Bradford Crodin is an online predator who has gone too far. His tactic is confessions. He listens, understands, and invades the privacy of the person he pursues.
He is successful at this, his perverted game. Too successful.
This story takes place in the mid-1990s, when the Usenet was all the rage, and more or less the Facebook of its day. More
Bradford Crodin stared at the screen while he worked his chin and greasy stubble with his hand. Must remember to shower today, he told himself. He read the message again.
It was a pale, unnatural face in the bluish glow, the light of the monitor combing back a receding hairline. A concerned face intent on the screen. Pock marks like miniature craters dotted his shiny cheek. His eyes, dark in their sockets, re-read the message, and then again.
Not a lie, he read, not playing games. They all lie. All these little perverts. And how she was fighting, how his little Evelyn was fighting to get off his hook. Just look at her.
Of course, and this is what bothered him: he could not know for sure. Not for absolutely sure. Although her messages still originated from elassing—and that was her address alright—that did not necessarily mean it was her at the keyboard. It could be someone else typing. But it wasn’t. Of course not. Or was it?
He read the messages again and grimaced. The unthinkable goaded him again.
What if it wasn’t a lie? Could it really be that the crazy girl had killed herself? No. No way. She had played him for a complete fool, and now she was trying to fake him out. To get back at him, make him lose his nerve. And asking for his snail mail address. That was a dead giveaway, stupid. Yet.
It was almost two in the morning and he should be asleep by now. But he couldn’t. It gnawed at him, this damn message. Had him concerned. He had never encountered a fake suicide note before, his stray sheep used other, less drastic, means to squirm their way out. Usually by killing their id, changing providers. What hadn’t Evelyn? She was still writing, as Evelyn. Same id and everything. And that was what worried him, now that he thought about it. She was still there when in his experience she shouldn’t. Could it actually be?
He read the recent exchanges again. From Evelyn, or this Dorothy, her mother? And then, as he allowed for the possibility, it suddenly struck him: this was not Evelyn’s voice, not her words. This was not Evelyn writing. Something was up.
Was she dead, like this woman claimed? (Woman, he couldn’t assume it was a woman). How was he to know? Or was she simply and thoroughly grounded? Was her mother simply fed up and putting her foot down after failing grades and soaring phone bills. He’d read about that. He had to find out. Started a reply. Concentrating.