Visiting for the first time? You can start with day one here.
My hands fly to my mouth in shock, the note falling to the floor. My breath comes in short gasps as I reach for my phone to text Dan. I remember Jasper’s number scrawled on the to-go box from dinner and I make my way into the kitchen while typing out a message.
Got another note. This time for me.
That should do it.
I send the same message to Jasper, my hands still shaking but my initial fear and surprise has turned into a boiling anger. Within minutes I have responses from both Dan and Jasper that they’re on their way. Dan already knows the address, but I send it to Jasper since I’m assuming he’s never been here before. While I wait, I pace back and forth from the kitchen to the living room. At any other moment, I would be admiring the interior design of the architecture and the way Juniper’s style has permeated every single space. A massive leather couch is the centerpiece of the room, resting on top of two stacked rugs thrown criss-cross on top of each other. The walls are filled with large-print photographs and wall hangings, and if you look close enough, you can see the rhythm Juniper used to create the flow of the gallery.
I wouldn’t be surprised if she had a mental x/y slope to complete the look, making sure the spacing was perfectly even. I pause for a moment in front of a picture of us two back in San Jose. I remember this. We’d just graduated Brown were on our way to Stanford. She went for Education — Learning Design and Technology specifically, and I got in for International Policy Studies.
She finished the program. I…did not. Mostly because of Jack. I feel a sting of something akin to regret and wonder and swallow it down before I make myself start questioning every single moment of my recent history. The years after this photo were not the greatest for me.
But this photo — this photo brings back good memories.
We’re on the beach, arms draped over each other. We’re at a bonfire, our legs resting on the sand, our skin glistening from a day in the sun. Our mouths are hanging open and we’re looking at each other laughing. After this photo was caught, Juniper leaned in and rested her head on my shoulder. I feel the space next to me quiver from her absence and I close my eyes.
Juniper. Help me out here. Where are you?
I snap my eyes open and look toward the window in the living room. I think I hear a car driving, but I see them pass the house and know it isn’t Jasper or Dan. I grip my phone and begin tapping the bottom against my open palm. I start pacing and thinking about what I know.
- The person sending the notes knows where Juniper lives.
- The person is probably a student, given what Jasper saw.
- The person wrote a note after she disappeared, leaving it for her (us?) on her whiteboard.
- They also know we’re looking for her.
- They’re following me.
An idea begins to form in my my head and before I can talk myself out of it, I grab a sheet of paper and start writing. I step back for a moment, reading over what I wrote.
Where is she?
I fold it identical to the first note and walk back to the window, putting it on the opposite side. If they’re following me as closely as I think they are, I might as well say hello. I hear someone at the door and peek my head around the corner to see Jasper’s head in the window. He sees me and waves. I wave back and make my way to the front door, letting him in and noticing Dan pulling up right behind him. He gets out of his car and throws Jasper a look as he buttons his jacket.
“Jasper,” he says, walking in and brushing past him to get inside. “When you texted me,” Dan says catching my gaze. “I didn’t know it was going to be a party.”
I turn my head and watch his retreating figure, wondering if he was always this cordial. I look back at Jasper, who has a confused look on his face.
“Hi,” he whispers.
“Hi.” I respond.
We twist our lips to keep from laughing and he walks past me into the living room. He turns to face me. “Are you okay?”
I nod, and it feels like I’m breathing for the first time since I found the note.
“Not really,” my eyes dart around still, trying to find something I don’t even know exists. “But I do feel better now that y’all are here.”
“Where’s the note?” Dan asks, looking around and oblivious to my conversation with Jasper. Every once in a while he’ll pick something up randomly, looking underneath it.
“Well. Not under the flower vase.” I laugh, walking to the folded piece of paper on the counter. I hand it to him and he looks at it.
“If he’s following you,” Dan says, “then he more than likely has this place bugged in some way.”
I feel stupid for laughing, for thinking he was looking for another note in random places. Juniper’s house? Bugged?
“For real?” I spit out, suddenly uneasy. It’s not that I’ve had conversations I wouldn’t want others to know about, I haven’t really had any time to do anything other than collapse into bed after searching for Juniper all day. But the thought of someone tapping into this space to watch or hear what was going on at all times has me….spooked. Spooked and angry all over again. Jasper sits on the couch, crossing his legs and spreading his arms across the backend of the cushion. He’s wearing cut off jeans today that hit right above his knee. His t-shirt has the moon phases stacked on top of each other. When he spreads his arms, the muscles flex and I see that tattoo on his forearm take on a life of its own.
“How would someone have access to this place? And if it’s bugged, how long do you think it’s been going on?”
He looks at Dan and waits for an answer. I force my eyes to bounce from his legs back to focusing on Dan.
“Well. I’m not saying it’s a definite.” He looks at both of us while putting the note in a plastic bag he brought inside with him. “If we do find anything here, which we’ll need to probably come back and do a more thorough search,” he looks directly at me and I nod agreement, “then we’re talking about someone with a lot more maturity and depth than we initially thought.”
“You mean didn’t think,” I add. “Because you thought she killed herself. Remember?”
Dan chews on his cheek and avoids my gaze.
“Missing person cases are….complicated,” he turns away from me and walks to the bedroom. I roll my eyes in frustration.
“Are you always this pleasant to talk to?” I call out and he grumbles a response before appearing back in the door frame, holding my note.
“What the hell is this?”
“Am I going to get in trouble for passing notes?”
Jasper laughs and I find his eyes across the room.
“Lavender. This is an investigation, not a joke.”
My head pops up to face Dan and I look him square in the eyes, all of the fire and frustration of the past week built into my gaze. He blinks and looks away.
“I know this isn’t a fucking joke, Dan. This is my sister. And you need to trust and believe that I will do whatever necessary to find her. Even if it means getting to know this person who is now taking it upon himself to leave us notes.”
“Just….just be careful, Lavender.” He sets the note down on the counter and takes his phone out of his pocket. “I’m calling in our forensics team. They’ll be out here later today to look deeper into what we might have missed the first time around, okay?”
I nod and grab the paper, stuffing it into the back pocket of my shorts, my pulse still racing from Dan’s admonishment.