About The BookRevenge is a dish best served with blood…
In Revenge is Sweet, the sequel to The Friday Edition, Samantha Church is back and the stakes are higher than ever.
In a sinister quest to settle the score, the drug dealers she thwarted are no longer motivated by money or politics, they want one thing and one thing only:
Get Up To SpeedA nail-biting mystery featuring reporter Samantha Church. When former foes seek revenge by terrorizing her, Sam must uncover their secrets and settle the score… or her best friend and daughter will pay the price.
Sam found ways to fight her fear and keep busy the rest of the afternoon as she waited for nightfall and the workday to end. The Canal Island detectives working April’s disappearance had already called twice. She told them everything she knew about the morning she last saw April and Esther as they walked toward the bus. Sam didn’t want to admit she had little faith the Amber Alert would do any good in locating her daughter. April, she knew, was already where the kidnappers wanted her to be. Sam tried desperately not to focus on thoughts of April and Wilson being held somewhere against their will, cold, cramped and hungry. It was, however, almost as impossible to do as telling herself not to breathe. Miserable images of bare twin bed frames positioned against filthy walls in a room somewhere in this city kept filling her thoughts.
David left a few minutes before five for the city council meeting. He stopped at Sam’s desk just before he left the office. He made her promise again that she would call him tonight. Sam held up her right hand and made the promise, fully intending to keep it.
She had the address from Sergeant King and figured even though she had never been to the meth house on Chester Street she could find it. Once she found it, however, she wasn’t exactly sure what she had planned to do. But when it came to her daughter, she planned to do whatever she had to do. Second thoughts weren’t an option.
Sam waited to give David enough time to get in his car and drive from the parking lot. She collected her things and headed up stairs to say good-bye to Anne. Sam realized when she placed her hand over the handle of her briefcase it was cold and clammy. For the first time she began to question what she was about to do and almost considered taking David’s advice and waiting until morning to tell Nick.
But what would she do all night? How could she make it through the darkness waiting for some kind of message? How could she live with herself knowing that her daughter and Wilson were unaccounted for? She couldn’t. She would go home change her clothes, get the other items and head to Chester Street. When Sam reached the top of the stairs, Anne was just gathering her things to leave. She saw the somber look on Sam’s face, the way her shoulders turned inward and her face sagged with fatigue. It made her stop what she was doing. “Sam, you want to come over tonight?” Anne asked. “You could have dinner with us. I’m going to put a meatloaf in the oven when I get home. You’re welcome to come over. That might help take your mind off things for a little while.”
Sam had reached Anne’s desk and gave the impression that she was at least considering the idea. Then she shook her head. “Thanks, Anne, but I’m just going home. I need to be there just in case there’s a phone call or something. I can hardly stand to live with myself now. I don’t know what I’d do if I missed that phone call, too.”
“Well, if you change your mind, Sam, there’ll be plenty of leftovers.”
The women walked out of the building into a cheerless gray drizzle. Their breath rose in wisps, drifted off and disappeared above them. Anne pulled her coat across her chest and tucked her hands deep in her pockets.
“They said to expect snow by tomorrow,” Anne said. “Sure will be glad when spring gets here, this snow and cold weather is for the birds. I’m tired of shoveling walks and clearing snow off the car window.”
Sam nodded and the women walked the rest of the way to their cars in silence. Sam thanked Anne again for her offer. She waited in the Accord until Anne drove from the parking lot and then started the car. She waited a time for the engine to warm up, looking at the radio dial, mesmerized by it and remembering the sound of Wilson’s voice.
Sam, it’s Wilson. They, uh, they tell me you’re all right. That’s really all I wanted to know, as soon as you were safe and doing okay then, I could live with that.
The car heater began to blow warmer air and Sam put the Accord in gear and drove from the parking lot. Wilson’s voice remained with her.
I’m okay too, but not for long.
She turned off Wadsworth Boulevard and headed west on Sixth Avenue, unaware that at the convenience store on the corner, just before the on ramp to the roadway, the shiny black sedan had been parked, waiting for her to leave. The engine roared to life and the car pulled slowly onto the roadway, merging with the rest of rush-hour traffic. From this distance, they could see the taillights of the Honda Accord and Sam at the wheel.
She pulled into the parking lot at her apartment, quickly took the stairs and entered her apartment completely out of breath. Morrison greeted her at the door and she picked him up, nestled her face in his belly and carried him into the kitchen. She set him down and opened a can of cat food. Before she could place the food inside the cat dish, something attracted her attention. She set the can on the counter and looked inside. It was a yellow sticky note…
Sam turned and cast a sideways glance toward her stereo in the living room, refraining from giving it her full attention. She walked slowly toward the unit and looked at the ‘play’ button for a long while before she placed her index finger over the button. She took a deep breath and pressed play. She heard Juan talking to Wilson about his watch. Then she heard what sounded like a struggle, followed by Wilson shouting obscenities. When Sam heard Wilson’s deep-throated scream, she dropped to her knees and buried her face deep in her hands. She began to cry uncontrollably, heaving sobs so great, her shoulders shook. “No! No! dear God! This can’t be happening!”
A sharp knock came at her apartment door and Sam immediately stopped crying. “Who’s there?” she croaked. She waited and fear continued to build in her chest, making it harder and harder to breathe. “Who’s … there?” she said again. She waited, uncertain what she should do, stay nearly frozen where she was, or work up the nerve to go to the door and confront whatever awaited her. She eyed the stereo again and slowly got to her feet and forced herself to go to her door. She put her hand on the knob and turned. She opened the door slightly, allowing it to go only as far as the gold security chain would allow. She looked through the crack and noticed a small box wrapped in brown mailing paper on her welcome mat. The black handwriting easy to see against the brown paper…
Sam quickly unlocked the door, grabbed the box and slammed her apartment door shut. She held the box tightly with both hands, her heart thundering so hard in her chest, she was afraid it might burst. Should I call David? Her thought was only fleeting before she dismissed it. She walked to the kitchen counter and set the box down. Slowly she began to open it. The brown paper gave way to a white box. Her mouth went dry as she began to open it, unable to stop herself from thinking of the mannequin hands she found with David the other night. The thought made her hands pause in mid air. No, not again, please, please no.
Sam took a deep breath and pulled the box top off. Another yellow sticky sat on top of something wrapped in more brown paper…
Sam buried her hands in her face and began to sob, trying to speak through her tears. “Wilson, I am so sorry! This is all my fault! How can you ever forgive me!?”
She willed herself to open the package. One quick look confirmed her worst fears. Wilson’s left, lifeless hand was positioned over crumbled brown paper. Sam covered her mouth with her hands and screamed. She backed away from the counter, ran into her bedroom and slammed the door shut. She stood against it for several minutes, trying to regain her composure. “No,” she finally said in a voice filled with fury and rage. She stopped crying and stood straight up. “No. They will not do this to me! They will not win! No, no, no! April, honey, Mommie is coming. Wilson, I will be there soon! Please, please try to hang on!”
Sam pushed herself away from the door, opened it and ran back into the kitchen. She grabbed the box tenderly and placed it in the freezer, because she simply was at a loss on what she should do with Wilson’s hand. “Forgive me, Wilson, please,” she said and dashed back into her bedroom.
Sam changed from her dress slacks and sweater into a black turtleneck and black jeans. She pulled on a pair of black socks and hiking boots. She looked at herself in the mirror as she pulled her hair back in a tight ponytail.
From the drawer by her nightstand, she pulled out a flashlight. She pointed it into her walk-in closet and a spray of light lit up the darkened space. The handle of the flashlight was covered with small rubber bumps designed so that it wouldn’t slip from the holder’s hand. It also had a skinny black strap that she could pull over her wrist.
She reached into the nightstand and pulled out something else. She didn’t know why she kept it, more for show than anything else. It was one of Jonathan’s service revolvers. The make and model, she hadn’t a clue. He had wanted her to have it. She turned over once, twice in her hand recalling the day her now deceased ex-husband gave it to her.
“For what?” she had asked him when he put it in the palm of her hand.
“What do you mean for what?” Jonathan asked and rolled his eyes. “To use it just in case you have to.”
Sam scoffed at his remark. “Jonathan, if anyone ever came in my house and there was a fight to use this gun, the burglar would end up using it on me.” She had handed the weapon back to him, but he had insisted she keep it. She complied, albeit reluctantly, and had stashed it in the drawer of her nightstand.
Sam turned the weapon over again in her hand, slipped it back in the drawer and closed it. A lot of good it would do her to carry the gun. She couldn’t remember where the bullets were anyway and she wasn’t going to take the time to look for them. Instead she reached down by the corner of her bed and retrieved an axe handle that Howard had made for her. The stick was about two feet long, thick and sturdy. He had put a smooth finish on it and drilled a hole near the top of the stick just wide enough to draw a rope through. Sam stuck the rope around her hand and gripped the handle. It was smooth to the touch. She tapped it firmly several times into the palm of her left hand. It stung and left a red mark in the center. Satisfied, she turned and left the bedroom.
She grabbed a dark wool jacket and a hat from the hall closet. She pulled the hat down over her head, covering her blond hair. She grabbed her purse and car keys, pulled the door open and left with Morrison sitting silently, watching her every move.
Sam walked slowly to the car. The night was cold against her face. She was glad she had grabbed a hat. The rain had stopped. Clouds, reflecting the city lights, parted some to reveal a thin line of light from a waxing moon. Other clouds, thick with moisture, drifted by the slip of the moon in bunches. The air in the apartment complex smelled thickly of burning wood. She saw no one, as if the cold and dark of this late winter night had driven everyone inside.
Sam opened the car door and looked in the back seat before she slid inside and locked it. As she waited for the interior to warm, she studied a map of Grandview, a sprawling suburb on Denver’s West Side, on her cell phone. The city had been aptly named. It was positioned east toward Denver and the rising eastern plains by day and by night a sweeping view of a city filled with city lights that stretched toward those darkened plains. Chester Street looked to be about a twenty-minute drive north of her apartment. She knew the area only slightly, namely that a number of drug raids and arrests for meth and other hard drugs had once been conducted in the area because drug dealers liked its somewhat rural location.
Her big story, however, had put a stop to everything. Justice had been done. Or had it? It was the reason Wilson had been kidnapped and no longer had a left hand. And April, too. Sam gripped the steering wheel hard. Breathing heavily with fear and anger, she put the Accord in gear and pulled slowly from the apartment complex. During the drive, she glanced frequently in her mirror, thinking of the shiny black sedan, hoping she wasn’t being followed.
Twenty minutes later she reached Chester Street. Sam knew from the address that the house was located on the left side and near the end of the street. She started driving slowly down the street filled with nondescript houses. Lights were on in some of the homes, making them look safe and inviting. Others were dark.
Sam checked the addresses as she moved along the street. The next one would be the meth house. She slowed the car to a crawl as she rolled by the single-story, vinyl-sided house. The inside was dark as she expected it to be. After the bust, Sam had heard talk from some of the police officers that the residents on the street wanted the house burned to the ground.
From this distance, she could not tell if the house was light brown or cream colored. Long branches from a tall cottonwood tree in the middle of the yard covered most of the large front window that looked out to the street. Remnants from the last snowfall remained at the foot of the tree. Yellow tape police used to warn people to stay out of a restricted area was still wrapped around a portion of the tree. A piece of the tape flapped in the evening breeze, the only evidence remaining to suggest that something requiring police action had happened here.
Sam drove to the end of the block and made a U-turn in the middle of the street. She parked the car a few driveways down from the meth house. She turned off the engine and waited in the dark and watched the house as the car settled. The heat spilling out from the heater stopped and the warm air that Sam felt on the top of her shoes and legs quickly dissipated. She slipped on a pair of black leather gloves. She took the flashlight, pushed herself up slightly off the seat and stuffed it in the back pocket of her jeans. She pulled the rope of the ax handle over her right wrist.
She got out of the car and walked slowly toward the meth house, her boots making a light crunching sound on the empty street. Her heart was thumping so hard in her chest, she thought it might come out her mouth. She reached the front lawn. Somewhere in the distance a dog began to bark. She stopped a moment and listened, looking left, then right. She waited. The sound stopped. She continued up the driveway. She was close enough now that she could see paint chipping away from the eaves on the house. She stepped on the porch, gripping the ax handle so tight that the inside of her hand was sweating. She looked in the front window, cupping her left hand around her eye. Darkness stared back.
She moved to the front door, trying hard to swallow her fear. She wanted to turn back, but the JPEG image of April sitting cross-legged on the floor with Wilson sprawled out next to her haunted Sam and pushed her forward.
She put her hand on the doorknob. She clenched her jaw as she squeezed the knob. To her surprised it turned easily. She hesitated only briefly before she pushed it open. Dank air surrounded her face like fog. She took a deep breath. The air was stale, the way a room smells that hasn’t been ventilated in some time. She pushed the door open further and, just as she was about to step inside, a dog began to bark. The sound startled Sam and she gasped. She would have dropped her ax handle had it not been for the rope. Sam listened a moment more, her heart racing and her right leg beginning to shake uncontrollably. She was scared. Her right leg only shook that way when someone or something truly frightened her.
The barking continued. It sounded as though it was coming from inside the house, the kitchen or perhaps just inside the living room. More barking. But something about it didn’t sound right. It had the same continual pitch and tone, so constant that it didn’t sound real, but mechanical. Her eyes had adjusted to the darkness well enough that she could see a set of stereo speakers on the floor just beyond the front door. That’s exactly what it was, a device rigged up to sound like a dog barking. The sound would begin when motion was detected and emanated from there. She had to get inside and turn it off. She stepped inside the house and stumbled slightly over the threshold, almost falling. She caught herself and took the ax handle off her wrist to find the electrical cord. The barking was piercing her ears.
She found the cord, followed it to the wall and yanked it out. The barking stopped immediately. Sam’s ears rang in the sudden silence. She leaned against the wall, collecting her bearings and letting her fear settle. Her leg stopped shaking.
Enough light came from the street that she could make out the interior of the living room. It was empty of furniture, save for a single dining room chair made of light wood. It was positioned directly in front of the living room window, as though someone had been sitting there looking out.
She glanced down a short hallway. To her left, it jutted off into darkness to what Sam guessed were the bedrooms and bathroom. Most houses like these had only one bathroom. The refrigerator was directly in front of her. The ringing in her ears had stopped, and she could hear that the appliance was humming loudly. The Barbie Doll and Wilson’s hand popped unwillingly into her mind. It unnerved her to think that there might be something besides food and drink waiting for her inside the refrigerator.
She took a deep breath and pushed herself away from the wall. She took small, cautious steps toward the kitchen. She reached the threshold, but it was too dark in the kitchen to see much. She retrieved the flashlight. She waited a moment before turning it on, to brace herself for what she might find. She bit her bottom lip and flipped the light on. The flashlight cast a bright light over the room. She panned the light from the refrigerator over the stove to the cabinets. She could tell that it had been some time since anyone had actually lived here. Paint was chipping away from the cabinets. Some of the cabinets were open and she could see that nothing, no dishes, cups, glasses or staples, was inside. She directed the flashlight along the countertops. The ones that weren’t nicked were heavily stained with something she could not identify.
Sam entered the kitchen. She followed the beam of her flashlight toward the sink. The tap was dripping and a small rust stain had started to form at the back of the sink. Just as she turned around, she felt something run across the top of her shoe. She stifled a shriek, and kicked at it and then jumped back. Her stomach cramped with fear and her heart roared in her chest as she quickly panned the flashlight to the floor. The light caught a mouse scampering across the linoleum. She followed the creature with the flashlight as it made its way quickly across the floor. The mouse disappeared into the looming darkness.
That’s when she saw the open door.
Sam’s breathing was labored and sweat had beaded up on her brow, soaking the front of her hat. She tried swallowing, but her mouth was dry. Her right leg began to shake again and she put a hand over her thigh to try to make it stop. She inched toward the open door, sorry now that she didn’t take the time to find the bullets for the service revolver and bring it with her. She reached the threshold and cast light into the hole filled with darkness. The tall beam rose and fell where she directed it. There were stairs down as far down as she could see. She was afraid to shine the light any farther down the stairs, unwilling yet to see what might lie ahead.
She braced herself a moment against the door jamb, wondering how wise it was to proceed any further alone. The morning she left to come home from Seattle, and the image of April walking across the yard holding hands with Esther to the bus flashed before her. As did the hopeless moments she waited in the cab outside April’s school, looking off in the direction of a place she was forbidden to enter. There was nothing to stop her here. Moved by the desperate desire to see her daughter again and hold her close, Sam started down the stairs.
Sam descended the stairs stepping as softly as she could, but everything around her was so quiet that her footsteps sounded heavy as though she were a giant. One step. Then another. She gripped the railing. The ax handle was dangling from her wrist and every so often knocked against the wall. She couldn’t help the noise. She had to hold the flashlight with one hand and the rail with the other. She didn’t want to fall.
On the sixth step she stopped. She held her breath as she directed the beam toward the bottom, hoping the last of the stairs would be in view. The light stopped at the foot of the last step. Sam counted nine more stairs.
In the semi darkness just beyond the stairs, she could see a short landing. She cast the light a little farther in that direction. It stopped at a door, a plain simple white door with a silver knob. It was closed. She swallowed hard, focusing on the doorknob, weighing her options and wondering if she were about to walk into a trap. She considered turning around. But she had moved beyond the point at which returning was an option. She took each step until she reached the bottom, her lips pursed in a thin straight line and breathing heavily through her nose.
Once she reached the landing, she gripped the ax handle firmly and headed for the door, reaching it in several short steps. She put her hand on the knob and hesitated only a moment. The door opened easily.
Sam cast the beam inside the room. She saw it was only an entrance, a portal that led yet to another door. She wondered if the passage was the start of a labyrinth where she might lose her way. She stepped cautiously toward the door. The thought of seeing her daughter on the other side propelled her forward. She reached the door, and only then realized that it was not completely closed. She shone the flashlight through the partially opened door, but couldn’t see anything.
Momentarily forgetting her fear, she placed an open hand on the door and pushed it slightly. The hinges creaked against the movement. Sam bit her bottom lip and pushed the door open. The beam of light fell into the room, her eyes wide with fear, followed.
The room was empty and small. She was hit immediately with a distinct odor. “Cat urine.” Sam said in a confident whisper, remembering the night she and Rey talked about it in the police cruiser when they stalked High Pointe Warehouse. He had told her it was a byproduct of making meth. She stifled a cough as the stale but still pungent odor assailed her. Letting the ax handle dangle from her wrist, she squeezed her nose between her thumb and index finger and breathed through her mouth. The scent from her leather glove made it slightly easier to breathe.
She pushed the door open as far as it would go and stepped into the room, moving the flashlight from wall to wall. She guessed that the room was no bigger than eight by ten feet, twelve at the most. She brought the flashlight to the center of the room, unprepared for what she was about to see. She felt the hair on the back of her head stand on end as a shriek quickly and loudly escaped from her lips.
A small man dressed in dark clothes stood before her. Sam had never seen hair so white. She guessed him to be her height, perhaps an inch or two shorter. At the sight of her, he folded his arms across his chest and smiled in a smug way. He began to tap his foot. She expected his smile to reveal long, sharp white teeth, just waiting to rip into her flesh.
“Well. Well. We’ve been waiting for you, Samantha Christine.”
But it wasn’t the man with the white hair who spoke. The sound came from another corner of the room, out of sight from the beam of Sam’s flashlight. The voice was cool and collected, seemingly satisfied that she had, in fact, been snared. Her right leg began to shake as she fumbled to center the ax handle securely in her hand. “Who are you? Where’s my daughter? I want them back right now,” Sam said, keeping her voice firm while trying to control her growing fear. She could not stop her leg from shaking, with one hand holding the ax handle, the other the flashlight.
She heard the man in the shadows begin to laugh. Empty. Evil. Cold. The sound of it moved over her skin like a dull razor. “Have you come to save them with your ax handle?” he asked.
Sam gripped the handle tighter.
“Tough talk for such a fragile woman,” the man in the shadows said.
Sam held her ground, her right leg still shaking. She tried pressing her right foot firmly against the floor, but it didn’t help. “Who are you?” she demanded.
“You’ll find out soon enough,” came the reply.
“Are you the one who’s been following me in that black car?”
With that, the man in the shadows stepped into the light. He was a tall, slender Hispanic man, with a shock of thick black hair, wearing a black leather coat that stopped just above his knees. “As a matter of fact,” he said coolly. “I am. Good little Samantha Christine always using her turn signal. Wouldn’t want to get stopped by the police for failing to use our signal now would we?”
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Sam swallowed hard when she saw him reach into his coat pocket. He took note of her fear and laughed. “Don’t worry, Samantha, I am not going to shoot you…” his voice trailed off as he pulled out a pack of cigarettes from an inside pocket and shook one loose. “Just yet.”
“The methmaker,” Sam said and nodded as if she had added a missing piece to a complex puzzle. “You’re the methmaker.”
He looked at her with indifference. “I prefer Juan.”
“Juan Garcia,” she confirmed.
Juan pulled the cigarette from the pack with his lips, watching her. He brought a lighter to his mouth and lit it, covering his face with his long, thin hands. He blew smoke from his nose and placed the cigarettes back in his pocket. He nodded. “That’s right Samantha. That’s who I am.” His name was Juan Garcia. At least that’s what everyone called him. He wanted a common, unassuming name, not one that would stand out as did his given name: Alajandro Luis Barraza.
Juan looked at the white-haired man and then surveyed the rest of the room. “I wanted you to come here first,” he said grasping the cigarette between his index and middle finger and taking a deep drag on it before pulling it away from his mouth. “Because I wanted you to see this.”
Silence fell for a brief moment in the small room.
“Take a look around,” he said, extending the hand with the cigarette out over the room, as if it were a place of beauty and something to admire.
Sam did as she was asked.
“For more years than I can remember, Samantha, I made a great deal of money working out of this little shithole,” Juan said before taking a moment to look around the room. “Then this woman came along and starting poking around where she didn’t belong,” he said, his eyes black and void. Juan’s reptilian stare was so penetrating that Sam had to look away. “Of course, we had to do away with her,” he added matter-of-factly, taking a long drag on his cigarette. “I’m sure you know who I am talking about.”
Sam’s heart dropped and her right leg stopped shaking momentarily. The image of identifying her sister’s body at the morgue on Christmas morning flashed before her. She clenched her jaw.
“She was a foolish, foolish girl, Samantha, just like you. But even I had to give her credit for her persistence, which cost her her life. And then you came along. You were far more damaging to us than I believe she was. Because look…” Juan’s voice trailed off as his long bony hand made another full sweep around the room. “There’s nothing left. And you’re the cause of it and now you will pay.”
“You won’t get away with this,” Sam said and her voice was defiant. “Where’s Wilson? I want my daughter back now. I want both of them back now.”
Both men laughed at Sam holding her flashlight and ax handle. Juan flicked an ash, then took another hit off the cigarette. “You’re a foolish, foolish girl, Samantha Christine, coming here all alone thinking that you were going to walk right out of here with the old man and the little girl so you could be one big happy family again.” Juan dropped the cigarette to the floor and stepped on it, twisting and turning it hard into the ground. He spoke with indifference. “What makes you think they’re even still alive?”
“I know they’re still alive,” Sam said with an authority she did not feel. “You wouldn’t let me off that easily. I saw what you did to Wilson.” Her eyes narrowed to thin, angry slits. “People like you like to see people like me squirm, and beg, and plead.”
Juan nodded and a crooked smile spread over his face. He looked to the white-haired man and gave a quick flick of his head in Sam’s direction. Before the white-haired man had a chance to move, Sam turned and bolted from the room, moving with speed and agility she didn’t realized she had. She slammed the door hard in their faces.
Juan calmly pulled another cigarette from the pack and took the time to light it. “Go get her,” he said.
Sam bolted through the entryway and slammed that door, falling against it with all her weight, the flashlight and ax handle extending from her wrists and flapping beside her like wings. She raced up the stairs trying to take two at a time, but stumbled half way up and had to grab the banister. The ax handle knocked loudly against the wall and was hitting her hard against her leg. She ignored the pain and, propelled by terror, went up the remaining stairs so fast that she plunged into the kitchen and fell face first on the floor, hitting her chin hard against the linoleum. The fall knocked the flashlight from her hand. It rolled to a stop in the living room, producing a pool of light, before it flickered and died out.
She struggled to her feet, breathing furiously. She could hear one of the men in the stairwell just below her, shouting obscenities. She bolted from the kitchen toward the living room. Just as she reached the hallway, she heard one of them enter the kitchen.
She screamed as if she were drowning. “Help me! Help me! Somebody help me!”
She reached the living room sick with fear, looking left, then right, then left, feeling trapped like a doomed animal. She had left the front door open. A draft of cold night air was hitting her face. She started to run toward it, but one of the men reached her and wrapped his arms around her legs, tackling her from behind.
She grabbed for the wooden chair to stop her fall, but it was just beyond her reach. She could feel herself falling helplessly to the floor. Somehow the ax handle flew off her wrist. It tumbled out the front door. Sam heard it hit the ground, bounce off the porch and then roll out into the grass. Sam landed hard, her head narrowly missing the chair. She fell on her right shoulder with such force that it pulled away from the rest of her body. She cried out. The pain in her shoulder was all encompassing, momentarily blinding her.
She managed to look behind her to see who had tackled her. It was the white-haired man. Given his size, she was surprised by his strength. The fall had knocked the wind out of her assailant, giving Sam a moment of reprieve. The heel of her hiking boot had hit him squarely in the stomach as they fell to the floor. He was struggling for breath. She tried to kick out from beneath his grasp, using every ounce of strength she had left in her body, now weakened by fear and pain. But she couldn’t shake free from his grip.
He struggled to get to his feet, keeping Sam pinned to the ground. He straddled her, reached down and tried to grab a chunk of her hair.
Sam screamed. “No!” With all her strength, she lifted her right leg straight up and directly hit him in the groin. He howled in pain, shouting another stream of obscenities. He fell to the ground beside her, shuddering and clutching his groin.
Sam rolled off her back and managed to lift herself to her hands and knees, trying to find her breath. She coughed so hard, she almost started to choke. As she struggled to her feet, the white-haired man reached out and grabbed her ankle.
“Let go of me, asshole!” Sam screamed and kicked loose from his grip. She grabbed for the flashlight and whacked the white-haired man as hard as she could over the head. He immediately let go of her ankle, and went motionless on the floor.
Sam stood in the center of the living room, gasping for breath trying to figure out what to do next. Her thoughts were clouded with pain. She grabbed the chair and dragged it back to the kitchen. Her movements and weight from the chair caused new agony in her shoulder, but she ignored it. She slammed the door shut and rammed the top of the chair beneath the knob. She turned and ran out of the house. She stumbled down the street, glancing over her shoulder. No one was following her, but still she ran as fast as the pain in her shoulder would allow. She reached the Accord completely out of breath, her lungs burning for air. She fumbled with the keys. “Come on! Come on!”
Finally she opened the car door. Once inside, she slammed the doors locked and shuddered a heavy sigh of relief. Her right arm was nearly useless. She struggled with her left hand trying to insert the key in the ignition. She was so shaky with nerves that the keys slipped from her grasp and fell to the floor. “Shit! Shit! Shit!”
She looked to the floorboard. Somewhere during the struggle, her hat had come off. Most of her hair had come loose from her ponytail and it was dangling in front of her eyes, but it didn’t matter, it was too dark to see anyway. She fumbled on the floor groping for the keys. Finally she found them and tried again, this time inserting the key with little effort. She started the engine and left so fast that her tires screeched loudly, piercing the night air.
The car barreled to the top of the street, but before Sam could escape from the neighborhood, high beams from another car’s headlights filled her rearview mirror. She squinted, gripped the steering wheel, ignored the stop sign, and swung a sharp right off Chester Street. As she did she saw the black shiny sedan from the corner of her eye. “Damn it! Damn it!” Sam shouted into the interior, pounding her fists hard against the steering wheel. “How the hell did they get out here so fast?!”
Sam pushed the gas pedal to the floor and the car lunged forward. She looked straight ahead, having no idea where she was. She clicked on her high beams and the light rose and fell with the road. She took another right. The farther she went, the more rural the area became. Her thoughts were spinning. Where to go? What to do? Help me! Help me! Help me!
She looked in the rearview mirror. The sedan was gaining. She glanced down at the speedometer, the thin red line showed she was going almost 60 miles an hour. The headlights from the black sedan nearly filled her mirror, making it almost impossible for Sam to see the road ahead. The moon had disappeared behind clouds.
Another right turn. Sam had turned onto a gravel road. Loose rocks flew up pinging off the body of the car. A mistake. But it was too late to turn back now. The sedan followed, inching closer. She checked her speed: 65 miles an hour. She couldn’t see a thing in front of her.
As Sam reached up to adjust the mirror away from the high beams, the black sedan rammed the back of the Accord. She lurched forward, almost hitting her head on the steering wheel. Sam screamed as she began to lose control of the car on the loose, rocky surface. She turned the wheel and the car began to fishtail. Overcorrecting, right, then left, then right, then left.
The shiny black sedan hit the Accord again, this time clipping it on the left back bumper and forcing it off the road. The car careened into an open field, where it flipped, once, twice, then a third time before coming to rest on its top. The only movement came from the wheels spinning round and round and round. The thin red line, frozen in time like an epitaph, showed 75 miles an hour.
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