With the holiday coming, I probably won’t post anymore of the book until Christmas is over. But I thought I’d share chapter 4. We get to see a nicer side to Jimmy Smith, a favorite character who will eventually get his own book. And what a book that will be!
The stalker is getting braver, so we don’t know what can happen!
Keeva wished she’d finally just fixed her bike when she walked outside and realized how dark it was. She thought about calling Mac or Lucy, but they would question why she hadn’t driven to work. Right now she didn’t need any lectures, or reprimands for not asking them to loan her the money for car insurance.
She started a slow jog, giving her blood time to flow and warm her muscles. A tornado of thoughts about the note, the financial problems at the bakery, and Tony whirled in her head. Running always helped her relax, and as she mentally sorted through these events, she began to feel better.
Her heart beat in rhythm with her pace by the time she reached Benton Avenue. Except for the light evening traffic, there wasn’t anyone else around. The sidewalk in front of her became dark, the tall trees and dense hedges blocked out the glow from nearby lights. The memory of the dark alley sent a sense of dread rippling through her.
Her breathing accelerated. She couldn’t run into the street, and the hedges prevented her from moving in another direction. She began to pick up her pace, wanting to get past the shaded area. Then twenty feet in front of her, the hedges moved and a shadow emerged. She blinked, her pace slowed. No, it couldn’t be. She would have seen someone following her.
Her feet froze in place and she rubbed her eyes, wishing the sight would vanish like her childhood nightmares. It couldn’t be him. But it was. She could see the same dark hoodie and he had the same silhouette she had seen running away in the alley. She began moving backwards, afraid to turn her back on him. She wanted to run back to the café, but she had always been a slow runner. She looked around frantically. The few cars that had been around were long gone and the street was deserted. She needed to call for help.
Keeva unzipped her jacket and pulled her phone from the inside pocket. She needed to call someone, but numbers wouldn’t come to her. Her fingers shook as she looked at the brightly lit phone. Hurry, hurry! She punched in 9-1-1. Her thoughts jumbled. Two cars drove by. She wanted to scream and point at the man. She wondered if they saw him. She sucked to get air, and nothing happened. She felt dizzy. The phone began ringing and she bent over, her chest squeezing.
“Capital City 9-1-1, what is your emergency?”
“Um,” words wouldn’t come out, the sidewalk moved under her feet. She looked back at the man. Nothing. Nobody was there. Keeva blinked. A vise squeezed her throat and her heart pounded like a fist inside her chest. What had happened? He must have run back into the bushes.
“Hello, is this an emergency?”
“I’m sorry. I…” her mouth had gone dry and she had trouble speaking.
“Are you okay? Can you tell me your name?”
“I’m really sorry. I’m Keeva Ryan. I’m so embarrassed.” The phone shook in her hand and as a result, she pressed it closer to her face. “I witnessed a crime the other night and I’m just spooked. I’m sorry.” She wanted to stop apologizing, but the words kept coming. She stared at the spot in front of her. Had she imagined him?
“Do you need a police officer?”
“No, thank you.” She whispered the last words and touched the phone, ending the call. Home. She needed to get home. Willing her feet to move, she placed one foot in front of the other. It felt like she had weights wrapped around her ankles. Her legs wobbled like a newborn fawn, unsteady with their gate. Placing the phone in her side pocket, she kept her hand wrapped tightly around it. She moved forward on shaky legs.
Like a dark tunnel inviting horrors, the shadowed sidewalk loomed in front of her. Her breaths still shallow, and her muscles tense with the fear that the man was hiding in the shrubbery. Cold sweat began soaking through her clothes while her heart exploded in her chest. Forcing her legs to keep moving, she reached the place the dark apparition had stood and stepped into the street.
She increased her pace, quickly passing the shaded spot. She glanced back, causing herself to stumble. Panic pushed her into a full sprint. A few blocks ahead, relief flooded her when she saw her street. Rounding the corner, she willed her feet to slow and a short while later, her apartment came into view.
She had just reduced her stride when a police car passed her and pulled to a stop in front of her apartment. Jimmy Smith stepped out of the car and turned to face her. She now felt like a bigger idiot than she had ten minutes ago.
She walked the last block, hoping he’d leave. “Hi Jimmy,” she said as she crossed the street. Her face had already turned red from the run, but she knew her embarrassment would have caused the same reaction.
Under the street lamp, she could see him grinning. “Making crank calls these days?”
Keeva didn’t find any humor in his joke. She smirked. “I can’t believe they sent you here. I told the dispatcher it was a mistake.” She moved next to Jimmy and leaned her back against the car and looked up at him. He smiled but his questioning eyes remained unmoving, frozen on her.
By brandishing a bad boy attitude along with scintillating good looks and a loner personality, he had created a keep-away-from-me persona. With equanimity, Keeva had both feared and adored Jimmy, finding it safer to keep her distance until a chance conversation had revealed their shared grief over losing their parents at a young age. Their common loss had formed a bond along with a comfortable friendship. Now, like swings moving in tandem, they could chat with ease.
“Don’t worry. She knew I was in the area and told me about the call. I just wanted to check you were okay.” After a few seconds, he tipped his head and lifted his eyebrows. “Well?”
“I’m fine,” she moaned. “I just thought I saw someone that looked like the man who attacked those kids. I panicked.” She shivered, the cold air seeping through her jacket. “It’s just nerves.”
“You know they haven’t found the guy. Are you sure you didn’t see him?”
She was no longer positive what she had seen. “Honest. There wasn’t anyone there. I had been running hard and mistook a shadow for a person.”
He shook his head. “I can’t force you to tell me what happened, but I’m not convinced.” He crossed his arms and looked ready to stand there all night if she didn’t answer. “I know about the note.” He eyed her, she suspected, trying to judge her reaction.
She shrugged and looked at the ground.
“There is a chance someone is following you. You need to take this seriously.” He turned sideways, placing a hand over the top of the car, stepping closer to her. “Just tell me what you saw and I’ll pass it on to,” he paused, “Salazar.” His voice sounded condescending when he said Tony’s name. She wondered what Tony had done to make Jimmy dislike him.
She took a breath, not relishing the idea of reliving the embarrassing moment. “There isn’t much to tell. I had been running home from work and was running hard. I guess I’m still jumpy from,” she paused, “the other night. I can’t be sure I saw anything. It looked like a man with a hoodie stepped out onto the sidewalk. I pulled out my phone,” she still held the phone in her hand and fumbled it in her pocket. “I started to call 9-1-1, but when I looked up he wasn’t there.” Her cheeks heated with renewed embarrassment. “I was just nervous. I’m sorry to make such a big deal.”
“You don’t need to apologize, this is what I do.” He put a hand on her shoulder, turning her to face him. “And you’re a friend. I’d have come anyway. As a friend and a cop, I’m going to ask you to take more precautions. At least until we catch this guy. Drive your car instead of running. If you must run, find someone to run with. What if it had been him?”
“I know. I promise to be more careful when I go out.” He didn’t need to know being careful meant riding her bicycle not driving her car. She would still be cautious. She was broke, not stupid. “I need a favor from you too, Jimmy.”
“Depends, it might cost you.” He gave her a half-smile.
She rolled her eyes. “Please don’t mention this to Mac if you see him?” Though Mac and Jimmy had never gotten along, it was a small town and she knew there was a chance they would see each other. “He’s got enough on his plate and doesn’t need to know about tonight.”
“It’s a deal, but you need to promise to be more cautious.”
Keeva gave a mock salute. “Yes, sir.”
“You sure you’re all right? I can stay around, check the apartment if you like?” His icy blue eyes softened.
She could still feel the tension in her muscles and had to hug her abdomen to control the shaking. “Would you? Maybe just check the apartment?” She felt childish asking, but she didn’t know how she would be able to get herself into the apartment alone right now.
Five minutes later, she watched from her window as Jimmy waved at her before driving away. She shivered, still feeling the cold chill of that dark shadow. She brushed it off. It had to be nervousness and leftover adrenaline.