The mansion was huge, big enough to have a legitimate name. There it was, the same name that had been in the news countless times, Bahay Callum, carved in the stone walls, spotlessly clean. Turning to my partner with a look of astonishment on my face, I could tell this wasn’t Ace’s first time seeing massive homes like this. After a solid minute of standing there stunned, Ace started marching towards the home, in the take charge type of way that she always did. Her studded heels clicking against the cement tile, walking past the three Mercedes and family Bentleys with an aura of confidence that only those who knew her could attest to. Bahay Callum was a newer house in the area, and we had heard that it had cost around 724 million dollars to construct. Made almost entirely of windows, the house was almost exclusively transparent, with the only parts that had opaque walls being what I assumed was the home owners bedroom. I hadn’t realized I had been in a trance of staring at this massive home until I zoned back into Ace saying “Are you ready Stass” and the loud pounding on the door three consecutive times. After three minutes of waiting after the knock, I could see Ace starting to twiddle her perfectly manicured, baby blue acrylic nail clad thumbs. Suddenly, the door swung open, only to display Annabella Callum, our client on this case. She was pretty, not in a uniquely pretty type of way, she looked like your classic blonde, long-legged high school girl. She was the type of girl to screech when she met us, which Ace and I had jumped at when the door was opened. She invited us in with a warm smile and offered us furry slippers to put on so we don’t mark up her marble floor with our heels.
I had known Ace since we were in middle school, and we had kept in touch our whole way through university. I had heard she had gone into the private investigative business, which was expected seeing as this was what both of her dads did while she was growing up. I, however, had gone a different route with psychology. I learned later that she asked me to help her with this case because of that exact degree. Yet, all I knew at this moment when we were sitting on the classy leather couch, surrounded by fur pillows, was that we were there to investigate the case of Annabella Callum and her stalker. She explained to us that she had this constant feeling of someone following her around, and that it was freaking her out in her exact words. She talked with grand hand gestures as well. As she was speaking, I kept looking at Ace, wondering how we would even approach a case like this, but she was just listening intently, scanning Annabella with the analytical look I use to see in the 7th grade, whenever she would be working on a math problem. Her eyes darting up and down Annabella, inspecting her every article of clothing, the curls in her bleach blonde hair, the glossiness of her lips, the smell of Chanel No 5 perfume that she had dabbed on ever so slightly. Then Annabella said something that made Ace’s perfectly carved eyebrow raise, she said “So how good are you really, can you really figure this out?” Ace adjusted in her seat, cleared her throat, and then went on to prove herself.
“First of all,” she said “I know that you get your hair touched up at least once a week” Annabella smiled and nodded. “In addition, I know that someone close to you, whom you spend an immense amount of time with someone that has hearing problems or is actually deaf,” she continued, “I know that you’re into writing and that you prefer to do your homework by hand.” Finally, Ace said, “You recently split with your boyfriend, perhaps this morning, or maybe late last night.”
I turned to look at Annabella, her eyes were wide with amazement, let her breath go finally and asked with great intrigue, “How did you figure all that out?” Ace went on to explain that it was all simply her observational skills. She told Annabella that she knew about the hair because her eyebrows were noticeably darker than the rest of her hair, yet she had not a millimeter of root grow out, and because of how quickly hair grows, she had to have it touched up at least once every seven days. Secondly, while she was telling us about her stalker, Ace had noticed that she had a habit of throwing in some sign language in along with her generic hand gestures she used while she spoke. Annabella confirmed that in fact, her younger brother was partially deaf, I should point out that I was as impressed as Annabella with Ace’s skills. The most impressive of them all, the ex-boyfriend she had picked up on, was incredible. Ace explained in a nonchalant manner that she had simply noticed there was a bracelet mark on Annabella’s wrist that seemed to have dented a name into her skin, much like if one were to wear a hair elastic for a long time, how that gets engraved into your wrist. However, there was also a reddish scratch mark, which subtly indicated it had been ripped off, and not just gently taken off for a shower or to cook. At that instant, Annabella stood up swiftly and shook Ace’s and my hand, and said, “This should be interesting,” before leading us to the door and giving us a date to return, one week hence.
In the meantime, we began our research. This girl had a grand amount of information on her on the internet. Her Instagram had 178 pictures and 42 tagged photos. Her twitter with 15 thousand followers, was chock full of tweets following her life. Then, we simply typed her name into google and found several images of Annabella playing field hockey, Annabella at galas, and Annabella winning dozens of awards at some sort ceremony.
“We have to essentially stalk her, to find her stalker” her voice was sharp as she looked up the ins and outs of one Annabella Callum of Los Angeles.
I knew that when we went back to that transparent house, we would have a good sense of this girl was, and why she had been targeted.
A week after our first meeting we returned, we went through the routine once more, stare, wait at the door, shoes off, and then we got to talking.
This time, however, we actually got some useful information. Ace began the interview by asking if Annabella had any ideas of who the perpetrator was, only for her to tell us that many people could be “obsessed” with her, so it could really be anyone. Once we realized that this wasn’t a helpful way to approach this interview, Ace asked about her ex-boyfriends or people she had left an impression on.
“There was this one boyfriend a few months ago, he was dreamy. He would always text me good morning and good night, sometimes he would even sneak in through my bedroom window and wake me up with my favorite breakfast.”
We then learned they had broken up because Annabella had found Adam too “clingy”.
“A few weeks ago the quarterback at our school wanted to take me to a movie, I turned him down because he had dated almost every girl in school, but I’m not that type. I’m classy. He was pretty upset though.”
I could see Ace crack a small smirk, I might not have known too much back then, but I did know that boys can take things pretty far when they get rejected. This one had promise.
“Ohh!” the high pitch sound resonated in our ears for a minute. “Avery!! She was my best friend for years! She used to hang out here all the time, she knew every entrance, every secret way in, she would sleep here a lot. I had to stop being best friends with her a few months ago after I…” she mumbled the next few words, “I stole her boyfriend, Adam.”
I saw Ace write down a quick note, as she had been doing for the whole meeting. At that point, I knew she had heard enough.
“Could we examine your room?”
“Of course, anything to solve this case,” Annabella said with hope in her voice.
Walking up the grand marble staircase, surrounded by glass, it took almost 4 minutes to get all the way to her grand room. We realized when we finally arrived that this had been one of the rooms we’d seen from the outside looking in. Directly outside the window was a large mimosa tree, with thick tall branches running up all of the trunk. There was a desk, chock full of university applications spread around, a computer that seemed new enough to have not even been released yet. Polaroids of Annabella and some friends, striking various poses, and around 13 Honour Roll with Distinction certificates. We began to scrutinize the 17-year-old’s vanity table. Neutral pink lipstick, endless mascaras, and bronzer palettes spread about– this makeup table was anything but organized. She had stack upon stacks of nail polish, with the baby blue bottle slightly array as if she had just used it. Ace had told me previously that I should bring my phone to take pictures, so I took many – of every little thing. As soon as we were done, we made our way down the ginormous staircase one more time, strapped on our stilettos, and walked out. Ideas swirling about our heads, Ace’s presumably more intelligent and logical than mine, we got into Ace’s leased Rolls Royce and went back to the drawing board. We were just about walking through her apartment when Ace let out an exasperated sigh.
“Get back in the car”
We were back at the mansion in no time and it was only as we were knocking at the door that Ace decided to fill me in.
“I just forgot my phone, stop racking your brain”
For a third time, we ascended the stairs back to Annabella’s bedroom, where we found her phone quite quickly. However, we noticed something different, something had changed. That light blue bottle of nail polish we had seen earlier, was tipped over and spilled. After interrogating Annabella, we confirmed it was not she who had used the nail polish, as she had on baby pink and it was completely dry. We took a picture of the spilled nail polish and made our way out the door. Ace hadn’t wanted to scare Annabella, but she told me once we got in the car, what she had discovered.
“Someone was definitely in that house, going through her things, maybe they brushed past the vanity and knocked the nail polish with their arm, maybe they intentionally put it there as a sign. Either way, there was an invader right now.”
At this moment, my psychology degree was called into play. The classes where the teachers had droned on about the human brain and grudges, triggers, and impulse decisions were finally useful. Avery seemed like the most obvious suspect. See, the human brain gets into habit very quickly, if Avery was in the habit of being best friends with Annabella, and sneaking into her house to hang out was a constant in her life, it’s possible she had some form of an addiction. Like anything else, this addiction would have been just as hard to quit as any other. Perhaps Avery had become obsessed with feeding her addiction, and since she had known every back way entrance to Bahay Callum, it was very plausible to assume she was the culprit.
There was something I had noticed that I wasn’t sure Ace did as we were searching the room, yet I snapped a picture of it quickly and discreetly, as to not have caused panic. When we got back to her apartment for the second time, I slowly pulled out my phone to show my camera roll. On the glowing screen, it displayed an image I had taken half an hour previously at Bahay Callum, on the grand staircase. Raising up to Ace’s hands, my heart was pounding, I knew this would be substantial information to the case. What Ace was looking at was a photo of a muddy shoe print on the stairs, seemingly from a large foot, it had been slightly scuffed as if the person had been in a rush running up the stairs. In a surprisingly relaxed way, Ace started researching different shoe prints. Typing as fast as I had seen anyone type up to that point, she had searched twelve different shoe websites within 2 minutes. In actuality, it was only about ten minutes but it had a seemed like a lifetime. She had discovered the sole of a shoe that essentially matched the photograph from Bahay Callum to a T. I couldn’t see how this was going to help us, considering I was sure many people had purchased that shoe, however in an instant Ace was calling up the store that carried that particular shoe. We had learned it was a combat boot, and after asking how long they usually stay in good condition for, the store manager told us usually about four months, they would still be usable after just not in prime condition. We had flashed our credentials over the phone and managed to get a list of every customer that had purchased them in the past four months. This was the quickest action scene I had ever experienced in my whole life, it had all been moving so fast, so intensely, with such a distinctive purpose. When we received the list of customers, we immediately sent it over to Annabella with the subject line ‘***URGENT***’, of course, she responded within ten minutes. We had practically jumped from our seats when we heard the buzz of her email come in. Our disappointment was imminent when we found out that the only name she or anyone in her family recognized was their gardener, who had started working for them not too long before that, and we could pretty easily tell that there was no motive or criminal intent to him being inside Bahay Callum. We would have assumed that most workers of the household knew their strict rules about shoes, yet since he was fairly new, the family had explained to us that it was understandable he might not have known or simply forgotten.
“Well, we are back at square one.”
A few days of intense work later, all of which had led nowhere, Ace and I were out on our usual coffee run and saw out of the corners of our eyes an adolescent boy wearing a sweatshirt from the same private school Annabella attended. Usually, this would have been nothing suspicious, the timing was not peculiar, around 4 o’clock on a weekday, and the boy looked like an average high school senior, however, I could tell Ace and I had spotted the same detail. On his sweater sleeve, there was a smudge of paint, baby blue to be exact, identical to the one tipped over in Annabella’s room that day. My phone was out of my pocket so quick it could have burnt a hole in it, I took the picture as fast as I could and sent it to our client instantly, without any instruction from Ace. As most teens do, she responded promptly with the words “Adam Stracitelli – ex-boyfriend – clingy one.”
“Tell him to come over later tonight, he needs to be interviewed (DON’T TELL HIM ABOUT THE INTERVIEW THOUGH).”
On our way back to Bahay Callum, after not being there for a week and a half, Ace and I were strategizing how we were going to go about investigating this boy. The psychological side of me was making an appearance once more. I had learned in university that people’s brains are more likely to lie when they feel defensive, which meant we had to be careful when we interrogated him to make sure he told the truth. The interview flew by, coming to a very simple and easy conclusion. Ace and I both agreed that Adam was not the brightest bulb in the box, as he gave in fairly quickly. All we had to ask him was if he was over Annabella – the answer was no. Secondly, w questioned if he knew all the back entrances and ways to get into Annabelle’s room – the answer was yes. Once we were fairly certain we had found our guy, we decided to go in with the big inquiry.
“Are you obsessed with Annabella to the point of stalking her?”
Unsurprisingly, the answer was indeed – yes. Ace divulged that that might had been the fastest conclusion she had ever come to in her three years as a private investigator. The police would take it from there, while the only thing we ended up having to do in the legal court case was give testimonials about our work on the case, which Ace explained was standard procedure.
We learned later that Adam had not gone to jail, yet been fined with a small fortune for the crime of stalking. Annabella had taken pity on him when she realized he wouldn’t be able to go to college on his prized scholarship if he had to face jail time. We only discovered in the news that this happened because the Callum family had requested leniency from the judge towards Adam. The whole case had been tied up quite neatly.
Since we were finished our work, Ace and I decided it was best if we both went on with our lives. We continued to be friends on all forms of social media, once in awhile commenting on each others posts, and sending direct messages. One might assume that experience would have forced us to bond, however we are not what the average person would call ‘close’, for the most part we lead our very separate lives.
Some would say those couple weeks of our lives were impactful. In some ways I would agree, we did manage to find Annabella’s stalker. Yet, he went away with little to no consequences, and attended a state university on his scholarship. Annabella stuck with the program and went to Yale, most likely study to have a stuffy desk jobs where she makes millions. Ace’s name pops up on the news every once in awhile, and my name has gotten published in some medical journals. Everyone involved has moved on with their lives. It all seems as though it never happened, like it was just some chapter an author wrote and then decided to rip out of the novel, as if someone had been dreaming and suddenly woke up. Yet, I know it was real, I know it was my life, it consumed every part of my soul and being for about two weeks. It’s fascinating that something that powerful and intense can have zero effect on one’s life once it’s over. Yet, that’s exactly what happened to me : Stasse Stracitelli.