Bruce Springsteen wasn't famous in 1971. Neither was Tom Cruise, a mere schoolboy. Julia Roberts haunted no young men's dreams. Robin Williams, Steve Martin, Arnold Schwarzenegger—their fortunes were as yet unmade.

Richard Milhous Nixon was President of the United States. The war in Vietnam raged. In Wilmington, North Carolina, January was a time of violence against black citizens-arson, bombings, shootings. At the Attica Correctional Facility in New York State, the bloodiest prison riot in U.S. history claimed forty-three lives.

The best-seller list of The New York Times included The Winds of War by Herman Wouk and Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins.

The movies: The French Connection, A Clockwork Orange, Klute, Carnal Knowledge, The Last Picture Show.

The music: Carole King, John Denver, John Lennon on his own, Led Zeppelin, Elton John just beginning.

Cigarette sales in the United States topped five hundred and forty-seven billion. J. C. Penney died at the age of ninety-five. As many as five hundred thousand Soviet citizens perished in the Gulags during those twelve months—evidence of government restraint.

It was a different time. A different world.

The term "serial killer" was unknown. And "sociopath."


AT SEVEN O'CLOCK, SEATED ON THE PLATFORM AS THE GUEST OF HONOR, Ben Chase was served a bad roast-beef dinner while dignitaries talked at him from both sides, breathing over his salad and his half-eaten fruit cup.

At eight o'clock the mayor rose to deliver a boring panegyric to the city's most famous Vietnam War hero. Half an hour after he began, he finally presented Chase with a special scroll detailing his supposed accomplishments and restating the city's pride in him.

Chase was also given the keys to a new Mustang convertible, which he had not been expecting. It was a gift from the Merchants' Association.

By nine-thirty Benjamin Chase was escorted from the Iron Kettle Restaurant to the parking lot where his new car waited. It was an eight-cylinder job with a sports package that included automatic transmission with a floor shift, bucket seats, side mirrors, white-wall tires—and a wickedly sparkling black paint job that contrasted nicely with the crimson racing stripes over the trunk and hood.

At ten minutes after ten, having posed for newspaper photographs with the mayor and the officers of the Merchants' Association, having expressed his gratitude to everyone present, Chase drove away in his reward.

At twenty minutes past ten he passed through the suburban development known as Ashside, doing slightly more than one hundred miles an hour in a forty-mile-an-hour zone. He crossed three-lane Galasio Boulevard against the light, turned a corner at such speed that he briefly lost control, and sheared off a traffic sign.

At ten-thirty he started up the long slope of Kanackaway Ridge Road, trying to see if he could hold the speed at one hundred all the way to the summit. It was a dangerous bit of play, but he did not care if he killed himself.

Perhaps because the car had not yet been broken in, or perhaps because it simply had not been designed for that kind of driving, it wouldn't perform as he wished. Although he held the accelerator to the floor, the speedometer registered only eighty miles per hour by the time that he was two thirds of the way up the winding road; it fell to seventy when he crested the rise.

He took his foot off the accelerator—the fire of anger having burned out of him for the moment—and let the sleek machine glide along the flat stretch of two-lane blacktop along the ridge above the city.

Below lay a panorama of lights to stir the hearts of lovers. Though the left side of the road lay against a sheer rock wall, the right was maintained as a park. Fifty yards of grassy verge, dotted with shrubs, separated the street from an iron and concrete railing near the brink of the cliff. Beyond the railing, the streets of the city far below seemed like a miniature electric map, with special concentrations of light toward the downtown area and out near the Gateway Mall shopping center.

Lovers, mostly teenagers, parked here, separated by stands of pine and rows of brambles. Their appreciation for the dazzling city view turned—in almost every case and dozens of times each night—to an appreciation of the flesh.

Once, it had even been that way for Chase.

He pulled the car to the shoulder of the road, braked, and cut the engine. The stillness of the night seemed complete and deep. Then he heard crickets, the cry of an owl somewhere close, and the occasional laughter of young people muffled by closed car windows.

Until he heard the laughter, it did not occur to Chase to wonder why he had come here. He felt oppressed by the mayor, the Merchants' Association, and the rest of them. He had not really wanted the banquet, certainly not the car, and he had gone only because he could find no gracious way to decline them. Confronted with their homespun patriotism and their sugar-glazed vision of the war, he felt burdened with an indefinable load, smothered. Perhaps it was the past on his shoulders—the realization that he'd once shared their innocence. At any rate, free of them, he had struck out for that one place in the city that represented remembered pleasure, the much-joked-about lovers' lane atop Kanackaway.

Now, however, the comparative silence only gave his thoughts a chance to build toward a scream. And the pleasure? None of that, either, for he had no girl with him—and would have been no better off with one at his side.

Along the shadowed length of the park, half a dozen cars were slotted against walls of shrubbery. Moonlight glinted on the bumpers and windows. If he had not known the purpose of this retreat, he would have thought that all the vehicles were abandoned. But the mist on the inside of the windows gave the game away.

Occasionally a shadow moved inside one of the cars, distorted by the steamed glass. Those silhouettes and the rustle of leaves as the wind swept down from the top of the ridge were all that moved.

Then something dropped from a low point on the rock wall to the left and scurried across the blacktop toward the darkness beneath a huge weeping willow tree a hundred feet in front of Chase's car. Though bent and moving with the frantic grace of a frightened animal, the new arrival was clearly a man.

In Vietnam, Chase had developed an uncanny sense of imminent danger. His inner alarm was clanging.

The one thing that did not belong in a lovers' lane at night was a man alone, on foot. A teenager's car was a mobile bed, such a necessity of seduction, such an extension of the seducer, that no modern Casanova could be successful without one.

It was possible, of course, that the interloper was engaging in some bird-dogging: spotting parkers for his own amusement and to their embarrassment. Chase had been the victim of that game a few times in his high-school years. That was, however, a pastime usually associated with the immature or the socially outcast, those kids who hadn't the opportunity to be inside the cars where the real action was. It was not, as far as Chase knew, something that adults enjoyed. And this man creeping through the shadows was easily six feet tall; he had the carriage of an adult, no youthful awkwardness. Besides, bird-dogging was a sport most often played in groups as protection against a beating from one of the surprised lovers.


The guy came out from beneath the willow, still doubled over and running. He stopped against a bramble row and studied a three-year-old Chevrolet parked at the end, near the cliff railing.

Not sure what was happening or what he should do, Chase turned in his car seat and worked the cover off the dome light. He unscrewed the tiny bulb and dropped it into a pocket of his suit jacket. When he turned front again, he saw that the bird-dogger had not moved: The guy was still watching the Chevrolet, leaning into the brambles as if unfazed by the thorns.

A girl laughed, the sound of her voice clear in the night air. Some of the lovers must have found it too warm for closed windows.

The man by the brambles moved again, closing in on the Chevrolet.

Quietly, because the stalker was no more than a hundred fifty feet from him, Chase got out of the Mustang. He left the door open, because he was sure that the sound of it would alert the intruder. He went around the car and across the grass, which had recently been mown and was slightly damp and slippery underfoot.

Ahead, a light came on in the Chevrolet, diffused by the steamed windows. Someone shouted, and a young girl screamed. She screamed again.

Chase had been walking. Now he ran as the sounds of a fight rose ahead. When he came up on the Chevrolet, he saw that the door on the driver's side was open and that the intruder was halfway into the front seat, flailing away at someone. Shadows bobbled, dipped, and pitched against the frosted glass.

"Hold it!" Chase shouted, directly behind the man now.

As the stranger pulled back out of the car, Chase saw the knife. The bird-dogger held it in his right hand, raised high. His hand and the weapon were covered with blood.

Chase raced forward the last few feet, slammed the stalker against the Chevy's window post. He slipped his arm around the guy's neck and tried to get a hammerlock on him.

The girl was still screaming.

The stranger swung his arm down and back, trying to catch Chase's thigh with the blade. He was an amateur.

Chase twisted out of the arc of the weapon. Simultaneously he drew his arm more tightly across the other's windpipe.

Around them, cars started. Trouble in lovers' lane aroused all the repressed sexual guilt in every teenager nearby. No one wanted to stay to see what the problem was.

"Drop it," Chase said.

Although the stranger must have been desperate for breath, he stabbed backward again and missed again.

Suddenly furious, Chase jerked his adversary onto his toes and applied the last effort necessary to choke him unconscious.

In the same instant, the wet grass betrayed him. His feet slipped, and he went down with the stranger on top.

This time the knife took Chase in the meaty part of his thigh, just below the hip. But it was torn from the assailant's hand as Chase bucked and tossed him aside.

The stalker rolled and scrambled to his feet. He took a few steps toward Chase, seeking the knife, but then he seemed to realize the formidable nature of his opponent. He ran.

"Stop him!" Chase shouted.

But most of the cars had gone. Those still parked along the cliff reacted to this latest uproar just as the more timid parkers had reacted to the first cries: lights flicked on, engines started, tires squealed. In a moment the only cars in lovers' lane were the Chevrolet and Chase's Mustang.

The pain in his leg was bad, though not any worse than a hundred others he had endured. In the light from the Chevrolet, he could see that he was bleeding slowly from a shallow wound—not the fearsome spurt of a torn artery. When he tried, he was able to stand and walk with little trouble.

He went to the car, peered in, and then wished that he hadn't been curious. The body of a young man, perhaps nineteen or twenty, was sprawled half on the seat and half on the floor. Blood-soaked. Mouth open. Eyes glazed.

Beyond the victim, curled in the corner by the far door, a petite brunette, a year or two younger than her murdered lover, was moaning softly. Her hands gripped her knees so tightly that they resembled claws latched around a piece of game. She wore a pink miniskirt but no blouse or bra. Her small br**sts were spotted with blood, and her ni**les were erect.

Chase wondered why this last detail registered more vividly with him than anything else about the grisly scene.

He expected better of himself. Or at least—there had been a time when he had expected better.

"Stay there," Chase said from the driver's door. "I'll come around for you."

She did not respond, though she continued to moan.

Chase almost closed the door, then realized that he would be shutting off the light and leaving the brunette alone in the car with the corpse. He walked around the Chevy, leaning on it to favor his right leg, and he opened her door.

Apparently these kids had not believed in locks. That was, he supposed, part of their generation's optimism, part and parcel with their theories on free love, mutual trust, and brotherhood. Theirs was the same generation that was supposed to live life so fully that they all but denied the existence of death.

Their generation. Chase was only a few years older than they were. But he did not consider himself to be part of their generation or any other. He was alone in the flow of time.

"Where's your blouse?" he asked.

She was no longer fixated on the corpse, but she was not looking at Chase either. She stared at her knees, at her white knuckles, and she mumbled.

Chase groped around on the floor under her legs and found the balled-up garment. "You better put this on."

She wouldn't take it. She continued murmuring wordlessly to herself.

"Come on, now," he said as gently as he could.

The killer might not have gone very far.

She spoke more urgently now, coherently, although her voice was lower than before. When he bent closer to listen, he discovered that she was saying, "Please don't hurt me, please don't hurt me."

" I won't hurt you," Chase assured her, straightening up. "I didn't do that to your boyfriend. But the man who did it might still be hanging around. My car's back there. Will you please come with me?"

She blinked, nodded, and got out of the car. He handed the blouse to her. She unrolled it, shook it out, but could not seem to get it on. She was still in a state of shock.

"You can dress in my car," Chase said. "It's safer there."

The shadows under the trees were deeper than they had been.

He put his arm around her and half carried her back to the Mustang. The door on the passenger's side was locked. By the time he got her to the other door and followed her inside, she seemed to have recovered her senses. She slipped one arm into the blouse, then the other, and slowly buttoned it.

When he closed his door and started the engine, she said, "Who are you?"

"Passerby. I saw the bastard and thought something was wrong."

"He killed Mike," she said hollowly.

"Your boyfriend?"

She didn't respond but leaned back against the seat, chewing her lip and wiping absentmindedly at the few spots of blood on her face.

"We'll get to a phone—or a police station. You all right? You need a hospital?"


Chase swung the car around and drove down Kanackaway Ridge Road as fast as he had driven up. He took the turn at the bottom so hard that the girl was thrown against the door.

"Buckle your seat belt," he advised.

She did as directed, but she appeared to be in a daze, staring straight ahead at the streets that unrolled before them.

"Who was he?" Chase asked as he reached the intersection at Galasio Boulevard and crossed it with the light this time.