Mercy appeared at my side as I struggled to get up. I could hear the men in the building behind us, arguing. Mercy grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet. We stumbled towards the car, crossing the street as Joseph raced to the passenger side.
“Oh, shit,” he said. “The tire. It's gone.”
I ran around the car, Mercy on my heels. The car now rested on three rubber tires and one bare rim.
I kicked at the empty tire rim, hitting it at an odd angle and stubbing my toe. This was not the kind of neighborhood where the tires just came up missing. I flashed a memory of a man walking past the car. Or away from the car.
A burst of shouts and curses told me that the men had come out of the building.
Mercy looked over her shoulder at me. “They’re coming.”
“Well, it's not like we can outrun them,” I snapped. “Can we?”
Mercy shrugged. “Maybe.”
“Better than nothing, which is what else we got,” I said.
I pointed at Joseph, then down the street to the left. “Run. That way, half an hour then back this way.” A shudder rolled down my spine as the thought crossed my mind that one of us could die tonight. “Good luck.”
Joseph nodded and took off.
I pointed at Mercy, then across the street. “You. That way, same thing.” Mercy took off the direction I pointed, and I ran to the right, refusing to give in to the urge to check behind me.
It'd been a while since high school track. A long, long while. And I wasn't into running for fun. It's not my idea of it. I set myself an easy pace, then upped the speed a little. I was hoping I could sustain it for more than just a few minutes.
In between the slap-slap of my sneakers on the sidewalk and the la-lump-la-lump of my heartbeat in my ears, I strained to catch any sounds from the men behind me.
The lull made me think they were trying to figure out which way to go. Hope sprung up that they would get lost or give up. Practicality kept my feet slapping the cement.
I threw a glance back at the apartment building. I only caught a glimpse, but it took me several seconds to process it, and all my will to keep running when I did.
I saw the men. But they were changing. The shouts and curses turned into screeches and growls. They grew taller and more... demonic?
I wanted to go back and look again, to prove to myself that what I'd seen wasn't real. But I knew it was real. Whether what I'd seen was physically real or simply a look at the men's true natures, it was real. And I certainly didn't want to go back.
I angled my way down the street, taking my path off of the direct line of sight from Keith's apartment building. I dodged down an alleyway. I picked up my pace when the noises got louder, closer.
Gods, I would kill for a car.
I dodged around a sharp corner and spotted a police car. I stumbled a second, not sure if the men would attack a cop. The growling got closer and I raced towards the officer.
“Help!” I yelled, trying to get his attention, gasp for breath and be quiet about it all at the same time. “They are right behind me! Get your gun out!”
He looked at me like I was nuts, and placed his hands on his hips while standing with his feet slightly apart.
I swear, they teach all cops that stance. It means, “I got this; you are over-reacting.” I changed direction to avoid him and his car, and I just kept running. He dropped his arms and took one step towards me, then his gaze shot to a point over my shoulder and his eyes and mouth formed the exact same “O” shape.
That couldn’t be a good sign. Crap.
As I passed by the police car, the cop drew his weapon. “S-stop! Hold it right there! Stop or I'll shoot!”
I counted the shots: one, two, three-four, five. Then the cop screamed, high and terrified. The scream cut off, so I hope he didn't suffer too much.
I slid on some gravel as I rounded the next corner. It hit me that the buildings were getting taller. I must be heading downtown. That meant lots of people. Dammit.
I wasn't familiar enough with my surroundings to be able to figure out where to go to avoid high-traffic areas. Funny thing about running for your life. No time to really plan things out.
My lungs started burning and my muscles were getting that not-quite-there, mushy feeling. I was headed a little bit right, overall, so the next corner I went left.
Apparently, the cop's sacrifice had slowed my pursuers down quite a bit. The sound of their chase was much farther back now.
My body was shooting pains in my side and down one leg. I needed to stop, soon. I needed a place to hide.