One . Escape

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   I wince as this so-called doctor points a flashlight right into my eye. "Ow." I shut my eyes.

"Open them. I need to make sure you're all right."

"Why?" I open my eyes and let him look.

"Because that's my job. I'm a doctor."

"Um, if you haven't noticed, we aren't in a hospital. We're outside. In an alley."

He doesn't respond. When he's done with the flashlight, he pockets it in his brown trench coat. He's got to be boiling—it's at least ninety degrees out. "What day is it?"

"Like, Tuesday or something."

"Yes. Where are you?"

"In an alley, like I already said, sitting on a half-broken chair, answering weird questions coming from a strange man. Look, I'm fine. Okay?" I stand, ignoring my headache. "It was an accident. I banged my head and fell into a puddle. I don't care who you are. You don't need to take care of me," I grumble, smoothing my dress.

"Why were you running? You freaked when I tried to help you up."

A shiver runs through my body as my mind goes back to earlier today. The screams, the knife, the blood...

"I was . . . training. Cross country meet. You know."

He snorts. "In an alley? In a dress?"

"I don't want to talk about it." I stand. "Nice meeting you."

"Are you running away from someone?" He crosses his arms.

Yes. Yes, I am. I just witnessed a murder, maybe two hours ago. And I was found out. That guy, with the long brown hair and crazy-wild look in his green eyes—if he finds me, I'm toast.

The scariest thing? He was in a police uniform. So, screw the idea of getting help from them. I'm on my own. I've already been back to my house and stuffed as many clothes and as much food as possible into my backpack. And my journal. I could never go anywhere without my journal.

"That doesn't matter. I have to get going." I start to back away.

He narrows his eyes—brown, concerned. "I know this sounds crazy, but I know of a place where you'll be safe. I promise you will be. It's for people like you, who need a haven, and it's a few hours away. I'm heading out there. I can take you."

I step away. "I'm not an idiot. I know better than to trust strange middle-aged men."

But the idea does seem appealing. My mom taught me how to catch someone in a lie, but I can't get him. He's relaxed. Holds eye contact. And he seems so concerned, almost like a father.

But my mother, like so many others, also taught her daughter not to talk to strangers.

Well, already broke that rule.

"I swear, I don't want to hurt you. I just want to help. I can give you directions if you'd like, but if you're running from someone, the quicker you get out of here the better. Trust me, I know."

"Trust you?"

He smiles. "Yes. How much time do you have before your pursuer finds you?"

"I told you I'm training for cross country."

"How much time?"

I look at my feet. My shoes are still soaked from tripping into that gigantic puddle. So is my dress. "I don't know."

He nods. "Give me fifteen minutes to get gas in my truck. If you're running, avoid the gas stations. There are cameras. Stay in here. There's plenty of junk to hide behind. I'll be back."

"I didn't say yes!" I call after him. He doesn't respond.

So I settle down behind the old chair I'd been in, realizing I didn't said no either.

The chair smells disgusting. The light pink fabric is smeared with dried blood, dirt and grime, and who knows what else.

Getting out of the city would be nice. I think it would be really nice.

I know of a place where you'll be safe . . . It's a few hours away.

All of a sudden, I can't wait for this mysterious man to come back.

When he does, he strolls right past me.

I stand. "Hey."

He whips around, his coat billowing around him. "Good spot. C'mon, let's go. Keep your head down."

I follow him to his pickup truck, so covered with mud that I can hardly tell it's white. I pause before climbing in.

Will I ever come back here? To my hometown? Even though I'm only here during the summers, this place is still my home. Will I be able to see my family again?

Tears push at the back of my eyes, and I take a deep breath. I knew I shouldn't have thought about them. I will see them again. Once I'm safe.

I'd left them a puny note. Five words: Don't try to find me.

That's it. No "I love you." No "I'll miss you." No "Be safe, because I'm a witness to a murder and now the murderer is after me."

None of that. Just five tiny, heartless words.

I climb into the truck.

"I'll come back for you," I whisper, blinking back my tears.

And then we're off—driving through the known toward the unknown. Running from a murderer, heading toward a safe place.

But, really, how safe can I be?

[hey everyone, thanks for reading part one! please feel free to vote if you enjoyed yourself—it'd make me oh-so happy.]



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