Chapter Three - Crossing the Park

. . . Magda’s walk across Central Park to the West Side of Manhattan proved uneventful. She strolled almost aimlessly, as if she had nothing on her mind, no place to go and all the time in the world. To the casual observer there was no hint of flight or escape. She had apparently joined the ranks of a tiny group of weekday visitors to Central Park who were content to linger, doze and wander about.

. . . Many of these temporary squatters perched on benches, feeding stale bread to pigeons, scanning headlines and running memory tapes. Magda noticed a large number of seniors, an equal number of domestics, a few stay-at-home moms, lots of prams and almost no business people. The Park seemed empty compared to a Saturday or a Sunday.
. . . She settled on one bench for half an hour apparently staring at the clouds but actually monitoring movement across a large open green space to see if she had been followed.
. . . She examined the lamp posts decorating the graceful walkways extending to either side of her wondering if any held video cameras. According to some recent news articles, the city was so heavily monitored by cameras that it was virtually impossible to move through the streets without leaving tracks.
. . . Magda wondered if the cameras had made their way into the park, but then shook her head at her own naivete. The drop in violent crime had been impressive and most citizens had applauded the extra police presence along with the electronic surveillance credited with the producing the decline.
. . . There had been almost no debate about surveillance.
. . . “Let them film me all they want,” argued one talk show guest on a program Magda had shared. At the time, Magda’s own reservations had been mild and her statements more entertaining than urgent.
Sensing that these same cameras were now aimed directly at her recording her movements for some agency that might not feel any reservations about intruding on the private lives of citizens, she suddenly felt the issue cut more deeply.
. . . While she was sure no person had followed her across the park, she realized that this belief was a bit outmoded as the term “followed” had changed in meaning as the technologies had developed.
. . . She rose slowly to her feet like some older woman defeated by life’s woes. Celebrity? Hardly. In a single morning she had passed from the fame and glory of the talk shows to the anonymity and slow, shuffling pace of someone on the fringe of life. From spotlight into shadow.
Her mood was somber. Even as one Magda disappeared, a different Magda emerged. She realized as she stepped out of Central Park past the Natural History Museum that she was out of her element and quite unprepared for the challenge posed by this disappearing act.
She was suddenly thrust into the center of a drama not of her own choosing, but a drama, nevertheless. Even as she passed into shadow, she could sense the spotlights rotating behind her, searching for a missing person.
. . . She had memories of movies showing prisoners escaping from prison camps, sliding through darkness and around corners just one step ahead of a huge search light. In one of these movies, the light caught the escapee just as he reached the top of a fence, just as he neared freedom.
. . . She would never forget the image of that prisoner spread-eagled on the fence.
. . . She now wondered if escape was possible.