So a personal story to twist your plot or make you more mindful, or maybe both.
This last week I was in Washington D.C. doing research. I was meeting someone at the baseball field. I walked up Independence where I had felt perfectly safe, but still, I kept an awareness.
As I was walking, I had my phone app open to direct me. It was only a mile walk. As I left the busy Smithsonian area, I noticed a man noticing that I was following a map app.
My holding out the phone to get directions told him I was unfamiliar with the area. People normally don't pay attention to things like this. When was the last time you watched a person's phone in their hands. Never, right? You don't look at their phone, look at them, look back at their phone, then look in the direction they're pointing the phone. It's not normal behavior.
My map app was announcing that I was in unfamiliar territory.
The man swung onto my path. I knew there was a police officer up ahead, and I thought I'd get that far and wait for the guy to pass on by. (I couldn't cross the road at that point) But the man sped up and passed me getting a half block ahead. That felt safer. I might have let my guard down except for his next odd behaviors.
It was odd for example that the guy walked so fast that he got from half a block behind me to a half a block in front of me, then he held his pace to mine so that he maintained only a half block difference. That was a significant change in pace.
At the police officer it looked like the app went straight. After a few paces I realized it had wanted me to vere right. I turned around and walked to the police officer.
The man changed directions, too. He had been just up ahead of me on the left fork. He walked back to where I was and passed me again. I let him move on up the sidewalk to almost a block away while I stood by the officer.
Now, there was no one behind me. On the right was heavy fast moving traffic, on my left gardens, trees, houses but they were a good distance over.
Boo. The guy stopped at the end of the block for the light to change.
The man looked over his left shoulder. The only reason to look over one's shoulder is to assess. I moved to the right out of his view. He didn't see me. He turned his head to look over his right shoulder. I wasn't fast enough scooting over. He saw I was there. I remarked of this. And now that he caught sight of me behind him he walked across the road even thought the light hadn't changed. If he was going to break the law, he would have done it from the get go, there was no traffic flow there. Why did he wait until I was closer then walk across? And why did he once again slow his gait when I waited at the light.
And more importantly, did he really think I wasn't paying attention to him?
He was dressed in black running shoes, black pants, and a black T-shirt. He had close cropped balding head, but I'd guess mid-thirties. He looked fit. Five foot ten, a hundred and seventy pounds. I'd give it a good go if I ended up fighting him, but who the heck wants to do that? Being in a fight freaking hurts. Really, not interested, creeper dude.
I slowed my pace to give him space. The man had to make a decision go left branch of the road or right. Whatever he did, I'd decided to do the opposite. He went left. Great, I wanted to go right anyway. I got up to the crosswalk and saw that he was kind of hovering a quarter block ahead on that left fork. He sees me taking the other branch of the road, J walks across the street, and starts heading back my way, turning onto the block I was walking.
I gave him a hard stare, looked up and down his body, looked him straight in the eye with my "I caught you," look and realized at this point there was no one around but those fast moving cars. The officer couldn't see me, and there were no other people. I started power walking and coming up with a plan B. After a few paces, I turned to see what kind of distance there was between us, with my video running on my phone to catch his image. But that hard stare of "I see you, and I'm paying attention," had turned him around. I made darned sure he knew that I was aware of his odd behavior and was indeed paying attention. And, okay, I edged a little of my fight face into place so I didn't look soft while I sent my message.
I have been followed before and had to dodge men and situations before, as have most women I know. Never have I seen it in place where I was being tracked from the front. I've read about this in some non-fiction where say a CIA operative was trying to track and not be seen. On a straight road with no turn offs, they'll often get in front of the person they're tracking so that person isn't suspicious. It can be a little dangerous in terms of losing someone if there's a place to turn before they let their car fall behind.
This event was interesting in a "man, I wish this wasn't something that needed to be dealt with" kind of way. It's sure to end up in one of my novels.
Please be aware when you're out and about and realize that sometimes you will do things to make yourself a target like follow a phone app to your destination.
If you do, pay extra special attention to odd behaviors.
Be safe and happy writing!