It was late, almost ten o’clock at night, by the time I finished and pushed my loaded cart into the barren parking lot. It was dark but I could see the swirling mass of gray in the night sky. A few frantic shoppers quickly shoved their groceries into trunks; everyone knew the clouds were about to unleash on us.

I hurried home and pulled into the driveway, frowning when the garage door wouldn’t open. I pushed the button on my remote over and over but nothing happened. Stupid battery, I thought to myself. It figures that it would go out right before a huge storm.

I killed the motor and climbed out of the car, grabbing one of the bags and heading for the back door. I fiddled with the key, knowing that any minute now my groceries would be a sopping mess.  I jiggled the door handle and rattled my key again. It finally turned. I kicked the door open with my foot just as the first raindrop hit my cheek.

The house was doused in darkness; I hadn’t left a single light on. I flipped on the hallway light switch with my arm and made my way toward the kitchen. As I set my groceries down on the counter, I heard a slight whimper and a shuffling noise from the living room. I peered over the back of the couch and spotted Nico cowering in the corner next to the bookshelf. I frowned when I saw him. It wasn’t like Nico to hide from me when I came home. In fact, he was usually at the door, barking and fanning his tail excitedly, eager to greet whoever walked inside first. I was instantly irritated, realizing that the only reason Nico would be hiding was if he had rummaged through the trash, chewed something to smithereens or lifted his leg somewhere.

 I was randomly picking out the possibilities in my head when I heard voices and a rustling sound from upstairs. I froze, my hand still on the back of the couch, and felt my heart lurch in my chest. I stood perfectly still, holding my breath, and waited…nothing. I heard nothing. The rain began to come down hard and it hit the front window with a loud spattering sound. I cursed under my breath; I wouldn’t be able to hear a damn thing now. I wanted to run back to the door but I couldn’t move. My ears strained against the pelting rain but I still heard nothing. Perhaps I’d been mistaken. Maybe I left a window open and was hearing sounds from outside.

I took two small steps toward the stairs and heard a loud thud. Someone had dropped something on the second floor. It didn’t sound like something had fallen either. Something was definitely dropped. I turned on my heel and sprinted for the backdoor. Then, with several long steps, a massive bald man walked into the hall from the garage, standing between me and my escape. He was a huge individual, six four or five with muscles like a wrestler. He wore a sleeveless t-shirt and had a large tattoo on his left shoulder and looked like an absolute menace. He had earrings in both ears and resembled Mr. Clean but without the friendly smile. Laurie’s words instantly rang in my ears, “one was tall and bald; he was a big boy,” and I knew immediately that he had come to do harm. My stomach bottomed out and, as he locked eyes with mine, I briefly wondered how he was going to kill me...