The first shot missed him and went into the old plaster wall. The gun had not been oiled in forever and her aim was not great, in spite of the large target. He continued to laugh at her. He was so sure she was more frightened than angry that he didn’t even bother to move. When the second bullet tore into his right side, he looked genuinely surprised. Patty was shaking like a leaf but chuckled in spite of herself. “Crazy prick, that’ll show you.” she muttered.
Scar man took a couple of wobbly steps while paling, started to say something unintelligible and crashed to the floor. It felt to Patty like the entire house shook, but she was thrilled to see him unconscious. His breathing was loud and his chest movement was wrong, but she didn’t care. She jumped over him and into the kitchen, where she looked for her phone.
Before Patty could call anyone, the sound of distant sirens reached her. She had been so intent on her struggle that she forgot how quiet the neighborhood surely was thanks to the cold. She threw cold water on her face. The adrenaline rush make all her discomforts fade and she found herself looking down to be sure her clothes were on straight before the police arrived. There was a knock at the back door.
Her neighbor Rick came crashing through the door before she could answer. He was middle-aged with a paunch, always pleasant if a little creepy. Patty could count on Rick to bring the dogs home if they got out or accept a package delivery if she would not be around. He had this way of noticing her a little more often than she liked, but he seemed harmless.
“What the hell, Patty? I heard gunshots!”
“I can’t believe you came in, Rick. You could have gotten yourself killed.” Patty still had the gun in her shaking hand, and she started to sit down but her captor’s breathing suddenly got louder, reminding her that he was in the next room. “Some crazy man attacked me.” Her voice was tremulous, as the enormity of what she had been through started to seep into her consciousness.
“Holy shit. I can see that. Are you okay? You look awful. Are you in pain? What can I do? Is he still here?” Rick was panicky and fired off all his questions in rapid succession.
“I think I’m okay. I mean, I don’t really know, but I’m standing and he isn’t so I guess so. I shot the guy.”
“Holy shit. Holy shit.” Rick couldn’t wrap his head around the situation. “Patty, maybe you should put the gun down before you drop it.”
She hadn’t realized the gun was still in her hand. Rick helped her set it on the table because she couldn’t let go of it on her own. She had gripped it so tight her fingers were stuck. As she turned to go look at the man on her floor, the front door blasted open with a bang and shouting officers swarmed Patty’s little living area. She nearly leaped into Rick’s arms at the commotion.
Rick gently touched Patty’s elbow and led her to the doorway. Scar man was still on the floor a few feet away but paramedics were working on him. Police shouted at them to get their hands in the air. While they put their hands up, Rick told the police that the gun was on the kitchen table.
By the time the cab brought her home from the ER, Patty was dead on her feet. Her fingers had been splinted and her wounds tended to, and she had some good drugs for pain, sleep and infection. She refused to stay in the hospital, promising to call 911 if she had a problem. But where were her dogs? She would never be able to rest until she figured out what happened to them, even if it just meant burying their bodies in the garden.
She walked around the yard, looking for tracks in the snow and hoarsely calling their names. She saw a ton of footprints thanks to the law enforcement swarm that had been there earlier, but no fresh paw prints. She walked the perimeter of the yard, and then started down the alley. Wait. Was that barking? She listened and thought she heard muffled barking. Hers weren’t the only dogs in the neighborhood, but she was desperate so she followed the sound and found herself standing at Rick’s back door.
Patty was staring through the cracked basement window at her dogs, who were frantically running around, illuminated by a single hanging bulb. They must have heard her calling as she got closer. Why were they Rick’s basement? Unless he found them while she was out and was keeping them safe until she came home? That must be it. She knocked on the door, and he answered so fast she jumped back. Man, she hated being this jumpy. The doctor and nurse had warned her she might be easily startled for a while, but it didn’t make it any easier to tolerate.
“Hey, Rick? Do you have my dogs?”
“Yeah, I saw them in the alley, so I brought them in for safe keeping. I was going to bring them over once I saw you were home.”
“That’s really sweet. Thank you so much.”
“Would you like a cup of tea or coffee? I bet you’re just spent.”
“That would be great, thank you. How about tea?” They chatted while Rick made the tea. He asked about her injuries and treatment and they talked about how bizarre the whole ordeal how been, and how lucky she was that it was over.
“Did you know the guy? Why did he attack you?” Rick was gentle, but persistent in his questioning. “I don’t understand how he even found you!”
“Neither do I. I don’t know if he was the guy outside the window, or not. I only know he followed me not long after I left the Brook’s house. It’s crazy, really. He kept calling me by the wrong name, and asking for some key. I have no idea what the hell he was talking about.” Patty stiffly shook her head. She was starting to relax a bit in spite of herself, and she felt bad for thinking Rick was creepy when he was clearly so kind.
“Well, I should probably get the dogs and get going. I need some sleep.”
Rick stood and motioned for her to come along to the basement door. He opened it, and the dogs were overjoyed to see Patty. She hugged them and talked to them a bit, then called them and turned to leave. Rick was standing at the back door.
“What’s the rush, Diana?” Rick smiled and turned the deadbolt.