"Why?" Pat was wondering to herself. Why had she ever posted that picture? It was only a photo of her face, not anything sexy or like that. But it must have been enough to cause something bad to happen to him. Now she was continually watching, always aware that he might be there watching her. This was no way for a teenager to live. Her parents had given her hell, but it was done. Nothing could be changed. He was somewhere out there and she had no idea where. Or when he might appear. Her courage was dying. Even though the police told her not to worry, and her parents were there for her, she was becoming more and more terrified.
This was a great site! You could write so many things. She loved to write children's stories and science fiction. This was going to be so much fun! And her parents had checked it out and given the okay. Now she had submitted two stories and they had been accepted. And people seemed to like her stories. It was very gratifying for a girl of sixteen. She was certain now that she would be a professional writer.
One thing she had not really expected was how welcoming everyone was to new people. Within days she had made friends with several folks of all ages. Some young, some old. It was that kind of place. And she had her favorites, of course. At least three people she talked with almost daily, when she wasn't busy with school or writing some new story on the site. There were others who would just chat once in awhile. They had busy lives too. But it was fun meeting and learning about new people.
There was one car that seemed to be passing by the house too often. Once she saw it parked down the street. It was broad daylight so she gathered her courage and went out to see if she could get a license number, but the car moved off quickly as soon as she left her front door. She reported it to her parents, of course, and they called the police. There was not much they could do. They did put a patrol car outside her house for two days, but the car did not return. She never saw it again.
Sandy was her age, or maybe a year older. They became close. They had a lot in common. Both seemed to be having the same problems with boys their own age being so immature. It seemed a common theme. And they were both so bright, it was fun to talk about music and art with someone who didn't laugh at her. Some classmates had teased her about being in the band. She found she loved music. And she liked being called an old soul. She took it as a compliment.
Pat told everyone that only her parents called her Patricia. So she was Pat to Sandy, and to James, the older gentleman she became friends with. Those two she loved to chat with everyday. They were both writers too, of course. She had made it a habit to only make friends with fellow writers. That seemed safer somehow. Finally she had about thirty-five "friends" and only a few were what she would call real friends. These she trusted. Well, really, she trusted everyone on the site. Maybe that was her first big mistake.
The sound of the flute, or some kind of pipes, started about a week after she had seen the car. Late at night, when her parents were sleeping, and she was still up awake and thinking of her writing or school, she would hear the piper playing in the distance. It never lasted long. Never long enough to call the police and get someone out to check it, but she knew it was him. He was watching her and letting her know he was out there.
She had been on the site for about a month when she asked Sandy and James if they would like to see her picture. Of course they said yes and promised to post their own photos. They were able to disallow anyone else seeing them. That was the way it worked. So she saw Sandy, and loved her cute smile, and James was a decent looking sort in his 60s. She, herself, was not too pretty. She thought that. Her friends assured her she was adorable. She didn't really believe it, but we are never too honest about our own looks, she thought.
It had never occurred to her that people could trace her whereabouts in the computer if they knew what they were doing. James had told her he worked with computers all his life, and had even been a computer analyst at one time. Maybe that was how he had learned how to trace down people. He let it slip once that it was easy to track down someone given you knew certain things about them. He said that if someone wanted to, "He can always find you." He had not elaborated.
Looking out her window at three o'clock in the morning she saw the shape of a person under the sycamore in her backyard. Then she heard the pipes again. She quickly went to the phone to call but then decided it was a waste of time when the piping stopped. He would be gone. Anyway, she was going to let her dog out and go out too and see what would happen. She took her father's pistol. Her dad had taught her to shoot when she turned thirteen. She could use the .38 revolver if she had to. She didn't turn on any lights. She woke up Scruffy her terrier and they went downstairs. She opened the patio doors as quietly as she could.
The odd things started happening while she had still been on the site. She would notice a person behind her as she walked home from school, but they would disappear if she turned around and walked back. Often, looking out her classroom window she could see someone lurking under the trees just outside the fence around the schoolyard. She would report these things to her teachers but they would claim they could never see the person. And they were right. The dark figure was never there when they looked.
She told Sandy all about it. It was only later that Sandy told her she had also talked to James about it. After all, James was their good friend. Pat was furious. But she couldn't blame Sandy for being trusting. She had been too trusting herself. She didn't speak to James again and soon he left the site. She left herself soon after, telling Sandy she could no longer be sure of anything anymore.