Storytelling Time: Death Takes a Detour – Chapter 2 Part I
Genre: Urban Fantasy Mystery
Book: Death Takes a Detour
How would you respond though, during such an emergency, if you were assaulted by a panic attack?
Call for help? What if your best chance for help hangs up on you?
Read the excerpt below to find out what Abbie does next.
Genre: Urban Fantasy Mystery
(c) Shereen Vedam
Chapter 2, Part I
Abbie could take a woman down. Her brothers’ training ensured she could even handle a man if he were her height of 180 or shorter. Feeling more confident, she took another step toward the doorway and called out, “Is anyone in here?”
Not a whisper. Not even Robert saying, “Come this way,” in his deep voice.
From what little she could discern with her torchlight, the large room appeared bare, not even any pews left. Nothing moved except floating dust motes. Abbie stomped her feet on the floorboards to broadcast her presence. When that produced no reaction, she slammed the door wide open. It banged against the wall.
At the loud noise, her ears instantly rang and her pulse raced in response. No. What a time for her panic attack to return.
Her psychologist had taught her to take slow calming breaths to control her panic. Abbie did that now and disregarded her headache, which she could do nothing about.
No one had run out the door. Was that a good sign?
“The police are on their way,” she shouted into the open doorway, hoping whoever was in there would run out the back door. Her voice cracked on the last word.
Where had Robert gone?
“I’m in the church,” he replied. From inside her head!
Abbie took an instinctive step away from the doorway. He was a ghost.
“I’m keeping the children safe,” he continued. “Stay outside, Miss Grimshaw.”
A huge relief washed over Abbie at his words. What a good man. He’d seen to the kids’ safety when she couldn’t. But how?
Something brushed against her calf and Abbie cried out.
With an equally disturbing screech, a cat raced down the steps and then turned back. It was a Siamese, its blue eyes glowing with supreme affront under the torchlight she aimed its way. It stood glaring at her with its fur standing on end and tail held straight up.
If she had a tail, it would be bushy, too.
At least this wasn’t a black cat. She’d hit every other bad horror-flick cliché.
Graveyard, darkness, screams, a possible ghost. Raw terror streaking through her. The only thing missing was a hatchet-wielding madman. Her mindless clutch on the first aid kit’s handle was the sole reason she hadn’t dropped it from nerveless fingers.
Abbie hoped her mother’s antennas were quivering. This was the perfect time to come to her daughter’s defense.
The Doctor Who theme song blared and Abbie jumped in fright. Unfortunately, that put her back in the open doorway. Hurrying to the closed side, she tucked the torch under her right arm and pulled out her mobile.
“Mum, thank goodness,” she whispered. “I’m at St. Michael’s.”
“Abigail Grimshaw, whatever you’re doing, I want you to stop and come home.” The firm no-nonsense order was startling from a normally evasive woman.
“I’ve called the police but they haven’t arrived yet.”
“Abbie! You’re not safe there.”
“Thank you! I was telling myself that very thing. Unfortunately, I can’t leave. On the positive side, I have help. Robert is with me.” Protecting those children.
“Who is Robert?” her mother asked.
“We met behind St. Michael’s.”
“In the graveyard?”
“Yes. Says he’s the Earl of Ashford, which is impossible.” Wasn’t it? Unless he really was dead. “Mum, he might be a ghost.”
There was a distinct pause. Then her mother said, “You don’t believe in ghosts.”
“I’m starting to. Could it be possible?”
“Whoever this Robert is, he’s a stranger. You know nothing about him. You cannot trust him.”
“I know he’s lost a daughter and that he’s daring. When we heard a scream, he ran straight over to help.”
“Then let him be the hero.”
“Mum, a life may be at stake!” Abbie said, shocked by that callous response. “Possibly more than one.”
“This is not your fight.”
Abbie’s protest choked in her throat. Was this how her mother thought? That helping others wasn’t her responsibility? Is this why she saved Abbie while allowing her teammates to perish?
“What’s important is that you leave St. Michael’s right now. This instant. Time is running out.”
“Why? What might happen?” Abbie softened her tone. “Mum, please, speak to me. Because I have to stay.” She may not be able to force herself to go into the church but neither was she ready to abandon a child. Children. Not until the police arrived. “If you want to help me, tell me what you sense. I will believe you.”
The silence was profound. Then came an ominous click.
Margaret Grimshaw, who was Abbie’s stalwart defender, was willing to abandon her daughter rather than talk about what she could sense. It was a horrifying concept. Even after Abbie had admitted to possibly meeting a ghost. Bitter disappointment sank into Abbie’s gut. She tucked her mobile into her pocket with trembling fingers. Staying out on the church’s half-open porch, she called in. “Robert, are you still here?”
“Remain outside, Miss Grimshaw.” His whisper sounded as if he stood directly behind the door. “Evil has impregnated this church.”
Her father would label Robert’s last few melodramatic words as hysteria. People could act evil, but evil wasn’t a thing. Also, a building couldn’t be impregnated. It was neither alive nor female. Aiming for a reasonable tone, she said, “I’ve called the police. They should have a unit here shortly.”
“What’s a unit?”
His question was reminiscent of his earlier confusion about the term “detective.” Troubling. Then again, Abbie had never met a ghost. Not before her injury. Wait! Were the two events related?
“Your mother is correct, Miss Grimshaw,” Robert whispered. “Danger lurks in this church.”
A shiver of alarm swept up Abbie’s spine, tingling the hairs on her nape. Her mobile’s solid presence pressing tight against her left butt cheek was the only thing offering comfort. It connected her to the real world, her father’s realm, where ghosts and monsters didn’t exist.
Also, even if Margaret Grimshaw had deserted the arena, experience roared that she would send reinforcement flying to Abbie’s defense. Help was on its way, one way or another. She focused on her top priority. “How many children are in there and are any of them hurt?”
“Two. I do not think either is hurt but there is so much blood. It is hard to say for certain.”
She shivered, picturing red droplets sprayed across the church’s white walls and spilling across its dusty floor. As if she had stumbled into The Shining film. “If anyone is injured, I have medical supplies.”
“The children are safe for now. Stay out there and be on guard. I’m going back to ensure my shield is holding.”
Taking a deep breath, she eased around the doorway. He wasn’t there. Her weak light did not reach far. Note to self, replace the batteries.
Another scream echoed. Not a child, but a man!
Robert? No, too rasping. Whoever it was might have seen Robert though, or maybe a spectral version of him? She might have screamed like that, too, if he had appeared less than solid by his wife’s grave. But what if he was in trouble?
She took another shuddering breath and decided she couldn’t wait any longer for help to arrive. Better to die as a hero than live as a coward. Robert had saved the kids, now it was up to her to save him. Without giving herself time to think, she rushed into the darkness, shouting, “The police are coming, the police are coming.”
Footsteps barreled down the hall toward her from the back of the church, veering left. Did the intruder hope to approach her weaker side? Mistake. Praying she wasn’t about to smash Robert upside his head, she swung her torch. Her dominant left connected with a solid thud with what felt like a broad flat chest. She’d aimed for the intruder’s throat. This was a tall scoundrel.
Her victim cried out and shoved her back. She fell, one elbow smashing against the floorboards. Pain shot up her left arm. Her torch flew out of her grasp and rolled across the floor in a loud clatter, outlining a bizarre kaleidoscope of images. Footsteps pounded away. The front door slammed shut. Then muffled steps raced down the outside stairs. That was followed by an indignant yowl and a man’s cry of pain.
Had the cat slashed him? Good kitty.
Pounding footsteps suggested the intruder was getting away. Excellent!
She hoped he kept running out of Kent. Anywhere but back here. He was now the law enforcement’s problem, not hers. Back on her feet, Abbie nursed her tingling left arm at her side while she searched for her escaping torch. Her foot bumped into the first aid kit, so she picked that up before retrieving her light source.
A quick check showed the church hall was empty. “Robert? Where are you?”
“Over here, Miss Grimshaw.” She began to adore his deep formal tone. “Good strike,” he said. “Now come this way. Quick.”
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