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Autumn 2003 upstate New York
The year’s worst thunderstorm was raging in the town of Ithaca near Lake Cayuga. Trees were bending over, almost doubling on themselves and the sky was pitch-black.
A young man lay on the ground broken. He had no idea how the events of the last hour had come about, the last thing he remembered was leaving his office after another busy and frustrating day; his firm was definitely going to fold if he didn’t manage to get another client soon. He didn’t understand what was happening, even though he’d been told often that times were hard, and businesses had to cut back costs and couldn’t afford to go in for the expensive buildings he designed. Well, maybe he really should take up that offer and remove his firm to Toronto after all. He hated the idea of starting again and was quite sure that his wife wouldn’t take too kindly to moving either – she kept talking about getting back into teaching and wanted Cornell near.
Deep in thought he had unlocked his car, and then the nightmare had started. He had looked forward to a nice quiet evening at home, a good dinner prepared by his wife and finally some warmth and encouragement. That had not happened.
Instead he seemed to be trapped in some nightmare of horror and pain. Whoever the man was who had come after him, it was clear that he meant to kill him, though what he had done to deserve this he simply didn’t know. When he had whispered his wife’s name, the stranger had become even more enraged, and the pain had gotten worse. By now he was too numb with pain to even care. He closed his eyes, waiting for more injuries, his hands clawing the ground in a vain attempt at getting some hold.
The last injury had been so absurd –
a bite, really?! – that he still hadn’t wrapped his head around it, but after
that had occurred he hadn’t been able to move any longer. When he finally
opened his eyes again to the sky he saw the weight of the crane come crashing
down on him.
London. Three years later – flat of Dr Jeffrey Lynd
The burly man sat down at his desk with a sigh. He had put off work again until it was almost too late, but Sunday evening definitely called for some preparation for Monday’s tutorials, even if they weren’t going to be that stressful. He really should find another job. Teaching had never been right for him, and basically he had kept at it to make ends meet. Now it had become clear that it didn’t even suffice to do that. He was as bored by undergraduates as they were by him – not a good starting point to get students interested in history. But they were just so …lazy and not interested in politics at all. How could you get them working about the systems of government in the past when they didn’t even understand or care for the system of government that decided about their grants? Well, maybe this ghost-writing thing could get him into a different line of work, which did not include young people who kept reminding him of his failure as a parent. For that to work however, he would definitely have to be good, and that meant sorting out the problems with the archive. He made a note to call that officious idiot again after his tutorial tomorrow. Tutorial, right, better prepare that as well. He shook his head and got to work, chiding himself for not starting earlier. Even though he had probably found a way to, well, supplement his income just enough to stay out of trouble, he knew he needed to find a more permanent way to make money if he didn’t want to be stuck in financial problems forever.
Concentrating still was hard. Last night’s quarrel with his friend had gotten to him – he still didn’t know why – and the fact that for once she had not phoned him to make up had been absolutely distracting, not to mention that he had not had a hot meal that day and was becoming decidedly grumpy. This had been the second confrontation in two weeks. Last Sunday she had become so angry about some minor thing (he couldn’t even remember what it was) that she had actually thrown an onion at him. They should definitely reconsider their relationship. He shook his head: How could such a small person be so hugely infuriating? One thing he knew for sure was that the fragile innocence she projected was just a façade.
At least, he wasn’t going to be alone from Wednesday onwards, he smiled, looking forward to the visitor who had announced herself. Then he bent down again over his desk and tried to concentrate on undergraduate work.
With a light click the door to his flat in the middle class neighbourhood of Maida Vale was opened, and someone entered his home.
After ten minutes the noise level in the flat changed considerably, Lynd was screaming with pain and fear at what had come down on him from God knows where. He had never imagined he could inspire this kind of rage and violence and started wishing for death to come quickly. In his last conscious moments he discovered a strength he had never known he possessed though, hoping his better nature would prevail… man’s better nature would prevail… anything. He was disappointed, one more time.
Kensington, the next day
The stalker was getting worried. The two men who had gone into the house across the road had suspiciously looked like policemen.
When they came out again, she was with them. He tensed, ready to cross the road in case…
No, she got into their car with them voluntarily and was gone. He waited for another hour, stock-still in the shadow of her doorway, seething with anguish and frustration.
What had she done now?