Pain exploded through Poe Madigan’s right cheek and eye. She slammed into the concrete wall, crying out when her shoulder hit with more vibrating agony, everything fragmenting into multi-colored pieces with layers of disconnection and disorientation. Shock coursed through her in a surreal I-feel-like-I’m-watching-from-a-distance way as she crumpled face down.
What the hell…?
A man. Above her. Masked? Had he punched her in the face? Where had he come from?
Edgar, the larger of her two Jack Russells, went crazy. He leapt at the man’s face and latched onto the mask concealing her attacker’s identity, the weight of the small dog dragging at the man’s torso. Allan’s ferocious barking peppered with mixed growls indicated he’d joined the fray. The signal to Poe’s brain to get up and fight short-circuited. Dazed and immobile from the blow, she could only watch helplessly.
A muzzy thought drifted along the edges of her awareness. Could this have something to do with that awful note someone had shoved under her door?
The man swung his arm and dislodged Edgar. Her dog cried out with a sharp yelp, and she tried again to get up. Edgar was hurt. She needed to help him. The man put his foot into the middle of her back and trapped her against the dirty pavement. He yanked at her purse, which was fortunately partially jammed underneath her. No way! He couldn’t have her too-cool zombie bag. Much too trendy for this lowlife scum. As he reached for the straps and tried to jerk her off the purse, Allan snapped at his hand, slashing it with his teeth.
Her attacker backed off, cursing and swatting at Allan, but the dog was too quick. Allan went for the man’s pant legs, shredding the fabric with his sharp little teeth while Edgar launched himself at him again. Someone shouted, but Poe couldn’t make out the words over the ringing in her ears. The sounds of her dogs attacking receded. Then someone touched her, making her flinch—no, wait, this was a helping touch, trying to find out if she was okay. She finally let go and drifted toward sooty blackness.
She jerked awake. One of the EMTs was talking to her in low, soothing tones as they loaded her into an ambulance, the glare of the blue revolving light making her head hurt. She thought she’d answered his questions, and he seemed satisfied. Suddenly her throat closed up and lucidity rushed at her, tightening her chest. Where were her boys?
“Wait,” she cried out, trying to rise, but the doors closed with finality.