I paused my writing to get deeper into the mind of my main character. As I tried to understand what it might feel like to really be chased by a bad guy, I was reminded of a disturbing incident I had tucked away deep inside my own mind.
Years ago, I was in San Diego for a six month long Navy school. As per military requirements, and because I was bored to death (the family stayed behind in Virginia Beach), I ran nearly every afternoon.
We were let out of class around 2:00PM one particularly gorgeous California fall day, so I started out on a 6-miler along a popular jogging trail that unfortunately at that hour was empty. In the meticulously landscaped garden section I loved, I noticed a lone man sitting on the back of a bench alongside the trail. He didn't seem particularly nefarious looking, indeed he appeared to be quite “normal.” (Isn’t that what they say about most serial killers?) So, when he said, “Hi,” I nodded in reply as I passed by. But when he jumped down and started to run a short distance behind me, I began to worry a little. He was wearing blue jeans and boots – not your usual work out attire. When he was still there a half-mile later, my spidey senses began to tingle. I turned the volume down on my headset, and I heard him jog closer. He was right on my heels. I switched to the other side of the road. He continued to pace me across from the street. I tucked my keys one between each of my fingers and made a fist. He switched sides again and fell into place behind me so close I could feel his breath tickling the hairs on the back of my neck. There was not a single soul around and no place to get help, so I stopped and turned to him thinking direct confrontation might intimidate him – or at least let him know I was not afraid (when indeed I was terrified). I asked him what he wanted, to which he replied, “I want to talk to you.” I said I didn’t want to talk to him and that he needed to leave me alone. I crossed back across the road as did he. By now I was convinced he had motives other than getting in shape on his mind.
I finally reached the turnaround where there were several large hotels and ran inside the very first one. He followed me into the courtyard but disappeared among the trees when I approached a staff member. The concierge must have seen the fear on my face and asked me what was wrong. I explained the situation and he called security to look for the man. San Diego police also came and took a report and then offered to escort me back on base to my room. I was embarrassed to have to ask for help because of my own stupidity – running alone along a deserted trail - but gladly accepted their offer.
I never again ran that route even when it was heavily populated. In fact, I never again ran off base. Sometimes I wonder what could have happened. I always fear the answer. Even recollecting this story for my blog entry is giving me an anxiety attack. Stomach pains, tears of frustration, a shortness of breath and a tightening in my chest…As much as I hate to feel like this, it does help me understand what Christine must be going through right now.
Back to the story…