Cold in the Shadows

By: Toni Anderson


Maybe he wouldn’t kill her if she couldn’t identify him?

She tried to swallow, but there was no saliva left in her mouth. The last time she’d been this scared her best friend had died in her arms.

“Tengo un mensaje para ti,” the man repeated in deep rough Spanish.

“I don’t understand what you’re saying!”

He leaned closer. His warm breath brushed her ear. “Yo se cuando estas mintiendo, chica. Para que sepas.” I can tell when you’re lying, chica. Good to know.

She was obviously an American, so how did he know she spoke Spanish?

“I will say this only once. You need to pay attention.” He spoke English now with a thick guttural accent.

Pain shot along her arms whenever she tried to move. Escalating, paralyzing fear held her immobile.

“It is over.”

What! What did that even mean? Was he going to kill her? She drew in a breath to scream, but a gloved hand clamped over her mouth, the supple leather cool against her skin.

“The Gateway Project is finished.” The voice turned menacing. “Whoever is giving you orders is acting on his own. We will find this person, and we will shut them down. You do not want to be around when we do.”

He released her mouth.

“I don’t understand.” She twisted around to try and look up at him. “Is this some kind of joke?”

He ran a gloved finger over her cheek. “No joke. This is your only warning, chica. Do not make me regret not killing you.”

She had no idea what he was talking about, but anger replaced fear, and she glared at him in the darkness.

“Eyes on the floor,” he ordered.

She did as he said. The pressure eased on her chest as he climbed to his feet and she inhaled a much-needed full breath. She braced herself. For a couple of seconds there was nothing but silence. She looked around, but the man had disappeared as silently as he’d come.

Relief hit her like a two-by-four.

What the hell just happened?

More importantly, had he gone for good, or was he coming back?

Alarm propelled her into action. She used her elbow to push herself into a sitting position. She shuffled over to the unit next to the kitchen sink and put her back to the cupboard, leveraging herself up against the smooth wood until she was on her feet. Awkwardly she jerked open the cutlery drawer, holding onto the edge, almost falling over. Her fingers scrambled through the silverware until she found a serrated blade. Trying to keep her balance, she leaned over the countertop and sawed at the stiff plastic that bound her hands behind her back. It took time because of the crappy angle. She sucked in a hiss of pain when she scratched herself on the arm. Finally, the tie came loose with a jerk and she set to work on her ankles.

If he came back… Oh, God.

She sawed faster and her legs sprang apart. She kept hold of the knife as she skirted her scattered belongings and smashed groceries, pausing when she reached the wide-open doorway. She peered out into the night, but could see no one. A howler monkey shrieked in the jungle, but her assailant had disappeared. She hoped the bastard was bitten by a snake, or broke his leg tripping over a tree root.

Asshole.

She eased gingerly down the first set of steps, uncertain of her footing in the dark. As soon as she found the paved path she ran, heart pounding from rage and relief, chest tight from being scared out of her mind. Her wobbly legs carried her toward the caretaker’s cabin.

Please be here.

The sound of insects pierced her eardrums like tiny screams. The shadows teemed with a million unseen eyes. Sweat ran down her sides, and the scent of her own slick fear rose up to choke her. She reached the caretaker’s home and hammered on his door. “Open up! Let me in.”

It seemed to take forever, but finally she heard footsteps. The man pulled open the door, and she dipped under his arm.

“Help. Help me. Someone attacked me in my cabin. They threatened to kill me. Call the police.”

He followed her inside, dark eyes wide with alarm. “¿Estás herida? ¿Viste quién era?” Are you hurt? Did you see who it was?

Her throat was raw from the effort of holding down emotions that now threatened to choke her. “I didn’t see his face. He was talking about some Gateway thing. I have no idea what he wanted from me.”

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