Jailbait

In July, Meg's 15-year-old classmate, a girl named Emmy Nguyen, mysteriously disappeared from her home.

Her parents called the police and an Amber Alert was issued as all news channels focused their top story on her. A picture of the petite, pretty little Emmy appeared on TV as her parents cried and begged for her safe return in broken English.

They found her body just a day later, naked, bruised, and cold under a freeway overpass. She was strangled to death by a man she met over the internet.


When the school year started, local police officers came to Fairview High and preached internet safety to classrooms and warned students against talking to strangers over the internet. Meg's classmates found this insulting.

"We're fifteen years old, not ten," Drew Fitzgerald, a fat freckled boy insisted. "Just because Emmy did it doesn't mean the rest of us will. Some of us actually have common sense."

Brendon Barris chimed in. "Emmy was a dumbass and her death is nature's way of ridding us of the stupid."

The students burst into giggles as Brendon leaned over to Meg and whispered, "Hey Meg, we should totally bait some pedo on the internet after school. Drew wants in, can we do that at your house?"

Meg stared at him. "I hope you're not serious."

Brendon shrugged, "As long as we don't give out any personal info the guy can't find us. We just want to make him cyber with us and get him all horny, and then tell him we're dudes."


At Meg's house, she and Brendon sat on her bed, chatting while throwing a tennis ball back and forth as Drew went into random chatrooms trying to find pedophiles. He used an old screen name Meg abandoned the year before, sweetlilgrl14.

"Found one!" Drew exclaimed, "He wants to know if Silvia's a virgin."

"Who's Silvia?" Meg asked.

"Me," Drew said simply as he slid his chair away from the screen so Brendon and Meg could get a better view.

ghascerelli64: asl?

sweetlilgrl14: 14/f/ca, my name's silvia

ghascerelli64: so you like older men, huh? how much older?

sweetlilgrl14: how much you've got?

ghascerelli64: is 53 too old for you?

sweetlilgrl14: not at all, :D

"Wow Drew, you certainly know how to bait an old man," Brendon said, "it makes me wonder what you do during your spare time."

The three huddled together, watching the screen as Drew typed back and forth with the man in silence.

ghascerelli64: are you a virgin?

sweetlilgrl14: of course.

ghascerelli64: mm…nice. are you a pure virgin though? have you seen a penis before?

sweetlilgrl14: I saw my dad's once. the fire alarm went off and he ran out of the shower naked and yelling. it was gross.

ghascerelli64: would you like to see mine?

sweetlilgrl14: is that even possible?

ghascerelli64 has sent you a file. Click here to open.

"Ew!"

"Oh my god…"

"Holy shit!"

"My eyes! My innocent virgin eyes!" Meg exclaimed, laughing.

Drew closed the dialogue box on the screen rather quickly and stood up. "Well I think I've learned my lesson," he said, "Emmy must have been a freak to run away with one of these guys."

Meg showed the two boys out of the house and sat down to do her homework. The sky darkened as she worked, and after what seemed like a few hours she decided to take a break, get a soda, and go upstairs to her room. On her computer screen there was the instant message window.

ghascerelli64: are you there?

ghascerelli64: hello? I hope I didn't scare you away 

Meg sat down at her computer but paused for a moment, wondering if she should reply or not. She wondered what sort of man would be so desperate he'd flirt with teenage girls over the internet. How old was he? Where did he live?

But there was only one way she could find out, she realized, and out of sheer curiosity she sat down and started to type a reply.


Two weeks later at school, Drew tapped Meg on her shoulder in Trigonometry.

"Hey Meg, at thirty degrees on the unit circle, is the radian pi over three or pi over six?"

"I don't know, I wasn't paying attention."

Meg saw Drew's eyes tilt down to her notebook. Meg usually took great notes in class and even used different pens to color-code everything. Instead of trigonometry notes, Meg's notebook was covered in doodles of butterflies. She casually leaned over her papers to hide them from Drew's view, as if he didn't already glance at them.

"Something on your mind, Meg?" He asked.

"No…" she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear with her eyes downcast. "Well, I was just thinking...do you remember the pedo we talked to over the internet two weeks ago?"

"Yeah?"

"I don't know how to get rid of him."

It took Drew a moment to understand. "Get rid of…wait, you've been keeping in touch with him?"

"I was just curious."

"Meg!"

"We don't talk about sex or anything—don't give me that look, Drew, I'm nothing like Emmy Nguyen."

"You'll get yourself killed!"

"No I won't, I don't even tell him about myself. I just let him tell me about his family and every so often I'll type something an 'okay' or 'cool' just to let him know I'm listening. He's a normal guy in a bad marriage, and Silvia's someone he confides in."

Drew looked away, but Meg tried to explain herself.

"I've been trying to make him talk to me less, but somehow it always backfires."

"That's because he's looking for sex with a minor!"

"No I really mean it. He tells Silvia everything."

"Stop talking about Silvia like she's a real person! It's not even just about you. What about Brendon, huh? How would he feel if he knew his girlfriend was flirting with some pedo online? What would your parents think? Block the guy, Meg, please."


sweetlilgrl14: hey.

ghascerelli64 has sent a request to start sending webcam. Click here to accept.

A pale, bearded face of a middle-aged man appeared live on the screen, his body at an angle because of the position of the camera. He wore a gray t-shirt and was well groomed. In fact, he looked like he could have been a neighbor walking his dog down Meg's street, or a PE teacher at her high school. He had handsome features, though the lighting of his camera gave his skin a blue-green tint.

ghascerelli64: I wonder when you'll get a webcam yourself?

sweetlilgrl14: i dunno. can't afford one on my own, and if i asked my mom for one she would get suspicious.

ghascerelli64: too bad, I'd love to see the pretty girl I've been talking to for the two weeks.

sweetlilgrl14: heh.

ghascerelli64: check this out.

The man's head ducked out of the screen for a moment and reappeared with a picture frame. He held it up to the camera so all Meg could see was a glare of light hitting the frame's glass. As the man tilted it back and forth the glare faded and was replaced by a picture of an attractive teenage girl in a blue graduation cap and gown.

sweetlilgrl14: whos that?

ghascerelli64: my daughter.

sweetlilgrl14: woah, i didnt know you had a daughter. how old is she?

ghascerelli64: 18. not much older than you. too bad she hates me.

sweetlilgrl14: what? nah, i bet she doesn't hate you.

ghascerelli64: she does. her mother tells her I'm pathetic because she makes more money than me.

sweetlilgrl14: your not pathetic.

ghascerelli64: your sweet.

ghascerelli64: if only I knew you in person I'd be so glad, since there's no one like you in new jersey.

ghascelli64: but your in cali.

sweetlilgrl14: lol yea.

ghascerelli64: but I can get tickets and come over

sweetlilgrl14: lol

ghascerelli64: I'm serious. whats your adress?

"Shit," Meg whispered to herself.

sweetlilgrl14: i cant, my parents would kill me.

ghascerelli64: I wont come into your house then

ghascerelli64: Ill meet you somewhere else. just name the place, ill just fly over for a few hours. just wanna see you and hear your voice and know your real. i'll even bring a webcam for you.

sweetlilgrl14: i have to go, my mom's home.


"For crying out loud, just block him already!" Drew exclaimed the next day while the two were in their school lunch line.

"I can't!"

"Why not? It's easy: you click the block button and he's gone."

"But he can make another username and contact me with that one."

"Then block him again. And again. And keep doing it until he leaves you alone. He doesn't know any of your personal information, does he?"

"I don't know," Meg moaned, "I don't know, and I'm scared. Too scared to think straight."

"Call the cops on him."

"I can't do that," Meg said, shaking her head, "he's a good person."

"Good person my ass!"

"Drew, I honestly think he's in love with Silvia. I mean, I downright led him on all this time and it's completely my fault for messing with the guy's head. I can't turn around and get the cops involved."

"Are you kidding me? A crazy guy could be at your door, okay? Who knows what he'll do if he gets his hands on you. If you don't call the cops, I will."

"No," Meg pleaded, "not yet, please, let me think of something else."


ghascerelli64: hi silvia, how are you?

ghascerelli64 has sent a request to start sending webcam. Click here to accept.

The same blue-green tinted man showed up again, the camera tilted to the side. He was wearing a different t-shirt, a red one. Like before, he would inch forward every time he typed something, and stare at his screen as he waited for a reply.

ghascerelli64: i called a travel agent and she told me she had a round ticket available to LAX on the 23rd. we should meet at a public place im thinking a specific land mark

ghascerelli64: like starbucks

ghascerelli64: do you think you can make it to LAX?

sweetlilgrl14: i cant, maybe its better if we just talk online

ghascerelli64: I already bought the tickets though. maybe we can meet at the beach. I can meet you at the metrolink stop at downtown LA. just take the bus ill be there by 5pm.

ghascerelli64: g2g bye

sweetlilgrl14: no, i REALLY mean it. don't come.

ghascerelli64 did not receive your message because he is no longer online


Meg was stuck. She didn't know what to do, but she definitely wasn't going to meet the man online. Meanwhile, her grades in all her classes started to drop. So much, in fact, that Mrs. Gonzalez pulled her aside during third period and asked her if there was any family trouble.

"My family's fine, Mrs. Gonzalez, I'm okay. Really."

"Meg, I'm worried about you. You haven't done your homework in the past three weeks and your test grades have gone significantly. Are you sure nothing's wrong?"

"I'm fine. I swear, but thank you for your concern."

"Take care, Meg," Mrs. Gonzalez said, and Meg turned away.

She checked her watch: in just six hours ghascerelli64 was going to be the metrolink station and find out she wasn't there. She wondered what he would think if he didn't see her there. He had once asked for her picture and she sent one to him, thinking he lived too far away to come over. She still never gave him her address or told him she lived in Irvine, only to say she lived "not too far from Los Angeles". But what if he managed to find her when walking down the street?

After school she went to watch Brendon's baseball game. She waved at him when the game was over, and smiled as he came over to her with a bottle of water in his hand.

"Hey Meg, what are you doing here?" He asked.

"Just watching you."

"Just watching me, huh?"

"Yeah," she said, "lets go get something to eat. We never have dinner together, with just a two of us. I'll pay if you can't afford it, it'll be nice. We've been going out for a month and we never eat dinner together."

"Gee Meg, I don't know…"

"Please," she insisted, "I don't want to go home alone. I'm scared to walk home alone."

He raised his eyebrows, "But you always do."

"I can't anymore. Can I please just—I don't know—just hang out with you until my parents come home? I don't feel very safe right now."

Brendon looked confused, but didn't ask any questions. "Sure."


They went to his house and there they worked on homework. Meg took the time to study for the first time in the past three weeks. The two didn't talk much, and when they said anything it was just a simple "can I borrow that" or "thanks". When Meg finally decided to go home, Brendon walked her to her house even though it was only four blocks away.

Ghascerelli64 didn't arrive show up on the internet the next day. It could have been a good sign or a bad sign: a good sign if it meant he would leave her alone from that day on, and a bad sign if it meant he was still in California. But he didn't show up the day after that or the day after that. Meg did her homework at Brendon's house every day, and it started becoming a habit.

Just as Meg thought the man on the internet disappeared from her life, however, he logged on.

ghascerelli64 has sent a request to start sending webcam. Click here to accept.

The blue-green man's eyebrows were furrowed. He didn't bother looking at the camera—his face was bent down to the keyboard and he typed at a furious speed.

ghascerelli64: I waited for you for nine hours.

ghascerelli64: I got to the train station early, at 3:10 even though I told you I wouldn't be there until 4.

ghascerelli64: I bought a half dozen boquet of roses at the airport and a teddy bear and a box of choclates. i waited and waited for you and you never came.

sweetlilgrl14: im so sorry

ghascerelli64: I was only suposed to be there for three hours before I took my flight back. I thought to myself "she has troubl findign this place" and so I stayed evven though my flight took of.

ghascerelli64: I stayed way after the train station closed and until all the late night buses stopped running

ghascerelli64: I had to get a new flight and the first one was for 4 days later.

ghascerelli64: my wife and daughter hate me more than ever now.

ghascerelli64: why did you do it? I loved you.

sweetlilgrl14: im sorry.

ghascerelli64: why did you do it?

The blue-green man on the screen fell backwards into his chair and cupped his face in his hands. Meg was too scared to type a response, and too scared not to type one. Her heart was beating so fast that she could hear it in her ears. She finally typed her reply.

sweetlilgrl14: i didn't mean to hurt you, i only wanted to know why a grown man wanted to find a teenage girl over the internet.

sweetlilgrl14: my friend talked to you first. he was the one who used this username to find someone online. i was just curious and went too far.

ghascerelli64: more than one person used your username? which one is silvia?

sweetlilgrl14: there is no silvia, we made that name up.

ghascerelli64: what do you mean, there was no silvia?

sweetlilgrl14: my friend drew made that name up.

ghascerelli64: there was never a silvia?

sweetlilgrl14: no

The blue-green man shot up from his chair and threw it against a wall so hard the wall behind him crumpled. The webcam's quality made the action come in distorted chunks, but before long the man was in his seat again. When the webcam's lag cleared, his eyes were squint and his mouth was stretched like he was in great pain. It took Meg a moment to realize he was crying.

ghascerelli64: WHY WOULD YOU BASTARDS FUCK WITH A MAN LIKE THIS!

ghascerelli64: DID YOU KNOW HOW MUCH YOU STUPID KIDS MESSED WITH MY MIND

This time Meg didn't type a reply. She was too horrified to. It didn't seem to matter, because the man was no longer watching his computer screen. He was in his seat but throwing the papers on his desk against the wall, and if they simply floated from his hands he'd snatch them up and tear them to pieces in his hands.

Finally, he put his chair back in place, leaned forward in his desk, and simply buried his face in his hands again and cried. Meg was too scared to close the window and just kept watching him. It took a moment for him to remember she was there. He glanced directly into the camera angrily with his eyes red and swollen, and stormed out of the room for a moment.

He came back in again, and this time holding a black object in his hand. It looked like a shiny black toy of some sort for a moment, and when Meg realized what it was she moaned aloud in horror.

sweetlilgrl14: I SAID I WAS SORRY.

sweetlilgrl14: please

sweetlilgrl14: i dont know what to do i dont know what im supposed to say

The man started fidgeting with the lock on top of the object until he arranged the numbers in the proper combination and snapped the safety-device off and held remaining part the object in his hands. His hands were shaking, and he put the item down to type a final message.

ghascerelli64: i hope you will remember destroying an innocent mans life, and see this in front of your very eyes for the rest of your lies, you fucking piece of shit.

He picked the object up again, and as he pointed it up to his temple, Meg jerked her head away and squeezed her eyes shut.

Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. She heard the sound of her own breathing for what seemed like an eternity, afraid of looking back at the screen again. Finally, after three full minutes she looked up and saw his body slumped to the side of his seat. It wasn't moving, and she wondered for a moment if he played a horrible little joke to teach her a lesson and he was fine. She stared at the body, but it didn't sit up or move at all.

She didn't know if he was truly alive or dead, and she didn't know what would happen if the police saw his dead body and saw the IM chat log. She didn't know if she would be put in jail or not. She didn't even know when she would close the window or get out of her chair.

She simply didn't know what to do.