Charleston was a larger city than she thought. Elise had rented a carriage house which was tiny but quaint and lovely. She had a queen bed, cooking facilities, a nice bathroom and sitting area. The garden was especially nice. She often sat on her tiny porch and listened to the fountain that spouted from the statue of Pan. It was going to be a good semester!
The death of her parents had left her well off financially and she still had her Gran who lived in Raleigh. Medical School was a challenge. It was July and she was deep into gross anatomy. Study took her mind off the last year and the losses she had suffered.
Walking to class was a must. Parking in the Holy City was impossible. She took the same route, rain or shine and her schedule was the same depending on the day of the week. Elise spent her off hours and weekends in the library. No one had time for dates, bar-hopping or anything social for that matter in med school.
As summer turned to fall, her course load grew and schedule changed. One evening, walking back from the library, she heard footsteps pretty close behind her on the brick sidewalk. It was a clicking sound like steel-heeled boots.
The wind was cold, it was late and Elise was more than a little frightened. She crossed the street where there was better light, too scared to look back. She could hear her heart beating in her ears. To her relief, she soon realized she could no longer hear the clicking!
Elise did not call the police, but did have extra locks installed on the door of the carriage house. She changed her route as her study group leader, Trevor had suggested, but was unable to get a park because there were non left. She was put on the waiting list.
Changing her route only meant leaving earlier in the mornings. It also meant getting home a full ten minutes later from the library, as she had to move over two blocks and cross two streets.
Right after Thanksgiving, Elise received a letter from her landlords who owned the large, main house that stood on the street which her carriage house was hidden behind. She was thrilled to learn they would be coming to Charleston to stay from November 30th through the month of January.
The owners were friends of her Gran from Blowing Rock, NC, an older couple. Her Gran had been in school with Mrs. King, but Elise had not seen them since she was a small child. She could vaguely remember playing with the King’s grandchildren at the beach one summer. At any rate, Elise was glad someone would be close by under the circumstances.
The night before the Kings arrived, Elise was walking home early. She had decided to study at home. This time of year it is dark by 5:30 and class was not over until 6:45. Exams were starting and she was slammed. It was steady raining and Elise had a million books in her backpack.
She had been practically running, but about half way home she slowed to a rapid walk. Her slicker hood was dripping in her face and making it hard for her to hear. Elise crossed the street when she first heard clicking. Not now! She thought. This can’t be happening again! It was really dark and gloomy and no one was around because of the rain. She was two blocks from home.
Elise had thought this possibility through and had pepper spray in her backpack. She could still hear the clicking and the sound was getting closer! She crossed the street, thinking that had worked before. She was at the corner, so she cut around and started nearly running again down that street-away from her house!
Not hearing anything, she thought he was gone and took a deep breath and slowed. Her heart stopped-the clicking was coming behind her-fast-running! Trembling, desperately Elise fumbled in her backpack for the spray gun. It fell to the pavement! She grabbed for it, turned around, he was there! Tall, black hoodie, no face, gloves, boots, coming toward her-she pointed the spray gun at his face-pulled the hinge-out it came!
Elise did not wait to see. She turned and ran! She ran in circles for what seemed like forever until she found her driveway! The gate seemed stuck and she looked behind and down the street both ways. Inside the gate she fell, skinning her knees and hands. Crying and wet she fumbled her way inside her door, locked it tight and collapsed on the bed. In the wee hours, she slept.
By the 3rd of December exams were over. The Kings had arrived and Elise was invited to dinner, with a guest if she desired. She told Mrs. King, Juanita, that she would be coming on her own.
Elise was a lovely young woman with short blonde hair, green eyes, long tiny, but shapely legs, a waist to match and a clear, clean complexion. She chose a grey shift, winter white cashmere shawl, diamond studs, pearls and a tiny pearl bracelet. Her shoes were grey pointed heels with burgundy soles. She wore a tiny burgundy headband with one tiny diamond inset star.
Dinner was lovely with Old Charleston charm. Elise was surprised to find The Kings had invited a date for her. He was a Citadel Cadet, a Junior from Charlotte, NC. His name was John Thomas Merton, III. Elise enjoyed his company and by the end of the evening, they had exchanged cell numbers.
Several days later, Elise spoke with Gran who told her The Kings had invited her to come for Christmas. She was to arrive on the 20th and stay through the 1st of January. Both Elise and Gran were thrilled and happy, looking forward to being together for the holidays.
Before Gran arrived, Elise had lunch once and dinner twice with John. Elise took the liberty of inviting him for Christmas Eve dinner to meet Gran with The Kings.
Elise went shopping downtown for a dress for Christmas and gifts. Again she walked as it was not far. Arriving home shortly after dusk, she was horrified to find the new locks smashed off her door! The door stood ajar. She reached inside, turned on the light switch and peeked in. Everything was as it should be. She took her pepper spray out, walked in and carefully checked the bathroom. All was fine. She checked the closets. All fine.
After the locksmith left, Elise double-checked to see if anything was missing. Everything was there and in its place. Why? Who? What should I do? If she called the police, she would lose this place for sure.
The morning Elise left to meet Gran at the airport, she saw an unfamiliar car in the driveway. It was a green Range Rover 4×4, suitable for mountain living. She assumed it belonged to another guest of The King’s.
Gran settled into the big house and Elise gave her privacy to visit with her old friends after they had lunch on the way from the airport. She did not see any of the Kings or Gran until Christmas Eve. She was busy shopping and wrapping! All thoughts of her stalker were whisked away.
Elise and John attended Christmas Eve Chapel at The Citadel at 5PM at his insistence. Dinner was at 8:00, drinks at 6:30. No one seemed to notice they were a little late except for a young man who introduced himself as Marshall Dodson. He was a grand-nephew of Juanita King from Boone. Elise found him to be extremely good-looking and apparently wealthy.
John, however, did not like the way this guy had eyes on Elise all night-the way he stared at her low-cut red silk dress and swan-like neck like a wolf. He noticed that Marshall attended to Elise as if she was his date-continually filling her wine glass, trying to whisper in her ear and eying her from across the room.
Although The Kings and Gran listened to him talk through dinner, neither John nor Elise could put a finger on exactly what this guy did for a living or who his family was or where. Still, Elise was enamored with Marshall in a purely physical way. He simply turned her on!
Gran came over to the carriage house for a visit. After seeing all the extra locks on the door, she pressed the stalker incidents out of Elise. Elise, fearing she would lose her rental if the Kings knew, got Gran’s word not to tell. Gran understood, but was very concerned and made Elise promise to begin looking, as would she, for new rental for next year.
John said he called Elise every day. She did not return his calls. Gran saw her on December 29th, three days before she was to leave to go home to Raleigh. The neighbor reported she saw Elise drive away in the Range Rover once with a man who looked like Marshall. Marshall said he had not seen nor spoken with Elise since Christmas Eve as did The Kings.
Elise never showed up at MUSC for Spring semester. Trevor, Elise’s study group leader never showed up for spring semester. Neither did another guy and girl in their study group.
Elise’s Gran took an apartment in downtown Charleston and is still cooperating with the police in the investigation to find her granddaughter.
Sally is a rising sophomore at The College of Charleston. She sits on her little porch and loves to listen to Pan and his waterfall. She is so happy to have this charming carriage house-to be out of the dorm!