"I don't know about big cats around these parts, but I think I just spotted a little pussy."
Another loud growl and it was really close. Right on the heels of the two of them. Gaining ground fast.
"C'mon! Let's go. Let's move it," said Martha Wiatt. She was a little afraid now, running as fast as she could, and that was very fast.
Another eerie growl pierced the gathering fog.
LIEUTENANT MARTHA WIATT had definitely picked up her pace. The distance between her and Davis was growing. She did triathlons for fun. He worked behind a desk, though, God knows, he certainly looked good for an accountant. "C'mon, c'mon. Keep up with me, Davis. Don't fall back," she called over her shoulder.
Her boyfriend for the past year didn't answer. Well, that settled any future debate about who was in better shape, who was the real athlete. Of course, Martha had known that all along.
The sounds of the next growl and also heavy footsteps crushing leaves were even closer. They were catching up to her.
But what was catching up to her?
"Martha! There's something behind me. Oh, God! Run!
Run, Martha!" Davis shouted. "Get the hell out of here!"
Adrenaline charged through her. She pushed her head in front of her body as if she were trying for an invisible finish line. Her arms and legs moved in sync like efficient pistons. She leaned her weight forward, the way all good runners do.
She heard more screams behind her. She looked back but she couldn't see Davis anymore. The screams were so terrifying that she almost stopped running. But Davis had been attacked by something vicious. Martha rationalized that she had to get help. The police. Somebody.
Her boyfriend's screams were ringing in her ears and she was running in total panic, not aware of where she was going. She stumbled over a pointy rock and cartwheeled down a steep hill. Martha crashed into the base of a small tree, but at least it stopped her fall.
In a daze, she managed to pull herself up. Jesus, she was pretty sure she'd broken her right arm. Cradling it with the left, she ran forward in a clumsy stumble.
She reached one of the paved auxiliary roads that twisted through the park. Davis's screams had stopped. What had happened to him? She had to get help.
She saw a pair of headlights approaching and Martha ran out into the middle of the road. She straddled the double center line and felt like a total madwoman. For God's sake, this was San Francisco.
"Please stop, please stop. Hey! Hey! Hey!" She waved her good arm and shouted at the top of her voice. "Stop! I need help!"
The white van sped straight for her, but then, thank God, it skidded to a stop. Two men jumped out and ran to her. They would help. The van said Red Cross on its hood.
"Help me. Please," Martha said. "My boyfriend is hurt."
Everything went from bad to worse. One of them hit her with a closed fist. Before Martha realized what was happening, she went down hard. Her chin struck the pavement, bouncing like a wet ball. She was knocked almost unconscious by the powerful blow.
She looked up, tried to focus her eyes, and wished she hadn't. Blazing red eyes stared down at her. A mouth was open wide. Tw o horrible mouths. She had never seen such teeth in her life. They were like sharpened knives. The incisors were huge.
She felt the teeth bite into her cheeks, then her neck. How could that be? The teeth tore into her, and Martha screamed until her throat was raw. She rolled and twisted and kicked out at her attackers, but it did no good. They were incredibly strong. Both of them were growling "Ecstasy," one of them whispered against Martha's ear. "Isn't it beautiful? You're so lucky. You were chosen out of all the beautiful people in San Francisco. You and Davis."
Copyright © 2001 by James Patterson
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