Saturday, December 3, 2016

Excerpt from Cold Comfort

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   “I’m off duty now. I can give you a ride,” Parsons said. “Where do you want to go?”
   “You sure? Don’t you have family or a friend you could stay with?”
   “No, no one.” She thought about Walt Kramer, her former fiancé. She could hardly call him—he’d eloped with his secretary—his pregnant secretary—two months before the wedding. Six months later, it still stung. Tears of self-pity stung her eyes. Roughly, she wiped them away. Get over it.
   The officer wheeled her outside the door to his car and settled her in the seat.
   Numb from shots and pills, she described the events of the past week. “For three nights, I noticed a car with one dim headlight—it could have been following me.”
   “I’ll put it in the report. Keep watching for that odd light. Anything else?”
   She rubbed her forehead. “Maybe. Several times I had this prickly sensation of being watched. I thought I must be imagining it. And someone may have been inside my house.”
   “May? Did you report it?”
   “I started to, but I couldn’t find anything missing—only the rumpled bedspread and the scent of tobacco and aftershave. No signs of anyone breaking in. I couldn’t be sure all these . . . it wasn’t my imagination.” Maybe she should have called, but she’d been raised to take care of herself. She nibbled her fingernail, then shoved her hands under her thighs. “I didn’t want to overreact.”
   “To be honest, you wouldn’t have gotten much attention.”
   “I found one of the dolls in my storeroom with its head crushed.” But how could she report a broken doll? “It could have been an accident. It just didn’t look like one.”
   He nodded. “Someone’s being very clever, trying to scare you without leaving real evidence.”
   “Last night I got a phone call.” The voice replayed in her head, making her skin crawl. “As soon as I realized what he was saying, what he wanted to do, I hung up and turned off the ringer.”
   “Caller ID?”
   “No. But I added it today.”
   “Not much else you can do unless you get an unlisted number.” He glanced at her with apology in his eyes. “Chances are he watches enough TV to know how to hide his number.”
   “Tonight, just before he ran off, he said he’d be back.” She tightened her arms around her midriff.
   “He knows your name, and it sounds like he’s seriously focused on you,” Parsons said. “I’m afraid you’ve got a stalker.”
   A stalker! Her stomach turned over. A chill ran through her. The word sounded so much worse than a one-time thief or mugger. Why would anyone be stalking her? Since she’d abandoned her dreams of a family, her whole life centered on the store. She didn’t go out, didn’t search for her soul mate in cyberspace, didn’t do anything that would attract attention.

   “He was waiting for you. I found broken glass on the porch from the light bulb. It didn’t burn out.”

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