DAY 1 - Monday, 8:49 p.m.
NINA WHITE leaned back in her swivel chair and glanced out the large window in her office. The street, a hub of activity during the day, was now strangely quiet and peaceful. A passing car drove by slowly, its headlights cutting a narrow path through the gathering darkness. It pulled to the far side of the street a hundred feet away and the lights of the car died. A dark figure sat unmoving in the driver seat.
Nina yawned and turned back to her desk. She didn’t often work this late, but enrollment at Richmond North High School was growing and her workload grew along with it. She decided it was time to pack it in for the evening and perhaps get some rare time with her patient husband. She could get a fresh start early in the morning.
She glanced out the window again. The driver of the car had disappeared and she craned her neck curiously. There were no houses along this street, the school property taking up the whole of one side, a block-long park on the other.
She closed the folder on her desk, stood, and tucked it into a file cabinet. She felt pleased with her day’s accomplishment. Lately, her evenings had been spent developing a new guidance curriculum. As school counselor, it was her job and her pleasure to effectively provide students the support they need to succeed in school and fulfill their dreams. Their dreams were her dreams and she took her job seriously.
Nina retrieved her handbag from the bottom drawer of her desk and stuffed a folder of notes and ideas she had been working on into the bag. Flicking off the office light, she stepped into the darkened hallway, closing the door behind her.
Most everyone was gone for the night. Right now, the only occupants of the school would be the security guard, sleepily making his rounds through the dimly lit hallways as the cleaning crew faithfully scrubbed the day’s accumulation of dirt from the corridors and classroom floors.
She went to the exit doors, stopping long enough to dig her key ring from her bag, and then unlocked the door and stepped into the warm evening air. She carefully locked the door behind her, using the bright streetlight to select her car key from the ring before going into the darkness of the school parking lot.
She glanced down the quiet street. The vehicle that stopped earlier was no longer there. The park across the street was vacated, children and sun-lovers now nestled securely in their homes for the night.
At the rear of the building, the cleaning crew’s van was backed up to a service entrance, the security car in an adjoining slot, the only vehicles in sight except her own. Her car sat in its usual space, backed up to a high wooden fence at the far end of the lot. It was further to walk, but overhanging trees kept the car cool during hot summer days.
As she neared her vehicle, she pressed the key fob and was welcomed by a pair of beeps and a distinct click as her car doors unlocked.
Behind her, a bright light cast a long shadow ahead of her. The light drew closer and she turned. It was a car. The same car parked across the street from her office a few minutes earlier.
The engine roared as the vehicle gathered speed, heading straight for her. She waved her arms frantically. Didn’t he see her?
She froze in the headlights a moment, then her handbag fell from her shoulder as she lunged to one side. She felt a breeze as the car whipped through the spot she occupied a moment before. Her handbag tumbled and rolled, destroyed by the tires of the vehicle.
She clambered to her feet, her heart pounding furiously in her chest. Someone was trying to kill her. Why?
Her body shook all over, her breathing rapid and shallow, and she found it hard to think clearly.
Nina hesitated a moment and then raced toward her car. She stopped short as the driver hit the brakes hard, squealed to a stop on the asphalt, then spun around and stopped. The attacking vehicle faced the side of her car, its headlights flooding the door. As the driver revved the engine, she recoiled in horror.
He was waiting. Waiting for her.
She glanced toward her handbag. Even if she could get to it, her cell phone was probably destroyed, and she could never make it safely into her vehicle before being rammed. The fence behind her car was too high to climb. There was no choice but to run back across the parking lot to the school and hope she could outrun her attacker.
She spun around and sprinted across the lot at full speed. Tires squealed behind her and she glanced over her shoulder. The car moved forward, straight toward her.
She would never make it.
Nina stopped short, turned to face the vehicle, tensed her leg muscles, and held her breath. The car missed her by inches as she dove aside at the last second. She stumbled to her feet as the vehicle braked and circled around for another try.
Her strategy wasn’t going to work. She thought frantically for a way out of the deadly situation. She raced for the passenger side of her car, tugged at the handle, and the door swung open.
She lunged inside, fell prone across the front seat, and scrambled to a sitting position. Her eyes bulged and panic overtook her as the other car sped toward her head on. There was a roar, then a crash, as the killer vehicle swerved and rammed the passenger side door. It closed with an explosion of shattered glass and twisted metal.
But she was unharmed.
She howled in exasperation coupled with intense fear. Her keys. She dropped her keys when she lost her handbag. She squinted through the windshield and saw them, twenty feet in front, glinting in the soft moonlight. And off to her left, the deadly car relentlessly persisted, lined up to t-bone her vehicle from the driver side.
There was no protection, no way of starting the vehicle, and no one to help. She dove headlong through the empty window, gouging her side on a shard of glass as she scrambled to escape the death trap.
She landed hard on her shoulder, hitting her head on the asphalt, stunning her. She lay still a moment, clearing her senses, trying to catch her breath as the killer vehicle roared somewhere close by.
Her keys. She had to get her keys.
She stumbled to her feet, dazed and hurting, and staggered toward her key ring. It was her only chance. She dodged the vehicle once and she could do it again. She would grab her keys, make it to her car, and get away as quickly and as far as possible.
Nina raced to her keys, crouched down, and scrambled to pick them up as tires squealed behind her. She turned to face the killing machine, its headlights nearly blinding her as it roared closer. She waited, poised, and ready.
Too late. The deadly machine struck her. Her feet left the ground, tossing her to the asphalt. She landed on her back, stunned and unable to move. One leg felt broken, the other weak and useless. She attempted to clear her mind, to think clearly, to still the panic overwhelming her senses.
Tires squealed again. An engine thundered.
She struggled to sit but fell back on her elbows. As she gazed helplessly toward the oncoming vehicle, she saw her murderer’s face for the first time, illuminated by the moonlight.
It was a face she recognized. A face from many years ago.
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