Wednesday 26 – Saturday 29 September 2012
Ricketsen returned to his cluttered desk, and Missy Fairmont, with two paper cups of steaming coffee. He placed one down on the desk in front of her, and drank from his own as he dumped himself into his chair.
‘It’s not necessarily good coffee, Missy . . . actually, it’s not good coffee at all.’
She managed a half-hearted smile and also sipped from her cup, screwing her nose up as she swallowed the beverage.
‘You can say that again. It’s possibly the most disgusting coffee I’ve ever had.’
The officer chuckled at her reply, nodded his head in agreement, and took up where he had left off.
‘So, you discovered footprints the next day. Any possibility they could have been from your gardener, or the pool guy? Maybe some tradesman you allowed into the yard to do some work for you?’ He sipped at his coffee while he waited for her to think about his questions. She chewed on her lip, considering all options that might have been a possibility to explain away the freshly made footprints, and then shook her head.
‘No. No, they were fresh. There was someone in the garden watching me the night before. I’m absolutely sure of it. I’d bet on it, in fact.’
The police officer was still sceptical about Mrs. Fairmont’s claims that she was being watched, but he’d lived by his father’s lifelong motto: it’s better to be safe than sorry. He pushed Missy for more information.
‘I used to go for a run every morning but I stopped because part of my route was through a small wooded area on the outskirts of the park that I went to. Hikers used the area a lot too.’
* * * * *
Two days had passed and Missy had put the thought of a potential intruder out of her mind. She intended to go about her business as she would if William had not left New York, and drove herself to the park. Keeping her training programme on track was part of her daily routine.
‘Perfect day for a run,’ she said to herself, and got out of the car.
She walked through the car park to the park-proper. There were the usual suspects present – exercise-aholics, wannabe athletes, dog walkers, dog runners, Frisbee freaks, hikers, and primped up women intent on keeping their svelte pre-baby bodies. After going through the motions of warming up, Missy began her ritualistic run through the beginner level hiking trails that led out of the grassy park and through partially wooded areas that surrounded it.
She kept a steady pace, and tossed a casual greeting to the regulars that she passed along the way. It wasn’t until she was about halfway along the hiking trail, where the ground changed from powdery sand to grit and small stones that she heard the footfalls behind her. She was moving too fast to get a good look, but she quickly glanced over her shoulder. She didn’t recognise the runner keeping a slightly slower pace behind her, and his Yankees baseball cap, aviator sunglasses, and shadowing from the morning sun obscured his facial features.
Missy increased her speed, and the man behind her did the same. The thought entered her head that this seemed unlikely to be a coincidence when coupled with the odd occurrence of a few nights previous. Again, she increased her speed, and again, the runner matched her. Now she had little doubt: the man behind her was chasing her, and there really was nowhere that she could possibly lose him. Missy’s only course of action would be to remain as far ahead of him as she could.
She focussed on her speed. Experience and routine allowed her to run without really having to consider the terrain. She desperately hoped that her pursuer didn’t have the same familiarity with the landscape as she had. Missy ran on, only occasionally glancing behind her, runner still in pursuit.
As she rounded the last bend in the beginner’s hiking trail, she looked behind her again. He was gone. Not feeling assured of her safety, Missy continued running at the fast pace she had set herself. Her mission was to make it back to her car and get the hell out of there safely. She prayed that she would.
With the green of the park and the sight and sound of people all around, Missy finally and breathlessly, conceded her sprint to an out of breath jog. As she neared her car, she pulled her car keys from her zipped pocket, only using the remote to unlock the doors as she grasped the door handle. Once inside the car, Missy locked the doors again and took some time to catch her breath.
It wasn’t until she started the engine and put the car into reverse that she noticed the photographs under the windscreen wipers.
* * * * *
‘You don’t happen to have them with you, do you, Missy?’ Ricketsen enquired. Missy pulled a large, bulging envelope from her handbag and handed it to the officer.
‘They’re all in there,’ she replied, ‘and they include the ones from that first night. You can clearly see me drop my glass of wine when I saw the first flash.’
Ricketsen opened the envelope and spread its contents across his desk.
‘There are one hundred and seventy five altogether,’ she said to him.
. . . To be continued . . .