Rhett, her gardener, was seated, back to her, on a bench in the far corner taking a well-earned break. He was a hard worker and the mid-day temperature was already twenty degrees above normal for April..
Patricia returned to the kitchen, retrieved a bottle of water from the refrigerator, and went out the back door into the muggy air. Her sundress and sandals suited the weather.
Not wanting to startle Rhett, she called out to him as she approached, but he didn’t respond. When she rounded the bench, she cringed and stopped dead. The right side of his head was gone.
Her heart thudded. Her body trembled. Bile rose. She retched. She opened her eyes to see a bloody stump where his right hand should have been. She cared not if her piecing scream sent chills down the backs of the tourists walking the shaded square in front of her home. Terrified, she ran for the house, her sandals clacking on the concrete patio as she approached the door. She fumbled with the doorknob. Finally it caught. She dashed in, resetting the security system once inside.
She let out an exasperated breath. Where had she left her purse? She normally kept it close by. It contained her phone and gun. She scanned the kitchen, then the study at the back of the house. No purse. Upstairs? Downstairs? Maybe the foyer. She dashed down the marble hall to the front of the house, spotting her purse on the foyer table under the floral arrangement.
She pulled her phone from her bag and dialed 911 as she made her way to the stairs and the second floor safe room.
When the 911 operator came on, Patricia paused on the stairs and exhaled. Though the house was quiet, she bristled and wondered if she was alone. She transferred her phone to her left ear, pulled her revolver from her purse with her trembling right hand, and continued up the stairs while answering the dispatcher’s questions.
Patricia hated that fear ruled her, but she hated being naïve even more. The gun and her willingness to use it gave her power that was cathartic for the vulnerability she’d experienced outside.
* * *
By the time Trey Falcon arrived home, flashing police cruisers and TV news vans with satellite antennas littered the street. He parked his Bentley a block away, threw his suit jacket into the back seat, and, despite the oppressive heat, dashed to the scene.
Trey identified himself to a policeman manning the yellow tape and was soon led to an idling cruiser that held his distraught wife. His heart ached for her. She’d been through so much and now ... and now ... this.
The officer, a tall African-American man with short grey hair, opened the cruiser door.
Patricia surged out and stumbled into Trey’s arms, sobbing uncontrollably.
When he wrapped his arms around her, she pulled in closer. How he wished he could lift this burden from her. He’d spoken to Chief Patrick on the way over. He knew what she’d seen.
Reporters appeared, shouting questions and, undoubtedly, taking videos and photographs that would soon appear on television sets throughout Savannah. He disliked the intrusion, but accepted that it was their job. Trey turned and faced the barrage. “We’ll have a statement once we have sorted ourselves out.”
Trey glanced over to the officer.
The man narrowed his eyes.
“May we leave?”
The officer nodded.
With shouting reporters following, Trey led his wife down the crowded slate sidewalk to his car. Though he didn’t want to loosen his hold on her, he helped her in and got in himself. The quietness inside the car reduced his tension somewhat, but failed to calm. A man, a good friend, had been murdered in his backyard and he didn’t know why. He keyed the engine and pulled from the curb.
“Wa ... wa ... where are we going?” Patricia asked.
“Away,” he said, not knowing himself where that was. How far was far enough?
"Savannah Secrets" is my current work in progress. It is a sequel to "Savannah Fire." Patricia Falcon is the central character. The opening scenes appearing here are first drafts and will be significantly altered over time. Please check back often to read updates on this story.
Even though it had been a year since the terrible accident in Paris and she was alone inside her Savannah home, Patricia Falcon kept a wary eye out for the unexpected. The accident had toughened her and made her much more of a realist. Taking nothing for granted, she scanned the back study for threats before going in and, once in, scanned the backyard.