Sweat gripped the hardwood floor … the room still pungent with him.
She had wanted to die … he had other plans.
Cold, malevolent plans.
Blood oozed from swollen lips … cheeks throbbed of fresh bruises. Swelling threatened her vision … she lay there exhausted – quiet. A cobweb glistening in the rafters drew her focus. Crackling flames in the fireplace reflected tongues of fire off the rustic mirror. God? Are You there?
She heard herself moan. She turned over and crawled to the couch picking up pieces of clothing along the way. The ceiling fan swayed, chilling bare skin. Flickering shadows danced on the warm wood.
Get out of here! She rationalized. It’s no longer safe in this cabin! Get to the car! She steadied herself, dressed and fumbled her way to the door.
Dying would have to wait.
She grabbed the porch railing. Pine, jasmine, and climbing roses cooled a dank sweat that dampened clumps of auburn hair, clearing the fog in her head.
Tires were inching their way down her gravel path! Was it him? Again? Every nerve kicked into flight mode.
In daylight, she knew these woods like the back of her hand but now the sun was hidden behind the trees.
Headlights caught her dead on. Fear drove her off the porch into the brush and she dared not look back. Winding and twisting she knew now where she wanted to go.
Please God, help me! It was a prayer that had been her mantra for what seemed like hours. The police … I’ll be safe there.
Twilight shadows were confusing her bearings. Trees, brush and scurrying animals blurred into one vortex of terror. She heard tires following, light swooped by … she dropped to the ground – trying to muffle gasps for air.
A voice wheezed through dense brush.
“Tis yerself lassie. Whit be ye runnin faer?’
Talia froze, breathless, “Coot … that you? How do I get outta here? I gotta get to the police!” her voice sounded foreign, muffled.
“Whit tis it lassie girl? Whit be thae trooble?
“Coot, please, don’t ask questions, I gotta hurry! Show me how to get there! Please! Now!”
“Okay, okay lassie, come ben and have a dram first … settle yer nerves.”
Talia shook her head and backed away. She wasn’t going to feel safe until she got to the station.
Twilight illuminated one side of her face. “Lassie girl, follow me. You’ll git lost goin thit way.”
Talia and Old Coot walked in companionable silence. The snap of fallen branches matched the snap of each nerve but she didn’t feel so alone now. Old Coot may be the village hermit, but he was a friend.
Coot got her to the Police Station, but she knew he felt uncomfortable – he didn’t like being inside. He would stay – she knew that, but he was fidgeting and trembling.
“Coot, go on home. Some police lady is coming – she’ll help me now. Thanks.”
Coot’s rattled sigh warmed her heart.
“Coot, save me a dram, okay?”
“Okay lassie girl. You git somben ta stay wit?”
“Yeah Coot. Go on. Thanks.”
Sergeant Daniely showed up and Coot scooted off.
Talia now had to relive the past few hours. She trembled like Old Coot. She couldn’t sit still … and she couldn’t stop the tears.
When it was over she was told she had to go to a hospital in the city because only they could handle ‘these cases’ but Sergeant Daniely would not leave her side.
They were fast-tracked to a room in the Emergency triage.
She leaned back in the chair, closed her eyes and wrapped the warm blanket tight around her. She tried placing an ice pack on her cheek. But she couldn’t relax. Hot malice still breathed heavy in her ear. Questions plagued her … God? Why?
An aid came to check on her, a nurse followed to explain procedures.
One other stopped, waited … and listened at the door, feigning concern.
Cold malevolence wafted into the room … pungent. She could smell him … she … knew him.
She had wanted to die.
Ice flowed through her veins, she began to shiver. Teeth chattering she recoiled and turned away.
The door slowly clicked shut.
A strength beyond fear loosened her voice, “S-s… S-s … S-Sergeant D-Daniely? He’s-s here, out th-there … at the d-door. There’s sc-cratches-s … on his-s-s b-b-back … from m-m-e. P-Pleas-se help m-me.”
Dying would have to wait. She had other plans.
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