This story is by Annette Bonner pen name A.P. Maddox and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Emily stomped on her brakes, rush hour traffic wasn’t moving on the freeway. “Of course,” she complained to herself while sending a quick voice-to-text to her boyfriend. “Brian, I put my costume on at work. On my way to the party. Stuck in traffic. Will be late. Happy Halloween.”
“Oh look, traffic is moving again,” she said, picking up speed as traffic began to clear. “Should I let Brian know I’ll be there soon?” She considered it before answering playfully, “Nah, I’ll just surprise him!”
Once off the freeway she made her way quickly down the surface streets and pulled into the dimly lit parking lot of Collins & Thorpe Accounting, where Brian was a junior accountant. The Halloween costume party would be the second office party she’d attend since the pair began dating five months ago, the first being the Independence Day bash.
The parking lot was full and she had to park near the back, next to an empty lot with some brush and trees on one side. She put the car in park, slipped off her flip flops and pulled on her boots. She hopped out of the car, punched the lock button and quickly made her way toward the office building, looking swashbuckly in her pirate costume—excited to see Brian all decked out in his pirate gear too.
The main entrance of the building was a large oval foyer with hallways leading to the individual offices. Chairs had been cleared to make way for the party decorations. Cobwebs with plastic spiders were strung about, jack-o’-lanterns with tealights were placed on counter tops and near hallway entrances, and creaky, shrieky music filled the air. Tables were laid out with cauldrons of orange and purple colored punches and ghoulish snacks: treats made to look like bloodshot eyeballs, bat wings, spiders and ghosts.
Emily’s eyes searched for Brian. She saw an Egyptian queen, a knight in shining armor, superheroes, cartoon characters, and the traditional black cats, Draculas and Frankensteins. Finally, her sights landed on her handsome pirate. He had let his whiskers grow out a few days to look the scruffy pirate part. A patch covered one eye but there was no mistaking the deep green of the other and the thick black eyebrow it peered out from under.
She smiled thinking of the flirtatious things she might say as she approached him. She started in his direction but froze in her tracks when she saw a French maid come to his side. “Jenny,” Emily said under her breath in a bit of surprise. She suddenly felt as though she were a peeping Tom, spying where she had no business, yet Brian was her boyfriend. Her stomach wrenched as she watched them tease and giggle at each other and she began to feel sure there were inappropriate flirtations going on.
What was she to do, walk gaily over, pretend she hadn’t seen anything and hope they were simply engaging in innocent, coworker party behavior? Her gut told her there was more to it. She thought of the Independence Day bash when Jenny acted so coldly upon meeting Emily, as though Emily were some kind of intruder. She remembered how she kept noticing Jenny staring at Brian and talking loudly whenever they’d pass near her and then mumbling something about needing another drink. She tried not to think of it much at the time but it always gnawed at the back of her mind that Jenny might have feelings for Brian. She hadn’t wanted to let herself consider, however, Brian might return those feelings; after all, why would he be dating Emily if he were really interested in Jenny.
Emily saw Jenny lean in, whispering in Brian’s ear. What was she saying? Her stomach turned and her chest heaved with panicked breath when she saw Jenny take Brian’s hand and lead him to an empty office. Brian peeked down the hall in both directions as though hoping to go unnoticed before they disappeared behind the door.
Emily was lightheaded as she tried to catch her breath. Her legs felt like jelly underneath her and she thought she might vomit. She wanted to scream and storm into the room, fists flying, but hot tears spilled down her cheeks and she turned and left the building.
“I can’t believe it!” she exclaimed, wiping her tears futilely as others quickly replaced them.
Her feet felt heavy as she walked. She remembered back, before the Independence Day bash and how Brian had told her, “These parties are always so boring. You won’t have anyone to talk to. My coworkers are stupid and would just annoy you.” She realized now, Brian hadn’t really wanted her to go in the first place. Was Jenny the reason why?
“How did I not see it?” she asked herself.
She continued through the parking lot, wrapped in her anger. As she approached her car she saw two figures. One thin and short and another taller and thicker. She gasped a little under her breath but reasoned at first, they were headed to a Halloween party too.
They started at her and immediately her instincts warned, they meant harm—serious harm! She ran to the car but they caught her; the larger man covering her screams with his hand. They dragged her to the bushes and began tearing at her clothing. She swung and felt her nails scratching away at flesh as she tried fighting her way out. She kneed, kicked, flailed and screamed, but her screams were muffled and soon, still struggling, she was pinned down with a knife to her neck.
She knew she was about to be violated and hurt but the next moment something white, like a shining light appeared behind the man on top of her.
It was another man, dressed in some sort of white costume. He grabbed the man on top, yanking him off and punching him. As the first man stumbled back, the man in white grabbed the smaller man—punching him square in the jaw and sending him unconscious to the ground. The larger man got to his feet and came at the man in white but was quickly kicked in the chest, knocking the wind out of him and sending him to the ground as well.
“Stay down,” he warned, pulling out his cell phone to dial 9-1-1.
He went to Emily and extended his hand to help her up. “Are you okay Miss?” he asked.
Emily couldn’t answer—she was shaken and trembling. She came to her feet but stumbled.
“Maybe you better stay seated. I’ve called for help,” he said, gently setting her back on the ground. He took a closer look at her. “There’s some blood on your neck. I think the knife cut you, but it doesn’t look life threatening.”
Emily’s eyes grew wide on her tear stained face. She motioned behind him. The larger man had gotten to his feet and was scrambling away.
“No, you don’t,” the man in white shouted, chasing after. He tackled him, rolled him over and punched him in the face—knocking him out.
“The cops will be here any minute,” he said, coming back over to reassure her.
“Thank you for coming to my rescue.” she finally managed.
“Of course,” he said, smiling.
“Were you here for the party?” she asked.
“Yeah, my sister works here and invited me. I was late though, obviously.”
“Lucky for me,” Emily said with a grateful sigh of relief before adding, “Please tell me your sister’s name isn’t Jenny.”
“Nope, it’s Alyssa.”
“Thank heavens,” Emily said.
“Do you work here?” Jared asked.
“No, I was here with my boyfriend.”
“Well, where is he now?”
“Oh, I see,” Jared said, drawing his words out in understanding.
“Is that some kind of Ninja costume you have on?” she asked.
“Nope, Samurai,” he answered. “By the way, my name is Jared. What’s yours?”
“Emily. How did you learn to fight like that?” she asked.
“I own Central MMA downtown. You should come take some classes; learn how to defend yourself against guys like that.”
She nodded. “That’s probably a good idea.”
The sounds of sirens approached. Jared quickly pointed out the men to the cops and told them what happened as they cuffed them.
The EMTs began checking Emily out as the cops took statements.
“I don’t really feel I need to go to the hospital,” she said.
Jared gently took her hand and encouraged her. “They’ll need to examine you for evidence, to build a case against your attackers.”
She nodded as the EMTs loaded her into the ambulance.
“Wait,” Jared said, “maybe I should get your number. To check on you and make sure you’re okay.”
Emily thought, she didn’t usually give her number to strangers, but thinking of his gallant service in saving her life and looking at his boyishly handsome face atop a mountain of muscles, she smiled and gave it to him just before the ambulance doors closed.