Shonda was halfway through her third lap around the block when she began to regret not staying home and using the treadmill.
It wasn’t so much the heat–it was the humidity. It was foggy out, and her skin was slick with perspiration. She felt gross. She stopped and sat down on the park bench outside of the mediation garden the HOA had installed several years prior.
In the distance, down the street, she saw headlights cutting through the morning mist. The vehicle they belonged to slowed as it approached, and eventually came to a full stop nearby.
It was a Black Camry with dark-tinted windows, and something about it made her skin crawl. She rose and resumed her jog, and the car followed. She stopped. It stopped.
She paused a moment, looked over her shoulder, and took off running. The car followed. When she disappeared between two houses and hopped a fence into one of their backyards, the car stopped and she could hear the fading ding of its open door. Footsteps echoed off the sidewalk and driveway.
She crouched down behind a shed that stood against the back fence and peeked around the corner.
A man of about 6’1″ with short, blonde, spiky hair and reflective aviators came over the fence, landing on the grass in a crouching position like a ninja. He was wearing black slacks and a white button-down short-sleeved shirt with a black tie. As he stood, he pulled a gun from a holster at his waist. She cursed herself for leaving hers at home.
Really? The one day I forget it?
He turned and pointed his weapon at the sound of a sliding door opening. A yawning middle-aged woman in a nightgown was letting her Pomeranian outside. She seemed dazed and sleepy until the sight of a strange man with a gun in her yard jolted her awake. She screamed.
“Shut up,” said the man.
He sighed and shot her in the center of her forehead. When the dog spotted him and ran towards him barking its head off, he looked down and lowered his weapon.
“Hey doggy,” he said with a smile, leaning down to pet it.
This was her chance. Shonda barreled towards him as fast her legs would carry her, but just before she had a chance to tackle him, he looked up and raised the gun.
She complied, raising her hands.
“Come with me,” he said. “We’re going to go for a little ride.”
He instructed her to go inside the house, kicking the dog aside when it wouldn’t stop barking and jumping at his leg. It yelped and ran to a safe distance where it turned around and resumed barking.
They stepped around the dead woman on the ground, and went inside. She breathed a sigh of relief when they made it through the house to the front door without encountering anyone else.
She didn’t have time to feel guilty over the woman’s death, to feel sad as she passed by the various mementos and knickknacks and family pictures that decorated the interior of the house. She’d wrestle with those feelings later.
He pressed the cold steel barrel of his gun into her back. “Open it.”
“What’s all this ab–”
“I said open it.”
She unlocked the door, opened it and stepped outside, the gun still poking her in the back.
“Now get in the car. You’re driving.” He looked around to make sure no one was watching and guided her over to the car, where she got behind the driver’s seat. He got in back and put the gun to the back of her neck through the space between the headrest and the seat.
“Where are we going?” she asked in a calm, in-control voice.
“Cunningham Falls? That’s… like an hour away.”
“Shut up. Drive.”
She nodded. “Okay, okay.” Sweat ran down her forehead and into her eyes. She brushed it away with her wrist, and the buttons on the side of her watch scraped against her skin.
Buttons. SOS! She’d had a friend customize the watch so that she could activate the one-touch emergency SOS without the alarm sound. She’d never tried it to see if he’d been successful, though.
I can either die now or die later. This is my only shot. Sooner the better. Just do it.
She pretended to brush more sweat out of her eyes, this time firmly pressing the buttons against her temple.
“Both hands on the wheel!” the man behind her commanded.
“Sorry,” she said, angling the watch so that he wouldn’t see the blinking red emergency countdown on its face.
She exited her neighborhood and followed his directions on which back roads to take until they got on the highway.
It was a quiet, peaceful drive, one she normally enjoyed. Periodically, she’d check on her abductor in the rear view mirror, and not once did she catch him with his eyes off of her. The gun remained pressed against her neck. It was starting to give her a headache.
After driving for nearly thirty minutes through tall, sun-blocking pines in silence, a police car crested a hill up ahead. She held her breath as it approached, and exhaled with disappointment as it passed… until its driver slowed down, did a u-turn, peeled out and turned on its lights and sirens.
“Pull over,” said the man calmly. “And don’t say shit.”
She did as instructed, and the cruiser pulled up behind them. An officer leapt out of the vehicle and crouched behind the door, the barrel of his shotgun resting on the arm of the side mirror.
“Get out of the car!” he roared.
“Shit,” said the man. He slapped her hard on the back of the head, leaned over the seat and snatched her watch off her wrist. “You dumb bitch!” He cracked the butt of his gun against her skull–twice, in fact–and it took every bit of mental strength she had not to pass out.
“Step out of the car, hands up!”
The man opened his door, rolled onto the ground and squeezed off three shots that hit both of the cop’s knees beneath the door.
The officer cried out in agony as the man ran around to the other side of the police car and approached his victim from behind.
Shonda heard more shots, and in the rear view she saw the cop slump to the ground, her kidnapper standing over him.
“Pull yourself together girl…”
Her vision was spotted, blurry and doubled, and she could feel blood trickling down the back of her neck.
She shifted the car into drive, and he saw the brake lights right away.
“Don’t you fuckin’ dare!” he shouted, running towards the car with his gun leveled at the back windshield. He pulled the trigger and it shattered.
She ducked down, put the car in reverse and gunned it until she slammed into the push bar on the dead officer’s bumper.
She opened her door and tumbled out of the car. No one was there, and she heard the sound of dripping fluid. Had she hit him? Was one of the cars leaking gas? She cursed herself again for not bringing her gun with her to jog. She usually did, but now she always would.
She relaxed a little after tiptoeing around to the back of the car. Her assailant’s severed torso lay across the cruiser’s hood, dripping blood between the two vehicles and onto the ground where his bottom half lay. One of his legs was still twitching, and his eyes were wide open. The alternating red and blue lights cast an eerie glow across his pale, blood-drained face.
She quickly located his gun, which was lying near to his stupid sunglasses on the ground.
Deciding against using the police radio to call for help, she got back in the Camry and fled the scene. She didn’t want to be the cause of more bloodshed in the event that the man she’d just killed had backup of his own.
She hadn’t bothered to check the man’s pockets for ID, because she knew there’d be none. If he’d had a phone, it would’ve been a burner.
She’d spent the drive with him racking her brain for some idea as to who he might’ve been working for, and after dismissing several possibilities she arrived at the one conclusion that made sense. Logan.