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Faye Kellerman's Stalker
A serial killer is stalking Peter Decker's daughter, now herself a rookie cop.
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Faye Kellerman's Stalker cover It should have happened at night, in a secluded corner of a dimly lit parking lot. Instead, it occurred at one twenty-five in the afternoon. Farin knew the time because she had peeked through the car window, glancing at the clock in her Volvo -- purportedly one of the safest cars on the road. Farin was a bug on safety. A fat lot of good that was doing her now.
 
It wasn't fair because she had done everything right. She had parked in an open area across the street from the playground for God's sakes! There were people in plain view. For instance, there was a man walking a brown pit bull on a leash, the duo strolling down one of the sunlit paths that led up into the mountains. And over to the left, there was a lady in a denim jacket reading the paper. There were kids at the play equipment: a gaggle of toddlers climbing the jungle gym, preschoolers on the slides and wobbly walk-bridge, babies in the infant swings. Mothers were with them, keeping a watchful eye over their charges. Not watching her, of course. Scads of people, but none who could help because at the moment, she had a gun in her back.
 
Farin said, "Just please don't hurt my bab--"
 
"You shut up! You say one more word, you are dead!" The voice was male. "Look straight ahead!"
 
Farin obeyed.
 
The disembodied voice went on. "You turn around, you are dead. You do not look at me. Understand?"
 
Farin nodded yes, keeping her eyes down. His voice was in the medium to high range. Slightly clipped, perhaps accented.
 
Immediately, Tara started crying. With shaking hands, Farin clutched her daughter to her chest, and cooed into her seashell ear. Instinctively, she brought her purse over Tara's back, drawing her coat over handbag and child. Farin hoped that if the man did shoot, she and the purse would be the protective bread in the Tara sandwich, the bullet having to penetrate another surface before it could--
 
The gun's nozzle dug into her backbone. She bit her lip to prevent herself from crying out.
 
"Drop your purse!" the voice commanded.
 
Immediately, Farin did as ordered. She heard him rooting through her handbag, doing this single-handedly because the gun was still pressing into her kidneys.
 
Please let this be a simple purse snatching! She heard a jangle of metal. Her keys? Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the passenger door to her station wagon had been opened. Again, she felt the press of the gun.
 
"Go in. From passenger's side! You do it or I shoot your baby!"
 
At the mention of her baby, Farin lost all resolve. Tears poured down from her eyes. Hugging her child, she walked around the front of the car, thoughts of escape cut short by the metal at her tailbone. She paused at the sight of the open door.
 
"Go on!" he barked. "Do it now!"
 
With Tara at her bosom, she bent down until she found her footing. Then she slid into her passenger's seat.
 
"Move across!" he snapped.
 
Farin tried to figure out how to do this. The car had bucket seats and there was a console between them. With clumsy, halted motions, and still holding Tara, she lifted her butt over the leather-cushioned wall, and into the driver's seat, both now scrunched behind the wheel. Again, Tara started to cry.
 
"You shut her up!" he barked.
 
She's a baby! Farin wanted to shout. She's scared! Instead, she began to rock her, singing softy into her ear. He was right beside her, the gun now in her rib cage.
 
Don't look at him, Farin reminded herself Don't look, don't look, don't look!
 
Staring straight ahead. But she could tell that the gun had shifted to Tara's head.
 
Think, Farin! Think!
 
But nothing came into her hapless brain, not a thought, not a clue. Fear had penetrated every pore of her being as her heart banged hard against her breastbone. Her chest was tight; her breathing was labored. Within seconds, Farin felt her head go light, along with that ominous darkening of her vision. Sparkles popped through her brain ... that awful sensation of floating to nothingness.
 
No, she hadn't been shot. She was going to pass out!
 
Don't pass out, you fool. You can't afford--
 
His voice brought her back to reality.
 
"You give me the girl! Then you drive!"
 
Tara was still on her lap, little hands grabbing Farin's blouse. Once Tara was out of her grip, Farin knew they both were helpless unless she did something.
 
Farin knew she had to move. Without warning, she pivoted around, using the solid weight of her shoulder bone to slam it against his gun-toting hand. Although the sudden move didn't dislodge the gun from his grip, it did push his hand away. Giving Farin about a second to spring into action.
 
This time, the console was her friend. Because now he had to get over it to do something to her. She jerked down on the door handle, then kicked open the metal barrier to the max. Still holding Tara, Farin bolted from her seat, and attempted to run away.
 
But her shoe caught and she trippe
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d, falling toward the pebbly road.
 
What a klutz!
 
Thinking as she plunged downward: Break the fall with your hip, cover Tara, then kick ...
 
She contorted, managing to land on her hip and shoulder, scraping her right cheek on the unforgiving, rocky asphalt. Immediately, she rolled on top of Tara. Finding her vocal cords, she let out a scream worthy of the best B horror movies...

 
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