Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write for the SUSPENSE and/or THRILLER Genre (10/23/14)
TITLE: All Around
By Shelley Ledfors
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I had gone to my favorite Greek place for lunch. I walked, since it was a lovely day. But by the time I left the little bistro, the sky had darkened to an ominous hue. I picked up my pace, hoping to beat the impending downpour. I didn't. Instead, I dashed into the bus-stop shelter to wait out the deluge.
A half-dozen others also congregated in the small area. I moved as close to the edge as I could and—as always—positioned myself where I could keep an eye on everyone else. So when I felt a tap on my side, I gasped and jumped, turning to see who had managed to get so close.
A wizened little black woman beamed up at me from her over-sized wheelchair. I relaxed and returned her smile. She said something, but I couldn't hear her over the pounding rain, so she beckoned me with a gnarled ebony finger. I hesitated, then bent closer.
I recoiled beyond the roof's protection. Rainfall pelted my thin sweater. My heart slammed my rib cage. “What did you say?”
She did not repeat the name, but nodded. She wheeled close and took my hand, drawing me back inside.
“What about him?” Tears welled, and I began to shake.
“Pray what?” My panicked voice rose just as the cloudburst lessened. My question reverberated through the small space. The others glanced warily in my direction.
She responded with a specific phrase, but it made no sense to me.
“I don't understand!”
“All around.” She made a circular gesture and smiled, as though she had answered all my questions.
My head spun. Images flashed on the monitor of my mind; an unwelcome slide-show.
Stalking—online, in person.
Turmoil, fear, sleepless nights.
Police reports, restraining order.
None of it matters.
The kidnapping. Binding me in his apartment.
Photos of me—on every wall. Showing me at work, at church . . . in my bedroom.
Police raid. Swat team. Weeks-long trial, blessed conviction.
Screaming death threats to me as he's hauled away.
A cacophony jolted me back. The storm's brief lull had ended. Rain returned with ferocity, making up for lost time.
“I . . . I have to go.”
Stumbling out into the tempest, I was vaguely aware of the others urging me to stay, but I could not. I had to find out.
The police station was a block away.
“I need to talk to Detective Martin. Now.”
Within minutes he ushered me into his office.
“Please tell me Carter's still in prison.”
“Brenda,” his voice was somber, his expression grave. “I've been trying to reach you. Carter Richardson escaped an hour ago. We'll do whatever we can to keep you safe. An officer will accompany you to your house so you can gather a few things, and then we'll take you to a secure location.”
Numbly, I agreed. A short time later, I trailed the young officer up my front steps.
“Hold on, here.” The door was ajar. “Get back in the car.”
He called for backup, but didn't wait. He drew his gun and slipped inside.
I was almost to the car when I heard footsteps running from behind the towering laurel hedge. I screamed and ran, but he was too close.
Oh, God, please. Not again.
A hand clamped over my nose and mouth. I writhed, kicked. Struggled to breathe. Prayed.
I prayed the officer had heard my shout, that the others would get there soon. That I'd live. That Carter would never hurt anyone again. I prayed everything I could think of.
Except . . .
What had the old woman said?
It hadn't made sense at the time. It still didn't, but I prayed it anyway.
“Open his eyes, Lord.”
My oxygen nearly depleted, I felt myself falling. Sounds reached through the haze. Screams, shouts, squealing tires . . .
“It's over, Brenda.” Detective Martin stood next to my hospital bed.
“Carter began screaming and dropped you. He ran into the street right in front of a responding patrol car. It hit him. He died in surgery.”
“Did he say anything?”
“That's the weird part. He babbled about immense beings, all around.” The detective made a circular gesture. “Oh, and get this. He said in the middle of the beings, there was someone else. A small black woman in a wheelchair.”
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