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Living in constant fear is not really living

I love to read fiction -- mystery, mostly. Some sort of madman, psycho or serial killer is usually featured in these stories. I did a fair amount of research years back on the famous ones -- Jack the Ripper, John Wayne Gacey, Ted Bundy -- for a book idea that I hope to write someday. They intrigue me. I admit it's a weird fascination, but I'm obviously not in the minority here with the popularity and multitude of shows like CSI and bestselling books authored by Stephen King.

It's really not the murder itself that attracts me so much. It's how the murderer's demented mind works. It's recognizing the various clues and ultimately figuring out not just who did it, but why. I'm captivated watching as the killer's pattern unfolds.

Even with movies like Friday the 13th, where I know who the killer is, I still keep watching. I'm consistently amazed at how often I still get caught off guard. In the end, if I see even just a glimpse of why he became who he is, I am satisfied.

When I read these books and watch these movies, it's always with the knowledge that the danger isn't real -- after all, it's just a story. Even while I am skimming the pages of my factual research, it never seems true to me. Because the crimes are so far removed from my daily life, in my mind, it's all still make-believe.

But my fictional stories became reality when the bike path killer struck last summer. The murder of Joan Diver really hit close to home. That bike path in Newstead is my bike path. It was no longer a fascination with a fictional character for me. It became the real thing. Living in the "country" is not where this sort of thing happens. Or so I naively thought.

I find myself interested once again. This time, however, I'm not reading about it for the sake of entering a surreal world of murder and mayhem. It's for my own piece of mind -- to make sure that the right guy is behind bars this time.

I remember when talk about the bike path was proposed to our area. I loved the idea and thought it was just what the residents needed. As many of our roads do not have sidewalks, this gave us the safety of walking, riding or rollerblading without worrying about vehicles and traffic. I certainly never thought that it would become a crime scene.

Now that nicer weather is here, I've already had the itch to take advantage of our beautiful bike path. The murder has definitely kept some people away. But I couldn't let that happen to me. I have made my return and can certainly admit that the bike path feels different now. I don't know if it will ever feel the same.

I may always continue to wonder if there's a killer lurking in all the treed areas that adorn that Newstead portion. After all, it's a convenient place for somebody to hide. I learned that while reading my mystery novels. I have gained wisdom from all the fictional horror I have exposed to my life. And I have learned from the bike path rapist as well. I will never walk alone. I am always aware of my surroundings. And I act on what my gut tells me, as silly as it may seem at the time.

I have made the decision not to let fear take hold of my life. There's a wonderful bike path out there. And I'm not going to let anyone -- especially a killer -- ruin it for me.

Lynn Lombard has seen the crime stories she loves become all too real.

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