Chapter 65

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The curtain isn't much of an obstacle for the angry mob storming the stage, but it's disorienting enough for Zandra to make a clean break for the backstage area without anyone noticing. She pounds her bad ankle into submission, refusing to give into the way it gradually sinks closer into the floor with every step.

She finds a large set piece from an old production of Wizard of Oz to hide behind and catch her breath. The blood on her gown dried, helping to cover her tracks, and the mob follows the trail she left previously from the green room. That's when she hears the scream.

They found him.

Zandra hears a frantic shout for someone to "call 911 right now," followed by another rush of footsteps toward the stage she assumes is the police. She's cut off from the exit.

There's got to be another way out of this stage.

"Bitch," a voice says from the direction of the stage. It's close.

Zandra turns to see two of Dvorak's crew rushing toward her. She recognizes the one with the Kurt Cobain haircut. He shouts, "She's over here."

Out comes the lawnmower knife from Zandra's sleeve and her excellent sense of timing, sharpened by the adrenaline high of her damning speech. The low light combined with the two miscreants' dizzying speed places both of them off by a few feet. She aims low and drags the blade across both of their thighs. When they stumble, Zandra throws herself against a stack of crates, sending the wreckage of past plays onto the pair. It buys her enough time to keep moving through the backstage. She hurries to keep ahead of the rest of Dvorak's buddies scrambling after her.

Show me the way, David.

Zandra can't outrun them, but she can slow them down. She pushes another giant set piece over to block her. It's as light as it is large. Probably a background canopy made over summer break. Its dimensions force her pursuers to climb or change course. She makes it another few feet through the dimly lit labyrinth, nearly tripping and cutting herself with the knife, before spotting a few taut ropes anchored to the wall. Zandra doesn't know what they support, but she cuts them as she passes, happy to hear something come crashing down from behind her.

Movement from the left a few feet away catches her attention. She's been flanked by the police officers. One of them hollers for her to stop.

I don't think so.

Another shove into a column of heavy crates cuts the officers off, but they're more agile than Dvorak's dipshits. They brace themselves against the column and push back, but by then she's already moved on. It's hardly an escape. She hits a wall. Literally. There's no more room to run.

Zandra follows the wall away from the officers, well aware of how close Dvorak's miscreants are behind her.

Show me the way.

Her hand connects with a door handle. It's an emergency exit. A placard lets her know an alarm will sound if she opens the door.

Nothing they haven't heard already tonight.

Zandra opens the door and rolls onto the parking lot outside, her ankle giving out with the first step onto the asphalt. Her hand drops the lawnmower knife upon her descent, but she's able to find it again without injury. She pushes through the pain in her ankle and scrambles to the side of the door, her body pressed against the building. She waits a moment for the first of her pursuers to barrel through the door and stuffs the knife into his thigh. She can't tell if it's one of Dvorak's miscreants or a police officer, but it doesn't matter. What does is that the column of people behind him comes to a stop in the confusion, however brief.

Zandra turns her attention to the parking lot. It's busy with bottlenecked vehicles trying to leave the school. She considers forcing her way into one, but stops when a pair of headlights sweeps across her face and a voice calls out to her.

"Get in," the voice says as a car comes to a stop a few feet away.

You came through again, David.

Zandra doesn't question it. She hobbles to the car and gets in.

Amanda.

"Help me," Zandra says. It only occurs to her later that it's the same phrase from her tea reading with Amanda days ago.

Looking like she hasn't slept in days, Amanda doesn't say a word. She hits the gas, jumps a curb and guns it out of the parking lot.

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