Castle Roland

Short Story

Posted: 25 Apr 16

You Can Never Say Goodbye

Copyright © 2015 by Bill W
All Rights Resrved

I had just returned home after graduating from college and was planning on taking a short break so I could have some fun before I started looking for a job. I felt I had earned the right to relax and enjoy life for a while since I'd just spent four years studying and meeting all of the course requirements to earn my bachelor's degree.

When I first got home, most of my old friends from high school were there too. They were either home for the summer before returning to college or just taking a few weeks off before starting a job. Seeing there were so many people around that I knew and was friendly with, the first part of the summer was a blast. It was a series of cookouts, parties, clubbing and even a few road trips as we headed to the beach, amusement parks and other places where those our age tended to hang out. As the summer progressed, however, all of the good times began to wind down. Slowly, those beginning their careers left the area, and then those returning to college took off to go back to their campuses. It didn't take long after they left before I became hopelessly bored.

After wallowing in self-pity for a while, I decided it was time to get out of the house and start meeting new people, so I headed down to one of the local gay bars. I had been out since my freshman year in high school, so everyone around, including my parents, knew about my sexual orientation, so I didn't have to hide who I was. That's why I felt the best place to meet someone compatible was at a gay establishment.

It was during my 'night out' when I first spotted Clark. It all started quite innocently enough, when I noticed this cute guy sitting at the bar chatting with the bartender. I was debating if I felt brave enough to go over and introduce myself when he casually turned in my direction and we made eye contact. At first, we merely smiled and nodded our acknowledgment of one another, but then after a few more minutes had passed by, he got up and walked over to where I was sitting.

"Hi. I'm Clark Reistetter. Do you come here often?" he asked, as his way of breaking the ice.

"Hi. I'm Mason Wharley," I replied while looking at him more closely. "I've come here a few times before, but I've been away at school, so I haven't been here for a while. I just got back a few months ago, after graduating."

"Really? Where did you graduate from?" he followed, sounding interested.

"Duke," I answered, and he started to grimace.

"I guess that makes us rivals of sorts, because I attended North CarolinaState," he replied with a touch of sarcasm. As he had been walking over, I'd noticed that Clark was a little taller than average, about six-feet, two-inches in height (188 cm), with the bluest eyes I had ever seen. They were set off nicely against his raven-colored hair and five-o'clock shadow, but he was also slender, not skinny, and appeared to be quite fit. "Are you really a devil, though?" Clark teased.

I knew this was his playful attempt to make a pass at me and see if I was up to being a little wicked, while playing on my school's nickname. I thought quickly about how I was going to respond to his query.

"Going to Duke made me a Blue Devil, but I guess I have enough of the real thing in me to ensure that I have a good time when I go out," I teased, while waiting to see how he was going to react to my not-so-subtle meaning. He immediately sat down on the bar stool next to mine and got comfortable.

"Hmmm. It sounds like you might be worth getting to know then," he countered playfully as he did a quick visual inspection of my assets.

"Since you went to N.C.State, does it mean you're a wolf?" I countered, referring to his alma mater's nickname. I was also busy trying to figure out what had attracted him to me, since I never considered myself 'hot' or a 'catch', although I did feel I was decent looking. I was a little shorter than he was, at five-feet, eleven-inches tall (180 cm), and I had mousy brown hair and dark brown eyes. I also didn't have much facial hair, unlike him, but I was in decent shape since I'd played soccer in high school and college.

"I'm definitely part of the Wolfpack, but I guess I can be a pretty aggressive wolf at times too," he answered with a wink. "Can I buy you a drink?"

"Sure," I agreed before giving the bartender my order.

"So what was your major?" he asked next as we were sipping our drinks.

"I was an economics major with a math minor," I answered, but I wondered if he was truly interested in what my degree was in or if he was just trying to keep the conversation going. "What was yours?"

"Damn, that's some serious shit," he responded, but I wasn't sure if his expression signified admiration or disgust when he heard what my major was. "Mine was computer science. I guess I'm a bit of a technology geek because I like messing around with all my tech toys."

We talked about a lot of different things after that, such as comparing our college experiences and discussing what we liked best and least about the years we'd spent there. Then we compared what it had been like when we came out and even discussed some of our early attempts at exploring our sexuality, but we didn't really go into detail about our sexual exploits. When the conversation began to wane, he asked if I wanted to dance and I accepted his offer. He had some pretty good moves on the dance floor too, and it didn't take long for me to realize that he was a pretty 'hands on' sort of guy and liked to make body contact.

At first it was just the touch of his fingers as they slid over my arm or hand, but he would also casually brush against me with his body before he started to get even more aggressive. This happened when he moved behind me while we were dancing, and then he began to rub the front of his body against the back of mine. At the same time, his hands began to rub up and down my spine, along my arms and even across my butt before he wrapped his arms around my chest so he could start exploring that area as well. He never overtly reached for my crotch, though, but after he moved in front of me again he made sure our junk was rubbing against one another as we danced.

Even though I thought he'd been moving a little quickly at times, I still had a good time while we were together. When I got ready to leave, he asked if I wanted to go back to his place and spend the night. Even though I'd enjoyed myself, I felt it was a little too soon to be making that kind of move, so I quickly made up an excuse to avoid putting myself in that situation. I told him that I had an interview in the morning and needed to go home so I'd be able to shower, put on my suit and get to my appointment on time. He seemed disappointed but asked if I'd be returning there again in the near future, so I told him I would, and he said he'd see me around then.

When I went home and got in bed, my head was spinning, but it wasn't just because of the alcohol I'd had to drink. I was also confused by the attention Clark had been showing me. Was he thinking that maybe we might be compatible, and was he possibly interested in pursuing a relationship, or was he merely looking for a quick hookup and score? I didn't want him to think I was easy and some kind of boy toy that he could merely play with, but his actions had me confused. Was he truly interested in me as a person or was he just looking for someone to take to bed so he could get his rocks off?

I didn't go back to the bar during the week and opted to spend my time doing job searches online and calling different places to see if they had any openings. I would first ask to speak with someone in the Human Resources department, and then I'd tell that person about my degree. I'd follow it up by asking if they had any current or projected openings that I might be suited for, and if they did, I would give them my name and cell number. I would also promise to send them my resume and cover letter, but I would ask if they preferred for me to send it through the mail or via the internet. I had to keep pressing to find a job and couldn't wait much longer before I started work, because I had college loans that I would soon have to start paying off.

On Friday night, I went back to the same bar again and spotted Clark the moment I walked in. He was sitting at the bar, and even though the place was pretty crowded, he seemed to be ignoring everyone there. He was focused on the front door and immediately noticed when I entered. As soon as he saw me, his face lit up and he waved for me to come over and join him.

"I was wondering if you were going to show," he commented, as he signaled for me to sit on the stool next to him. "I've been here every night waiting to see you again."

"Really? That's sweet," I replied as I sat down beside him. He also ordered drinks for both of us and got me the same thing I'd had the previous time I was with him. We then sat and sipped our drinks for a few minutes as we considered where we should go from here.

"So do you want to dance?" he finally asked to end the lengthy and awkward silence.

"Yeah, ok," I agreed, and then I followed him out to the dance floor.

He picked up right where he'd left off the previous time we were there together and began to rub against me during every dance. He also started asking for more information about my life, such as where I lived or if I had any brothers or sisters, but he also wanted my phone number. I didn't want to give him too much information yet, but he was really sweet about it, so I finally gave in. I took his phone so I could enter my name and cell number in it for him, while he did the same with my phone. That seemed to please him, but he suddenly became upset when I refused his offer to go home with him again. I thought fast and told him that I'd agreed to go on a trip with my parents this weekend and we were leaving early in the morning. He wasn't happy about it, but he didn't push the issue, so I told him I'd probably see him the following weekend.

The next few weekends went about the same, with us spending time together at the bar and then Clark trying to get me to go home with him afterward, but I kept putting him off. Eventually, I decided that he seemed nice enough, and I was definitely attracted to him, so I finally accepted his offer to spend the night.

Although I'd been worried about doing this, the night was incredible. I'd been with other guys before, and I was definitely not a virgin, but Clark made me feel things like never before. I not only spent Friday night with him, but I willingly stayed the entire weekend at his place. It was clear to me that this was the beginning of a wonderful relationship.

I was in heaven and basically walked on air for the next couple of months. Not only did I have a great boyfriend and a fantastic sex life, but he also helped me get a job with the same tech company that he worked for. Although we worked in the same building, we were in different departments, but we could ride back and forth to work together too. Shortly thereafter, I agreed to move in with him.

Everything was going fine until one afternoon when I went to lunch with my manager and two of my co-workers. Clark must have seen us leaving the building, since his department was located against the back wall and overlooked the parking lot, so he confronted me about it on the ride home.

"Who was that guy you were so friendly with when I saw you leaving at lunchtime?" he demanded once we were on the road.

"Clark, that was my boss and two other guys I work with," I shot back, wondering where this was coming from. "I wasn't being overly friendly with anyone in particular, but we were all in a good mood because our manager was taking us out to lunch. It was a reward for a project we'd just completed, because our boss raved that we'd done an exceptional job."

"Mace, I saw how close you two were sitting in the back seat of the car," Clark insisted. As I looked at him in amazement, I immediately noticed the muscles in his body tensing up. His face was also starting to turn a reddish hue as the blood rushed to it.

"We weren't sitting close at all," I countered, not believing what I was hearing. "He sat on one side of the seat, and I sat on the other."

"It looked to me that both of you slid a little closer to each other after you closed your doors," he continued and I knew he was accusing me of cheating on him.

"It's just your imagination," I replied. "Hell, I'm pretty sure the guy is straight, and I even think he has a girlfriend."

"Sure he does," Clark mockingly replied to my response, while making a face that told me he didn't believe what I'd just told him.

That was only the beginning of the downward spiral in our relationship. After that, I caught Clark checking my cell phone so he could look at the call log and text messages to see who I'd been talking to. I think he also tried to figure out my password so he could listen to my voice mail too. If that wasn't bad enough, I also noticed him walking by my department several different times during the workday. Since we didn't even work on the same floor, it was obvious what he was doing. It caused me to have serious doubts now as to whether I'd made a wise decision by moving in with him.

One day I decided to call my mother while I was at work so I could ask her to do me a favor. I wanted her to call me that evening after I got home from work. I told her I wanted her to invite me to a cookout at the house on the weekend, because I wanted to see how Clark was going to react. It would also get me away from him and give me some breathing room for a while, because I was beginning to feel suffocated by his constant surveillance and hovering over me.

When the call came later, Clark listened in as I spoke with my mother. "Sure, Mom. That sounds great. I haven't spent much time with you and Dad lately, so this will work out fine. What time do you want me to show up on Saturday... Ok, Mom, I'll see you then."

"Who were you talking to?" Clark demanded when I'd ended the call.

"Didn't you hear me say 'Mom' a couple of times?" I shot back, irritated by both his question and his attitude.

"Yeah, but was that really who you were talking to?" he pressed, while acting as if he didn't believe me.

"Of course it was," I assured him. "I don't go around calling anyone else 'Mom', except for my mother."

"What did she want?" he followed, still eyeing me suspiciously.

"She invited me over for a family cookout on Saturday," I answered, only telling him as much as I needed to.

"Am I invited too?" he continued, making it clear that he didn't trust me to do this alone. I had a feeling he thought I was meeting someone else.

"I said it was a family cookout," I reiterated somewhat forcefully. "She thinks we're only roommates." I knew this response would probably seem rude in a normal relationship, but I needed to get away from him for a while.

"I think she wants to talk to me about my father's birthday, which is coming up in a few weeks," I stated, much to his continued irritation. "Since Dad likes to do the grilling, I think she feels it will give us time to make plans and discuss what we want to get him."

"So I'm not invited?" he asked again, to confirm that he was being left out. I could see he was becoming very upset now.

"Not this time," I concurred. I knew he was angry about this, but I felt he could allow me to have some time to myself. The only time we were ever apart up to this point was while we were at work, but then we were still in the same building, just on different floors.

He immediately stormed off to his bedroom and slammed the door behind him. I didn't let it bother me though, because by this point I was already making plans to end the relationship anyway. Going home on Saturday would allow me to ask my parents if I could move back in, at least until I found my own place.

The rest of the work week was very tense, and Clark was in a foul mood the entire time. I knew he was upset about this, but I no longer cared. You can't have a relationship without trust, and he had obviously proved he didn't trust me. I'm not going to go through life with someone constantly looking over my shoulder and questioning everything I was doing.

I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders as I drove away from the apartment that afternoon and headed over to my parents' house. My mom and dad were both happy to see me, and we talked about a number of things before my dad went outside to fire up the grill. My mother and I carried the salads and other items out to the picnic table, and then we sat down and had a lovely meal together.

At one point I looked up and saw Clark drive by. My parents lived on a corner lot, so he was fairly easy to spot through the chain-link fence. I pretended like I hadn't noticed him, but then I saw him drive by again a few minutes later. I didn't remember ever telling him where my parents lived, since it wasn't necessary after I'd moved in with him, so I wasn't sure how he got the information. That's when I began to wonder if he'd followed me there.

Even though I was trying very hard to keep my parents from noticing that anything was wrong, I was getting madder and madder by the second. If I'd had any doubts before that Clark didn't trust me, this helped to prove my point. I definitely wasn't about to stay in a relationship like this, so I asked my parents if I could move back home.

"Isn't it working out with your roommate, honey?" Mom asked, looking concerned.

"No. He's not exactly the person I thought he was," I replied, trying to keep the conversation to a minimum.

"Didn't he help you get your job?" Mom followed, looking at me slightly confused this time.

"Yes, he did, and I will be eternally grateful to him for that, but I just can't live with him any longer," I confessed, trying not to sound too desperate. "He has some extremely annoying habits that have been getting on my nerves."

"Of course you can move back here," Dad chipped in, moving the conversation along. "Are you going to need help?"

"Yes, if you don't mind," I quickly agreed. "I can't very well ask Clark to help me, so I plan on renting a truck, and then I'll call to let you know when I'm able to do it. Thanks, both of you, for bailing me out again, but it will only be temporary. Since I have a job now, I'll start looking for my own place as soon as possible."

"There's no rush, and you can stay with us for as long as you like," my dad suggested and I appreciated his offer.

"Thanks, but I'll try not to make it too long," I responded. "In fact, I was surprised you hadn't already rented out my room or turned it into something else that would benefit the two of you."

"No, that will always be your room, honey," Mom quickly replied. "We figured maybe you'd use it from time to time when you stayed over on the holidays or whatever. We even bought another bedroom set and put it in there since you took your old bedroom set with you."

"Geez, you didn't have to do that. I'm working locally so even if I get a place of my own it will be fairly close by, so I'm not sure it will be necessary for me to use my old room after this," I stated, as I glanced at her.

"You may move away later, so it will always be here waiting for you, even when you have a family," Mom answered. "You and your spouse can use your room, and if you have any children, they can stay in the guest room."

"Let's not start rushing things," I stated, knowing that my mom secretly wanted grandchildren. I wasn't sure if that was going to happen though, since I was gay. It would depend on whether the person I married wanted to adopt or use a surrogate to have a family.

When I got back to the apartment, I decided to confront Clark. "I noticed that you drove by my parents' house a couple of times earlier." I did this to see his reaction, and I'll admit he seemed a little embarrassed, but that was probably only due to the fact that he'd been caught.

"Yeah, so what?" he shot back, sounding irritated.

"It only proves what I've suspected all along. You don't trust me," I announced, equally irritated. "How did you even know where they lived?"

"I don't know. I guess I must have seen it on something," he offered weakly. "Maybe it was written on something when you moved here, or I might have seen it on an old resume or something."

"Yeah, right," I countered, letting my hostility show. "It's more likely that you followed me there. I'm sorry, but I can't stay in a relationship like this. I won't live with a guy who doesn't trust me."

"What the fuck are you talking about?" he screamed as the blood rushed to his head. "Just because I happened to drive by their house doesn't mean I was checking up on you."

"Of course not. They only live in a subdivision that isn't on a major route and isn't a shortcut to anyplace, so you can count me skeptical," I said in my best mocking tone. "Admit it! Of course you were checking up on me and showing your lack of trust, just like you've done with everything else."

"Now you're sounding paranoid," he shot back, trying to throw this back on me.

"Am I?" I scoffed. "You mean you haven't checked my phone to see who I was talking to or been checking my messages? Are you pretending that you don't walk by my department all the time to see who I'm with or what I might be doing, just like this afternoon? I'm tired of being spied on, so I'm moving out. You can have your place to yourself again."

"If you try to leave me, I'll hurt you and your parents," he threatened, and by the look on his face I truly believed he was serious. "Don't do this, because you won't live long enough to be with whoever else you're interested in."

"I'm not interested in anyone else, but I can't stand living like this," I shouted back. "Go find someone else to be your captive, because I'm not a human Ken doll that you can play with and keep locked in your toy box. You'll have to find some other guy to play out that fantasy for you."

Since his threat had actually scared me, I left the apartment again just as soon as he went to the toilet. I didn't go home, though, but drove over to the police station instead. Once there, I filed a report about the threat Clark had just made against me and my parents. An officer took down my statement, but I soon had the feeling that nothing was going to be done about it. I felt this way because I overheard a couple of the cops joking about it being the result of a 'gay cat fight' and they doubted it would lead to a 'homo-cide'. I just thanked them for their help and left, before heading over to my parents house next.

I felt a little safer there, since they had a security system, but I knew that wasn't enough. I hurriedly explained to them about Clark's threat and told them I was planning to take a couple of days off from work to begin the week because I didn't want to run into him there either. I told my dad that I'd get a truck for Tuesday and we'd move while Clark was at work, if he was able to take the day off. Dad said he'd call in first thing Monday and take a few days off too, claiming a family emergency.

Once we'd thought about this some more, my dad also suggested that he'd call his lawyer Monday morning and have him get a restraining order against Clark so he couldn't come near any of us. I thought that was a great idea, but silently I prayed that nothing else would happen before he was able to do that.

Luckily, I hadn't taken everything with me when I'd moved out, so I still had some clothes at the house that I could wear. They weren't my best things, but they would suffice until I moved my other belongings back home. I also spent some of my time looking out the windows to see if Clark was driving by again, but I never spotted him. It didn't mean that he hadn't gone by, but if he had, then I just hadn't caught him doing it.

Monday morning, Dad called his lawyer as soon as he thought his office was open and explained the situation to him. I also told Dad to tell his attorney that I'd filed a police report shortly after Clark made the first threat, so the lawyer said he would take care of everything. He called back later and told us that we would need to appear in court that afternoon so I could testify about the threat in front of a judge. We told him that wouldn't be a problem and agreed to meet him there. When I called in to work, I explained the situation as best I could to my boss and told him I needed to take the next couple of days off. He wasn't thrilled about it, but he agreed to give me the time I needed. I also asked him to do me another favor and discreetly check with Clark's boss to see if he was taking off too. He promised he'd do what he could and then call me back.

All of us went to the courthouse later since we didn't want to leave anyone at home alone until this was settled. We were greeted by Dad's lawyer once we got there, and he pointed out a sign to us before we entered the courtroom, so we each turned off our cell phones before going inside.

We weren't in there for very long, but I explained everything to the judge that Clark had said. I also told the judge that Clark and I worked in the same building, but not in the same department, so he agreed to write some additional provisions into the restraining order to address that situation as well. He said he couldn't keep Clark completely away from me at work since it was possible that we might pass in the hallways, the stairs or on the elevator, but he could include a clause that Clark wasn't permitted to confront or speak to me while I was at work, which included prohibiting Clark from going near my department. I agreed that would be fine.

After we left the courtroom, we thanked Dad's lawyer and made our way to the exit. Before we went outside, we turned our cell phones back on and checked our messages. I had one from my manager, so I listened to it.

"Mason, I spoke to Clark's manager and found out that he called in sick today, but that's all I was able to learn."

This concerned me greatly. Had Clark called in sick so he could lie in wait for me at the apartment, since he probably figured I was going to go there to start moving my things out? I'm sure he'd say it was only so he could talk me out of leaving, but I was more inclined to believe that he was waiting to beat me up or possibly even to murder me. I sincerely hoped the piece of paper we got today would prevent anything like that from happening, but now I wasn't convinced it would be enough.

When we got home, my dad went to turn off the alarm, but it didn't seem to be working. He immediately called the company to report the problem, and they said they'd send a tech out to see what was wrong. When the guy showed up a couple of hours later, he examined the system and then explained the problem to us.

"I'm not sure how it was done, but someone had disabled your security system earlier," he told us. "This wasn't just a technical problem either, because I can tell your system was deliberately tampered with. It would take a very tech-savvy person to pull something like this off, and it may have been done by someone who currently works with security systems or has worked with them before, but not in a job like mine. This person would have had to work on the other end of the business, with the electronic configurations, as well as the alarm and reporting systems."

Even though this guy had no idea who was responsible, I had a very strong suspicion about who might have done this. I wasn't sure if he'd worked for a security company before, but he definitely had the technical knowledge to pull this off.

After the tech called his office and worked with a technical rep at their headquarters, they brought the security system back online. Now that the problem had been resolved, my dad thanked the man and he left, but as soon as he was gone, I told my dad about my suspicions.

After I finished discussing this with my dad, I called my manager again and asked if he'd do another favor for me. He wouldn't commit himself until I explained what I wanted, so I asked if he'd call Clark's manager in the morning to see if Clark had showed up for work or if he'd called in again. I told my boss that I was planning to move out of the apartment Clark and I shared and didn't want to have a confrontation while I was doing it. After thinking about it briefly, he agreed to do this for me and promised to call me back as soon as he found out something.

I wanted to go over to the police station and report this incident, as well as notify them about my suspicion that I thought Clark had been the person who disabled my parents' security system, but dad talked me out of doing that. He said we didn't have any proof that Clark had been involved or actually did anything, so it was highly unlikely the police could or would doing anything. Therefore, we switched over to talking about getting my belongings from the apartment instead. I had already reserved a truck for the next day and hoped we'd be able to get everything moved while Clark was still at work, since I figured that should allow us to avoid any problems or confrontations. However, I told my dad I might have to cancel the truck at the last minute if I learned Clark wasn't at work again.

The rest of the night was fairly calm and relaxed, although I was still concerned that Clark would be prowling the neighborhood after dark and might even try to break into the house. I didn't want to mention my concerns to my parents, though, since they were already worried enough, but I definitely wouldn't put it past Clark to do something like that. I'm not sure what his exact problem was, but the guy had some severe mental issues. He had been able to hide those problems from me for a while and could appear normal to everyone else, but when his problems eventually surfaced, he was a very different person and extremely scary.

That night after I went to bed, I slept with one eye open and only dozed off occasionally because I was worried Clark would show up and break into the house. I'm not sure if the earlier incident with the security system was so he could get inside and search the place or if it was just meant to show me that my parents and I weren't safe no matter how well we thought we were protected. Whatever his reason for doing it, it definitely worked to his advantage and I was even more scared than before.

My manager called early the next morning and told me that Clark's boss had said Clark was at work. After hearing this news, I breathed a sigh of relief, thanked my boss and then my father and I went to pick up the truck. When we got to the apartment, the place was a total mess. Furniture was tipped over, objects were smashed and the place was completely trashed. When I went to my bedroom, my dresser drawers had all been emptied and my clothes were scattered all over the place.

When I'd first moved in with Clark, I insisted on having separate bedrooms in case things didn't work out, but I never figured it would ever get this bad. Clark was very resistant to the idea at first, but when I explained we could still sleep together whenever we both agreed, he began to lighten up a bit. In fact, it became sort of a game after that and we would ask each other, "Are we going to do it at your place or mine?"

When I started picking up my clothes so I could pack them into a box, I noticed that many of the items had been cut with some sort of a blade, probably a knife. I immediately began checking every garment carefully and tossed the damaged clothing into a garbage bag, while putting the good items in the box. I guess Clark must have got all of his frustration out on my casual clothes and underwear, because my suits and other good clothing appeared untouched when I checked them out as they hung in the closet. I quickly grabbed all of those items and packed them up, as my dad and I began carrying my furniture and other belongings down to the truck.

Since I was afraid Clark might try to come home for lunch, just to see if I was there, or if I had been there, I urged my father to move a little faster. I certainly didn't want to be at the apartment if Clark decided to come back, so we increased our pace. As soon as I was sure that I had everything, I closed up the truck and drove directly over to the police station, because I wanted them to have a record of this incident too. Even though I had the clothing Clark had cut up as evidence, my father came inside with me to support my claims and, hopefully, to get the cops to take my claim more seriously this time. After we both finished making our statements, since we had each witnessed what Clark had done, we went outside, got in the truck and headed home.

After we finished storing the furniture in the garage and had moved the boxes with my clothing and personal items up to my bedroom, we returned the truck. I felt good that we'd been able to accomplish all of this without running into Clark and managed to avoid a potentially ugly, and possibly physical, confrontation.

We were just getting ready to sit down to dinner when my cell phone rang. I noticed the call was from Clark, so I refused to answer it. That didn't discourage him, though, because he called back a few seconds later. I didn't answer that call either, so he called back a third time. Once I realized he wasn't going to give up, I grabbed my phone and walked out of the room to speak with him in private.

"Didn't you get served with the restraining order?" I barked into the phone without saying hello first. "You're not supposed to contact me or come near me or my family again."

"Do you think that stupid piece of paper is going to stop me from doing what I told you would happen if you left?" he snarled back. "I warned you, but you still snuck in here while I wasn't home and grabbed all your shit."

"Only the things you hadn't sliced up!" I shot back, totally pissed.

"You're lucky you got it when you did, because I was going to destroy the rest of it tonight," he growled at me. "I was even planning on busting up your bedroom furniture too, but now I'll just have to come there to do it."

This was a definite threat, so I knew I would have to do something about it. I wasn't sure what my options were, so I decided to offer up a bluff, hoping it would make him think twice before he tried anything.

"If you come near me, my parents or this house, then I'll have you arrested and thrown into prison," I threatened. "Hopefully they'll keep you there for a very long time."

"Yeah, right," he sneered. "They don't do that for breaking a restraining order, but I warned you. If I can't have you, then no one can. No one is going to want you if you're all sliced up, but they definitely won't want a corpse."

"Go to hell, Clark!" I screamed before I hung up on him.

I immediately started to dial again after I'd ended that call, but it was only so I could notify the police about what had just happened. I told the officer who answered the phone that Clark had just called me, which was in direct violation of the restraining order, but I also told them that Clark had also threatened me and repeated, word-for-word, what Clark had said. The officer I spoke to said he'd send someone over to Clark's apartment to confront him about this and warn him about any future contact, so I thanked him and hoped it would be enough.

Things were pretty quiet after that, at least until my parents and I went to bed. We had just turned off the lights and settled in for the night when I heard someone begin pounding on the front door. Since my room was located at the front of the house, but on the second floor, I quietly opened the window in my room and peered out to see who was doing this. I thought it might be the police trying to tell me what had happened when they went to confront Clark, but it wasn't them. It was Clark who was banging on the door.

I quickly pulled my head back inside before he spotted me, since no lights were on, and grabbed my phone. I immediately dialed 9-1-1 and reported what was going on. The operator said he'd send a squad car over to check it out, so I moved back to the window, stuck my head out it again and yelled at Clark.

"Get the fuck out of here," I shouted, causing him to look up. "I told you not to come around here, so now you're going to pay the consequences."

"And so will you!" he screamed back, as he raised his right arm.

That's when I realized he was holding a gun in his hand and lifting it in my direction. I immediately ducked back inside and hit the floor, just as the first shot shattered my bedroom window. I crawled out of the room and made my way over to my parents' bedroom to let them know what was going on. Since I knew my dad kept a shotgun in his closet, I told him to go get it.

"And make sure it's loaded," I urged, definitely terrified. "We may have to defend ourselves from this psycho if the police don't get here soon." I knew Clark was crazy, but this just proved he was totally whacko.

I heard several more shots while we'd been talking, but then we heard the front door being kicked in. and the security alarm went off. Clark was obviously trying to get into the house, and it didn't look as if the police were going to get here before something happened. Maybe that's why he had tried to disable the alarm system earlier.

"Point the shotgun at the bedroom door and be ready to pull the trigger if you see Clark enter," I instructed him. "It's going to be him or us, because he's completely nuts!"

My father got ready just in case, but then we heard the sound of sirens outside. We weren't about to leave the bedroom just yet, though and waited to see what was going to happen next. I thought I heard someone on the stairs, but because of the alarm I wasn't sure if the person was running up or down them at the time. Then, we heard some muffled shouting outside, and even though we were still in the locked bedroom, I was barely able to understand what was being said. Fortunately, their voices were loud enough to be heard over the alarm.

"Stop, drop the weapon and place your hands behind your head," I heard someone shout, obviously one of the cops. I didn't know if Clark was complying or not, but then we all heard a volley of gunshots. I held my breath and wondered if Clark was shooting at the police or if they were firing at him. Before long, I thought I heard someone on the stairs again, but then the person began to shout at us over the alarm.

"Mr. Wharley, this is Officer MacPartland responding to your 9-1-1 call," the voice stated. Slowly and cautiously we opened the bedroom door and looked out, but my father didn't lower the shotgun until we saw the man in uniform.

"Thank goodness you arrived," my dad stated. "I was afraid I was going to have to shoot him. I hope this will finally take care of my son's problem with that guy, once and for all." My father then went to turn off the alarm.

"It definitely will, because he'll be going to prison for a very long time--that's if he survives his wounds," Officer MacPartland informed us.

"Why? What happened?" I wanted to know.

"The perp was in the house when we pulled up, but then he tried to flee the scene when he saw us arrive," the officer stated. "We told him to stop, drop his weapon and place his hands behind his head, but he started shooting at us instead. We returned fire and he was hit multiple times, but he was still alive when I left him with my partner so I could come to see if you were all right. I'm not sure if he's going to make it, but if he does he'll be facing numerous charges, including attempted murder."

"Yeah, he took a few shots at me too," I informed the officer .

"I'd like you to show me where that happened, for my report," Officer MacPartland stated, so I began leading him to my old bedroom. "We were on our way over here, using lights only, when some of your neighbors called and reported gunshots. That's when we turned on the sirens too."

After checking out my bedroom and taking notes, Officer MacPartland thanked all of us and wished us a good night, what there was left of it. I certainly couldn't sleep in my room, so I shut the door and planned on sleeping in the guest room instead. Before I did that, however, my dad and I went downstairs to check out the front door and see how much damage had been done there. The casing was splintered, although not severely, so we were able to pound the pieces back into place well enough so we could shut the door, flip the deadbolt and fasten the chain latch. Since we weren't sure if those things would hold up, we also braced a chair under the doorknob before Dad reset the alarm. At least tonight, I was going to be able to sleep soundly because I knew there was no way Clark would be showing up again.

My dad and I ended up taking another day off from work, after we took time to explain to our bosses about what had happened the night before. Both were understanding, especially after we promised that we'd be in the last two days of the week. Once that had been taken care of, my dad got hold of the handy man he frequently used for minor repairs and had him come over to fix the door and patch whatever bullet holes were in the walls and ceiling. Dad also called the local glass shop and asked them to send someone over to replace the window in my bedroom, and they all showed up to take care of the problems before the day was over.

Clark survived his wounds, but I think he would have preferred that he hadn't. After he was charged and brought to trial, he was found guilty of the attempted murder of several police officers, another count of attempted murder for shooting at me, along with various gun violations and other lesser infractions, such as breaking and entering. In the end, he was sentenced to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole, so my tormentor was effectively eliminated and this nightmare was finally over.

Chapter 2: Starting Over

Once the excitement had died down from that evening and Clark had healed sufficiently enough to be able to go through the process, the trial began. The prosecutor called several law enforcement officers to the stand first, so they could testify about the various complaints I had filed against Clark and the claims I had made, but the prosecutor also had entered into evidence the information about the restraining order I had filed against Clark.

After that, the prosecutor called both of my parents to the witness stand so they could testify about the various things they had seen, which included Clark driving by the house to check on me when I went there for a cookout, the clothes we found that had been cut up when I went to move my belongings out of the apartment Clark and I had shared, along with what happened that final night. My father also brought up the situation with the alarm, although he also stated we had no way of proving who had been responsible for that.

After my parents were done testifying, the prosecutor called a witness that I didn't know. It turned out that the woman was a supervisor for a company dealing in home security and she testified that Clark had worked for her a couple of summers when he was in college. She also stated that Clark definitely had the know how to have disabled our system, although there was probably no way to prove that he was the one who did it. After she had been cross-examined by the defense attorney, I was finally called to the witness stand.

I'm not exactly sure how long I was there answering the prosecutor's questions about my time with Clark, which included how we met and the time we had lived together. Then, Clark's lawyer got his chance to try to poke holes in my statements and attempted to discredit me. He did his best to get the jury to believe that most of what I claimed had only happened in my mind and that I gradually dragged others into my hallucinations until they believed them too, but I think I held up fairly well under his grueling attack.

Finally, the police involved in the shootout were called to the stand and they testified as to what they encountered when they arrived at the scene that night. They explained exactly what they had ordered Clark to do when he tried to flee from the house and how Clark had responded to their demands. Then, they described the brief gun battle that followed, including stating who shot first and how many shots had been fired by each person involved.

The prosecutor rested his case after those officers testified and then the defense got to call its own witnesses. They were basically just people who knew Clark and testified that he was a nice guy and they had never seen him act that way at any time. As I listened to them, it just seemed to verify the fact that Clark had a split personality and had fooled many of them over time. Since none of them could testify to having seen us together or that they'd witnesses any interactions between us, I wasn't sure how much impact they would actually make on the case.

Seeing the defense didn't have much that helped to counter any of the witnesses that testified against him, I think most people wondered why he hadn't avoided the trial and just pleaded guilty and accepted a plea agreement. However, I knew exactly why he hadn't done that. He wanted to make me go through those painful memories again and relive every moment of the time I'd been with him. This included all of the terrible things he had done, the way he'd treated me and the threats he'd made.

It took the jury less than an hour to find Clark guilty on all counts, and a couple of days later he was sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole. The nightmare was finally over and this meant I now had my life back. Clark would no longer be around to threaten or harm me, so I tried to put this all behind me and out of my mind. It took a while before I was able to move around the house, go to work or do much of anything else without looking over my shoulder to see if Clark was still stalking me. I think I even continued to sleep with one eye open during the entire time I remained living at my parents' house, because for some strange reason I felt he'd still find a way out of this and then come after me again.

Gradually, I was able to reclaim my life and I began an exhaustive search for a place of my own. After a couple of months of looking for an apartment that didn't remind me of the one I had shared with Clark, I finally found one that suited me. It was closer to where I worked, only a few years old and would give me a chance to live my life the way I chose. Don't get me wrong, I loved my parents and they've been super throughout this entire traumatic event, but it's just hard to date or find someone when you don't have your own place to go home to. Prospective partners tend to look at you funny when you tell them that you still live with your parents.

It took me a while to get the place organized and decorated the way I wanted, but my dad helped me move my old bedroom set out of the garage and into my new bedroom. I also went out and purchased a few items for the kitchen, such as a microwave, dishes, silverware and cooking utensils, but I also bought a table and chairs for the dining room and I wasn't done yet. There were still other things I needed to get, but I was running short of money. That's when my parents came to my rescue, because they bought the living room furniture for me, although they let me pick it out. That helped out a lot, otherwise I might have had to use lawn furniture in there for a while, at least until I had saved up the money to get something else.

Now that Clark wasn't around any longer, I was able to relax at work as well and things were going marvelously. Of course, I've had to answer a great many questions from my co-workers about Clark and me, especially about what had happened that caused him to snap and lose it like that. I merely explained that he was always a little unstable and very controlling, but the situation continued to get worse and seemed to deteriorate the longer we shared the apartment, so that was why I moved back in with my parents. I told them that when I did that, it apparently caused Clark to completely break with reality and he came to my parents' house and tried to kill all of us.

Over the course of the next several months, I started going out again and even met a couple of guys that I liked and had a great deal in common with, so I began to hang around with them, but I was still extremely hesitant about getting into another relationship. I planned on spending a lot of time with any guy I was interested in first and would attempt to learn more about him before I was willing to make any type of commitment, no matter how small or seemingly innocent. I certainly didn't want to repeat my previous mistake.

It was now the middle of October and during the drive home I was noticing how the leaves on the trees were beginning to change color. I hadn't been able to appreciate beautiful things like this for a very long time and marveled at how different things were now. The nights were also getting darker earlier, and it was becoming cooler too, so I knew it wouldn't be long before I'd have to dig out the flannel sheets and extra blankets for the bed. I was mentally going over those things when I received an unexpected call.

"May I please speak with Mr. Mason Wharley?" the voice asked when I answered the phone.

"This is he," I responded.

"Mr. Wharley, I'm Captain Hernandez from the State Police and I've called to share some information with you that I recently found out," he explained, and he sounded very serious. "Unfortunately, I don't think you are going to like what I have to say, because I'm calling to inform you that Clark Reistetter has accidentally been released from prison."

"What? How the fuck does someone accidentally get released from prison when he's been convicted of attempted murder?" I screamed back hysterically. I was definitely losing it and was in a total state of shock.

"What happened was unfortunate and inexcusable, but a clerical error was made and Mr. Reistetter was released instead of another inmate with a very similar name," Captain Hernandez explained. "A man named Claude Reisterer had served out his sentence and was scheduled to be released, but unfortunately Mr. Reistetter was let go instead."

"And the other guy didn't complain that he was being held longer than he should be?" I demanded, trying to get my head around how a mistake like this could have been made.

"He didn't at first, because another error had occurred and that led him to be given some incorrect information," Captain Hernandez replied. "Since it is often difficult for inmates to calculate how much good time they've accumulated, which affects their release date, he asked one of the correction officers to check and see when he was supposed to get out. The correction officer that Mr. Reisterer asked misread his file and told him he would be released on October 21, but he should have told him that he'd be released on October 12 instead. Due to that error, Mr. Reisterer didn't complain until several days after Mr. Reistetter had erroneously been allowed to walk out the front gate."

"What kind of operation are they running at this prison," I screamed, totally irritated by their ineptness and unable to believe how many errors they'd made. "Not only did they give the correct guy the wrong release date, but then they got the name wrong too and released a very dangerous, psychopathic criminal."

"I know and the prison sincerely apologizes for those errors, but as soon as they reported it to us, we've been doing our best to locate Mr. Reistetter, so we can lock him up again," Captain Hernandez assured me. "I'm notifying you because you were the main witness against him and you also seem to be the focal point of his hostility. I wanted you to be aware of this mistake and what happened, so you would remain alert and be able to protect yourself."

"I appreciate that part, but it's still hard to believe how this could have happened in the first place," I replied, as I toned my anger down this time.

"I totally understand, because I had a very similar reaction when I was notified by the prison officials," Captain Hernandez explained. "Please accept my apology and I promise we'll do our best to correct the situation for you."

"So do you think he's headed here?" I asked as I began to panic.

"Judging from the multiple reports of various thefts in the area, which have dramatically increased since he was released, it would appear that he's probably still within a few miles of the prison, although we can't be positive about that," he answered. "He may eventually try to get back to where you live, but we'll do our best to prevent it from happening."

"I hope you can, because I really don't want to have to deal with that lunatic again," I stated, meaning every word of what I'd just said. "He has threatened to kill me, and I have no doubt that he'll do it if he gets the chance, so I'd appreciate it if he never got close enough to carry out his threat."

"Then we'll do our best not to give him that opportunity," Captain Hernandez assured me.

When our conversation ended, I immediately called my dad to let him know about this too. Clark knew where my parents lived, even if he didn't know where I had moved to, so I was worried about them as well. My dad was very concerned about this too and told me to get ready because he was going to take me someplace and he'd be right over. He wouldn't tell me why he was doing this or where we were going, but I didn't feel as if he was planning on taking me back to his house. If that was the case then he would have told me to pack up some things as well, but I could tell this was definitely important to him.

When he pulled up a few minutes later, I went outside and got in the car with him. That's when he finally advised me about what we were going to do. "I'm taking you over to the Bass Pro Shop, because I'm going to buy us both a hand gun," he immediately told me. "I don't want you to get caught unprepared if Clark comes back here and I want you to be able to defend yourself."

"But I don't really know much about guns," I told my dad, since I wasn't sure this was going to do any good.

"I know, but as soon as we have them, I'll take you to the gun range and teach you what you'll need to know and how to use it," he assured me. "It will make me feel better if I know you have a weapon and can use it. Even if Clark doesn't get this far, there are other dangers too, now that you're living alone."

I agreed with his logic and thought this might be a good idea too, so we went inside the store to look around. After we'd examined several different weapons, both of us picked out a Beretta semi-automatic pistol. We had to fill out some forms for the background check first and then wait a few more days for the paperwork to make its way through the system before we could take our purchases home with us. As soon as we were notified that everything had been approved, my dad picked me up again and we rushed over to get the guns, along with some ammunition. That weekend Dad took me to the gun range and taught me everything I'd need to know.

"Not bad for your first time," Dad told me on the way home after we'd spent time practicing. "You were hitting the target most of the time, so shooting like that will definitely slow Clark down, if not kill him outright."

"I hate the thought of killing someone," I countered, "but in this case I know it will be him or me, so I won't hesitate if the time comes."

"I'm glad to hear that, otherwise this would have been a waste of time and money," my dad agreed.

It was now two days before Halloween, and as I was getting ready to head home after a long day at work. When I got down to the parking lot, I noticed there were some scratches on the driver's side door of my car. When I looked at the damage more closely, my mouth dropped open and nearly hit the ground. Someone had scratched the initials 'CS' in the paint and I knew exactly who had done it. Instead of going home, I drove directly over to the police station to report what I'd discovered.

"I'm notifying you first, because you're closer to where I live and will be able to respond sooner if something happens," I began, as I told the officer at the desk about what I'd discovered. As soon as he had that information, I told him something else. "Even though you would respond first to any incident, I also want you to call the State Police now and ask them to send over an officer too. They already know about the situation, because this involves a prisoner who was let out of prison by mistake and they've been conducting a manhunt for him."

Once he agreed to do this for me, he directed me over to one of the officers in plain clothes so I could give my information and he could fill out the incident report. While we were doing that, the first officer called the State Police Headquarters as I'd requested. It took about twenty minutes for someone from the State Police to show up, and then he listened to what I had to say before he asked for a copy of the statement I'd just given. He also advised me that his station had been placed on high alert and they were already searching the area to see if they could find Clark.

Once the officer I'd just given the statement to heard that, he advised me that he'd see if he could get approval to have one of their officers assigned to just keep an eye on my building for a few days, just in case Clark showed up. I thanked both of them for their help and breathed a little easier as I went home, but I also grabbed my gun and kept it close to me as well.

Later that night, I received another call. Since I didn't immediately recognize the number on the screen, I was afraid it was Clark calling, but I still answered it, just in case it was someone else calling.

"Hello," I spoke in a very weak voice, hoping that if it was Clark he wouldn't recognize it was me.

"Is this Mason Wharley?" the voice asked and I immediately knew it wasn't Clark calling. .

"Yes, it is," I replied in my normal voice this time.

"I'm sorry, I wasn't sure it was you. This is Captain Hernandez," he stated, so I knew it was the same person who first advised me about Clark being on the loose. "I was informed about the complaint you made earlier today and wanted to let you know that we are taking the matter very seriously. Once I found out about what happened to your vehicle, I did some checking and discovered there had been a couple of different cars reported stolen within a ten mile radius of the prison, so it's possible that Mr. Reistetter stole one of them so he could get to where you live. Have you experienced any other incidents, other than having his initials scratched into your car?"

"No, that's all so far, but it just made me positive that he's here and gunning for me," I replied. "That was definitely his way of letting me know I wasn't safe."

"It wasn't very bright of him, but then some people think intimidation is more important than stealth," he informed me. "We have alerted all of the surrounding police and sheriff's departments to be on the lookout for Clark and have distributed his mug shot so they will be able to recognize him."

"I'm afraid that won't do much good on Halloween, because I have a feeling he will strike then, since he'd be able to wear a disguise and not look out of place," I quickly countered.

"That's very possible and it would be a wise move on his part, since we'll have a lot more to watch out for that evening. It also means our attention will be split, so he might be able to slip past us," he agreed. "Just make sure you are very careful that night."

"I will," I confirmed before ending the call.

Nothing happened over the course of the evening or the next night as well, but I didn't let down my guard. I knew Clark was somewhere in the area, because he'd left his calling card on my car to intimidate me, so I wouldn't feel safe again until he was back in prison. It was possible that the police presence in the area had scared him off for the time being, although I doubted it. Then again, he might just want me to suffer for a while first, and that would account for the reason he'd made sure I knew he was back.

Now, I was getting really scared, because tomorrow was Halloween and people would be running around in costumes and masks. It meant Clark would be able to obscure his identity and keep anyone else from recognizing him, which meant he would be able to move around without attracting attention or suspicion. Not only that, but I'd be answering the door to greet the trick-or-treaters that stopped by, so I could add my share to their goody bags, so he'd be able to take advantage of that fact to force his way inside.

I hadn't heard anything further from the State Police or the local police department, so I wasn't sure if they were still looking for Clark or if they still had an officer watching my building. On the way home from work on Halloween, I spotted a patrol car sitting across the street when I arrived home, so maybe they were still watching over me. Either that or they just had a call in the area.

I quickly went up to my apartment and got ready for the kids to start showing up. After I placed the candy on a small table by the door, so it would be there when they knocked, I also made sure the gun was where I could get at it too, in case I needed it later. Then, I fixed dinner and waited for them to show up. I was glad that I'd bought a lot of candy, because I was surprised by the number of kids that showed up over the next few hours. Seeing it was also a school night, I decided to lock up at 9:00, because I felt everyone would be calling it a night and heading home by then.

Before I turned in for the night, I went around the apartment and made sure everything was shut up tight and the place was secure, just in case Clark had found out where I lived. I may be paranoid, but I was slightly concerned that he might have shown up earlier in the day, while I was at work, and managed to somehow get inside so he could leave a way to get at me later. Once I was sure everything was as it should be, I grabbed my phone and gun and took them with me. I laid them both on the counter in the bathroom while I was going through my nightly preparations and then I carried them into the bedroom with me. After shutting the bedroom door, I placed those items on the nightstand before I got in bed. I just wanted to be prepared if Clark happened to show up later.

I was just about asleep when I heard the sound of glass breaking. I assumed the noise meant Clark had just broken one of the windows to gain entry, so I grabbed my phone and pistol and rolled off the side of the bed farthest away from the bedroom door. I was going to keep the bed between us and use it as protection, in case he came through the door shooting. Then, I called 9-1-1 and reported a break-in, before racking the chamber on the Beretta and making sure the safety was off.

"Mason, I'm back. Where are you?" I heard his intimidating greeting, which he offered in a sing-song voice. He obviously expected to find me defenseless, otherwise he wouldn't have been stupid enough to announce his presence.

I remained silent and stayed where I was, but my eyes and the pistol remained trained on the closed bedroom door. I had no idea what he was waiting for, since he must have figured I was obviously in bed at this time of night, so was this just another of his ways to torture me mentally and emotionally before doing whatever he had planned?

"Aw come on, I know you missed me, so come out here where we can play," he taunted, since he knew I didn't want anything to do with him.

I kept very quiet and remained crouched behind the bed, because I was hoping he would think I wasn't home, get frustrated and then leave. Then, I realized that if he'd been outside watching the apartment earlier, he would have seen the lights on and knew I must be somewhere inside. Therefore, I stayed where I was and remained alert for any signs of him trying to enter the room.

I hadn't heard another sound from him in quite a while and was wondering if he was still there when the bedroom door unexpectedly burst opened and slammed against the wall. I didn't fire right away, because I had been taught to identify my target first before pulling the trigger, but no one was there. Apparently he had done this to see if I was armed, because he hid out of sight after he'd pushed the door open. I hadn't said anything when that happened, like demanding that he go away or telling him I wasn't interested in his stupid games, however I wasn't sure if I might have gasped in surprise when the door crashed into the wall. If I had, then that would have let him know I was definitely inside.

"Time to pay the piper, Macey baby," he stated next, as he reached around the corner and flipped on the light switch. I believe he did that because he obviously hadn't seen me when he first peeked in to scan the room, even though I hadn't seen him do it. I concluded that he felt the light would help him pinpoint where I was and make me feel more vulnerable. "I told you that you'd be sorry for leaving me and now I've come to collect."

Nothing happened for a couple more seconds, and then he finally stepped into the doorway. A few seconds later, I heard sirens outside and saw him turn his head briefly in that direction, as he watched the lights flashing through the windows in the other room. When he turned around again, he lifted his arm and that was when I saw the gun in his hand. I hadn't been sure if he had one until that moment, so I assumed he must have stolen it as well, but I didn't wait for him to pull the trigger. Before that happened, I started squeezing the trigger on my gun instead. After firing off several rounds, I saw Clark suddenly drop to the floor, but I wasn't sure if I had hit him. If I had, I had no way of knowing how badly I had wounded him. After thinking briefly about going over to check on him, I felt he might just be playing possum and waiting to shoot me when I approached, so I stayed where I was and didn't move.

I'm not sure how long it was after I squeezed off those rounds before anything else happened, because time seemed to stand still after I'd fired. Eventually, however, I heard the door to my apartment being busted in and saw the beams from the flashlights advancing through the other room.

"I'm in the bedroom," I yelled, since I felt that it must be the police. "I think he's on the floor near the doorway, but I'm not sure if he's dead or not. I shot at him when he came into my bedroom."

Before long I saw a couple of police officers in black assault gear bending down and then I heard one of them speak. "He's dead all right."

Then, they coaxed me to come out from my hiding place and took the pistol from me. One of the men then questioned me about what had happened, and when I told him about hearing the sound of breaking glass, he sent the other man to see how Clark got in. When he came back a short time later, he announced that the window in the dining area had been broken, so that's obviously how Clark had gotten in.

During the next few minutes, more police showed up and one of them went around the apartment and took pictures of everything, including Clark, me and where I'd been hiding, along with the casings laying on the floor. After the EMTs came and collected Clark's body, I was told to get dressed, because they were taking me to the station with them so I could fill out the necessary reports. I agreed and was ready in a couple of minutes. After grabbing my phone, I followed the officer who had stayed with me, and then we went outside and I got into the squad car with him.

I was at the police station for about an hour going over everything that had happened with them. They had left the other officers at the apartment to take more pictures, gather up the casings from the rounds I'd fired and to hang the yellow crime scene tape across the door. After they had taken all of my information and we'd completed all of the reports, they told me I could go, but I reminded them that I would need a ride back, since I didn't have my car. After they agreed to take me back to the apartment, they also asked if I had somewhere else I could go to spend the rest of the night, since my place would be off limits for a few days. I told them I could call my parents and go there, but I would need to pick up a few things from the apartment first, so I'd have clothes while I was with them. The officer said he'd have to go inside with me when I did that, to make sure I didn't disturb anything else at the crime scene, but I didn't have a problem with that. I was just glad to know the nightmare with Clark had now finally come to an end.

I hated to wake my mom and dad, but I needed a place to sleep, so I called them anyway. My dad was confused and even slightly upset that someone was calling at this hour, but after I explained things to him, he told me he'd be waiting to let me in. Although I thought my problem with Clark had ended the last time, I was now positive I'd seen him for the last time. It was just ironic that this had all come to a head on Halloween, because I looked at it as if Clark had come to my apartment trick-or-treating and had ended up with a trick, rather than a treat.

Chapter 3: A New Beginning.

I was tired when I got to work the next day, since I'd only had a partial night's sleep. However, that wasn't my only problem. It seemed as if nearly everyone in the building had heard the news reports about what had happened earlier, either before they left the house or while listening to the radio on the way in, so they had a ton of questions for me. I answered them as best I could, about how Clark had been falsely released and how he showed up at my apartment the previous night. They also wanted to know how he knew where I lived, since I had moved there after he was locked up, so I told them I suspected he must have followed me home one day after he'd keyed my car door.

Things didn't die down until after lunch, as others showed up in my department throughout the morning to ask similar questions, but even more people showed up at lunchtime to interrogate me too. I was grateful when the workday finally came to an end and it was time to go home, because I was tired of repeating myself over and over again. I was still staying with my parents and waiting for someone at the complex to fix the door and window of the apartment, as well as waiting for the police to tell me it was ok for me to go back there again.

Things got back to normal after a couple more days and I was finally allowed to return to my apartment. The police also returned my gun, since it had been purchased legally and I'd shot Clark in self defense. However, I voluntarily remained in partial seclusion, though, and only went to work or to visit my parents, since everyone else seemed to know what had happened and wanted to talk to me about it whenever they saw me. Since I was tired of going over those events repeatedly, I felt it best to stay out of sight until the incident had become a distant memory.

That didn't really happen for several more months, but then things eventually began to quiet down, as other topics of interest popped up and people moved on to those new subjects. It was also when I realized it was October again, and then I started to get more than a little uneasy, since we were approaching the first anniversary of when I had shot Clark. I wasn't sure why it was bothering me so badly, since I knew I'd had to kill him before he killed me, but I was feeling more and more uneasy the closer it got to that day.

Even though I tried to force those thoughts out of my mind and attempted to suppress the strange feelings I was having, nothing I did was working. When I went out to buy candy to give the kids this year, the memories of those events came flooding back. I held it together for the most part, and even though I was also having some troubling dreams at night, I was still looking forward to seeing the kids when they showed up at my door.

After giving away most of the candy I'd purchased and seeing the various costumes the kids had showed up in, I finally called it a night and got ready for bed. I had just crawled between the sheets when I heard something that made the marrow in my bones turn to ice.

"Macey baby, guess who?" the voice mocked me, but it couldn't possibly be him.

"No fucking way! I have to be dreaming," I stated out loud, basically proving the point that I definitely wasn't asleep.

I broke out in a cold sweat as I considered what I thought I'd heard and felt my mind must be playing a trick on me. He was dead, so there was no possible way it could be him again. I had looked at his dead body and I knew they had buried him, so my mind had to be merely recalling what had happened the previous year - except this wasn't happening exactly the same way as the last time. Last year when he showed up he said, 'Mason, I'm back!', but this time I heard him say, 'Macey baby, guess who?' If my mind was just replaying what had happened last year, then why was it changing what Clark said?

"I know you missed me, so aren't you happy that I'm back?" the voice sneered, and I could almost see the sarcasm in those words basically dripping off his tongue.

"You're not real. This is just some kind of illusion," I muttered as forcefully as I could, but I knew my protestations sounded extremely hollow in the attempt.

I was still considering what the hell was going on and wondering if I was having a breakdown that would explain this mental aberration when I noticed something taking place on the other side of the room. As I turned my attention toward the door again, it appeared as if a mist, or maybe a fog, was slowly seeping, or otherwise filtering, through the solid door. As soon as there was a considerable amount of whatever it was in the room with me, it began to come together and slowly materialize. Before long, I was able to recognize a shape and began to realize what was happening. It was the ghostly apparition of Clark and it stood not more than a body length away from me.

"From the look on your face, I take it you weren't expecting to see me again," the voice sneered, as a look of sadistic satisfaction came over its demented face, as he stood menacingly before me.

"You aren't here. This isn't real," I shot back. I think I said this more out of an attempt to convince myself, rather than to convince the specter before me.

"Oh, but I am," it quipped, before emitting a bone chilling laugh. "I warned you that you'd never be able to get away from me."

It was true. He had told me that before, but I didn't think it would include the time after his death too! Instinctively, I slid over to the other side of the mattress, crawled out from under the covers and dropped onto the floor, Then, I cowered in the corner, as I used the bed to protect myself and keep the abomination away from me.

"Let me guess. I'll bet you've got your gun with you again too?" it jeered as it watched what I was doing. For some strange reason, I held up both of my hands to show the specter they were empty and I didn't have a weapon. "That's good, because it really wouldn't have done you any good anyway."

What was I going to do to get rid of it now? I had nothing to defend myself with, but as the ghostly form had just pointed out, the gun wouldn't have helped me anyway. If this truly was Clark, as it now appeared, he was already dead, so how the fuck was I going to get rid of an unwanted paranormal visitor?

I had never taken my eyes off of the spectral form, even as I was considering these thoughts, so I noticed when it started to drift toward the dresser. I watched as its arm and hand slowly reached out for the book that was laying on top and suspected it was planning to pick it up. I also felt it was going to throw the book at me, in an effort to scare me even more, but it merely knocked the book onto the floor.

"Damn, I haven't quite got the hang of this yet," the misty form hissed. "I guess you could say I'm kind of like a ghost with training wheels, but when I completely understand about how to do this shit, then I'm going to make you pay for what you did. I told you not to leave me, but you just wouldn't listen."

The damn apparition continued to taunt and mock me all night long, and although it seemed as if it was unable to harm me physically, it was still playing havoc with my mental and emotional state. I thought maybe I'd get back into bed, go to sleep and basically just ignore it, but when I started to do that, it emitted a blood curdling scream that caused my heart to stop beating momentarily. Hearing that awful noise also made me cover my head with one of the pillows, in an attempt to block out the sounds it was making, but the damn specter ripped the pillow out of my hands and flung it across the room.

"That's better," it sneered as it hovered over me. "I'm gradually starting to get the hang of this and beginning to figure out how all this shit works."

The apparition then continued to torment me for the entire night. It would poke me, try to pull the blankets off my body and do anything else it was able to accomplish just to annoy me, so I got absolutely no sleep at all. To my utter relief and astonishment, it seemed to disappear when the sun came up the next morning and began to filter into my bedroom. However, I wasn't sure if the ghostly form was really gone or whether I just couldn't see it any longer in the brighter light of day. I was exhausted and couldn't possibly go to work, so I called in sick. I then managed to take a short nap, but I woke up a couple of hours later and immediately began to wonder if I was going to have to go through this again later that night.

Since I didn't want to risk having to endure the same torment again, I felt I had to do something. After thinking about it for a while, I finally decided to call the church that my mom and dad were members of so I could ask the priest if he would possibly come over to do a blessing on me and the apartment. Since I wasn't sure if Clark had somehow attached himself to me or the location, seeing I was the one who had killed him and he had died here, I wanted the priest to offer a blessing on both. After explaining the situation to him in great detail, I began to detect a modicum of doubt on the other end the line, so I changed my request slightly.

"Maybe you could perform an exorcism to get rid of this thing then," I suggested, since I was trying to find a way to convince him to come over here and help me.

"I'm afraid the church rarely engages in exorcisms any longer and that particular ritual is only done for demonic possessions," he replied in a very unemotional way. "Even if this is the spirit of your former friend and he was truly as bad as you claim, this still wouldn't rise to the level of being a demon rising out of the pits of hell."

After pleading with him for a few more minutes, he finally agreed to come to the apartment at 1:00 to do the blessing. Then, I went online and visited several sites that dealt with paranormal events and ghosts, in an attempt to find out what else I could do to prevent this from reoccurring.

One site even had a phone number listed that I could call for help, so I dialed it. After I explained what had happened the previous night and had told him that a priest was coming over to do a blessing, I asked what else I could do to prevent this from happening again.

"I'm going to call a medium I know who lives in your area and I'll ask her if she would mind going over to your apartment to see if she can expel whatever this is," the person on the other end told me. "In the meantime, I want you to get enough salt so you can make a line of salt all the way across each window ledge, as well as along the base of each door leading out of the apartment. You don't need to do this to interior doors though."

"What good will salt do?" I snapped back, thinking this sounded lame and possibly too simple to solve my problem.

"The salt helps to prevent the ghosts from entering your dwelling, if it isn't already inside," the person explained. "If it is there already, the salt will trap it within until someone can get there to expel it, so it won't be able to return again."

I finally agreed to do what he asked, but I knew I didn't have enough salt currently in the apartment, so I'd have to run out after the priest performed his blessing and get some more. It would obviously take a lot of salt to do this, so I planned accordingly.

When the priest arrived, he said a prayer first and then he blessed me and every room of the apartment, but he also sprinkled holy water at the same time. Although he did this in every room, he never forbid the spirit from returning. He merely placed me and the rooms of the apartment under God's protection, because this wasn't an exorcism where he would demand the presence to leave. The blessing was only supposed to keep evil spirits from entering or hanging around, so I hoped it would be enough to do the trick and solve my problem too.

Once the priest had gone, I went out and bought enough salt for the task at hand and then I placed it where I had been told. It seemed kind of strange to be doing this, and also pretty messy, but I was willing to try anything, as long as it might get rid of Clark. Once I had finished putting the salt in every location, I walked around again to make sure I hadn't missed a spot, and then I spent the rest of the time relaxing, until it was time to go to bed again.

To say I was uneasy and on edge for most of the night would have been a gross understatement. I had no way of knowing if this was going to work or if Clark would show up again once it became dark. There wasn't anything else I could do, though, so tried to keep busy until it was time to get into bed and go to sleep.

I laid awake for quite a while, as I waited for something to happen, but nothing did. Eventually, I finally drifted off, because I was totally exhausted from not sleeping the previous night and only being able to take a short nap during the day. I was actually relieved when the alarm went off the next morning, because it had been a very quiet evening.

Since nothing happened the following day either, I was in a much better mood while I was getting ready for bed that night. Maybe the things I'd done had actually taken care of the problem, so now the only question left unanswered was whether those precautions had gotten rid of Clark for good. If not, what was he waiting for? Was he merely planning to wait and show up again next Halloween?

I put those thoughts out of my mind and eagerly crawled into bed. I fell asleep quickly this time, but when I got up to use the toilet later, I thought I heard a noise outside, so I decided to check it out. I figured the disturbance had probably been caused by one of my neighbors' pets or some wild animal, so I looked out the window to see what was there. Immediately, I froze in place and my heart stopped beating for a few seconds, because I saw Clark standing there staring back at me instead. "You're still mine!" the apparition screamed, just before it disappeared from sight.

Had I just imagined this or had I merely dreamed it instead? I blinked a few times as I stared out the window again and tried desperately to figure it out. I certainly hoped Clark wasn't still around because if the things I'd done hadn't gotten rid of him, by next Halloween he would be even stronger. By then he would have had an entire year to improve his 'ghostly' skills and figure things out, so he would be even better prepared to torment me, if not kill me outright. I silently prayed this had merely been an illusion, because I wanted my problem with Clark to be over, once and for all.

The End