THE PATTERSON PROJECT
by Vonny O’Sullivan
(Scheduled for release in 2019)
Bonnie Lane focused intently on the entrance of the convenience store, through the glass of the large double doors, she focused on him. She could barely breathe, her body tense and tingling, trembling fingers caressing the car door latch from the passenger seat. Wincing at the click as her sweaty hand pulled the handle, she eased the door open. Everything painfully slow, her attention never wavered, never left the man standing impatiently in line at the cash register. It wasn’t a long line, only two people in front of him. She didn’t have much time.
She slid the first foot out the door… skooched one butt cheek off the seat…eased the other foot onto the running board.
The first person in line finished her transaction and hurried to the door as she stuffed her change in her purse. He was one person closer to the checkout now, only one person away, but he was restless, fidgeting, tapping the pointy toe of one cowboy-booted foot. She knew he would turn to look, to check on her any minute now. Any minute. Did she want to be here when he did?
Her gut clenched. She had to go for it, now or never, before fear paralyzed her. She slipped out the door, crouched down, pushed the car door shut ever so gently, ever so quietly, and rolled under the pickup truck parked in the next space, through the grimy oil puddle, rolled out the other side, jumped to her hands and feet, and crouching low, she ran to the side of the building. Heat from the brick wall pummeled her as she sprinted alongside it to the back corner, across a narrow paved drive, and into the wooded area beyond.
Still crouching low to avoid branches—and make a smaller target—she bolted between tree trunks, leaped over a fallen sapling. The long drought and unusual heat littered the loamy ground with a deep carpet of prematurely dead leaves that crunched and swooshed noisily under her feet. Her toes caught the edge of some bulky thing hidden under the brown, leafy cover and down she went, twisting her wrist under her as she hit the ground, screamed at the dead eyes staring at her from a stiff human face partially obscured by the fallen foliage. Shock seized her senses as she struggled to her feet again, poised to run.
Behind her, he grabbed a handful of her long hair—how had she not heard him coming!—yanked her off her feet, and dragged her back through the leaves, the loudly crunching and swooshing leaves. The searing pain struck her like lightning. Feeling her scalp pulling away from her skull, she grabbed his hand with hers, trying to relieve the tension. And then scorching pavement burned her bare legs, gravel gnawed into her flesh. The acrid odor of hot asphalt and dust assaulted her nostrils. She clung like a vice to his hand to keep her scalp from ripping loose.
“Now, where did you think you were going, my Bonnie bitch?” he crooned as he smashed her head against the pavement.
Her mind clutched for thought, for reason, for rational response to save herself. But it was blinded by the pain, that sharp-slicing-through-the-brain pain. Bracing herself against the mental screams of anguish, she suddenly released him and stretched her hand out, reaching it past her head, flinging it around, searching—THERE—latching onto his ankle and yanking with all her might just as his foot started its forward motion into his next step. She felt him falling, heard his surprised curse, “Damn whore!” The heavy thump as his body hit the road, his head crack. The release of her hair brought relief and tears.
She scrambled to her feet and ran back into the woods. Suddenly, she stopped. Not there! There’s a dead person! She held her head in her hands. Think! Think!
Help! She should get help! Yes. The store! She could get help in the store. She turned back.
“Bonnie,” he called seductively. “Do you really think I’m going to let you go?”
This time she heard the leaves crunch under his feet. He was not far away. Her panicked heart raced. Her head buzzed. She scanned the area for a place to hide, dove under a nearby bush.
The rustling of dry leaves sounded closer, louder. “Hey, there, sweet thing. Come on out. I’ve got what you’re lookin’ for.”
Blue patches of his jeans showed through gaps in the branches. His pointy toes kicked swirls of leaves into the air as he wandered back and forth, in and out of view, around the bushes and trees. She held her breath, tried to still her heart.
“I know you’re here some place. You might as well come out ‘coz I ain’t leavin’ without you.”
He strolled around the bushes again, around the tree, and behind her—sudden silence. She didn’t dare move. She did not breathe. Tears swelled in her eyes. She fought the trembling that threatened to break out all over her body, smothered the sob pulsing in her chest.
“Boooonnnnneeeee,” he sang. “My Bonnie lies over the ocean…My Bonnie lies over the sea…Bring back, oh bring back my Bonnie…” his hand grasped her foot and dragged her out from her hiding place “…to meeeeee! Hello, Bonnie! Told you I’d find you!”
She rolled onto her back and shoved her free foot at his crotch. He saw it coming, deflected it with an arm, and it slammed into his hip, knocked him down. She tugged her foot to free it from his grasp, and it slipped out of her Nike, left him holding her shoe. Jumping up, she stumbled over his leg as he lifted it to trip her. Her feet slid in the leaves as she lurched out of reach, heard the shuffling sounds of him getting up. He body-slammed her to the ground, his full weight pinning her there. His hot breath filled her ear.