From Chapter 45 After she had given the manager at the Edina Health Club the completed registration forms and her check, Lacey went directly to the squash court and began hitting balls against the wall. She quickly realized that the combination of the previous sleepless night and an earlier long jog had left her exhausted. She kept missing easy returns, and then she fell, badly wrenching her ankle, all in an attempt to connect with a ball she had no chance of hitting. It was typical of her life right now.
Disgusted with herself and close to tears, she limped off the court and collected her coat and tote bag from the locker.
The door to the manager's office was partially open. Inside, a young couple was sitting at the manager's desk, and a grayhaired man was waiting to speak to her.
Lacey could feel her ankle swelling already. For a moment she paused in front of the open door, debating whether to ask the manager if the club kept elastic bandages in its medical supply kit. Then she decided to go straight home and put ice on her ankle instead.
As much as she had wanted to get out of her apartment this morning, Lacey realized that all she wanted now was to be back inside, with the door locked and bolted.
Earlier that morning, when Lacey had gone out jogging, a smattering of clouds dotted the sky. Now they were filling it, moving so close together as to be seamless. Driving from Edina to Minneapolis, Lacey could tell that a heavy snowfall was imminent.
She had a designated parking spot behind her apartment building. She pulled into the space and turned off the engine. She sat for a moment in the silence. Her life was a total mess. Here she was, hundreds of miles away from her family, living an existence that could not be called a life, alone and lonely. She was trapped in a lie, having to pretend to be someone other than herself -- and why? Why? Just because she had been a witness to a crime. Sometimes she wished the killer had seen her there in the closet. She had no desire to die, but it would have been easier than living this way, she thought desperately. I've got to do something about this.
She opened the door and got out of the car, careful to favor her throbbing right ankle. As she turned to lock the door, she felt a hand on her shoulder.
It was the same emotion she experienced in the nightmare, life moving in slow motion as she tried to scream, but no sound would come. She lunged forward, trying to break away, then gasped and stumbled as a flash of pain like the sting of a hot branding iron seared her ankle.
An arm went around her, steadying her. A familiar voice said contritely, "Alice, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to frighten you. Forgive me.
It was Tom Lynch.
Limp with relief, Lacey sagged against him. "Oh Tom...Oh God...I...I'm all right, I just...I guess you startled me."
She started to cry. It was so good to feel herself firmly encircled and protected by his arm. She stood there for several moments, not moving, feeling a sense of relief wash over her. Then she straightened and turned to face him. She couldn't do this‹ not to him, not to herself. "I'm sorry you bothered to come, Tom. I'm going upstairs," she said, making herself breathe normally, wiping away the tears.
"I'm coming with you," he told her. We have to talk."
"We have nothing to talk about."
"Oh but we do," he said. "Starting with the fact that your father is looking all over Minneapolis for you because your mother is dying and wants to make up with you."
"What...are...you...talking...about?" Lacey's lips felt rubbery. Her throat constricted to the point where she could barely force the words out of her mouth.
"I'm talking about the fact that Ruth Wilcox told me yesterday afternoon some guy had showed up at the gym with your picture, looking for you and claiming to be your father."
He's in Minneapolis! Lacey thought. He's going to find me!!
"Alice, look at me! Is it true? Was that your father looking for you?"
She shook her head, desperate now to be free of him. "Tom, please. Go away."
"I will not go away." He cupped her face in his hands, forcing her to look up at him.
Once again, Jack Farrell's voice echoed in Lacey's mind: You put my face in front of the one you want, he said. Admit it.
I admit it, she thought, looking up at the firm line of Tom's jaw, the way his forehead was creased with concern for her -- the expression in his eyes.
The look you give someone special. Well, I won't let anything happen to you because of it, she promised.
If Isabelle Waring's murderer had been able to coax my address out of Ruth Wilcox at Twin Cities Gym, I probably wouldn't be alive right now she thought. So far, so good. But where else was he showing her picture?
"Alice, I know you're in trouble, and no matter what it is, I'll stand by you. But I can't be in the dark anymore," Tom's voice urged. "Can't you understand that?"
She looked at him. It was such a strange sensation, seeing this man in front of her who clearly had special feelings for her -- love? Maybe And he was exactly the person she had hoped to meet someday. But not now! Not here! Not in this situation. I cannot do this to him, she thought.
A car drove into the parking area. Lacey's instinct was to pull Tom down, to hide with him behind her car. I have to get away, she thought. And I have to get Tom away from me.
As the approaching car came into full view she saw that the driver was a woman whom she recognized as living in the building.
But who would be driving the next car to come into the parking lot? she wondered angrily. It could be him.
The first flakes of snow were beginning to fall.
"Tom, please go," she begged. "1 have to call home and talk to my mother."
"Then that story is true."
She nodded, careful not to look at him. "1 have to talk to her. I have to straighten some things out. Can I phone you later?" Finally she looked up.
His eyes, troubled and questioning, lingered on her face.
"Alice, you will call me?"
"I swear I will."
"If I can help you, you know --"
"Not now, you can't," she said, interrupting him.
"Will you honestly tell me just one thing?"
"Of course.""Is there another man in your life?"
She looked into his eyes. "No, there is not."
He nodded. "That's all I need to know."
Another car was driving into the parking area. Get away from me, her mind screamed. "Tom, I have to call home."
"At least let me walk you to the door," he responded, taking her arm. After they had gone a few steps, he stopped. "You're limping."
"It's nothing. I stumbled over my own feet." Lacey prayed her face wasn't showing the pain she felt when she walked.
Tom opened the door to the lobby for her. 'When will I hear from you?"
"In an hour or so." She looked at him again, forcing a smile.
His lips touched her cheek. "1 m worried about you. I'm worried for you." He clasped her hands and looked intently into her eyes. "But I'll be waiting for your call. You've given me some great news. And a whole new hope."
Lacey waited in the lobby until she saw his dark blue BMW drive away. Then she rushed to the elevator.
She did not wait to take off her coat before she called the health club. The gratingly cheerful voice of the manager answered. "Edina Health Club. Hold on, please.'
A minute, then a second minute went by. Damn her, Lacey thought, slamming her hand down to break the connection.
It was Saturday. There was a chance her mother was home. For the first time in months Lacey dialed the familiar number directly.
Her mother picked up on the first ring.
Lacey knew she could not waste time. "Mom, who did you tell I was here?"
"Lacey? I didn't tell a soul. Why? " Her mother's voice went up in alarm.
Didn't deliberately tell a soul, Lacey thought. "Mom, that dinner last night. Who all was there?"
"Alex and Kit and lay and Jimmy Landi and his partner, Steve Abbott, and I. Why?"
"Did you say anything about me'"
"Nothing significant. Only that you'd joined a new health club with a squash court. That was all right, wasn't it?"
My God, Lacey thought.
"Lacey, Mr. Landi wants very much to talk to you. He asked me to find out if you knew whether the last few pages of his daughter's journal were written on unlined paper."
"Why does he want to know that? I gave him a complete copy."
"Because he said that if they were, somebody stole those pages from the copy while it was at the police station, and they stole the whole original copy. Lacey, are you telling me that whoever tried to kill you knows you're in Minneapolis?"
"Mom, I can't talk. I'll call you later."
Lacey hung up. Once again she tried the health club. She did not give the manager a chance to put her on hold this time. "This is Alice Carroll," she interrupted. "Don't‹"
"Oh, Alice." The manager's voice became solicitous. "Your dad came in looking for you. I took him to the squash court. I thought you were still there. I didn't see you leave. Someone told us you gave your ankle a nasty wrench. Your dad was so worried.
I gave him your address. That was all right, wasn't it? He left just a couple of minutes ago."
Lacey stopped only long enough to jam the copy of Heather Landi's journal into her tote bag before she half ran, half hopped to the car and headed for the airport. A sharp wind slapped snow against the windshield. Hopefully he won't figure out right away that I've left, she told herself. ['11 have a little time.
There was a plane leaving for Chicago twelve minutes after she reached the ticket counter. She managed to get on it just before the gates closed.
Then she sat in the plane for three hours on the runway, while they waited for clearance to take off.
Copyright © 1997 by Mary Higgins Clark