Stalker Bob shuffled into our lives through the unlikely conduit of our new flatmate Jess. We interviewed a dozen or so perfectly reasonable people to move into our spare room, we settled on Jess, as she was the only person we’d made walk up the hill to our house more than once. I still didn’t get to meet her until the day she moved in,
She turned up with just a couple of bags and some stuffed penguins. Said she hailed from Armidale. Only 20, but already doing her honours year, specializing in penguin vomit. Tall, with long, blonde curls, and a curious predilection for tie-dye and denim. Apart from that, she seemed fair enough.
Life was fine for the next few weeks. We discovered she was obsessed with penguins and chocolate.
Then, one Saturday morning as I was furgling around in the kitchen, Jess came downstairs with a couple of bags. “Off somewhere, Jess?”
“Um, yeah. If anyone comes looking for me, especially any old looking guys, I’ve moved to Zimbabwe. With my boyfriend. Permanently.”
As far I’d been able to tell, Jess had no boyfriend and no financial backing to flee the country. “And who would this old fella be?”
“Uh, he’s a guy I used to deliver stuff for and he’s come down from Armidale to look for me. If you want to contact me I’ll be at my sister’s.” Before I could ask her any more questions, she scuttled out the door.
Random occurrences of the previous week started to make a little more sense. Concerned calls from her family. Unexpected calls from the police. Her odd habit of never opening the curtains.
Another flatmate returned home from the outside world. “Smithy, do you know anything about Jess having a stalker?”
“Ah, yes, we were talking about that the other day. Some old guy she used to work for. Her third stalker in three years apparently.”
“The third in three years! And you didn’t think to mention this to me?” Thinking back, I should have realised that her time in the house had been a tad too peaceful.
The next day, I returned from the corner shop to find a bulky envelope in the letter box. No stamp. Hand delivered. Addressed to Jess.
I shook it. I turned it over. There was more writing on the back. It said:
Thank you for the wonderful gift that you have given me that I was too blind to see.
I scanned the street for suspicious looking men in trench coats. Satisfied that none were lurking in the surrounding bushes, I went inside.
“I don’t know if I should bring this into the house. It could have anything in it.” I threw the parcel to Paul, my paramour.
He shook it, running his fingers along its contours. “Feels like some CD’s.”
“I’ve hidden all sorts of prohibited substances in CD’s. I think we should burn it.”
But I didn’t burn it. I called Jess at her sister’s instead. “Jess, I’ve got a bulky envelope here for you. It was hand delivered, possibly by your stalker. On the outside it says; Thank you for the wonderful gift you have given me that I was too blind to see. Bob. Is that him? Your stalker?”
“Do you want me to open it?”
“Sure. Go ahead.”
I was going to open it anyway, but it was good to get permission. I carefully peeled back the sticky edge of the envelope, which disgorged two CD boxes and a letter. The CD’s were two identical copies of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, with two CD’s in each box. Weird. Why would anyone under forty want one copy of it, let alone two?
“There’s a letter in here. Do you want me to read it to you?” Skipping past Bob’s contact details, I cleared my throat theatrically, and read:
My Dearest Jess,
Just a quick note to go with the CD’s.
I am sorry you felt that our beautiful friendship had to go this way. You have made your choice and, because I love you, I will endeavour to honour that decision.
I am in Hobart until next weekend (27th) so if you change your mind I would dearly love to see you and talk things over.
I don’t expect to hear from you but it would be nice if you did.
I have the mobile with me and that is all.
I am staying at the Ocean Child Hotel, 86 Argyle St., and from Wednesday on will have a lot of time to kill.
A lot of time to kill?
The footnote at the bottom of the notepaper read; Live today as if it were your last, for you know neither the day nor the hour of the Lord’s return. I decided not to read her that bit.
“So what does Stalker Bob look like then?”
“Well, he’s kind of old, in his fifties, with greying hair and glasses. He drives a white station wagon with spotlights on it. The police can’t do anything about him until he tries something serious.”
“How comforting. I’m sure they’re all up to their eyeballs in jaywalking offences.”
After we’d hung up, I reread the letter. The Ocean Child. Hadn’t been there for a while…
“Hey fellas, d’ya fancy a couple of beers at the Ocean Child?”
Around 7 than night, we decided to hit the pub. We pulled on our coats, and jumped into the car. An old Morris Minor, it has trouble starting at night. When it’s cold. In the morning. And sometimes during the afternoon. We had to push it around 180o before roll-starting it down the hill. The engine spluttered to life, and we were off.
We rolled past the pub, and had a laugh at the anti-speeding billboard. “Speeding? Wreck your life, just like that.” Not in this car.
We parked the Morris with its nose downhill, and strode into the pub. Decked out in old-style ship paraphernalia, heavily polished wood and shiny brass ornaments, the Ocean Child reeks of laddishness. Grabbing our beers, we circumnavigated the pub. After quickly discounting the two old fellas in the front bar, we moved through to the main dining area. At the bar, slouched over a beer, was a slightly toady-looking bloke, with stringy, greyish hair resting untidily on his collar. He wore glasses and a sizable paunch. We kept moving through the dining area to the side bar and sat in a booth with a slanting view of the suspect. “My money’s on him.” I pointed towards the bar. Paul and Smithy had a bit of a gawp and agreed. He looked just about normal enough to be a raging psychopath.
We drank our beers and made indiscreet comments about Pink Floyd. I went and stood behind Bob for a bit, staring at the back of his head as I waited for a beer.
He was pretty sad looking really, for an interstate weirdo. I wondered if he’d noticed us or if he knew who we were. If he’d been watching the house I supposed it was possible he recognized us. He gave no sign he’d seen us, and continued to gaze blankly at the bar mat between his elbows.
After a few more beers, staring wasn’t enough. I downed the rest of my beer and sauntered up to him.
“Hi,” I breathed, “come here often?” I fluttered my eyelashes theatrically.
He looked at me strangely. “I just got in on Saturday. I’ve been here since then.”
“Visiting friends?” I simpered.
“I’m down here looking for a job. I may do some visiting while I’m here.”
“Do you have any relatives in Tassie?”
“No. Why do you ask?” He peered at me guardedly. Obviously, fat, greying old men are somewhat suspicious of unsolicited attention from young women. “Are you working tonight?”
He thought I was a hooker. Unbelievable. Fishnets will do that for you.
“I wasn’t planning to, but I suppose I could. What’s your name, darl?”
“Bob. Bob Fisher.”
“Where are you staying?”
“Upstairs here. Room number three.”
“If you don’t mind, I’ll just excuse myself to the people I’m here with. I’ll be back in a minute.”
“Take your time.” I sashayed over to the side bar.
Paul and Smithy looked up from their beers. “What did you say to him? What did he say? Is it him?”
“It’s him alright and guess what? I’m going up to his room in a bit.”
“You’re doing what?”
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to sleep with him or anything. We’re just going to have a little chat.”
“But he’s the stalker! Anything could happen!”
“I’ll be in room three. You fellas can hang around outside if you like, in case anything does happen.”
I grabbed my bag, and wandered back over to the bar.
“So, you wanna go upstairs now, or a little later?”
“Uh, maybe now. How much is this gonna cost me?”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. I’m very affordable.”
He finished his beer and I followed him upstairs. His room was done in a similar theme to the bar, but with a slightly tarnished aura. The carpet could probably write an omnibus of beer-soaked, unpopular fiction. He shut the door behind me and suddenly I felt pretty drunk, and more than a little bit vulnerable. He put his hand on my shoulder. I stepped away, turning to face him.
“Would you mind having a shower first?” I stalled for time, “I consider hygiene to be very important.”
“Don’t you want to have one with me?”
“Ah, no, I don’t think so. I need to get myself ready in here.”
He shrugged and shuffled into the bathroom. The door clunked shut, and I quickly rifled through his already-open suitcase. I found a bulky envelope stuffed in one of the upper mesh pockets, and tipping the contents onto the bed, revealed dozens of photos of Jess. Most were blurred, taken from a distance, but a few were up close. Jess folding junk mail. Jess carrying boxes. Jess carting shoulder bags full of junk mail. Jess doing very little at all. I took one.
In the bathroom I could hear the shower running. I reached into my bag and pulled out my pocket knife, locking open the long blade. Hiding it in my pocket, I strode over to the bathroom door.
Opening it, I stepped into a cloud of steam. He hadn’t been in there long, but he’d managed to fog the room up already. I held onto my knife, and thought of Hitchcock.
“So, Bob,” I enquired conversationally, “You’re into young, blonde women then?”
“Huh?” His face appeared blurrily behind the shower curtain.
“Young, blonde, curly haired women named Jess.” I brandished the photo at him accusingly. “You’ve been stalking her for over a year now, haven’t you?”
“Who the fuck are you?” He stepped out of the shower, his rapidly shrinking genitals mostly concealed by his pasty paunch.
“Her guardian angel. Now get on the floor, weirdo.”
He stepped towards me, still unsure whether this was part of the pre-coital sport. I pulled the knife from my pocket and pointed it at him. He leant forward to grab my wrist but pulled away as I snapped a roundhouse kick just short of his face.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. I have a purple belt in Tae Kwon Do.”
“Is that better than a black belt?”
“No, it’s one level down, but I have a grading next month. On your fuckin’ knees, simian!”
He crouched on the sodden bathmat, staring at me like I was the worm crawling out of his half-eaten apple.
“Put your hands on the floor.” He hesitated. “Hands on the fucking floor!” He rocked forward, onto his hands and knees, watching me all the while.
I began to pace the bathroom, headmistress styley, brandishing a pocket-knife instead of a stick of chalk. Speaking slowly. “Now. Do you understand why I’m here?”
“No, not really, no.” He shivered a little on the rug, eyeing the bathroom door.
“I’m here, because you won’t leave a friend of mine alone. It wasn’t enough for you to chase her around Armidale. You had to follow her all the way here.” I planted a boot on the toilet rim.
“Listen very carefully Bob. Jess doesn’t like you. She never has. And hell will be adorned with sparkly little icicles before she is even minutely interested in seeing you anywhere but behind bars. So you should just fuck off back to Armidale and leave her alone. Do you understand?”
His eyes darted like small, furry rodents, back and forth between the knife and my face. I stepped down from the porcelain pedestal and positioned the knife that little bit closer to his face. “Do you understand?” He cowered on the floor, muttering unintelligibly.
Stretching out a leg, I put my boot on the back of his neck and pushed his unresisting skull towards the bathmat, squashing his head sideways against the blue shagpile. I crouched down and held the photo and the knife in front of him.
“Now, Bob, I want you to apologise to Jess. I have a very good memory for language, so I’ll be able to repeat your apology to her later on. Now tell her how sorry you are for being a complete fuckwit and for making her life so miserable.”
He mumbled a furry “Sorry” from under my boot. I shifted my weight slightly, pushing lightly on his neck. He went a little red. “That wasn’t a very good apology was it, Bob? I know you can do better than that. In fact, if you’re really good, I won’t even cut off your dangly bits. Honest.” He whimpered a bit, then began blathering. “I’m really sorry Jess, I didn’t mean to upset you, it’s just that I’m in love with you, and I’m sure you could be in love with me if you just knew me better….” I leant on him a little harder, “… but if you’re not interested, which I can see you’re not, then I’ll just go away and leave you alone, maybe write to you occasionally….” I pushed down a little more “…or maybe not, maybe I’ll just let you write to me, but I promise not to visit you anymore unless you ask me to.”
“Cross your heart?”
“You’re supposed to say ‘Cross my heart and hope to die’, Bob.”
“Cross my heart and hope to die.”
“Or I’ll stick a thousand pins in your eye.” I stood up, releasing the pressure on his neck. “I’ll pass that on to Jess. Oh, one last thing Bob.”
“Lick my boots.” I couldn’t resist. He went down on my boots like they were made of candy. Probably a closet foot fetishist. I withdrew my feet before I was left shoeless.
“Right, that’s enough. Now get back into the shower and stay there for half an hour after I’m gone.” He crawled back into the shower recess and sat in the corner underneath the taps. “I’m having this room watched, so don’t even think about trying to follow me. After I’m gone, you can pack your bags, and get ready to leave the state A.S.A.P.” I pulled the shower curtain across and stowed the knife in my pocket. “And if I catch you coming anywhere near Jess, or even just putting things in her letterbox, I’ll be back. And next time, I’ll want more than an apology.”
I left him shaking in the shower and sauntered into the bedroom, pausing only to snatch the photos from the suitcase. I left him one, a memento, of Jess walking away from him.
I met the boys outside. “What happened? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. He apologised for being such a weirdo and said he was going to leave Jess alone.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that.”
The Morris started first time, and we all went home for ice cream with lashings of chocolate topping.