Excerpt from “A Murder Unseen”
For a lady to take a shortcut through a dimly lit back alley close to midnight is not advisable. I should have known better. I did know better, but I was in a hurry. I was tired and not thinking clearly. It had been a long day at the hospital where I worked as a registered nurse. A double shift was not what I had planned on, but it was what I ended up working. All I wanted to do was to get home.
Home. What a wonderful ring that word held for me. Home was all about family. Home was where Henry was. Henry and my beloved children. I was 23 when I met Henry. He was 26 and in his fourth year of medical school. Chance would have it that his clinical rotations were scheduled at the same hospital and on the same floor where I was working my first real job as a registered nurse. It wasn’t love at first sight. Henry wasn’t flashy like the men I had dated up until then, but he made me feel special and important. He was mature and stable. Stability was what I needed more than love, though love was still high on my list. When he reminded me of my father, whom I adored, I knew one day I would marry him.
I still grieve when I think of my father’s early and unexpected death. A heart attack, they told me. He was so strong, so healthy. And then he was gone. And I? I was left an orphan since my mother died in childbirth with me.
But back to Henry. A few years later I did marry him and not just because of his stability and maturity. I grew to love him with a true and deep love, not simple infatuation. Then, despite my fears of childbirth, I wanted a family.
Cody James was born 11 months later, an adorable baby with soft curly blond locks that lulled me into thinking motherhood was easy. He definitely took after his father. Calm and easygoing from the beginning, he slept through the night from the second week. He cooed, hardly ever cried, and made me want another baby.
Crystal Rose was born 18 months later. The lusty cry she gave at birth should have warned me, but I mistakenly presumed she would be as angelic as her older brother. She wasn’t. She was blessed with my strong-willed ways—and colicky besides.
I’ll admit it, being the only child of a widowed man, I was spoiled and self-willed. Crystal definitely took after me, and within a month, though my nurse’s training assured me differently, my weary body wondered if a person could die from lack of sleep.
Obviously, I did not die. Crystal is three now; Cody is five. I feel blessed with a loving family. I can’t wait to get home. I never planned to work a double shift, but a friend needed me to fill in for her. That is what led up to my being in a dark alley close to midnight.
I was only a few feet down the alley when I heard the hollow sound of something heavy connecting with someone’s skull, followed by a man’s groaning. My heart nearly leapt from my chest. Amazingly, I managed to swallow the cry that arose in my throat. I stopped, hardly daring to breathe, and listened.
Right then I should have turned and fled back out of the alley. I would love to try to convince myself that I didn’t because I was brave and concerned for the poor soul ahead of me, but that wouldn’t be honest of me. The truth is I was petrified and could not have fled if I had wanted to.
A deep voice not far from me snapped me out of my state of shock.
“You didn’t think we’d find out. Did you?”
I jumped, and how the man didn’t hear me at that point I can’t imagine. At first I thought he was talking to me, but then I heard the injured man respond in a raspy voice. “You won’t get away with this. Someone will find out, someday.”
“Maybe, but not today.” The response was ominous.
I realized then that they were just on the other side of the dumpster to my right. I quietly stepped back into the protective shadow of the dumpster where the street light at the end of the alley would not expose me. All I wanted to do was to get out of there before my pounding heart alerted them to my presence. I clutched my purse tighter to my body, building up the courage to walk back the way I had come.
It was then that I heard the gunshot. The man was using a silencer, but it was definitely a gunshot. I heard the dead weight of a body slide down against the wall, falling to the ground with a thud. I felt shock. I felt bile rising in my throat. And I knew I was in trouble.
Easing back against the wall, wanting to make myself invisible, I waited for the inevitable footsteps. When I heard them, I let out a cautious sigh of relief. He was walking down the alley—away from me. I was lucky—luckier than the man on the other side of the dumpster.
I waited until his footsteps faded into oblivion and then turned to leave. The clattering sound of cans being knocked over sent my heart into spasms. I nearly laughed aloud when I realized that it was I who had knocked the cans over, and not the killer coming back to get me. I was on edge and wanted out of there as fast as I could. I hurried out of there with fear hovering like a black cloud over me. No more shortcuts. I was headed to the safety of my car the long way.
As I reached the end of the alley, I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. It was one of those moments in life when you don’t think. You simply act. I swung my purse at the movement—and I wasn’t carrying a lady’s evening purse. My purse more closely resembled a small backpack and inside was everything from a wallet to a cell phone to a small pistol my father had insisted I always carry. Not that it was doing me much good in my purse. But then again, maybe it was. It was probably the pistol that slammed against my attacker’s skull, knocking him out cold. At least I thought he was my attacker—and I thought he was out cold. I didn’t stay around to find out. I was running before he hit the ground. I was running for the safety of my car. I was running for my life.
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