Writerly Wednesday: All for Charity

All for Charity!

Charity drove through the front gate of her property and parked at the foot of the front steps. She laid her head on the steering wheel and took several deep breaths. Someone had been following her all day long. An amateur at best, since he’d gotten close enough for her to see him several times. Probably one of Moore’s goons. They’d never been too bright. Finally, she had lost him on the back roads of the town after taking several deliberate wrong turns.

She stepped out of the car, paused when her phone trilled. The text message from her accountant stated a simple “It’s done.”

“About time." Giggling, Charity strode up the steps and was just about to slip the key in her lock, when she saw the plant next to the door knocked over and dirt strewn all over the porch. She shook her head and set it upright. “I’ll deal with the mess later. Darn coyotes after the verbena again.”

Charity unlocked the door and walked into the foyer, frowned when the lights didn’t automatically turn on. She flicked the switch and huffed out a breath when nothing happened. “Damn circuit breaker." Glad to have made it home just before dusk, she trudged down the hall into the kitchen. After grabbing a flash light from the kitchen drawer, she went out the back door and stopped, surprised to find a wheelbarrow full of dirt parked next to the electrical shed. She looked around but couldn’t see the gardener and had been too distracted to notice whether his truck was still in the drive. Why had he gone home in the middle of the job?

Charity reached up to unlock the shed door to find it ajar. She shivered as she scanned the back yard, the heavy shadows of the woods bordering her property loomed as the sun sank. It was quiet, too quiet. No birds or crickets. In the silence, she heard the gurgle of the small creek beyond in the trees. Her phone buzzed again and she jumped, let out a shriek, and then caught her breath at the message from Grady, “He knows. Get out”

“Relax. No problem, I’ve gotten plenty of time. What can he do from jail?” She texted Grady back, then gathered her wits and pushed open the shed door. The gardener hung from the rafters, his eyes bulging out from his purple face. She screamed, stumbled back and fell over the wheelbarrow. It tipped over, covered her in dirt and grass and debris. She climbed to her knees and reached for her phone, but it wasn’t there. She pawed through the dirt, and then froze.

A creak, then a whisper of cloth had her pressing a hand against her mouth to muffle the whimper. She scrambled to her feet, her ankle going out from under her, having twisted it in the fall. She hopped and limped to the house, stumbled through the door, shut it and slammed the lock home as soon as she made it inside.

Panting, she grabbed the cordless phone and lurched into her bedroom. She slipped on the throw rug and landed on her hands and knees. The phone shot out of her hand and slid underneath the bed.

“No. No. No.” Tears blinded her as she lay down and looked under the bed, but it was too dark to see, the flashlight gone along with her cell phone. She stretched out and felt blindly, her hand bumping packages and papers but no phone. She stilled when the hallway floor boards creaked. The door, she hadn’t locked it! Crawling to the door, she grabbed the knob and leaned as hard as possible against the wood. She held her breath until he gave it up for locked and continued down the hall and started up the stairs to the second floor.

“Think, think, think. My keys and another cordless phone should be on the table in the front foyer.” She waited until he started rummaging around in one of the upstairs rooms, then snuck out of the bedroom. Avoiding the squeaky floorboards, she crept to the bottom of the stairs, listened, and then bolted for the front door. Charity raced to the car, put the keys in the ignition, but didn’t turn it on. The cordless phone had a limited range and wouldn’t work past her driveway. She dialed 911, but her voice wouldn’t cooperate when the operator answered. It took her a couple tries to squeeze out any sound.

“He’s dead. Someone’s in my house. 2222 Makstore Lane.”

The operator’s voice buzzed in her head as the front door opened and the large man, dressed all in black, stood silhouetted in the door, holding a machete. She screamed, turned the key and threw the car in reverse as she stomped on the gas. He raced down the steps after the car.

Charity couldn’t do anything, but drive backwards, her hands frozen on the wheel, blind to what was behind her, her sight going gray and blurry with fear as the man ran straight towards the car. She whipped her head around, inadvertently whipped the steering wheel as well. The car veered off into the trees and she stomped on the brake.

In the glow of the headlights, the man stopped, a grim smile plastered on his face. Clayton Moore! Panting, she made up her mind. She slammed it into drive, pressed down on the accelerator. He barely jumped out of the way, the car clipping his legs. He threw the machete and it sliced into the windshield, cracking the glass. Too scared to slow down, she raced down the drive, rammed through the closed gate. The air bag popped in her face blinding her as she desperately stomped on the brake. Off in the distance, she could hear the sirens, but didn’t know if they’d make it in time. She beat at the bag, pushed it down and wobbled as she climbed out of the steaming car.

She whimpered as Moore pulled himself to his feet, moved toward her, dragging his injured leg. Backing up, she grabbed the machete. “Don’t come any closer. I’ll throw it. I will.”

He growled out in a gravelly tone, “Seriously doubt you have it in you, little girl.”

“Wanna bet?”

He grimaced, then stumbled to his knees with a groan before he pitched forward on his face.

Charity started to move forward, but thought maybe he could be faking it. She raised the machete and just stood there as the police cars pulled up, gravel flying as they skidded to a halt.

Officers jumped out of the vehicles, guns drawn. “Drop the knife, down on your knees.”

“I called. He killed my gardener, he tried to kill me.”

“Drop the weapon, ma’am.”

Charity dropped the knife, then slumped to the ground sobbing. One of the police officers crouched down by her side. “We know who he is. He escaped from custody three days ago. He was arrested for murder in several states. You are one lucky lady.”

Charity drew in a deep breath, and then rested limply against her damaged car. More lucky than the cops would ever know.  Now, the money was all hers.

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