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Chapter One

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

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

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 tripped, falling toward the pebbly

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...

Excerpted from STALKER © Copyright 2001 by Faye Kellerman.
Reprinted with permission by William Morrow & Company . All
rights reserved.

by by Faye Kellerman

  • Genres: Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Avon
  • ISBN-10: 0380817691
  • ISBN-13: 9780380817696