by R.A. Reader
Loosely based on a true situation, a body is found close to the protagonist's home.
| "I"m In Fear for My Life!" Word Count 1838
The woman crested the rise in the road only to be stopped by all the television vans crowding the intersecting roads ahead. Satellite dishes on raised metal poles reached into the air and a few professionally dressed men and women with perfectly coiffed hair paced nervously about, holding microphones.
Janine eased her Toyota forward and saw that there was just enough room to get by onto her road, although as she did so she couldn't help noticing the red and blue lights flashing in front of the television vans. In addition, there was a large, RV sized vehicle with the letters "CSU" stenciled boldly on the side, pulled into the parking lot of the small white church Janine saw every day she drove to town or work. "CSU" could only mean one thing. Crime Scene Unit.
She had watched enough crime shows to recognize that this was not a cow tipping episode or a prank pulled by local teens. This was farm and horse country, where the most exciting thing that happened was someone hitting a deer or being pulled over for a DUI.
When Janine rounded the corner, she pulled over and got out of her mini-SUV. She approached a man standing away from the van activity and leaning against his car. "So what's happening here?"
She hoped she sounded casual, but she felt anything but. Her husband was away on business and it was only she and her faithful German Shepherd at home, a fair distance from any neighbors.
The man turned toward her. "Remember that police officer in New Castle who disappeared last week along with his SUV?"
"Yeah, sure," Janine answered. "It's been all over the news."
"Well, a body's been found in the field behind that church, and the unofficial word is that it might be him."
Janine felt sick.She rarely locked her doors, feeling so at ease with how far away from everything she and her husband were in the country. Suddenly that feeling was shattered. A dead body. A crime scene unit. She felt like she was in the middle of one of the cop shows she loved to watch on television. Reality wasn't nearly as glamorous, though, not to mention much more frightening.
She called her husband after driving the rest of the short way home and locking all the doors. "Sean, you aren't going to believe this."
After she told him the details, Sean told her confidently that the first thing the criminals would do after dumping a body would be to get as far away as possible. Janine relaxed a little. Of course Sean was right. It made perfect sense.
Or did it? Janine made sure her German Shepherd was sleeping in her room that night, and that her Beretta Compact Storm pistol was loaded with hollow point bullets. She normally didn't sleep with the pistol near her bed, but that night she made certain it was on the bedside table within easy reach.
With her cell phone charging next to the pistol and her dog Max in the room Janine felt fairly secure. Before falling asleep she silently went over the process she would need to follow should someone break into her home. As she did so, the thought went through her mind, "Even though I have a gun, how could I ever shoot someone? Would I really do it?"
The night passed uneventfully, and Janine laughed at herself the next morning for having been so nervous, even though Sean wasn't due back until the following day.
Right before leaving for the county high school to substitute again, Janine did a double take . She could have sworn the loaf of sliced bread on the counter was almost full the night before. Also,the basement door was slightly ajar. But Janine quickly brushed both observations off, as she could have easily been mistaken about the amount of bread, and the basement door didn't always shut the entire way. She had done a load of laundry down there last night. If someone had been in the house the night before, wouldn't Max have barked or done something to let her know a stranger was in his domain?
Shaking her head at her own suspicions,Janine left for the school. It didn't help that all she heard throughout the day was talk about the body and the fact that the person or persons who committed the crime hadn't been apprehended yet.
When Janine arrived home she immediately grabbed her pistol and did a thorough search through the house, both upstairs and down. Upon finding no evidence of anyone being inside, she felt silly for being so paranoid. Suddenly it occurred to her that she hadn't checked the barn. It was a large building painted blood red in the back yard. There were a few windows, but they were so covered in years of filth that even in daylight with the few fluorescent lights on it was difficult to see much without a flashlight.The many hidden corners and other areas in the barn, like the upstairs platform and the inside of the the two horse trailer caused Janine to hesitate checking out the termite-ridden building.
She resolved that she'd covered her most important areas and after letting Max back in from his pee break, Janine locked the three main entrances to the house. As darkness crept inexorably over the horizon, Janine drew the curtains, fed Max and heated up a frozen meal before retiring to bed early to read. She had been reading a Dean Koontz novel, but decided that just wasn't the best reading material with the paranoia already going through her head.
Her nightly conversation with Sean was brief, as he had a dinner engagement and the time difference due to his location limited how long they could talk. Janine settled into bed with her book. She was reading for an hour before she she heard it. A creaking sound, followed by a muffled thump. Max growled, his hair standing up on the ruff behind his head.
Janine waited in silence, staring at her closed door. Sometimes the old house creaked, and she didn't want to panic just because of what should be a normal noise. Then she heard the distinct sound of a door opening and closing, by someone who didn't care if she heard the noise or not.
She reached for her pistol, gripping it tightly in one hand while grabbing her cell phone with the other. Max started barking, and she so hoped the deep, threatening sound of her canine companion would startle whoever was making the noises into leaving the house. Even so, she scooted off the the bed and into the nearby closet as she dialed 911 per the directions given by her concealed carry instructor.
Max was barking so loudly by now it was difficult to hear what was going on in the rest of the house. But Janine knew if he was that upset, something was seriously wrong.
When the operator answered and asked Janine what her emergency was, Janine told him in a low but steady voice, "Someone has broken into my house. I'm on my own except for my dog. I'm in fear for my life. I am armed with a pistol."
The operator secured Janine's address and stressed that she remain on the phone while the local police were on their way. Janine almost giggled hysterically. Like she would do anything else.
Max had backed up to be between Janine and whoever might come through the bedroom door.
Maybe they'll leave on their own, Janine thought hopefully. Then she remembered another part of her training. Damn. She had to shout out that she was armed to the intruder or intruders.
"Get out of my home! I've called the police and they are on their way. I'm armed!"
She leaned back into the closet, breathing hard, heart galloping. The cell was on speaker now, so that Janine could grip her pistol properly. She tried to slow her breathing as she chambered a bullet.
Max's bark had quieted to his growl again, which helped Janine better hear what was happening beyond her bedroom door. Voices. Arguing voices. So there was more than one person, she thought, desperation growing in her mind.
"So what if she's armed? She only said she was. It will still be several minutes before the police can even get this far out, let alone find her place."
Then another voice, this one lower. "Let's shoot the dog and grab the girl. We can at least have a hostage that will get us out of the state. Once we don't need her, we get rid of her like we did with the other guy."
Before Janine's door slammed open, she leaned over toward the cell. "If you can hear this, they are coming into my room. I'm in fear for my life."
Janine shoved Max in back of her, deep into the closet and instructed him to wait, although his bark got louder and stronger as he sensed the danger to his owner.
A youngish man with shaggy hair and evil intent in his eyes, wearing of all things one of her husband's dress shirts, moved straight toward Janine from the now open door. A tall, thin woman followed behind at an angle.
Janine froze. Time froze. But her mind ran rampant. Are they armed? I don't see a gun. I can't believe that man is wearing one of my husband's shirts. How dare he! Can I really do this? Do I need to do this? Are the police here yet? Will they get here in time?
The man charged at her, taunting, "You don't have the balls to shoot, lady!" He must have seen the fear and uncertainty in her eyes to launch himself at her the way he did.
Anger overrode fear. Then she did it. Janine pulled the trigger. Not once, but several times. Red blossomed everywhere on Sean's shirt, and sprayed out onto the walls, even onto Janine's face and the surrounding furniture. The man's lunging momentum carried him forward, and his body splayed wetly over Janine. Whoever had been behind him was no longer there.
Max leaped over Janine and the body and continued barking, then turned to lick blood off of Janine's face, whining as he did so. Janine's quaking hand dropped the gun, and she collapsed in a faint under the man's weight.
She awoke to the sound of many voices, although none were familiar and none seemed to be talking to her. She was vaguely aware of being pulled up, and handcuffs being placed on her wrists. Confused, Janine blinked up into a police officer's face as he and his female partner lifted her by her arms to lead her out of her house. She knew without asking that the man was dead. And she couldn't bring herself to regret shooting him. Not yet, anyway. All she could think to say aloud was, "But I was in fear for my life!" THE END