Ten to Twenty Five Years

I’m writing this in case something happens to me. Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe this is all for nothing, and he’ll not come after me. But I’m not taking any chances.

During the seventies, my grandfather took part in the arrest of a man named Horace Bell. The guy was an actual monster. He was a charming guy apparently, with a nice jaw, great hair, and a voice that made  you believe he could be trusted. Spoiler alert: He wasn’t.

He kidnapped a teenage girl, kept her in a secret room in his house, and called her Vanessa and said they wouldn’t be parted any longer. I won’t go into the details as to what Horace did to her, but I’m pretty sure you can put the pieces together yourself. This girl suffered for three months before she managed to escape.

My grandfather wanted to find proof that this girl wasn’t his only victim, that there had to have been more. Everything was done far too well for this to be his first. The abduction, the prison room, everything was far too put together. The only reason the girl got away was dumb luck. But there was nothing. So Horace was put in jail for a sentence of ten to twenty five years.

That should have been the end of it. My grandfather ended up retiring after all that, that was a good note to go out on, taking a motherfucker like that and throwing him in jail.

Fifteen years later he ran into Horace again.

Fifteen years later he was at the grocery store with his wife. She had gone to pick up some fresh vegetables, he had made a quick run to grab something as a treat for the kids.

When he got back, his wife was laughing and chatting away with Horace Bell.

It had been fifteen years at this point. My granddad had changed a bit, starting to bald, gained a few pounds. His children were starting to get older.

But Horace hadn’t.

It wasn’t like he’d just simply hadn’t changed his style or haircut. He looked the exact same from when my grandfather last saw him. He’d been around thirty three then and he could’ve been thirty three now. He even still had that dimple in his cheek as he grinned, helping my grandmother pick something off the top shelf.

My grandfather nearly dropped his grocery basket.

Horace looked up and looked surprised. “Why, Matthew Wilkins! I haven’t seen you in, oh, how long has it been?” He walked up and gently grabbed my grandfather on the shoulder like they were old friends. “Just caught up with your wife, we should really make plans now that I’m free. Have a good day now. Oh, and the Chex cereal is on sale, so you better stock up. You get cranky if you don’t have a solid breakfast.”

With that, Horace walked away, leaving my grandfather speechless.

Surely, he told himself, that it was just one of those things. Some people just aged unnaturally well, after all. He still couldn’t shake off the sight of seeing that man talking to his wife. Of course he told grandmother exactly who that disturbing fuck was and she was horrified that she’d made small talk in the grocery store with him. Thankfully she now knew him on sight and would know to avoid him.

Horace wasn’t finished with my grandfather though. Not by a long shot.

It could be a few months, sometimes a year or so, but Horace would pop back up in my granddad’s life when he least expected it. It could be a convenient run in at the store, it could a coincidental shared bus ride, but he would appear.

And he’d never change. His face remained the same. He never aged. Even as literal decades passed, Horace Bell was still thirty-three years old.

I have no memory of this, but one time Horace approached me too.

I must’ve been around three. Grandpa had me for the weekend, and had taken me to the park. I was on the swings, trying to go super high. My granddad had looked away for just a minute, he’d gotten a phonecall.

When he turned it off, he saw I was being pushed on the swings by Horace. I was laughing, I wasn’t afraid, and I was begging to go higher and higher.

My granddad ran to me so fast and snatched me off that swingset. That was the last straw. He told Horace if he ever got close to me again there would be a bullet in his skull. I was squirming in his arms, telling him that I was fine and that I wanted to go back on the swings.

My grandfather will never forget what happened next.

Horace smirked and Granddad described the glint in his eye as pure evil. He didn’t say anything this time, unlike the other times where he’d strike up some small talk about the weather or how the game was on Sunday. He just smirked.

And then he walked away. Really, Horace didn’t need to say anything. Grandpa knew what he meant.

He knew that I was his special little girl.

And although Grandpa protected me the best he could his entire life, he couldn’t save me forever. He was once a strong man, a hero of his community. But he couldn’t fight off the inevitable.

Last year grandpa was diagnosed with kidney cancer. It was a painful hell he went through mostly alone, Grandma passed away about five years before this. Last week he called me on the phone. He told me everything you read above, about Horace Bell, about what he did, and how he was still out there like he hadn’t aged a day.

He knew he was because Horace came and visited him not even an hour before.

The morbid creep brought in flowers, daffodils, Grandma’s favorite. He set them by the bed and asked if Granddad had any regrets.

“The only regret I have,” my granddad said, “Was not killing you when I had the chance.”

Horace sat at the foot of the bed, taking my grandfather’s hand in his. He shook his head, almost sad.

“But you didn’t. You didn’t kill me. I’ve been waiting a long time, Wilkins. I was patient. I didn’t harm a fly after you shut me down. And I just want you to know that when you die, I’m going to pay a visit to your granddaughter. And you won’t be able to do a thing about it.”

He’d left after that, and Granddad called me.

I didn’t know whether or not I believed him at the time, but now I do. My grandfather died today. I didn’t even get the news before I opened the front door and found something on my doorstep.

A daffodil, tied with a white ribbon and a tag that reads,

“For you, Vanessa. I’ve found you again. This time we will not be parted.”

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