Avery didn’t notice the piece of paper tucked under her windshield wiper until she was already in her car, keys in the ignition. It was Greek Week on campus and she thought it was probably a amateurish flyer advertising some sophomoric house party.
Opening her car door without turning off the engine, Avery reached around the door sill and tried to grab the paper.
Rankled by the nuisance of the advert blocking her view, Avery swore. She was already late getting to work and didn’t have time for litter duty.
She pushed open her car door wider so she could slide out of the driver’s seat. One foot on the ground and one still inside, she leaned across the windshield until she could snatch the paper from under the wiper blade.
The note, pieced together from individual letters crudely cut from magazines and newspapers glued to the paper, carried a simple message.
“Midnight by the bell. Come alone.”
Avery turned the paper over in her hands, looking for some clue to who left the cryptic message. She shut off her car, then swiveled around in her seat, looking for anyone suspicious watching her car.
The campus was quiet, most classes had already ended for the day. Avery couldn’t see anyone milling around the parking lot. She sat in her car for several more minutes trying to imagine who would leave such a note for her.
She thought of the weird guy in chemistry lab, then quickly dismissed that possibility. Maybe it was her accounting TA. He was always a little too attentive, but he was friendly with all his female students.
Staring at the note, Avery couldn’t decipher what it could mean.
Tylerville was a college town and home to several churches. There were bells everywhere. The note didn’t specify any particular bell, the demanded meeting could be anywhere in the city.
Avery laid the note on the passenger seat, and restarted her car. One last look around for any questionable lurkers, and she pulled out of the parking lot.
Over the next several days, a seven different pieced-together notes with the same message were left on her windshield. Campus police told her there was nothing they could do. The note didn’t made any overt threats, they said, and even Avery couldn’t say for sure that anyone was following her.
The police kept each of the baffling notes, and promised to let Avery know if they found any other evidence or if they were able to identify the sender. Their inaction only made the mystery more unsettling. Avery stopped going out at night, even with friends. She made sure she was never alone while walking on campus, and had her dorm RA help her install extra locks on her door.
Then, just as suddenly as the notes appeared, they stopped. Six months passed and Avery believed the stalking was over, but that she may never know who sent the notes. or what they actually meant.
She completed her college courses and made plans to graduate. During the baccalaureate service the day before commencement, Avery was sitting alone in a pew near the back of the church leafing through a hymnal before the ceremony began.
Avery looked up when the church bells began to chime. From behind her, a man’s voice cut through the ringing.
“Why didn’t you meet me by the bells? I left you so many notes.”
Avery froze, unable to speak or move. She could feel him behind her, his hot breath on her neck.
“You shouldn’t have ignored me,” he whispered. “I won’t be ignored.”
Avery willed herself to turn around, only to find no one was there, just another cut-and-paste note.
“Midnight by the bell,” was all it said.