Chapter 1: A Walk in the Park(ing Lot)
~~ If there was anything creepier than walking through a mortuary parking lot at midnight, she wasn’t sure what it was. It didn’t help that there was a faint glow behind the chapel’s stained glass windows, but she really didn’t have a choice. It was either walk through the parking lot or through the sandy, overgrown wash on the side of the street. She would have driven if the back tire of her car wasn’t in such bad shape, only a donut thanks to a blow out a few weeks before and that wouldn’t last very long. Unfortunately, she hadn’t considered the walk home very well when she’d dressed for work earlier that day. She was able to catch a ride there from a co-worker, and had worn her favorite Vera Wang heels; she tended to get better tips in them, and extra tips meant a new tire sooner. It was quite possibly the worst decision she had made in a week. So, here she was being a good, earth-friendly citizen by saving the car for distances beyond her walking abilities, limited as those abilities were in three inch heels, and suffering for it. At least if she hurried, she wouldn’t have time to think about the fact that Adair Avalon was also a crematorium, right?
As she crossed from the Vantage West building to the empty parking lot, she thought she saw a shape moving off to her left in the shadows of the brush-obscured wash. There was the sound of rock scraping on rock; her first reaction was to stop dead in her tracks. It was the perfect place for a herd of javelina to linger, just under enough cover to hide them from predators, but she couldn’t see into the shadows. Although the rest of the lot was well-lit by both it’s street lamps and a vividly full moon, there was a large mesquite tree blocking the light from reaching that one small section, and the thought occurred to her that with everything being so bright, an animal probably wouldn’t want to hide there…A man might: one bent on luring her to her doom by playing with her emotions.
Then again, she could be a paranoid schizophrenic, too.
She decided that her best bet was to stay right where she was and call out. If it was an animal, she could run. If someone was there, possibly hurt or lost, they would sound frantic and relieved she’d arrived. “Is someone there?” There was a scuffling sound, and a young man’s voice came faintly back to her, “What do you want?”
Well. That certainly didn’t sound like he was in pain, yet it also didn’t sound like he wanted her in pain. She left the asphalt, heading towards the bushes, and found him sitting on the water-smoothed rocks, blood seeping through the side of his dirty white t-shirt, “Omigod, are you okay? Should I call 911? What happened?” She knelt down a few feet away from him, carelessly slinging her purse aside, and he just glared at her for a moment before answering. “No, don’t call 911. I’m fine. Go home or whatever. My…friends should be back soon.”
“Are you sure? You don’t look very stable. Maybe you should wait here, I can come back with my car and drive you to Northwest.” She thought a moment, the donut tire crossing her mind briefly, followed by the speed she would have to drive to get them there safely, “I live right over there, I can go call an ambulance… or I could fix you up myself. You look like you lost a lot of blood…” He seemed rather pale to her, although it was hard to determine if it was from his injury or the moonlight that streamed down on him now that she was seeing him at a different angle.
“You need to leave. Now.” He glanced over her shoulder to the parking lot and the road beyond it, perhaps to emphasize his point, but rather than take his advice, the woman stuck out her hand. “I’m Elsa. You’re hurt. And I’m not leaving until you come with me, or I stay to make sure your friends are going to get you medical attention. It’s up to you.” He stared at her. She obviously hadn’t learned not to talk to strangers. Yet he was intrigued that she was willing to help him without knowing him, and he liked the way she knelt beside him in her crisp white shirt and black slacks. There were things he needed to do, and soon, but she was right. He’d lost more blood than he should have, and although he healed fairly quickly, he would need a place to hide for a while until he could figure out his next move. The hospital was completely out of the question, so when he saw that she was still looking at him, waiting for an answer, he sighed, “What kind of bandages do you have at your house?”
“The kind that can take care of pretty much anything. I tend to be a little accident prone, so I keep good supplies.” Elsa stood and presented her hand again, shifting her weight so as to better support him on his way up. He took it, more for balance than anything, and he doubled over just slightly on the first few steps. He was quite a bit taller than her, even in heels, with brown hair and cold eyes, and apparently a high pain threshold because when she offered to let him lean on her, he refused, saying, “I’m good, thanks. Just lead the way. And don’t forget your purse.”