Authors: Heather Graham
For Al and Lena, “Nana” and “Papa” Pozzessere, with lots of love
New York, New York! “It’s my kind of town”! Or is that supposed to be Chicago? I can’t remember, but I am in New York and awfully glad to be here. Different scenery, etc., etc. I’m not sure what I want to do yet, but I guess I’ve got time. I’m going to be a tourist for the next few weeks. Having never been here before, I’m absolutely fascinated. Today the Empire State building, tomorrow the world.
Anyway, I am well and doing fine! How about yourself? Anything new? Write soon. Luv ya,
You sound great! And I’m sorry, but, “My kind of town” is Chicago. But that’s all right. New York is a “wonderful lady” and I’m sure it will be wonderful for you. It’s so hectic there that you really can forget anything painful and go on. Keep in touch; call if you get the urge. If I can, I’ll come down to meet you soon.
Radio City Music Hall and a half dozen museums later, I’m still in love with New York. Of course, I’ve been all over by now! I’ve seen the grand—and an awful lot of the very seedy. But I’m still doing fine. And I’m eager to see you when you get here. Hurry up and get some of that olive oil out of your hands so that you can come down and meet me. I’ll teach you how to ice skate a whole new way at Rockefeller Plaza.
Well, it hasn’t really been the “olive oil” keeping me, and you know it. But guess what? I’m an official “Miss” once again. It seems crazy to have been “married” less than a month—and then have it take over two years to finish with the paperwork. A divorce would have taken about eight weeks, they say, but I guess I’m glad I filed for the annulment. It meant so much to the family, and I didn’t want to do anything else right away. Not after Mark. This “olive oil” you’re teasing me about helped keep me sane!
But anyway, I found out the other day that the annulment went through Rome last February. I will be very officially single when I meet you—soon. I promise.
Oh, my God! Can things happen here! Just a quick note to say I’m glad that things worked out—but don’t come here! I met the strangest man, and suddenly things went berserk. If I wanted danger and excitement, I guess I’ve got it now. But that’s New York—you never know what might happen when you walk down the street. I sound like I’m babbling, don’t I? But I’m frightened silly. I have to put my trust in Andrew McKennon—even though he can be a true SOB! I want to strangle the man half the time, but then again…well, he is trying to help me now. I haven’t any other choice. I know this sounds crazy, but right now I can’t explain the rest because I don’t know what is going on myself. Donna—sit tight. I’ll write again when I can. One day I’ll be able to tell you all about this and maybe then I’ll be able to laugh. No, I won’t ever be able to laugh. Oh, what a mess! Think of me, pray for me! But please don’t worry.
“Please don’t worry”! You’ve made me crazy!
What are you trying to do to me? You have me scared witless! What are you talking about and what is going on? Call me—as soon as you get this. Don’t you dare write to me again on hospital stationery and not say anything. Please, please, call me, Lorna, so that I know you are all right. I’m not even sure that my letters reach you—you keep changing addresses every time you write. Lorna, I’m begging you, give me a call. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone for occasions just like this! Please, Lorna!
Dear Miss Miro:
I’m very sorry, but Lorna can’t call or write to you now. Please be patient. She’ll get in touch with you as soon as she can. You are trying to involve yourself in something that you don’t understand; please, for your own safety and Lorna’s, just be patient and wait. You will hear from her soon.
I want to hear from Lorna
Today. I want to know what is going on. If not, I’ll have private detectives on the case immediately.
RETURN TO SENDER
UNDELIVERABLE AS ADDRESSED
NO SUCH PERSON AT THIS ADDRESS
ILE AFTER MILE OF
tenements seemed to reach into space endlessly, sliding into infinity as the stars in the heavens.
But this was no heavenly abode. Nor could it stretch forever, no matter how it seemed. Not far away, Donna knew, the lights of Broadway glittered down on the “beautiful” people, the diamonds of the rich, the sables, foxes, and minks coming into use as fall lowered its gentle hand over the steaming summer heat of the concrete jungle known as Manhattan. Land of ten million people, the Stock Exchange, the theater, the United Nations. The hub of hustling, teeming, ever-moving business. Central Park, Saks Fifth Avenue. And countless ghettos.
The crumbling facades of the neck-to-neck buildings Donna studiously scanned were withered and brown, swallowing what remained of the twilight, appearing to wait like mammoth monsters to pounce on the unwary. They reeked of dismal nightlife, of things done beneath the cover of darkness. It was almost as if the tenements silently laughed, waiting to open their arms and welcome all strays into a den of cutthroats, harlots, and thieves.
“And your imagination is incredible!” Donna whispered aloud to herself with annoyance. The tenements were nothing but housing for the poor, pathetic housing where the rats and graffiti battled for space.
Still, as she walked, she wished fervently that she had taken care of her business during the day. She had been so sure that she could read a map, that she knew what she was doing, that a cab would whiz by at any time she decided she needed one. But it was apparent that cab drivers didn’t cater to this neighborhood and just as apparent that she didn’t know what she was doing. She had read the map. But although it pointed out Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the Metropolitan Museum, and even Macy’s, it did not point to this row upon row of tenements and warn: Detour! Dangerous ghetto!
Whom had she been fooling? she wondered now with growing dismay. A private detective had failed to find Lorna; even the police were behaving as if Lorna had never existed. They had told Donna quite flatly that no such person as Andrew McKennon had ever lived in New York.
It was growing darker and darker. Although her heels clicked bravely against the pavement, Donna was beginning to know fear. Belatedly she was remembering crime statistics, and that she was there in the first place because the city was famous for beckoning the unwary…sucking them up like quicksand.
There goes my imagination again! she silently chastised herself. No, it wasn’t really imagination. Lorna had come to the city and it might as well have swallowed her whole. There was no trace of Lorna Doria.
Something strange had happened to Lorna, yes. But Lorna had
walked down the street and been swallowed whole by a row of tenements. The tenements only
to be alive, breathing with evil menace, because Donna was, admittedly, frightened—and allowing her imagination to run riot. Lorna’s disappearance was a mystery—but logic clearly informed Donna that the street, which wasn’t alive or evil, had done nothing to Lorna. It was just a street. A sad street. And surely no one would bother Donna either.
Or would they? Was she crazy? Or did she really hear the light fall of footsteps behind her? Donna paused, ostensibly adjusting the shoe strap around her heel. She barely breathed as she tried to listen. There was nothing, nothing but the distant sounds of the city, muted taxi horns, fading rock music. She started walking again.
She hadn’t realized her quest would bring her directly into the ghetto, but she had instinctively dressed for anonymity. She wore a severe navy-blue business suit with a plain white tailored blouse. Her hair was tied in a chignon at her nape, its sable length austerely hidden. Her features were fine-boned, clearly cut—almost fragile—but she had learned long ago to face the world with sharp blue eyes and challenge. Despite the delicacy of her five-foot-four frame, few would ever think her lacking the will of a polite, civilized tigress.
Except that right now, Donna Miro wasn’t feeling much like a tigress. She was wishing that rather than being the possessor of a truckload of business acumen, she had elected to take Karate 101 back at the university. At first she had only suspected she was being followed; she had rationalized the feeling by convincing herself it was a natural, if unfounded, fear.
Now she stopped again, this time adjusting the heel strap on her other shoe, and now there was no rationalization for her fear. It wasn’t unfounded. Above the distant, muted din of the city, she heard something else. Much nearer. Too near. She was sure she was being followed.
Stealthy footsteps could be heard behind her. And ahead of her all that loomed was shadow, as if the hulking tenements lurked, waiting with their embrace of darkness…of evil….
Donna quickened her pace as pinpricks of fear assailed her, ripping along the length of her spine with the same subtle whisper of the night sounds that breathed danger. Sounds that echoed and grew in her mind, sounds that mocked the self-assurance of her almost three decades of life.
Yes, she was definitely being followed. Glancing over her shoulder, Donna was just in time to see a shadow blend into a wall. She quickened her pace again until her clicking pace was almost a jog.
There were no more soft whispers of warning. The footsteps were no longer stealthy. Their pace quickened in time with hers, drowning out all else. They rang loud and clear in the cool stillness of the night. Their beat on the pavement spoke of one intent—to outdistance, to overpower. The shadow behind her was now oblivious to exposure.
Donna glanced back once more. The figure was coming after her full speed. She couldn’t best that speed in heels, nor could she take the time to discard her shoes. She screamed, but as in a dream, the sound was weak. It was a croak. She hugged her shoulder bag to her and ran, adrenaline providing a burst of energy.
But escape was impossible. Her assailant was upon her, catching her arm, spinning her about in a crazy circle that caught her heel and cruelly twisted her ankle. She was staring at him with wide eyes. Despite her panic, she realized that the man was really a youth, but a street-wise youth, fleet on his feet, sure of his trade. He could disappear back into the shadows just as easily as he had come when he was done with her.
Done what with her? she wondered desperately. She panicked and began to struggle fiercely, raining blows against his leather jacket. How ridiculous, she thought vaguely in a vain attempt to still her terror. She should be able to stop him. He had to be almost ten years younger than she.
“Hey, mama, just the bag, baby, just the bag,” the kid hissed.
Donna struggled then to loosen her arm from the shoulder bag, gasping as she saw the gleaming blade of a knife in the last glitters of twilight.
“Please!” Donna gasped in sudden horror. What the hell was she doing? Fighting over her purse! Give him the damn thing, she warned herself. It had just been natural instinct to fight, but now she tried to force herself to reason. To remember. In such a situation, she shouldn’t fight. She should just hand the bag over and start praying that she got out of the situation unharmed.