Elements of Mystery takes chemistry to a new level in the ongoing series of mystery novels by author Terri Talley Venters.

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By: Terri Talley Venters

“Holy shit!” Terri said. The American Alligator sunned himself on the bank of the retention pond. The sun touched its reptilian hide, and he raised head like he owned the joint.

“Mom, language.” David said, shaking his overgrown, blond head and rolling his blue eyes. The thirteen-year-old already had the teenage attitude down pact.

“David, look!” Terri pointed to the gator on the bank between the retention pond and the tidal marsh leading to the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida.

“What the…” even David couldn’t act nonchalant about this. “OMG! That big gator is in our backyard!” Standing on the rock next to the screened-in pool, he placed his hands on his hips, looking incredulous.

“It’s the start of mating season. I hear the gators move from pond to pond in search of a mate.” Terri said.

“Mating season?” David’s face, drenched in adorable freckles, looked at his mother.

“You know, how babies are made?” Terri laughed, knowing the embarrassing response before it even happened.

“Ugh, Moooom. You’re so embarrassing.” He retrieved his iPhone 5 from his pocket, snapped a picture and then typed away. Within 30 seconds he’d blasted all of his social media and texted his friends. “This is so cool. We have a gator in our back yard.”

“Wait until your father sees this. He’s on his way home from work now.”

“Can I go fishing?” Davis asked.

“Absolutely not! That gator could eat you! It could eat me, just like that.” Terri snapped her fingers.

“What’s for dinner?” David asked like a typical teenager, always hungry and worried about his next meal.

“Dad is bringing home sushi for us and chicken fried rice for you. Oh, that reminds me, I need to thaw out the ahi tuna for Daddy to sear.” Terri turned and entered the house through the wall of glass doors leading from the screened-in pool to the gourmet kitchen.

Opening the freezer side section of the side-by-side stainless steel refrigerator/freezer, Terri retrieved the frozen bag of Publix brand ahi tuna. She walked to the butcher block, dropped the bag on the counter, and pulled out the large Wustoff butcher knife to cut the tuna.

Glancing up, she froze at the site of David. He stood on top of a stone bench along the perimeter of the pond, less than twenty feet from the gator. She watched in horror as David lost his balance on the sloping bench. Attempting to catch his balance, he waved his arms and leaned backwards.

“David, Nooo!” Terri screamed as she watched David fall face first in the water, hitting his head on a granite rock along the perimeter. He lay still as the gator dropped into the water and swam towards her son.

Terri had already started sprinting out the door towards her first born child. After hurdling the fence like a track and field star, she ran like the dickens.

Still holding the large butcher knife, she shouted to the gator. “Oh no you don’t, mother fucker!”

Just before the gator got to David, Terri jumped through the air and landed on the gator’s back. Its head turned and opened his mouth towards her. With her left thumb, she gouged one eye and stabbed its other eye with the knife. The gator struggled as it moved its body sideways and snapped back. Terri pulled the knife out and stabbed its head again and again.

The gator backed up into the water, dragging Terri down with it. Once it got in deep enough water, it started twisting in a gator roll to drown its victim. Holding her breath, Terri circled around in the water with the gator and continued to stab. Bubbles formed at her lips as the air escaped her mouth. Her lungs burned as she continued to stab the gator. Then everything went black.

***

A bright light shone in her eyes and she squinted. “Am I in heaven? Is David okay?”

The light turned off and she opened her eyes. The smile of a handsome man looked into her eyes. The sun set behind him with lush palm trees swaying in the breeze. “Are you an angel?”

The E.M.T. laughed. “No, ma’am. I’m with Jacksonville Fire Rescue. Do you remember what happened?”

The scene of her son falling into the pond and hitting his head flashed through her mind. “How’s David?”

“I’m fine, Mom, just a concussion,” David said, holding an icepack on his bandaged head.

“Oh, thank God, sweetheart.” Something squeezed her hand and she turned to see her husband of twenty years at her side, holding her hand.

“Hi, honey, I’m home.” Garrison smiled down at her. Then he kissed her cheek. “You saved our son’s life today. “Guess it’s gator tail for dinner tomorrow.”

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