I walked at a brisk clip across the parking lot of the grocery store to my car. It was late, almost 11 p.m., and the night sky was overcast, with only a sliver of the moon peeking through the clouds. The handles of my brown paper grocery bag were slung over my forearm and my purse was in one hand; my keys were in the other, with my car key between my index and middle fingers, just like my dad had taught me. Perfect for stabbing assailants in the eye, or so he'd told me.

I hate going out late at night. I live in a pretty good neighborhood, but even so, I would still hear stories on the news about people being mugged and even killed just going to their cars. Normally, I'm fairly alert when I'm alone, but I had a lot on my mind this cloudy evening, and I didn't hear the mugger until it was too late.

Strong arms grabbed me from behind; one arm held me around my waist, snugly against my attacker's body and the other snaked around my neck, holding a large, sharp blade to my throat. "Give me your cash and credit cards," he hissed, hot breath against my ear. He pulled me behind a large SUV, out of sight.

Terror and an inexplicable urge to laugh warred in my brain. If only this guy knew, I thought. Fear and adrenaline brought my mind into sharp focus, and I knew I had to talk my way out of this situation. I didn't want this creep to get my things, but I certainly didn't want him slitting my throat, either. I determined that no matter what happened, I wasn't leaving with him. I didn't want him to take me somewhere and dump my body where no one would find me for weeks.

"You can have whatever you want, but I don't have any cash, and my card is all maxed out," I said, fighting to keep the panic out of my voice. It was the truth. My purse was sadly empty of cash, and my one and only credit card was over limit.


"I'm too scared to lie. I swear. I had to write a hot check just to buy my groceries." A tear trickled down my cheek, seemingly of its own volition. Stupid, so stupid. I hadn't been paying attention one time, and look what happened. "Look inside. I promise, I've got nothing." I unzipped my purse and turned it upside down. Makeup, pens, and my wallet tumbled to the asphalt. My compact shattered on impact with the ground, which pissed me off. I really liked that one.

The mugger shoved me against the SUV. The door handle dug into the small of my back. He pressed the knife to my throat and kept his eyes trained on me as he crouched down to retrieve my wallet. I raised my hands in a gesture of conciliation. Using his teeth, he opened the zipper. It was hard to see his face in the dark, so I couldn't quite make out his expression. I imagined it was anger mixed with disappointment. All that was inside was a little loose change and receipts for fast food, and the one, lonely credit card.

"Fuck," he muttered, standing up. He took the credit card out of my wallet; I guessed he hoped I was lying about it being maxed out. He pressed the knife slightly harder against my throat. It was a hairsbreadth from slicing through my skin. I could finally see something of his features. He was painfully thin, with sharp cheekbones and sunken eyes that were dark brown or black. It was hard to tell with so little light.

"I'm gonna let you go, lady. It's your lucky day. But you better not call the cops, got it?" He leaned in to me, and I could smell the garlic on his breath. I nodded slightly.

"I don't have a cell phone."

Sirens sounded in the distance, startling the mugger. He bolted away, disappearing into the darkness.

I bent to retrieve the contents of my purse. I left the compact on the ground; it was damaged beyond repair.

Unlocking my car door took three tries; my hands were shaking that badly. I threw my purse and grocery bag into the passenger seat and settled into the driver's seat. Somehow, I resisted the urge to lie my head on the steering wheel and collapse into sobs.

The drive home was uneventful. The roads are pretty quiet that late at night.

I pulled into the driveway. My house was dark, and I had a momentary feeling of fear that my mugger somehow followed me home. I let myself into the house and turned on every light in the place.

Settling on the couch, I allowed myself a few minutes to cry.

Then I opened my grocery bag. It was stuffed with cash.

Go figure, the night I got mugged was the night I robbed the safe at work.