Shattered (Michael Bennett #14) - James Patterson
Early morning was one of her favorite times of the day. The sun had just cracked the horizon and traffic was still light. She was in training for the Marine Corps Marathon and intended to put in some decent miles today to make sure she was ready to race in November.
On her way to the Potomac, she would’ve run in the grass to protect her knees and work a little harder, but an early autumn drizzle had fallen overnight, and the road was as damp as she could manage. She’d already cut through President’s Park and was almost halfway through Foggy Bottom.
When she approached the Potomac River Freeway, shit started to get weird.
She wasn’t paranoid, but her instinct cued danger. She dismissed the feeling at first and kept her pace. Finally, as she came up on a clump of trees and bushes, she slowed to a jog, backward. She justified that she was following advice from a series of monthly columnists in Runner’s World, using all the muscles in her legs from different angles.
She worked her quadriceps as her eyes scanned the road and buildings in every direction. Nothing.
It was just her mind playing tricks. It had been an odd, emotional week. That was half the reason for the long run. To dig her way out of the funk she was in.
She fell back into the rhythm of her run. Her ASICS Gel trainers barely tapped the ground as she mentally prepared to sprint. That’s when she felt a cramping sensation in her shoulders. It was the grip of someone’s hands.
She involuntarily let out a sound like “Yoww.” And just like she’d been trained in countless defensive tactics classes, she swung first her left elbow then her right behind her. The blows didn’t seem to make a solid connection.
Now the strong hands were around her throat. She had to break free before the grip managed to cut off her wind. Now she felt the panic shooting through her. Her heart felt like it was racing at almost two hundred beats a minute.
She tried to yell for help just as a hand closed on the front of her throat and cut off her breath before it could build into a scream.
That’s when the attacker’s grip loosened.
The rising sun and the streetlight cast a blurry glare over the attacker’s facial features. Both hands turned her around, clamped around her throat, and suddenly restricted airflow to her lungs.
She looked at the attacker in shock. Her vision started to swim. Somehow she managed to croak, “This is a mistake.”
Did you hear that?”
I listened for a moment and said, “What?”
Mary Catherine said, “It sounded like a growl.”
I stifled a laugh. “You mean like a wolf or a bear?”
“It certainly wasn’t a poodle in a purse like we’d see in Manhattan.”
“They haven’t had predators like that in Ireland for hundreds of years. Maybe it’s the hound of the Baskervilles. Like in the movie where Basil Rathbone played Sherlock Holmes. A Great Dane. Ha.”
We were near the top of Howth Head, a short drive from Dublin. My wife of nine days was hearing the calls of imaginary wildlife. Or was she? I froze for a moment and heard the low, guttural growl of a large animal.
As I pulled myself up the last incline, I saw it. I slowly stood up and held both my hands out. I said in a soft voice, “Hey there.” I was staring into the eyes of a black Rottweiler that had to be at least 120 pounds. I tried to signal to Mary Catherine to stay on the lower part of the path. I heard her quick intake of air and knew she saw the dog too.
It dipped its head and growled again. The muscles in its shoulders and back popped as it moved slowly from side to side. The hair on its back stiffened. I wanted to tell Mary Catherine to run, but that might attract the dog’s attention.
Our eyes met. I assessed the risk of facing down a dangerous animal. Then I noticed something. Just a hint of a movement. In the stub of its tail. On a whim I said, “Who’s a good boy?”
The tail started wagging, fast, like a metronome trying to beat out the rhythm to “Flight of the Bumblebee.” I stood up straight. The dog waddled toward me, tail still shooting back and forth. The dog’s thick fur felt nice between my fingers. The dog rubbed against my leg, looking for more attention.
Mary Catherine climbed the