Chapter One - On the Run (continued)
She could step around the corner of one life into another, like Alice stepping through the looking glass. She could shed her persona, drape herself in anonymity and walk away from 38 years of living that had brought her into the electric zone of fame and fortune - fame that now threatened to erase her entirely.
. . . She could turn up missing or dead, a corpse like her husband floating and bobbing along the banks of the East River. She could turn up missing and alive, captured, bound and delivered to some old enemies or friends (she knew not which) of her husbands.
. . . Or she could climb the stairs, four flights of them, to the heavy metal door that would swing open on complaining hinges and set her free.
. . . She could erase all traces of her former life in order to avoid a more extreme form of oblivion. She could leave her East Side sanctuary behind and invent her own witness protection program.
. . . But witness to what? she wondered. Why was she being followed and what did they want from her? The mornings message had been terse, unclear and yet ominous in tone. They explained little but gave her a meeting place.
. . . Be in Central Park at the sailboat pond at noon today. Sit at a bench near the Hans Christian Andersen statue.
. . . Ironic choice, she chuckled to herself, recalling that the author is seated reading the Ugly Duckling to a duck at his feet. Was there some hidden message behind this choice?
. . . Why hadnt they picked the Mad Tea Party sculpture at the North end of the pond? Alice in Wonderland seemed a more appropriate story to match the situation.
. . . She could go on the lam, she remembered from some gangster film.
. . . She could have taken the elevator up, but she wondered if they had some way of tracking its movements. She was even careful to muffle the sound of the heavy door shutting. She left the bolts unlocked. She thought they might have eavesdropping equipment that could track her steps.
. . . And then again, she worried that her imagination was exaggerating the risks and the threats. Paranoia lurked nearby - a shadowy leering companion, cackling at her struggles.
. . . The stairs up to the roof were shining clean, barren and virtually untouched until she reached the top landing where the door to the roof awaited her. Because many of the buildings tenants enjoyed tanning on the rooftop, the landings linoleum was scuffed and scarred.
. . . She cautiously swung the heavy green metal open to a morning that was mild, bright, and seemingly unaware of the danger stalking her. In no time at all, she had crossed three rooftops, passed three water towers and pulled open the metal door of the corner building. Feeling braver, she took the antique Otis elevator down to the lobby where the exit waited for her.
. . . As she emerged from the revolving brass doors, her gait was measured, her steps were flat and her normally brisk, purposeful stride had disappeared. Anyone watching her from the street would have ignored her, would have thought her unremarkable and quite dull.
. . . She headed for Central Park slowly.