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PART SEVENTY-TWO

Sara crouched, immobile save for shaking and sobbing, hiding behind a bus wheel as she watched the silver van drive away. Frightened, trembling with adrenalin, shocked beyond the limits of her nine-years of earthly experience, Sara longed to crouch behind the wheel forever, to stay hidden from Caleb’s view and stay forever safe from Caleb’s reach.

Her mind replayed the scene of her friend’s supposedly dead father slamming her stepmother to the ground, slamming her friend Skylar to the ground and then literally picking Marti up and throwing her into a van and driving away with her.

She had been shocked and frightened when Caleb had attacked her and would likely have remained frozen in place had it not been for Skylar screaming at her to run, run! She’d run, she’d escaped into the bus depot where Caleb couldn’t follow and now all she could do was hide. She could hide, and she could cry, neither of which was helping very much.

Sara debated what to do. She longed for her father to rush in and scoop her up in his arms, to come and protect her and save her friend and stepmother from the madman come back to life, but she knew that her father was somewhere over the Atlantic aboard a transcontinental flight from Dublin. There would be no one to save her save herself. The only question was how to do that. How could Sara venture outside the chain link wall of safety that separated her from the violence and mayhem Caleb Morse had brought into her life?

Less than a quarter mile to the east half-a-dozen houses lined Interlachen Drive. Sara could hop on her bicycle and ring a stranger’s doorbell within minutes, but east was the direction the van had traveled and, not knowing exactly where Caleb had gone, she could not steel herself to follow after the psycho zombie. Her house was less than two miles distance and once she traveled half-a-mile west there would be streetlights to overcome the twilight of ever deepening darkness that engulfed her. Her house was tempting but the thought of exposing herself for over ten-minutes on streets where Caleb likely lay in wait for her drove thoughts of returning to her safe haven from her mind.

What she wanted was a protector, and, having eliminated her father as a savior dashing in to rescue her, Sara thought of the police. The police station was close by, less than three miles from where she crouched in darkness, but if exposing herself to Caleb’s clutches for two miles was more than she could stand then certainly traveling three was a full third even more absurd. Sara wanted the police to appear, to come to her, but she had no way of contacting them save riding or walking to a home and borrowing a phone.

Except, she realized in a blinding, “Eureka! I have found it!” moment, she did.

Sara had watched Caleb swat Marti’s phone from her hand and she was certain that he had not retrieved it from wherever it had flown. All she need do was go outside the fence, grab the phone, return to the safety of the fenced-in bus depot and phone nine-one-one from behind the secured area. That’s all she had to do, but could she?

Sara inhaled deeply and controlled her sobbing. She listened for sounds of footfall but all she heard were the unseen cars, hidden by the stretch of swampy land that separated the bus depot from State Road Fifty-four, whiz by. She made her way to the small gap between the gate and the fence and froze in place as car headlights appeared from the east. She crouched down and held her breath until the car had passed, then, after inhaling and slipping through the gap, she ran to where her stepmother’s Townie bike lay in a heap on the asphalt.

Quickly, she replayed the scene in her mind, reliving the sickening thump as Marti fell hard to the ground, the bike slamming into her as both stepmother and machine tumbled downward. She again heard the skittering of the phone as it slid along the pavement and her mind told her exactly where to search for Marti’s phone.

Sara looked around her, searching for signs of Caleb, before taking another deep breath, running to within three feet of the phone, stopping, spinning in a three-hundred-sixty-degree arc, spotting the phone, plucking it from the ground and sprinting back to the safe side of the fence with it.

“Please, oh please, work!” she commanded of the phone as she entered Marti’s personal identification number and dialed nine-one-one.

Sara held her breath until a woman’s voice declared, “Nine-one-one. What is your emergency?”