Dark water from the recent rain oozes around tire treads that mark the lonely lovers' lane here where, Sunday night, a gunman in the secluded woodland fired a small-caliber pistol through a window of a parked car.
That brief burst of violence near this suburban outpost 20 miles north of Baltimore critically wounded the car's two occupants, Catherine Marie Britt and James S. Rhodes.
A month earlier, almost to the night, and 2 1/2 miles to the north, another couple parked in a similar lovers' lane was attacked. Both persons, Ronald Quinley and his fiance, Jill Mallison, were shot and wounded by an assailant with a small-bore pistol.
In the more recent attack, the gunman fled, apparently on foot. Britt, the daughter of a Black & Decker tool company vice president, was listed in "very critical" condition late today with an "uncertain" prognosis, according to a family spokesman.
Baltimore County police believe the two attacks were made by the same person--described by one of the victims as a short white man with brown hair and possibly a mustache--but beyond that, they have very little to go on.
"We're assuming the two incidents are connected," said police spokesman E. Jay Miller, "but we have no physical evidence to link the two."
The attacks have set off jitters among area residents and caused police to urge people to stay away from the area--semirural woodland laced with narrow, pot-holed roads just east of the Loch Raven Reservoir watershed.
Reservoir officials said they also plan to post signs banning parking in the area after dark.
In the first of the two shootings, on April 16, Quinley, 27, of Westminster, and Mallison, 23, of Lutherville, were parked on an abandoned railroad right-of-way just off Phoenix Road at about 2 a.m. when someone opened the driver's door and fired several shots into the car.
The couple was able to speed away to nearby York Road, a busy thoroughfare, where they notified police. Quinley was shot in the arm and was able to drive the car. Mallison had been shot in the head.
Both were hospitalized and recently released. Police said neither Quinley nor Mallison saw the assailant.
In last Sunday's incident, also at about 2 a.m., Rhodes, 23, of Bel Air, and Britt, 22, a Towson State University senior from Easton, were parked on a spot just off Poplar Hill Road. Police said a man with a pistol appeared and fired five or six shots through a closed window of the couple's car, striking Britt in the head. Rhodes, hit in the chest but still able to drive, managed to get the car to Britt's apartment building several miles away in Towson, where he summoned help. Both Rhodes and Britt are still hospitalized.
Of the four victims, only Rhodes has been able to give police a description of the assailant. Police spokesman Miller said detectives tried to make a composite sketch from his description but found it inadequate.
Miller said bullet fragments recovered from the attack scenes have also undergone ballistics testing, but he would not say what the results show.
In addition, he said, about a dozen detectives combed the scenes of the two shootings for several hours today, looking for additional evidence. He would not say what, if anything, was found.