Dear Gentle Readers,
One of my favorite books is Waiting for Richard. It's in the Time after Time series, but this time our lovers do not meet until they're in their sixties. An author finds love and adventure on a book tour down under.
Set-up for the excerpt below:
Not-so-mild-mannered senior citizen Skye McKenna is the manager at a local insurance agent's office. She and co-worker, Rita, go out to dinner.
Location: Sterling, Ohio
“Run!” said Rita, fear catching in her voice.
“Are you kidding me?” replied Skye. “I’m too damn old to run. Do you want me to have a heart attack? Or fall and break a hip? If some slimy son of a bitch wants a piece of me that bad, then let him come! He’ll be damn sorry.”
“We gotta get out of here. I’m scared,” Rita whispered.
“Calm down, Rita. We’ll be okay.” Skye pulled out her cell phone and tapped 9-1-1. “Yes, we’re in the underground parking garage of the Sterling City Center and we’re being chased by a madman with a knife, and my friend here is scared and I’m too damn old to run. Yes. Skye McKenna. Sixty-six. Well, I’m glad you agree that’s too old to run.”
“Help is on the way.”
“Skye, you don’t know he has a knife!”
“You’re absolutely right! He could have a gun. Shall I call her back and correct myself?”
Sirens were blaring in the distance.
“Isn’t this illegal? This is at least a misdemeanor, if not a felony. Skye, we could end up in jail.”
“Would you rather be murdered in the underground parking garage?”
“Then, cry and sniffle, look weak and helpless, and let me handle Sterling’s Finest. Damn! If I knew there was a chance we were going to die on the way to the car, I would’ve had dessert. They make this wonderful strawberry and mascarpone cream cheese torte in there that is pure heaven on a plate.”
A police car pulled up the aisle. Skye and Rita were shouting and waving.
“We’re here! We’re here. Did you see him? He ran that way,” Skye pointed. One officer, the shorter, younger one, took off on foot in the direction of Skye’s pointing finger. The taller, older one stayed with them and tried to calm them down. He walked them to their car and let them sit to rest.
“It’s okay, ladies, you’re safe now. Can you give me a description of this madman with the knife? Height, weight, clothing?” Rita cried and sniffled, shaking her head no.
“About six feet tall, brown hair, brown eyes, stubbly face, jeans, light green tee-shirt with some band name on it, navy pea coat, old black tennis shoes. No piercings or jewelry. No visible tattoos. Not a bad looking guy.”
“I’m no judge of weight. Far be it from me to attach a number to the human frame. I know I certainly don’t like it when they do it to me. Not fat, not too skinny, but a slim build. Just right.”
“Thirties, I’m guessing here.
“Chef’s knife. Silver handle, scalloped grip. You can’t buy those individually, you have to buy the whole set. They come with a wooden butcher’s block.”
“Did he brandish the knife at you?”
“Of course, he did! Do you think we would’ve called for help if he were just a prep chef taking his chef’s knife out for a midnight stroll in the underground parking garage? He threatened us.”
“What did he say?”
“He said, ‘Die, you bitches!'"
The other officer came back, shaking his head.
“Couldn’t find him. I heard running and panting, though. There was definitely someone out there who didn’t want to stop and talk to the police. He got away.”
“Were you in the restaurant?” asked Tall Officer. Skye and Rita nodded. “Did he follow you out?” They looked at each other.
“We don’t know. We ate too much. We were just about rolling out of there. We weren’t paying any attention,” said Skye. “Officer, we’re really tired. This has been a harrowing experience. We want to go home. If we remember anything else, we’ll call you, okay?” He took their names and contact numbers and said he’d be in touch.
“Lock your doors. Go straight home, ladies.”
He patted the hood of Skye’s car and let them go. Skye drove away.
“Skye, I was scared to death. How can you be so calm?”
“This isn’t calmness. It’s boredom.”
“How can you be bored when we’re being stalked by a menacing slasher in a dark underground parking garage at night with a big knife?”
“Did you ever think he might’ve just been some poor shlub walking to his car? Maybe he had a business dinner, or some other meeting. Or maybe he works at Sterling City Center. And, Rita, we didn’t see a weapon, remember? Just because he was in the parking garage at the same time as we were doesn’t mean he was after us or dangerous or a public menace.
“No, no, Skye. I know he was. He looked at me funny. And where did you ever come up with that description? That was nothing like him.”
“That cutie pie? Oh, he’s the man in my head! He’s always in there, smiling at me. That one walking in the garage? I’m not sure that he was after us, or after anybody.”
“Well, let’s hope the police don’t find the man in your head. They’ll arrest him.”
“Oh, Rita. I’ve looked for him all my life. If they can find him and detain him, I’ll gladly go bail him out. And take him home and make him some soup and give him a back rub and…” Love him forever, she thought. My Richard.
“Skye, you’re crazy!” Rita laughed.
“I know,” she sighed. She was resigned to the fact she would never find him, this incredible man in her head with the big, warm, liquid-velvet brown eyes and the sweetest unguarded smile. The cutest dimple. A splash of freckles across the bridge of his nose. He’d been there, in her dreams, smiling at her, for as long as she could remember. If she hadn’t found him by now, she never would. And if she found him now at her age, her hormonal drive was gone, her skin didn’t quite fit her body anymore, and she had succumbed to gravity, what the hell would she do with him besides make him soup and give him a back rub? Still, he was there, in her head. Smiling. Those eyes.
Skye pulled up in front of Rita’s rental house.
“Will you be okay?”
“Sure. See you tomorrow after work. I’ll bring you that letter from my kid brother. It’s causing me sleepless nights. You’ll see what I mean. He always exaggerates I know, but this time he’s in trouble, and it’s worse than the usual. I just know it, but I don’t know what to do about it.”
“Okay, bring it over. We’ll figure out what’s up with him. Good night, Rita. I’ll wait until you get in and check the house for slashers hiding under your bed or in the closet, with my finger on speed dial to the police department.”
“Thanks, Skye. You’re a peach. Good night,” she chuckled.
“Good night, Ri.” Rita went in, checked her apartment and waved Skye off. Skye went home and went to bed.
Skye was awakened very early by the sound of the doorbell. She pulled on her robe and slippers and shuffled to peak out the window. Sterling Police Department.
“Ms. McKenna, it’s Detective Samson. This is Officer Metz. May we come in?”
“Yes, of course. What’s wrong?” she said as she moved aside to let them in.
“Ahh, Ms. McKenna, we need to talk to you about what happened in the parking garage at Sterling City Center last night.”
“Well okay, but we told the officers everything we knew last night.”
“There has been a… recent development, Ms. McKenna. Rita Collier is in the hospital. Someone broke into her home sometime last night and shot her. She’s alive, but in serious condition. Head wound. She’s unresponsive, in a coma.”
Skye sank into the couch, hardly able to comprehend what he said. Someone shot Rita? Last night?
“Oh, my God!”