Jennifer pulled up to the rusty gates of the abandoned amusement park and shut off the engine of her tan Isuzu Rodeo. She gazed through her windshield at the dark land. A derelict rollercoaster, with a couple of cars frozen at the peak of a drop, was silhouetted against the moon. Her eyes trailed the forlorn ruin, noting the sections of missing track. She shook herself and glanced around outside her truck once more. There was no sign of her friend. ‘That’s odd. Danni is more punctual than this. I’m the late one to our meeting places.’
She pulled her phone out to check the text requesting the meeting here again.
‘Jen, meet me at the old FunZone Amusement park at 8pm. I have something you’ll want to see.’
The cell chirped, and the screen when dark. “Damn it. I forgot to charge. Grrr,” she said. She leaned over to the glove box and felt around. Her fingers slid over crumpled parking tickets, napkins, a dried out doughnut, and the cool metal of the handgun her friend Rob had given her. He’d called it a USP Tactical and said it was easy to hide. She leaned over and attempted to look into the glove compartment, but it was too dark to see inside. She reached out and opened the passenger side door. The dome light came on as the sound of crickets entered. The gun blocked her view of the inside, so she pushed it aside. No charger. ‘Shit. I must have forgotten to grab it on my way out the door this morning.’
Jennifer sighed, and pulled the door shut. At the same time, she slammed the glove box shut. She got out and glanced around. The wind moved through the woods, shaking tree branches, and making shadows dance in the moonlight. Still no sign of her best friend. An owl hooted, making her jump. She leaned against the truck, her hand over her racing heart. A rhythmic squeaking caught her attention. When she glanced back to the interior of the amusement park, something darted by. The sudden movement in her peripheral vision caused her to turn to look, as her breath caught in her chest. Her gasp turned into a brief coughing fit.
She regained control of her breathing, and opened her truck once more. She reached under the seat and grabbed the flashlight. As she turned it on, she registered what she’d done, and smacked herself on the forehead. ‘I could have used this when looking for my charger. Dummy.’ She shone the light in the direction of the movement, and became aware the crickets no longer made a sound. The flashlight swung in short, quick arcs, following the motion of her eyes. She took a slow step back. The crunch of gravel underfoot seemed like miniature explosions to her sharpened senses. A wolf howled, startling her. She screamed and dropped her light which broke on the ground.
‘Shit.’ She squatted, gathering the pieces in the moonlight. ‘Get a hold of yourself. If you can handle being attacked by a couple of hood rats, you can handle a wolf howling in the distance.’ The hood rats in question had intended her to be their initiation into the local order of the Four-Nines, a ruthless gang of drug runners. She’d surprised the young girls by being more vicious than they, and as they put it, “Not fighting fair.” Two on one was fair game, though, it seemed. As Rob had taught, a quick knee to the groin of the closer girl had persuaded her to lose interest in continuing. A short jab to the voice box had made the other one lose interest as well, also as he’d instructed.
Jennifer reassembled the flash, and flicked the switch. Nothing. ‘Did I put the batteries in right?’ She removed the top and reversed them. This time the flashlight came on. At the same time, something heavy thumped onto the roof of the truck. She whipped the light up to see what made the noise. The air left her lungs in a rush as an enormous black wolf was revealed. The animal’s eyes glowed yellow in the beam. The wolf’s upper lip curled up, showing gleaming fangs as it snarled at her. Woman and wolf stared at each other for an unknown amount of time. Their standoff ended when she took a slow step back. The sound of gravel being compacted under her foot caused the wolf to spring at her.
She screamed, and threw her arms over her face, certain she was going to die.