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Chapter One

 

I stared at the scene before me, trying to will my feet into motion. My body was rigid with shock as I scanned the shadows, searching for an enemy that was long gone. A low groan came from the figure lying on the ground about twenty feet in front of me.

“Jade.”

My heart clenched and I choked back hysterical sobs as I rushed to the woman. “What can I do?” I asked as I knelt beside her, my hands fluttering over her body, not sure where to apply pressure or if it would help or hinder.

She gave me a weak smile, her brown eyes losing some of their usual lustre. “Nothing,” she whispered.

I gritted my teeth to keep my tears at bay. My throat burned and I swallowed, trying to get rid of the uncomfortable sensation. “The ambulance!” I shouted feeling like a total idiot for not thinking about it before. My hands shook as I tried to get my phone out of my pocket. “Damn it,” I growled as my fingers struggled to grip the plastic and my phone crashed to the ground. My hands fumbled along in the dark, feeling across the pavement that was slick with blood.

“No,” she said quietly, reaching one of her small, capable hands out to grip my wrist. “There’s nothing they could do, anyway.” Her voice was so quiet that I had to lean closer to hear her. “You need to listen to me, Jade.”

“Please don’t say my name like that,” I whispered, feeling my body start to shake violently. My teeth clacked together as chills raced up and down my spine.

“It’s your name, baby,” she said and I just shook my head, feeling the first few traitorous tears drip from my eyes.

“In the field, there are no names,” I said quietly reciting one of the rules I lived by.

Her brown eyes filled with something that looked like guilt. “I was wrong.”

I shushed her and continued to search for my phone. Finally I gripped it and gave a whimper in relief. “They’ll be here soon,” I said, dialling the three numbers and listening to the rings.

“911 please state your emergency,” the operator said in a businesslike tone, calm and modulated just like they were trained to be.

I responded in kind, my voice strong and clear as I gave her our location and described the woman’s injuries. She told me that the ambulance was on its way and I hung up.

“They’re coming,” I said, pushing her hair back from her forehead, muttering soothing sounds as her eyes closed.

Suddenly, her eyes jerked open and she stared at me. Slowly, she reached into the neck of her shirt and drew out a key on a silver chain. She gave it a firm tug and held it out to me. I took it, feeling a sense of dread wash over me. “I’ll give it back to you when you’re better.”

She sighed, and started to cough as she exhaled, blood dripped from the corners of her mouth and I moved to wipe the droplets away with the sleeve of my sweater.

Her brown eyes continued to stare up at me. She opened her mouth and I leaned in close to hear her words. “They won’t save me, Jade. Take the key, you know what to do with it. Make me a promise.” Her voice was becoming more distant and her eyes were losing focus. “Give him a chance. Give real life a chance.” She drew in a short, ragged breath. “Stubborn,” she said on an exhale. Her eyes seemed to regain focus and her lips twitched at the corners. “Love you,” she whispered before her eyes went blank and the muscles in her body relaxed. Her grip on my wrist loosened and her hand fell lightly to the pavement.

“They’re almost here,” I whispered, feeling for the pulse at her neck. “Come on please, don’t leave me. Please.” The tears were coursing down my cheeks freely now, no amount of willpower could’ve stopped them. I gripped her shoulders and shook her lightly but her eyes were still wide open, staring lifelessly ahead. “No,” I moaned, my back bending as I brought myself closer to her whispering to her to come back.

Colourful lights flooded the alleyway, bringing discarded boxes and garbage from the surrounded stores into stark relief. I cringed as the lights landed on her skin, showing how pale it was. How lifeless. Suddenly, two paramedics were peeling me off of her, surrounding her. I moved back to let them in and they immediately tried to revive her. I watched, my eyes wide as they worked but she didn’t blink. Finally, they stopped, and I heard one of them call the time of death as if from far away.

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