The young woman stumbled in her black stilettos as she walked towards the bridge, the road pock marked and scraped from erosion. She cursed her luck and wondered where she was exactly. Her wet blonde hair fell limply around her cream cashmere sweater. Just then, a delivery truck passed by and drenched the poor pedestrian, splashing grime, mud, and oil. She yelled and shook her fist at the sky. It responded by piercing the air with a raindrop that went “smack” against her forehead, startling her.
The rain fell in big, heavy drops, washing everything in its path. She flipped off her shoes and fled painfully for cover until she reached the unlit overpass, which offered some relief from the deluge. She flung herself down on the hard cement incline, and glared at the water pooling at her swollen ankles. She inched up a few steps. The rain pounded the pavement around her, and brought the scent of wetness. She closed her eyes and dreamed about taking a nice, hot shower.
She was startled with a flash of lightning, and recoiled when she saw someone standing in front of her. She stifled a scream as the outline of a hand clasped her mouth. She tried to wriggle away, but he was too strong. She nearly passed out from the stench of body odor.
“Now, now, no need t’ struggle. I ain’t gonna hert ya,” the voice crackled. “I saw ya wanderin’ under m’ bridge, an’ came to see if I could hep ya.”
He took his hand from her mouth. “Ain’t no one gonna hear ya scream, not with this racket.” Cackling, he backed away, still a shadow in the darkness. “Ain’t no one out in this, ‘specially under my bridge.” He motioned with his hand towards the deep recess of the underpass, and she followed his gesture. She squinted to make out what was there, and saw a makeshift cardboard lean-to, with white plastic Wal-Mart bags stacked everywhere. Taking a deep breath, she finally spoke.
“I… I’m lost. Not exactly sure where I am or how I got here. It started raining, so I ran for cover,” she said. “I’m a mess! Probably scared you coming out of nowhere like that.” She extended her hand, “I’m Mona. Mona Burdette.”
He hesitated, then took her hand awkwardly, “Name’s Coots. Jus’ Coots. Pleased t’ meet ya, Mona Burdette. Heh, I’ll getcha somthin’ t’ dry yerself off. Hold there, jus’ a minute.” He scrambled up the steep concrete, and called down to Mona, “I be jus’ a minute.” Snatching something from a clothesline, he slid back down and offered her a stained, threadbare Scooby-Do beach towel.
Mona crinkled her nose and said thanks. She sniffed the towel and was surprised at the smell of bleach, so she proceeded to dry herself off. She wiped the mud from her face and wished that she had a hairbrush. As if reading her mind, Coots climbed back up to his shelter, and extended an ebony handle to her.
Warily, Mona took the brush and turned it over in her hands. The handle was smooth and fit nicely in her palm. The bristles appeared to be brand new, with not a single strand of hair caught between them. “My, what a beautiful brush. I don’t even have one this nice at home.” Blushing, she continued. “Not that I know where home is.” She brushed out the tangles of the rats nest on her head, and after a few moments, handed the brush back to Coots.
“Whaddaya mean, ya don’t know where home is? Ya lost?”
Instinctively, Mona grinned, “Yes, I’m lost. But I do believe that I have just been found.” She peered over Coots’ shoulder at a police cruiser, its bright red and blue lights flashing. A policeman emerged from the car and shined his Streamlight Stinger flashlight over the scene.
Coots scurried back up the incline and hid behind his cardboard wall. He peeked through a small hole, not daring to breathe.
“Officer, thank heavens you came. I–”
“Ma’am, are you Mona Burdette? Got a call from dispatch that said there was a lady wandering around, name Mona Burdette.”
She nodded and backed away, shielding her eyes from his flashlight, unsure how he knew her name. He advanced toward her, and suddenly slammed the flashlight into her skull.
Coots jumped, and scrunched closed his eyes. He heard a thud from something hitting the ground, then the scuffling of feet and the grunts from the assassin, and then nothing. Coots pried his eyes open. He peered past the cardboard and saw Mona’s body being dragged back to the police cruiser.
The body scraped along the asphalt until the killer reached the car. He pulled out the keys, pushed a button, and the trunk clicked open. The killer dropped the corpse in with a muffled thud. He tugged and pushed at the body and finally managed to maneuver her legs unnaturally behind her. He slammed the trunk closed.
The killer went back to retrieve his flashlight and stumbled over something on the pavement. Cursing, he pawed around in the oily water mix until he found the flashlight, but it wouldn’t turn on. He managed to find one of the silky shoes, the stiletto barely hanging on, so he searched frantically for the second one, but he could not find it. Not wanting to leave any evidence behind, he resolved to come back in the morning.
As the killer drove off, Coots rocked back and forth in his shelter, muttering incoherently. In his grasp was Mona’s other shoe, a black stiletto.