The loud roar of a car engine spooked Leah MacKenzie.
An odd sound, it burrowed into her sleepy brain. She lived in a quiet neighborhood and people there didn’t drive fast. Usually, lawn mowers and snow blowers were the only sounds that disturbed the peace.
Leah was homeschooled, but on this warm, beautiful day, Mom had sent her outside for some fresh air. Leah had fallen asleep on the front lawn in the shade of an oak ablaze with bright fall colors. She felt a little groggy, still half asleep. Lying on a blanket with her dolls and an ornate wooden dollhouse, she had been dreaming about a doll wedding. The sound of that roaring engine washed over her like a murky shadow, a bad feeling.
Her eyes flew open.
Focusing on an approaching car, she sensed something dark. Something within the car or maybe even the car itself. She stood, grabbed her dolls and glanced at the shelter of the garage but sensed she had no time. The engine revved and metal scraped as the car bounced over the edge of the driveway. Leah dashed behind the tree and pressed her back against the thick trunk as the car careened across the yard and crashed into the old oak with a horrendous screech of twisting metal and breaking glass. The tree and the ground beneath her feet shuddered with the impact and nearly knocked Leah off her feet.
For a few seconds, there was silence other than the faint hiss of steam. The air smelled like burnt plastic.
Leah peeked toward the house just as Mom flew out the front door, looking about frantically, yelling, “Leah! Leah!”
Several neighbors rushed out onto their lawns wearing shocked expressions. Mr. Spencer was talking on a phone and pointing with a serious face.
As Leah stepped out from behind the tree, her mother grabbed her into her arms. “Thank God you’re okay.”
“I’m okay, Mom. We should check the car.”
They inched toward a twisted mess of metal barely recognizable as a car, the steering wheel pointing uselessly through the broken windshield toward the sky.
Mom held her hand and clenched it tighter as they approached. Leah knew she was worried about what they would find—blood and guts or something worst—but the driver’s seat was empty.
Indeed, the car was empty. No driver nearby, just the crushed remains of her dollhouse. Still in shock, Leah started to cry. That antique house had once belonged to Grandma Laura. It was her last connection to a woman she loved dearly and who was now gone. Sadness washed over her.
And then fear. That car had been aimed at her.
Moments later, she heard sirens.