Chapter 35: Other Fish in the Sea
For a moment, Eric's mind went blank with panic as he read the last DM again:
"Look up, dummy. I'm the one with the rabbits foot walking toward your car."
The appalling possibilities came to him one by one, each one worse than the last. A lunatic? Obsessed? But obsessed with what? With him, or with her? For a moment Eric stood paralyzed. He couldn't seem to hold a single thought in his head long enough to process it. He only knew one thing.
Tessa was in danger.
That damned pink rabbit's foot. It had all been her idea. "Should we have some kind of signal so I recognize you?" she had said. "They sell them at the service station. Exit 54. . . ." There had only been two pink ones left on the little hook next to the cash register this morning. Eric had purchased one and left the other one hanging.
He should have bought them both. Hell, he should have bought all the other colors too. Cleaned out the whole rack. He should have bought every last rabbit's foot in the entire state of Texas. He'd just left it there, dangling on the end of the hook. And someone else had bought it. Someone else had held it out to her. And Tessa had fallen for it, hook, line, and sinker.
The seemingly innocuous events of 20 minutes ago took on a new significance. The shadowy figure in the parking lot. . . . The pair of headlights that stopped just before the final bend in the road. . . .
That must have been her. Eric had stood right here and watched the whole bait and switch go down. The car had idled briefly, just long enough for introductions. Then it had swung around in a U-turn and gone-gone where, exactly?
They could be anywhere.
Had they gone back to Tessa's house? But where was that? She'd never given him the address. She'd never even told him the name of her town. And now she was out there somewhere, with some maniac, some total psychopath. Someone who knew about the rabbit's foot and every other detail of their private conversations - who'd probably been following their every word for months.
Eric felt the contents of his stomach heave, and he swallowed hard. He couldn't lose it. Not now. He needed to think.
He only had one hope - one way to reach her. The same way he'd had all along. He double-tapped the Cap Lock and began firing off DM's:
"I'VE BEEN HACKED!"
"TESSA THAT WASN'T ME!"
"I'M STILL AT THE CLUB!"
"TESSA GET OUT OF THE CAR!"
She would see the notifications. She had to. She always did. How many times had he messaged her out of the blue at some random hour of the day or night, only to be rewarded with an instantaneous reply.
"Come on, Tessa," he whispered hoarsely. "Answer me, Goddammit!"
But the seconds ticked by with no response. 6:23 PM now. A full 20 minutes had passed since that car had driven off. She must have put her phone away. Must be busy getting acquainted-getting acquainted with "Taylor." Taylor, the first stranger that she'd dared to let back into her life. The one she thought she trusted. The one she thought she loved.
He nearly threw his phone across the parking lot.
He had to do something. Something. But what? Should he call for help? Call the police? Eric flipped away from Twitter and began to dial 9-1-1-
His finger hung suspended over the Call button, but he hesitated. Call 911 and tell them what, exactly? He winced as he played out the imaginary conversation inside his head.