicious. I had to walk past them to leave the building – it would give me the chance to see their faces in case I had to be on another lookout for them in the future. Opening my bag, I took out my diary and quickly pencilled in a random professor’s name and their office hours. Pausing, I added a quick note to make it appear valid and not a façade.
Turning away from the board, I began to walk towards the officers and I busied myself with putting my diary back in my bag. With a now cold coffee in my hand, I dumped the cup in the nearest trashcan as I dropped my diary in the bag. I didn’t get a chance to look at the officers as I knew they were staring at me. One look and that would’ve changed everything.
I was a few steps away from the door when one of the officers called out to me. I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth in sheer frustration. Pretending that I didn’t hear, my hand touched the door handle when he called again.
“Excuse me miss,” his voice rattled behind me. Turning around, I saw him holding my pink pen with a small smile gracing his face. I bet that smile wouldn’t even be on your face if you knew who I was, I grimly thought. “You dropped your pen.”
Plastering a smile on my face I took my pen from his hand and murmured a small thanks. “Thanks. I didn’t even realise I dropped it.” I dropped the pen back into my bag, eyeing the door in the process. One quick ‘bye’ and I would be out in the open and away from the two officers who were looking for me but I knew I had to play it cool to avoid any doubt.
The other officer cleared his throat and I glanced his way. I had to crane my head since he was a good few inches taller than me. They both appeared to be quite young to be officers and no doubt, they were handsome. Handsome wouldn’t even begin to describe the second officer whose eyes were piercing into mine as if he was trying to decipher if I was their Annie Calla or just another student who happened to be in the same corridor as them – coincidentally.
He continued to stare at me. “Do you know an Annie Callia?”
“Annie Callia?” I refrained from rolling my eyes at the name – they even got my alias wrong. I knew I needed to evade them but I found myself engaging with the two who I was trying to run away from but found myself answering questions about myself. But they didn’t need to know the last part. “I’ve heard of her but I wouldn’t say I know her personally.” I replied nonchalantly.
“Do you know where we can find her?”
Both officers looked at me expectantly, as if I could conjure her out of nowhere and in a way, I could. I was right in front of them but they didn’t know that. I was now a hundred percent certain that they didn’t have a picture of Annie Calla. If they did, I would probably be escorted off campus in handcuffs and I was determined for it not to end like that.
“I have no idea, sorry,” I paused, before asking for some more information. “Why are you looking for her?” I knew I was treading a fine line here but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask for details surrounding my alleged questioning.
“We just need her to verify some information down at the office.”
“Down at the office?”
The first officer sighed and took out his wallet, flashing me a badge that showed me that he wasn’t just a simple city officer. “Detective Philips,” he nodded towards his colleague. “And Detective Fitz.”
I didn’t know how to respond. This was deeper than I realised – I knew that this wasn’t just to verify some information down at their office, this had something to do with my father. They had found me when I spent years trying to throw everyone off my trail. I was careful with everything I did but somehow that wasn’t even enough.
“If I see her then I’ll be sure to pass on a message.” I replied with a small smile that I knew didn’t reach my eyes. My eyes flitted between either detective, one was writing down what I was saying and the other kept his eyes trained on me. I stared back, my gaze not wavering away from his.
“When will you see her?”
I shifted my attention to the first detective who had paused his notetaking and was waiting expectantly for an answer. “I’m sorry but am I being interrogated?” I let out a small laugh – it echoed through the small corridor. “Do I need to call my lawyer?”
The detectives quickly glanced at each other.
“That would depend if you knew something.” The second responded with an edge to his voice.
His partner interrupted, asking for my name. “Can we take your name? Just to log all contact we’ve come into,” he added. “It’s procedure.”
I wasn’t going to give them my name but I had to think fast of a reasonable name to give to them. No doubt they’d ask the Dean’s office for confirmation if they went by the books so I had to give them a name which was authentic. A classmate’s name popped into my mind. “Amy Jameson.”
The first detective scribbled down the name and gave his notebook to his partner who nodded his head in agreement. They both stared at me, gave me a quick one over and nodded again.
“Have a good day Amy.”
I nodded at them and turned to leave the building. Glancing at my watch, it was 9:27 and I had roughly an hour or two before the detectives realised that I was Annie Calla. Walking down the steps of the faculty building, I knew the detectives were still staring at me so I took my time as I normally would. I turned around and noticed that they were now standing outside the doors – the first detective talking animatedly into a phone and his partner, whose eyes never seemed to leave mine.
Giving a small smile, I turned away and walked where they couldn’t see or find me. I fished out my phone from my bag, quickly dialling Linc – my guard who decided to let loose for once and get drunk last night.
After a few rings, he picked up.
“Linc?” I clutched my phone tightly, walking as fast as I could once I had gotten out of their vision. I passed some classmates from other modules who gave me a quick hi but I had no time to exchange pleasantries – I had to get far away from this campus and I had to get away quick.
I heard a small groan from his end and then a loud thud. I was met with silence for a few seconds before his deep voice rumbled out the other end. “What’s up Annie?”
“The one day you have a hangover really has screwed us both over,” I whispered into the phone. I was weaving in and out of the crowds trying to catch my bearings but the swarm of crowds kept knocking me off. Dodging a group playing ball, I managed to sit down on one of the benches in the centre of the main courtyard. I was concealed – masses of people were crowded in the benches surrounded mine, and I had sat amongst another group who paid no attention to me. “Out of all the days, you just had to get drunk last night.”
“We have a problem like a really big problem.”
The group next to me all burst out laughing. I glanced around to see if the detectives had emerged into the courtyard – I knew they would. It would be the next place they would, asking random students questions about Annie Calla and there was a chance that they’d speak to someone who was in one of my classes. Someone dumb enough to describe my appearance to them and they’d put two and two together and end up with me as their final answer.
“They’ve found me. Two detectives were looking for me.”
Silence. All I could hear were our heavy, erratic breathing which began to worsen for me. I had to take a few deep breaths but before realising Linc was talking.
“Did they speak to you directly? Do they know anything?” I could hear the panic rising in his voice. He began to shuffle in the room, opening and shutting drawers. I knew he was getting the bags ready like there was no way we could stay here where getting caught was next on the agenda. It was only a matter of time.
“I’ll explain later,” I murmured. Thankfully, the courtyard was always busy during the day. No matter what time it was, there was always a huge crowd bustling, making it relatively easy for me to blend myself in. “Meet me at the main courtyard like right now.”
“I’ll get the car ready and meet you there now.”
I disconnected the line and threw my phone in my bag. I knew he’d be able to find me in this crowd.
Linc was assigned as my bodyguard when I left Positano at 19. My father never wanted me in the spotlight so sending me away for college was the next best thing he could do for me. No one knew who I was, who my family was or even my whereabouts. But Linc came as part of the package – he was a couple of years older than me and could easily pass as a college student. He was with me constantly, whether it be next to me or a few yards away.
Wherever I was, Linc was always nearby.
Twirling my hair around my finger, I turned to my left to the girl that was sat there on her phone as her friends spoke. A small idea popped into my mind.
I eyed her candidly.
“I love your coat where did you get it from?”
There was something about that girl that threw Brandon Fitz off.
Whether it was her intent stare or the way she spoke, there was something that felt off to Brandon. Years of training in the academy, he had developed a knack of noticing when something didn’t feel right and this was no exception.
His partner, Adam Philips, said otherwise.
“Annie Callia?” They were in the Dean’s office and were determined to get more information on this Annie chick. Everywhere they turned, they were hit with a brick wall and nowhere to turn to. After an anonymous tip which urged them to check the University of Virginia, specifically the law faculty, they wasted no time. “No record of her here in this system. Are you sure you gentlemen got the right name?”
Brandon slammed the book he held open shut, gritting his teeth in frustration. His partner had already dealt with the wrath of their Captain, and they were both determined to find this girl and bring her in for questioning. They all believed her to be the link to her father who had disappeared in the last few months which was unusual for a man like him.
If they caught Annie, then no doubt her father will follow.
“Hundred percent sure that’s the girl we’re looking for,” Adam spoke, leaning over the computer the Dean was glancing at. “Maybe it’s another spelling. It’s worth a shot.”
Sighing, Brandon took a seat in one of the two chairs that was in front of the Dean’s desk. His mind drifted back to the short exchange they had with this Amy Jameson girl. It was the way she spoke, the way her eyes slanted when they said Annie Callia – as if she knew something they didn’t.
“I don’t know how many ways you can spell Annie.”
“Try Callia,” Brandon murmured, looking at Adam who paused mid-sentence. “That girl we spoke to this morning – Amy Jameson – the way she said Callia made it seem as if it’s something else. As if she knew something we don’t.”
Normally, Brandon’s gut instinct was right. And he was certain that the girl they spoke to in the morning was in fact Annie Callia. When they were talking with the professor of the Tort Law class, he had felt a presence behind him and out of the corner of his eye, he saw he same girl who was immersed into the bulletin boards. He noticed her white knuckles as they clutched her coffee cup, and he saw her throw the full cup into the trashcan.
The question was why?
It was simple – she was the girl they were looking for.
He just needed proof.
“I’m sorry gentlemen,” the Dean interrupted. “But did you just say Amy Jameson?”
“Blond girl with green eyes,” Adam held his hand out in front of him, determining how tall the girl was. “This high.”
“Amy Jameson transferred colleges to the West Coast a month ago.”
The office became quiet – you could hear a pin drop. Anger and irritation began coursing through Brandon’s body, his fists were squeezed shut. He got up, hands on his head. He was right – his partner didn’t believe him but his gut instinct was always right. It’s what helped him graduate from the academy.
“Amy Jameson transferred to the West Coast a month ago so there is no way you spoke to her.”
“Nah,” Adam began. He knew what Brandon was thinking, heck even he thought that for a while but he tried thinking about it logically. “She didn’t look Italian. What Italian girl has blonde hair and green eyes?”
Brandon snorted, shaking his head in disbelief.
He knew there was more to this story but their file had given them the basics, purely because there was nothing on this family apart from the father.
“Annie Calla,” the Dean stated. He was clicking through files on his computer and even he was confused by the whole situation. The detectives had demanded he turn over everything he had on Annie Calla. Not much was obviously given. “You got the surname wrong. We unfortunately don’t have a picture of her –”
“I thought all students have a picture on their ID cards.”
“She opted out.”
“I wonder why.” Brandon muttered. He was so close in punching the nearest wall to him but refrained from doing so – he’d rather take his anger out on his partner who had coerced him that the girl they spoke to wasn’t the one they were looking for.
“Can you give us a description of what she looks like?” Adam asked. They both had gotten to their feet and already had their jackets on.
“You described her right,” the Dean spoke. He had seen Annie Calla about and had a few meetings with her about her future, and always believed her to be someone who stayed out of trouble. “Blonde hair and green eyes.”
The two detectives made their way out of the office, running down the front steps at full speed. They knew what they had to do – they had to do everything to get Annie Calla.
Adam asked his partner. They were both scrutinising the courtyard which was bustling with a lot of students. They wouldn’t be able to spot her here in the masses of crowds. “You don’t think she’s done a runner?”
“We need to catch up to her now.”
They began to weave their way through the students who paid no attention to them. They didn’t know who they were and it was best that it was left that way. She couldn’t be that smart for staying in the courtyard, would she? She could easily disguise herself and blend herself in but Brandon highly doubted that, with a father like hers, plans must have been put in place.
It was up to Brandon, Adam, and their team to figure the plans and bring justice to what has been done. Even if that included flying halfway across the world.
“We can charge her for lying to two federal officers,” Adam spoke quietly as they passed students. “We can charge her for so much more.”
And for Brandon, that’s all he wanted. After chasing dead ends for more than a year, he was determined that catching Annie Calla would give him the most satisfaction he would ever receive.
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