It was happening again . . .
In the driver’s seat, hands on the steering wheel, gunning the panel truck across Second Avenue toward the blond woman and her little girl . . .
. . . gaining speed . . .
. . . seeing their shocked, terrified expressions as he floors the gas . . .
. . . feeling the impacts as he plows into them . . .
. . . watching their limp, broken bodies flying as he races past, never slowing, never hesitating, never even looking back.
Jack awoke with his jaw locked and his fists clenched. He forced himself to relax, to reach out and lay a hand on the reassuring curve of Gia’s hip where she slumbered next to him.
The dream again. Easy enough to interpret: He blamed himself for the hit-and-run, so his mind put him behind the wheel. Obvious.
What wasn’t obvious was the timing. The dream occurred only under a certain condition: It meant the watcher was back.
Jack slipped from her bed to the window. The blinds were drawn against the glow from the streetlights. He peeked around the edge and . . .
There he was.
As usual he stood at the corner, facing Gia’s townhouse, wearing his customary homburg and overcoat; his right hand rested on the head of a walking stick. His position silhouetted him against the lights of the traffic passing on Sutton Place and caused the brim of his hat to shadow his face.
A big man and, if the slight stoop of his shoulders was any clue, elderly. Jack had first seen him outside his own apartment back in January . . . just days before the hit-and-run. And lately he’d been showing up outside Gia’s.
Jack had never been able to catch the guy. Not for lack of trying. He’d gone after him dozens of times, but the old guy seemed to know when Jack was coming.
Somehow the watcher always managed to stay one step ahead. If Jack waited inside the front door, dressed and ready to give chase, or sat in his car or hid in a doorway, watching the corner, the guy didn’t show. Last month Jack had waited ten nights in a row—inside and outside, from uptown, downtown, and crosstown vantage points.
On the eleventh night he called it quits and went to bed. That night he had the dream again and, sure enough, a peek through the blinds confirmed the watcher’s presence.
Deciding to give it another shot, Jack grabbed his jeans and hopped into them as he headed for the hall. He hurried down to the first floor and jammed his bare feet into his sneakers where they waited in the front foyer. Then out the door in a headlong dash across the street to the corner.
The empty corner.
But Jack didn’t break his stride. This had happened every time—in the half minute or less it took him to reach the street the guy in the homburg disappeared. All it took was a few steps to put him around the corner and out of sight, but there was more to it.
Jack reached the corner and kept going, racing along Sutton Place for a full block, peering into every nook and cranny along the way. Tonight’s attempt ended the same as all the others: nada.
His breath steaming in the night air, Jack stood on the deserted sidewalk, turning in a slow circle. Where did the son of a bitch go? Maybe a sleek Olympic-class sprinter could race out of sight in that short time. But some big old guy with a cane?
Didn’t make sense.
But then, why should it? Nothing else did.
Check that: Events of the past year did make sense, but not in the usual way. Not the sort of sense that the average person could understand—or want to.
Jack rubbed his bare arms. It might be spring—mid-April—but the temperature was in the low forties. A bit cool for just a T-shirt.
He took one last look around, then hurried back to Gia’s warm bed.
Copyright © 2007 by F. Paul Wilson. All rights reserved.