Dead By Dawn by Guest Author Ava Sprayberry

Ava Sprayberry

She sits alone in the front seat of her red dodge caravan.  She managed to steer the van off of the road way and park safely in front of the convenient store.  This was the last thing she needed.  When the night started, she was on a mission.  She was headed to Leesburg, Alabama, the one place that held all she needed in her life right now.  There, at the end of a quarter mile long driveway, just off of County Road Seven, she would find all of the love, compassion, and protection she would ever need.

She couldn’t believe she needed protection.  She couldn’t believe she was turning to the family she had forgotten about so many years ago to find it.  As she wiped a tear from her eye, she winced at the pain.  She turned on the interior light and looked at her reflection in the foggy rear view.  Her eyes were still swelling.  They were almost completely black now from the beating he had given her.  She knew with each punch he threw at her that this was going to be the worst beating in their five year history.

If only she had listened.  Everyone tried to warn her.  She could hear the warnings playing through her mind loud and clear now as if they were coming through a loud speaker.  “Be careful Angie.  I heard he nearly killed his ex-wife.  His brother said he was so bad that he didn’t want anything to do with him.  Leave now Angie.  This kind of thing never happens just once.”  Angie closed her eyes and shook her head back and forth, trying to force the voices back into the depths of her mind.  She didn’t want to hear it then, and she damned sure didn’t want to hear it now.  Now it would be I told you so, and see what I was talking about.  Right or not, she wouldn’t give her family and friends the satisfaction.  She wouldn’t allow them to gloat over her pain and misery.

Her uncle Clyde was just a short half hour drive away.  If the tire hadn’t blown out, she would be safe within the walls of his house by now.  She knew that he was her only place to turn now.  She knew that even if he found her, Uncle Clyde would die before he would allow him to touch her again.  He wouldn’t lecture her.  He wouldn’t disregard everything she had been through just to come out on top.  There would be no I told you so or you should have listened to me.  No. Instead she would find safety, caring and compassion.  Uncle Clyde would let her stay with him until she got on her feet again.

Angie looked around her.  Four a.m. and not a car in sight.  There wasn’t even a street light to illuminate the night that surrounded her.  She thought about turning on the radio, but then thought again.  A flat tire was bad enough without killing the battery too.  She watched the neon sign flashing in the window of the store.  Two more hours of silence and solitude in the darkness before anyone would arrive to open the doors.  At least then she could get to a phone.  Her cell died an hour ago, before she had a chance to call anyone.

After nearly two hours of boredom, Angie decided that she would go to sleep.  That would surely pass the time quicker.  She reclined the driver’s seat and closed her pain stricken eyes.  She tossed and turned as best she could with a steering wheel on top of her.  This wasn’t working.  She raised her seat back up, and locked the doors as she made her way into the back of her van and lay down in the back seat, using her jacket as a pillow.  She closed her eyes again, and she drifted off to sleep.

As she slept, the horrifying events that unfolded earlier that night began to play in her dreams.  She could see his fist coming toward her.  She could feel the pain and severity of the impact on her face.  She could hear the sound of her fear stricken screams for help.  She listened as she begged him to stop, begged him not to hit her again.  “You still want to leave Angie?  Do you?  Answer me!”  His voice pierced her ears as he repeated himself before throwing another forceful punch.  “No! God no Bobby. I don’t want to leave. I swear I don’t.”  “Good.  You try that again, and you will be dead by dawn.”  She watched as he turned away from her and walked into their bedroom, slamming the door behind him.

The loud bang of the door slamming woke Angie.  She sat straight up in the back of the van seat.  Her heart was racing.  Sweat saturated her forehead and the palms of her hands.  She was breathing heavily, and could still feel the burning within her chest as she clutched it tight.  She hated the way nightmares felt.  Of all of the things she could have dreamed about, why was it the ordeal she had barely survived earlier that night that had to invade her subconscious?

She looked around.  She was still in the parking lot of the convenient store at the Georgia-Alabama state line.  As she turned her attention to the store itself, she noticed that there was broken glass scattered all over the cement sidewalk.  She looked to the left of the building.  There, she saw a black pickup truck parked.  The head lights were off, but the vehicle was still running.  It only took a moment for Angie to realize that as she slept in the back seat of her van, someone was inside robbing the store.

The realization of the danger hit her within her abdominal region worse than the blows from her ex boyfriend.  Did they know that she was there?  Had they seen her at all?  One thing she knew for sure.  If they hadn’t seen her sleeping in the back seat, she didn’t want them to find out that she was there.  She quickly lay back down in the seat.  Her heart was racing faster now, and each breath seemed to take every ounce of energy she had in her.  She wondered what was going on inside, but she wasn’t about to try to find out.

Angie listened.  All she could hear around her was silence.  She was surprised that she didn’t hear an alarm sounding.  She thought for sure that a store out in the middle of nowhere would at least have an alarm system installed.  She continued to listen closely.  She heard the two men talking as they came out of the store.

“Man, I thought you said they left money in the safe.”

“They always did before.  I don’t get it.”

“We went through all that trouble just for a measly hundred bucks out of the register.  Next time, I pick the location brother.”

“If you think you can do better than me then sure.  Go right ahead my friend.”

Angie didn’t move.  She didn’t want to risk the two men seeing her.  She didn’t know if they were carrying any weapons, but given what she had already endured that night, she didn’t want to risk finding out the hard way.  She knew it was in her best interest to be still, and wait.  She shifted slightly in her seat.  What a hell of a time for her to have to pee.  The fear flowing within her didn’t help.  She tried to fight against the urge to relieve herself.

She listened closely and carefully.  She didn’t hear the engine of the truck running anymore.  Maybe they were finally gone.  Angie slowly sat up in her seat, just enough to peek out of the back wind shield.  She saw the truck as it sped off back in the direction of Cave Springs, Georgia.  Angie exhaled a sigh of relief, then scrambled toward the front of the van.  The two men were gone, and she had a chance to get out and find her a good enough hiding place to do her business.  She wasn’t one for out door activities, so this would prove to be an adventure all its own.  There was nothing appealing about urinating behind a building.

Just as Angie was about to make her way around the side of the building, she had an idea.  She really needed to report the robbery to protect herself.  She looked around the top of the building.  She didn’t see any cameras.  She knew that without  surveillance cameras, she had no chance of proving that it wasn’t her that robbed the store.  There was just one problem.  Her cell phone was dead.  She was sure that the store had a phone inside.  With that thought, Angie decided that she would enter the store, use the restroom, then use the phone to call the police.  At least when the police got there, they could help her contact her uncle to come pick up her and her vehicle.

Angie didn’t think twice about her plan.  She simply walked inside the store, and made her way to the restroom in the back.  She managed to find her way even in the darkness.  She wanted to turn on a light, but thought better of the idea.  She didn’t need to leave any fingerprints anywhere but on the phone.  She was addicted to crime scene investigation television shows.  She new the importance of avoiding contamination of the scene.   She finally found her way through the dark store, and into the restroom.  She entered, making sure not to touch the light switch in there either.

She had never been so happy to relieve herself.  She felt so much better.  She had thought at one point being so close to two robbers would cause her to release somewhere other than a bathroom.  Angie flushed the toilet and made her way over to the door.  She was just about to open the door when she heard a familiar male voice faintly through the door.

“Man we are going to get caught.  I can’t believe you wanted to come back for cigarettes.”

“Chill out.  There are no cameras or alarms in this place.  Nothing around at all except for that abandoned van out front.”

Angie could feel the fear returning to her with a vengeance. She couldn’t believe that the two men that robbed the store were back.  Her heart began to race again, only now it was faster than she had ever felt.  She looked down at her hand on the door knob.  She had opened the door about six inches before she heard the men talking.  What would she do if they saw the door opened?  Would they look over it?  She decided to try to close the door.  She moved as slow as she possibly could, praying every second that she didn’t make a noise.

Angie slowly turned the lock on the door.  She hadn’t heard a single noise come from the door, but she wanted it locked just incase.  She sat on the floor with her back up against the door.  She was sure her body weight would reinforce the door, and keep her safe inside.  She  was taking every safety measure she could in hopes of surviving the night.

As she sat there waiting, she thought back to the words Bobby spoke to her while he brutally beat her.  “If you try to leave again, you will be dead by dawn.”  Angie thought that when she put fifty miles between herself and her attacker, she would be safe.  Now, here she sat with herself barricaded in a convenient store restroom, praying for her life once again.  She began to wonder just how much truth was in Bobby’s words.  She didn’t doubt for one second that he would kill her.  But now it seemed as though he had put a curse on her.  No matter what she did, or how hard she tried, she would die tonight.

Silence fell over the store once again.  Angie noticed, but she was still afraid to move.  She took a chance getting out of her van to come inside.  She wouldn’t risk her life again.  This time, she would wait long enough for the robbers to be gone for good before moving a muscle.  The heaviness in her chest beckoned her to breath harder, but she refused.  She wouldn’t allow her fear to cost herself her life.  She steadied her breathing to a near silent whisper as she continued to listen.

Still silence.  Fifteen minutes had slowly passed and silence still filled the store.  She decided it was time to slowly leave the safety of the restroom.  She carefully turned her body, until she was facing the door.  She turned the lock.  The click indicating the door was unlocked was loud.  Angie knew her fear had amplified her sense of hearing.  It couldn’t have been as loud as a gun shot.  She opened the door slowly until she had just enough space to exit the restroom.

She made her way over to the counter where the cash register was.  The register was sitting open on the counter.  There were papers, lottery tickets, and cigarette cartons everywhere.  The robbers had really demolished the place.  Angie thought the act unnecessary, but didn’t concern herself with giving it too much thought.  She found the phone under the counter.  She picked up the receiver and was relieved to hear a dial tone.  She dialed the numbers 9-1-1, and placed the receiver up to her ear, and waited for someone to answer.

Just as the phone began to ring a second time, she felt someone grab her from behind, and quickly cover her mouth.  She dropped the receiver as she tried to struggle free.  They hadn’t left the store.  She was wrong, and now they had her.

“Who were you calling darlin’?” one of the men asked.

“Judging by the looks of that tire out there, I hope it was a tow truck.”, the other man stated.

“Do you need a lift?  Come on, we will give you a ride.” the first man stated.

Angie could feel the horror growing inside of her.  This was more intense than any fear Bobby had ever caused her.  After years of surviving his abuse, then finally finding the courage within herself to leave, she couldn’t believe that her life would end at the hands of two men that she didn’t even know.  As they pulled her outside of the building, she came to the realization that this could very well be her last moments on earth.  No. She wasn’t giving up now.  She fought so hard to get away from Bobby.  She refused to allow these two men to kill her.

Angie decided to fight.  She wasn’t going to just lay back and let these men kill her.  She waited until they had her outside before she would try to escape.  She struggled against the grip the smaller man had on her body as to not give away her plan of escape.  She had to make them believe that she was too afraid to fight them.  She analyzed her surroundings.  As they pulled her to the side of the building close to the wood line, she realized that her chances of escape were growing by the second.  She saw the pick up truck the men were driving.  She would wait until they tried to force her in, then she would free herself from their grasp and run.

She struggled a little, more to test the strength of her assailant than to actually break free of his hold.  He did tighten his hold, but not to the extent she anticipated.  Just as they led her to the passenger side of the pick up truck, Angie began to fight and struggle with all of her might.  She thought back to the self defense techniques that her father had taught her as a little girl.  She couldn’t find the strength to use them against Bobby, but she could against these strangers.  She didn’t know what they planned to do with her, but she knew she didn’t want to find out.  With one swift thrust of her elbow into the ribs of her assailant, Angie felt him lose his grip and she was free.

She didn’t turn to see their faces, or to see if they were coming after her.  All she did was stick to her plan.  She began to run into the woods.  She pushed herself with all she had in her, using her fear as her fuel.  The was breathing heavily.  She hadn’t ran since high school, but she was proud to see some of her stamina from the track team was still in tact.

The man rubbed his rib cage in an attempt to relieve the pain.

“What the Hell man.  You let her go!” his partner in crime scolded.

“I didn’t let her go.  She made me.”, he replied still rubbing his rib cage.

“Should we go after her?”, he asked.  His partner looked off in the direction that Angie ran off in.

“No, don’t worry about it.  She’s not from around here.  Looks like a city girl.  She stays out in these woods too long, she will be dead by dawn.”  With that the two men got into the black pick up and drove away.

Angie continued to run.  She didn’t know if they were chasing her, but she wasn’t going to take the time to stop and see.  She didn’t care if they were chasing her.  She simply pushed herself to keep running.  She heard the words of Bobby replaying in her head.  “You will be dead by dawn.”  There were several moments that Angie had believed those words, but not now.  She was determined to see day break.  That was her goal at this moment as she ran.  She would see the skies light up.  She would find a house or a business.  She would find a phone and call Uncle Clyde to come get her.

She could see a clearing up ahead.  The woods were ending.  She pressed on, pushing herself to run faster.  She was almost to safety again.  She was sure of it this time.  She was finally to a point where no one could hurt her.  She began to realize as the road came into view that Bobby was wrong.  She would live to see another day.  She wouldn’t be dead by dawn.  Angie saw the ditch that ran parallel with the road.  She picked up her speed enough that she could jump and clear the ditch.  She waited for just the right moment to jump.

She cleared the ditch, and her feet hit the blacktop. She stopped running and stood there to catch her breath.  She heard something, but couldn’t distinguish the sound.  Was it a horn?  She looked up the highway and didn’t see anything.  She turned to look in the other direction.  She heard the sound again.  Just as she looked down the highway, she saw the grill of an eighteen wheeler as it plowed into her body, knocking her to the ground, and rolling over her.

The driver hit his breaks, but it was too late.  He wasn’t able to see the woman in time.  She was wearing dark clothes and blended in with the night.  When the rig finally came to a halt, the driver and his trainer jumped out of the truck.  They ran back to where Angie lay helpless in the road.  They rushed to her side.  She was still breathing, but it was faint.

“Get on the C.B. and radio for help!  Hurry up.  If she don’t get an ambulance soon she’ll be dead by dawn.”, the trainer informed.

Angie was semi-conscious.  She heard what the man had said.  She would be dead by dawn.  “I will not.”, she thought to herself.  “I will see the day break.  I will see the sun rise.”  Angie thought she was talking to the man trying to comfort her.  She didn’t realize that all he heard was mumbles of pain.  Angie managed to turn her head to look down the highway.  She could see the light in the sky where the sun was beginning to rise.  Then, the light started to fade, and darkness was returning once again.  When she took her last breath, she was dead by dawn.

 

© 2011 Dianah Brock