Shards of Life - Prologue

A shoe scraped on the asphalt behind her. She whirled, the narrow beam of her flashlight piercing the darkness of the alley. Nothing. There was no one behind her. She shook her head, wishing she’d left a message on his voicemail when she called earlier, to let him know about her little outing.

Finished with perusing the darkness, she turned back. Her eyes registered the dark form in front of her, but before she could point her flashlight, her wrist was seized in a bruising grip. Her training kicked right in, not that it did her any good. A staggering kick to her left thigh swept her off her feet, and she tasted blood as she bit her tongue when the back of her head collided with the ground...Then everything went black.

A stinging slap brought her back to awareness. The alley was still dark, nothing penetrated the oppressing blackness, except for that darker form towering over her. Her assailant probably had NVGs, but it was worth the risk. She slowly reached for her waistband...And came up empty.

A deep chuckle sounded from above her. “No one can help you now, little bitch, so don’t bother.”

She gritted her teeth. Yes, he took her cell, so she couldn’t call for help and she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of screaming. No one could hear her. But she wasn’t defenseless. She’d fight him to the death. She tensed, a coiled serpent prepared to strike, when he brought his foot down hard onto her stomach. All air rushed out of her lungs and bile rose into her throat. He added a swift kick to her left side, effectively flipping her over.

Before she could recover, he grabbed a fistful of her hair and pulled. Her vision swam as tears flooded her eyes at the stinging pain in her scalp. Still clutching her hair, he hauled her to her knees and she felt the cold muzzle of a gun against her nape.

For a fleeting moment she debated resisting, but knew it was futile. Time seemed to slow down as her senses intensified. She clearly saw the trash bags littering the ground on her left, the mouth of the alley in front of her and the line where the rooftops of the surrounding buildings met the sky. She felt every single grain in the asphalt under her knees, her scalp burned where her hair pulled, she felt the distinct impression of her attacker’s knuckles against her head, and the small patch of skin on her nape where the muzzle of his gun touched her was slowly going numb. She could taste the sweet and metallic taste of blood in her mouth, smell in on the ground, her clothes and skin. One of the bags to her left was split, spilling its trashy guts into the alley. The smell of it mixed with the smell of metal of the gun poised at the back of her neck. As she heard the trigger slowly engage, the click the guns make just before discharge, she flashed back on her life. The joy and sorrow, drama, all the successes, the people she helped, the ones she couldn’t...Not that many regrets. Maybe one. Big. She should’ve listened to her heart, she should have—

A loud pop splintered the silence of the night. The bullet tore her skin open, burrowed between the vertebrae and severed the spinal cord. As he felt her slump, he released her hair, leaving her lifeless body to crumple forward. A nudge with the tip of his boot brought her onto her back. Her eyes were open, the hazel irises staring sightlessly up into the sky.

He pocketed the SIG Sauer and pulled his modified Stoeger from its holster on his thigh, sighted...And the silence shattered again.

He checked his handiwork, re-holstered, turned, and disappeared into the darkness, leaving his victim lying in the middle of the alley in a pool of her own blood and tissue.

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