Excerpt from Buried Heart by A. Y. Stratton published by The Wild Rose Press

October 20 2011

The dim lighting painted the parking garage a creepy

yellow. Lauren seemed to be the only one around.

A shiver rippled down her neck. Just the week

before two students had been robbed at gunpoint

and another was raped in an alley not far from

campus.

She picked up her pace and rounded the next

loop, listening to the clacking of her high-heeled

boots. The blue Neon was nowhere in sight.

Below her two men laughed, harsh, staccato

barks that reverberated through the cold

concrete. Lauren’s heartbeat blipped in her

throat. She could hardly swallow. If she didn’t

spot her car soon, her toes would be completely

numb.

She heard footsteps and looked around. No

one was in sight. Of course, there was nothing to

be afraid of, as long as she remembered what

she’d learned in her self-defense class: keep

aware of the surroundings, keep the keys in

hand, and proceed quickly to the vehicle. If she

could find the damn thing.

With a wash of relief, Lauren spotted the front

end of the Neon. Beyond it, a man in a leather

jacket banged through the exit door. Lauren

sprang back and dropped the car keys. Instantly

two men in black knit hats exploded from

nowhere and toppled the guy in the leather

jacket.

Lauren snatched up her keys and scurried

between two cars, fear thudding in her chest.

Shouts careened off the walls. A fist smacked

against skin. Someone swore in Spanish.

Punches and expletives jammed the air.

Lauren peeked around a bumper and reached

in her pocket for her cell phone, but it wasn’t

there. In the dim glow, she watched the victim,

still on his feet, slam his elbow into one guy’s

nose, then whirl, and smack the other guy in the

neck. With a howl of pain, one attacker rammed

his head into the victim’s belly while the other

one jumped on his back and all three collapsed to

the concrete floor.

Abruptly the noise stopped. Lauren snuck

another look. The attackers held the victim face

down across the hood of a car with his arms

stretched behind him. They asked him where

something was, tesoro, treasure, and then

smashed his face into the hood of the car.

Lauren’s knees shook, and she clutched the

door handle of a salt-smudged Honda to keep

from falling. The poor guy getting bashed up

looked familiar. Was it that archeology professor

who was talking to Enid? She had to get help, but

her Neon was still at least ten slots away with her

cell phone in it.

“Come on, primo, tell us, where is it?” a man

growled. Something metal glinted in his hand.

Was it a gun?

If Lauren interfered, she could get hurt, but

no way was she going to stand around like a

pathetic jerk and let someone die if she could

prevent it. She took a deep breath, stamped her

feet as loudly as she could, and hoped the echo

would magnify the impact.

“Hey, Chuck, Jerry, here’s the car!” she

shrieked. “I told you it wasn’t down there!” She

stamped until her feet stung. “Hey, you guys, up

here! I can see it. Listen!” She pressed her car’s

panic button, and the blare ricocheted like a

tornado siren.

Lauren watched the attackers clatter down

the stairway, and a wave of triumph washed over

her. Her idea had worked. She’d scared them off!

 

The poor victim was still alive. As her car alarm

blared on, a car started on the level below and

squealed away.

“You all right?” When the man didn’t answer,

Lauren hurried over and found him leaning

against the door of an old Jeep Cherokee with his

hands over his face. He stood up for a second and

staggered. It was the professor, and he looked

awful.