Christa was folding the last of her laundry when Jake started barking outside, as if he’d cornered something. The raccoon again? “Oh, for the love of—” She stilled, hoping he would quiet down. Teryl and Drew had already gone to bed and given how lousy Teryl had been feeling, she didn’t want anything to disturb them.
Jake kept on barking. She’d have to go and deal with the dog before he woke the entire neighborhood, so she grabbed a broom from the utility closet and hurried to the patio doors.
Way to go, Jake, make everyone mad so you’ll have to stay in a kennel.
She unlocked the doors and stepped out onto the deck, triggering the security lights and scanning the yard. Jake was poised below a cedar tree at the rear fence, staring into the darkness beyond.
“Jake!” she whispered. “Come here.” She should have known better than to expect a border collie to obey that command when he was concentrating on something else. “Jake, shhhh! You’ll wake the whole neighborhood.” Resigned, she set off towards him with a sigh, broom in hand.
Outside the reassuring circle of light cast by the motion sensors, Jake froze into place. What if it wasn’t the raccoon? Maybe she should go get Drew, just in case …
No. She refused to disturb him and Teryl. She was probably being paranoid. She crept closer to Jake.
His hackles went up, a growl coming from his throat. Her fingers tightened around the broomstick, lifted high, but she saw no sign of the raccoon.
In the shadows something moved … the branches in the wind? No, something else. Something big. She stepped back, bumping into a tree. A roaring filled her ears, the metallic tang of fear filling her mouth.
Her mind screamed it, her flesh prickling and crawling her legs paralyzed.
The shadow moved again, materializing into a man’s silhouette.
He’d shaved his head completely bald.
The scream clawed its way up her throat as she pivoted to flee, the kitchen light a beacon of safety. A hand clamped over her mouth after only a thread of sound could escape, snapping her head back, his body bearing her down to the dew-wet grass. Jake yelped and lunged at her attacker, who caught him in the stomach with a kick. The dog gave a shriek and disappeared under a bush.
She fought with every ounce of strength, swinging her elbow at his face. Before she could do any damage he caught her wrist and twisted it halfway up her back, his other hand stifling her screams. She flailed underneath him, trying to land a blow with her knee, her foot, but he was too fast. And strong. Too strong. His breath sawed in and out as he flipped her face down, tugging her arms behind her.
He slapped something wide and sticky over her mouth, and she wrenched her head back and forth trying and dislodge it. Duct tape. She could hardly breathe, sucking in gulps of air through her nose. Panic gave way to hysteria, making the world tilt as her vision blurred. Her voice was hoarse from the bloodcurdling cries tearing out of her, only to be muffled by her gag. After the rip of more tape being peeled off, her limbs were immobilized. Trussed and helpless, she struggled against her bonds as he dragged her through the yard and the open gate into the alley, muscling her toward a vehicle.
Don’t let him get me in the car, she prayed, twisting and thrashing, rolling her eyes back toward the house. No one had heard her scream. No one would be coming to help.
Please God, don’t let him get me into that car…