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I Dared My Best Friend to Ruin My Life - He's Succeeding

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My name is Zander, and my best friend is trying to ruin my life. It started out very small, but has quickly grown out of control.

I'm currently sitting inside a church, using their WiFi to post this story and taking advantage of their air conditioning. I’m posting this story in case… Well in case he finds me and kills me soon. It's only a matter of time now, and I want someone to know what happened before I die.

Two years ago, my friend David and I were sitting on the couch at my house thoroughly bored. It wasn’t a temporary boredom either. It was a resounding boredom with life. We both worked full time at the local movie theater making minimum wage and cleaning up after idiots who couldn’t keep popcorn and soda in their mouths. We had graduated high school two years prior and had no plans to attend college.

Life looked bleak for us. College didn’t sound appealing, work was annoying, and the little free time we had was blown on video games and YouTube. We both still lived with our parents too, which made dating somewhat embarrassing. Looking back, I’m sure we were suffering from mild depression on top of everything else.

These life circumstances blended together to create the perfect storm for what I now have to call my reality.

As we sat on the couch at my parent’s house, channel surfing the TV, David asked me if I was bored with life. I responded in the positive, and he sighed.

“High school was so easy because we knew our purpose and our goals were set for us. Outline the english essay. Finish the math homework. Get decent grades. Pass the driving exam. Be home by curfew. Find a girlfriend. Now that we’re out of high school, there’s no structure. Our lives have become meaningless and we are just floating through space with no aim or purpose.”

“Would you go back to high school then?” I asked. He shook his head.

“In the moment, high school was annoying. It’s only after looking back that I see how much better it was than I realized.”

“What’s the solution, then?” I asked.

“Either go somewhere that has structure and can deliver what high school gave us, or create our own structure,” David replied.

“Well I don’t want to go to college or the military,” I said. “And I can’t think of anywhere else that provides the same structure. Guess I have to make my own, but I have no idea where to start.”

“The thing about high school was that it required a minimum effort. If you didn’t give that minimum effort, you would face the consequences. The consequences were bad enough that you and I would put effort into school. When high school ended, that minimum effort level decreased. Now our minimum effort is not enough to improve ourselves. Whatever structure we build has to have those consequences built in and a minimum effort that forces us to improve constantly.”

David was, and is, a very intellectual person. He thinks about everything, if you can’t already tell. I was pretty dumb compared to him, but I stuck around because he always had interesting things to say. This conversation definitely counted as interesting.

I won’t bore you with the entire conversation that we had, but it lasted an hour where we discussed how to build structure into our lives.

I want to emphasize here that boredom is dangerous. Well, it’s not dangerous by itself, but it can quickly lead to dangerous things. Boredom can lead to pain, accidental children, technology that disrupts a monopoly, and even death.

Our boredom led to a dare.

“I dare you to try and ruin my life,” David said.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It’s a way to build structure into my life. If I know that you are always trying to ruin my life and actively trying to make me fail, then I am driven to fight back and act on initiative.”

“But how could I ruin your life?” I asked.

“You could ruin anyone’s life if you gave it enough thought, planning, and action,” David said with a smirk. “I’m not going to give you any ideas. I just want you to try and ruin my life.”

I remember sitting back and thinking about what he meant. The first thoughts that came to mind were about tripping him occasionally, or hiding his toothbrush every time I went to his house. My young mind didn’t fully understand how serious David was being. His mind was running three tracks above mine, so I didn’t know what I was getting into when I said, “okay, I’ll try to ruin your life. But I dare you to do try and ruin my life as well.”

He smiled with a newfound enthusiasm, and I smiled back. I had hoped it would be a great way to relieve my boredom with life. David stood up and punched me in the leg as hard as he could. I shouted at him, mostly out of surprise. He just laughed.

“The dare starts now,” he said, grabbing his shoes. “We are no longer friends, we are nemeses.” He opened my front door and looked over his shoulder. “Good luck,” he said. “I hope you’ll work half as hard as I will.”

Once he left, I just sat there rubbing my sore thigh. Okay, I thought, if he wants a war, he’ll get a war.

That night, I had laid awake trying to think of ways to make his life harder for him. My ideas were all so childish and useless compared to what he would later throw at me. I’m too embarrassed to list my ideas from back then.

I wish I could say I remembered the day David turned against me for real. But it was so subtle that I didn’t notice right away. To my face, David acted completely normal.

While we were at work, I would sprinkle popcorn over a section he had just cleaned and point it out to him. He would just laugh, and say, “is that supposed to ruin my life?” Then he would clean it up. I expected him to do the same to me, but he didn't. His lack of visible retaliation made me bored again so I stopped. Looking back, I suspect that behind my back he was sabotaging my image with our other co-workers and our boss.

Out of the blue, my boss called me into his office and told me that I was fired because I wasn’t doing a good enough job. David acted sorry i was leaving and we promised to hang out again soon.

I left, thinking I could make this something good and get a real job. That dream died, and I ended up at McDonald’s instead.

After I had been at McDonald’s for a month or so, my parents confronted me. They asked me if I had been stealing cash from their wallets. I had never stolen a cent from them, and told them so. They backed off, but only for a week until my mom’s debit card went missing.

They confronted me again, this time very angry. They accused me of withdrawing several hundred dollars using my mom’s debit card. I have no siblings, so it wouldn't have been anyone else in the house. It turned into a screaming match and they demanded that I move out as quickly as possible. With my small cache of savings, I found an apartment near the local community college that housed college students. The rent was affordable enough for me, so I moved out within the month.

I moved in and became instant friends with two of my roommates, Clark and Ivan. Our other roommate, Isaac, kept to himself and stayed in his room playing video games 24/7. Life got good again because I hung out with Clark and Ivan frequently.

David and I had stopped hanging out after I was fired from the movie theater. I hadn’t forgotten about him, but I had forgotten about the dare. Every once in a while, I would message him on Facebook or shoot him a text to ask if he wanted to hang out, but my messages were always ignored. Eventually I gave up.

Within six months, I had a great life going. I was dating a girl named Katie, I had been promoted to crew trainer at McDonald’s, which paid better, and my bank account was slowly growing.

I only recognize this as David’s doing when I look back, but an obscene amount of junk mail showed up with my name on it every single day. Magazines, credit card offers, vacation ads, and even physical letters from real people who claimed to be excited to be my new penpal. I sorted through them every day trying to find some pattern. Clark and Ivan thought it was hilarious. When I came home late from work, they would sometimes toss the junk mail in the air like confetti as I walked through the door, cheering that the Mail King was home.

One day, I remember feeling sick of getting all this junk mail and deciding to sit down, call every subscription to cancel. I recruited Clark and Ivan to help me, and we sat down with snacks one afternoon and started to crank through phone calls.

In a few days, the tide of junk mail subsided and we celebrated our efforts. That only lasted a week.

The next week, it started coming back in full force. There was twice as much as before, and even some pornorgraphic magazines in the mix. Not only did my physical junk mail increase, but my email became unnavigable through all the new spam messages. Google moved a lot of it to the spam filter, but there were still hundreds of emails that made it through. My email had been subscribed to websites I’d never even heard of.

Clark and Ivan were blown away by the new tide of junk mail. The event was dubbed “Return of the Junk” and became a great ice breaker for Clark and Ivan to introduce me to other people at parties.

One day I was browsing Facebook’s “People You May Know” section when I came across someone’s profile that had my picture, but a different name. The account was open for anyone to view and had a lot of porn posts, status updates full of swearing, and praises to Hitler. I frowned when I clicked on their pictures. Most of the pictures were the same ones from my Facebook account, but there were some pictures of me that weren’t on my account or anywhere else online. Keep in mind, I didn’t remember my dare to David, so I was feeling pretty creeped out.

I hit the report button and let Facebook know that the account was a fake and went on my way.

I think three months or so later is when more stuff started to happen. Katie and I are getting very serious and discuss moving in together. The junk mail still rolls in and I’ve started to just throw it away. Ivan has moved out to go to an actual university, so a new roommate Jackson has moved in. Clark and I attempted to befriend Jackson, but he’s similar to Isaac and locked himself in his room most of the time.

A new game became available for pre-order, so I submitted my email to reserve a copy. When I tried to log into my email to make sure the reserve code was there, I couldn’t log in. I hit “Forgot Password” and it asked if I wanted to use my phone number to reset the password. I pressed yes and waited for my phone to light up. It never did. I pressed the button three more times, but no text ever came. I tried old passwords I used to use, but none of them worked. I frowned, but eventually just walked away from my computer. I’d try again a different day.

I sat down on the couch and pulled up Facebook on my phone. A popup appeared. “You’ve been signed out,” it said. Then it jumped to the login screen. I thought I’d hit the logout button on accident, so I just typed in my email and password. It didn’t work. I tried again, but it still told me the password was incorrect.

My phone buzzed in my hand. Katie was calling me. I answered it and immediately became concerned. She was sobbing.

“Katie?” I said.

“You coward,” she spat. “You don’t get to just Facebook me that shit, no you have to talk to me and tell me with your voice.”

“Katie, what are you talking about?” I asked.

“Don’t play stupid, asshole. Say it.”

“Say… what?”

“You Facebook me and say we are through, but when I call, you deny everything? What the hell are you trying to pull, Zander?” Katie hissed.

“Katie, my Facebook got hacked! I was literally just trying to log in when you called. Are you at home? I’m coming over. We are not done, we are far from done, sweetheart.”

It took me some time to convince Katie that it hadn’t been me, but she relented when I showed her that I couldn’t log in. I googled how to get my Facebook account back and contacted their helpcenter. Thankfully, they were able to get me back into my account. Lots of links to porn sites had been posted all over my page by whoever jacked my account, so I spent time deleting all of those. I also spent time answering family members who asked about the “strange content” I had been posting. Awkward.

Katie also found out through her feeds that my Twitter and Instagram had been hacked. The accounts were posting hundreds of crude messages and pictures. Those two sites took a little more effort, but eventually I regained control over those too. Fixing my email took a couple of days, but I got access again.

Not wanting to repeat the experience, I made my passwords into really long strings of numbers, letters and symbols. Each account had a different password. For anyone who has done this, you know how impossible it would be to memorize your passwords. I wrote them down on a sheet of paper and put it in my dresser drawer. I didn’t intend to get hacked again.

I'm telling you where I put the paper so you'll know how freaked out I was when Facebook signed me out again the next week. I checked my other accounts. Locked out again. I shot Katie a text to warn her and then called the Facebook help center again. They gave me access to Facebook and gave me the same warning about making a long password.

When I told them the type of precautions I had taken last time, they suggested checking my computer for viruses in case there was a keyloggers collecting all the information I typed.

I called a computer repair center and asked what I needed to do to get my computer scanned. They asked me to bring it down and they'd check it out.

I had a desktop, so ‘bringing it down’ required a lot of unplugging. When I got down behind the computer to unplug everything, I found a tiny USB stick that I'd never seen before. I frowned and tried to locate its contents on the computer. The computer said no USB was attached.

The computer repair guy confirmed that the USB drive was a keylogger. He asked if my computer had ever been anywhere that anyone could walk up and use it. I told him no and he said he had no idea how it could have gotten there.

He didn't charge me anything, just warned me to keep an eye on my computer.

I changed all my passwords again, going through the motions to get my accounts back.

A few days later, I received three, yes THREE credit card bills in the mail. I still had the habit of skimming through the junk mail in case there ever was anything super important. I'm glad I did, because I might never have found out about the credit cards that were registered in my name.

I called the credit card companies to inform them that they were mistaken. I had never signed up for a credit card. My parents had warned me about them so often that I'd been deterred from ever getting one. Before you comment and tell me I need them to build my credit, yes I know that now.

A quick google search told me what to do next. I called Equifax, which is a company that calculates your credit score and tells creditors that it's okay for you to open a credit account. I placed a 90-day fraud alert on my credit. They said they would call me if anyone tried to open a credit account in my name.

The dude at Equifax was kind enough to tell me what I needed to do next. He asked me to go online and view my credit report. If I saw any accounts I didn't recognize, I was to write them down and fill out a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) explaining the situation. Once I had that submitted, I was to file a copy of it with the police and create a police report. Then I had to take those two reports and call each of the credit companies that had issued credit to my identity and start the dispute process. I instantly felt very discouraged at the amount of effort this would require. It felt utterly insane to be required to follow all these steps just because I was the victim of identity theft. God damn.

Clark was horrified at what had happened and looked at his credit score. He was relieved when it came back clean. I made Katie check hers too just in case. Also clean.

I'll take a minute to tell everyone reading that you are entitled by law to one free credit report per year from each of the three credit score companies. That means you can and should check your credit three times a year. Clark and I set reminders on our phones to check the scores again in 4 months. I asked Katie to do the same.

When I first found out about the accounts, I had called my parents to ask if they had opened any accounts in my name. If they had, I'd at least know who the culprit was. They told me they hadn't opened any accounts, and I warned them about my problems. They promised to check their credit score.

Two weeks after I had called them, my dad called. They found fifteen fraudulent accounts between the two of them. What the hell? I told him the steps he needed to take, and he was grateful for my help and warning.

I know this is boring to read, but I want you to realize how insanely painful it was to fix all of this shit. Seriously, watch your credit reports and nip identity theft in the bud before it happens to you.

I had requested detailed bills from the credit card companies that had issued the fraudulent accounts, and they mailed them to me. The bills were full of online purchases. The accounts had been opened almost a year ago, and in that time they thief had spent $62,000 between all the fraudulent accounts. I was pretty upset that in a full year, I had only just found any credit card bills in the mail. I must have been tossing them with the mountains of junk mail. Now I know that the masses of junk mail were deliberate and calculated so the bills would blend in and hopefully get thrown away

The first few transactions were from stores like Target, Walmart, etc. But the further down I went, the less I recognized. One word stuck out to me: bitcoin. I had learned a little about it from my Facebook feed as I had some friends from high school who touted it as the next real currency. According to the credit card statements, several thousand dollars had been exchanged into bitcoin.

I started really researching bitcoin and trying to figure out what it was and why an identity thief would want it. To make the explanation short, bitcoin allowed my thief to make completely anonymous purchases online. It was as if he'd gone to an ATM and drained all the credit cards into cash. I didn't foresee the credit card companies ever getting their money back.

David now had a hell of alot of cash he could use to ruin my life. I didn't know it was him at the time, obviously, but now I do.

Guys, identity theft is a serious crime and is very damaging to everyone in the economy. And while the theft had been bad, my life was about to get a whole lot worse.

That’s all I have time to write for now. I have to go and get some serious shit taken care of. I'll write again as soon as I can.

My name is Zander, and my best friend is trying to ruin my life.

Part 2

Hello again, everyone.

I’ve had more time to write than yesterday. Sorry about the length. I’m trying to catch up to the present as quickly as possible but also include enough detail so you can see how thorough David was being.

I’ll resume where I left off.

While I was still trying to resolve the credit disputes with those companies, my car's windows started getting smashed. The first time, it was parked on the street in front of my apartment. I woke up one morning to find the driver's window smashed and my car raided. My car was just a crappy Honda Civic, and I didn’t ever keep anything expensive in there, but they snatched my stereo, which was shitty anyway, and all the spare change in the car. Desperate much?

I got my window repaired that day and decided to set aside some cash to buy a really nice stereo now that I had an excuse.

The next morning, the same window was smashed again. Again, I had parked it in front of my apartment. I got that repaired reluctantly, and started to park in the underground parking for the apartment complex. See, no one likes the underground parking because the lines are painted too close so it's not uncommon for your car to get scratched up down there. I decided it was better than a smashed window, so I fought for a spot that evening.

I know you’re going to ask why I didn’t call the police. Mistakes, that’s why. We all make them. You have the wisdom that comes with knowing the whole story. I didn’t.

Glass was all over around my car when I went down the next morning. It wasn't just the driver's window that was damaged. The front windshield and back windshield were deeply cracked. I spent some time looking at every car in the garage. No one else had so much as a scratch on their windows. What the hell? If some random asshole was out breaking windows, he was targeting me.

I noticed the note after I'd gotten into the car. It was a sticky note folded up and slipped into the ignition key hole. I opened it. "You have to increase your minimum required effort." It said. The phrasing was intentional. David WANTED me to know it was him. And when I saw that phrase, I remembered our conversation.

That. Fucker.

I went into a total rage and drove out of the parking lot, trying my best to drive with the cracked windshield. I still remembered how to get to David's house, and I ran a red light or two to get there.

Parking in front of his house, I slammed the door shut and marched to the front door. I held the doorbell for much longer than necessary. I tried to breathe and remain calm. David won't help me if I show up shouting and yelling.

His mom answered after a few minutes. David's parents had held off on having a child until they were much older. As a result, David's mom was already 75 even though David was only 23.

"Hello?" She said, opening the door. Then she saw who it was. "Oh, Zander! How nice of you to come over! I haven't seen you in weeks!"

"Yeah, it's been... well it's been almost a year," I sighed. "Mrs. K, is David home?"

"No, sorry dear. He's at work right now."

"Oh, okay I'll go and catch him at the theater," I said, backpedalling towards my car.

"No, no, he doesn't work there anymore."

"He got fired?" I asked.

"No, he quit. Not long after you did. He became a security guard somewhere, he never mentioned where."

"I'll call him then," I said.

"He dropped his phone a few weeks ago and got a new one," she said. "Let me give you the new number." She walked back inside for a minute, and I waited on the porch. She came back with her old flip phone and opened it.

"Do you mind?" She asked. "My arthritis makes it hard to use this phone."

I went to her contacts, found David's number, entered it into mine, and handed the phone back.

"Thanks, Mrs. K," I said. Even if David was being an asshole, I had always liked his mom.

"Any time," she said with a smile and closed the door.

I called David immediately, but only got a voicemail.

"Hi David, it's Zander. I just spoke with your mom and she didn't know where you were so she gave me your number. Please call me, man. I think you know why," I said to his voicemail. I figured that being polite was the best way to get him to fix everything.

In the middle of work that day, my phone buzzed. Hoping it was David, I stepped outside and answered. It was Clark.

"Zander, have you been home today since you left?"

"No, why?"

"We've been robbed!"

"...What?"

"Someone broke in and stole a ton of stuff. Your computer is missing, our tv is gone, all kinds of shit."

"Son of a bitch," I said. "Did you call the police?"

"Yes, they're on their way."

"Don't touch anything, okay?" I suggested, remembering all the episodes of CSI that I'd binged on. "We might be able to get fingerprints. I think I know who it is."

"Who?"

"An ex-friend. I'll tell you when I get home. I'm leaving soon."

I told the manager that my apartment had been broken into, and he let me go home. I drove home with my still broken windshields, praying I didn't get pulled over for it.

When I got to the apartment, the police were already there. I walked to the landing where a cop was interviewing Clark, and another was looking through the apartment.

The cop turned to face me. "Are you one of the roommates?" He asked.

"This is Zander," Clark said.

"My partner is looking through the apartment now. A tech is going to come out and dust for prints. We're going to need you to make an inventory of everything that was stolen and bring it to the station once the tech is done."

"I have a suspect," I said. The cop raised his eyebrows. "His name is David King. He used to be a really good friend of mine, but recently I've suspected that he's doing all kinds of shit to me. I think he's stolen my identity and my parent's identity, damaged my vehicle, and now broken into my house." Clark shot me a questioning look.

"Why do you think he's doing all this?" The officer asked.

"I found this in my car's ignition this morning with the windows smashed," I said, handing him the folded sticky note out of my pocket. He read it.

"Why do you think he wrote this?" He asked.

"We had a conversation about a year ago where we were talking about the minimum requirements for success and how school made our lives easier because it had consequences if we didn't make a minimal effort," I explained. It looked like the idea went right over the cop's head.

"We'll test this for prints too," was all he said, pulling an evidence bag from his belt and putting the note inside. "Come down to the station with your inventory and be ready to make a formal statement about your friend." I agreed to do so.

At that moment, the partner came outside with nothing to report. The tech arrived and started dusting. We waited patiently, eager to see what was missing.

"You really should lock your bedroom doors," the partner said. "Two of your roommate's doors are locked, so I doubt anything was stolen from them. You should make sure they check their rooms for anything that's missing when they get home."

We agreed to ask them, the tech finished up and told us we'd know in a few days what prints he was able to find.

The house seemed bare. Only the largest couch out of three was left in the living room. The tv, which had been a 65" plasma, was gone. Food was missing from the pantry, and even the contents of the fridge were dumped on the floor. Silverware was scattered around the kitchen floor and counters.

"Where the hell is Isaac or Jackson?!" Clark yelled angrily. "They're always home!"

"We should call them," I said.

"I don't have their numbers," Clark replied.

"Well, neither do I," I said, walking to my bedroom. It was stripped bare of anything worthwhile.

My computer, mouse, keyboard, computer chair, boxes of random knick knacks, bicycle were all missing. My dresser drawers were laying everywhere, my closet was clearly raided, and my bed covers had been tossed around the room.

I heard bouts of loud cursing from Clark as he inspected his room. "HE TOOK MY GODDAMN XBOX THAT SON OF A BITCH."

Feeling shocked, defeated, and numb, I sat on the bed. I called Katie to tell her what'd happened. No answer. I shot her a text, "My house got robbed," and stared at the wall for a while, thinking.

David King had been in my house. He'd stolen my identity, my public image, and now my things.

It was time to step up my game. No, not my game. My life. Time to stop floating through life and start beating the minimum required effort.

During the rest of that day, we learned a lot about plumbing. David had loosened every pipe he could find in the house. Clark made the discovery when our toilet unleashed a tsunami when he flushed. We spent hours cleaning that up. To fix all the pipes, we had to go out and buy tools because neither of us had any at the house. When my card was declined, Clark stepped in and paid.

My declined card worried me. Clark and I went to the library, and I tried to log into my online banking site. Locked out. Shit. I didn't even bother retrying my password.

We raced to the bank before they closed, and I breathlessly approached the teller.

"I need... to freeze my... account," I breathed.

"What's your account number?" The teller apparently named Shauntelle asked.

I told her my account number from memory. She opened it on her computer.

"Drivers license, please."

I handed her my card. She typed my drivers license number into her computer to verify my identity, then handed it back to me.

"Looks like your account is at zero," she said. "You can only freeze the account if there's money."

"I've been robbed!" I shouted, feeling extremely angry now.

"You moved all of your money to your debit card via our online app, and then withdrew it all in cash from an ATM this afternoon."

"No, it wasn't me!" I said. "I've been hacked!"

"If you'd like to report fraudulent transactions, I can fill that out for you right here."

"Yes. Fine. Do it." I said abruptly. Clark watched me with worry a chair by the door.

"When did you start to notice the fraudulent activity?" She asked.

"Today, but it could have started any time over the last year," I replied. She raised her eyebrows in a way she thought I couldn't see and started typing.

After a few minutes, she looked up at me.

"Okay, I've filled out the report and submitted it. You should hear back from our fraud department soon."

"What about the ATM cameras?" I said.

"I don't have access to those, you'll have to file a police report," she said.

"Okay, I'll do that." Then Clark and I went back to the car and drove to the apartment. We would have gone to the police department right away, but the apartment was still flooding in places.

We spent a few hours finding leaky pipes and tightening them. It took hours because we looked everything up before we did it to be sure we were doing it right.

Clark inspecting the pipes under the kitchen sink while I sat at the table and started my inventory for the police. It was already 9pm, so we were going to take it in the morning. Our local station wasn’t open 24 hours a day. We had knocked on Jackson and Isaac’s doors, but got no answer. Either they weren’t home, or they were ignoring us.

"I'm really sorry about all the fraud going on," Clark said as he tightened a pipe. "You said you think you know who it is? Who's David King?"

"David used to be a friend about a year ago," I said. I told him about the dares and the conversation that led up to it.

"You dared each other to ruin each other's lives, and then he took it more than seriously?" Clark asked, incredulous.

"Apparently," I sighed.

"So you're not going to hold up your end of the deal?" Clark said.

"My end?"

"He dared you first, man. And you haven't even tried!"

"Well... no, I guess not."

"Then let's think of something to really destroy his life!" Clark pulled himself out from under the sink and washed the grease off his hands.

"Prison would do it," I suggested. "If I can nail him for identity theft, that'll solve the problem."

"True," Clark said. "But we need to show him that you aren't going to just lay down and take it. I have an idea. It’s not going to ruin his life, but it’ll make him realize that you’re going to fight back."

Clark took me in his car to Home Depot. We bought two cans of black spray paint and Clark paid in cash.

"Okay, where does this dumbass live?" Clark asked when we were back in the car.

"Clark, his mom is great. I don't think I can spray her house," I replied.

"His mom?!" Clark laughed hysterically. "Some guy that still lives with his mom is terrorizing you?!"

"Okay, okay, Jesus," I said. I gave him the address, and he took off.

We drove past the house to see if any lights were on. It was dark. Even the porch lights were off. We parked three blocks away from the house and started walking.

"What's the plan?" I uttered.

"Spray 'THIEF' on the front of the house," Clark whispered with a smile. “That ought to get the neighbor’s talking.”

When we were next to the neighbor's house, we ducked behind a fence and surveyed the neighborhood. All was quiet. No movement, no noise, no people.

We stayed low and silently dashed to the front of the house. I sprayed the "F", Clark sprayed the "T" and we worked towards each other. It barely took three seconds. We stepped back for half a second and examined our handiwork. The letters were three feet tall, easily visible from the road. Perfect.

We turned and started to run towards the car. Then the door to the house opened. I glanced over my shoulder.

David Fucking King.

"Oh shit," I hissed. Clark heard me and we sprinted full-on towards the car. David tore down the sidewalk after us. Clark looked behind as well.

"Oh God, oh God, oh God," Clark chanted with each step. He actually looked worried.

As we approached the car, Clark had a realization.

"Just keep going," he tried to whisper even though he was out of breath. "I locked the door, it'll take too long to unlock. And he'll know my license plate." Clark didn't have automatic locks, he had to use the key manually. I agreed with his logic and we ran past the car as if it were just another vehicle.

I looked back, and David was gaining on us. It was too dark to see his expression. Hell, I didn’t even know if he recognized me.

"Split up," I cried, turning right into someone's front yard. Clark kept going straight.

When I reached the white, plastic fence that led along the back of their property, I glanced backwards. David had followed me and ignored Clark.

I scrambled up the slippery fence and dropped on the other side. I had landed in someone else's back yard. I started running toward their front yard. A motion-detecting light on the wall went off, blinding me. I looked behind me again to watch David scale the fence in half a second. When the HELL had he learned how to do that?!

I rounded the corner of the house and smashed right into a patio table and chairs. The chairs clattered down and the table tipped over while my body folded around it. My heart was pounding as I untangled myself.

That’s when David grabbed the back of my neck and pushed me down, my face against the edge of the table.

Part 3

Hello again everyone

So many positive replies! Thank you, I haven't smiled in months, and you're definitely all making my days easier. I love how almost every notification has given me a count down every couple hours: "!RemindMe 8 hours." Thank you for making me laugh, seriously. I needed it. I had a close call and David almost found me today. I caught a bus out of town, which is where I wrote this.

Now we continue.

"Hello Zander," he growled. "Out for a walk?"

"Fuck you," I spat, my cheek jammed against the table edge.

"Why so hostile?"

"You know why, jackass!"

"Not so loud. We're having a nice, quiet conversation."

I struggled to push my head off the table, but he was so much stronger than me.

"Stop struggling and listen. I want to clarify the rules of the game, since you've finally caught on that we're playing."

"This isn't a game! You ruined my credit, stole my money, hacked my accounts, and stole my shit! I'm going to kill you!"

"But I'm not going to kill you. That's the rule. I will not kill you, Zander. That would put an end to your ruined life, and that's not the goal. Now, you haven't put any effort into ruining MY life. Why not?"

"Because I'm not a sick psychopath," I hissed.

"Clearly not," he said coolly. "But this is boring for me. I'm doing all the work making you fight for life, while you're doing nothing to improve me. Not that I haven't learned anything, but it would be more fun if you'd fight back. I'll even let Clark help you. But I think you need motivation."

"You think I need motivation to hurt you? As if."

"Yes, you do need it. Because despite everything that's happened to you, your only attempt to fight back was pathetic. I need you to up your game and fight harder. So, that's where some motivation kicks in."

He reached his left hand into his pants pocket and pulled out a smartphone. He tapped on it a few times before holding it up to his ear.

"It's me," he said when the other line picked up. "Put her on." Then he held the phone to my ear. Someone was crying.

"Say hello," a gruff voice said.

"H-hello?" Katie. Jesus Christ, he'd kidnapped Katie.

"YOU MOTHER FUCKER!" I yelled.

"Easy on the language, Zander," David smiled, talking as if he'd asked me to eat my vegetables.

"Katie, where are you?" I said desperately into the phone. David took the phone away and hung up, sticking it back in his pocket.

"Do you understand the rules now, Zander? Are you motivated?"

"I'm going to kill you, you son of a bitch. You'll burn in hell!"

"Now, now, this isn't a theological discussion," David tutted. "You and Clark do your best to ruin my life. Do whatever you want. But if you kill me, I kill Katie."

"Can't kill her if you're dead," I growled.

"No, but my friend will. It's amazing the kind of people you can meet online. He's just as excited to play as I am. Do you have any questions before the game really starts?"

"What the hell happened to you?" I asked. "We were best friends!"

"Things change," he said. "I'd been dreaming of this game for years now. You were my only real friend I could do this with. One day I decided to just... go for it."

"You've ruined your own life by trying to ruin mine," I spat. "Once you're convicted of identity theft and kidnapping, your life is over."

"That's part of the game. Can't ruin me if you can't convict me. I've been preparing for years," he grinned. His eyes were dark and menacing.

"Don't you think that's unfair to me? How am I supposed to put in a good effort if you've been preparing for years?"

"I'll consider giving you some advice," he admitted, looking thoughtful. "In the meantime, do your best. And tell Clark to play along because I'll have some motivation for him too."

The sound of scrambling on the back fence alerted us to someone's presence. I shouted for help, and David slapped me, but lightly. I tried to see who it was from my limited movement. Clark's face appeared over the fence.

"That's my cue to leave," David said with a smile. "It's been good catching up with you, Zander."

Clark shot across the yard, yelling for David to piss off. David just stood there, looking at me and... waiting. That's when Clark caught up and punched him square in the face. David flew to the ground, releasing my head. I stood up and rubbed my sore face. David started to get up, but Clark kicked him in the side.

"Stay down!" He shouted.

A light went on in the house behind us. We both turned to look. I had the thought to hold David here until the police arrived. When we turned back around, David was halfway down the street. Clark started to take off, but I grabbed his arm.

"Stop, let him go," I said in defeat. "I have something to tell you."

We made a quiet decision to avoid the cops tonight. We wanted to file a report with them on our terms, not having to explain what we were doing trespassing in the middle of the night. We jogged back to his car and went home.

We sat on the living room couch as I told Clark about David's conversation. Clark was staring dumbfounded at me.

"I thought you said he used to be a friend?" He said.

"He did."

"And he never acted like this?"

"No, not to me."

"This is insane," Clark said, standing from the couch. "He's kidnapped Katie just so you'll try to ruin his life and follow along with some stupid dare? Is he crazy? He's going to be caught!"

"Let's hope so," I said. "But we should start planning. I'm not taking any chances while he has Katie."

"Okay, man. I want nothing to do with this at all, but I also want to help you. If it was anyone else, I'd nope the fuck out."

"Then let's get started," I said.

I don't know how much detail I want to put here because it'll likely get slow and boring for you. We stayed up all night long mapping out events, people, weaknesses, strengths, everything we could think of. We filled half a notebook with all our notes.

These were the weaknesses we could come up with that we could potentially use against David:

  • Boredom with life - so we could make the game too boring to continue.
  • His mom - if she knew what was going on, she might be able to get him to stop. I know some of you commented that we should kidnap Mrs. K and use her, but we were still very green and had no desire to do the kind of shit David was using.
  • Work - get him fired and make sure no one would hire him again.
  • Online accounts - do the same things to him that he'd done to me.
  • Police - if we could come up with hard evidence to get him convicted, the problem would be solved.
  • Katie - since he had kidnapped Katie, the police would definately get involved. I could easily report my suspicions about David and they'd search him for the tiniest evidence.

Then we looked at his strengths and things to look out for:

  • Prepared - he obviously had a timeline he was following and knew what he was doing.
  • Time - the junk mail and credit fraud incidents had all began long before I felt the effects. This meant that there could be other traps David had set up that would go off like a time bomb sometime in the future.
  • Physical body - it was clear from tonight that he'd been working out a ton and practicing. Possibly training for his job as a security guard.
  • Money - he had a lot of money now from what he stole from me and used fraud to receive.
  • Friends - if he'd made a friend who was willing to get involved in a kidnapping, then there were two or possibly more psychopaths to worry about now.
  • Knowledge - he knew how to use fraud without being caught (yet) and hack computers or at least hire someone to do it for him. We had no idea what other dangerous knowledge he might have, so we made a list of things he could know that we should learn how to counter. I won't list it here because it was pretty long.
  • Willingness to break the law - it was clear that the law was not part of the rules of the game for him. He was either unafraid to be caught, or confident that he never would be.

After we looked at David, we looked at ourselves. First, our weaknesses:

  • Knowledge - we didn't have nearly the amount of knowledge David had. Not just knowledge about how to do things like fix a pipe, but also knowledge about David: who is friends were, where he worked, who he talked to, etc. We'd have to start learning like crazy to try and catch up.
  • Money - I had no money left. Clark was limited because he'd just spent a ton on that plasma tv that was just stolen.
  • Home and car - David knew where we lived. We planned to sell our lease ASAP. He also knew our cars, but there was nothing we could do about that until we moved and had some money to buy a junker car we could use when necessary. No matter where we moved, if he could find our car, he could follow us home.
  • Katie - if David decided to change the rules and use Katie as motivation, we might have to rethink everything.
  • Fear - Clark and I knew that deep down David terrified us MORE than he angered us. I would have rather walked away than exact revenge. We were also afraid and unwilling to do a lot of the things David had already done.

These were our strengths:

  • Law - the law was on our side so long as we kept things legal.
  • Clark's Credit - so far, David hadn't targeted Clark like he'd targeted me, so we could take precautionary measures to protect him.
  • Jobs - we had jobs and could therefore earn more money. Unless David found a way to get us fired from them. We needed to come up with a way to protect our jobs from David.
  • FTC, Police Force, Government - these government bodies with all their vast resources, were working for us on my identity theft. We thought it was likely that they'd be able to link David to my identity theft.

Looking at all the strengths and weaknesses of both parties side-by-side, it looked like an even match-up on paper. But just thinking about trying to fight David made us feel like we were up against an impossible enemy.

We sat down to eat breakfast and continued talking over what we would do. Both of us called in sick to work so we could start preparing.

"Alright, I posted our leases up for sale on Craigslist," I said, putting my phone down. Clark was sniffing the air with a confused expression. He leaned over and smelled his cereal.

"Does this smell bad to you?" He asked. I sniffed.

"Smells like cereal to me," I said.

"Huh. Smells bad to me." He dumped the cereal in the sink.

Clark pulled out his phone and called Equifax, letting them know that he wanted a freeze on his credit for 90 days. When those 90 days were up, he would call again and again until this matter was resolved to protect his credit. His credit card with a $3,000 limit was still accessible to us, but no new credit could be applied for.

He then went on every account he had online and changed every password to be random gibberish. He signed up for an online password manager and put his passwords in there. The password manager worked by only storing an encrypted file on their server. He would download his encrypted file from the password manager website, read or write to the file, re-encrypt it, and then send it back to the server. The server only held the encrypted file, no passwords. Even if this company got hacked, the hackers would only have a bunch of useless, encrypted files. They could crack the files with time, sure, but it was the best we could do.

The only account he didn't put into the password manager was his bank account information. He wrote down half of the username on one small scrap of paper, and the other half on another. He did the same with the password. He intended to hide them in safe places around town. If David got ahold of Clark's bank information, we were dead in the water.

While he did that, I finished both of our inventory's to hand over to the police as soon as they opened for the day. Once the station opened, we were going to head over, hand in our inventories, file a police report for the burglary, and recommend David as a possible suspect. I also planned to point them to my identity theft police report and state that I suspected David to be guilty of that as well.

Once we had the police report, we would go to our landlord and request for the locks to be changed, using the police report as evidence of the breakin. The tech had told us that the door had been opened regularly and not forced. That meant David had somehow made a copy of our key.

As it got close to 9 AM, we got into Clark's car and drove around town. He got out at four locations and hid his scraps of paper somewhere. He knew it had to be somewhere people didn't touch for months at a time and wouldn't be damaged or moved by sprinklers, storms, etc. I don't know where he hid them, but he assured me they were safe.

After they were hidden, we drove to the police station to file our report.

We waited patiently for an officer to see us. Once we were called over, we took a seat and told him about the break in and that a police report had been started and we were now turning in an inventory of our stolen things.

"We have a suspect for the burglary," I said at last.

"Okay, who?" He asked.

"His name is David King. He used to be a friend of mine, but not anymore."

"What happened?" He asked, writing the name down.

"Recently, I had my identity stolen," I said. "I suspect he was also behind that, so if he stole my identity, it's likely that he broke in too. He hates me."

"Okay, but what actually happened that made you not be friends anymore?"

I hesitated. I didn't know how to explain the situation. If anyone can think of a better way to explain the situation to a cop, let me know. I only said, "we had a major fight and he threatened to ruin my life."

"When was this fight?"

"About a year ago."

"And you think he's just now stealing your identity and breaking into your home..." the cop said dubiously. "Were you friends with him?" He asked, gesturing to Clark.

"No, I'm his roommate," he replied, pointing to me.

"Okay, boys," the officer sighed, scooting forward. "Thank you for the tip and your inventories. We'll investigate this just like any other crime and give it our best effort. Can I get copies of your drivers licenses and phone numbers so I can contact you if I have questions?"

We handed him our licenses and wrote down our phone numbers in the file.

"I'll be right back," he said, taking the licenses to make copies.

We looked at each other for a minute, taking a deep breath.

"He doesn't believe us," I said in resignation.

"We'll find evidence," he encouraged me.

Five minutes passed. Then ten. Then the officer came back, two others at his side.

"Clark Ulysses?" He asked.

"Yes?" Clark said, confused.

"You're under arrest for vandalism and trespassing on private property."

The officers flanked him and pulled him to his feet. I stared at the cops in bewilderment. Clark's eyes were wide.

"When I went to copy your license," the cop said, holding it up. "I checked it against our records. Last night, someone called in a report that you'd been to their home and sprayed "THIEF" on their house and then attacked him when he came out to stop you."

My mouth dropped open. Son of a bitch.

"David King, the one you just recommended as a suspect, was the one who called it in. Seems to me like you're trying to discredit him before he reported you. Guess he beat you to it. Read him his rights," he said to the other officers.

"Wait," I said, standing up. "Hold on, I was there too, it wasn't just him!" Clark shook his head at me ever so slightly. No! I wasn't going to let him take the fall for this!

"Mr. King explicitly stated that there was only one vandal and that he watched Mr. Ulysses sneak up to the house and spray it by himself. I know you're trying to protect your friend, but don't throw your life away, kid."

One of the officers started reading Clark his Miranda Rights while they cuffed him and walked him toward the door leading to inmate processing.

"Call my mom for bail! I'll be out soon!" Clark shouted behind him. "Don't let him win!"

Part 4

Hi everyone,

I've been exploring today. New city, new layouts to learn. I'm getting good at memorizing cities. Thank you all for your support and suggestions. Once again, these are all past events. But I am taking your ideas into consideration for how to fight back here, in the present. A few of you have offered to help in other ways, and I appreciate the offers, but this is my fight. I've ruined so many other lives by involving other people. No, David is mine to ruin, even if I die trying.

Also, I've looked back over it and realized I forgot something, but now I've forgotten what it was. So forgive me if I make a correction in the next part.

Another thing, I try to talk to as many people as I can in the comments unless my reply will have to contain spoilers. But 'live' events have forced me to limit that interaction because of time and the sheer number of you. Forgive me.

Now I'll continue.

I called Clark's mom right away. I had their home phone number because last Christmas, Clark invited me to his house for Christmas dinner since my parents and I were still fighting pretty harshly. He'd already gone home while I had to work, so he gave me the phone number in case I got lost and he didn't answer his cell.

She was devastated and asked me a million questions. It was very, VERY uncomfortable. She agreed to drive down that day and post bail for him. She lived a few hours away, so she said she'd be here at around 5 pm. The county we were in didn't allow online payments via credit card: cash only, so she had to physically drive down.

In the middle of the phone call, I missed a call from a number that wasn't in my contacts. I called back, and they answered immediately.

"Hi, I missed a call from this number?"

"Hi, is this Zander?"

"Yeah... who's this?"

"Zander, I'm Katie's mom. Your parents gave me your number."

Shit.

"Hi, can't talk now I'm in a rush and I--"

She cut me off. "Have you heard from Katie? She didn't come home last night. Your mom gave me your number. Please tell me she's with you."

"She's not," I said. "I'm not sure where she is. I have to go--I'll call you back."

I hung up the phone. I didn't want to talk to her about Katie. Because I was about to file her missing person report.

I walked over to the reception desk.

"I was just talking to an officer, and then he arrested my friend and walked off. I need to talk to the officer on my other case about identity fraud."

"What case number?" The lady asked.

A while later, I was sitting in one of their interrogation rooms after asking for a private meeting. Detective Hernandez sat at the opposite end of a metal table. My two case files were on the table in front of him. He was glancing through them, trying to familiarize himself with the break in report. A tape recorder sat between us. He pressed a button on the recorder and the tape started rolling.

He stated his name, my name, my case numbers, the date, and the time.

"Alright, go ahead," he said.

"So, I submitted a report for identity theft a while ago and haven't heard anything about it."

"The FTC can take some time to respond," he replied.

"Well, now there's a new report for a break in at my apartment. I was talking to another officer earlier and told him that I have a suspect for both crimes."

"Yes," the detective said, looking over one of the folders. He had both cases on the table.. "One David King, correct? Looks like it was written in your file."

"Yes, David King. He used to be a friend of mine, but now he hates me and has been targeting me."

"Targeting you how?"

"Most recently, he's kidnapped my girlfriend, Katie."

That caught his attention. He pulled a pen from his front pocket.

"When was this?" He asked, setting his pen on a blank page.

"Last night. When we went to go graffiti his house. He chased after us and pinned me to a table. He called someone on the phone and had them put Katie on the phone. I heard her voice and he claimed he'd kidnapped her to motivate me."

"Motivate you to do what?" Hernandez asked.

I told him about the dare conversation. Then about all the junk mail. My online accounts. The credit card fraud. My parent's credit being targeted. My car's windows. The break in. My bank account being emptied. The graffiti incident. Katie's phone call. Protecting Clark's bank and online accounts. And now Clark's arrest. Hernandez took copious notes.

"It just keeps escalating," I said in defeat. I watched Hernandez carefully, trying to gauge his reaction. I couldn't tell what he believed.

"I need more details about the phone call," he said at last. "What did she say? What did you say? What did you hear on the other end?"

We talked through everything for an hour. Nothing I said was useful for finding Katie, but Hernandez sat back after I finished.

"Zander, I have to be honest. This all sounds very... loose. I don't mean the crimes themselves, I mean the connections linking David to all of these crimes. There's nothing that can be done about the identity theft until the FTC has finished their investigation. The break in, broken windows, hacked accounts, and emptied bank account will have to produce their own evidence to prove that David committed each one.

"To you, this is all one timeline of events, but to the law, they are separate crimes that have to be treated with no regard for past actions," he said. His tone was reasonable and concerned.

"I believe you, but I can't make an arrest without witnesses or hard evidence. Your story is circumstantial at best. But I do believe you when you say they are connected."

Finally. Someone believes me.

"What have the techs said about the break in?" I asked. "They said they found a few fingerprints?"

"All the fingerprints found belonged to each of you and a few other people who used to live there. According to the file, they've all been confirmed as past residents."

"And what about the ATM camera?"

"Now that's something unfortunate," he said, looking through the folder again. "We got a call from your bank to file a fraud report. It was smart of you to go through the bank to report the fraud. My boss made it a priority and, since it was your same name, it was added to our file on your identity theft. I've been the one personally working on your identity theft case. Once I received the case, I called the convenience store that the ATM was in. They gave me the brand of the ATM so I could request the footage from the company. Problem is, that ATM doesn't have a camera."

"...What? How can an ATM not have a camera?"

"Not all brands do. Some ATMs don't have cameras built in, and this was one of them. Someone logged into your online bank account right before the ATM transaction and moved all of your money from savings into your checking account. They also increased your ATM withdrawal limit to $5,000 while online, which was above the $3,500 you had in your account. Normally, you can only withdraw $500 per day."

"What about the store's cameras?!" I practically shouted.

"I asked for them to bring the footage down. They said they'll be in today," he said.

"Where's this store," I asked. "I want to see this for myself."

"No," he said firmly. "I may have inclination to lean towards your theory, but I will collect the evidence myself and a court will decide. You steer clear.

"Then drive down yourself right now, God damn it!" I yelled. He stood slightly, his hand reaching for his belt automatically.

"Calm down," he said, looking me in the eyes.

"I have no money!" I shouted. "My car windows are smashed and I can't repair them! My rent will be due and I'll have no way to pay! I can't get to work in a car I can't drive! I need my money back!"

Hernandez sighed, sitting back down. I breathed heavily.

"If David is the one who used your information to commit credit card fraud, why would he steal a measly $3,500 from you?" He asked.

"Because he's dead set on ruining my life," I muttered. "That's the dare. He's taken it too far. Further than any sane person would. He's sick. I just want it to stop," I said. I cried a little, and Hernandez let me sit in silence for a minute with tears rolling down my cheeks.

"What about Katie?" I asked after a while.

"The kidnapping is going to get top priority. That's the one case that has a witness--you. I won't be working on it, but someone in a different section of the department will be. The other detective will want to interview you today and get started."

"Let's do it then," I said, wiping my eyes.

Hernandez stepped out and returned a while later with the detective. Detective White came in and probed me with hundreds of questions. Where did she work? Who were her friends? How long had we been together? When did I last see her? Do her parents know? Questions like that.

When I brought up David and the phone call, he leaned in and asked me the same questions about what I'd heard, what we'd said, and anything I could remember. Again, I didn't remember anything helpful.

"I'll need to bring David in for questioning," Detective White said. "Your testimony is decent, but we'll need more evidence for conviction. I can't arrest him because I need more proof. If we arrest him without enough proof, he'll walk free and can't be tried again."

"You had enough proof to arrest Clark!" I shouted.

"Clark?" Detective White asked.

"I was just talking with an officer who said David called in and told you all that Clark graffitied his house. All he had to do was call, and he got arrested!"

Detective White excused himself to go find out more about what had happened. He came back five minutes later.

"David has more proof on that case," Detective said. "Photographs of the graffiti, photographs of Clark coming up to the house, his own testimony about recognizing Clark, and a bruised face. Clark's hand is also cut up, which corroborates his story. We noticed it when we booked him. This is the kind of evidence we need to convict in a kidnapping. Right now we have your testimony stating you said 'hello' to Katie on the phone and that David said he'd kidnapped her. We need more evidence to convince a jury."

"But I was with Clark!" I yelled.

"In the pictures you weren't," he said.

"Then they're fakes!"

"An expert will check them and determine that."

I sat back in my chair, feeling defeated. Detective White thanked me for my testimony and left to contact Katie's parents.

Detective Hernandez sat back down, watching me as tears welled up in my eyes again.

"Let me pay for your windows," he said.

"It won't matter, he'll break them again the next day," I said angrily.

"He's broken them more than once?"

"Every time I repair them, they're smashed again the next day."

"I might have an idea," he said. "But I'll need approval from my boss."

If you haven't heard of entrapment in the context of a police investigation, it's a legal defense that's used when evidence can be shown that an officer induces a criminal to commit a crime they wouldn't otherwise commit. When this defense is used, there are two differing views. In some courts, if a defendant uses entrapment as a defense, the prosecution has to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the criminal was not entrapped. In other courts, the defense has to prove that it was entrapped. The state I was in required the prosecution to do the proving.

Hernandez recognized that his plan could be construed as entrapment, and he explained this to me as we walked to his bosses office. He told me that since David had already established a pattern of breaking my windows, Hernandez could set up surveillance on the car and just wait for David to commit the crime he was going to do anyway. Since I had repaired my windows twice, and had kept the receipts, that would serve as good evidence that the crime had been repetitive.

The idea made me hopeful. I sat outside his boss's office while he walked in and presented his idea.

When he walked out, he gave me a thumbs up. David would never know what hit him.

Hernandez drove me to my house where I picked up my car and took it to a repair shop. He followed me over there and paid. We drove to my work in Hernandez's car while they worked on it.

Hernandez ordered us some lunch and I talked to my boss. I told him about my bank account getting hacked and that I needed to cancel direct deposit. Luckily, payroll was next week so they'd be able to change the method of payment by the next paycheck.

I told him about my situation and Hernandez backed me up. He agreed to pay some of my wages in advance out of the store's petty cash until payday came, and I was to pay him back. I thanked him profusely for helping me out and apologized for having to call in sick that day.

I walked out with a full stomach, $335, and a calm mind. With any luck, we'd catch David tonight.

Hernandez took me back to the shop, and I picked up my car. I tried to pay from the money I'd received, but he refused, saying I could pay him back after this was all resolved. He told me he'd be at my house later on to start the surveillance and to just park my car on the street. I thanked him again before we parted.

It was about 3 pm when I got home. I parked my car several blocks away and next to several others for camouflage. I didn't want David to find it and smash the windows before tonight. The walk was hot, and cool air conditioning welcomed me into my house.

"Excuse me?" Someone asked timidly as I unlocked my front door. I peeked my head back outside. There was an older woman on the landing, probably in her 40's.

"Yes?" I replied.

"You live in that apartment, I'm guessing?" She said.

"Yeah."

"I'm Mrs. Watson. I believe you and my son are roommates."

"Oh. Oh! Hello," I said, extending my hand. "Who's mom are you?"

"Isaac," she replied. "He and I were supposed to be driving out of state to visit family yesterday, but he never showed up."

A chill ran up my spine.

"I've called him a thousand times, but he hasn't answered," she continued. I've been standing here ringing the doorbell for a while, but no one has been home. Can I go knock on his door?"

I considered asking her to leave or telling her that I wasn't comfortable with her coming in, but I knew that would have been suspicious. I knew what we were going to find.

I told her to come in, and instantly the smell overtook us. She tried to be polite and not offend me, probably thinking we were typical college guys living like pigs. She walked down the hall to Isaac's room.

"Oh God," she muttered. The smell must have been horrific right by the door. I shuddered, but went down the hall towards her.

She knocked. "Isaac?" She called. No answer, as I expected.

"Isaac, it's mom," she said. I think the smell made her start to panic because she pounded harder on the door.

"Isaac, open up please," she pleaded desperately. I sighed.

Gently, I guided her away from the door and braced myself. I took a running start and slammed into the door. It bent heavily, but the latch didn't break. I tried again. And again. On the fourth try, the door wrenched open and I was inside. The smell, oh God. I don't know how many times I can tell you about it until you understand.

This was one of those moments where I'll remember every detail forever.

Isaac's room was a mess. There were three bookshelves that likely used to have tons of books, but the shelves were torn apart and books scattered across the room. His computer desk had papers scattered across it and cups knocked over. The window was darkened by a blackout curtain used for gaming. The large gaming computer under the desk hummed and the monitor showed stars moving around for a screensaver.

Isaac was on the bed. His face was pale and patchy with purple lines. His arms and legs were white and also bruised. An extension cord trailed off the bed, the middle being wrapped around his neck several times. Some flies nested on his body, flying to another spot occasionally.

Mrs. Watson entered the room and screamed. I just stood there, staring at Isaac's dilapidated body.

David had jumped to murder.

I called the police and tried to get Mrs. Watson to leave the apartment and preserve the crime scene. She refused and sat sobbing next to Isaac's bed. She was afraid to touch him.

The police came immediately and escorted Mrs. Watson and I out of the apartment. The next few hours were a blur of questions and police. Detective Hernandez showed up and looked inside. Techs were carrying in cameras and briefcases full of equipment.

After a while, they started to carry out some of Isaac's belongings in bags. His gaming computer took two techs to carry out. I sat on the curb nearby, not being allowed to leave by the head officer who was running the scene.

Hernandez sat next to me.

"They broke open your other roommate's door. All his belongings are there, but your roommate isn't. Do you know where he is?"

"No," I replied. "I never talked to him much."

"Were you close to Isaac?" He asked.

"No, but it's still..."

"I know," he said.

"Do you think David is behind this too?" He asked.

"Probably," I replied, feeling numb.

"We'll still carry out the surveillance," he assured me. "Don't worry. They'll analyze Isaac's body and if they find so much as a fleck of skin that we can link to David, we'll nail him. No criminal is perfect."

Hernandez left me alone and I thought over the situation.

Then a car parked nearby. And out stepped Clark with his mom. I jumped up and ran over to him.

"Oh my God, Clark, are you okay?" I asked.

"I'm fine," he smiled reassuringly. "Posted bail. It was 350 bucks, so not awful."

"I thought you said you'd be here by 5?" I asked Clark's mom. Side note, I don't remember the exact time she got there, but I do remember she was earlier than expected. I was going to meet them both at the station.

"I may have broken a few speed limits," she said in a neutral tone.

"What's happened?" Clark's face suddenly went cold when he saw all the policemen near our door.

"Isaac was found..." I said. "...in his room." I didn't have to specify what state he was in.

"Jesus CHRIST," Clark gasped, putting his hands on his knees. He started hyperventilating, and his mom worriedly put a hand on his back.

"Clark, honey, let's just go for a drive. We can get your stuff later."

"Your stuff?" I asked.

"He's moving out," his mom said sharply. "He told me all about this sick game your friend is playing. I don't think it's very funny."

"It's NOT funny!" I shouted. "It never was! This fucking asshole is trying to ruin my life! IT'S. NOT. A. GAME."

A few of the policemen turned to watch me from the balcony. Her jaw tightened and she guided her hyperventilating son into the car. They drove away, and I was left in the middle of the street, watching my best friend leave me to handle David alone.

Part 5

Hi again, everyone!

As I do in every new post, thank you for your support and encouragement! I read every single comment and reply to as many as I can or have something useful to reply. David is nowhere to be seen in this new town, thankfully, so I don't think he's realized that I've moved on. I've had some time to keep figuring out where things are in this town.

Once again, just reminding everyone: these are past events, we haven't caught up to the present day yet. I also want to remind everyone that I am writing these each day. No, I don't have parts built up so I can't make them longer or release them all at once. Sorry, guys. A few people keep asking, so I'm just clarifying.

One more thing. As I was reading every comment, like I do, I noticed one person whose birthday is today and they got downvoted for suggesting this could make a good manga series. So I want to wish them a public happy birthday! Happy birthday, /u/Superqami !

Let's begin!

The police took Isaac out in a body bag. Mrs. Watson left with the body, still sobbing uncontrollably.

I was told that I couldn't go into my apartment until they were completely done with the crime scene. No, they didn't know when that would be. They suggested a hotel room, which I laughed at. I asked if I could grab a blanket and a pillow from my room so I could sleep in my car. They reluctantly brought it to me, and I gagged when I grabbed them. They smelled like death.

Hernandez offered to get me a motel room, or let me stay at his place, or even begged me to call a friend and stay with them. I refused all three.

I walked to my car and ignored Hernandez. I was still too mad about everything and devastated that Clark had left. Besides, we couldn't do surveillance on the car while I slept in it. I marched all the way to my car and slammed the door hard.

I decided I didn't feel safe parking near my house to sleep, so I went to a Walmart parking lot for the night.

It was as if fate had finally begun to root for me. I was walking towards the Walmart entrance from the parking lot to buy some food. When I was only a few cars away, an armored truck pulled up. The ones that carry the money over to the bank, you know what I mean.

And who do you think stepped out of the truck?

David. Fucking. King.

I strafed to my left and got behind a car, using the back tinted windows to observe. He was laughing with his partner, who got out of the passenger side. I was too far away to hear what they were saying, but I definitely didn't recognize the partner as anyone I knew. It was obviously paranoia, but I wondered if he could be the one who had made Katie speak into the phone.

The two of them walked into Walmart, and I took note of the company that owned the truck. And then I had an idea. My first real idea on how I could fight back now that I knew where David was right this second.

I sprinted back to my car.

A little while later, I pulled up to Mrs. K's house. I got out and looked around, making sure David hadn't somehow beaten me here or followed me. I had to hurry. Who knew how much longer his shift would last?

I knocked on the door, and Mrs. K opened it.

"Hello, Zander," she said cheerfully.

"Hi, Mrs. K! Can I come in?"

Five minutes later, I was rifling through David's room. Had to hurry. Had to find something useful and fast. I'd told Mrs. K that years ago I'd let David borrow a video game and just now remembered and wanted to pick it up. She had happily let me go into his room and find them.

I had booted up his ancient laptop, but it was taking forever to load. Why the hell hadn't he bought a new laptop with all the money he stole? That would have made good evidence.

I glanced at every paper I saw, hoping for something. Written plans. A checklist. A receipt. Anything. Every paper I found was normal, from what I could see. His room was a disaster, which worked in my favor. He may have dropped something incriminating and not known about it.

I stuffed every flash drive I could find into my pockets as I went. He had four of them laying around. They might have incriminating evidence on them.

The laptop finally booted, and I instantly tried to log in. No luck: password protected. I should have known, considering how tech-savvy he'd been in hacking my accounts. In fact, all the incriminating data was probably on the laptop. He wouldn't bother printing anything out.

That gave me an idea. I picked up the laptop and flipped it over. A toolbox laid under the table and I snatched a screwdriver from it. Using the screwdriver, I went to work disassembling the laptop.

When I'd finished, I held his hard drive up in my hand.

"I will ruin you, David King," I whispered.

As I reassembled the laptop, something caught my eye under the bed. A box. Furrowing my eyebrows, I pulled it towards me. It was a shoe box with dust covering the top. A few spots were less dusty where someone had handled the lid. I opened it slowly and peered inside.

It contained a quarter-inch thick stack of pages all bound together by a binder clip. The box was too small to let the pad lay flat, so it curled in the box. The pages were old and worn. They'd clearly been handled frequently. I lifted it out and noticed that it looked like a research paper. The front page had a title in the middle of the page and an author at the bottom.

"Psychological Evaluation for: David Edward King." The bottom of the page had the name of the institute and psychologist that had done the study as well as the year. I did the math, and the evaluation must have been done when he was 16.

Jack. Pot.

I stuffed it under my shirt as best I could to hide it's square form. The laptop was set back in its place as if it were never moved. David would know something was wrong eventually, but not until he booted it up. I gave a last look around and wondered if there was anything else I should do.

With no decent ideas, I left David's house.

Mrs. K gave me a brownie on my way out.

On the drive back to the Walmart, I tried to come up with a plan. I couldn't take this to the police because it was illegally obtained evidence and wouldn't be admissible in court. I knew that from a bunch of crime shows. I had to get at the evidence myself and somehow get it into the police's hands legally.

When I parked at the Walmart, it still wasn't that late. I walked inside, carrying the flash drives and psychological evaluation with me.

I used the demo computers to look at the contents of the flash drives. Looking back now, I'm amazed they let USB sticks work on the demo machines. The first flash drive had old high school papers on it. Nothing useful there. The second and third drives were bootable drives that could boot Linux. I don't expect everyone to understand what that means, it's not important.

It was on the fourth flash drive that I had my first breakthrough of evidence. It contained a single text file that had been edited the day before. As I read through it, I realized that it was a conversation. With my current understanding, the flash drive was how David and his kidnapping partner had been communicating. David would write a message and hide the flash drive in a predetermined place. Then the kidnapper would go pick it up and read the message. The process would reverse when the kidnapper had a message to pass along.

A lot of you will probably say "why wouldn't they just use encrypted emails? That's so much faster and safer." If they had used any kind of network to communicate, some Internet Service Provider or some cell phone provider like Comcast would have a log entry of the messages being exchanged, even if the data was encrypted. Encrypted data is never 100% secure. If you dedicate enough processing power, you can crack any encryption. It may take thousands of years in some cases, but it could still be cracked. With our current advances in computing power, that could change to be even faster.

David and his partner had reduced their risk of being caught by limiting who had access to the information. If you send an email to me via Reddit, I'm not the only one that "gets" the message. It passes through several servers and routers who all make a note that a message passed through at a specific time. It leaves a trail. Unless you can erase the logs of those servers, you leave a trail no matter how you send your data.

There was certainly risk that someone could find the flash drive, plug it in and find all of this data like I had, but that could be reduced by choosing decent hiding places. If you plan to pass messages this way, don't leave it laying around your room. Especially don't leave it unencrypted. I still don't know why it wasn't encrypted.

The text file would have a line, then skip a line and add another where the next response was. I don't have the flash drive or a copy of the conversation anymore, so I'll have to paraphrase as accurately as I can remember. I'll use bullet points here on Reddit to format it more easily for you.

  • Payment received?
  • Yes.
  • Last half of payment comes when this is all over.
  • How long?
  • Depends on him.
  • Good?
  • Good. No suspicion. A quiet grab.
  • Was she harmed?
  • She fought. A couple bruises. Otherwise fine.

There were some extra lines in between, marking the start of a new conversation.

  • Any new information?
  • A kidnapping report has been filed with the police. Change locations every two days as previously discussed. Are you well supplied?
  • We have enough in the truck to keep moving and stay operational.
  • Good. With any luck, this will be over soon once he makes an irreversible mistake.

I shuddered as I closed the text file. That was damning evidence. I checked who the owner of the file was. It was blank. Well, that would have been too convenient.

I googled the kind of cable I would need to hook the hard drive up to a computer, and bought a SATA to USB cable. I was thankful that the demo computers were in an aisle out of the view of employees in the tech center. To people who don't know technology, I'm convinced I looked like a hacker.

Let me give you another lesson on technology, since I seem to be giving so many in this series. When you boot your computer, it asks for a password if you've set one. Without that password, you can't access the hard drive unless you do some hacked up work-around. In some cases, however, you can unplug the hard drive and plug it into another computer instead. The new computer will treat it like a regular external hard drive and voila, you have access.

Unfortunately, David had encrypted his entire hard drive, so it was useless to me at the moment until I had some spare time to either guess the password or find someone who could crack it.

Going to the summer supply section of the store, I took a seat and pulled out the psychological evaluation and looked at the cover page again. "Psychological Evaluation for: David Edward King." I hope you realize that I've removed the institution, author, and date for privacy's sake.

I spent an hour skimming the contents, using the table of contents to navigate. I constantly had to look up lengthy words on my phone, but I was beginning to understand what went on in David's sick little mind.

I won't give you an entire rundown of his whole life, but the report contained transcripted interviews with his parents about incidents, a psychologist's observations while holding David in confinement, and a general list of events that had occurred in David's life that may have traumatized him.

These are the ones I remember:

  • David set fire to animals constantly and poked them with various objects. When a snake lunged and bit him once in his backyard, his mother came out to find him whipping the limp body against a tree, guts spraying everywhere. His only explanation was, "it tried to hurt me."
  • He was found designing traps for rabbits and other animals that were expertly hidden and designed. He claimed to have never looked at a wilderness guide to make them. His mother later found entire notebooks containing designs for traps. The traps were aimed at getting both animals and humans.
  • His father died when he was 12, which affected him greatly. He became quiet and reserved for years. The first day of high school, however, he changed overnight and became charismatic, energetic, and clever.
  • In middle school, one of his teachers had been interviewed after an incident. She had noticed that three boys had begun picking on David, but he quietly took whatever they gave him. One day, she came to class, and all three boys sat ramrod straight and stared straight ahead. They didn't dare look at David, and David was smirking and trying to hide it.

Finally, let me try to summarize what the psychologist wrote about David.

"David seems to have a constant need to harm other living things and cause suffering. Once, in my office, I found him stomping his feet on the floor. I asked what he was doing, and he admitted that he was trying to crush anything microscopic that could be on my floor. I seriously fear that he will not be able to remain in society without serious medication and therapy."

I had no idea that David had any of these problems or experiences. He and I had met when we were both 17. He'd been exactly as the report described: charismatic, energetic, and clever. I felt blind for not seeing any red flags, but I knew that he had hidden them well intentionally.

The psychologist made another entry a month later.

"David seems to have performed a complete 180 in his mood, actions, and demeanor. He has been polite and kind every time he has come in, and is very capable of being fully functional."

The sentence struck me as odd. Months of statements about David's instability, and suddenly this comes out?

I googled the professor's name. He'd died in a car crash the same year as the publication date on this evaluation. Son of a bitch. I reread the very last entry. I recognized the words for what they were: a coerced recommendation to re enter society. I could feel the psychologist's words scream through the page.

"Good God, he's going to kill me."

No wonder David was so prepared. No wonder he was always ahead of me. No wonder his expression had spread such an absolute fear through me that night he chased Clark and I. He was insane. He designed traps. He knew what made people and animals tick. He enjoyed inflicting pain on them, and not just that, but watching them suffer.

David was absolutely insane. Insane, but functional. That's what made him dangerous.

I hunkered down in my seat and brought up a word document in my phone where I could take notes. Then, I started googling. You know what I'm talking about. You're facing a problem, and so you start searching for anything online that could help you fix your problem. The internet was a wonderful tool for me at this moment. Without it, I'd be dead months ago.

I was kicked out of the Walmart for loitering, but I continued my research in my car. I turned the car on every once in awhile to drive around and charge my battery.

That night, I learned a lot about hacking, phones, android, surveillance, police procedure, legal procedure, and all kinds of subjects that related to my situation. I took dutiful notes and outlined areas for further research and learning.

During my research, I found a list of apps that could be used for hacking someone's phone. I checked my installed applications, and can you guess what I found buried in my phone? One of those apps.

David Fucking King had been eavesdropping and tracking me through my phone. Instead of deleting the app, however, I kept it. It could be useful in the future.

I also researched the company David apparently worked for. It was a larger company that served several states, providing "both long and short distance transport of valuable goods." This was good information. If his job was to handle valuable goods, then it could be an easy way to get him fired or even charged if some of it disappeared from his truck. His truck was long gone by then, so I had no current opportunity.

During all hours of the night, Hernandez would call me. So would Katie's mom. I ignored them both. That was a big mistake, I'll later learn.

When the sun rose, I didn't feel tired: I felt empowered.

Finally, I knew more about my situation and enough to be useful. I knew how to get those hard drives to the police legally, but I'd need Clark and Hernandez's help.

I never got to use that plan, though. Reality caught up with me. David moved too quickly.

I was driving to my apartment to see if I could brush my teeth take a shower at least before work that day, when my phone buzzed. It was Hernandez. I answered it reluctantly, prepared to get an earful for ignoring him all night.

"Zander, where are you?" he asked.

"Driving to my apartment," I replied.

"You need to come down to the police station..." he said slowly. "Right away."

"Why? What's up?" I asked.

"It's... bad," he said with a cringe.

Confused, I hung up and turned right, heading towards the police station.

I walked into the police station lobby to find Hernandez waiting for me.

"Did Isaac's body turn up anything?" I asked, looking at his worried expression.

"They're still analyzing it," he said. Then he took a deep breath. "Some... new development has come up."

I gave him a questioning look, and then felt cold metal click around my right wrist. I reacted, but the two cops who had flanked me pulled my arms together. The metal clicked around my other wrist, handcuffing me.

"WHAT THE HELL!" I shouted. The policemen each gripped one of my arms.

"Zander, I know you're upset about everything that's going on," Hernandez said quietly. "But what you did went way too far."

"What the fuck are you talking about?!"

Hernandez held up a bag containing a phone. He used the touch screen through the bag and navigated to the phone's voicemail.

The voicemail was jolty and sounded like whoever had the phone was running. Wind struck the mic, making it hard to hear in places. But the voice was unmistakable. It was mine.

"Fuck you, jackass. You ruined my credit, stole my money, hacked my accounts, and stole my shit! I'm going to kill you! You think I need motivation to hurt you? I'm going to kill you, you son of a bitch. You'll burn in hell! You'll burn!"

My heart shuddered to a halt. I had said those things. I had literally said those things. The night David chased us and pinned me to the table, I'd said every word. The bastard had been recording the whole thing, and now had edited it into a threatening voicemail.

"David King's home burned down last night," he said slowly, watching me. Gauging me.

"David and his mother were still inside. Firefighters found David alive and were able to pull him out, but his mother was already dead. That voicemail was sent to his phone from yours at around the time firefighters estimate the fire started."

I lost my breath. My eyes watered. The world closed in. I couldn't speak. Couldn't defend myself. Couldn't explain.

"Zander Jones, you're under arrest."

Part 6

Hi everyone!

Thanks again for all your support! I've been jumping from store to store today to prevent tracking, so I've written on and off today and replied to as many as possible.

I was just posting this when I almost ran right into David. Forgive me for hiding before I got my phone back out and finished posting. EDIT: Guess I was on time after all.

Sorry about the incident earlier with Part 5 disappearing. It was my own fault, and the /r/NoSleep mods were very helpful in restoring it.

I've said to a few of you that I estimate there being 1 to 2 more parts until I have caught up to the present day. I believe that after Part 7 we will be fully at the present day. That may change, so don't get mad if it does. I just wanted to let you know what to expect.

I'll jump right in, as usual.

I laid in an empty cell, trying to catch a small nap since I'd been up all night. My mind was racing though, and made it hard to sleep. I kept rehearsing what I was going to say when Hernandez finally came to get me.

They'd emptied my pockets into evidence bags, took my fingerprints, and one cop was heading out to search my car. I wasn't dumb. I knew that the evidence would point the police to three conclusions.

One, that I'd been in David's home recently. After all, the data on those flash drives had been updated just the day before. Even the ones that didn't have the kidnapping transcription on them.

Two, the flash drive containing messages between David and his partner might lead them to believe I had kidnapped Katie.

And three, that I'd stolen David's hard drive, as well as confidential medical information.

I kept trying to play out the conversation with Hernandez. I hoped it would pan out the same way it was running in my head.

I was woken up by a slight knock on the bars. My eyes peeked open to see a man in a suit standing there accompanied by an officer.

"Hello, sorry to disturb you," he said sheepishly. "I'm Terry Jayson, your public defender. May we talk?"

"Yes, of course," I said, sitting up. The officer entered and cuffed me. We were both led to the interrogation room where I'd met Hernandez for the first time.

"I trust you will shut off the cameras," he said to the officer. The cop nodded, removed my handcuffs, and closed the door.

"You can call me Terry," he said, reaching out to shake my hand. We sat down opposite each other with the table between us. "I've heard a little about your case in a brief overview from the Chief," he said, pulling folders from a briefcase.

"It's... well it's long," I admitted.

"So I hear," he said. "I'm going to have to apologize in advance. It's likely that you'll have to repeat your story many times during these proceedings. To prevent this as much as possible, you and I are going to sit down and write your version of events down. That way, you can fall back on your statements and ensure that what you say is consistent and accurate. Does that sound good to you?" He said.

It made sense, so I nodded.

"First, I have a contract here for you to sign that says you agree to let me represent you in criminal proceedings." He pushed a paper and pen across the table to me. I skimmed it and signed at the bottom. He pulled it back.

"Would you like me to call you Zander or Mr. Jones?" He asked with an easy smile.

"Zander is fine," I replied.

"Okay, Zander. Let's start writing."

Terry sat patiently with me while I wrote every detail I could think of. I began with my dare conversation with David and followed all the way up to this point. It started out as a page with scrambled memories and words to jog my memory. Then it slowly formed into a statement that Terry helped me edit into a cohesive, fact-based statement.

"When you are asked about your memories or an event, refer them to this document," he said. We worked for an hour before he spoke again.

"I have to go to another appointment, but I've asked that you be allowed to continue working in your cell. I've scheduled a meeting with the prosecutor and Detective Hernandez tomorrow at noon. Do you think you can have it complete by then?"

"Yes, I think so," I said.

And I did. I spent the rest of my day writing that statement. I slept sporadically, but I was desperate to complete it before noon the next day. So much had happened, and I had so much to say.

I was quite proud of the results.

In fact, I was more proud of that statement than this one. That statement had a lot more fresh memories. This one feels a little scatter-brained. My statement was concise and to the point. But maybe it's for the best that this is the one that I posted.

The next day, at noon, I was back in the interrogation room. Terry sat to my left. Hernandez stood against the wall facing me with his arms crossed. I couldn't read his expression.

On the other side of the table sat an older man who had introduced himself as Chief Gunderson. Hernandez's boss. Beside him stood a tall, lanky man with slicked back hair. He held his hands behind his back, watching me intently.

The tape recorder between us was running.

"I've been brought up to date on the cases you're involved in," Chief Gunderson said in a gruff voice. "I'm interested to hear everything from your perspective considering the... recent developments."

"You arrested me just to hear my side of the story?" I snipped.

"No, I arrested you because you are suspected of burning down Anne King's house and thereby killing her," Chief Gunderson said. "Hernandez tells me that you might have felt justified in doing so considering all the accusations that you've levied against Mr. King. So, I'd like to hear what has happened from the beginning and hear your side of events."

"Who's he?" I asked, pointing to the lanky man.

"I'm the prosecutor, Adam Leuderman," he answered.

"Oh, so you'll be the one trying to put me in prison," I quipped. Terry put a warning hand on my leg.

"I'll be trying to establish the truth about what happened," he corrected, glaring down at me.

"My client has prepared a statement that he intends to wholly rely on," Terry said, pushing copies of the seventeen handwritten pages across the table. The Chief and prosecutor took one. Hernandez stepped forward and grabbed one too. He instantly started reading from his spot in the corner. I tried to catch his eye, but he didn't look at me.

"I trust we can begin the process of discovery today?" Terry asked. "I'll need copies of everything, as well as a copy of the official indictment."

I tuned Terry out and focused on Hernandez. There was something about his demeanor that caught my attention. I couldn't tell what it was. I focused on him for the entire meeting, trying to figure out what my instinct was telling me.

They talked over legal details with Terry and corroborated the process of discovery between the two parties.

A couple days later, Terry was sitting with me in the interrogation room again, talking through what he'd learned from discovery. Discovery is when the two sides of a case share evidence so there are no surprises when they go to trial. Anything not brought up in discovery is not admissible in court.

Before trial, though, would come my arraignment. That's when the formal charges would be laid against me and I would have to plead either guilty or not guilty. Terry was talking through discovery with me so I would be prepared for what they'd say during the hearing and decide whether I'd plead guilty or not guilty.

Here's what I learned.

After I'd been arrested, the police had searched my car and found the hard drive, flash drives, and psychiatric evaluation. And something else that was curious. A half empty gas canister. That fucker had planted a gas can in my car at some point without me knowing. I'd been in my car all night, so either David knew he was going to burn his house down before I went to Walmart, or he planted it in the few minutes I was in the police station. I told Terry about the gas can being planted, and he wrote down some notes.

The police had searched through the contents of all the flash drives and discovered the conversation between David and his partner. Except, as predicted, they accused me of writing the messages and therefore linked me to a kidnapping. The text file never specified Katie's name, but they claimed Katie's kidnapping was the most likely scenario since I knew about it and was therefore involved.

Despite this evidence, however, the prosecution didn't feel like they could convince a jury without more evidence. So, Katie's kidnapping wasn't planned to be laid against me as a formal charge, but they were searching for evidence.

They had also tried to open the contents of David's hard drive, but found that it was encrypted, just like I had. They'd sent it off to a lab to be analyzed for whatever data could be salvaged.

The medical report was classified as inadmissible because it pertained to an individual who did not consent to the dissemination of its contents. As a citizen of the United States, you get some control over who can look at your medical records. Denying its use in a courtroom is a right in certain situations, including this one. David had decided to exercise that right and deny access.

As a result, the prosecutor could only charge me with possession of someone else's medical records without permission. That was a serious crime, apparently.

Terry had also been informed that the identity theft case was being combined into the charges against me. The credit card companies had done their own investigations and were filing criminal charges against me for fraud. Why would they do that? Because "a technical investigation into the origin of the registration for the fraudulent cards found that the reporter himself, Zander Jones, had indeed filled out and completed the registration forms from his own computing device." In other words, they traced the IP address of who had filled out the registration forms for the cards online and found that my computer had been the one to sign up.

Which meant they were accusing me of signing up, spending all the money, and then reporting fraud. Also a major crime.

The emptying of my bank account was also pinned on me. Again, they claimed I was trying to commit fraud by filing a false claim with the bank.

The police had finally got the security tapes from the convenience store where the ATM was located. There were three angles. One camera was above the door, one was above the register, and one was in the far corner of the store opposite the ATM.

The tapes showed a man in a dark hoodie walk into the store. The video was grainy as you would expect, but despite that, a large symbol on the back of the hoodie could be recognized. The man in the hoodie walked to the ATM and pulled something from their pocket. The prosecution claimed it was a cell phone since the timestamp on the camera matched the timestamp of the log into my bank account.

The hooded figure looked down at it for a few minutes before typing into the ATM, blocking the screen with their body. The money spat out, he grabbed it, and walked toward the door. The camera on the opposite corner from the ATM was the only one able to catch a glimpse of their face. It was grainy, but the prosecution compared it to pictures from my Facebook profile to claim that it had just enough resemblance to have been me. Comparing to David's pictures, it could have been him too.

I'd argued that point with the prosecutor pretty fiercely.

When I was done with my outburst, the prosecutor told me that the investigators had also found a hoodie with the same logo in my apartment.

Then they played their trump card. The bank had been logged into from the ip address assigned to my own cell phone during that time period.

Regarding the fire, which was the main accusation against me, they had decent evidence. The gas can was one, and the voicemail was another. But there was even stronger evidence. When I first arrived at Walmart, I parked near the front doors, in view of the cameras hanging off the building. They clearly saw me drive away when I was heading to David's house.

When I came back, though, I had parked in the back of the lot, intending to be away from other cars while I slept. The cameras could barely make out my car parking in the back lot. It was too dark to tell if it was even a vehicle, the prosecutor claimed. So, realistically, I only had my own testimony to support the fact that I got back to Walmart at around 6 pm.

I should add that it took about 15 minutes to get to David's house from the Walmart. Just so you can understand the time frame.

Fire crews had received a call at 6:04 pm that David's home was on fire. They had raced over immediately and found the house burning brightly. David had been found trying to lift his mother up from the ground in her bedroom. They'd brought them both out, and it was discovered that Mrs. K was already dead from suffocation. David had been rushed to the hospital with a few minor burns and some smoke inhalation. He had yet to explain his version of events to police.

The firefighters had filed a report stating that the fire had been started from the middle of the living room where a puddle of gasoline had ignited. The flames had spread throughout the house. Traces of gasoline were found in various rooms, making them believe that the suspect (me) went from room to room and splashed gasoline around. Just like in the movies.

They also concluded that the fire had been started some time before it was called in because of how much damage had already occurred by the time they arrived.

I now know that David had set an alert on his phone that was linked to the app he had installed on my phone. When my gps read that I was at his house, an alert would be sent to his phone as a text message. I can only guess that he'd jumped in his car, left work, and sped all the way home. That's why I think the time was so close.

I'm telling you all of this detail so you can see just how hopeless I felt while I sat in jail. I was there for two whole weeks where it was the same accusations and evidence over and over. I really started to just give up.

During the first few days, I asked Terry about how we could prove that it was David specifically who had committed these crimes. He frowned and told me I should be more concerned about being proven innocent period, not on pinning it to another man.

By the end of two weeks, I was ready to just plead guilty rather than fight.

The arraignment went poorly. No charges were thrown out that had been placed against me. I would list all the crimes I was being charged with, but I don't remember their exact phrases and I know I'll get it wrong. You get the general idea though that I was fucked.

Bail had been set at $5,000, which essentially guaranteed I'd be stuck in jail for a while. I had already contacted my parents out of desperation and they would try to raise money from family members and friends, but couldn't pay immediately.

After three weeks, I was very depressed and not eating much. Terry tried to cheer me up by showing me parts of arguments he was preparing, but nothing could cheer me. I thought about Katie a lot. And Clark and Ivan. And I missed my parents.

I also missed Clark's first hearing in the graffiti case, so I had no idea how that was going, which made me feel guilty that I couldn't support him.

During the time I was in jail, Hernandez only came to visit me once. It was during the third week. I jumped off my bed and ran to the bars.

"Hernandez," I said. "Please tell me you've come to give me good news."

"No," he said. "You're being transferred to the county jail. Your trial will be happening there."

"Why?"

He shrugged. "Just how it works," he said.

"Did they find anything on Isaac?" I asked. I'd been clinging to the hope that Isaac's body would turn up evidence against David. I just wanted to nail him for that one crime. Just one. I wanted it so bad that my hands would shake when I thought about it.

"I'm not allowed to talk about that," he said, avoiding my eyes. "Anyway, I came to tell you that you'll be moved in three days."

"Hernandez," I said as he turned to leave. "I thought you believed me."

"I do," he said. "Until you burned David's house down. Now I'm not so sure who the psychopath really is."

"I didn't do it!" I shouted, but he walked away.

Three days later, as Hernandez had said, they came to move me. After dinner, I was cuffed and led out the doors to a police cruiser that would drive me up to the county jail two hours away.

The two officers who drove were polite to me, but instantly cranked up the radio when we got on the road. I could barely hear myself think, and was starting to get frustrated. I had always hated car trips without my own music. Now I was stuck in a two hour ride with my hands cuffed behind my back and a radio blasting music I didn’t like.

We were about an hour in, and I was ready to scream. I stared out the window, trying to find something interesting to watch and focus my mind on. We were on a two-lane highway with no other cars in sight. It was getting late, so looking back, I figure people were home for the night and that’s why it was so dead.

My view of a nice lake was suddenly obstructed by a big, grey truck. I tried to find something else to look at, but then noticed it was getting dangerously close to our lane. I looked up at it and saw that it was an armored truck. And it had the same logo as the company David worked for.

The panic was instantaneous. Something gripped my lungs and kept me from vocalizing.

The truck slowly neared the side of the police cruiser before pressing against it. The cops shouted. The cop who was driving slammed on his brakes, and the other cop dropped the radio he was reaching for. The cruiser didn’t slow down fast enough, however, and the truck nudged it off the road.

I braced for impact as we rolled down the grassy slope and slammed into a tree.

My seatbelt had held me in place, but my head ached when it rammed against the driver's’ head rest. The two cops were unconscious, lying at awkward angles. Neither of them had had their seatbelts.

I started yanking at the handcuffs, trying to reach my seatbelt to undo it. I reached the red button and pressed it. When I turned back around to wriggle out of the loose seatbelt, I saw David Fucking King walking down the slope towards the car.

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh fuck,” I cursed, turning to reach for the door handle with my cuffed hands. No such luck. The doors were locked from the outside to prevent prisoners from opening the doors on their own.

David got closer and closer until he was right outside the car. He shot a smirk at me, and opened my door. I tried to back away, but he grabbed my arm and tossed me out of the car. I fell to the dirt with a gasp.

I sat up a little and saw that he’d turned his attention back to the police car. I saw one of the cops beginning to stir.

David opened the driver’s door and pulled something small from his pocket. With a quick motion, he stabbed the cop in the neck. Blood spurted out, and the cop started screaming and gurgling, grabbing for his neck. I think I screamed too, but I can’t remember.

He closed the door and walked around to the other side. I could see the other cop was moving, but I couldn’t tell what he was doing. Apparently he was reaching for his radio, because David yanked it out of his hands and set it on the car’s roof. Then he stabbed that cop too.

Both of them were unconscious in seconds.

“Don’t get up,” he threatened, walking towards me. I didn’t bother trying. He walked over to where I sat and went behind me. I tried to face him, but he kicked me lightly. He knelt down and I felt him scratching the metal on my handcuffs. I was confused, but sat absolutely still.

“Nice to see you again, Zander,” he said, walking to stand in front of me. I watched him with true fear. His entire demeanor was different from the night we’d graffitied his house. He was changing.

When I didn’t answer, he laughed. He was twisting the small object in his gloved hands. I noticed, through the blood, that it was a crudely crafted shiv about the length and width of a finger.

“I told you, I’m not going to kill you, Zander. In fact, for once, I’m here to help you out. Sort of.”

“What does that mean?” I asked shakily.

“Remember the night you graffitied my house?”

I nodded.

“I told you I’d consider giving you advice in how to succeed in our game. Well, the time has come. I’m giving you more than advice. See, you’re no fun in jail. I’ve seen the evidence they have on you. You’re going away for a long time. I don’t want that. So, I’m granting you a second chance to keep playing.”

He walked behind me again, and I felt sticky blood on my fingers and hand as he pressed the small shiv against my hand.

“Now, here’s how this works,” he said, standing back in front of me. “I’m going to leave this knife with your fingerprints on it in the car. They’ll think you stabbed the cops and made a run for it. I’m going to remove your handcuffs and let you make a run for it. You’ll have a 30 minute head start before I call in on the radio.”

“Oh God, he has a knife! He’s stabbed the driver and he’s--” David cut off, mimicking the call he’d make. Goosebumps ran up my spine.

“I’ll be sitting here and waiting. If you attempt to come back, I’ll just take you away in my car and we’ll play a different game. Do you understand?”

I nodded, too terrified to speak.

“Get up,” he commanded. I struggled to my feet, rolling in the dirt to get to my knees and stand.

“Come here,” he said, moving toward the police car. I followed. He opened the police car door and put his hand against the officer’s neck. I flinched when he flicked blood at me. It splattered across my jail suit and face. I almost threw up.

“There we go,” he purred. He motioned for me to turn around, and I did. He pulled the handcuff keys off the dead cop and unlocked the cuffs. I rubbed my wrists. They were sore and marked from the car crash.

I considered trying to get the shiv from him and attack, but the idea of going with him in his car to play "other games” terrified me.

David had set a backpack next to the car, and now set it in my hands.

“Hernandez says hello,” he said with a malicious grin. “I paid him a lot of money to get him to let me track this car. He demanded that I give you half. Of course, I’m not that generous, so here’s $2,000, a change of clothes, new shoes, and a map. Nearest town is ten miles west. Better hurry. Remember, in 30 minutes I’m calling it in.”

My jaw shook as I put the backpack on and started heading towards the setting sun. The forest looked dark and menacing.

I looked back when I was partway through the trees and there he was. He leaned against the car, drinking from the coffee container one of the cops had brought with.

Shuddering, in shock, and absolutely terrified, I walked on into the woods.

Part 7

Hi everyone!

Sorry I haven’t replied to nearly as many comments in part 6. I’ve been busy. Extremely busy. So much to do today to prepare.

I’ll get back to where we left off.

I honestly don’t remember most of the night after the car crash. I only have glimpses of memories, and I won’t try to coherently express them here.

I got my bearings back after I’d slept off the shock. My higher functions kicked back into gear after I’d gone to a grocery store and bought a small amount of food. The amount of hunger that shock can induce is extreme.

I had rifled through the backpack and found exactly what David had said: shoes, a pair of clothes, $2,000 cash in $100’s and $20’s, and a road atlas booklet. I still have that atlas and use it when I’m moving on.

Once I had food, water, and an inventory of my belongings, I could start to plan and work.

I dumped my jail clothes in a dumpster, and paid for a haircut to try and alter my appearance. Yes, I washed the blood off my face and hair before going in.

When I looked in the mirror afterwards, I still recognized myself so I paid the hairdresser to dye my hair too. I know there are self-dying kits that cost way less, but I had nowhere to do it.

I knew I couldn’t stay in this town because David would know exactly where to find me. I had no idea how long this truce would last, so I had no intention of staying here one more night. I bought a bus ticket to an adjacent state and arrived only a few hours later.

The town I chose was larger than the one I had come from. This was intentional so that I could have anonymity and a better selection of services for the homeless. This town had a soup kitchen that I could use to cut down on costs as well as a homeless shelter.

I knew I couldn’t live long on the already dwindling $2,000, so I started going to the library and searching online for odd jobs. I had to find something that wouldn’t run a background check, if at all possible, because of the manhunt that was probably going on for me. I saw nothing about it in the news yet, but it had only been a day.

After a week of searching, I found a job at a seedy telemarketing place that paid cash under the table. You’d be surprised how many of these there are. I hated the work, but I was out of the sun and making some money.

Before I found a run-down and half-empty apartment complex to live in and pay weekly, I slept in the homeless shelter. I could have just stayed there and saved a lot of money, sure, but I hated going there and avoided it as long as possible when nighttime came. The money I spent on the apartment was well worth it.

I had some semblance of a life set up and now I could get the real work done.

I had gone to the mall and bought the cheapest prepaid android phone they had and signed up for a monthly subscription that gave me unlimited data as well as texts and calls. I’d need to find a store to pay cash and top up every month, but it wasn’t an expensive plan. And I needed Internet when the library was closed.

During the days, I’d spend my time in the library with a cheap notebook I’d bought, doing more research similar to what I had done in the Walmart parking lot. I also spent a lot of time working out and trying to get stronger. Before I had the apartment, I’d paid for a gym membership and showered there instead of at the homeless shelter. I decided to keep the membership and use their machines to get a more effective workout.

The plan at the time had been to stay alive and away from David and the cops. I stayed inside the day the news broke of my escape in the other state. The police finally admitted to needing help in finding me and went public for a request for information. They listed off the crimes I was accused of as well as a request to question me in regards to the two dead policemen. I wrote down every detail of the investigation, though none of it proved useful other than as background knowledge. I kept up with the sporadic news releases so I could stay as far ahead of the cops as possible.

For the next six months, I stayed in this city.

During that time, I learned a lot. Living on a tiny budget, home repairs when the landlord wouldn’t fix something, hiding when you suspect you’re being followed, and navigating the streets at night all became second nature to me.

I also continued to study computers and networks. I am by no means any kind of licensed professional. I learned by deciding what I wanted to know how to do, and then practicing it over and over.

One day, I was at the library when the news was published online. David Fucking King was suspected of murdering the two cops. I was ecstatic and couldn’t believe my luck. David King had finally made a mistake that had cost him. The news story did not specify why the police suspected him, but I didn’t care. David was going to get what he deserved.

A month passed with still no news on whether David had been captured or not. I found myself tempted to call Detective Hernandez and ask what he knew. But I didn’t. I learned a lot of self control and risk assessment during those seven months. Risk analysis was built into my daily decisions.

After checking for news on David for the third time in a week, I decided that I would no longer be a bystander waiting for David to be caught.

I decided to begin actively hunting David.

Since I knew he was good with computers, the Internet was the best place to begin looking for traces of him. I searched hundreds of forums, scouring for a list of keywords that I thought David would either post or look for. I won’t include that list here.

In only a couple weeks, I found one of his online accounts on StackExchange. I took notes on everything he commented as well as his account activity. Fortunately, he had kept the same account for several years. Granted, it was under a pseudonym, but he’d kept it. He still uses it today, actually. I just checked. He was logged in 7 hours ago when I wrote this.

Once I found one account, it held clues to many others. He slipped out information accidentally that I could use to locate his other accounts. Posts like “I’ve asked this question on this other forum and got no response, so now I am asking it here,” would link two accounts and reveal yet another goldmine of data for my study.

I spent weeks gathering pseudonyms, post records, and ip addresses he’d used: anything I could find with the tools I had available. Some pseudonyms he used more than once, and others he created as throwaway names.

The research gave me invaluable insight into the way David thinks, talks, and acts. I got to know him on a level I could never have hoped to understand from just being his friend in high school. It made my hate for him grow, not diminish.

I didn’t only check the regular web either. Some people claim the deep web is a terrifying place where you can get killed at every turn, but it isn’t if you don’t act stupid. I installed Tor and began doing the same data mining in the deep web. The results were fantastic. I found catalogs worth of information. I was able to identity a lot of his false identities online and then map them to the fake social media pages he had created for them when he might need a cover up.

And all of this came because he insisted on using the same usernames over and over again. Why did he do that? Because he wanted people to know who he was when they interacted and respect him.

Weakness.

One day, just for the hell of it, I sent him a message as myself to one of his accounts. I made my email address visible on purpose. He’d need it.

The spam mail started instantly after that. The response was so childish and brash that I was smiling that whole day. I knew that I could get to him.

I also tried calling the psychological institute where David’s records should be. If I was lucky, I could get my hands on another copy of his evaluation and study it with new eyes. There was no such luck, however. David had called them and told them not to send copies to anyone because he was the current victim of fraud. How ironic.

I was able to use his accounts that were used the most to track down his location. Sometimes he used a VPN, and sometimes he didn’t. Recently, last week actually, he moved to a nearby city. He seemed to be following his own instructions to his partner to move along after only a couple of days. He was jumping from city to city, but not crossing the entire country every time he moved. He was making a snake-like trail throughout the country.

I went over to this town he’d moved to and walked the streets for hours, hoping for a glimpse of him. It was just my luck that he walked out of a grocery store just as I was walking in. He didn’t notice me, but I followed him back to where he was staying. For a couple of days, at least, I knew where he was.

The next few days were spent in surveillance. I watched him day and night, following him everywhere. I saw no sign of Katie being with him, though, which made sense. His partner only came to visit once. He stayed for only ten minutes before leaving in a car I hadn’t seen him arrive in. I blew my only opportunity to follow him since I had no car of my own.

When David moved on, I followed him. I slept on the streets again, unwilling to let him leave my sight. I followed him around and learned so much about him from his routines and habits. I had learned so much about my enemy and my nemesis that I was finally ready to confront him for the last time.

And now, everyone, we come to the crux of the story. This is the focal point that this entire series has led up to.

Hello, David King.

I know you're reading this. I see you check it during your morning coffee routine at Starbucks. It took you a few days to find it, but I knew that if I told the story through to the end, and gained enough popularity, you'd find it. The more people who became interested, the more likely you were to see it.

And now here you are.

I’m sitting here, watching to see your face when you read this part. This has been the build-up of the entire series. I wrote all of this for this one moment.

You've read every comment. I've seen you scrolling through them and opening sub-comments to see what they say. You’re very invested in what everyone has to say. And the one thing you can conclude from the comments is this: EVERYONE HERE HATES YOU.

Every. Last. One.

Hundreds of people now hate you. Many of them have offered time, talent, and cunning towards your complete destruction. I have refused their help until now.

I want Katie back.

All my stalking hasn't told me what really matters: where she is. So, I'm using this thread to get to you. Either you give Katie back, or I release everything about you to all these people who hate you. I know aliases, addresses, phone numbers, comments admitting to illegal activity, social security numbers, drivers licenses, passports, online account names, everything. The police will have it all too.

I've been tracking you for so long, David.

The first few lines of every post? Where I said, for example, that you'd almost found me? They were lies. I've been watching from afar during the entire publication of these posts.

Right now, as I am about to press submit, you just bought a sandwich at Jimmy John's. The meatball sub. It's currently Saturday, July 2nd, 7:32 PM. There’s your proof that I’m nearby.

Convinced yet?

Bring Katie to Welles Park at 10 PM tonight and leave your partner behind.

If you don't show, I will release all of the information I have, dedicate the rest of my life to updating that information, and releasing it to anyone here who wants to do something about it.

I’ve set up a timed release of the information. It will be automatically posted via private message to everyone who ever commented on these threads. And they will spread it even further.

The timed release will occur at 3 AM tonight unless I'm there to stop it. You need two people to stop it, each one with their own password. No, I won’t tell you who the other person is.

For everyone else here on the thread, I will have another post up in at least 48 hours. I’m giving myself a time buffer to respond in case David tries anything stupid. If I don't write an update, and the information has been released, you'll know what happened.

You have all asked what you could do to help me. If you receive the information, do what you need to do.

See you soon, David.

Part 8

Well… I’m back. Hi everyone. I am alive.

I… well I’ll just start telling you what happened. I’m starting to shake as I even think about writing everything down, but I have to finish this.

After I posted my last update, it was go time. I’ve been preparing for this event for so long that it was hard to believe that I had just hit submit. I couldn’t go through and comment to everyone that part 7 was up. Sorry. I had to see David’s reaction.

I put my phone in my pocket and watched David from across the street. He was eating dinner just like I said in my post. His phone clearly went off, because he perked up his head and grabbed his phone from the table. I’d seen his phone go off whenever I posted before, so I knew he had set an alert.

I watched his eyes scan the post with interest. Then his eyes slowly widened. I knew when he reached my favorite part, because his gaze shot up and looked around the restaurant. He wrapped up his sandwich and quickly walked out of the restaurant, his eyes scanning the street while stealing glances at his phone to keep reading.

It was a very satisfying scene. It makes me smile just thinking about it.

I didn’t follow him home. Instead, I waited for the inevitable email.

Do you want to know why David was so scared of my information release? He was scared because the Internet was his safe haven. He was powerful there. When we had our dare conversation, and for so long after that, I was the computer illiterate one and he ruled that domain. And now I had managed to track him in his safe place. Before, I had been weak and an easy target for his games. Now that I had seriously fought back and threatened him, he was worried.

The email came while I could still see him walking away.

“Hello Zander. Bravo, but I’m not going to meet in public,” he wrote.

To be honest, I posted Welles Park online because I figured he would want to change the location if it was a public place, and I didn’t want to release the real address online. I didn't want anyone crashing the party and getting hurt. Sorry for lying. I’ll be apologizing for lying a lot by the end of this post.

I told him that I’d email him the new address 15 minutes before it was time to meet. He didn’t respond. I didn’t want him to have the address too early and show up to set any traps. He really should have countered with a location of his own, but he didn’t.

I stood up. Time to go to the warehouse and wait.

The location I had chosen used to be a warehouse of some kind. I didn’t care what it had been used for, only that it was abandoned and unguarded. If David tried anything stupid, which I thought he was going to, I didn’t want any more innocent bystanders in the way.

I took an Uber to a suburban area a few blocks away. When the Uber left, I walked to the warehouse.

When I arrived, it was already almost 9 PM. Not completely dark yet, but getting there. I walked around the perimeter of the warehouse, looking for any sign that David had beaten me here. There wasn’t any sign that I could see.

I approached a side door and pulled a key out of my pocket. I unlocked the chains from the door handle and stored them just inside the door as I entered. The soundscape changed from an ambient evening in the city to a tomb.

The factory had a single floor that was one big, open space. High above it, catwalks ran along the rafters all leading from the warehouse manager’s office, which was a metal cube suspended at one end of the warehouse.

Shelf scaffolding that had been abandoned broke up the empty space. Crates and pallets were strewn around here and there, making hiding places. I had previously come and strategically arranged them in case it came down to a fire fight.

That’s also when I had put chains on every door. There were four entrances into the warehouse, not including the windows near the ceiling. I had chained them all except the one I entered through. That was my funnel. If you’ve ever gone hunting for live game, you know what I’m talking about.

There was nothing left to do but to wait now. I sent him the address at 9:45.

A rattling of the front door alerted me that he was here. He was a half hour late, which was an attempt to unnerve me. The door jolted repeatedly, but the chains held it shut. It was dark now. The only light streamed in the windows from industrial-style streetlights outside.

“How am I supposed to meet you if you won’t let me in?” David called from outside. The hair on the back of my neck rose, despite all my preparations. It was time.

David tried all three doors. He skipped over the only one that was unlocked until he absolutely had to. He knew what a funnel was, but he had no choice. The windows were too high and would result in a very high fall once he got in.

The side door silently opened and in walked David Fucking King. I stayed where I was behind a wooden crate stacked with pallets. If he came in shooting, I didn’t want to be an easy target.

Slow clapping filled the echoing room.

“Well done,” David chanted. I peered through the pallets to see the door shut behind David. He was alone.

“Where is she?” I said just loud enough to be heard.

“I’m so very impressed with you, Zander. Completely unexpected.” He pulled his phone out of his pocket, lighting up the wall behind him. He began to read.

“‘Fuck you, David.’ ‘Hashtag, Fuck David King.’ ‘Zander, you brilliant bastard.’ ‘Go get your girl!’ ‘We are coming for you, David.’ Thousands of these, almost all saying the same thing! How does it feel to have people rooting for you? Do you feel better equipped to fight me now?”

“Where. Is. She?” I enunciated.

David knocked on the door behind him, and it opened. In shuffled Katie. Her face was red and shimmering with tears. Duct tape had been wrapped around her entire head several times, covering her mouth. Her wrists had been similarly wrapped. A band of tape also tied her ankles together, but had enough slack that she could take small steps. A thick arm was wrapped around her neck as a tall blonde man with extremely curly hair guided her into the room.

“I said to leave your partner behind!” I shouted. It echoed.

“If you don’t want him here, then come kill him,” David said.

I didn’t respond. God-fucking-damn-it.

“So, Zander, how would you like to proceed? You’re running the show here,” David called, looking around the warehouse.

“Send Katie forward and leave.”

“Sorry, I don’t have a guarantee that you won’t release all that information anyway. Come on out here and we’ll discuss my terms.”

“Like hell I am.”

David looked to his partner, and his partner used his free arm to punch Katie in the side. She cried out as best she could through the duct tape and faltered, but the blonde man held her up by her neck.

“We can do this all night,” David smirked.

I stood up. My hiding place was off to David’s left, so I walked in a semi-circle until I was directly in David’s line of sight.

“Come closer,” he grinned.

I stepped forward until we were a couple yards apart.

“Look how you’ve changed,” he smirked. “Your hair looks good. You should always dye it darker. You’re so stoic now! Confident! Being on the run has changed you! I guess all we had to do to increase the minimum required effort was go on the run, huh? Then maybe we could have avoided this whole mess. Then again, it’s all been so fun.”

“Let’s get this over with,” I growled.

“So hostile,” David commented. “What’s your first term?”

“He leaves,” I said, pointing to the blonde man.

“Okay,” David shrugged. Before I could process what was happening, he pulled a handgun from his jacket pocket, and shot the blonde man in the head. He collapsed, dragging Katie with him. Katie gave a muffled shriek and untangled herself from his body, dragging herself backwards along the floor. She backed into the wall and stayed there, eyes wide.

David looked down at the body before slowly turning his head to me.

“My turn.”

Jesus Christ. It finally hit me how in over my head I was. I might understand David King, but I could never, ever match his sickness. It occurred that I could die that night, despite David’s rules.

“Show me the data,” he said. “That’s my first term. I want to know exactly what you’re going to release so I know it’s worth my only bargaining chip.”

I tried to hide my shaking hands as I pulled my phone out. I went into my email drafts on a throwaway account where I had saved a copy and emailed it to him.

“I sent it to you,” I said. David smiled reassuringly.

Fast as a lizard, he spun around and snatched Katie off the floor. She screamed as he stood her up and held her in front of him.

I pulled my Ruger SR45 handgun out of the concealed carry holster I’d worn and tried to get a clear shot. He was too fast and had caught me by surprise, so she was in front of him before I’d even lined him up in the sight.

“So, you got a gun after all,” he said coolly. “Didn’t see that part in your posts. Relax, I’m just making sure I can read in peace.”

He held the gun to her head with one hand while opening his phone with the other. My mind raced, trying to figure out the next steps. David had waltzed into a hostage negotiation that I had arranged myself and took over.

He took his time reading through the data dump. His expression changed between surprise and a smirk repeatedly.

“Well now,” he said, putting his phone away and slipping his now free arm around Katie’s neck. “I had no idea I was so careless.” He sounded anything but careless.

Katie gasped as he suddenly gripped her neck tighter and pressed the muzzle against her temple.

“Let’s move somewhere… smaller,” he said, looking up at the manager’s box. “I don’t want you running away when the going gets tough. You first, Zandsand,” he said, nodding his head toward the stairs to his right.

The door he had entered from had a set of grated stairs off to the right that led up to the manager’s box. They went up toward the back wall, then turned to the left straight into the side of the manager’s box. Another set of stairs should have been on the other side, mirroring these, but they had been disassembled and lay in a heap.

I kept my face to David as I walked toward the stairs. I kept my gun pointed in his direction, and he kept his muzzle against Katie’s head. Katie was sobbing and watching me.

When I reached the stairs, I slowly backed up them. David followed once I was halfway up.

At the top of the stairs, the door to the office stood. To the left, a grated walkway led out over the floor, spreading into catwalks that sprawled the entire place.

I opened the metal door to the office and backed in. The only furniture in the room were two heavy, wood tables. The rest of the office was bare. A thin slit of a window overlooked the warehouse floor.

David pushed Katie into the room with his arm still around her neck and shut the door behind him. I followed him with my gun, standing against the opposite wall where the second door leading into the office was. The office was big enough that we were still a few yards away from one another.

“Now I don’t have to worry about you running off into the dark warehouse. As fun as hide and seek sounds, I don’t have the time.

“You know, when I found your posts, I thought I had stumbled across some sort of… therapy story that you were putting up. But it was so much better. You really have surprised me. You’ve grown and changed to try and beat me,” David smiled.

“But you haven’t changed enough. I can see it in your face and your trembling hands. You are still you, Zander. You’ve changed your exterior, but inside you have the same motivations, and weaknesses.”

He tightened his grip on Katie again.

“I know your next term is for me to let Katie go, so I’m going to skip your turn. I know you would prefer that she remain in my custody rather than getting shot, so I suggest you put down your gun.”

I stood my ground. I wanted to take a shot, but didn’t want to risk him being faster than me. I was confident in my aim, but not my speed.

“Put it down,” he said again. I stayed.

In an instant, the gun had left her temple, fired a shot into the floor, and returned to her head. She sobbed, and the heat of the barrel on her skin must’ve hurt.

“I’M NOT FUCKING AROUND, ZANDER!” David shouted.

Slowly, I set the gun on the floor and kicked it in his direction.

“Good choice,” he said calmly. “Have you realized why you’re here yet?”

My face answered him. What did that even mean? Of course I did!

“You think you’re here to save Katie, but you aren’t. She’s been gone for a year now, and you’ve only built up memories of her. The Katie you knew is dead. But not even that Katie is the reason you’re here right now. No, you gave up on a happily ever after with Katie long ago. This isn’t a hero’s quest to save the princess. This is a revenge assault on the dragon.”

I tightened my jaw. I refused to admit he was right.

“This isn’t about saving her. This is about outsmarting me. Keeping Katie safe and sound is just a result,” David said,, his smile growing.

“So, in that sense, you and I are the same now. It’s about outsmarting the other one. You started out simply living life, then progressed to defending yourself, then to protecting your loved ones, and now you’ve arrived where I wanted you to be all along: trying to ruin me. It took you a couple years, but you made it. At least, most of the way.

“Even if Katie isn’t the true reason you’re here, she’s still a weakness. I’m going to guess that other people in your life are the same way. You still have weaknesses that tie you down. I learned how to get rid of mine.”

“Like your own mother?” I snipped.

“She was a liability,” he said coldly. “It wasn’t personal.”

“You’re a sick fuck,” I said.

The door behind David silently opened. I’d oiled those hinges for hours, making sure they made absolutely no noise.

“I’m about to get a lot sicker,” he said.

He’d started to pull the trigger, when he was tackled from behind. Katie tumbled out of his grasp as he tried to use both arms to catch himself. His gun went off, but the shot hit the wall.

Katie rolled away from David’s reach.

David started to get up, but the assailant was on their feet faster. David, on his hands and knees, looked up at the attacker.

“Remember me, BITCH?!” Clark jeered, and then punched in a downward arc into the side of David’s head.

David dropped to the floor, but he was still conscious. He grabbed Clark’s legs and tore him to the ground.

I raced forward and pulled Katie out of the scuffle. I dragged her out the door before getting her to her feet and cutting the tape on her hands with my pocket knife. There wasn’t time to get the layers off her head. She was wide-eyed.

“Run!” I hissed. “Go outside! The cops will be here soon!” I turned back inside to go help Clark. Not a romantic reunion, I know, but there was still a psychopath in there.

David and Clark were wrestling on the floor, throwing punches and grappling with one another. David was bigger and landed a few hard punches. I looked over my shoulder, making sure Katie was stumbling down the steps.

I dove in, aiming for my gun that was just beside the scuffle.

David saw me and kicked my legs like a tentacle out of the ocean. I tripped and knocked the gun into the corner when I fell. David suddenly shoved Clark off of him, practically tossing him onto one of the tables. I watched as David jumped up and made for his gun.

I writhed on the ground and kicked. My toes barely caught the gun and sent it skittering across the room.

There were two guns in the room, both on opposite sides. Two of us, and only one of him.

Clark rolled off the desk and jumped into David as he ran for the gun. They both slammed into the wall. I crawled for my gun, which was just out of reach by a couple feet. There was another crash behind me.

My fingers wrapped around the gun and I twisted around on the ground, aiming it in their direction. I had turned just in time to see David fire a shot into Clark.

There was no hesitation as I squeezed the trigger. It struck his shoulder. He whirled to face me.

I fired again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

Even after he’d stumbled back against the wall and slid down, I kept firing just to be sure. Just to make sure that the fucker would never get back up again.

My gun clicked to alert me that I had emptied the clip. Ten shots, and every one had hit David Fucking King.

I exhaled and dropped the gun, letting my head fall back to the floor. My heart pounded. My whole body shook. But I couldn’t rest yet.

Shakily, I got to my feet and stumbled over to Clark. He was crumpled against the wall, clutching his left shoulder. Blood oozed through his fingers.

“Damn, he shot me,” he said, clearly in shock. That’s when the police sirens could be heard.

“Get out of here,” he said to me.

“No, I’m going to--”

“I’ll be FINE! Police will be here any second to help me, just get out! Get back on the run! I’ll contact you when it’s safe!” Clark yelled. “Go! I’m not letting you get arrested again until they get the facts straight!”

I rushed toward the door, stuffing the Ruger back in my pants as I moved.

I paused at the door.

“Thank you,” I said, looking at Clark.

“Go!” He yelled again.

I sprinted down the steps and ran to the door furthest in the back of the building. I unlocked the chains on the door and pulled it open, ducking into the night. I had run this path over and over, making sure it was good enough for an escape in case something went wrong.

I went to my previously established hiding place and hunkered down to stay hidden. I sent a text to the server my script was on and entered the password to cancel the info dump. There never was a second person, that was a bluff. There is no reason to release that information to you now since David is dead. I’m sorry, I really appreciate the level of support to ruin David, but there’s no point now. I thought he’d still be alive afterward. The police will get it eventually as evidence, though..

I also tapped out ‘I am alive’ in the Reddit thread to alert everyone that I had survived. Then, I collapsed into sleep.

This morning, I was thinking clearly again and feeling better. I ate and drank lots to counter the shock. I have started making plans on where I’ll go next. It isn’t safe to stay here much longer.

The news hasn’t said anything about the incident yet, but I’m sure the story will break eventually. I have stayed glued to the radio app on my phone all day today and am even listening right now, hoping for an update on Katie or Clark.

Thank you, Reddit. You’ve helped me remain positive these past few days and set this trap. It’s finally done. I regret so many things about what I did and how I reacted in the past. I should have fought more forcefully before it came to this. I was too scared, though, and didn’t really understand David. But now I do. Only now it doesn’t matter because he’s gone.

From here, I’ll continue to stay on the run. I don’t plan to turn myself in until Hernandez says the prosecution is ready to drop all charges.

Hernandez is trying his hardest back at home to mitigate the evidence against me in all of those charges. Clark’s testimony about what happened last night should really help reduce the credibility of David’s claims. Plus, the GoPros we set up around the warehouse won’t hurt. David’s confession about his mother was a bonus I hadn’t expected.

Originally, we had intended to lock David in the manager’s office for the police to find. Clark had called the police just before attacking. Circumstances had changed that plan.

Some of you may wonder ‘well what if David hadn’t taken you up into the manager’s office?’ We had contingency plans: that wasn’t the only option.

Regardless, all of our plans involved arresting David, not killing him. It was a last resort option and wasn’t built into any plan. didn’t know I was prepared to kill until I had my gun aimed at David King.

I don’t think I’ve fully processed the fact that I’ve killed someone… I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel or act or think or… anything. I feel like I’m acting the wrong way...

Anyway, there’s another part that will help persuade the prosecutor to drop the charges against me. I lied before when Hernandez came to visit me in jail. I said he told me he couldn’t talk about Isaac’s death, but he did tell me. They had found a video file on Isaac’s computer from the day he died.

He’d been recording himself playing games for YouTube when there was a crash of silverware in the background. Isaac didn’t hit pause on the recording, and left the room to investigate.

David came flying back into the room, shoving Isaac into the bookcases. He slammed the door and was on him in seconds. The assault lasted only minutes. David walked out, leaving the door wide open.

The camera watched him come back into the room with my pillow. He held the pillow over Isaac’s body and hit it repeatedly. All the dead skin from my pillow fell onto Isaac’s body. They found those traces on Isaac’s body, but the video proved that I hadn’t killed him.

David had walked out and locked the door behind him. He’d made a mistake and hadn’t checked what was running on the computer. All he saw was the game.

Hernandez and I had been in contact while I was first on the run. I lied about that too. When I had first contacted him, he started crying on the phone, apologizing repeatedly. He told me that he knew if I stayed in jail, that I would, at the very least, lose a lot of time out of my life while the trial went on, even if David was accused later as more evidence came out.

He had accepted David’s deal and demanded that I be given half of the $15,000 he was paid. David, as you know, only gave me $2,000, but Hernandez had hoped it would help me lay low and evade capture until he could successfully contest the evidence. We fully intend to report the bribe to the police.

He told me that after my escape from the car, the police were very suspicious about the circumstances of my escape. There were too many holes in the story, and Hernandez had been sure to point out every last one repeatedly to his boss. A lot of you pointed them out too. Paint from the truck rubbing off, bars separating the front seat from the back seat, gps in the truck marking his whereabouts, and the location of the crash in relation to the time David sounded the alarm, etc.

David had clearly been desperate to get me out of jail. He risked bribing an official and left a lot of his plan up to chance to get me out. David just didn’t want to end the game yet. If I went to jail, it was over. Yet there were still so many ways he could ruin my life.

His need for quick action led to mistakes.

Hernandez also told me when he came to visit that Jackson had turned up. He’d come home a couple days after I was arrested and was brought in for questioning. He had proof and witnesses that he had been staying with his family for a few days.

When asked about the break in and theft, he told his story.

David had knocked at the door just as Jackson was finishing packing to go on vacation. He told Jackson that he was a friend of mine and was helping me move out. Jackson let him in and finished packing.

He was just walking towards the door with his suitcase when David asked if he would be willing to help carry out the TV. Jackson agreed and carried it out with David. He then grabbed his suitcase and left, asking David to lock up when he was done.

That’s when he started stealing everything and trashing our house. That’s also when Isaac would have come out and been killed. It solved the riddle of why the door had been locked and not broken when Clark found the apartment stripped bare.

There are still some questions that I don’t have answers to. We haven’t been able to figure out what he did with all the things he stole from us. We also don’t know who the partner is. Hernandez should know that in a few days and let me know.

I also don’t know how the keylogger got on my computer, or when the tracking app was installed on my phone, or how David was able to provide my social security number, driver's license number, and all other accurate information to the credit card companies. The same goes for the fraud that was committed against my parents.

I can’t help but wonder if David had been in our house before the break in and done all of that.

As for Clark, his disgraceful exit was a fabrication to throw David off. It was my idea to make him disappear from my life and take the target off of his back. It was both to protect him from David’s rage, and so that he could support me in the background. His mom did come and bail him out, but she was much kinder about the situation and worried like all moms do.

When I messaged Clark to tell him my plan in posting this series, he immediately jumped to help me, and without him I’d still be watching David and waiting for a good moment to strike.

It was his idea to plant the information about hiding his bank information on scraps of paper around town. It was placed as a joke and a way to tell if he was reading the series. We wanted to see if David would go hunting for them. He didn’t, but that was probably because he was on the run still.

Clark’s arraignment didn’t go so well. He’s still being charged with a misdemeanor for graffiting David’s old house. An expert was called to analyze the photographs and identified them as authentic and undoctored. Either David has someone doing one hell of a photoshop job, or he took pictures from angles that cut me out naturally. We are still trying to figure out how to resolve his problem.

With Katie, I have yet to see her beyond those brief moments while confronting David. It’s been only a few days for all of you throughout this series, but for all of us, she’s been missing for a year. I have no idea what David or his partner might have done to her during all that time. I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to see her again since I’m still on the run until the charges are dropped. If the charges are dropped, that is.

I’m scared to see her. I know David did it, but I feel responsible. I wonder if she blames me. I wonder if she hates me. Maybe one day I’ll know..

What David said has shaken me. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it today. He told me I was there for him and not for Katie. That I was after the dragon, not the princess. I’ve realized that he’s right. I’ve read a few of your responses and agree with you: I didn’t write all that much about Katie during this series. If it had been about Katie, I would have written more.

The fact that I left her to go back and fight says volumes about why I set this trap.

David was right. It wasn’t about Katie. Katie was a result. It makes me feel guilty and dirty to think about it. Maybe it would be best if I never saw her again. She’s not likely to want to see me.

Katie, if you’re ever reading this, if you can ever handle it, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

Once again, thank you, Reddit. You have helped so much with your support, encouragement, and your unknowing aid in making this trap for David. I couldn’t have done this without you.

The last two years have been hell. But it’s finally over.

We ruined David Fucking King.

Original Posts

Credited to Zandsand90