Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write in the MYSTERY genre (04/05/07)
TITLE: Come Quickly, Allegra
By Dolores Stohler
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I don’t want to do this but I know I have to, she told herself firmly. What if it really was Alex who called? I know it didn’t sound like him. But if he were in pain, his voice would be low and raspy, wouldn’t it?
Doubt and indecision plagued her as she went over the events of the preceding week. Her husband Alex, a police detective, had been on the trail of a serial killer for months. Known as “The Hangman”, the illusive killer had committed five known murders to date, all of them women who were high achievers. All were found hung from trees in heavily wooded areas.
She recalled how Alex slipped out one morning saying he had a lead on the case. That was all! She hadn’t seen or heard from him since. A police search turned up nothing and all Allegra had to go on was the phone call that awakened her half an hour ago.
“Come quickly, Allegra. Come quickly or it may be too late. You’ll find me on Times Blvd. by the old abandoned newspaper office at the end of the street. I’ll look for you. Please hurry.” And the phone went dead. A thousand thoughts swirled through her mind as she dressed and hurried out to the car. Of course, she wondered about the serial killer. But he wouldn’t target me, she reassured herself. I’m not important enough. Or am I? After all, I do own my own business. And it’s prospering.
She reached the end of the street, ending her 10-mile-an-hour crawl. With the key still in the ignition, her eyes swept the decaying building that loomed to the right of her. With a sigh, she retrieved her key and climbed from the car, patting the gun in her pocket. The night had grown chill. Dark clouds smothered the sky, cutting off sight of the moon that might have provided light. A wicked wind whipped her raincoat now, threatening to wrest it from her shivering form. She clutched it in fright and murmured a brief prayer.
How she wished her German Shepherd, Barkley, were with her now. He’d been her guardian on other nights when Alex had left her alone. But Barkley was at the vets, having developed a bad case of the stomach flu.
Gathering courage, she approached the dark building and decided to circle it, going first to the side next to a field overgrown with weeds and meadow grasses. A wooded area lay beyond. With hand in pocket, she ran, traversing the side to the back of the building that lay in shadows darkly. She darted forward, undaunted.
But she screamed in terror when a strong arm caught her about the neck, cutting off her wind. The other hand held a rope. Allegra could see the dangling end of it. She tried to draw her gun but powerful arms held her fast, pinning her arms so she couldn’t move. In desperation then, she sent up silent prayers, begging the Lord to come to her aid. In vain, she struggled to loose herself.
The rope burned her neck now as she began to lose consciousness. But suddenly her assailant was pulled backwards, loosing his hold on her as she fell forward to the ground. She rolled over and saw Alex in mortal combat with her attacker. Then the sound of police sirens cut the silence of the night. Later, lying in a hospital bed and listening to Alex’s side of the story, she learned that the man, a former newspaper reporter, was being held without bail. Alex, himself, had been locked in the abandoned building for days while his captor had tormented him, promising to get his wife. Finally, Alex had managed to cut his bonds with a piece of broken glass.
And Allegra shook with fury when she learned that the man had poisoned Barkley.
“Take it easy,” Alex laughed. “You both survived, didn’t you?"
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