The weeks she'd first lived in the house, before the shooting, Dori never felt weird or scared. But it was good to be aware, she told herself as she pushed the door open and paused, sniffing chimney smoke from the neighbor’s house. It was quiet up here, the traffic on Sweetwater a soft hush that rode on the winds sweeping clouds across the sky. She shut the door and the alarm beeped. The bay windows in the front parlor reflected Dori as she walked up to the house.
Idly wondering what to pick from the meals Grammy had prepared for her, Dori plugged her key into the lock. Her heart gave a painful jolt when she looked up into the face of a man. He stared at her from the other side of the wavy glass window of the Dutch door.
His dark eyes narrowed. In one motion, Dori dropped her bag, stepped back and reached for her weapon. But she only felt the bandage under her shirt where her Smith and Wesson should've been. She swayed in momentary confusion and then remembered she'd locked it away. When she looked back up into the window, he was gone.
Dori stood there with her pulse kicking against her neck. He couldn't duck faster than the blink of an eye, nor was the window shade moving in the wake of a sudden movement. It hadn't been that long since she'd been with a man that she'd start making one up as Grammy had repeatedly warned. Warning pricked at her nerves. She pulled up alongside the edge of the door and peeked into her dark kitchen. She strained her ears, listening for movement in the house. Against her better judgment, she reached over and turned the key.
She pushed the door open and the smell of cologne stopped her short of walking inside. Dori instinctively rocked her weight onto the balls of her feet, her muscles tensing for a fight. Night crept across the yard behind her.
As a cop, she'd been in much scarier situations than this. But back then, Dori had a gun at her hip and a radio for back-up. Unlike real bad guys, figments of her imagination couldn’t send her to the hospital. Dori told herself to go out to her car and call the cavalry.
Instead, Dori propped the door open with an old brick. This was her house damn it and it might feel good to kick some ass.
Dori made her way through the gloomy kitchen and flipped on the light switch. The fluorescents flickered to life and their hum filled the silence. She crossed the kitchen and then poked her head through the door leading into the butler's pantry. The air held still, as if the house held its breath.
She crept across the floor, scanned the dining room and then reached in to turn on the dining room chandelier, which thankfully had survived the architectural rape and pillage of the 1970s. His shadow moved across the wall in the hallway. Fear shot up her spine.
"I'm armed," she called out, backing into the kitchen for a knife. Her Mossberg was upstairs in the safe. Then she remembered the knives were still packed in a box. She had a spork from her and Grammy's KFC lunch earlier today.
"Walk out the front door and you won't get hurt," she ordered, clutching the spork in her hand as she tiptoed back to the dining room. Her voice echoed.
She pressed the light button and the hall lights switched on. "Go out the front door."
The hall was clear. With her back pressed to the wall, Dori held her breath as she waited for an answer or a creak of a floorboard that would give away his position. She should go for the Mossberg. But she peeked into the front parlor, the room that had suffered the most damage in the house. Something slammed against the front door and the lights snapped off.
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