A Surge Of Fear
The sick feeling bubbled up in her throat, and the wave of adrenaline compelled her to run away.
It was like she was in one of her worst nightmares, with this mysterious shadowy figure as the bad guy. He is much too close, and his fast pace and direction matched hers. This was a problem. There was only one option.
Sandra despised her neighborhood, but it was the only place she could get by on her small waitress salary.
Her reinforced steel door’s long row of sturdy locks and her German Shepherd, Bear, were the only two things that gave her any sense of security at home. He was a big, fluffy savior for her.
Through the help of a friend, she was able to adopt Bear, a retired police dog. Sandra was happy to provide the dog with a nice and caring home to spend his golden years.
Although he may have been enjoying the peaceful years of his later life, he was still intelligent, devoted, and dangerous in the right circumstances. And one of those unpleasant scenarios was going to happen that night.
Night Trip To The ATM
Walking to the only safe ATM in her neighborhood, Sandra felt the dreaded pangs of cold fear and anxiety. The sleazy landlord wasn’t going to let things slide any longer.
She was forced to take Bear and attempt to stay away from the darker spaces that were prone to crime. Around the corner, the first unsettling hurdle appeared.
The entire block was kept awake by a group of guys lounging on a doorstep, drinking and loudly commenting on the even louder music.
They were large, marked, and blatantly armed. Sandra sensed the all-too-familiar pit of ice in her stomach and an overwhelming urge to run away. Problems arose when one of them spotted her.
The catcalls began at that point. Comments that are so repulsive that any mother would want to knock the disrespect right out of their son’s mouth.
In her mind, unsettling images from news stories sprang to mind. Just thinking about it made her sick to her stomach. She sped up in an effort to get away from them.
A Shadowy Figure
Two blocks later, she was about to exhale a fresh sigh of relief when she caught sight of something from the corner of her eye.
She initially assumed it was merely a shadow, but when it entered the flickering streetlights, she realized it was a man. Bear was already on guard, so she tightened her grip on his leash. Had a member of the gang followed her?
As she walked toward the gas station and the ATM on the corner, Sandra held back the bile rising in her throat and picked up her pace as much as her legs would allow her.
It was apparent the man was following her by the time she reached the keypad. As the panic set in, she realized there was only one thing left to do.
Hovering Too Close
The tall, disheveled man came close, hovering awfully close to the gas station door. Sandra felt her heart start to race with anxiety.
She could smell his heavy cologne and the cigarette fumes from his leather jacket. What happened next was purely the result of terror and reflex. She turned to face the man as she uttered the one word that could have saved her life.
His Trigger Word
“Protect”- Bear was already on guard, thanks to his training, but as soon as he sensed the potential threat, he instantly went into attack mode.
He lowered his head, squared himself to the big man, and let out a loud, deep growl and a threatening bark. The man glanced up from his phone and recoiled in surprise. Now Sandra could see him clearly.
He was older than the guys who were drinking — much older. He was likely their leader. He looked like a wrinkled biker.
He looked between the frightened Sandra and the frightening police dog that was poised to attack at any moment. He stepped back slightly and lifted his hands in submission.
On His PDistracted
“I’m sorry, little lady. I apologize if I startled you,” the man remarked. He gestured to his phone, ” Just distracted.” While it wasn’t enough to persuade her to put Bear off alert, some of the fear subsided.
Sandra’s senses returned to her. She snapped, “You shouldn’t follow a girl like that.” He gave a brief nod before he said something unexpected.
He agreed and apologized. He was only there for the same ATM. It was too easy sometimes to forget that not everyone walked around feeling safe.
As Sandra quickly punched in her PIN and took out the rent, he commented he would never be able to sleep if his daughters lived in a place like this. He then pulled out a business card.
It turned out the guy, who introduced himself as Ian, was a bike repairman. She politely declined his offer to walk her home, but something inside her told her to keep the card and his other offer to call if she ever needed help.
You never know. As she made the nerve-wracking walk back to her crummy apartment, she looked down at Bear.
PexelsHe was back on calm alert – a brown and black scruffy companion that would do anything to keep her safe.
She gave him a scratch behind the ears and one of his favorite treats from her pocket, and he gave her a loving lick in return. She was lucky beyond words to have him by her side. However, the night was far from over.
As she returned home from the gas station, one question popped into Sandra’s mind for a minute. Reflecting on what had just happened, she asked herself something.
Should she go through the same streets she had walked while going to the station and risk encountering the gang of loiterers again? Or should she take a different route?
Surely, those men would still be there. Her walk to the gas station and her interaction with Ian hadn’t been longer than 15 minutes. Sandra could still hear their subwoofer speakers blasting their music from a distance.
She had been lucky the first time, even though the encounter made her anxious. But would she be just as fortunate a second time?
Truth be told, now Sandra felt a bit more fearless than on her walk from home. The encounter with Ian and Bear’s presence and attitude during their brief run-in filled her with a renewed sense of confidence.
She even felt a little ridiculous about having been so scared. Maybe she was just being paranoid, and there was really nothing to be afraid of.
So Sandra decided to walk through the same route she had taken on her way from home to the gas station.
A part of her wanted to show the loiterers that their attempts to intimidate her were ludicrous; another one wanted to prove herself that she wasn’t a fearful person. Little did she know what she was heading for.
As Sandra walked home, her legs felt lighter and her motions more agile, as if her muscles were being boosted by her newfound confidence. After all, what did she have to be afraid of?
It wasn’t the perfect neighborhood, but she had been living there for months, and nothing bad had happened to her. At least, not until then.
They Were Still There
After turning a corner, Sandra found herself in the same street where she had seen the loiterers. And there they were, still blasting their music and standing outside.
But this time, Sandra had no fear. She had Bear, and nothing had happened to her in the previous encounter. She kept walking in the men’s direction, unaware of what she was getting herself into.
Staring At Her
The gang of loiterers recognized her from a distance and began staring at her. For a couple of seconds, Sandra felt the same anxiety that hit her on her first walk from home.
But quickly, she got over it. Unlike the first time, when she looked at the pavement as she walked past them, she raised her chin and looked them dead in the eye this time.
A few seconds of silence followed as she kept walking and got closer and closer to the house around which the men were loitering. They looked right back at her.
Usually, Sandra would have lowered her eyes and rushed to get past the house quickly. But not now. That would turn out to be a big mistake.
One Of The Men
As she got closer to the house, one of the men stepped into the street, still in complete silence while staring at her. What was he trying to do?
Sandra had felt confident up until that point, but now she was having second thoughts. Perhaps she had been too bold? Maybe she underestimated the dangers that might lurk in those streets.
“What are you doing in these streets alone so late?” the man said with a grin. That was the moment Sandra feared. But she wasn’t willing to give the man the satisfaction of seeing her intimidated.
“That’s none of your business,” she replied and kept walking. But then, something happened that made her heart jump to her throat.
“Hold on!” the man said as he grabbed Sandra’s arm. “I just asked you a question, and I want a response. What are you doing here? Are you working or what?”
Instantly, Sandra’s former confidence and boldness vanished in thin air. She had clearly made a mistake. Now, she had to try to get out of there as soon as possible.
She tried to escape, but the man’s grip on her arm was too strong. “Let go, or I’ll scream,” Sandra said in a quivering voice. The man smirked.
“What’s wrong? I just wanted to talk to you. Don’t be rude. Why don’t you come hang out with us?” Sandra’s heart was galloping. And right then and there, she heard something.
A Bike Engine
A motorcycle engine roared and rumbled right next to them. Suddenly, the man grabbing Sandra’s arm looked up at the road and adopted a shaken expression. Then, he let go of her arm and took a few steps back.
While Bear barked at the men, Sandra turned around and looked at the road. What she saw made her stomach drop to her knees.
Ian, the man she had met at the gas station, was sitting on his bike in the middle of the empty road, silently staring at the gang of loiterers.
In a matter of seconds, the men quietly walked back and got back into the house, turning off the volume of their speakers. Then, Ian spoke to Sandra.
“I can give you and your dog a ride,” he said. Sandra thanked him several times for what he had done but refused the ride. After all, she lived right around the corner. Ian just nodded at her and left on his bike.
Sandra went home and thought about what had just happened. She had the feeling that Ian was much more than just a bike repairman.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.