I received a housewarming gift from “The Family”

This happened to me two years ago when I had just finished high school. I got a full-time job at a call centre and moved out with my best friend Liam. We had been friends since we were kids and had always talked about moving out. It was only a two-bedroom apartment, but it was exciting for us to have our own place together.

In the first week of being there I came home from work to find a box of chocolates and a candle sitting on the kitchen counter. I thought nothing of it, assuming it was just Liam’s. It was his mother’s birthday soon and he had talked about buying her a present that week. I continued about my business and was on my computer when Liam came home from work. I jokingly told him that a candle was a shitty present.

Liam shot me a puzzled look and asked what I was talking about. “Your mums birthday present on the counter” I said confused. Liam said he hadn’t bought her a present yet. “Well I didn’t buy her anything” I replied. We both looked at each for a second, as if we both thought the other one was crazy.

I let out a sigh and went over to have a look at it. Under the box of chocolates was an envelope and it had my name on it. “How did you know that I love cheap candles and chocolate?” I joked to him. “I didn’t buy you those” he replied still looking at me like I was crazy.

No one had the keys to get into the apartment other than Liam and me. He must have had the same thought because he came over and snatched the envelope out of my hands. “Let’s see who the secret admirer is then” he said ripping it open.

As he opened the card and started to read it, the look on his face made it seem like he had never read before. His eyes darted to me and then back to the card. “What does it say? I asked. He didn’t say anything and just passed me the card and stared at me as I read it. The message had been crossed out like they had made a mistake, but I could still make out what it said.

“Daniel,

You have always been such a beautiful and good boy. To watch you become a man, it makes us so proud. We will always be watching over you”

Love,

The Family

Underneath there was writing that hadn’t been crossed out. It was much messier and almost felt angry.

I thought you were a good boy Daniel. I might just have to teach you a lesson

I looked back at Liam and he raised his eyebrows giving me a look that said “Yeah, what the fuck”. Now it’s safe to say at this point, I’m beyond confused. No one in my family could get into the house and they didn’t sign a card as “The Family”, we weren’t some Italian gang in disguise.

“How did they get in?” Liam asked as he opened the box of chocolates. There’s no way they could have without either of us here. “You have to be messing with me” I said. Liam didn’t say anything, he just showed me the contents of the box, it was full of broken glass.

“She broke our bong.” Liam announced. I could see Liam was a little pissed. I just stood there staring at the note and then to our broken bong. “No one in my family would do this” I told him. I didn’t know what to do so I just took the box from Liam and went to put it in the bin.

Inside the bin was a torn-up picture, it had been ripped in four pieces. I pulled it out and pieced it together while Liam watched. It was me, only I was a kid. I was standing in front of a car I’d never seen, and I was smiling. I was probably only about six years old in this photo. My confusion went to absolute terror.

Liam looked visibly worried and just swore under his breath. My heart was racing as I stood there, just staring at the picture. I sat down for a second and tried to calm down. “This is crazy man. You must have really pissed them off” Liam said, still staring at the picture.

I knew for a fact this wasn’t my mum and decided to call her. Taking a deep breath, I dialled her number. When she answered, she didn’t sound like her usual self. This made me even more anxious. I casually asked if she had come over today. She told me hadn’t and had been at work all day. But there was something she needed to tell me.

When she had come home from work the door had been covered in what looked like blood. The person that had done this left a letter on the welcome mat. She wanted to read it to me, but I didn’t want to hear it while I was in the house. I told her I would be there in twenty minutes. I gave Liam a quick rundown of our conversation and told him I was going over there.

I asked him if he wanted to come but he told me that it was best he stayed home and kept an eye on the apartment. Besides, this creep was obsessed with me and not him he said jokingly. I took the card and the photo and rushed to my car.

When I got there my mother hugged me and led to me to the loungeroom where my father and sister greeted me. She handed me the card but didn’t want to watch me read it and went to make coffee. My sister watched wide-eyed as I read the note. I’m paraphrasing here but it went something like this

I never should have let you keep him. All those days I longed to hold him in my arms, but you kept him from me. You did! You think I don’t know but I do. I know everything. He was a good boy and now he’s bad. SO BAD. You will pay. I could have had him.

I handed the card back to her and sank into the couch. “This persons batshit crazy and they know where we live” she said. My dad shrugged and went on to say it was probably just a prank.

I was speechless, I didn’t know what to say so I just handed them the card I had found and pulled the torn pieces of the picture from my pocket and put it on the coffee table in front of them. My father read it out loud and hearing it made me shudder. It hit me, this was truly happening, and I had no idea why.

I sunk further into the couch, my Dad looked genuinely scared which was something I’d never seen before. My mother came in with the coffee and set it on the table, my father passed her the note and got up to hold her as she read it. Tears formed around her eyes as she put her hand to her mouth.

I remember this moment so clearly, to see my parents this way was just so unnerving. I found my words and told them everything. The candle, the chocolates with my smashed bong inside, I expected a talk about how weed was bad, or disapproving looks at the very least. But when I finished my mother just announced she was calling the police and left the room.

Dad went from being scared to furious in all of two minutes and started pacing the room. My sister however just stared at the photo. While we waited for the cops we tried to wrap our heads around everything. Where had they gotten this picture? No one recognized the car. My sister had a light bulb moment and asked my Mum “Was this the shirt he was wearing at the shops that day we couldn’t find him?”.

The rest of our family had a collective “Oh shit” moment. Mum couldn’t remember because it had been so long ago, but it would explain the photo. There was a story that would come up every few years about the time I had disappeared when we went shopping.

I only remember bits and pieces, so I’ll go off what I was told. My mother, sister and I were grocery shopping. Mum always had a habit of walking away and continuing to shop as my sister and I messed around. Because my sister is seven years older, Mum felt comfortable with her watching me.

On this day however, my sister was annoyed with me and walked further down the aisle. When they turned around I was gone, and they spent over an hour looking for me at every store. I then wandered back into the grocery store. They said I came back talking about a family I had been with and how they were nice and had taken me for a drive and brought me back.

My mother was furious, she believed that I had made it up because I was angry at my sister. From my memory, I can only really remember a women’s face and her asking me if I liked my family and saying how cute she thought I was but nothing other than that.

This had been a funny family story, I was always torn as to whether this was just a fabricated memory, or it had really happened. When the cops arrived, they checked prints on the door and envelope and took a sample of the red fluid that had been thrown on the door.

The officer said he would check my house because it could be considered a break and enter, and I gave him my address. I thought it was best to give Liam a heads up in case he was smoking. When I checked my phone, I realised I had three missed calls from him and two messages.

I didn’t check the messages and just called him, on the second ring he answered.

“Dude, I’ve been trying to call you. I could have been murdered” Liam said jokingly though I could hear a hint of fear in his voice. He went on to tell me someone had been playing a violin outside of our apartment near our parking spaces.

They were terrible, the screeching sounded almost violent and he watched from the window but couldn’t see anything. After a few minutes someone from the other units screamed for them to stop and they did. We tried to joke around and dismiss it as some poor kid being forced to learn the violin and it could have been, but it still scared us.

I told him the police were coming over to check the place out and that I’d be home soon. Once the call ended I checked his messages, he had filmed the barely lit carpark and I could hear the screeching violin echoing in the background. It terrified me, I showed my family and they begged me to stay with them, but I felt bad leaving Liam alone.

When I got home I explained to him what had happened, and he was shaken. The officer said there was no sign of forced entry and that the door must have been left unlocked. We figured one of us must have left the balcony door unlocked and promised each other that it would remained locked from now on.

I spent the next day on edge, waiting for something to happen and just as I began to relax the call centre I worked at started getting calls from a man who would ask for me by name. Usually before they transfer you they ask for case numbers or something to identify you, when they did he would hang up.

Four different co-workers mentioned it to me, luckily a habit among experienced staff was to log the number that they had called from or type it into the system to search for a customer. Clients in the field I work in tend to change numbers frequently and often avoid calls so it helps to write down any new numbers.

One of the co-workers had written it on a post-it note and given it to me with the name “Darren”. I had no Darren’s that I needed to contact, and the number unsurprisingly came up with nothing. Later in the afternoon, a call was transferred to me which I found odd as no one transferred me calls. Darren came to mind immediately, and I hesitantly answered and wrote the number down.

“This is Daniel speaking, how can I help?” I said. There was silence on the other end, so I repeated myself louder this time. A man’s voice spoke back to me “Daniel, your voice has gotten so deep darling”.

Immediately all professionalism was thrown out the window. “Who the fuck is this?” I demanded trying to lower my voice for the sake of my paycheck. I was met with further silence and I continued “Tell me who the fuck you are?”. There was a soft chuckle and the voice that spoke was completely different, it sounded like a woman.

“Now, now Daniel. We raised you better then that. Do you know how disappointed we were when we came all that way to leave you a present and we found drugs?” the voice scoffed. I could feel my heart in my chest, I started to panic and just kept demanding they tell me who they were.

They waited for a moment of silence and the woman cut in and responded “You will find out soon enough. We saw you smoking that stuff last night, that Liam is a bad influence on you. Maybe he needs to be punished”. These freaks were watching me? “Are you watching me? Please, just stop” I was pretty much begging at this point almost in tears, unaware the worst was yet to come.

“Now Daniel, you don’t think you’re to old to be punished as well, do you?” the man’s voice replied. Before I could say anything, the call ended. I did my best to compose myself, went to my boss told him what had happened. The call had been transferred by a trainee, so they couldn’t really be blamed. I was given the rest of the day off and I went to the police station with the two numbers recorded from the calls.

The officer I gave them to said he would call me and to go home, they would have some cars patrol my house more often. I checked in with my family, but nothing had happened on their end.

Liam and I tried to figure out how these people would know I was smoking. We had all the blinds down since this had happened and didn’t go onto the balcony anymore. What really frightened us was how they knew Liam’s name.

He was just as scared as I was, and it made me feel guilty that he had been caught up in this. Liam suggested they were just saying it to scare me and could have gone through our mailbox and found a letter with his name on it but that still didn’t make sense we had only lived here for a week.

The next day a police officer called me and said the numbers I’d given him were spoof numbers that couldn’t be traced. He also went on to say that the red substance on my parent’s door was pigs blood. Honestly, at this point I felt hopeless and it would take me being murdered before anything would happen. While I was working, Liam called me, but I couldn’t answer, he messaged me to call him as soon as I could.

I finished work and called him back straight away and what he told me was bittersweet. When he answered he just said, “There was a fucking camera in our pot plant dude”. He went on to say that he was thinking about the people saying they had been watching us and started googling hidden cameras.

Then he searched the house checking our smoke detectors and all these other spots when he found it. They had it hooked up to a portable charger and connected it to our Wi-Fi. We hadn’t changed the password on the bottom, so it was all to easy.

The police said it was flat when they got to it and could only speculate how long it had been recording. They checked the entire house but said that was the only camera. They said it should be linked to a cloud storage account of some sort and there’s a chance they could track the purchase through the serial number.

I called my dad and told him what had happened. He was freaked out and the next day he told me that he had spent the entire night looking for cameras but found nothing. The police started to take everything a lot more serious now which made me feel a little safer. Liam was on the edge of moving out and we had talks about what our options were.

Towards the end of the next day I got a phone call from the police. God, where do I start? The camera was purchased only a few days before it was planted. They said it had been paid for using cash but with the security footage they were able to watch the person walk to their car, luckily, they had parked close to one of the camera’s which got the number plate and allowed them to find the address.

It belonged to a forty-five-year-old male named James, the address was in a shitty suburb twenty minutes from my parents’ house. The cop said when they got there no one was home and the house was littered with utensils used to smoke and inject meth.

Not only was this guy an absolute psycho but also a hypocrite. The police waited for him to come home and arrested him without any struggle. There are a few disturbing things to mention, James had a knife, duct tape and a shovel in the boot of his car.

Inside his house there was a bunch of photos taken of me in the same shirt I had worn in the photo left at my house. I got to see one with him in it, there was the long blonde hair I had remembered, only it wasn’t a woman, but James dressed in drag.

They found a diary James had written about me growing up and it had things like my birthday, but he had made up an entire fake story about my life. I played the violin, had won sports awards and all this other weird shit I had never really done. From what they understood it was never anything sexual in nature, which was a relief.

Apparently in his mind he believed he was somehow both my mother and my father. A month before this started his actual mother, who he had been living off passed away from heart failure. He was pretty messed up about it and was failing to pay his rent. The cops said this could have attributed to him lashing out so suddenly after all these years.

When I went down to the station they said he had followed me on and off for years. When I wandered out of the supermarket all those years ago. He found me in the car park and took me for a short drive, to a park near the shopping centre and dropped me back in less than an hour.

He had found out my address and birthday just by asking me but also admitted to following my mother’s car home to make sure. They didn’t know why he didn’t abduct me on the day, they said he had a different answer each time. Two of the reasons he had given was that he hadn’t given birth to me yet and that he just didn’t feel like it.

They said this guy’s brain was really fried from all the drugs he had abused and had been an addict all his life. As quickly as it began, it ended. James had a long list of charges from drugs to stalking and plead guilty. He was sentenced to fifteen years due to his prior history and the quantities of hard drugs in his possession.

Liam and I decided to go back to our parents when the lease ended but we are still best mates which I’m thankful for. I spent most of the time after this incident seeing a therapist. The one thing I longed for was just to feel safe again, it’s something so precious that we don’t even think about.

I was making progress but that all changed today. I got a call from a private number and stupidly answered it. “You think he’s gone but Darren’s still watching you” a lady sung as she broke into hysterical laughter. I hung up immediately, but I knew it was the same voice I had spoken to at the call centre.

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