Close to Youby Mary Jane Clark
Millions of people are watching-- one wants to kill her... What she found was her worst nightmare...
She thought she'd found safety.
In front of the camera, as anchorwoman for KEY Evening Headlines, she savvy, sexy, and sophisticated. But when she steps out of the spotlight, Eliza Blake is far more vulnerable than her devoted viewers would ever imagine./p>/p>… See more details below
Millions of people are watching-- one wants to kill her... What she found was her worst nightmare...
She thought she'd found safety.
In front of the camera, as anchorwoman for KEY Evening Headlines, she savvy, sexy, and sophisticated. But when she steps out of the spotlight, Eliza Blake is far more vulnerable than her devoted viewers would ever imagine. Single-handedly raising a young daughter, she's finally found a safe haven: a dream house in the suburbs, where nothing can ever threaten her again...
It begins with a venomous letter. No stranger to the occasional hate mail that mingles with glowing correspondence from adoring fans, Eliza is at first unaware that this time, the writer isn't a harmless nutcase. Then come the menacing phone calls. Now that her serene suburban life is shattered by fear, Eliza must face the chilling realization that the stalker is closer, and more lethal, than anyone ever suspected-- perhaps even concealed behind a trusted, familiar face...
Read an Excerpt
Close To You
By Mary Jane Clark
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2001 Mary Jane Clark
All rights reserved.
"Eliza! I've found it! But you've got to come out here and look at it right away. It isn't going to last."
Eliza Blake listened to Louise Kendall's breathless voice and felt her own heart beat faster. She glanced at her watch as she swiveled around in her high-backed leather chair and looked out the windowed wall of her office down to the studio on the floor below. She could see the stagehands readying the set for the news segment she was scheduled to pretape for this evening's broadcast.
"God, Louise," Eliza pleaded. "There's no way I can leave now."
"You have to." Louise was adamant. "This is your house, Eliza. I'm sure of it. My office just signed the listing agreement and it's going into multiple tomorrow. Everyone and his cousin will be looking at it in the morning and, I swear to you, Eliza, in this crazy market, the house will be gone by this time tomorrow."
If the house were as special as Louise promised it was, Eliza knew the Realtor was probably right. During the few short weeks Eliza had begun her house-hunting in earnest, she had been stunned by the dizzying speed with which prime real estate moved in Bergen County. Eliza was desperate to find somewhere peaceful she and Janie could live, out of New York City and away from all the recent unhappy memories. Their apartment was beautiful and it was certainly big enough for just the two of them. But Eliza wanted to get her little girl in a new environment, out of the city, cultural capital of the world or not.
Louise was not giving up. "And, Eliza, I almost forgot to tell you. It's an estate sale. The house is vacant, so you could close as soon as you wanted. Janie could even be enrolled in her new school by the first day of kindergarten."
It was little wonder that Louise Kendall was a consistent member of the Realtors' Million Dollar Sales Club, thought Eliza. She was an expert at enticing her customers.
"Look, Louise, here's the best I can do. Right after the broadcast, I'll pick up Janie and we'll drive out there. I should be able to meet you by eight."
"Great!" exclaimed Louise triumphantly. "We'll still have some light then. We can walk around the outside property first while we can still see and then we'll go inside. I know you are going to fall in love with this house, Eliza. I'm bringing a contract with me. Make sure to bring your checkbook."CHAPTER 2
Not far from the Lincoln Tunnel in Moonachie, New Jersey, every seat at the bar was taken at the noisy Like It Rare steakhouse. As the clock on the wall neared six-thirty, the regulars groaned when the bartender switched the television mounted on the wall at the corner of the bar to the KEY Evening Headlines with Eliza Blake.
"Aw, come on, Meat. Give us a break. Leave on the wrestling."
"For Christ's sake, Meat, we come here to get away from the real world for a while. Why do you always have to watch the damned news?" "Forget it, you guys. You should know better by now. Meat's got a hard-on for Eliza Blake. There's nothing you can say or do that is going to make him change that freakin' channel."
Cornelius Bacon appeared to ignore the comments from his customers, but in fact he didn't even hear them. He was mesmerized and then angered as he watched Eliza Blake open the newscast, as she did each evening, not sitting at her desk as the male anchormen did at the other networks, but by walking across the studio set. Though the network could deny it up and down, KEY News was obviously capitalizing on Eliza's sex appeal.
The tall, willowy brunette stepped with assurance as she welcomed her viewers and recounted the top stories of the evening. Then, as the KEY Evening Headlines fanfare music blared, the camera followed Eliza as she took her seat at the anchor desk.
Meat didn't like that suit she was wearing. The skirt was much too short.
Hadn't he warned her about that? He had told her what he would do the next time she dared to show so much of those shapely legs.
Why hadn't she listened?CHAPTER 3
Even before the closing credits had finished rolling, Eliza unclipped her microphone and said a silent prayer of thanks that there was no reason to update tonight's show. The broadcast had been technically perfect. Every news piece and each live standup had been executed without a hitch. There had been no misspelled supers or misplaced graphics. A clean feed to the two hundred-plus KEY affiliates around the country.
"Nice work, everybody." Executive producer Range Bullock good-nighted the studio crew from his seat inside the control room.
As Eliza stepped down from the anchor platform, Doris Brice approached with her cosmetics case in hand, a gold-sequined baseball cap perched jauntily atop her dark head. But tonight Eliza waved off their evening ritual.
"Thanks, Doris, but don't even bother with taking off my makeup tonight. I've got to get out of here. There's a house."
Doris knew all about Eliza's real-estate quest. They had talked about it at length over the last few weeks as Eliza sat in the chair before each broadcast while Doris carefully painted, contoured and powdered the anchorwoman's face. Like almost everyone at KEY News, Doris knew Eliza's history: the death from cancer of her husband, John, a painful death that Eliza endured while she was pregnant with their first child. The battle with depression that followed the birth of her daughter and her struggle to come back to work. And just last month, the betrayal of the woman Eliza had entrusted with the care of her precious Janie. A betrayal that had ended with gunshots. Doris noticed that Eliza still winced sometimes if she turned the wrong way or too quickly in the chair, the wound in her side almost healed now, but still tender.
After all Eliza had been through, Doris could well understand that the woman who had become her friend would want to make a fresh start somewhere. She hoped this house would be everything that Eliza wanted. She deserved it.
And she could certainly afford it, now that she was the anchor of the KEY Evening Headlines.
"Good luck," Doris called as she watched Eliza hurry from the studio. Eliza turned, grinned and gave the thumbs-up sign.CHAPTER 4
Since Eliza Blake had taken over as anchor of the KEY Evening Headlines, Jerry Walinski had scheduled his massages for the evenings, immediately after the broadcast aired. After watching Eliza Blake he was so worked up that he needed Lori's hour-long therapy to calm down.
Tonight he was especially relieved that Lori was here. In his well-appointed bedroom, Jerry lay on his stomach with his eyes closed on the massage table as the masseuse worked on his lower body. He didn't feel the expert kneading his leg muscles. His mind was on what he had just seen on television.
Eliza Blake was his dream woman. She was beautiful, intelligent and classy. That elegantly cut yellow suit she had worn tonight had set off her figure to perfection. She moved so gracefully across the studio, sat so erect in her anchor chair. Her face was enchanting and those piercing blue eyes saw into his soul. She understood him, Jerry was certain of it. When Eliza spoke, it was as if she were talking to him alone.
He could stare at her forever and never grow tired of her. In fact, sometimes he did stare at her, for hours, gazing into the framed picture of her that stood in a silver frame on the table beside his bed. The autographed photograph had been easy to get. He had simply written to Eliza at KEY News and asked for it. Sure enough, a few weeks later it had arrived in the mail.
Lori said it must be a stock picture KEY News sent out to anyone who requested one. He had been angry when she said that but he had tried not to show it. He knew Eliza had meant that picture to be special, for him alone, and he wasn't going to let Lori ruin it for him. She was just jealous, anyway, because he had never made a pass at her.
He felt Lori's strong hands rubbing his back now, pushing the tenseness out of his upper body.
"I can see you've been doing your exercises," she observed. "Your muscles are getting more defined back here."
Lori took the cue that her client didn't want to talk and continued her work in silence. As she rubbed the warm oils between his shoulder blades, Jerry made up his mind. He was going to call Eliza and tell her how beautiful he thought she was and how much he admired her.
He had been trying hard to control himself, but he couldn't anymore. He had to let her know how he felt.CHAPTER 5
Motor running, the blue Lincoln Town Car was waiting at the curb in front of the building as Eliza pushed breathlessly through the revolving doors of the Broadcast Center into the steamy August early-evening air. Janie's smiling, expectant face was pressed against the glass of the backseat window. Eliza could see Katharine Blake sitting beside her soon-to-be five-year-old granddaughter. As the driver opened the car door, Janie spilled out onto the sidewalk, running to hug her mother.
"Mmmmm. That feels so good," Eliza cried as she felt the little girl's arms wrapping around her. "I missed you. Did you have a good day with KayKay and Poppie today?"
Janie nodded happily. "Yeah. KayKay took me to the zoo. We saw the monkeys. Poppie was too tired to go. He stayed home and took a nap."
Eliza glanced into the backseat of the car. Katharine was in her late sixties now and it couldn't have been a treat for her to take a child to the Central Park Zoo on a hot summer afternoon. The chocolate ice-cream splatters on Janie's yellow T-shirt testified to the good time the child had had, but now, as mother and daughter climbed into the car, Eliza could see that Katharine looked exhausted.
"What would I have done without you?" Eliza whispered to her mother-in-law as she kissed her on her soft cheek.
Katharine just patted Eliza's hand. Both women understood exactly why it had been best for Janie to spend the last few weeks with her grandparents during the day while Eliza was at work. None of them wanted to let the child out of their sight. While they knew the child-care situation was temporary, they dreaded the inevitable time when a new babysitter would be found. After the last time, how could they ever trust anyone again to take care of then precious Janie?
But trust, they had to. Eliza knew this arrangement couldn't go on forever. It wasn't fair to Katharine and Paul. Over the course of their lifetimes, they had worked hard and paid their dues, suffering the worst fate any parents can endure. They had watched their only child — John, Janie's father — die.
Then, they had faced the terror of losing Janie as well.
If Janie was traumatized over the loss of Mrs. Twomey, the housekeeper who had watched over her for as long as the child could remember, it didn't show. And that bothered Eliza. The little girl had witnessed her mother being shot by the housekeeper in a situation far too complicated for a child to understand. How could Janie be expected to comprehend that her beloved Mrs. Twomey had committed two murders and almost killed Eliza as the caretaker tried to cover up her own son's misdeeds? Janie had seemed to readily accept Eliza's explanation that Mrs. Twomey was troubled and sick and wasn't in her right mind when she hurt Mommy.
Eliza had consulted a child psychologist who was of the opinion that, while many children suffer trauma, it wasn't just one thing that scarred a child for life. It was repeated instances of abuse or abandonment or betrayal that did the psychic damage. If Janie continued to feel secure in her mother's and grandparents' love, unthreatened in her surroundings and nurtured, as Eliza had every intention of doing, the doctor was confident she would be all right. Yes, it was true, Janie did not have a father, but it was also true that since he had died before she was born, she had never known him to suffer the loss.
As time went by and Janie was exposed more to the world of other children with both parents there would be, inevitably, longings for a daddy of her own. At any point, counseling was always an option.
"I know you must be tired, Katharine, but I'm so glad you're coming out with us to see the house. I so value your opinion. And from what Louise tells me, if we want it, we're going to have to make a decision on the spot."
Katharine shook her head wearily. "I don't understand this market. In my time, you could think about things for a few days and then decide. This is crazy."
"You're right," declared Eliza, taking Janie's hand and looking out the car window at the Hudson River as they drove up the West Side Highway toward the George Washington Bridge and New Jersey. "This is crazy."
So much had been crazy and out of control. This move could bring some stability to their lives.CHAPTER 6
If Eliza Blake were made aware of every letter that came from every crackpot obsessed with her, Joe Connelly was certain, the Evening Headlines anchor would never sleep again. As Director of KEY Corporate Security, Connelly maintained a policy of not telling her or any of the other on-air correspondents about letters unless there was actually something they should do to protect themselves. Part of his job was to insulate those he was responsible for protecting from unwarranted fear. Another part was weeding out the harmless letters from the ones that were truly threatening.
Eliza never even saw the crazy letters that came to her at the Broadcast Center. Her assistant opened all her mail and immediately sent on to security anything that seemed weird or menacing rather than just annoying. Over the years Eliza had anchored KEY to America, the morning news broadcast, Connelly had been concerned enough to send a few letters to the FBI. But now, in the short time Eliza had been anchoring the KEY Evening Headlines, her viewership had increased and so had the letters.
Connelly walked through the security command post buried in the basement of the Broadcast Center, scanning the dozens of video monitors along the wall. There weresixteen cameras on each chain, timed to record views of different locations. Cameras were trained on every entrance and exit of the building, outside each elevator, along each hallway. If Joe had his way, there would be cameras in the bathrooms, but, of course, that was against the law. The security monitors were not staffed at all times. That was impossible with the manpower situation as it was. But in the old days, all the camera tapes were recorded and saved for ten days — plenty of time to painstakingly replay and study each tape for any problems or signs of security lapses. Now the cameras were mostly digital, which made things much easier. Everything was saved on a disk and pinpointing time was more exact.
Still, during the hours when most of the on-air talent was in the Broadcast Center, Connelly liked to have a guard keeping an eye on the security screens.
"Everything okay?" he asked the guard now stationed in front of the monitors.
"I'm trying not to fall asleep, it's so quiet."
Unsmiling, Connelly nodded. "Good. Let's keep it that way."CHAPTER 7
Louise Kendall stood waiting on the lawn in front of the Georgian colonial as the car carrying Eliza, Janie and Katharine Blake pulled into the driveway.
"I'm in love already!" Eliza whispered to her mother-in-law, inhaling as she viewed for the first time the house she was already certain she would buy. The gracious brick home sat well back from the street on carefully manicured grounds that Eliza estimated must be at least three acres. "Look, it has a slate roof!" "Don't act excited in front of Louise," Katharine warned. "You shouldn't seem too anxious."
Eliza leaned over and pecked her mother-in-law's cheek. "Yes, KayKay," she said good-naturedly. "I won't give myself away."
But Janie was not good at keeping secrets. She bounded from the car, dragging her precious stuffed monkey, Zippy, by the arm, and ran straight across the lawn for Louise. "My mommy loves the house," she announced proudly.
Eliza and Katharine followed behind, the younger woman laughing. "So much for playing it cool," Eliza shrugged. "Okay, Louise, you've got me hooked. Give us the tour."
In the fading light, they walked slowly around the exterior of the house, Janie running ahead and calling back what they were about to see next.
"Mommy!" she shrieked. "It has a swimming pool!"
"Great," Katharine groaned sarcastically. "Now you'll have to worry about that, too."
Eliza chose not to respond, knowing that Janie's grandmother was at a point now where she was apprehensive about any possible thing that could pose a threat to her grandchild.
"It also has a hot tub," Louise pointed out, ignoring the negative comment. "And, as you can see, a cabana."
She opened the unlocked door and they walked through the small building. A full kitchen outfitted with a large refrigerator, double sink, oven and dishwasher was the main room. Off it was a perfectly tiled bathroom with an oversized shower stall. Beyond that was a utility room with a washer and dryer.
"Think of the great parties you can have out here," Louise enthused.
Eliza was just thinking of quietly sitting on a lounge chair watching Janie swim, or soaking in the hot tub after a long day at work, as her daughter scooted out the cabana door.
Excerpted from Close To You by Mary Jane Clark. Copyright © 2001 Mary Jane Clark. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Mary Jane Clark is the author of five novels. She is a producer and a writer at CBS News in New York City and lives in northern New Jersey.
MARY JANE CLARK is a producer and writer at CBS News. She is an internationally bestselling author, translated into and published in twenty languages. Her books include Do You Want To Know A Secret? and Do You Promise Not to Tell? She lives in northern New Jersey.
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