Stalking Amanda
A Noah Milano Story

by Jochem Vandersteen



.

......A beautiful blonde with drop dead looks and the most incredible legs I'd ever seen since the last time I'd read Playboy magazine entered my office. Isn't that how all these stories are supposed to start? Well, I'm afraid this one does too.

......I bolted upright from my laid back position in my chair, shoving my copy of Rolling Stone into a desk drawer. "Good afternoon. What can I do for you, miss?" I asked my guest. Mr. Politeness, that's me.

......"You're Noah Milano?" she inquired.

......"Says so on my door," I answered. I gave her a killer smile to show her I was a nice guy. And gave her the once over. Actress? Model? Prostitute? All of the above? She seemed far too aware of her looks not to be cashing in on them somehow.

......"I need your help. I need to sleep at night again."

......She looked distressed. I changed my smile from 'killer' to 'kind'.

......"I'm afraid I'm a security specialist, not a sleep doctor, miss."

......"I know," she said. "I think I need security."

......"In that case, please sit down."

......"Thank you. I'm sorry I didn't introduce myself when I came in, it's just that I'm a bit nervous about this whole thing."

......"That's all right," I assured her. "What can I do for you?"

......She paused for a while, almost like she was going for the maximum of dramatic effect. Almost like an actress.

......"My name is Amanda Smythe. I think someone's stalking me, and it frightens me to death. I can't eat, can't sleep. I can only think about that guy who's following me."

......"So you want me to get him off your tail?"

......"Yes, yes I do."

......"Any idea who this stalker might be? An ex boyfriend giving you a hard time? Someone you used to work with you brushed off?"

......"I'm sorry, I really haven't got a clue."

......"When did you get the idea you were being stalked? And why?"

......"Um, a few weeks ago. It started out as just a feeling, you know? A feeling I was being watched. Then I started to hear the sound of a car engine running in front of my house. And when I looked out of my window to check I saw a black Nissan drive away. This has happened three times in the past week, it scares the hell out of me."

......"Did you maybe get a license plate? Recognize the car? Got a look at the driver?"

......"No, sorry." She sighed. "I'm not being much of a help, am I?"

......"Don't worry about it. Did you try the police already?"

......"Yes, but I can't prove someone's stalking me. He's never harmed me or hasn't broken into my home or someting like that."

......"All right. I'll see what I can do to help you. I'll start right away. But first, I'll need a retainer."

......She gave me a guilty look. The one a puppy gives you when it's just peed on your carpet. "I'm afraid I won't be able to pay you much right now. You see, I'm in between jobs right now. I'm auditioning for a couple of productions right now, though! You see, I'm an actress." I smiled, satisfied with my observation skills. Comes with the job of a security specialist, you know.

......I nodded. "We'll think of something. When you're a rich movie star you can buy me a villa in Palm Springs. You pay my expenses and we've got a deal." At moments like this it became obvious to me why I cut all ties with my father. It was the fact that I wanted to do something with my life that helps people, not hurts them.

****

......I was parked between a Ford and a spiffy red Jeep, making sure there was enough room to get my Mazda in gear fast enough when the need would arise. I was keeping a watchful eye on Betty's Diner, where she had started to work just a few days ago.

......I swear, half the waitresses in this city are really actresses waiting for their big break. In the meantime they wait on tables, practicing their acting skills by pretending they're serving good food to people they pretend to like.

......I checked my watch. It said 21:50, she'd get off in ten minutes. A black Nissan turned the corner, moving slowly down the street. Bingo! The driver's face was obscured by a baseball cap, pulled low over his eyes. Not a logical thing to do at ten at night. The Nissan stopped close to my car, so I slumped down in my seat. He got out and walked to the hardware store, just across the street from Betty's. He stood there, admiring the portable drills on display in the windows. I had a strong feeling he wasn't really interested in them though. Ten o'clock at night is not usually tooltime. And from that angle he had a perfect view of the diner, in the reflection of the store window.

......Then Amanda left the diner, putting her apron in a shopping bag, loosening her hair from the ponytail it had been captured in. She almost seemed to be in a rush, like she couldn't wait to get away from her job. She glanced in my direction, for reassurance, I guess. Not too smart, on her part, but I didn't think our guy had noticed. She got into her Volkswagen and slowly drove from her parking space. The guy walked back to his car as inconspicuously as he could, sat behind his wheel and seemed to count to ten. When he seemed satisfied there was enough distance between him and Amanda he put his car in gear as well. And the game, as they say, was afoot!

......I waited until he had rounded the corner and followed him. Stalking the stalker. After a time she lead the parade into a parking garage, just a couple of minutes from the restaurant. He'd never even glanced back, fixated on his prey. That was the moment I'd planned to make my move, so I did.

......I overtook him, yanked the wheel to the right, completely blocking his way. I pressed the brakes. The stalker managed to get his car stopped just in time. He was swearing at me, hitting his steering wheel out of frustration. In my rear view mirror I could see Amanda heading towards the exit of the garage. Good girl. Now it was time to confront the sleaze.

......He got out of his car at the same time I did. He was pretty pissed, walking to me in a straight line, fists raised in anger. I met him halfway, my right hand on the 9mm I wore in a holster strapped on the small of my back. It never hurts to be careful.

......"What the hell did you think you were doing? You could've gotten us both killed! Are you crazy?" he shouted.

......"Probably not as crazy as you are, stalker boy," I said and, before he could figure out what was going on, I had my left forearm pushed into his throat. I added some weight to it and managed to move him back to his car. I pressed down his head on the roof of his car, still using my forearm. Drawing my gun, I hissed in his ear "You leave that lady alone from now on, boy."

......I pressed my nine in his ribs to show him I meant business. He tried to push me away from him, but he didn't have a chance. Back when I worked for my father I used this particular hold all the time. The trick is making sure all your weight and strength goes to the forearm. There was no way he'd be able to free himself without breaking his neck.

......When he started to look pale I decided he'd had enough. I let him go, taking two steps away from him. I still had the gun aimed at him, though. You never know what a guy that pissed off decides to do. Coughing and wheezing he tried to regain his composure. He did his best to look macho, but of course failed. When you're looking into the barrel of a loaded gun, everyone's a pussy.

......"Why are you doing this to me?" he asked. "I don't even know you."

......"You are harassing Miss Smythe. She doesn't like that. I don't either. Harassing her will get you hurt. Clear?" I said.

......"Yeah. Yes, clear," he said. Just like a puppy with his tail between his legs, caught pissing on the carpet.

......"All right. See, now there's no reason for us to be enemies. You just get in your car and take off. You never bother Miss Smythe ever again and you won't see me ever again either."At that moment I wanted to frisk him. See if maybe he was carrying a weapon, just to see how much of a danger he could be if I let him off with a slap on the wrist. Check his ID to see who I was dealing with, so he'd know I would be able to find him if he bothered Amanda again. Unfortunately, at that time a deep blue Audi drove into the garage. I didn't want to alarm the driver, afraid he'd call the cops. If there was one thing I didn't need it was another encounter with L.A.'s finest.

......"All right," he said and got back into his car. Slowly he rode off, out of the garage. I holstered my gun, satisfied he wouldn't be bothering Amanda after this little heart to heart. Usually threatening them good is enough to keep the run of the mill weirdoes away. I decided to check up on Amanda from time to time, however, just to be sure. And of course she always had my number if she needed me. The Audi parked. I gave the driver, an old guy with a bad haircut and an expensive suit, a friendly wave and drove away myself.

****

......A couple of weeks went by. Business was okay, but nothing special: a few cases of security consulting, escorting paranoid businessmen and other boring stuff. In between jobs I'd managed to visit the shooting range a couple of times and jog through the park. No women though. Seems like since the day I quit the family business I couldn't get a date if my life depended on it. An underpaid security specialist just doesn't have the same sex appeal a wiseguy with a Porsche has, I guess.

......As I sat on my couch, thinking about how life wasn't fair sometimes, Guinness in one hand, remote in the other the phone rang."Milano," I said.

......"Noah, this is Amanda." There was a tone of urgency in her voice. "Noah, I need you to come over here. I think someone's trying to break into my house. I think it's my stalker. And I think he's got a gun."My instincts had been wrong.

......"All right, don't panic," I said. Always good advice, right? "Lock the door of whichever room you are in now. Shove some piece of furniture against it to be on the safe side. Call 9 1 1. I'll be right there."
"O-okay," she said, trembling. Then she hung up. At least, I hope she did because the line went dead.

****

......Driving the Mazda to Amanda's house, located just a couple of minutes from Lincoln Park, I cursed myself all the way down there for selling my Porsche. I just had to do the noble thing and cut all my ties with my family, right? I just wouldn't accept any loans from my dad. No, I had to do this on my own. Now I was trying to make a the shit box drive faster than a Porsche, actually faster than a rocket ship was more like it. Damn traffic! One o'clock at night and the roads were full of damn cars! I thought New York was the city that never sleeps. Horns of annoyed people blared everywhere as I overtook them one at a time.

......Fortunately, Kane, the guy who trained me, had taught me to drive as well as to shoot. Kane wouldn't have had this problem. He would have killed the stalker in the first place. Now Amanda was in danger because I'd made an error in judgement.

......The house was pretty nice. It seemed Amanda wasn't as poor as she said she was. Maybe she'd inherited the house or something. There was the same Nissan in front of Amanda's house. And no cops. I wondered if maybe the stalker had severed her phone lines or something after Amanda had managed to call me. Great. I drew my Glock and ran to the door. A good thing there was no automatic security light. If it had switched on while I was trying to get in I'd probably be spotted by the intruder about now.

......The door was closed, meaning our guy had probably entered the house through a window. I searched for an open window. There. Left side of the house, above the pine tree. Which by the way, is a big security no no. Maybe I should've given her some security advice just to be on the safe side after I'd chased away the stalker. Never have a tree in front of your window. You might as well leave a ladder in front of it!

......I was up the tree in seconds. It hadn't rained for days, so it wasn't slippery at all. The branches were solid and spaced conveniently from each other. Just perfect. Unfortunately, perfect for me had meant perfect for our interloper as well. After some extra effort I managed to climb through the window and found myself directly in Amanda's bedroom. Judging by the bedsheets, the walls and every damn piece of furniture in the room, her color seemed to be pink. Not much time to judge the decorating though, because I was looking at the broad back of the stalker already. He was standing in front of Amanda, approaching her in a definitely threatening way, moving slowly, flexing his muscles obviously. She was backing towards her door, her thin pink -- of course -- nightgown making her seem even more vulnerable.

......"Freeze, asshole!"The stalker turned, gun in his hand. Too bad for him mine was already out. First there was surprise in his eyes, then resolve. He was going to shoot me. So I shot first.

......The impact of the bullet spun him around and sent him crashing down onto the pink bed. Blood soiled the satin sheets. Amanda sat down on the floor, beside the door. She was sobbing hysterically. I just stood there with my gun in my hand, digesting what had just happened. It took me a minute before I realized I had to check to see if maybe the guy was still alive. I took a closer look. I didn't need to check his pulse to know he was dead. I'd been taught a little bit too well, I guess. Of course, you probably shouldn't carry a gun if you're not prepared to kill.

......I searched his pockets for some kind of ID. If I'd killed somebody ,I had to know who I killed. The ID in his wallet said his name was Roscoe Fuller. He was a private investigator. That meant there might be a good reason to assume there was more to this than just some run of the mill stalking thing. Putting the wallet back in the guy's pocket, I realized I had to do something I hated almost more than shooting someone. I had to call the cops. I discovered her phone was dead, so I used my cell phone.

****

......Of course Detective Sergeant Williams was on duty that night. Murphy's law, right? Williams hates my guts, because my family is supposed to have wasted his partner a couple of years ago. Of course his partner had been on the take, but he wasn't ready to believe that.

......While the technical guys were taking pictures and dusting stuff for prints, he took me to the hallway. A female cop took care of Amanda, who seemed to be in shock. Great, that made me the only one able to answer any questions. And without Amanda to back me up, Williams was probably going to lock me up for murder and throw away the key.

......Williams pushed me against the wall, forcefully. "I think I'm going to lock you up and throw away the key!" See?

......"Listen, it was self-defense! The guy had a gun pointing at me! Also, he'd been stalking her for weeks. He broke into her house and would quite probably have raped or killed her if I hadn't arrived. You should thank me for doing your job!"That pissed him off. Sometimes I've got too much of a mouth on me. Must be the Italian genes.

......"That's enough, pal. You're going with me. You can explain everything downtown." Williams pushed me chest first against the wall, cuffing my wrists behind me. I was in deep.

****

......I'd told my story a hundred times, but Williams insisted on hearing it again. I sighed."If I'm staying here for another week can't you make things comfortable for me?" I glanced around the interrogation room. There wasn't much too look at except concrete. "You know, decorate the place. Some paintings maybe, some music."

......Williams leaned closer to me, getting up a little from his chair. "Don't get cute with me, asshole," he whispered.

......Then salvation came in, dressed as, of all things, another cop. He was overweight, hadn't shaved in days and he had the biggest nose I'd ever seen. Still he looked like an angel after he said the magic words. "Chief says we gotta let the guy go, Williams. The witness explained everything and things are in the clear for now. Seems some rich ass attorney talked to the chief. Threatened him with a lawsuit and everything if he didn't let the guy go."

......I grinned, leaning back comfortably in my chair. "Seems we have to say goodbye, sarge. Such a shame too, I was just getting the feeling we were starting to bond."

......"Milano. Piss. Off. Now." Williams spat. I followed his advice though. The angelic cop escorted me out of the interrogation room. Out by the desk where I picked up my stuff, a guy in a thousand dollar suit was waiting for me. He offered me his hand. Since it's the polite thing to do, I shook it.

......"Hello, Mister Milano. My name is Maxwell Slim. I've been retained by your father to make sure you were all right."Of course. Daddy dearest got me off the hook again. The guy has eyes and ears everywhere. Just goes to show you, money can buy you everything in this city. Even your freedom. I thought about getting back to the interrogation room, but I wasn't that desperate to cut off my ties with the mob.

......"All right. Thank him for me, but tell him it makes no difference. We're still through. Now be a good little flunky and give me a ride home."

****

......I was sitting in my car in front of Roscoe Fuller's house. It was a small beach house, white with big windows and a porch, overlooking the sea near Santa Monica pier. Maybe I should've become a private dick instead of a security specialist anyway. The pay sure as hell seemed better. I waited there until I was sure there was no one around to see me. The cool night air kissed my forehead as I got out of the car. I hated the hot summer days but the nights were all right.

......It took me a few minutes to assure myself there wasn't any sort of electronic surveillance or alarm equipment installed. Nothing. For a guy who should have known how nasty a place this world had become, Roscoe hadn't been a very careful guy. I worked the lock of the front door with my picks. Two minutes later there was a satisfying click. I pushed the door open.

......There was something off about this whole case. Gumshoes don't normally stalk someone for fun. They're paid to do so. I was here hoping to find out who'd paid him and why. The front door led immediately to the living room. It was big and mostly unfurnished. Guess Roscoe didn't spend much time at home. There was a cheap TV and a VCR, a couch and a small teak but battered coffee table. A bottle of Wild Turkey on the table. Not my brand. I decided to leave it alone. The couch was covered with videotapes. Maybe he'd managed to get some illegal copies of Phantom Menace. Would explain the house, maybe.

......Curiosity got the better of me. I put on the TV. Letterman. I was hoping he didn't have any interesting guests tonight. It would make me all torn up about spending my night burgling. I took one of the tapes and put it in the VCR.

......At first there was some static. What I saw after that didn't shock me at first. I'm a big boy, I've seen porn before. There was some leggy blond, doing the nasty with a guy who was so hairy he should've been forbidden to show his naked bod to unsuspecting viewers. Then I recognized the girl.

......At the same time I heard a noise behind me. Like feet scuffling across the floor. I turned around, Glock in hand. It was Amanda. She looked older than on the video but the legs were still as beautiful. She was dressed in a baby blue skirt and a white sleeveless blouse. Large hoops dangled from her ears. In her right hand she carried a .38."Seems you found out more than I'd intended," she said.

......"So it seems," I answered, keeping my gun trained at her. She kept hers aimed at me as well. "I think I figured out what's been going on here, Amanda. And it's ugly stuff. Roscoe was blackmailing you, right? You're here to get the blackmail material back, right? Shame I ended up here at the same time, isn't it?"She said nothing, just tightened her grip on the gun."You wanted a serious acting career, but you knew those porn flicks you made years ago weren't going to help that. You called Roscoe, telling him to follow you from work. You would lead him to a quiet place where you could handle the transaction, pay him the money to silence him. That was when I had my first confrontation with him. Did you figure I'd kill him right then? Violent guy I'm supposed to be, being the kid of famous mafia don? Or did you just want me to believe he was for real, get me all riled up and protective of you?"
"Just shut up," she said. "Yeah, you're right. But who cares about Roscoe? He was nothing, a creep. You did the world a favor. And it won't make any difference, turning me in. I'll give you a chance. It doesn't have to be like this. Drop the gun, then so will I."

......She gave me a sensuous smile. "I've seen the way you look at me, Noah. I know what you want. It can be yours, if you want to. Imagine what life will be for us when I'm a star. Yachts, mansions, parties. Me."

......I laughed, shaking my head. "God, you're crazy. You're so sure you're going to make it, aren't you? I've got news for you. You screwed up. You made the mistake of your life when you called me, pretending Roscoe was going to hurt you. You arranged for me to murder your blackmailer. You blew it. You know why? Because I've been used as a puppet by arrogant people who are so damned sure of themselves too many damn times and for too damned long. You're going down, Amanda. Hard. There's nothing you can do or say that will make me lower the gun."

......"Don't be a fool," she said. "Everyone has a price. Sex, money, power. What's yours, Noah?"

......"Shut the fuck up and drop the gun." She didn't. Her eyes twitched and her finger tightened over the trigger.

......The sound of the gunshot in the enclosed space was deafening. Amanda went down on the wooden floor. Her legs spread unceremoniously apart, her skirt hitched up a little. Her hair cascaded on the floor. A pool of blood spread under her slender body. As I sat down on the couch, trying to take it all in, I heard the tape still playing. Her pre recorded moans filled the silence. I gritted my teeth, looking at the screen, at the dead body of Amanda, then back at the screen. She was already dead when she made that movie.

......I walked over to the phone. Williams was going to love this.

Copyright (c) 2000 Jochem Vandersteen



Jochem Vandersteen has been an aspiring writer since high school, having written everything from movie reviews to comics, from detective stories to horror. Currently he's a marketing manager for a web site company.

He also has a web site that features some of his horror stuff, featuring tabloid reporter Harvey Banks. "They're really supernatural hardboiled detective stories when you think about it," says Jochem.

And head here for more Thrilling Detective Fiction!



Please direct comments on the above story and inquiries about submissions to the editor, or check out this page.
"And I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who likes talking to a man that likes to talk."

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