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Chapter 3

Shelly, couldn’t move. Her conscious brain unable to process what she had seen, tried to retrace the strange events. When she had first noticed the pursuing jogger, she didn’t think there was anything unusual about a man trying to catch up with an attractive female runner. It happened to her all the time when she ran in her neighborhood or in school. It was how she had met Jeff. She wished he’d been running with her today, but he was at UCLA, probably hooking up with another runner, she thought, the image of two naked bodies in the back of a car momentarily flashing before her eyes, and then she remembered what had just happened. I’ve got to stay focused on the here and now. But what the hell did happen? Where’s that girl?

Shelly, in shock, recalled how she had seen something, a reflection, the gleam of something in his hand. At first, she wasn’t sure what she was seeing…she didn’t even believe it when she finally realized what it had to be, but she kept running, running and shouting a warning to the jogger, panic replacing common sense and her need to protect herself from the knife in his hand. “He has a knife! Run! Help!” Strangely, her screams didn’t seem to stop the jogger, nor make her speed up. The girl was doomed unless Shelly could get to her. The two of them could maybe frighten or fight off this stumbling character. There was no time to get help. She would have to depend on the few self-defense classes she had taken in college. Almost there.

Shelly screamed when the attacker finally lunged, his knife plunging full-blade into the jogger’s back. “Oh God!” She froze, then screamed loudly again, to frighten off the mugger, to prevent another strike. She kept screaming, as she grabbed her phone from her fanny pack, fumbling with it, dropping it to the ground. She searched the grass for the phone, found it, and just as she was about to press down on the 9 of 9-1-1, something incredible stopped her cold.

The jogger whom she had witnessed being brutally stabbed seemed to be fading into a smoky mist, and the attacker was falling, face-first, to the ground. Shelly saw his head burst into a bloody fountain. “Oh God,” she repeated, unable to believe what she was witnessing. “The

girl! That poor girl. Gotta help her!” The girl was gone.

Shelly peered at the spot where the other girl’s body should have been, but there was nothing. “I don’t believe this,” Shelly murmured, unable to move, not wanting to get closer.

The mugger lay still. Shelly thought he was dead.

“Oh, damn, he’s still alive.” Shelly gasped, as she watched in horror as the man moaned and then began to roll slowly, obviously in agonizing pain, rolling onto his back.

Shelly searched around her for a large rock, but then she saw the knife. She had sworn he had thrust that knife into the girl’s back, so how was it now inexplicably sticking up from the bloody mess that was Ralph’s shirt? How could that be?

Shelly remained a few yards away, as she watched the man raise his reddened hands to the knife handle. She wondered if she should try and help him—he was human after all—he needed help. Could she just stand near and watch him die?

But Shelly was paralyzed as she saw the man’s hands, covered with blood, clenched around the knife handle as if ready to pull it out of the wound, but instead his hands appeared to be pulling the blade up, and then down hard, not out of his body, but tearing more flesh and bone as it slowly sawed its way up his chest in jerky motions that made the man let out tortured screams with each thrust…terrible screams like she heard in her nightmares.

“That’s impossible,” Shelly muttered, her fingers hovering over the phone, hypnotized by the sight of the man apparently impaling himself repeatedly with the knife. “The girl,” she reminded herself, scanning the area, searching for the wounded jogger again, but she didn’t see anyone else around. “I don’t get it,” she murmured, “What happened to that poor girl?”

The mugger let out a final awful wail and thankfully became silent.

Shelly didn’t know what to do. She had to look closer so she cautiously approached the mugger’s body now completely still. She saw the blood flooding around the body and felt faint, her hand steadying herself on the back of a park bench. “Oh God! What the hell happened?” Unable to explain what she had witnessed, Shelly searched the area again. “She can’t have gone far after that attack,” Shelly said. “I need help.” She moved her finger to push the emergency buttons on her phone. “How the hell do I explain this,” she asked aloud. “This is impossible.

Just damn impossible!”

“Nothing is impossible,” a male voice calmly replied.

Shelly whirled to where she thought the voice came from. She whirled around again. Her eyes searched desperately. Was there an accomplice? Panic surged through her body and again she searched, and then searched again. She braced herself for an attack, her nails ready to be

lunged at the accomplice’s throat, her knee ready to be pounded into his testicles. Please, don’t let him get that close?

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