The minute I heard that only the two of us were here, I started wondering if all the outside doors were locked and if the alarm was on, Emily thought, once again angry that she could not control her anxiety.
She slipped out of her bathrobe. Don't think about it now, she warned herself.
But her hands were suddenly clammy as she remembered the first time she had come home and realized he'd been there. She had found a picture of herself propped up against the lamp on her bedside table, a photograph showing her standing in the kitchen in her nightgown, a cup of coffee in her hand. She had never seen the picture before. That day she'd had the locks of the townhouse changed and a blind put on the window over the sink.
After that there'd been a number of other incidents involving photographs, pictures taken of her at home, on the street, in the office. Sometimes a silky-voiced predator would call to comment on what she was wearing. "You looked cute jogging this morning, Emily..." "With that dark hair, I didn't think I'd like you in black. But I do...." "I love those red shorts. Your legs are really good..."
And then a picture would turn up of her wearing the described outfit. It would be in her mailbox at home, or stuck on the windshield of her car, or folded inside the morning newspaper that had been delivered to her doorstep.
The police had traced the telephone calls, but all had been made from different pay phones. Attempts to lift fingerprints from the items that she had received had been unsuccessful.
For over a year the police had been unable to apprehend the stalker. "You've gotten some people acquitted who were accused of vicious crimes, Miss Graham," Marty Browski, the senior detective, told her. "It could be someone in a victim's family. It could be someone who saw you in a restaurant and followed you home. It could be someone who knows you came into a lot of money and got fixated on you."
And then they'd found Ned Koehler, the son of a woman whose accused killer she had successfully defended, lurking outside her townhouse. He's off the streets now, Emily reassured herself. There's no need to worry about him anymore. He'll get the care he needs.
He was in a secure psychiatric facility in upstate New York, and this was Spring Lake, not Albany. Out of sight, out of mind, Emily thought, prayerfully. She got into bed, pulled up the covers, and reached for the light switch.
Across Ocean Avenue, standing on the beach in the shadows of the deserted boardwalk, the wind from the ocean whipping his hair, a man watched as the room became dark.
"Sleep well, Emily," he whispered, his voice gentle.
Copyright © 2001 by Mary Higgins Clark
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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