Author’s Note: This is a sneak peak. My apologies on the block formatting. The novel has not been formatted yet. Also, there may be a few errors associated with the formatting. These will be fixed with the final product.
Chapter 1: Crowded Loneliness
Kyle Summers stood in the waiting area, holding the restaurant pager, and watching the entrance. The revolving door bustled with well-to-do people coming and going. The three-story brick restaurant was busy as usual. He’d had to park across the street at the grocery store. He glanced at his outfit. I need some new clothes. He wore a button-down shirt, khakis, and work boots—his best ensemble, but obviously many years old, and a bit baggy for the current fashion trends. One of his phones buzzed in his pocket.
Lori: I just parked. Be there in a minute.
Kyle: See you soon!
Dumbass. Why did I text an exclamation point? I already look needy and desperate. I am needy and desperate. Relax. Keep it together. It would be better if she didn’t know that.
She stepped from the revolving door, looking even better than her profile picture. Curves in the right places, round face, large brown eyes, and a button nose. He approached her, weaving in and out of the middle-aged clientele waiting for a table. She looked around, her shiny chestnut hair moving about her shoulders like a freaking shampoo commercial. Beautiful—and out of my league.
It wasn’t that Kyle was ugly. He was actually fairly handsome underneath his outdated clothes. He had short dark hair, a square jaw, and a symmetrical face. He was fit and young, in his mid-twenties. But he wasn’t exceptional in any way, and he felt deficient in many ways.
Moving closer, he smiled as he caught her eye. Her eyes narrowed for a split second, giving him a once-over, then a tight smile.
“Lori?” he asked, still smiling.
“Kyle?” she replied, her smile gone.
“Thank you for coming out.” He held up the restaurant pager. “Hopefully our table will be ready soon. I did call-ahead seating, but they still make you wait.”
“This place is crazy, especially on a Saturday night. I’ve waited two hours before.”
“It shouldn’t be too much longer. I’ve been here for forty-five minutes.”
She furrowed her brows. “Did I get the time wrong?”
“Oh, no. I came early, so you wouldn’t have to wait too long.”
Lori smiled, the expression reaching her eyes. “That’s really nice of you. Thank you.”
The pager buzzed, and the red lights blazed. They’d been chosen. They were led upstairs by a hostess. He walked behind Lori, purposely diverting his eyes from her butt in those skinny jeans.
They sat in a cozy corner booth, perusing their menus. Her phone sat faceup on the table. They ordered beers and filet mignon with cauliflower mash, salad, and bread that tasted like doughnuts. Kyle grinned to himself. Maybe she’s the one. We ordered the same thing. Like an old married couple. He handed his menu to the young waitress after she had taken their orders.
Lori’s phone buzzed. She scrolled and tapped for a few minutes. Kyle watched, his optimism fading by the second. Finally, she looked up.
“So,” Lori said, folding her hands in her lap. “You’re in construction?”
He nodded. “Landscape construction … and maintenance. That’s why I don’t have a lot of clothes. Everything gets dirty.”
She scrunched her nose as if she’d smelled something foul.
Why did I say that?
“You like … work outside? I thought you ran the company?”
His stomach tumbled. “No. I work for the company.”
“Are you, like, a manager or something?”
He dipped his head as if being scolded. “No.”
“So you, like, work on a crew or something?”
Lori sighed. “I didn’t know white people did landscaping around here.”
“They generally don’t.”
“Then why do you?” Her face was twisted in disgust.
“It pays the bills.”
Her phone buzzed. She tapped and thumb-typed.
“You seem disappointed,” Kyle said.
She still thumb-typed.
“You seem disappointed,” he said louder.
She set down her phone. “I heard you the first time.”
“No. I don’t know you well enough to be disappointed. I’m annoyed but not disappointed.”
“Why are you annoyed? Just because I work for a landscaping company?”
Lori blew out a breath. “You said you were in construction. That implies you, like, own the company or at least have a decent job. And your profile says you’re six feet tall. I bet you’re more like five-ten.”
The waitress set their beers on the table.
“Thank you,” Kyle said to the young waitress.
“Your salads will be out shortly,” she replied and turned on her sneakers, leaving them alone again.
Kyle turned back to Lori. “Every guy on Match adds at least two inches to their height. If I put five-ten, people would think I was five-eight.”
She shrugged and took a swig of her beer. “You asked why I’m annoyed, and I’m telling you.”
Kyle rubbed his eyes with his thumb and index finger. “Working in landscaping isn’t my main job. I do something else.”
“And what’s that?” While she had asked the question, she didn’t seem to care about hearing his response.
“I hunt pedophiles.” He drank a bit of beer.
She leaned forward, her eyes widening. “You what?”
“I hunt and expose pedophiles.”
“Like, guys who like little girls?”
The waitress dropped off their salads.
After the waitress left, Lori asked, “Do you work for the police?”
“No. I work by myself. Well, mostly by myself. My friend Troy films for me.”
“I don’t understand. You don’t work for the police, but you hunt and expose pedophiles?”
“Yes.” Kyle took a bite of his salad and washed it down with some beer.
“But, how do you do it? You can’t, like, arrest them?”
“I meet up with these guys and confront them on video. Then I give the evidence to the police.”
“What evidence?” Lori dug into her salad.
“I pose as young girls and boys online. I chat on Whisper and Kik and Grindr, and I have fake profiles on a bunch of dating sites. I chat with these guys until they wanna meet.”
“You have to be eighteen on dating sites.”
“My profiles say nineteen, but I tell the guys I’m thirteen or twelve when they contact me, and my profile pictures are of people who look very young. Then I meet and confront them about why they wanted to meet a twelve-year-old girl or whatever.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Where do you get the profile pictures?”
“When I started, I bought images from Shutterstock. I’m not sure if that was legal, but now my audience sends me pictures to use. The pictures are of people who are adults now but from when they were kids.”
“What about the police?”
“I give the evidence to the police and then post everything online, so everyone knows who these pedophiles are.”
Lori set down her fork and scrunched her face. “You, like, talk to these pervs?”
“What do they say?”
“All sorts of things. Sometimes the conversations are nonsexual, but sometimes they’re not. I get a lot of penis pictures. It’s awful.” Kyle shook his head. “But, if they’re talking to me, that’s one less child they’re talking to. And, when I confront them, everyone knows who they are, so they’re less likely to hurt a child in the future.”
“How many guys have you gotten the police to arrest?”
Kyle cleared his throat. “None, but I just gave this detective a bunch of evidence.”
“Where do you post the videos?”
“YouTube and Facebook mainly, plus my website.”
“Do you have a lot of followers?”
“Not yet, but it’s growing.”
Lori frowned. “How are people gonna, like, see that these guys are pedophiles if nobody watches your videos?”
“Like I said, I’m getting more followers, and the police are gonna make arrests.”
“But they haven’t made any arrests.”
“How can you even talk to these freaks?”
“It’s not easy, but I guess I’m kind of numb to the stuff they say.”
She pursed her lips. “Do you, like, get off on it?”
Kyle sat up straighter. “No. Why would you think that?”
“Because normal people wouldn’t want anything to do with these pervs.”
“What about cops and Chris Hansen?”
“They actually arrest these guys. They don’t friend them online. It’s weird.” She crossed her arms over her chest.
“I’m not friending them. I don’t ever bring up the sex stuff. I have a code.”
She looked over her shoulder. “Where’s the bathroom?”
“I’ll be right back.”
Lori grabbed her purse, slid from the booth, stepped downstairs, and disappeared into the crowd. Kyle sat alone, feeling self-conscious, eating his salad. He glanced around at the tables of happy couples and groups. He thought about loneliness and how it’s much worse in a crowd. His decoy phone buzzed in his pocket—a message on Whisper.
Hurricane Ron: Hey, baby. What are you doing?
Cuddly Kate: Jus eating dinner
Hurricane Ron: By yourself?
Cuddly Kate: Yeah ☹
Hurricane Ron: I could come pick you up and take you out.
Cuddly Kate: Can’t my mom and her stupid bf will be back soon
Hurricane Ron: We’re still on for next weekend, right?
Cuddly Kate: Yes 😊
Hurricane Ron: Did you get my pic?
Cuddly Kate: U have a nice body
Hurricane Ron: Thanks, baby. I bet you have a hot body. I wish you’d send me a naked pic. Please!
Cuddly Kate: U know I’m shy I’m only 13
Hurricane Ron: I wish I could kiss you right now.
Cuddly Kate: Where
Hurricane Ron: All over. 😊
The waitress approached with their entrees. She glanced at the empty seat across from Kyle and set the warm plates on the table. “Be careful. They’re hot,” she said.
“Can you, uh, bring me the check and some to-go boxes?” Kyle asked.
The waitress tilted her head. “Is something wrong?”
“My friend … had to leave. I’m sorry.” Kyle looked away for a moment.
“Oh.” Her face fell, then brightened. “It’s no problem. I’ll be right back with your check and containers for your food.”
Kyle hung his head and rubbed his temples. He went back to Cuddly Kate’s chat.
Hurricane Ron: You still there?
Cuddly Kate: Gotta go my moms home bfn
Hurricane Ron: See you soon. Love you, baby.
Cuddly Kate: 😊