A second, more insistent, knock sounded.
“I’m coming! Goodness, you make me wait up half the night and then expect me to jump when you’re ready,” Joy grumbled. “You’re late!” she scolded, swinging the door open.
Only it wasn’t Ann.
Joy gasped and tried to close the door, but it jammed against the man’s foot and remained open. After an eternally long second, it finally registered that she ought be screaming her head off. Her neighbors—with the exception of deaf Mrs. Hines—would have no excuse for not hearing her through the thin walls. Joy sucked in a deep breath.
“Oh no you don’t,” said the man. His gloved hand clamped firmly over Joy’s mouth as he hissed, “None of that.”
Petrified, Joy stumbled back. Her assailant stepped in with her and flicked the door closed with a foot. He must have hit it too hard because it bounced open a crack.
“You’re too nosy for your own good. It’s nothing personal, lady.”
Joy launched herself backward, catching the man off guard, but he tripped her. Her breath rushed out, so she couldn’t scream. But she could move, so she did. Scrambling to the kitchen area with the stranger close behind, Joy resisted the urge to grab a knife. Spotting the microwave plate, she snatched it up from the drying rack. By this time, the assailant clutched a kitchen knife.
As he lunged, Joy wielded the microwave plate like a left-handed batter and smashed his right hand.
The knife clattered across the kitchen floor.
The man howled and smacked her with his good hand. His eyes blazed with fury.
Joy crashed into a counter and fell stunned to the floor. She climbed to her feet shakily in time to see the man pick up a chair. Ducking, Joy held up her hands defensively but the meager defense offered little protection from the chair hurtling toward her head.
Fortunately, the refrigerator took the brunt of the damage.
The flimsy wooden chair shattered to jagged pieces.
The man laughed in triumph now holding only one chair leg.
Eyes wide with horror, Joy watched the assailant’s weapon arc toward her head. She experienced an explosion of pain, then nothing.
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