Authors: Mary Jane Clark
Tags: #Mystery, #Suspense, #Adult, #Thriller
he reporter from
asked all the usual questions.
“How are you finding getting up so early in the morning again?” he inquired.
Eliza smiled. “Obviously, it’s not the high point of the job, but that’s about the only negative to being back on the show.”
“There’s been lots of shuffling and trading places among TV news personalities. Katie Couric leaving
CBS Evening News,
Meredith Vieira leaving
to take Katie’s place, Charles Gibson switching from
Good Morning America
World News Tonight.
What made you make the change from the evening news back to the morning?” he asked.
“Well, as you know I spent several years hosting
KEY to America
before I began anchoring the
KEY Evening Headlines.
I loved the time I spent on the show back then, but when the opportunity arose to take the anchor spot at night, it was something I felt, professionally, I couldn’t, shouldn’t, turn down. On a personal level, I thought the hours would be better, perhaps enabling me to spend more time with my daughter.” Eliza laughed. “But that clearly isn’t the case. Both jobs require an intense time commitment.”
“So if both jobs take such a huge time investment, why not stay at the
?” the reporter asked.
Eliza tucked some of her shoulder-length brown hair behind her ear. “I know most people view the evening-news anchor job as the pinnacle in network news, and I suppose it is. But I missed the variety of the morning program. I can be interviewing politicians and heads of state about truly important issues, issues that affect the lives of millions of people and, in the same show, learn how to skateboard or chat about the latest fashion trends.”
“So would you say that you have a shallow side?” asked the reporter.
Eliza ignored the zinger. “I’d say that life is multifaceted and that I’m interested in all of it,” she said.
The reporter flipped over a page of his notebook. “What about your daughter, Janie?”
“What about her?”
“She’s seven years old, right?”
“How does she feel about your return to morning television?”
“Janie is at an age where she’s just beginning to understand about the notoriety of the job, but it doesn’t really interest her much. She’s more concerned with her sports teams and her dog, Daisy, and the fact that she wants me there when she comes home from school or camp. When I was anchoring the
, I could be there to get her off to school in the morning, but you know how rushed that time always is.”
The reporter looked at her with a blank expression on his face.
“Anyway,” Eliza continued, “now I’m home at the end of her day, when things are a little more relaxed and we can spend more time together, so it seems to be working out much better. Take today, for instance. When she gets home from day camp, I’ll be there and we can take a swim together before dinner and she can tell me about her day. I treasure being able to have that time with her.”
“I suppose that must be especially important for a child who doesn’t have a father.”
Eliza found herself irritated by the observation. Her daughter was not a victim.
“Janie does have a father,” Eliza answered evenly. “A father who wanted her very much. Tragically, he died before he could ever hold her in his arms. But Janie is just like every other little kid, with one parent or two or none. She needs attention and love and she gets a lot of both. Janie is my top priority.”
he late-model Volvo station wagon pulled in through the stone-pillared entrance to Camp Musquapsink. As Mrs. Garcia parked the car, she was keenly aware of the gun pointed at the back of her head.
“Remember,” said the sailor, who lay on the backseat. “We have you wired. We can hear everything you say, so don’t try anything funny.”
“Funny?” said Mrs. Garcia, her voice trembling. “This is not funny.”
“I mean, don’t try to show them that something is wrong,” said Popeye with exasperation in his voice. “Go inside, get Janie, and come right out again. No stalling. And when you drive out of here, turn the car in the opposite direction from the way we came.”
Mrs. Garcia reached for the door handle.
“And remember,” he warned. “We know where your daughter and grandchild live. Westwood is such a nice little town. Think how a town like that would be shaken if something fatal happened to a mother and her baby.”
Mrs. Garcia panicked at the thought of the monster’s new, terrifying threat. She was shaking as she got out of the car.
Mrs. Garcia thought of pulling off the electronic gadgetry that had
been attached to the rear of the waistband of her skirt and beneath the collar of her cotton blouse. If these bad people couldn’t hear her, she could get help from the camp staff. But if the microphone didn’t transmit any sound, they’d figure out that she was betraying them. Mrs. Garcia didn’t know if the man was only making an empty threat against her daughter and baby granddaughter to scare her, but if that was his aim, he had succeeded. She couldn’t take the chance of having something violent and horrible happening to the ones she loved most.
Her heart pounded while she listened to the crunch of her footsteps as she walked across the crushed stone that covered the parking lot. When she entered the camp office, Janie was waiting in a chair at the side of the room. She wore a construction-paper headband, a yellow feather in it, and her face was decorated with the green paint her camp counselor had applied to resemble a Native American in ceremonial dress.
The child jumped out of her seat. “Where are we going? What are we doing?” The excitement and trust on the little girl’s painted face caused Mrs. Garcia to swallow hard.
“It’s a surprise,
is going to meet us at home with a surprise for you.”
“Tell me,” said Janie. “Tell me.”
“You have to wait,
You have to wait.”
Mrs. Garcia turned and went to the main desk. The camp staff member who was running the desk pushed a leather ledger across the counter.
“Just sign your name and the time,” she said.
Mrs. Garcia paused and stared hard in the direction of the young woman, but she was busy collating sheets of paper.
“What are you doing there?” Mrs. Garcia asked, trying to get the staffer to look up at her so she could mouth or gesture her distress.
“Just putting together copies of the lyrics for the sing-along.” The staffer stayed focused on her task.
“Oh? When is the sing-along?” asked Mrs. Garcia as she silently
prayed that the woman’s eyes would meet hers.
Por favor, Señor, por favor,
Let the girl look up.
“Friday afternoon,” answered the woman, keeping her head down.
Mrs. Garcia was acutely aware that the man in the car was waiting and listening. She couldn’t risk any more time trying to get the attention of this
girl. Mrs. Garcia picked up a pen and wrote in shaky script,
Taking Janie by the hand, Mrs. Garcia walked out to the parking lot. Her breathing was rapid, her face was hot, and beads of perspiration were scattered across her brow.
The young woman staffing the desk never looked up.
hen the interview was finished, Eliza posed for some pictures at her desk and then on the
set. Doris Brice stood by, stepping in from time to time to powder Eliza’s nose or fix an errant strand of hair. By eleven o’clock the photo session for the magazine spread was over.
“Done for the day?” Doris asked as she put the brushes back in her makeup case.
“Almost,” said Eliza. “I have some phone calls to return. Then I can pack it in.”
On her way back to her office, Eliza met Range Bullock in the hall.
“How’s life in the front row?” Eliza greeted him.
Range rolled his eyes. “It’s different, that’s for sure.”
“Are you missing the day-to-day deadlines?” asked Eliza.
“To tell you the truth, not as much as I thought I would,” said Range. “When I was producing the
I should have bought stock in Tums. My ulcer has really quieted down since I left.”
Eliza looked at Range. His hair was almost totally white now. His skin was pale and there were deep lines at the side of his mouth.
“Come on, Range. You can’t tell me that being the president of KEY News is easier than being the executive producer of the evening show.”
“It’s different,” Range answered, smiling. “Now I can be the one who gets to make the new executive producer’s life a living hell.”
Eliza smiled back. “Well, you certainly look like you could use a little sun,” she said. “Why don’t you and Louise come over Sunday afternoon? We can lie by the pool and throw something on the barbecue. Murphy and her family are coming over, too.”
“Sounds good,” said Range. “Let me talk to Louise and get back to you, all right?”
Eliza continued on her way to her office. Paige Tintle, her assistant, was waiting in the reception area.
“For your reading pleasure,” Paige said, handing Eliza a legal-size folder.
Eliza opened the folder and perused the first few documents. “How bad is it this month?” she asked.
“Not bad at all,” said Paige. “In fact, it’s pretty much a lovefest.”
Eliza carried the folder to her desk and sat down. She spent more than half an hour reading through the various articles that the clipping service had provided. There was an article from
that included pictures of Eliza and Janie making cookies in the kitchen in Ho-Ho-Kus; and there was an article in
that chronicled a day in her life, starting with hosting
in the morning, following her around the Broadcast Center afterward, and accompanying her home to meet Janie. A story in
highlighted the fact that she had a Guatemalan housekeeper and had taken pictures of Mrs. Garcia at work and with her family, who lived in a nearby town. But it was the piece in
that went into extraordinary detail about Eliza’s background, her youth in Rhode Island, where her parents still lived; her rise through
a succession of local stations on her way to the network; her marriage to John Blake, his tragic death, and the nervous collapse she had suffered after giving birth to their child.
Eliza closed the folder. She wasn’t ashamed of that painful period in her life, but she certainly didn’t want to be reminded of it.
rs. Garcia crossed the camp parking lot and walked around the front of the station wagon. Janie ran ahead.
“Get in the front seat, Janie,” called Mrs. Garcia.
Janie turned and looked at her quizzically. “The front? I’m supposed to sit in the back.”
“It’s all right this time, Janie,” said Mrs. Garcia. “Do as I say and sit in the front seat with me.”
Janie shrugged but got into the front seat of the car and instinctively reached for the shoulder harness, securing it around her waist. As soon as Mrs. Garcia turned the ignition key, Jane began peppering her with questions.
“What are we going to do? Where are we going? Is Mommy meeting us there?”
please be quiet. I have to pay attention,” said Mrs. Garcia as she eased the car through the camp gates.
“Pay attention to what?”
“Pay attention to my driving,” answered Mrs. Garcia.
There was a puzzled expression on Janie’s face. Usually, Mrs. Garcia was happy when they rode in the car together. Sometimes they sang
Spanish songs and sometimes they played games. Mrs. Garcia would point out something along the road and teach Janie the word for it in Spanish. But today, Mrs. Garcia looked very worried or very mad. Janie couldn’t decide which one.
“Look, Mrs. Garcia,” said Janie, trying to get the woman’s attention and approval. “Look at the necklace I made this morning.”
Mrs. Garcia glanced over at the beads that encircled Janie’s neck.
“Very nice,” she said.
“See? The beads have letters on them. It spells my name. J-A-N-I-E.” The child patted the beads with satisfaction and waited for her caretaker’s reaction.
But Mrs. Garcia didn’t respond.
“What’s that?” asked Janie, pointing to a squirrel running across the winding country road.
” answered Mrs. Garcia.
“And that?” Janie gestured toward a crumbling stone wall at the side of the road.
“Un muro de piedra.
Janie looked out at the unfamiliar stretch of road. “Hey,” she protested. “This isn’t the way home.”
“We’re not going home,
we going?” asked Janie. As she leaned forward in her seat and turned her head, trying to get a full look at Mrs. Garcia’s face, Janie caught a glimpse of movement in her peripheral vision. Restrained by her seat belt, she twisted around as far as she could and saw the distorted face of the man in the backseat.
.J. Clarke’s at Lincoln Center was crowded at lunchtime, but two women were shown to a table the minute they came in the door. Heads turned as the KEY News anchorwoman and psychological expert walked through the restaurant.
“So how’s everything going?” Dr. Margo Gonzalez asked once they were seated.
Eliza spread her napkin across her lap. “My life is an embarrassment of riches, Margo. Janie is healthy and seemingly happy. KEY let me go back to the mornings. Mack and I are back together again, or as together as you can be when one lives here and the other lives in England. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
A tall, thin young woman dressed in white shirt, black pants, and black tie came up to the table and took their drink orders.
“What are you going to have?” asked Eliza as they scanned the menu.
“I love their crab cakes,” said Margo.
“I’m going for the hamburger,” said Eliza, putting the menu down. “I can’t resist them here.”
“Think it could change anytime soon?” asked Margo after the waitress took their orders.
“Could what change?” asked Eliza.
“Do you think Mack might get transferred back to the States?”
“He’s got his agent lobbying for that, but we’ll see.” Eliza bit her lower lip and looked down at the tablecloth.
“What’s wrong?” asked Margo.
“Nothing. Everything’s fine.”
“All right,” said Margo, “but that face doesn’t look like ‘nothing.’”
Eliza looked up. “I don’t know. I know I don’t have anything to complain about. There are so many people in the world with real problems, but, honestly, I’ve been feeling sort of anxious lately.”
“I can understand that,” said Margo. “You have lots of wonderful things in your life, but you have a lot of pressure as well. You’re a single mother, you have one of the world’s most visible and demanding jobs, and you’re trying to juggle a long-distance romantic relationship that requires a great deal of trust.”
Eliza smiled. “I didn’t invite you to lunch for a free therapy session, Margo.”
“I know you didn’t,” said Margo. “You’re my friend now, Eliza, and I don’t treat friends. But anytime you want to talk, woman-to-woman, I hope you’ll call on me.”