Recently divorced and recently moved Jamie Fremont finds herself in a bad situation with someone who isn't who they seem.
Jamie sat near one of the clean canvases she had bought with the alimony. The scene was perfect. She stared precariously at the mountains outside her small, Colorado country home. Patrick, her “better-off-dead ex-husband," as she liked to call him, had her child at the house that she had lost in the divorce. Her family allowed her to have this country house to live in – after she wrecked her last one and was forced to move – so long as she stayed away from the general public and paid her rent with the alimony and her online job as an artist. Her last home was beautiful, and she enjoyed it. It was, however, too close to the rest of society for her. Her rampage was kept a secret from everyone that wasn't her immediate family even then the group was kept small to not have the word get out. The old house was very much still on everyone's minds. Being away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, all she had was a date with a masterpiece.
She had recently been through a nasty divorce. Unstable as she was, Jamie tended to fly off the handle more times than what she cared to admit. She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder along with severe anger issues and frequent memory loss due to blackouts or triggers. After putting up with her for seven years, Patrick finally had enough, and he filed for a divorce. The split was on every newspaper cover in the Denver area – "Patrick Carlyle splits with ‘crazy' ex-wife." Patrick was a lawyer by nature but hit it big in the stock market two years into their marriage, and he set himself up in a penthouse office in some fancy-pants building. Jamie did not care too much for the city, she never had. She was always tense and anxious when surrounded by towering buildings and booming traffic. All she cared for was her art, her son, and her charity. She advocated for better treatment and care for mentally handicapped individuals and used Patrick’s public star to land herself on several local television stations to discuss it.
Patrick worked in a large corporation and made himself a household name in Colorado by the time he was 29. They adopted their 8-year-old son, Terence when the pair found out that Jamie was unable to have children. All the bigwigs in Denver thought that headline was huge, but they just had to wait another two years post-adoption for the divorce to hit the big time; they would not have to wait much longer for a more massive headline to hit every paper in the Americas.
Tabloids all across Colorado spread the word about the divorce. Patrick had ladies lined down the block to get with him, some for the money and others for the free ride to the headlines. Jamie had men lined up as well, but they were nothing but creeps and stalkers, looking for a way to get to her. The case was not settled out of court, against Patrick’s best wishes. As her therapist suggested when she started to get upset about it, Jamie closed her eyes, inhaled deeply, and reflected on what made the case so big. It was just any divorce case until it turned into a domestic abuse case.
Jamie had bruises up and down her arms, neck, and face when she was found unconscious in her small apartment that she took a temporary in after Patrick suggested she take some time away. The media immediately turned to Patrick being the assailant and his reputation was almost ruined had his lawyer not brought her borderline personality disorder, memory loss, and anger issues into play. Jamie recalled how her lawyer did not permit her to speak because she might blow the case. But she had to talk when Patrick's lawyer called her to the stand, “that hyperactive piece of sh-," she caught herself talking out loud. Before the court, Jamie admitted that she did not know if it were Patrick, someone else, or herself that did this. She broke down crying and refused to speak anymore. There was no conclusive evidence that Patrick had abused her. After this transpired, everyone that was anyone knew that Jamie Fremont was nothing but trouble.
Jamie shook her head like a dog after a bath; she did not wish to recollect any longer. Early morning birds chirped in the light autumn breeze. The bird's song floated pleasantly into Jamie's ears, turning her gray mood to a bright yellow. She took a deep breath and sipped on her tongue-scorching coffee. Her careful hand picked up the brush and dabbed it into the mud. Mud was today's "delicacy" as she called it. Jamie was no typical artist as she preferred to paint more complex compositions. Her art represented how her feelings collected inside, and she admired that. She carefully brushed the mud across the canvas where she felt it needed to be. Everything was in its place when Jamie was working on it. Painting was all Jamie had, and it was all that could keep her sane.
Her shoulder length daisy blonde hair was accented perfectly by her deep blue eyes. Her soft and caring round face could not hide the horrors of her mind as much as she would like. Some say she bears a striking resemblance to Marilyn Monroe if Jamie curled her hair like the 1950s idol. Her hair rested straight upon her broad shoulders that sometimes felt as though they bared the weight of the world. Her shoulders turned into muscle-lacking arms. She had no desire to build muscle because she had no reason to. The worst of her stalkers complimented her hips with the phrase "child-bearing," and she could still see Patrick's sweet, Jekyll face turn inside out to reveal the inner Hyde he hid. Indeed, Jamie was the one with the Jekyll and Hyde complex. Though not clinically diagnosed, Patrick’s Hyde punched the man so hard he broke the stalker’s nose and caused his glasses to break. The glasses broke in such a way they left a cut from the bride of the nose to above his left eyebrow. Jamie turned from angry to happy as she watched that poor sap waddle away in agony. Her only common emotions were happy and angry; very rarely did she feel any other emotion. She can remember true fear when encountered by that same stalker, but that was the only time she had felt genuine fear.
The cell phone on the coffee table buzzed, and it startled her. She lifted it to her eyes to be greeted with a text from Patrick. He asked if it would be possible for his friend to bring Terence by her house and drop him off for a day or two. Patrick got caught up at the firm and could not look after Terence for the time being, nor could he bring him to Jamie. Jamie was not legally allowed to drive due to her disorder, so Patrick asked if one of his friends could bring him. Jamie agreed eagerly. Terry would be taken to her now and arrive in about six hours. Patrick thanked her with a remorse-filled message.
Jamie, overjoyed, started to plan the afternoon that she would share with her son. As she pushed the painting away, she saw that when Patrick had texted her, she jumped and the brush pulled her hand to smudge mud where the mud was not supposed to be. This angered Jamie and, after nearly striking the canvas with her fist, she snapped the brush into two sharp pieces and threw them onto her coffee table to replace the phone.
She straightened her shirt with a sigh and prepared for Terry to arrive. She got her son’s favorite movies and snacks out for the afternoon. She made a blanket pallet on the floor. More blankets and some chairs were pulled into the living room so Jamie and her son could construct a blanket fort. The television turned on when Jamie pushed the button the remote. A cooking show was on the channel she was previously watching. Some no-brain celebrity was cooking with a wanna-be celebrity. Jamie snickered and changed the input to set up the DVD player.
By the time Jamie was ready for Terry, four hours had passed. Everything was in order and prepared for her son. She sat down on the couch to enjoy the eerily noiseless Colorado scenery. Jamie had no neighbors, she was far enough from society to have any significant triggers. Later, she saw a car approaching her home, down the long and lonely road. She glanced at the clock; only a little less than five hours had passed. She did not care, because she was ready to see Terry.
Jamie hopped up from the couch in pure excitement. She tossed her phone onto the imprinted cushion. Anxiously waiting by the windows, her breath fogged up the glass. The car pulled closer and closer until it pulled into the driveway. It was not a vehicle she recognized, but then again, it was Patrick’s friend driving. She went to her phone to look at his name. Mike Kirkley was the man’s name. There was no description of a car or his face, so she didn’t know what to expect. Jamie didn't mind at all; she was more excited than a child getting to leave school early.
The man stepped out the tinted-windowed early 2000s SUV and approached the door of Jamie’s house. “Mike?!” Jamie ran towards the door and almost tore it off the hinges, “Where’s my son, where’s Terry?”
“Terry, yes…yeah, yeah, I’m Mike,” The man sounded taken aback. Jamie bounced around in excitement, “Terry is in the car, asleep. May I come inside?” His tone suggested that he was concerned or upset. He tilted his chin down slightly and looked through Jamie’s eyes with the gentlest, yet aggravated, tone that forced Jamie back a few inches from the doorway.
Terry had never caused many problems, which explained the confused face that Jamie wore at this time. She fully expected Mike to tell her about Terry doing something terrible, “Oh, of course, please come in. He won’t be out there by himself for long, right?”
“Definitely, I’ll come out and grab him in a few. Don’t worry, I’ll try my best to make this quick,” Mike said with a more generous tone in his voice. He was less than welcomed into Jamie’s home as Jamie wandered away from the doorway, through the short hallway, and into the living room. Mike shut the door behind him, looked out the window, glanced back towards Jamie to see if she was near him, and then subtly locked the door. Walking towards the living room through the narrow hallway, Mike pushed forward. “You know, this is a beautiful house, Ms. Fremont,” not forgetting what Jamie’s name was.
How does he know my name, she wondered in her mind, oh yeah, he is friends with Patrick. She hesitated as she was not used to being called Ms. Fremont. “Ms. Fremont…you can call me Jamie,” she looked more towards the kitchen, “would you like something to drink? Some water?”
Mike looked around the house with awe, “No, thank you, how does one come to acquire such a house like yours?” Generosity appeared more so than ever in his deep, almost too masculine, voice. “It looks as though you have no pictures of anyone but…" he trailed off and seemed to take a shot in the dark, “Terry.”
Mike’s face looked rough but pleasant. He looked like someone’s grandfather although he didn’t look a day over 40. His scruffy facial hair lent itself nicely to his survivalist look. He was muscular but not so much that it was distressing or displeasing. His facial hair matched his actual hair – a brown crewcut – and his eyes. On the lower portion of his forehead sat a small scar that ran from above his left eyebrow to the bridge of his nose. Mike looked like a living discharged G.I. Joe action figure, for the most part.
"That's right. My son is the only man I need in my life. By the way, may we speak of him? I'm worried about him out in the car by himself," as she takes her glance back to a window that she could see his car through.
“Yes, yes, sorry. I must have gotten ahead of myself. I,” Jamie’s phone buzzed again, but more aggressively. She rushed to it, hoping it was Terry wanting her to get him from Mike’s car, but it was Patrick, “Sorry, Mr. Kirkley, but it’s your friend – I should probably take this.” She walked from the room into her adjacent bedroom and cracked the door. Mike wondered to himself, Mr. Kirkley?, and hummed Every Breath You Take by The Police – the song that was in his vehicle when he shut it off.
“Yes, Patrick? What do you want?” Jamie answered her phone, already annoyed.
“Jamie, Mike just called me to say he is having car troubles and may not be – ”
“No, Mike is here.” Jamie was frustrated as she rolled her eyes.
“Jamie, I – wait, he’s there, you said?”
“Yes,” she wanted to add “you idiot” but chose not to, instead saying, “I am looking at him right now standing in my living room.”
“Jamie, that’s…that’s not him. Jamie, you need to get out of that house right now.” The panic in Patrick’s voice was ignored by Jamie.
“Yeah? And go where, you idiot?” She deemed it necessary there.
"Jamie, you have to listen to me. I know you don't want to, but that man is NOT Mike." She lowered her phone from her ear but heard Patrick’s voice again, “Jamie? Jamie please, I know you don’t want anything to do with me but Mike is an ex-Marine, he’s trained to handle impromptu situations. When he gets there, he will handle this man. He’s not far away. If anything, just talk to that guy until Mike gets there. He’s rushing, I promise. Mike has Terry.” Jamie was never one to think rationally. Even as a child she rushed through no possibilities, only jumping to the most immediate and convenient conclusion. That is how she ended up with Patrick and, more or less, Terence. The last sentence that Patrick said set her off. She did not take it as Mike having Terry; she took it as “Mike” having Terry.
She hung up on him before he could start talking about something else that she did not care about. She picked up her stress ball from her dresser and tried to calm down with some breathing techniques she had learned. Jamie gripped part of her dark blue t-shirt and balled it up in her hand. She dropped her shirt to let the bottom seam meet the blue jean waistline. She looked down at her bare feet and saw the holes in her jeans right around the knees. Her hair fell carelessly on her shoulders and on the dark blue shirt. She had since looked away from the door, looking out of a window in her bedroom that cast in the view of the Colorado mountains. The sight cleared her mind, and she forgot what she was stressing about just a few moments before. Her breathing was more under control than what it was as she peered through the crack of the door again; she saw “Mike” admiring and touching her painting. Her memory jogged again.
“Hey!” Jamie screamed at him as she nearly threw the door to the middle of her bedroom, “Get away from that! Get away from that!” The man backed away from the canvas. She stood in the doorway to her bedroom, almost taunting the man that was staring deeply into her. “Who are you?”
“What are you talking about? I’m Mike,” the man said with confidence in his voice.
“Okay,” Jamie hesitated only to speak again, “then what is your last name?” The man’s lips curled smiled, but did not say anything, "Huh? Come on, what is it?" Jamie heard her phone buzzing again, and she glanced at it through the corner of her eye. She slowly walked backward, not taking her eyes off the man who was still smiling creepily. She reached for her phone and picked it up, looked at, and saw Patrick's name. He was calling her again. She let it go to voicemail only to see he had called six times between the time she hung up on him and now. She peered up at the man, who was now sauntering towards her. "I see you're not painting with paint," he said through his constant smile, "do you not like paint?"
“Don’t – I mean, no, I do…” she backed up into her room and grabbed the edge of the door, “I just like to paint with different mediums sometimes.”
“Oh yeah? So, that explains the mud. What else do you like to paint with?” He lunged at her but was met swiftly with the bedroom door slamming in his face. He muttered some expletives to himself before getting his lips close to the slit between the door and the wall. “Have you ever painted with blood?” This question sent chills down Jamie’s spine, which were met with chills going up her spine caused by the wicked man’s laugh. She clicked the lock on the door to prevent him from getting in. She had dropped her phone in this exchange, so she bent down to reach for it. Her shaking hands struggled to pick it up. She looked at the screen to see twelve texts from Patrick, the last one said he had called the police, and they were on their way. This was the first time in a very, very long time she appreciated Patrick.
Jamie felt afraid. She knew she recognized that scar on his forehead; this was the "child-bearing" compliment-guy. She knew this man knew everything about her and he was still stalking her. It was silent in the living room, eerily so. Jamie, the ever curious, unlocked and cracked the door open to see if the man had left. When she did, the door was struck by the man and Jamie was hit by the door. The force of the hit sent Jamie backward to her bed. Her head slammed into the bed frame which was caused blood to taint her blonde hair. The man stood in the doorway and feigned sympathy at the sight of a stunned Jamie reaching for the back of her head. "Oh, no. Poor Jamie. Are you okay, sweetheart?"
She repeated the same four words in her head until they were the only four words she could speak out loud, “the police are coming.” The man seemed rather unimpressed.
“Heavily concussed, are we? Well, you needn’t worry too awful much about that. I think you will have bigger worries before too long.” He beamed confidence that turned slowly into disdain as Jamie warned him haphazardly about the police. “If the police are coming, then we better get this show on the road.”
He grabbed Jamie’s ankles and dragged her into the living room. She reached for her phone but barely missed catching it, instead grabbing a piece if the blanket pallet she made before. He picked her up and tossed her onto the couch. The couch forgave her fall and held her carefully as she lay on her right side. The sunlight from the sunset struck her skin with the same force as the door but didn’t cause near as much damage. She muttered softly about the police as her eyes closed and opened carelessly. She watched as the man grabbed another one of her precious canvases and tossed the muddy one aside. He set up the canvas on the easel and carefully chose a brush from her collection. She saw the two pieces of the brush she broke several hours ago and reached for the sharper half as the man was distracted. He kept humming the same song.
When he finished setting up his stand, he turned his focus to his scene: Jamie. “All right, sweetheart, I’m going to need you to comply,” he approached Jamie with arms extended as if preparing for a hug, “if you do, I promise this will be over sooner rather than later. I’m going to reposition your perfect, child-bearing hips and we get this going, sound good?” He chuckled, knowing Jamie knew precisely who he was, reached her and grabbed her left hip to position her different. Jamie, with new found life, sprung up wielding the broken brush and stabbed the man in his hand with it. He let out an ungodly scream followed by more expletives. He wandered away from Jamie to tend to his wounded hand. Jamie fumbled her way to her feet and stumbled to the front door. She tried to open it, but it wouldn't budge. The man grabbed her from behind, wrapping his arms around her waist, and pulled her away from the door. She noticed as she was dragged away that the door was locked.
Jamie let her left fly up behind her in between the man’s legs as the two of them rounded the corner into the living room. He well-placed kick landed right where it needed to, and the man let out another scream. The man doubled over and released Jamie to tend to his own issue. Jamie sprang into the wall and slammed into one of the walls. She bounced off the wall and hit the wall parallel from it. She rebounded from wall to wall, using her arms as springs to propel herself to the next wall. Her hand hit the door and fumbled with the lock. Once it was unlocked, Jamie threw the door open and was met abruptly with the crisp Colorado air. The air filled and left her lungs as she slowed her breathing. Jamie dashed for the SUV and looked intensively for her son. Terry was nowhere to found before she remembered that her attacker was not Mike but her most demented stalker. Jamie wandered around the car and tried every handle to enter the vehicle. Luckily for her, the backseat door on the passenger side was unlocked, and she climbed inside and to the driver's seat. Jamie searched frantically for the keys that were not in the ignition. Where are those fucking keys? Jamie wondered repeatedly. At this point, she couldn’t tell if that question was spoken or just in her head. All Jamie could hear aside from her scrambling and breathing was a strange thumping noise. Before she knew it, glass flew at her face in a flurry, and she felt a hand grab at her throat. Jamie was too busy reaching to protect her face to notice the man reaching inside the vehicle, grabbing the door handle, and opening the door.
The man ripped the door open and threw Jamie to the concrete by her throat. Jamie’s body was met with the concrete and was quickly followed by her head. She rolled over on her back to see the man grab at his elbow as he winced. Her hand reached over and grabbed the man's ankle to create another diversion as she tried standing. The man yanked his ankle free and unleashed it on the right side of Jamie's ribs, kicking three, four, five, six times. He grabbed her arm and lifted her onto his shoulders like a fireman carrying a burn victim out of their burning house. In a way, this carry was ironic as it symbolized Jamie’s flame of hope starting to burn out.
“Dumb bitch,” he calmly muttered as he threw her back on the couch. Jamie heard a familiar lock click as the man re-emerged into view. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that. I’m just nervous. Although, I don’t know why. This certainly isn’t my first rodeo. Now, are you going to cooperate?” He asked with caring eyes and a gentle smile. He held his bloodied hand in his other to try to halt the bleeding. All of a sudden, his eyes lit up, “Where are your plates?” he asked. Jamie responded only with a shaking middle finger, "Well if you're going to be a bad hostess, I guess I’ll just find them for myself.”
She heard him exclaim from the kitchen that he found one and she watched as he tore a little more skin from his hand to let his blood flow onto the plate. When he seemed satisfied, he grabbed his hand again and wandered into her bedroom. He emerged a few minutes later with one of her shirts wrapped around his hand to prevent further bleeding. He grabbed the bloody plate and set it on the coffee table. He then inquired about rope but was met with silence from Jamie. He rolled his eyes and went in search of some rope. Jamie noticed he had left the room, so she attempted to get up again. She felt warmth run down the back of her down and down her spine. Jamie sat up and felt around her back to be greeted with blood flowing down her back. The shirt she was wearing did its best to soak it up, but there was no stopping it.
He returned, exclaiming, “Who in the hell doesn’t keep rope in their damn house?” only to find her vanished from the couch and found her trying to unlock the front door again. That was not all he noticed; all the blood she was losing made for a great attention-grabber. “What a great idea,” he menacingly said to her. The deep, masculine voice startled her. He grabbed a bowl from where he got the plate and approached her. She tried to take a punch at him, but he grabbed her hand and forced her forearm to lay across her forehead as he slammed her head into the door. He grabbed her hair after releasing her hand and slammed her head into the door several times to cause more bleeding, which he succeeded in. This did not kill her, and he anticipated that. He turned her around and held the bowl near to her head to collect all the blood that would fit in the bowl. When he was satisfied, he laid her on the couch, set the bowl down, returned to her and placed her in a pose he liked.
The pose he chose was her laying on her right side with her head resting on her fully extended right arm. Her left arm was bent with her hand tucked under her chin. One of her legs – the right one – was full extended much like the right arm and her left leg was bent with her knee lined up perfectly with her waist. The left foot was tucked behind the right knee as well.
Jamie was weak. So much so that she could not move. She knew she would die. She thought about her son, Terence. She thought about how he would grow up motherless with a father nearly too busy to spend any extended amount of time with him. Patrick loved Terry, but he couldn’t spare the time from work to show him the love fully. She thought of Patrick. The hate she had accumulated for that man dissipated as she thought of how much she loved him when they were married. Her parents tried to replace Patrick's love, the nurses tried to replace Patrick's love, the painting tried to replace Patrick's love, but she knew now only Patrick's love could replace Patrick's love. All she wished for now was to feel Patrick's touch as she held Terry in her arms. Tears stung her surprisingly dry right cheek. She hoped the police would come soon so that she may be saved and live out her life with her gorgeous son. Jamie thought she recognized the song the man was humming but her eyes closed before she could figure it out.
The man dipped the brush in the bowl of Jamie’s blood as he carefully measured each stroke of the brush on the canvas. He was painting Jamie’s body, taking extra careful measures to depict her hips correctly. He was right about what he said earlier, this was not his first rodeo. In fact, this was his eighth. The other seven had fought much less than Jamie although he did attack them during the night. He had no connection to the other women. He used the other women as practice to hone in on his craft. This man had always admired Jamie since first seeing her. He paid the price for his compliment as her man punched him. It was just a compliment, why did he have to overreact? When he finished, he would set the painting up somewhere someone could see but just leave the body where it lay. He was proud of his work so far but still had much to do.
Patrick was right when he said the police were on their way. The operator dispatched a fleet of officers to the home of Jamie Fremont. Patrick feared the worst – attack, rape, murder, among other things. The fear on his face was apparent to his colleagues, although they could not even begin to imagine what he feared. No one dared to ask if it was Jamie, halfway because that would set him off and halfway because they already knew it was Jamie, they just didn't understand what about Jamie effected Patrick’s demeanor this time. He couldn’t stand the waiting. Were the police there? Was Mike there? Should he have told Mike about the intruder? His thoughts echoed around in his head as he entered the elevator to take him back to his floor because that’s where the police told him he should stay. He worried about Mike. He may have been a marine, but he could be reckless when rushed. Patrick told himself he was doing the right thing. The hate he had accumulated for that woman dissipated as he thought of how much he loved her when they were married. The other woman couldn’t replace Jamie’s love, his penthouse office couldn’t replace Jamie’s love, his work couldn't replace Jamie's love, but he knew now only Jamie’s love could replace Jamie’s love. He brushed tears away from his eyes and shook his head. He hummed along with the song in the elevator. Every Breath You Take by The Police he thought as he exited the elevator.
The police arrived at the home only to be greeted with complete darkness and silence in and around the house. A total of four officers approached the door with another thirteen surrounding the place. The four at the front door burst in to see nothing. Not as if nothing was happening or nothing was wrong, but nothing was even in this house. It was completely empty, save for dust. It looked as though the house had just been recently moved out of. How could this happen? Where was Jamie? How could someone find the time to move everything out of the house before the police could there? None of the officers recalled seeing moving trucks on their way to the house. All these questions and more had crossed each of the officers' minds as they searched the home. One officer looked at the address of the house and radioed in to have the address checked. Turns out, in his haste and fear, Patrick gave the operator the wrong address – that of the house that Jamie had just moved out of.
Patrick had not contacted Mike, in fear that he would rush to the house and accidentally wreck. Patrick could not stand to worry Mike and risk his son’s life. Mike and Terry pulled up to the house. They had bonded nicely on the long, six-hour drive. Mike hoped Terry would start to call him “Uncle Mike” as Mike had no siblings but desired to be an uncle. He had harbored this hope for several years. He was close to Patrick’s family and played a significant role in Patrick's recover from the divorce. The duo knocked on the door but was met with silence. Terry playfully yelled for his mom but was, again, greeted with silence. Mike tried the door, and it was unlocked. So, the pair entered. They saw a painting at the end of the hallway leading to the rest of the house. Both approached it and smelled what they thought was iron.
Jamie's eyes opened slowly to adjust to the light. A small figure walked around the corner into view. The figure glanced around the area opposite of Jamie. When this figure's eyes met Jamie's, she knew it was her son. Before her eyes closed to welcome the proverbial "fade to black," she thought she heard a scream.
Mike was enamored by this painting. The canvas was covered in different shades of the same blood red color. He peered closer to inspect what he thought was a figure of a person laying on a couch. If not for the constant red, it could have been a photograph. The figure of this person was perfect. The legs, starting at the feet, ran up into the hips and down into the stomach. The person was a woman, and he wondered if Jamie painted this. He knew Jamie was an artist, but he didn't realize her muse was women. It caught him by surprise that Jamie would leave this painting here. “Why would she want this to be the first thing we saw?” he mumbled to himself. The figure of this woman resembled that of a perfectly formed set of hills. Mike felt a strong attachment to this painting and the woman depicted. He felt his heart grow warm with passion. His attention broke only when he heard Terry let out a blood-curdling scream from the living room.