On Wednesdays, I’ll post a snippet from my current work-in-progresses. Right now, I really only have one going, which is is the never-to-be-finished novel, Dark Goddess. Here is the first chapter, presented in its entirety.
Kali Johnson’s skin started to prickle the moment the stranger sat in the empty seat next to her. The movie theater was nearly devoid of people, and yet he had chosen to sit next to her. She clenched her jaw and tried to decide if she should turn and glare at him, ignore him, or just move. There were a couple of white haired old women sitting a few rows down. She could go sit near them. Maybe the pervert would leave her alone.
Deciding that it would be the easiest course, Kali slipped her book bag strap over her shoulder and started to rise.
he man grabbed her wrist, his grip bruising. “I have a gun,” he said in a voice just loud enough for Kali to hear him over the previews. “Do as I say and you won’t get hurt.”
She pulled against his grip. “Let go of my arm.”
He tugged her back down to the seat and shoved up the armrest between them. Moving closer to her, her leaned in. “I am very serious. I have a gun in my hand. Come with me now, and no one gets hurt.”
She was about to push him away when she felt it. Hard and bruising against her side through her shirt and his jacket.
Her protest died in her throat. Sweat broke out on her temples and palms and her breath was very loud in her ears.
“Good. Come.” The man stood, pulling her roughly to her feet. “We’re going to walk out of the theater. You won’t call for help. You won’t indicate distress to anyone. Understand?”
The gun was still pressed against her. She nodded again. Allowed him propel her down the row of empty seats to the stairs. Her feet found their path without any guidance from her. His hand on her wrist and the gun against her side were all she could feel. The thud of her heart and her over-loud breath filled her ears, drowning out all other sounds. In all her life, she’d never felt more alone.
The light pierced her eyes when they exited into the lobby. She squinted, the bright colors of tee shirts carpeting and food concession displays blurring in a mass of streaks. The man moved next to her, twisting the arm he’d captured behind her and trapping it against the small of her back. A sharp pain shot through her shoulder, but she hardly noticed it. The gun, hidden beneath his unseasonable overcoat, stole her focus.
There were people in the lobby, flesh colored shapes. She looked at them, the part of her mind not consumed with the gun wondering if anyone would notice. Anyone would see. But not one of them looked at her. They looked at movie posters, at the screens blaring advertisements around the lobby, at the popcorn, or their running children. Kali was invisible.
“Open the door,” he ordered.
She pushed the exit door opened. The shock of fresh air against her face caused her to inhale sharply. It was her first real breath since he’d grabbed her, and the air cleared her head somewhat. She looked over at her captor.
He was an older man, brown hair, brown goatee shot through with threads of silver. Long brown eyelashes framed steely grey eyes. He was taller than she, but everyone was. He had no real distinguishing marks, no freckles or moles or scars. Maybe his neck. There was a light splash of white scar tissue that showed over his collar when he turned his head, but she couldn’t be sure. The shirt was blue, button up, but all she could really see was the black trench coat he wore.
“Where are you taking me?” she asked.
He twisted her arm, not so it hurt, but as a warning. “Don’t talk.”
A kid about nine or ten ran past, laughing, carrying a skateboard. A couple of teenage girls came out of a shop, cell phones pressed against their ears. Shopping bags dangled from their wrists, and they nudged one another, pointing and giggling as a group of teenage boys walked passed.
A security guard stood at the end of the row of shops.
Her breath must have caught, or she must have tensed, or maybe her captor just knew, because he twisted her arm again, harder this time.
She let her eyes slid away from the guard. Looked at the ground and held her breath as they walked past him.
Her captor turned the corner. He began to walk faster as the parking lot came into view, forcing Kali to keep pace.
And then, they were in the parking lot, surrounded by cars, early afternoon heat rising off the black tar. He moved even fast now, practically running, pushing her ahead of him until she was tripping over her feet.
“Here.” He stopped abruptly, wrenching her arm.
She let out a startled cry.
He released her arm. Pushed her against a the white van. “Don’t move.”
She looked over her shoulder.
He had the gun out of his coat now and was pointing it at her. His other hand dug in his pocket.
“Where are you taking me?”
“Shut up.” He tugged the keys at his pocket, but they didn’t come out. The gun dipped.
Adrenaline surged through her as she saw her opening. Her one chance now that his attention was divided.
She took a deep breath. Dropped her right shoulder, letting the strap to her bag fall. She caught it in her fist before it hit the ground. Then, as he started to say something, she pivoted, swinging the bag.
She hit his arm, causing it to swing away from her. The corner of a textbook must have hit something in his wrist, because he shouted out and lost his grip on the gun. It arced in the air, hit a car, then rattled to the ground.
She ignored him, running as fast as she could. Her arms pumped, her sneakers crunch on the asphalt. Her heart pounded until she was sure it was going to burst, but she kept running. Onto the sidewalk, back towards the shops.
He crashed into her from behind. They fell, Kali belly flopping on the cement. The air was forced from her lungs. She jerked her head up to avoid hitting it, but her chin smashed on the sidewalk and she bit her tongue. Blood filled her mouth.
Her captor grabbed her wrists and hauled her back to her feet. As soon as she was upright, Kali kicked at him. She connected with his kneecap.
He let out a shout. She kicked him again, harder, getting higher, twisting her wrists as she did.
One hand popped free. Kali turned, swinging, and caught his ear with the flat of her palm.
He lost his grip. She started running again. The pink stucco of the theater walls disappeared into the tree-lined entrance of the shopping center. Kali turned inside. Startled faces of shoppers blurred together as she pushed through the crowd. She darted around the bodies she could. Shoved those she couldn’t.
“Help,” she screamed, or tried to. It felt as if there were a block is her throat that ate the sounds she made. “Help me!”
Hands reached out, touched her. Grabbed at her arms, at her clothes. Her panic made thinking impossible, and every hand belonged to her captor. She jerked away from them.
A body planted itself in front of her, white and blue, hands out, blocking. She saw its mouth moving, heard words but didn’t understand them.
She tried to sidestep, but tripped. She fell, landing on her elbow.
The body knelt in front of her. “Miss, calm down,” it said. “You’re fine. You’re safe.”
The security guard. He was there, kneeling, looking at her through concerned eyes.
Kali pushed herself up. “A man tried to kidnap me. He had a gun. At the movie.”
“Is he still here?”
“I don’t know. I ran away.” She swiped at her chin, her hand coming away streaked with blood.
“He hurt you?”
“He twisted my arm. Threw me on the ground. He…” she broke off and inhaled. Her lungs made an unfamiliar wheezing sound as she did. The block in her throat made it impossible to get enough air.
“Have her put her head between her knees,” someone in the crowd surrounding her said.
“No, she should lay down. Put her feet up.”
“Anyone have a paper bag?”
“I have an inhaler! Do you want to borrow it?”
The guard pressed the talk button on the walkie-talkie on his shoulder. “Operator?”
“I have a fifteen year old…”
“Seventeen,” Kali corrected, still wheezing.
He raised an eyebrow, but said, “Seventeen year old female in respiratory distress. She says she was forcibly taken at gunpoint from the movies. Contact the police and call for an ambulance.”
The guard placed his hand on her shoulder. “Just close your eyes and try to relax. Take deep breaths. You’re going to be fine.”
Kali nodded Closed her eyes. When she tried to breathe through her nose, she couldn’t get enough air. At the end of each breath, she has to open her mouth and gasp.
“Miss, can you describe your assailant? Hair color, clothing, and feat…”
He was cut off by a piercing screams. Breaks squealed. There was a loud crash.
A van barreled through the plaza. It plowed benches and kiosks in its path, barely missing people as it bore down on Kali and the security guard.
Kali’s gaze was riveted on the man behind the wheel. The cold grey eyes staring at her. Determination in every line of his face as he glared at her. He didn’t look at the people who fled his path or the kiosks that dented and scratched his fender. He didn’t notice the security guard next to her that had drawn his gun. The man’s gaze was for Kali alone.
“That’s him,” Kali whispered. She stood. The world around her moved in slow motion. Screams dimmed. Bodies faded. The air went still.
Then, the guard planted himself in front of her. “Stop!” His arms trembled as he took aim at the van racing toward them.
Tires screeched. The van swerved to a stop. The man climbed out, shot-gun in hand. He aimed at the guard.
“Get out of the way.”
“Put the gun down and get on the ground.”
Kali shook her head and covered her eyes. She knew what would happen and she didn’t want to see.
“I said, ‘get out of my way,’” her captor repeated.
Kali peeked through her fingers.
“Put it down!”
The man fired.
The sound echoed off the windows of the shops. A silence fell, like all the air had been sucked off the earth. Like time had frozen.
The guard collapsed.
Her captor was at her side before she dropped her hands from her eyes. He took her wrist and pulled. “No more fighting, Kali,” he said.
A cold, dark anger welled through her. Fear fell away. She tightened her jaw, tossed her hair back from her face, and met his eyes. “Fuck you .” She yanked her arm away.
Too late, she saw the butt of the shotgun. The world exploded in a red, hot light. And, nothing.