Hide & Seek
There is always more than what meets the eye. The Love Dove Cafe is no exception.
Author: Mason Thibault
Illustrated by: Kelsey Turner
This was the third day in a row I was following her. Usually, when somebody tells you they have been following somebody without stating a reason, it is rather safe to assume that they have a pressing motive. Depending on your perspective, you may view the act of obsessively tracking the woman who lives in apartment 213 in at least two lights: an intensely romantic display of affection, or a disturbing account of stalking. I am afraid to inform you that it was most certainly the latter.
As I ensure that my distance is inconspicuous enough to mimic coincidence, her rose red hair sways back and forth in the wind. She is far too preoccupied with her phone to notice that someone has been about 300 meters behind her while she does her morning walk to The Love Dove cafe, a small family owned coffee shop off the corner of Swarthmore St. and Miller Ave.
If you have ever been to The Love Dove cafe, you would know that the owner and his wife are friendly and cheerful, having owned and operated their coffee shop for over 10 years. As they will tell any customer who inquiries about the name, the lovely couple met by chance at The Love Dove when it was under different management and operating under the name Bella’s. As the decades came to pass, the crimson red brick of Bella’s had been replaced by a burgundy wood, almost as ready to erupt with fire as the loving connection it claimed to foster.
As far as the owners go, the lovely couple whose marriage is somewhat owed to Bella’s have worked hard at helping the Love Dove live up to its reputation as a popular first date stop. The walls of the Love Dove are adorned with black and white photos of every romantic gesture imaginable, from navy men serenading young girls in poorly lit taverns to elaborate royal weddings. In the northwest corner of the restaurant, by the window, there is even a picture of the owners of the Love Dove, Roger and Cynthia Dovest, on their wedding day twelve years ago.
Anyone who knows the timid and stocky white-haired Mr. Dovest a little would tell you that he is a charming man, an exceptional conversationalist, and an avid baseball fan. Yet, if there is anyone who dares to know Mr. Dovest a little better than that, and perhaps take a look a little closer at the recreational activities Mr. Dovest participated in around midnight, they would know that Mr. Dovest has a particular fondness for explicit pornography, sexual acts with young women, hardcore BDSM and the party drug MDMA, more commonly known as “molly”.
I’ve thought about telling Mrs. Dovest, but something tells me that she would not feel particularly betrayed by his lack of commitment to her. By all accounts she is a practicing lesbian, frequenting the most popular gay club in town right on the corner of Washington and Madison.
I have also thought about telling somebody else what I know about Mr. Dovest, but part of me feels like nobody would believe me. How could white haired Mr. Dovest, the same Mr. Dovest who gives free cake pops to children who accompany their parents on coffee runs, be such a vile individual? I suppose the argument could be made that it is something that people do. Mr. Dovest likes sexual deviances. Mrs. Dovest likes vagina. And I like Stalking.
The women with rose red hair has just entered The Love Dove, and after ensuring that enough time has passed for me to enter, I place my hand on the door, pulling my beanie down closer to my eyebrows and glancing down at the floor as I enter to avoid attention. A younger couple looks over at the sound of the door. After acknowledging my presence, they both look back at their phones, satisfied to know that I do not pose any threat to their boredom. As the man takes another sip of his coffee, he giggles at seemingly nobody at all. If they ever legalize murder, they should legalize it for people who giggle at their phones in coffee shops. If you have ever been to The Love Dove, you may share my disdain for this particular class of people. And if you have not, you likely still know this kind, as they threaten to infest more and more space in society.
Who falls into the category of people like me? Well everybody I suppose. That’s what makes me effective. I could be anyone. Your neighbor, your teacher, your son or your daughter. The man who delivers your mail. The guy you see delivering the weather forecast on channel 12. Some people like overpriced café shops and people who giggle at seemingly nothing at all. Some people like to tell dad jokes and stories about guys or girls they meet on Tinder. I like Stalking.
Mr. Dovest is not working because it is a Tuesday and Mr. Dovest never works on Tuesdays. Instead of being greeted by the hearty grin of Mr. Dovest, I am instead welcomed by the alarmingly neutral head nod of Mrs. Dovest. Luckily, the woman with rose red hair does not bother to turn around, being much too preoccupied with her phone. Instead the woman is staring intently at the wooden board nailed to the western most corner of the store counter, pretending to look at the menu with a sense of wonder despite the fact that she has been frequenting The Love Dove for months, always ordering the same thing: a dark chocolate peanut butter macchiato and a multigrain bagel with strawberry cream cheese.
As the woman with rose red hair moves up to place her order, I take a seat in a corner booth to avoid the awkward glances of the other four customers who are finishing their coffees. If you count myself, the red-haired woman, the young couple who saw me enter, and the four customers scattered around the café, there are seven customers total. I begin thinking that this is not bad for a Tuesday morning, especially for a shop as small as The Love Dove. My thoughts are cut off by the gruffly radio static of a police radio scanner from a short distance away.
“A 10-24, an assault and battery reported for Number 30 Broad St, nearest unit please respond.”
The chatter continues for about five more seconds before the owner of the radio scanner mutes his scanner, apparently much too preoccupied with his coffee break. The woman with rose red hair is now seated at a barstool near the cashier counter chatting it up with Mrs. Dovest. The two were once childhood friends, but now they are subjected to the pretentious small talk that plagues our world.
“How’s business been Cynthia?”
“Slow. And for you?”
“Well haven’t you heard? Things have gotten complicated for us recently at work, with the media obsessing over politics and all.”
“That’s a damn shame.”
Perhaps it is my intense dislike for small talk in general, or perhaps it is my shock at the way those words moved off of the rose red-haired woman’s thin pink lips, but some otherworldly force moves me to get up from my secluded booth and approach the cashier counter. My stalking has escalated.
As I move closer, Mrs. Dovest stops chatting and moves back towards the register, sensing that a customer is approaching and there is money to be made. Because of my knowledge, the thought of spending money here makes me uneasy. I am unsure if the money will be used to stuff the panties of a stripper, or by Mr. Dovest as part of the payment for his “habit”. Regardless, I approach the counter.
Mrs. Dovest has been living up north for over twenty years now. I heard this from my mother when she used to frequent The Love Dove more often eight years ago, before she was hospitalized. Yet occasionally the southern twang escaped from Mrs. Dovest from her days living in a small town south of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Today was one of those days.
“And what can I get for you, Hun?”
I said nothing, opting instead to simply point up at the menu.
“Well come on darlin’, pointing will do you no good. What’s wrong? Cat’s got your tongue?”
If you have ever seen an infinitesimally small question trigger a chain reaction, then you can probably imagine how out of hand the events that follow can get. It’s like when a wife suspects her husband of cheating and asks him why there is a brand of lipstick she does not purchase in the household. If you cannot imagine this scenario, then describing it to you would do little to express its severity.
Nevertheless, the question Mrs. Dovest asks finally serves to sway the attention of the woman with rose red hair, who turns to look up from her phone to see who is chatting a few feet away from her. Upon making eye contact with me, her face freezes white with fear. The look of recognition on her face is enough to inspire an extra ounce of courage in me. As she looks across the room and attempts to get up and dash towards the nearest exit, her feet freeze at the sound of Mrs. Dovest’s scream. The entire café stops whatever they are doing and instead stare intently at me, my small frail hands holding a cold silver Beretta PX4. You can cut the silence in the room with a knife.
“There’s no reason to hurt anyone.”
“How did they get a gun?”
“Just put the gun down.”
The silence is broken by these empty messages as my eye contact with the rose red haired woman remains unbroken.
As sound and chaos ensue in the café, she says nothing. I say nothing and just stare.
Reality continues unbroken in this manner for over five minutes, until a large shout breaks the silence. My shock almost causes me to drop my handgun. It is the unmistakably gruff familiar voice of Mr. Dovest. Why was he here? It is Tuesday.
“What in the name of fucking . . . fuck . . . you. What the fuck . . . I thought . . . how did you . . . a gun . . . why. Aw, fuck!”
To the average observer these remarks make no sense. I am not the average observer.
“What the fuck do you want. Are you here for the pictures? Cause I can give you the pictures. Look, I’m really sorry for that uh . . . altercation we had.”
He gestures to the woman with rose red hair.
“Aren’t we sorry?”, he asks uneasily.
The woman with rose red hair nods. Her jaw frozen in fear.
It’s funny how things change. Over a month ago, the woman with rose red hair was holding a gun and my jaw was frozen in fear. She must have felt so powerful and so in control the night that she stood blocking the door to the outside of her apartment. She had stood there with one hand holding a pistol and the other holding a camera. I wondered if the camera she was holding served to distance herself from the things that she let go on in her bedroom, or if she just didn’t care.
A brief moment of silence is all I need to remember what happened. But I don’t like to remember. Actually, I hate it. The whole time it was happening, as the grunts behind me dissolved into another reality, I remembered when I first realized I liked stalking. It was at my 5th birthday party. We were playing hide and seek. The seeker is supposed to look for everybody hiding, but whenever I was the seeker, I only wanted to look for one person. My friend John always picked the best hiding spots. All of my other friends would hide above washing machines or inside closets. The first time I found John he was hidden in a crawl space under the basement stairs. The second time I found him he was underneath the car parked in my mother’s two-car garage. The third time I found him he was hidden in our neighbor’s house under her bed. She didn’t like that, but I sure did. I loved seeking and looking for somebody, knowing they didn’t want to be found or had tried hard to avoid detection. And John really liked hiding. The one time I asked John why he liked hiding so much, he confessed that it was because his babysitter liked to play sick games with him and he didn’t like them, so he would try to hide. I had no idea what John was talking about, until my mother made the mistake of dropping me off at the apartment of a trustworthy and upstanding member of the community. Who wouldn’t trust somebody with rose red hair?
“Put down the gun!”
The demand catches me off guard and yet I remain steady. I continue aiming my pistol at the woman with rose red hair.
The stalemate is broken by the sound of a fire alarm. Somebody has pulled it. In the chaos, people exit. One woman makes the mistake of yelling “fire” as she dashes for the door. I oblige. Three clicks and three bullets sink right into the skull of the red-haired woman. The shock hits me for a second, and I am so frozen that I do not notice Mr. Dovest running at me full speed, tackling me to the ground.
He wrestles the gun away from my frail hands with ease. He stands up, pointing the gun at my head. This is it. I am dead. It is over at last.
Yet instead of pulling the trigger, he moves the gun upwards towards his own head, and as Mrs. Dovest screams and runs in his direction, he pulls the trigger, slumping to the ground like a lifeless Build-A-Bear without its stuffing. I am shocked that he has pulled the trigger, but I’m not surprised. I still reckon it was one of the only good things Mr. Dovest ever did.
What happens next is a blur. Mrs. Dovest runs out of the store and the fire alarm continues to blare. I get lost in my own memories. I see images of me playing hide and seek with John before he moved, him hiding and me seeking. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even count. I would just look to see in what direction he moved in and I would follow him, without him noticing that I was following him instead of counting. It was in those moments that I realized that I liked stalking better than seeking.
Some people like kiddie porn. Other people like coffee. I like stalking.
Some people like killing.
I do not like killing.
Yet here I am standing in the middle of The Love Dove coffee shop, holding a Beretta pistol over two bodies. The sounds of a muted police scanner break into the silence.
“We have reports of a 187 at a coffee shop on the corner of Swarthmore Street and Miller Avenue. Multiple homicides. The suspect is reported to be a small female prepubescent child, with blonde hair, aged between 8-12. The child is reported to be highly unstable, nonreactive to speech, and armed and dangerous. Use extreme caution.”
“Sgt Alfonso, do you copy? How do we proceed? Sgt Alfonso?”
Sgt. Alfonso does not answer. Her red hair pressed into the ground now looks much less rose red, but instead appears much darker, like the red of the blood seeping from her skull unto the floor. As the sound of sirens drain out the silence, for the first time in months I feel something I have not been able to identify: peace.