We’ve received another letter from The Collector. This time it came to Noa via some stranger that showed up at her house one rainy night. But I’ll let her tell that part of the story. Suffice to say, its contents don’t put me any more at ease. And how does he know where we live? Where we’ll be at random times in the day? How to reach us at any time? Is my phone bugged? Is he watching me while I’m in the shower?!?
He’s already making me paranoid and insane. I don’t particularly enjoy feeling like I’m going insane. Like I’m constantly being watched. Getting chills down my spine when walking alone on a street late night IN THE SUMMER. And after spending an evening in a club that I’m not sure even existed, I think it’s time we find out who this Collector is, particularly if I’m going to continue doing his dirty work. Okay, so I don’t really know if the work is dirty or not, but if something is done with a bunch of secrecy it’s usually not good. And if I’m going to be in potential danger just for deciphering these stories from his diary, I think I deserve more information. Which is why I’ve come to this decision (which I had made before we received The Collector’s new letter): I’m going to track him down.
To do this, I need to have all my resources at the ready. I played enough Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? growing up that I think I know how to track down a globetrotting master mind. And that’s where I started. I dug through some old boxes in my parents attic until I found our old copy of the Carmen Sandiego computer game, and more importantly, the copy of The World Almanac and Book of Facts that came with it. Then I went about gathering all the other supplies I would need. I put together a list of what I would need and checked them off as I got them.
The World Almanac and Book of Facts? Check.
iPad charger? Check.
World map? Check. (Sometimes technology fails).
Pens and pencils (you never know)? Check.
Snacks? Check. (Trail mix, the kind with M&Ms in it).
People Magazine’s Book of Celebrity Crosswords? Check. (What? I might get bored and regular crosswords are really hard).
Sweet messenger bag to carry it all in? Check.
I put all these items together and headed over to Noa’s house to let her know my plan. Well, sort of plan. At least the idea for the start of part of a plan. Rain poured down as I jogged up Noa’s front sidewalk. I rang the doorbell, and almost immediately the door swung open and I was greeted by an angry-faced Noa holding an aluminum baseball bat, ready to beat my face in.
“WOAH! Calm down it’s just me.” Her face softened. She lowered the bat. “Can I come in? It’s raining a lot out here.”
She cracked open the door enough to stick her head out to twist in left and right, then motioned me in. I was too excited by my new mission to even notice he behavior, and started talking as soon as I walked through the door.
“I know that he keeps warning us of the danger, but I think it’s time we find out who The Collector is.”
The wooden floors creaked as I paced back and forth on them, pleading my case. “How do we know he’s even the good guy? How do we know that he’s not the bad guy and what we’re doing is helping some evil cause?”
“If I’m going to be risking my neck, I would at least like to know who I’m doing it for and why.”
“And honestly? My life is boring. This is our chance at a real life Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. Well, if Carmen Sandiego was a man. Who like stories a lot.”
“Nick this isn’t a game.”
“I know it’s not a game.” I’ll be honest, I said this just to appease Noa. It sort of is like a fun game. A fun, possibly life-threatening game. “But he could be anywhere, and be up to anything. He sneaks around the world from Kiev to Carolina, a sticky-fingered filcher from Berlin down to Belize, he’ll take you for a ride on a slow boat to China-“
“Are you saying the lyrics from the Carmen Sandiego theme song?”
“It doesn’t matter what are the lyrics to what. You’re missing the point.”
“The point is we need to find out who The Collector is and what his motivations are.”
“We got another letter from The Collector.”
That’s when I saw the open package on the table. While the message inside didn’t do anything to put me at ease, in fact, the opposite, I am now even more resolute than before. Who in the world is The Collector? I have to find out.
I’ve been through so many emotions the past few weeks about The Collector that I’m not even sure what to feel anymore. It’s exhausting, trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do next when it feels like the world is on your shoulders and the only man who can help you is…well…a ghost.
Maybe literally. I really don’t know. He could be dead for all we know, and it wouldn’t even surprise me a little bit. I might even feel a little better then, because then I could explain to myself how he seems to know everything about Nick and myself.
Seems like I can’t him off my mind. It’d feel like a junior high crush if I weren’t constantly looking over my shoulder.
Last weekend, I had finally relaxed a little bit. My husband was out on business, and I was enjoying a quiet weekend to myself, binge watching X-Files, painting my nails and enjoying an ice-cold Shiner Ruby Redbird. It was peaceful. Fun, even.
I heard a knock on my door about 11:45 pm, and seeing as how I was a tiny woman home alone, I didn’t answer. As a knee-jerk reaction, I stood up to go quiet down my dog who barks like a hell hound every time anyone comes to the door.
She wasn’t barking. I started to walk to the back door to see if she had gotten out somehow, and I heard the knock on the front door again, this time much louder, much more insistent. Still no dog. The hair on the back of my neck raised. I stood in the door between my kitchen and the living room, the house lit only by the light of X-Files, still playing.
"Don’t answer the door. Don’t move. They know you’re here. They’ll be coming in soon, and you need to be ready to fight."
The voice came from the door, swung partially open right behind me. My mind, my body was now rushing with adrenaline, everything moving faster and slower at the same time.
"Who are you?"
"Be quiet, and go get the bat that’s underneath your bed."
I was as quiet as I could be, slipping down the hall, grabbing the bat and clutching it in my hands, and slipping back down the hall. I saw a hand in the darkness come from behind the door to the kitchen, motioning me to stop. The knocks on the door became ever more insistent. I tightened my grip on the bat.
In the movies, when someone breaks into your house ready to fight you, they always kick it in and rush in, guns blazing, screaming, raising hell.
When they finally made their way inside, it was so quiet, so calm that I almost didn’t hear it. They just slipped the door open, cracked the windows, and 4 people dressed entirely in black slipped in, hunkered down, eyes glancing around nervously. I heard the back door open and knew they were going to be coming from both sides.
The light lit the 4 eerily, in green and black tones. It was spooky. It was unreal.
When the line of the 4 people stepped just outside of the hallway, I saw the man behind the door rush out. I launched myself at the closest one and started swinging, connecting with his ribs. I pulled back and swung again, this time feeling his shoulder crunch beneath the bat. It was intensely satisfying. I rushed forward and hit the next one, a smaller guy, nailing him in the stomach.
The man behind the door was doing alright alone, punching his way though three of them who’d come from the kitchen. I paid for looking away when a fist slammed down on the right side of my body. It was so hard it felt like my ribs bowed inward. I lost my breath but gained rage, and as soon as I felt another punch to my back—a cheap kidney shot—I spun and cracked the bat over someone’s face, and then didn’t stop swinging. I could have been hitting the man behind the door and I wouldn’t have cared. I was on a bat-cracking roll.
"Whoa whoa whoa—they’re all out in here. Stand down."
I froze in place, hands still white-knuckled around the grip.
"Who the fuck were they?"
"They came to stop you. To cut off the arms of our operation."
"Did you think it was just the three of you? You have a lot to learn."
"Can we not be sarcastic right now? Are there more of them outside?"
"I have my shit together, girl. I’m scanning the area."
Of course this motherfucker had FLIR heat signature goggles. Jesus, what was even happening?
"You know you have possums in the attic?"
"Yes, I am aware, but thank you. Do you happen to see any murderers?"
"Looks like we’re clear for now. Here," he said, tossing a wooden box onto my dining room table. "This is your next mission."
"It’s not clearing the bodies from the floor? WAIT OH MY GOD ARE THEY DEAD?"
"What bodies?" He asked, walking towards the front door, and slipping out into the darkness. I looked around and…it gives me chills…there weren’t any bodies.
What the fuck was happening?