The rain had started in earnest as Tonya reached the dark back parking lot. The smell of rotting garbage emanated from the battered green dumpster, and a mangy orange cat peered at her from underneath it. Lightning flashed and illuminated the eerie scene, followed by a clap of thunder that made Tonya jump.
Fumbling with the key in the lock of the driver’s door, she was suddenly jerked backwards by something around her neck. She staggered back, her hands instinctively going to her throat. Then she had the sensation of someone behind her holding her close. She felt hot breath on her neck and a raspy voice whispered viciously in her ear. “Stop asking questions. And stop playing detective. Or you and that nice little farm of yours will go up in smoke.”
Then she was pushed violently against the door, her head banging hard against the metal. Lights danced before her eyes and she had the sensation of falling. She slid to the ground face first, gravel grinding into her mouth and blood pouring from her nose. Her last sensation was of something sharp striking her across the neck.
Tonya lay in the darkness next to the truck, afraid to move. Slowly she sat up and peered around. No one was there. Leaning against the pickup’s door, she wiped the blood from her face on her sleeve while her heartbeat returned to normal. Her neck was throbbing. Feeling it with her hand, she sensed a welt beginning to rise on the skin. Suddenly she heard footsteps running toward her and she began to panic. What if her attacker was returning to finish the job?
She staggered to her feet and searched for her keys. They were lying on the ground at her feet. Could she bend over to get them without passing out? All of a sudden, Adam was by her side, his arm around her shoulders.
“Tonya. What happened? Are you alright?”
Almost against her will, she leaned against him and burst into tears. He held her close, his arms wrapped tenderly around her, not caring that she was bleeding all over his nice jacket. For several minutes, she couldn’t speak. Finally, he held her at arms’ length and surveyed the damage.
“You need to go to the emergency room. I’ll call an ambulance.” He took out his cell phone.
“No, Adam, no,” she whispered. “I don’t need that. I just need to go home.” She bent down to retrieve the keys and when she straightened up, dizziness and nausea overwhelmed her.
Adam looked her over with the practiced eye of a policeman familiar with accidents and injuries. “I’ll drive you to the hospital. You might have a concussion.”
“No. I’m going home.” She started to open the door, but he closed it.
“I can’t let you do that,” he said, using his official voice. “If you have no concern for yourself, that’s one thing. But you’re a danger to other motorists. If you won’t go to the ER, at least let me take you home. My car is right over here.”
Before she could protest, he steered her toward his cruiser and opened the door for her. Settling into the seat, her mind whirled. Who could have done such a thing? There was no attempt to take her purse or steal her truck, so it must have been personal. And what was it the voice said? Stop asking questions? Who knew she had been asking questions? This must be connected to the murder. Was it the murderer who attacked her? And what was that about the farm going up in smoke?
Three to One Odds, by D.M. O’Byrne, is under contract for publication with Black Opal Books. Scheduled release May, 2018. All rights reserved.