November 19, 2010

Inherit My Heart Chapter Seventeen

When Katrina opened her eyes, a different nurse was sitting in the chair by the desk, her back to Katrina. She tried to sit up but the motion made her head throb and she moaned.

The nurse turned quickly. Seeing Katrina awake, she came over to her and took her pulse, checking her blood pressure efficiently and marking it on a page held secure by a clipboard. With her help, Katrina sat up on the edge of the cot.

She took stock of herself, mentally checking her body. Apart from her throbbing head, she didn't feel too bad.

Gavin came through the door just then. Seeing her sitting up, he smiled.

"Feeling better, Kitten?" he asked as he walked over to her.

"Yes, thank you," she said.

He looked down into her face, searching it carefully.

"Liar," he said softly.

Katrina smiled weakly. Gavin, looking at her face, whistled softly. "You're going to have quite a shiner, Little One," he said, a small grin playing with his mouth, his dimples wavering at the edge of his mustache.

"Thanks a heap, just what a girl wants to hear," she said to him as she tried to stand. Luckily, she only wobbled just a bit, then caught her balance.

"Can we go home now?" she asked.

Gavin looked inquiringly at the nurse.

"Well," she said slowly, "you could take her home, but I'd advise a stop at the hospital or doctor's office first. A tetanus shot would be advisable, and an x-ray of that bump on her head."

Gavin nodded his head. "Point well taken. Will do, Ma'am, and thank you. Could you write the directions down for me, please?" He turned back to Katrina as the nurse moved to do his bidding.

"Are you ready, Kitten?"

Katrina nodded to him and Gavin helpfully took her arm to support her. The nurse gave him a slip of paper with the directions written on it. He read them, and slid the paper into his shirt pocket. Slowly they made their way out of the first aid office.

It was growing dusk. Katrina looked at Gavin in surprise.

“How long was I asleep?" she asked with dismay.

"About three hours," Gavin answered as he led her towards the entrance.

"Why didn't you wake me up?" Katrina was aggravated with him.

"I felt it was important that you rest. Besides, it gave us a chance to look around without your being unattended."

"Did you find…that man?" Katrina shivered in fear as she spoke.

"No, Kitten, I'm afraid not. We found the cart, though. It seems that when one of the keepers went into a pen to feed some animals, his cart was taken."

"Did you get fingerprints from it?" Katrina wanted to know, looking up at him.

Gavin looked at her in surprise. "Are you serious? Do you hope we can find fingerprints?"

"I do, and I am serious. I can't think of any reason the man should have wanted to hurt me. I've never seen him before in my life. How could he want to knock me down if I've never done anything to him or even seen him before?"

They were just inside the zoo gates now. Gavin stopped, took her by the shoulders and turned her to him.

"You're sure you've never seen him before, Katrina?"

"I'm positive." She shuddered again. "I don't think I'll ever forget him, either! That wicked look on his face—Gavin, I know he was deliberately trying to run me down! If…if you hadn't called to me, I wouldn't have looked back, then I couldn't have jumped out of the way at all!" She shivered, thinking about what might have happened if he had caught her totally unaware. She swayed slightly with the abhorrence of the thought. Gavin’s grip on her shoulders steadied her a bit before they turned and continued walking out of the zoo.

Gavin led her down a small gravel path near the zoo’s gate. There was a small garden here, with a bench. He guided her to sit on the bench. The small gravel path forked. Katrina looked briefly down both paths to get her bearings. One led around the side of the zoo just outside the gates. It was flanked by beautifully shaped green bushes, scattered flowering shrubs and attractive flowers. The other path wandered through the small garden and met the bridge. Katrina’s bench was just in front of a tall column holding a life-sized statue of a panther gathered for a powerful leap, and offered a bit of rest.

"Sit here while I bring the car up to the bridge, Kitten." As Katrina started to protest, Gavin hushed her and promised he'd only be a few minutes. She knew they had parked quite a distance away because there had been so many cars in the parking area when they’d arrived. She gave in, only because her head was throbbing badly now and she felt she couldn't have walked so far without a great deal of difficulty.

She watched Gavin walk down the path, then cross the bridge and go out of sight behind a row of trees which offered shade to the parking area. She looked down at the ground by her feet, enjoying the sight of little purple blooms at the edge of the graveled path when something shiny caught her eye. It was a quarter. She leaned down to pick it up. A loud cracking noise rent the air as she bent forward, then something whizzed above her head. It made a pinging noise against the column at the base of the statue behind her.

Startled, she sat up and looked behind her at the statue, then out across the water toward the trees and parking area. Instinct made her dive for the bushes beside the bench. Another cracking noise was heard as she hit the ground and rolled into the shelter of the bushes. The zinging sound came once more to her ears as something hit the statue's base again, causing a shower of plaster and dust to erupt near her.

A terrible thought unfolded in her brain. That was no tree branch breaking, nor was it a car back-firing. It was some kind of a gunshot. Those were bullets whizzing by just above her head. Someone wasn’t trying to hurt her, they were trying to kill her!

She was suddenly glad her budget was so tight she’d reached to pick up that quarter. She would have been dead, otherwise. She suddenly began to giggle at the thought of being saved by a quarter, then her fear silenced her.

Where was Gavin? Nervously she bit her lip, desperately thinking. Where was he when the shots were fired? She hadn't seen anyone or anything after the first shot when she’d looked toward the parking lot before she had lunged into the underbrush. Could Gavin have shot at her? Did he want her dead? He was the only new person who had come into her life and now she was suddenly being attacked. But would he have done that? He didn’t seem to be the type, but then, after all, she’d married Charleston, so what did Katrina know about the type of person who would attack someone? Now there was a chilling thought…was Charleston after her?

Her mind immediately rejected the thought. No one from her life with Charleston knew where she was. Even if they did, they had no reason to hurt her. But who would want to hurt her? Why suddenly was she being attacked? And shot at? Who wanted her dead? And why? Did the man on the cart work for Gavin? Did he work for Charleston? She could not even venture a guess, but nothing else made sense, either. She slid further from the graveled path into the bushy undergrowth, then lay deathly still.