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Blood and Violets
by Lesley Speller

Chapter One

    When Marie arrived to work that evening at the diner on Sixth Street, she'd planned on serving the restaurant's patrons their dinner – not becoming someone's dinner herself. She snuggled deeper into her thick, down parka. The chilly night air took her breath away when she opened the door.

    It was late, and the parking lot was almost empty. Fall was beginning to bring down the beautiful leaves that had turned the mountains into a Van Gogh painting splotched with vivid colors. They danced around in the wind, and she kept seeing them out of the corner of her eye and thinking for just a moment that there was someone there.

    Her boss didn't approve of smoking, so when she wanted a cigarette she always had to go out into the alley behind the restaurant, far enough back that none of the customers could see her. Marie was absolutely sure that it was all the man's sick plan to turn everyone into a non-smoker like him. Actually, it was working for her. She'd been smoking a lot less since the nights had turned cold and dark. It was downright creepy to come into the alley. On a really dark night, the only illumination came from the small bulb that was meant to light the back exit of the building. The bar that was supposed to hold it steady, however, had broken loose and when the wind blew, it swung back and forth casting crazy shadows all over the burgundy brick walls.

    Tonight was lovely despite the cold wind. There was a full moon high in the sky that cast a silvery glow all over everything. Marie turned to face the wall so that her lighter was shielded, and when her cigarette caught she breathed the smoke in deeply, feeling it smooth the edge off of her haggard nerves.

    It had been a night of angry customers and lousy tips. The Hogs, the local college's football team, had lost the game, which always put the public into a fairly foul collective mood. Now she only had two hours left to work, and then she could go home and soak her tired feet. Until then the delightful chemically-induced relaxation from her cigarette would have to get her through.

    Marie tilted her head back and leaned her shoulder against the wall of the café. The stars were so clear and bright that even the light at the edge of the alley did very little to detract from them.

    Before she knew what was happening, Marie felt a warm body behind her and a hand clamped over her mouth so tightly it made her jaw scream in protest. Her mind went reeling out of control, and her heart was beating so loudly that she could barely even hear the shushing sound he made in her ear.

    Marie took a deep breath through her nose and twisted around pushing the cigarette into his arm and kicked upward, trying to knee him in the balls. If she could, then he'd have to let her go. No man could attack a woman while rolling around on the ground in pain. When the cigarette sizzled against his flesh, he let out a yelp, but her knee never had a chance to make contact. He moved so quickly that she didn't have time to react. Marie's body flew backward, and her head slammed against the wall. Then her legs were knocked out from under her, and she ended up sprawled flat on her back.

    She knew in that moment that she couldn't escape. He was too fast and too strong. Her eyes came to rest on him, but they wouldn't focus. There was excruciating pain seeping out from her skull to consume everything around her. His face was close to hers, and she noticed the strangest thing. He smelled like violets and his breath was almost minty like he'd just sprayed with a breath freshener.

   "I'm going to kill you for that, girl."

    Marie gasped for breath, and she was going to scream, but he closed his hand over her mouth again."If you scream, this is going to hurt a lot more." His voice was deep, and there was a hint of accent, but she couldn't place it. "Do you understand?" She felt a shivering start in her body that she couldn't control. All she could do was stare up at his blurry face in horror."Answer me!"

    She nodded causing a wave of nausea to wash through her. Marie was resigned then to death, she only hoped he wouldn't rape her as well. No one deserved that degradation on top of being murdered.

    The man tilted her head from side to side. He seemed to be examining the warm sticky pool that she could feel forming on the ground at the back of her head. "I&'m not so much for necrophilia, so you should be safe." Marie closed her eyes and thought of her brother, Ricky, hoping that he would be all right without her. She didn't want to die, but she didn't want her final words to be nothing but blubbering for her life either, as if that would make any difference at all. The man snickered, and she felt fury bring her slowing heart speeding up again.

   "You are a strange girl."

    Marie fought with all her might to make words form."Wh..what do you want?"

   "Just a snack. Now be quiet."

    Marie's body began to feel very light and icy cold, and then there was a sharp pain in her throat and darkness closed in.

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