Dread filled her the minute she entered the house through the kitchen door. Was he still in here?
Dinah hadn’t even properly moved in yet, but the kitchen was done; a simple wooden table and four chairs, a cheap coffee maker, a few mismatched dishes, pots and pans. Everything in its place.
She was coming in with a few groceries, planning how to best strategically fill the mini-refrigerator. That’s when she saw the screwdriver.
It lay in the exact center of the table. Sunlight shining through the small window over the sink hit it with striking precision, casting shadow and reflection at once.
The screwdriver was a Phillips head. It appeared brand new and sparkling clean.
But near the edge of the table–a single drop of blood.
She set the grocery bags carefully on the floor, pulled her cell phone from her pocket and dialed 911.
“Willie?” Dinah called, her voice strained and weak. She cleared her throat and tried again. “Willie?”
From somewhere beyond the kitchen, she heard a whine, and then a sharp yip.
Damn it. That answered two questions: 1. The blood was Willie’s and 2. Dustin was still in the house.
She’d been terror stricken when she saw the screwdriver, and even more so when she saw the blood. But now, that terror left her and was replaced with a blinding rage.
She’d heard it said that angry people “saw red”, but until her own vision was washed with the color, suffusing her world with an overall tint she had to squint through, she’d never believed in the analogy.
It was just like Dustin to pull crap like this. Deliberately leaving just one drop of blood on the table was enough to induce panic; no need for a pool. Holding her dog hostage was an act of cruelty that made her grateful there had been no children; he’d have done the same with a toddler, just to frighten her.
Willie was wounded, that much was clear. How badly?
Dinah plucked the screwdriver from the tabletop and slipped it into her jacket pocket. Feigning ignorance, she called again. “Wee Willie Winkey, where are you, sweet baby? Are you okay? Mummy’s home.”
Faintly, from the cell phone, she could hear an operator asking if she was okay. “Where are you, baby?” she called. “Are you hurt?”
The operator’s voice, slightly louder: “I have your location. Say yes.”
“Yes, baby, Mummy is here!”
The operator: “A car is on its way.”
As she spoke, her voice louder than necessary, she tiptoed her way across the kitchen and into the short hallway that led to her bedroom and bath. She suspected that Dustin had taken up space in her tiny living room, but she had to be sure.
“Willie, come to Mummy. What’s wrong, little boy?”
What was wrong, of course, was that Dustin had wounded her little Corgi somehow. He couldn’t come to her.
Bedroom and bath were clear.
“Willie?” Back up the hall she went, taking exaggeratedly long strides. With her short legs, she looked comical, but the situation was far from funny.
Willie was whining and panting hard; she could hear him. There was a love seat in the middle of the living room floor, not yet put in place. The front door was behind it, ajar.
Dustin could be on the front porch, holding the dog, Dinah thought. It would be a good place to ambush her as she walked through.
She didn’t believe it, though. She was certain that he was kneeling behind the love seat. If she stood on her toes, she might be able to see the top of his head. If he peeked out at her, she’d see him for sure.
She cursed herself for putting the shades over the big window. She’d have been able to see outside, see the porch. She’d have been able to see the back side of the love seat reflected in the glass.
She backed slowly into the kitchen, calling, “I’ve got a treat for you sweet boy. Come to Mummy. I’m back from the store.”
She had left the door open, so stunned by the sight of the screwdriver that her first thought had been of a ready escape. She slipped out now, and ran around to the front.
As she went, she put her phone to her ear and whispered urgently, “I’m pretty sure someone is in my house. I think it’s my ex.”
“Ma’am? Are you–?”
Dinah quickly recited her new address, which she had taken great care to memorize in case something like this happened. She left the line open, so she could be found, and put the phone in her pocket.
From the postage-stamp sized front yard, she could see the porch and the open front door. She cursed the blinds again; her need for privacy had bushwhacked her need to see inside her own living room.
Dustin was surely behind the love seat, and if he was watching the door, he would be able to see her coming.
Unless she crawled up from the other side.
Quickly, she assessed the logistics. The porch ran the length of the front of the house. It was more a deck than anything, with fence-like railing on either side of the steps leading to the front door, and about five feet deep from the yard side to the outer wall of the house.
Dinah crept up to the railing furthest from the door and slid underneath onto the deck floor and up against the wall. She was under the window. Carefully she inched her way up the wall to try to get a peek inside, hoping against hope that the blinds would be far enough away from the edge of the pane to allow her a glimpse inside.
Luck was with her, and better than she expected. Through her left eye, she could see Dustin kneeling behind the love seat, clutching her beloved Corgi against his side. His back was to the door–praise be to whatever deities might be out there.
Willie was squirming, trying to escape, and whining piteously. Dinah flinched when Dustin flicked his finger into the little dog’s forehead, making Willie yip. She could see blood on the floor near her dearest friend, but there weren’t copious amounts of it, thank goodness.
Willie was panting hard now, and Dinah hoped that would mask any sounds she might be making as she crawled under with window toward the open door. Luck was with her again: the door was positioned to be open on her side, so she wouldn’t have to go around to get inside. It was ajar enough to allow plenty of space without pushing it open further.
Now, if only Willie would be cooperative enough not to look around and give her away.
Dustin was actually aiding her cause in that respect, since he had pressed Willie’s head against his side. Willie was struggling to get loose, but no more so than he’d been doing previously.
Dinah pulled the screwdriver out of her pocket, slid through the door and pressed the tip to the back of Dustin’s neck, all in the space of about ten seconds. “Let him go,” she hissed.
“I’ll break his damn neck, is what I’ll do,” Dustin hissed back.
Dinah pushed the screwdriver harder into the back of his neck. “I’ll sever your spine in a heartbeat if you don’t let him go RIGHT NOW.”
Dustin released his hold on the dog.
“Run, Willie,” Dinah ordered, and to her relief, the little dog obeyed, dashing into the kitchen.
Dinah applied more pressure, forcing Dustin’s head down until his forehead thumped against the floor. “Put your hands under the couch.”
“Now! Get them under there, now, asshole!”
Dustin pushed his hands under the love seat.
“Keep going. Slide those arms under there.”
“Do it!” Dinah made a quick jab with the screwdriver, puncturing the skin and leaving a wicked scratch.
Dustin shrieked and shoved his arms under the loveseat nearly to the elbows, the skin on his forearms dented from the tightness. The top of his head was now pressed against the back of the seat, his elbows slightly bent. He was still on his knees with his butt in the air.
Dinah fought the sudden urge she had to simply shove the screwdriver right up his ass. Instead, she used her free arm to sweep under his belly and crotch to knock his knees out from under him and slam his body into the floor.
Dustin grunted and tried to pull his arms free, but Dinah quickly moved the blade of the screwdriver into the cup of his ear. “Go ahead and try to move, you son of a bitch.”
“I’ll kill you for this!” Dustin promised.
“I’m sure you’ll try,” Dinah replied. “I should probably just kill you now. Get it over with.”
Willie came in through the front door, leapt onto Dustin’s back and delivered a fierce bite between his neck and shoulder. Dustin screamed. “I should have killed that bastard the second I came through the door!”
“The only reason you’re still alive right now is because he is,” Dinah stated flatly.
She could hear the sirens getting closer.
A profound inner conflict raced on within her. If the police released him, she was a dead woman walking.
One strong shove was all it would take to make sure that didn’t happen.
But then she’d be no better than he was.
He was bleeding from the scratch and the bite. It sickened Dinah to realize how gratifying it was to see Dustin bleed.
Over the next several seconds, she relived every slap, every shove, every punch she had suffered at Dustin’s hands. She remembered being kicked repeatedly as she crawled across the floor, begging for mercy. She recalled every cruel word, every threat, every false accusation.
Somehow, she kept her hand from trembling. Somehow, she kept her hand from shoving the tool into his demented brain.
A month ago, she never would have had the guts to confront him. She would have fled the minute she saw the screwdriver and knew he was in her house.
But the little rescue Corgi and a drop of blood were what it took, apparently, to bring out the power she never knew she had.
The power to screw Dustin.
When the police came inside, Dinah was kneeling next to Dustin, a shiny, clean screwdriver in her hand and well away from his ear. Willie was sitting next to her, oozing blood from the puncture wound in his back thigh, his own and Dustin’s blood in his fur and muzzle.
Dustin was on his belly, hands and forearms tightly wedged under the love seat, bleeding from the bites administered by Dinah’s beloved pet.
Most likely, the scratch and puncture from the screwdriver could be attributed to Willie, who had bitten to protect his person from the vicious man who had stabbed him.
If Dustin accused her of assault and it could be proven she’d wounded him, so be it. Dinah knew her rights. She could defend herself in her own home. There was a restraining order in place. He was never supposed to come near her again.
Dinah hadn’t killed him.
Still, Dustin was royally screwed.
And he had provided the screwdriver.