Part Two of Dogs and Diamonds . . .
The distant sound of a barking dog caused her to sit straight up in bed. Her heart pounding wildly, she looked to the open window, sensing at once that something was not right. Wide-eyed, frantically pushing aside the last dregs of sleep, Jenna quickly scanned the large bedroom. Moonlight bathed one half of the room, leaving an eery blue aura in the air. Her rolltop desk, her dresser, and her vanity table appeared to be glowing in the incandescent light. But deep, ominous shadows dominated the other half of the room. And she peered hard into the blackness, fearful of detecting a presence looming there.
Jenna blinked rapidly, trying to make eyes not yet adjusted to the dark, see more clearly. No matter how hard she squinted and narrowed her vision to penetrate the deeper recesses of the corner, there appeared to be a cloud of blackness lingering there, and within that shadowy mass, she could see absolutely nothing. The dog down the street let out another bark, quieter than before, less urgent, as though to say that danger had passed. One last bark was muted, as if the dog had left his post, retreated into his doghouse, and offered to the world his notice that he was signing off the late-night watch.
Jenna looked to the open window, and noted that the breezes which had carried the familiar nightly sounds her way, had ceased to blow. The lace curtains now hung lifeless, concealing the window beyond like a veil of white smoke. Strangely, the comforting sounds of night were muted. Chirping crickets. The whisk! whisk! whisk! of a neighbor’s lawn sprinkler. An occasional car passing down the street. The soft hoot of the owl that lived beneath her eaves. The tinkling of wind chimes hanging above her patio. The gentle splash-ing of cascading water from the fountain in her garden. And one last bark from the dog down the street.
Jenna’s eyes were drawn back to the curtains and her brow suddenly furrowed in concern. When she had cracked the window to let in the breath of the spring evening, she had merely raised it six inches above the sill. Now it was wide open. Nearly two feet of space existed between the sill and the bottom of the window frame. Two feet of space that gaped at her like the open mouth of some hideous creature.
The noise came a moment later. It could have been the whisper of polyester-covered legs or arms moving ever so slightly as if someone shifted their position in the shadowy mass across the room. She didn’t recall even thinking about getting out of bed, but her bare feet made slapping sounds as she hit the wooden floor. Jenna, though terrified that some unseen malcontent shared her room with her, was pleased with herself. A moment ago she’d been vulnerable, seated there in bed, frantically wondering if an intruder could have invaded her safe domain. Now, clad in her black sweats and overlarge T-shirt, she stood on her feet, prepared to fight.
Drawing in a deep breath, she steadied herself. If an attack came, she was now prepared to severely injure someone if the need arose. And Jenna was not one to be trifled with. Picked the wrong house, she thought. Bet you never figured on your victim having spent two years with Delta during my time in the US Military. I picked up a trick or two from Bear and Chaz. Just enough to ruin your night.
A moment later, the shadows across the room seem to convalesce like a gathering of insubstantial wraiths that merged as one to become a man standing there coldly staring at her. Moonlight grazed just a slight portion of his upper face, and Jenna found herself peering into eyes so dead and cold that a chill swept through her. Instinctively, she moved one leg behind the other, sliding her bare feet along the wood floor to take a defensive stance. She was alarmed that she had actually slept though the intruder’s invasion of her home and laid there unaware that the man had stood watching her, thinking God-knows-what about what he intended to do. That he had been so stealthy to have raised her window without so much as a sound, then climbed into her room and walked directly past her bed made her flesh crawl.
Suddenly, the tall man moved out of the shadows and into the aura of blue moonlight. He had a long, angular face with a sunken look to his eyes, and he grinned at Jenna, showing the whites of his teeth like some psychotic vampire from a bad horror flick. The intruder then did something that totally freaked her out: Slowly and silently, he raised his glove-covered hands, curling his fingers like claws that he began raking the air with. Jenna shook her head. Of all the houses in this city, she thought, this psycho had to pick mine?
Still clawing at the air like some demented grizzly, the man’s movements became more frenetic. He took two hurried steps forward, then stopped, performing a complete spin as he lowered his arms to his sides. Staring at her with a glazed look in his dark eyes and that same stupid grin on his face, he dropped to a crouch. Spreading his legs wide, he began furiously chopping at the air like a spastic Ninja.
“What are you doing?” snapped Jenna.
The harshly spoken words ignited something wild within the man. He offered her a feral grin and charged across the room. Jenna waited until he had nearly closed with her before extending her right arm, and forcefully driving the palm of her hand directly into the man’s nose. Blood spurted. And the intruder cried out as he sailed back-ward, his arms flailing wildly, the excruciating pain of his broken nose registering in the depths of his brain.
He should have struck the wooden floor hard, going down in a heap to sprawl crazily and writhe spastically as he cupped his nose with his hands. He should have went down, and stayed down. Jenna’s blow had been delivered expertly, with the intention of completely incapacitating her attacker. As it was, she had connected with brutal force, centering all her energies on the perfectly executed attack.
And yet, instead of falling, the severely injured man retreated quite suddenly into the shadows behind him, vanishing for a brief moment.
And then, he came bursting from the darkness to renew his attack on her.