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CLOSE TO YOU
For the two years she had anchored the ten o'clock news for the Garden State Network, she had never given a second thought to entering the well-lit parking lot after work. She had been so confident, so sure of herself.
Now she lived in fear. And she hated it.
The late-October night air was cold and crisp as she hurried across the lot toward her locked car, another week of work behind her. Shivering beneath the wool coat she had just picked up from the dry cleaners', she fumbled with the shiny key, her nervousness only making her aim less efficient. She breathed a heavy sigh of relief as she got in and locked the door beside her.
She was determined not to be a victim. She had signed up for a self-defense course at her health club and had a security system installed on her condo. She forced herself to carry on with her life, determined not to be held hostage by some sick nut.
She drove home, comforting herself with the fact that her boss, the news director, while showing some concern, did not seem overly worried. He had been in the business for twenty years and had listened to dozens of stories from his on-air talent who had been targeted as objects of desire by viewers. Most of the obsessive fans were harmless.
She pulled her blue two-seater convertible into her reserved spot at the end of the row of two-story condominiums. She had been so happy to get an end unit when she bought the place, having neighbors only on one side and the yard at the end to herself. Now she wished her condo was smack in the middle of all the others.
She pulled the car key from the ignition and searched out the house keys, holding them tight in her hand. She looked out the windows on both sides and behind her before getting out of the car. It was just a few steps to the front door.
The first key slid smoothly into the top lock and she heard the dead bolt shift. But the second key got stuck halfway in the doorknob. She jiggled at it frantically.
"Linda, you've been avoiding me." The words sliced through the still night air and the hand clamped down on hers.
The next morning, an eager trick-or-treater, thrilled that Halloween fell on a Saturday that year and provided a full day of candy-gathering, made his way along the row of condos in his gorilla costume. When he got to the last door there was no answer. He shrugged, undisturbed. There were lots more doorbells to ring.
He cut across the side yard, toward the woods that led to the next housing development. He paid little attention to the woman's shoe or to the can of hairspray that lay on the dew-covered grass.
The anchorwoman's mother screamed with rage and desperation at the police. Her daughter had reported that she thought she was being followed. Why hadn't they done something?
The police were on the defensive. Hadn't they given her escorts for weeks? There had been no problems. No one menacing had shown up. They couldn't have gone on indefinitely, accompanying her back and forth from the studio each night. There wasn't a budget for that.
They vowed they would do everything in their power to find Linda Anderson. It was a high-profile case. The Garden State Network was breathing down the police chief's neck every day for developments in the investigation. But the suspect list was infinite.
It could be anyone with a television set.