There was a form in the driver’s seat.
Eyes starting to burn, I ran to the side, across chilly cement, then cried out in horror.
Slumped behind the wheel was Linds.
Oh my God.
Somehow there was a part of my brain that was still functioning. I knew these fumes had built up in the garage, that it was deadly, that it had been on purpose, and that I needed to get Linds out of the car and into fresh air. I reached for the door. It was locked—so were the passenger and the back doors. A new kind of fear took hold, settling in my gut, adding to the weight already pressing down on my chest. Instinct spun me around, and I rushed back to the wall, slamming my palm down on the button.
I hit it again, and again, and again, and still the door wouldn’t open.
Hacking now, deep body shaking coughs, I whirled around, searching for anything. Spying a shovel in the shadowy corner, I grabbed it and went back to the car.
Arms shaking, lungs seizing up, I swung it hard, shoving the heavy, sharp edge into the back window. Glass shattered. Tossing the shovel inside the car for nothing more than having a weapon nearby, I crawled through the window.
Tiny pieces of glass snagged my robe, scratching my skin as I wiggled through. Once inside, I grabbed Linds by the shoulders, and it seemed like forever before I was able to move her, shoving her into the passenger seat.
Climbing over the center console, I gripped the steering wheel. The inside of the car was starting to spin, my arms almost too weak to hold up so that I could reach the gearshift. Squeezing my stinging eyes shut, I slid the gear into reverse and slammed my foot on the gas.
The car roared to life, jerking backward, and then the tires squealed in the darkness. It lurched and sped out, hitting the metal garage door. It rattled, but did not give.
God, this could not be happening—this could not be happening.
Hand tingling, I slipped the gears into drive, went forward, and then slammed it back into reverse again. The car roared back, and this time metal and plastic gave way. The car flew into the driveway as the airbag deployed, popping into my face and pushing Linds’ body back. White dust clouded everything and, for a moment, I couldn’t see. One side of the car went up over a brick flower box and then down before the car coasted to a stop, half on the driveway and half in the grass.
Shoving the air bag down, I dragged in deep gulps of clean, cool night air. Stunned and dizzy from the lack of oxygen, I leaned back against the seat and turned to look at Linds.
She was half in her seat, half against the floor, her head turned away from me. She wasn’t moving, and I didn’t know if she was alive or . . .
I reached for her, my fingers brushing her clammy skin. “Linds,” I croaked. “Linds, wake up.”
Nothing happened, and in my foggy thoughts, I knew I should get her out of the car, get her into the clean air. I had to—
There was a knock on the driver’s window.
Screaming hoarsely, I twisted around, my stomach tumbling as a familiar face peered in at me.
“What the hell is going on?” he asked.
Hands shaking, I hit the unlock button and pushed open the door. I all but fell out, and would’ve eaten grass and cement if he hadn’t caught me. What was he doing here? I tried to think past the pain in my chest and head as he steadied me.
“Ella? Jesus Christ, is that Linds in there?” His voice pitched. “What’s going on?”
“What are you doing here?” I asked, stumbling free.
“I live two houses down.” He glanced at the wrecked garage door. “I was just getting home. I heard the screams.”
He heard the screams, but as no one else had come rushing to help us, did no one else hear? It didn’t matter right now. Stumbling around the front of the car, I barely held myself up. “You need to the call the police. He was here. I think Linds is hurt—hurt bad.”
“What?” He started to lean into the car.
“Call the police!” I shouted until my voice gave out.
“Okay. Okay!” He backed up, pulling a slim phone out of his back pocket.
I stopped paying attention to him as I reached the passenger door. By some luck, I’d hit the unlock button, and the passenger door sprung open.
I reached for Linds. “Please be okay,” I whispered, getting my hands under her arms. “Please, please be okay.”
Breathing in the fumes had weakened me, and I couldn’t lift her. Raising my head, I swiped at the tears. “Please help me.”
Brock was beside me in an instant, slipping the phone back into his pocket. “Move out of the way.”
I didn’t want to, but I did.
“The police are on the way,” he said, reaching in and easily scooping Linds up. Her head lolled against his chest like there were no bones or muscles in her neck at all. “I didn’t know what to tell them.”
When he placed her in the grass, I dropped to my knees beside her, glancing up at the house. Then I placed my hands against her neck, not really sure if I was hitting the right spot, but when I found a pulse, I almost collapsed. “He was here,” I said, my voice scratching out of my throat. “He was inside the house. He did this.”
“The . . . the guy that attacked you before?” Brock glanced behind me, and I could make out the distinctive hum of voices. “He was here?”
I nodded, folding my hands around Linds’. Turning my attention to her, I held on for dear life. “Please be okay. Please. Please.”
It wasn’t long at all before the sounds of sirens grew louder, and then there were police covering the lawn, hands pulling me away from Linds as EMTs rushed forward.
“She was in the car—in the garage with the car running,” I told them, my mouth dry. Those hands turned me around, and I was suddenly staring up at Shaw.
“Ella, what happened?” he asked.
“He was here—he was inside the house while I was taking a shower.” The story spilled out of me as tears welled, blinding me. “I couldn’t get the garage door to open, so I drove the car through the door.”
“That was good. That was smart.” He started leading me away from where the medics were working on Linds. Another ambulance was pulling up to the house. A crowd was gathering on the sidewalk, their dark forms blurring together.
I dug my feet in, coughing. “Is she okay? Please, tell me she’s okay.”
“They’re doing everything they can.” He wrapped an arm around my waist, turning me around. “We need to get you looked at.”
“I’m okay,” I wheezed.
“Doubtful. You were in that garage, too. And you’re bleeding.”
Shaw handed me off to an EMT, and after curt instructions, an oxygen mask was shoved on my face. The EMT, who had spent an ungodly amount of time shining a bright light in my eyes, helped me tighten the belt around my waist. God only knows how many people had gotten a way too personal look at me, but I couldn’t bring myself to care.
As the medic inspected the scratches on my knees and hands, Shaw cornered Brock near a Japanese maple tree. Other officers were there, huddled around him. They were demanding to know what he was doing here.
Brock gave them the same answer, but my stomach churned relentlessly. Could be a convenient answer.
But then they were wheeling Linds out, and under the street lamp, her normally deep brown skin was a deep, hideous gray.
“Is she okay?” I asked, moving the mask.
“She’s alive.” The medic placed the mask back on my face.
I started to lift it again. “I want to go with—”
“You’re staying right here.” Shaw’s head snapped around like the Exorcist. “Sit there, shut up, and suck up the oxygen.”
I sat there, I shut right up, and I sucked up oxygen until the medic checked my pulse and then pulled the mask off.
“You’re lucky,” the EMT said, standing up. “Only a few scratches and some bruises. You could be dead.”
Not like I needed that wake-up call. “I want to see . . .” I trailed off as one of the deputies came out the front door, carrying the clown mask. I climbed out the back of the ambulance, my legs shaking.