She worked her way through a cheap pack of cigarettes. Charlie knew it was a bad habit and she hated the taste, but smoking seemed to help keep her alert and her mind occupied.
The long hours were beginning to take a toll on her, but she loved her job. Charlie started her new adventure 6 short months ago. Her colleague Dale, although nice, seemed a bit off. He was extremely quiet, but crazy knowledgeable, he knew the ins and out of the job like a boss. Her main goal was to learn everything that she could and use it to become the best.
Starting at the bottom didn’t faze her a bit. Her father always told her, “know everything the janitor knows and spin it like the CEO, then you can teach people a thing or two. You can’t know too much Charlie!” So, cleaning tanks, and making chum to feed the sharks after hours, was just the first few rungs of her ladder.
Charlie first became aware of the open position- from a follower on Tic Tok. She had become so social that her Tic Tok family knew every single detail of her life and plans during this time.
She applied for the job and was ecstatic when she learned she was the one candidate out of 100 to land it. Another huge benefit to taking the position was it included a room, in a shared flat community. She would share all common areas.
As soon as it was official, Charlie sent a thank you to Tic Tok user #4696968669, whose reply was, “you owe me, I will collect on that soon .”
She was a little nervous at first to take the job, so much had changed in her life so fast.
Her plan was to take the biotechnology courses she needed at Northwestern and then transfer to the University of Miami, where she would delve into biology and ecology courses, she would need to become a Marine Conservationist.
She fell in love with the ocean from the first time she and her parents traveled from Arizona to California to be at the water’s edge.
Her first visit to the ocean was when she was about 6. Her father put her on a surfboard and took her out as far as out as they could touch. There, they became one with the water. They played and dreamed and planned out all the things they would do to make the world a more friendly and safer place. Protecting the ocean and all the creatures it homed, was their main priority.
Charlie had been telling everyone she was going to be a marine biologist ever since. She loved sharks, everything about the ocean. When she was in elementary school, she wrote and illustrated “Dive Deep, a small blue book about the ocean.” Her parents had it published and owned the only copy. They displayed it on a table in the foyer, so everyone that visited their home, saw just how talented and determined their little girl was.
She was their world, and they couldn’t have been prouder when she announced that she had landed her dream job at Shedd’s aquarium and was going to be attending college in Chicago.
The last time she visited the ocean, was when she bought a surfboard and paddled as far out as she could, until she could barely see the shore- to scatter the ashes of her mom and dad. Diving deep into the water, she released them to become one, permanently.
It was a freak accident they said, in fact, the whole incident was still an open and ongoing investigation.
She remembers the call, like it was yesterday. She had just gotten home from work when the phone rang. Her social media was going crazy as well. Everyone reaching out to see how she was, and what they could do to help.
User #4696968669 became very vocal. Having never met, he continued to message her, offering to meet her and help with arrangements. He informed her that his user # was also his phone # and she should reach out. He also was new to Chicago and could help her through it all. It wasn’t until later that she realized how strange it was that he seemed to know intimate details, that he slowly divulged. She went social media silent. Which seemed to enrage him, confused by his reaction, she eventually blocked him.
She sat in silence as the officer explained to her what happened and planned a time to meet with her in person to fill in all the details.
Her folks traveled a couple times a week for work, down the mountain from Payson into Scottsdale. It was only an hour or so one way, and it was a beautiful drive.
They were on the way back home when a truck sped recklessly past them pulling a trailer. A portable generator slid from its position and broke through the gate, smashing into their windshield, causing them to veer off the road and down a steep ravine into a grove of birch trees. They were killed instantly. Witnesses said the driver of the truck stopped, looked over the rim at the car, disconnected the trailer, flicked his cigarette and drove away. They were never able to find the driver.
She nearly gave up on her dream and returned home but was so moved and encouraged by her friends and family to press on. She knew it would be what her parents would have wanted. Insurance money was tied up too, due to the open investigation, so when the tip appeared from her Tic Tok account, she never questioned how or why, it seemed like- fate.
She was in the break room drinking a cola when Dale strolled in and sat down across from her. They had been working together for months, but never had a real conversation. He sat directly across the table from her and just starred, never saying a word. She took a cigarette out of her bag and lit it, watching him the whole time. She blew the smoke directly at him and asked, “what, Dale?” He licked his lips, looked at the ground and stood up, as he turned to walk away, he said, “check out mile marker 187” and for your information, watch out for user #4696968669 - those numbers when matched to the alphabet, say “I own you now," stay away from him!” and quickly - left the room.
She had no idea what he was talking about, shook her head in disbelief and went back to work.
The next morning, she was awakened by the phone, it was a detective calling from Arizona. “Charlie, this is detective Begay, I am a medium specialist, for Gila county. Do you have a minute to talk?” She sat up quickly, wiping her face with her hands, mumbling, “uh, sure. Are you new? I don’t recognize your name?”
He had a bit of a Native American accent, “yes, I was brought in on your parents’ case, because some new evidence has come to light. It would really be helpful if we could meet. Any chance you can come home?”
She paused for a minute and answered, “Absolutely, I will call and see what I can arrange, is there a number I can reach you at?” He said, “call me anytime at this number: 238-928-1111
After she hung up with her boss, she booked a redeye flight to Phoenix. She arrived with the time change the next morning at 1:45am, rented a car and began her journey up the mountain.
She hadn’t traveled that way since the accident. As she drove, she remembered what Dale said, and found herself watching the mile markers. As she reached marker 187, she stopped, and got out. Standing moments away from the biggest heartbreak she had ever experienced. She felt all alone.
There were so many sounds in the silence. She could hear the coyotes and the crickets. She smelled the pine in the air and felt the breeze brush across her face like an embrace. She had forgotten how wide open the sky was, and all those stars.
She was overwhelmed and began to cry. Suddenly, there was a rustle in the tall grass, and she became acutely aware how alone she really was and became so scared she couldn’t move.
She starred at the moving grass - the steps got closer. Out of the grass walked a gigantic elk. He was majestic and breathtaking.
He looked at Charlie and continued toward her. For a moment that seemed eternal, they simply looked at one another. The air was eerily still. The elk lowered his head and scratched the ground with his hooves, sniffing and snorting loudly. He looked back at Charlie, blew a gasp of air, and walked past her down the ravine. About 20’ away from her, he let out a cry, like he understood her loss. He stomped in a circle and then disappeared into the birch groves and marigolds.
She quickly grabbed her phone and dialed detective Begay's number.
As he answered the phone, Charlie blurted out, “Detective, this is Charlie Legol, you called me about my parents. I am at marker 187 right now, can you come out here, please?!” He said firmly, “get in your car, lock the doors, I will be there in 15 minutes.”
A large white pickup pulled up behind her, there was a tap on her glass and Charlie could see a badge and photo of the man standing by her car. As she opened the door, a healer jumped up to greet her. “Miss Legol, I am Detective Begay, and this is please. You should not be out here alone.” He helped her into his truck where he told her, “we have reason to believe that your parents were murdered, and that the killer is looking for you. How exactly did you end up at this mile marker?”
She felt stupid telling him about the weird encounter with Dale, and the elk, but as she told him, he seemed to understand. “I will need to talk with Dale, as soon as possible,” he said to her. “Native Americans believe that elk are natures protectors of women, leading captured women back home. I believe it was a sign of security for you.”
She picked up her phone and called Dale immediately, he answered saying, “I’m sorry Charlie, I didn’t know how to tell you.” She put the call on speaker and asked Dale, “what haven’t you told me Dale?”
He paused and said, “I see things that others can’t, Charlie. I don’t know why, I don’t know what, but something is waiting for you to find at marker #187.”
The detective looked at Charlie and said, “Dale, we are sending an officer to you now. We need you to come to Arizona, don’t call or talk to anyone except officer Walker. I look forward to meeting you soon.” As they hung up, Charlie asked, “what is going on, you know how crazy this all is, right?”
Detective Begay got Charlie back to Payson, where he proceeded to go over the evidence that had been found. Based on eyewitness accounts, the man who caused the accident, killing your folks, threw his cigarette out after seeing what he had done. The same cigarette butts and this picture of you and your parents were collected at mile marker 187. The fingerprints and DNA are a match for an escaped convict named Dave Rupel. He has killed 7 different people randomly traveling the highways.
He was linked to your fathers’ boss, after making multiple threats to kill him. We believe he targeted your folks in hopes to get to his boss - but found you instead. We believe he has become infatuated with you.
“He currently lives in your shared flat community. He is Tic Tok user #4696968669.”
About the Creator
Telling stories my heart needs to tell <3 life is a journey, not a competition
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