By JimSproat All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery / Thriller


Eye tell three seemingly independent tales of stalking and observation with all the dangerous ramifications. Eventually the three stories weave together in unexpected ways, leading to survival, death and perhaps - redemption.

Chapter 1

Observer’s paradox: The observation or measurement itself affects an outcome, so that the outcome as such does not exist unless the measurement is made.

Montgomery Delgado III was twenty-one years old. He was tall and handsome, had black hair and a strong, yet slender build which he worked on daily. His eyes were as bright as the sun. Someone once said that looking into his eyes was like looking into the depths of the ocean. His intelligence was undeniable. His grandfather had been a hard-working store owner from the Midwest who built something out of nothing. Montgomery’s father then parlayed that small fortune into a huge one, becoming a real estate tycoon out west. He was worth seven hundred million dollars at the time of his early death ten years ago, when Montgomery number three was only eleven.

Brilliant as he was though, Montgomery the third was also completely undisciplined in all productive endeavors. He was raised by his indulgent, grieving mother and wanted for nothing. He did anything he wanted, whenever he wanted and had unlimited access to cash. He engaged in cruel, indulgent games, for his own entertainment but never applied his talents and intellect to anything constructive.

He had a natural gift at assessing people. After only a few words and an expression, he could read a stranger like a comic book. He could have used this talent as a psychologist, or perhaps a detective but he had no interest. He was also an electronics genius but he flittered that skill away on self-indulgence also. He could have been a great man but he was a punk, plain and simple.

Montgomery didn’t get drunk or use drugs, but not because of any morality, which he had none, it was simply because he didn’t want anything to dull his greatness. His arrogance was off the charts. Occasionally some of his antics got him in a little trouble, but he could divert blame with the best of them, and smugly loved doing it. He had many women, which he would collect with artificial charm and loose riches, then dispose of just as quickly. He never finished high school, he just couldn’t be bothered with such mundane trivialities.

He also refused to be called Monty. Such a nickname might be fine for school teachers and plumbers but not for someone of his caliber. Any abbreviation to his moniker would be received with the harshest condemnation.

Montgomery had only one friend, Jeff Dunne. And Jeff’s only friend was Montgomery. Jeff’s friendlessness, however, had more to do with his crippling insecurities than the detestable arrogance that Montgomery enjoyed. Jeff was also twenty-one and currently away at college. The two friends hadn’t seen each other since Christmastime. It was an odd pairing, outwardly. Jeff was the good guy. He was always the good guy. It was expected of him and he complied. His morality, however, was paper thin. He didn’t always know why he was supposed to behave in an upright, civilized manner, but he did anyway. You could say that being well behaved resonated with him, but not completely. He was conflicted.

Something inside Jeff was drawn to Montgomery’s approach to life, his devil-may-care attitude. Even though Jeff would often object to Montgomery’s antics, he secretly lived vicariously through Montgomery’s schemes, and Montgomery knew it. He saw right through Jeff’s protests and fashioned himself as Jeff’s hero. He fed his own ego with his latest tales of daring adventure and gleaned energy from awestruck Jeff. Certainly, Montgomery overstated Jeff’s adulation but it was partly true.

Jeff knew nothing of Montgomery’s latest boondoggle though, which in Montgomery’s own disturbed opinion, was his proudest achievement. Montgomery came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea, he would randomly pick someone then follow them everywhere. The randomness was the key. The world was full of stalkers and followers driven by motives like jealousy and rage, but no one stalks someone for no reason at all. That’s what gave this activity poetry, in Montgomery’s mind.

So in early January, not long after Jeff went back to school, Montgomery went to a local mall and randomly dropped a matchbook on the ground, then sat nearby to watch. The first person to step on the matchbook would be his target, or victim. Several people walked by, old and young, men and women, couples and singles, of all shapes and sizes. But none yet stepped on the matchbook. There were a few close calls but close wasn’t good enough. There were a few hot girls that Montgomery initially hoped would be the one but then he relented and realized that that would be contrary to the assignment. He wanted someone that he would have no reason of any kind to follow.

Sure enough, after twenty minutes or so, here came the Dremmel family, mom, dad, two daughters and a son. The dad, Charlie Dremmel, stepped flat on that matchbook. He was the chosen one, oblivious to his new distinction. Montgomery arose and casually walked behind them. He knew nothing of Charlie at that point, which was part of the challenge.

Montgomery carefully followed and watched from a safe distance. He came prepared and had a secret video camera tucked away neatly in his hat that he could control remotely. He took some video, which he would analyze later. He eventually got Charlie’s license plate, which was the hook that he needed.

Over the next few weeks, Montgomery uncovered everything he could about one Charles Dremmel, his unsuspecting prey. He knew where he lived, where he worked and where he ate. He knew what movies he liked and what music he listened to. He even knew what he ordered at Starbucks. Montgomery was a bit of an adrenaline junky, in his own warped way, so following wasn’t enough. He surreptitiously installed a hidden GPS device in Charlie’s car and tapped into his home phone and cell phone. He could even read Charlie’s text messages. Wealth, genius and deviant behavior can be a dangerous combination.

So who is Charlie Dremmel? Charlie was forty-three years old and was a mid-level Engineering Manager at a local defense contractor. He was young for such a lofty position but he was bright and ambitious. He and his wife Bree had built a nice empire. They had a beautiful home, three active, overachieving children, expensive cars and frequent exotic vacations. What they also had were debts; mounting, pounding debts that Charlie hid from his family’s consuming appetite.

The main culprit of their financial woes, however, was Charlie himself. The big G. That’s right - gambling. Charlie took so many legitimate business trips that traveling became a convenient alibi for those times he lied to his wife to spend a weekend at one of the local Indian casinos. He figured that he could make enough money to keep his family in the lifestyle that they were all accustomed. With that thinking, he justified his gambling obsession as noble. Occasionally he would hit some big payoffs, but not lately. He was on a losing streak. If he could just get spotted some cash, he knew he could turn things around and no one would be the wiser, he fooled himself into thinking. After all, he reasoned, certainly his luck would change soon, probably the very next time. So in the early morning of March 18th, Charlie took his next step toward what he hoped were brighter days. This was the same night as the infamous killing involving Olivia Mason, but more on her later.

The moonlight glimmered off the ocean as the San Diego harbor lay dark and quiet. The tourist boats had long since made berth and were empty. The Restaurants had closed and the final workers of the day had left. It was 3:15 AM with only a smattering of homeless sleeping on benches and tucked away in alcoves.

Charlie was there, on this empty boardwalk to meet a man that he hadn’t met in person yet. The man was a lower level Engineer at a rival contractor. For ten thousand dollars, Charlie was about to sell some designs to him, who would in turn present these ideas and designs as his own, to ultimately climb the success ladder.

Whereas Charlie would continue working as normal, and would eventually be as shocked as everyone else, when their rival company was found to be working on similar lines. An incredible coincidence, would be the mantra. That was Charlie’s muddled thinking anyway, muddled by his desperation. And once he got that ten thousand in his hand, it would be a simple matter to parlay that into a hundred grand, was his gambler’s logic. And then even more after that. They would be back on their feet in no time. And no one would know what he did, after all, no one is here. No one, that is, except Montgomery Delgado.

Montgomery knew everything there was to know about Charlie, the good stuff, the bad stuff, the adventures and the boring days of life. Montgomery watched and listened to Charlie’s world, like an insect on a microscope slide. Sometimes he would go to a crowded restaurant lobby at the lunch rush, just to be a stranger bumping into Charlie. And other times he partook of Charlie’s most intimate secrets. He even had some of Charlie and Bree’s sexual encounters recorded, to laugh at later.

He knew all about Charlie’s financial problems too and of course, his gambling. Montgomery found that latest discovery delightfully amusing. As a matter of fact, Montgomery was starting to get a little bored with Charlie until his dark secrets came out. And selling these proprietary designs was the icing. Montgomery had all the conversations between Charlie and his new business partner recorded, even though they used precautions like temporary phones. That didn’t stop Montgomery, not in the least. He was every bit as devious as they were so was always one step ahead.

He knew when and where this exchange would take place so he came down early to set the stage. He placed a few hidden microphones in specific areas that he thought their rendezvous would likely happen. There were several benches, billboards, kiosks and fences around so hiding inconspicuous microphones was an easy task for Montgomery. Plus it was two in the morning. After everything was in place, Montgomery, dressed as a homeless man, curled up on a bench. In his ragged coat, was his night-vision video camera.

Here, next to the quiet harbor, Charlie Dremmel nervously walked alone, looking for someone, looking for a rendezvous. Charlie walked a little, then stopped and reversed direction. Back and forth, near the harbor, searching for his new partner, never imaging that someone with no stake in his life at all was recording his every move. After a few minutes, the young man from the rival company showed up.

“You’re late,” Charlie quietly barked.

“You want the money or not?”

“Hey, don’t act like you’re doing me some huge favor. This is worth a hell of a lot more than ten grand.”

“Then go sell it on Ebay,” was the final word of their brief, nervous argument.

Charlie, ever the manager, slowed things down and started directing.

“Like we talked about, you need to make some changes to this,” as he held out the external hard-drive, “it’s like copying off someone’s test, if they’re exactly the same…”

“I know! I get it”, he interrupted, “I’m protecting both of us.”

They exchanged the external drive for a box of money. Montgomery, with earphone in place, heard every word of this conversion. And he had it all recorded, both audio and video, his telephoto night-vision video camera working to perfection. Then the two partner’s in espionage started walking as Charlie explained the details of the design. Montgomery lost audio. They walked into the range of another set of microphones but were too far for Montgomery’s receiver to pick up, so Montgomery had to move, without being detected. Montgomery loved the risk.

He carefully slithered off his bench then moved quickly toward a trash can. He got to it and slouched behind it just as Charlie turned.

“Did you hear something?” Charlie asked, looking behind.

“No. Come on, no one’s here.”

“Yea, just a little jumpy I guess,” as Charlie continued has monolog.

Eventually the thrill wasn’t enough for Montgomery. He got up from behind the trash can, which they didn’t see in the dark, then walked toward them. Once he got close enough, the two men were surprised by Montgomery’s presence and stopped their conversation. Montgomery sauntered up to them, playing the homeless man part.

“Hey, you got a couple of bucks?” Montgomery asked them while stumbling a bit in his walk.

Montgomery had no idea if homeless people stumble when they walk or not, he just thought it fit the character. This whole encounter was a charge for Montgomery. The fact that Charlie knew nothing of the man in front of him yet Montgomery knew everything about Charlie was not only a buzz for Montgomery but also a power trip. He loved it. It fed his sense of superiority.

Now Charlie was not a bad man really, he was a hard worker and faithful to his wife and kids, so his deceit with the gambling and this sale gave Charlie a guilt complex. Sure he tried to convince himself that these shenanigans were for the good of his family, but it didn’t completely appease his inner anguish. So he thought he would be generous to this poor disenfranchised wanderer, and Montgomery knew he would feel that way. Charlie opened his wallet and gave Montgomery a twenty-dollar bill, to help ease his own conscience. Montgomery took it.

“God bless,” Montgomery mumbled.

Montgomery, of course, had no concept of God, it was merely something he heard a homeless man say once so it seemed to be the appropriate line.

“Sure, yea,” Charlie responded.

Montgomery went on his way, feeling proud.

Eventually, after forty minutes or so, Charlie and his new customer were finished and went their separate ways, Montgomery then collected his equipment and got into his car. He turned on his navigation screen, showing a dot which represented Charlie’s car. Montgomery smiled smugly. He knew exactly where Charlie was going, straight to the casino.

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