The first email seemed innocuous enough. A few lines, a positive review for my new book and friendly salutations. Mark even asked about my parents. I should have seen the red flag, but instead I chose to give my ex the benefit of the doubt. After all, we had both found other partners and were happily married now, with kids. Our break-up happened so long ago. We had both moved on, or so I thought.
I decided to give Mark a chance and replied with a few polite, non-committal lines. Thank you for your message, all is well. Best. To my surprise, Mark didn’t reply. Why had he bothered contacting me then? I had other things to focus on and soon forgot about the whole episode.
Then one day, Mark sent me a selfie. Apart from a few wrinkles and greying hair, he hadn’t changed much. There was no message but somehow the way he looked at the camera seemed menacing. I didn’t reply and deleted it. A few months went by. No news from my ex was good news, I concluded.
I happily resumed my routine, thinking he was out of my life for good. Then, it happened again. A phone call in the middle of the night. The caller hung up. It happened every night for one week, I had to change the number. Trolling on social media soon followed. I changed my passwords. Bad reviews for all my books flooded the internet. I blocked Mark from my various social media accounts. I thought it would be enough.
Time went by, I didn’t hear from him again. But one day, I got a letter from Colorado. I didn’t recognize the handwriting and opened the envelope. The first lines made my heart jump. He was back. He would never give up. You were the love of my life, he wrote. How could you do this to me? My hands felt cold and fear crippled me. I suddenly remembered the past threats, the manipulation, the emotional blackmail. Mark was still intrusive and paranoid, despite the years of treatment. His next line made me shiver: “I know where you live.” I stopped reading and threw the letter away.
That night during dinner, I was distracted to the point that my husband asked me if everything was ok. My kids looked concerned. I was mad at myself. I should have known that if Mark was contacting me after so many years it meant trouble, again. He was too unstable. I made a mistake by underestimating him. For the first time, I feared for my life. I struggled sleeping. I couldn’t focus on my work. I was constantly looking over my shoulder, dread twisting my gut. I was jumpy, I was a mess.
The day a hooded driver almost ran me over, I knew it was time to act. I had to outsmart Mark. I had information about his past, his family. And I had connections. I went to the police. They went to Mark’s home and seized his computer. They found emails he had sent to me and other women, some underage. They discovered his multiple fake profiles on social media. Mark was finally indicted and found guilty of 22 charges of stalking and harassment. He ended up in jail. I sent him there.
My family and I slowly resumed a quiet, peaceful life. I went back to writing. I didn’t forget about Mark, but did my best to move forward. On a beautiful spring evening, I was on the highway returning to LA when a call came in. I didn’t recognize the number but answered anyway. Silence. Heavy breathing. Then the scream that made me swerve and lose control of the car. I almost hit the truck in front of me.
“You will pay for this, you hear me? I will kill you!”
It was pure rage, total insanity. I pulled over. Back home, I called my lawyer and my friend Chris at the LAPD. What were my options? He told me to gather all the evidence I could to show Mark’s repeated, abusive pattern. Caller IDs, recording of his phone calls, logs of events…documentation was key. I called my parents, my friends who knew Mark and asked them to testify. My life was in danger. I then counted in dread the days until Mark was released. I knew it would never end. I had to find a solution to make him stop. For good.
A week after Mark was released, I was on my way to my lawyer when I noticed a black SUV following me. The driver was going dangerously fast. I had no choice but to swerve to avoid being hit. The driver took over and slammed on the brakes in front of me. I tried to call 911 but my hands were shaking badly. He got out of the car and came towards me. Mark pulled his hoodie down. He jolted my door open and pulled me out by the hair. In his right hand, he was holding a knife. We fought. Everything happened so fast. All I remember is Mark staring at me in disbelief, holding his chest. His shirt was covered in blood. He was pronounced dead when the ambulance arrived.
I was not charged with homicide. I killed Mark in self-defense.
Or so they thought.