Jedidiah stayed a couple car lengths behind Janna, hoping she didn’t spot him. He wanted to find out her route home without being seen. He was still trying to figure out his cover story.
“I’ve never had this much trouble before, Hairy. What do you think’s up with that?” He reached over and scratched the long-haired dog under the chin. Hairy nudged his hand and whimpered. “I know. It’s the subject. I don’t know what happened. I’m usually professional and detached from the whole situation, but this one’s different. I already blew it and she doesn’t have a clue, and that’s probably a good thing.” He grinned over at the dog, feeling a little stupid for talking to him as if he understood what he was saying.
When he looked back up, Janna’s car had disappeared. “Now where did she go?” He looked all around him, but didn’t see her car. He stopped at the stop sign and looked down the street. He just barely caught the back end of the little compact turning right down a side street. “That’s not where she lives, Hairy. We better follow her.”
Hairy whimpered, as if agreeing.
“You’re a good partner.” He reached over and scratched one of the shepherd’s ears as he made the turn to follow Janna. He looked up at the sky. “Those are some ominous-looking clouds rolling in, boy. We need to get this done and get home.”
Janna pulled up outside a dingy green house and got out of the car carrying a foil-covered dish. Jedidiah pulled into the curb down the street and turned his car off, glancing at the sky again. It’s looking bad.
She knocked on the door and a man who looked to be in his late twenties, early thirties, answered. He smiled and Jedidiah felt something ugly rise in him. What was it? Could it be jealousy? Nah, he didn’t even know the woman…but her brother hadn’t mentioned a boyfriend. He cleared his throat. “Make me stop, Hairy. I’m going coo-coo over here.”
Hairy stepped over the console and licked Jedidiah in the face before settling his huge black and tan paws over his leg, scrunching his body up under the steering wheel. Jedidiah laughed. “That’s not exactly what I meant, but I guess it’ll do. He buried his right hand in the silky fur and continued his surveillance. “I have to admit the guy’s good looking, if you like the baby-faced type.”
Hairy grunted, raised his head, licked his paw and settled back in.
“Wow, you’re supposed to be on my side. It’s pretty bad when even the dog is bored with my conversation.”
Just then an older man in a wheelchair came to sit in front of the open door. Even from this distance, Jedidiah could see the joy spread over Janna’s face. “Who are these people?”
He pulled the envelope over, opened it and skimmed through the papers. Nothing. He returned them and sighed, rubbed his hand across his face. “Stop it Jedidiah. You’re driving yourself crazy.” And talking to yourself to boot.
His detachment was gone. One encounter with the woman and he felt like silly putty. He remembered the light scent that had wafted around the restaurant as she moved. He’d always hated perfumes, they made him gag, but hers was fruity and fleeting, and he liked it, wanted to smell it again. “Ugh. Hairy, make me stop.”
Hairy ignored him.
Janna handed the foil-covered plate to the old man and turned to leave. She was shaking her head and giving the younger guy a rueful smile. Had he asked her out? Jealousy rushed through him once more. He started the engine and waited as she pulled out in the street.
He resumed following her all the way to her house. He passed by, glad his windows were dark-tinted. She wouldn’t be able to see him. He looked in the review mirror and watched as she got out of her car and went up to the door.
“Okay you smelly beast, time to go home and make us some dinner before that storm rolls in.”
At the word dinner, Hairy’s ears perked up and Jedidiah chuckled. “You are a beast.”
He pulled into his driveway and opened the garage. The house was huge and he knew it wouldn’t be used much, but he loved the garage. It was where he would keep all his favorite toys. He’d never thought about permanency before, but it was in his head now. There was something about this small town that beckoned him, and he didn’t want to deny it.
Janna went inside, clicked on a lamp and continued to her bedroom. “Hot bath here I come.” She pulled off her pink, cotton tee-shirt and groaned.
She still wore a white, ribbed undershirt, not to mention her under-under clothes. She knew it was a sign she hadn’t fully recovered from her attack, but oh well, she was the only one who knew, so who was it hurting? She turned the bath water on and adjusted the tap, plugged the tub and went to the fridge for something cold.
She poured some tea, went through the living room, turned the TV to her favorite weather station, and stopped. Tornado warnings! “Oh no, please no.”
She ran to the closet by the door and grabbed her emergency bag. “Where am I gonna go? Wait, Tilly’s got a basement.” She pulled her cell out as she ran to the bathroom to turn off the water. “Hey Tilly, there’s a tornado warning, I’m coming over.”
“I know. I’m watching the news. There’s a tornado on the ground and it’s headed straight for my place.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, I was getting ready to come over there!”
“My place isn’t gonna be safe, either. Your basement is the best bet.”
“Okay, but if you’re coming, hurry. The forecaster said we only have a few minutes.”
“Do you have a weather radio?” Janna ran round, gathering a few personal items. She needed her lock box with all her important papers and her box of pictures. “If I survive this and my house is still standing, I’m going to build me one of those shelters.”
“That’s a great idea, but I wish you already had.”
Janna heard crying in the background. “Is Jessie okay?”
“Yeah, the tornado siren is scaring him.”
Janna pulled the front door closed and flung her back pack over one shoulder as she juggled the heavy lockbox and the plastic box full of pictures, all the while using the phone tucked under her chin and left shoulder. “I have to hang up Tilly.”
“No! Stay on the phone with me, girl.”
“I’ll be right there.” The wind was already wailing as she threw the stuff in the back seat and got into the car. She took off like a mad woman, praying all the while. “Dear Lord, keep us all safe, if it’s Your will.”
“Thank you, Janna. I didn’t even think to pray.”
“I did, but I have to hang up now.”
“Okay, but hurry.”
As Janna drove down Tilly’s street she stared up at the most humungous tornado she’d ever seen. She couldn’t see anything behind it and only a few houses in front of it as it ate its way toward her. “Oh dear Lord, please let me make it.” She threw the car in park and ran to Tilly’s house. The roar deafened her and pieces of siding pounded her as she went to pull the door open. It was jerked out of her hand by the monster tornado and disappeared into the sky. She screamed, her feet automatically taking her toward the kitchen and the basement.
She was vaguely aware of Tilly screaming, “Come on Janna!”
“I’m coming!” She screamed back.
The basement door opened and Janna raced inside, trying to pull the door shut behind her. It was being ripped from her arms until Tilly joined in the fight. They managed to pull it closed and slide the first foot-long bolt into its slot, and then the other five.
The suction was so fierce they could see the outside as the tornado fought to take the door. “No!” Janna tried to hold the handle but it ripped out of her hand and the door was sucked away. She screamed again, fell down the steps and landed on top of Jessie and Tilly. She frantically pulled them behind the steps and covered them with her body.
“Why didn’t it take me?” She asked.
There was no answer, and then blackness.