New York City
The Brooklyn Bridge Footpath
Dr. Jennifer Delmonico was approaching the second tower, which translated to somewhere around seventeen minutes at her usual pace. It took most people half an hour to cross the East River, but at six-foot-three, Delmonico's stride put her into NFL receiver territory. Which was one of the things about being a tall woman—the long bones were almost always of a greater proportionate length. Back in high school, when she had been the third tallest student out of twelve hundred kids, her height felt like a curse. But life out in the world had taught her that being the tallest woman in the room, and often the tallest person, came with all kinds of advantages—of both the social and biomechanical variety.
Old Man Winter was on the way. The cold air coming down from Canada this time of year hit the warm water surging up the East River with the tide, and the resulting condensation blossomed into a localized fogbank that blanketed the bridge. The effect was visually isolating, which was both comforting and unsettling.
She took the footpath almost every shift. Day or night. Rain or shine. Winter or summer. It helped her unwind the think box (and muscles) before (or after) hours spent putting patients back together in the OR. The tourists on the span were always a pain in the ass, but at three in the morning on a foggy night, the sober ones were off mining selfies in the warmer parts of the city.
Other than the errant jogger, the only other signs of life were the headlights and taillights of cars on the lower deck. If you ignored the cold, it was one of those New York movie moments that are part of the city's fabric.
It had been a long shift at the hospital, and the cool atmosphere out here was scrubbing the stale air from her lungs. Of course, in a metropolis with a population of eight and a half million souls, you were never—ever—alone in any true sense of the word. She could hear people behind her—or were they up ahead? The humid air messed with the acoustics and the fog conjured up all kinds of optical illusions, which had her doubting her own senses. The most jarring effect was the way the joggers materialized out of nowhere before passing back into the void, like ghosts racing to get to the afterlife.
And then it hit her—that weird sensation that every New Yorker experienced every now and then, at the most unpredictable times—that she actually was alone. It never lasted more than a few seconds. But it was very powerful.
All she could sense was her own presence. There were no other life-forms out in the mist. No cars thrumming by on the deck below. Even the wind seemed to be on pause just for her.
And then, as quickly as it had appeared, the sensation was driven away by the appearance of footsteps in the sonic vacuum—the rhythm of a jogger somewhere in the mist.
The steps came up on her left-hand flank. She stepped to the right.
And then. The rhythm changed.
There was a blip where her Spidey sense kicked in.
There was a loud electrical CRACK! beside her ear and her motor skills shorted out.
Someone caught her, and she heard herself grunt.
She tried to focus on the undulating form haloed in the bridge lights.
She tried to move.
But only squeezed out a weak squeak that she wasn't even sure had come from her own body.
But the jolt that scrambled her circuits had worked its way through her grid, and was beginning to fade. Thought became clearer.
And with thought, panic.
Her toes clunked over the wooden planks as he dragged her forward, toward the railing.
She tried to move. To scream again. And that tiny little squeak came out one more time.
Help! she screeched.
But only in her head.