At this time of night, most the businesses had closed down, excepting the saloons, of course, of which there was no shortage. Judging by the lights, the sounds, and the smells, they constituted a majority on every block, just as they did in certain areas of Spokane. No safe place for me to run or hide, here. The only other establishment open was a rather seedy appearing hotel with a sign identifying it as The Sterling.” I headed for it, walking now, because I cringed a bit at what I might find.
I had nearly arrived when I knew for certain my earlier suspicions were warranted. Far from being a product of my imagination, someone was following me. Heels clumped on the boardwalk behind me, yet when I whirled to see who, no one was there. I heard the brush of clothing in the narrow passages between buildings, but saw only shadows. Terror flew through me on black wings.
“Bogeyman.” I hated myself for being afraid. At the same time, I knew better than to mistrust such a strong premonition.
Unashamed of my cowardliness, I broke into a run, my feet pounding on the plank boards until I reached the hotel. I flung open the door, and raced inside. Dismayed, I found the lobby empty, but spied an open doorway across the room. Panting, my ribs squeezed, I fled toward it, calling out, “Hello. Is anyone here? Hello?”
I passed through the portal into a dark hall. My head turned auto- matically towards the lighted room at my left and I saw yet another saloon. This one of a higher class in that it wasn’t open to the street and the patrons were more intent on cards than on low women. Then all thought cut off as someone grasped me around the waist from behind and put a hand over my mouth, stifling my screech.
It was too much. More angry than frightened, I kicked backwards, jolted as I connected with my captor’s shin. Stepping down again, I ground the sharp Spanish heel of my shoe on top the man’s foot.
He yelped, grabbed me all the tighter, and began dragging me into a darker part of the hall. I heard fabric tear, and felt the sudden give as the hem ripped out of my skirt. This made me even angrier, if such is possible, and my arm, the one not pinned within his grasp, flailed, striking the side of his face.
He muttered a curse, but then swept me up in his arms and without further ado, ran with me up a staircase I hadn’t even seen. Well, how could I? He held my nose, my whole face, crushed against his chest until I could scarcely breathe.
Lack of breath didn’t stop me from fighting. I stiffened, twisted, jerked, thumped at him with the carpetbag I refused to drop. I dare say the man was blowing like an old, used-up Shay locomotive when we reached the landing on the second floor.
The arm beneath my knees gave way and my feet dropped onto thick carpet. He still had hold of me, though, and taking me by the shoulders, spun me around until I faced him.