TRINITY — It was Tuesday, lunchtime, and the shopping plaza was packed. Somewhere amid the cars, a man searched for his target. It was raining, the wind fierce, when Eleni Kalogianis stepped out of the store and walked to her car.
He picked her.
She is 71 and, on that afternoon, carried her umbrella in one hand and her shopping bags in the other. She lives nearby and goes to Ross Dress for Less every Tuesday. It's the store's discount day for seniors. Sometimes she doesn't buy anything and just browses to pass the time. On this day, she bought a beach towel, a bath towel and a blouse.
She unlocked the doors to her gray-blue Chrysler and put her bags in the passenger seat. She has a cross dangling from her rearview mirror, as well as a Virgin Mary she got in her native Greece. It is from a church in Tinos, a place where miracles happen, she says.
As she went to the other side of her car, the man appeared.
He was short, clean-shaven, with a round face and a calm manner.
"Get in your car," he said.
Then she saw his gun.
He held it to her throat.
"Get in your car," he said.
If he had asked for her keys, she would have given them to him. But being held hostage … images of him raping and killing her flashed through her mind.
"No," she said.
He pushed her to the ground and beat her skull with the gun. She tried to cover her head with her hands. It hurt so badly.
"I will kill you," he yelled.
She screamed, but did not cry – and hasn't since the attack. Kalogianis cried for months when her husband died six years ago. But that was different, she said.
The man saw a couple walking to their van and pointed the gun at them. The wife gave him their keys and he drove from the shopping center at Little Road and State Road 54.
Authorities say he picked up an accomplice and within an hour, the two of them tried to rob the Medicine Shoppe, a pharmacy at the shopping complex off Duck Slough.
No arrests have yet been made.
Kalogianis was taken to Community Hospital and released that day. She has 24 staples on the top of her head. She wanted to hug the doctor when told she had no permanent damage.
"I am alive," she said. "Thank God."
Thursday morning, she sat on her front porch with two neighbors, drinking Turkish coffee, eating toast and oranges, shaded by her bright, lush garden — roses, jasmine, gardenias.
She doesn't see any reason to hide inside, just because of what happened to her.
"I'm strong," she said.
She will still shop at Ross.
"Why not?" she said. "I'm not afraid."
She will still take her hour-long walks and work in her yard and babysit her grandchildren. Her son, Chuck Kalogianis, is an attorney, developer and onetime congressional candidate. Her daughter also lives in the area. They were all at the hospital when Kalogianis arrived in an ambulance.
"I was covered in blood," she said. Her blouse, sweater, trousers. Her glasses were broken.
She grew up in central Greece and moved to Boston, where she worked as a seamstress. One night, about 20 years ago, she heard noises coming from her kitchen. She went downstairs and saw a man, with one arm in a cast, going through her purse. She had all of her week's earnings in there. She confronted him and he bashed her on the head with his cast. He was never arrested, she said.
She hopes the man who attacked her Tuesday will be. Kalogianis is angry and wants justice — which, in her world, would be someone hammering the top of his head.
"I want someone to do to him what he did to me," she said.
And she's got a surprise tucked inside her car for anyone who tries that again: the rolling pin she uses to make phyllo dough, something to fight back with.
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this reporter. Erin Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com.