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CHAPTER 5

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Sarah blew by Wolf with a burst of speed, his gloved hand grazing the sleeve of her coat, her legs pumping up and down in long thundering strides. She glanced back to see him weaving through a passing crowd, the mass of people hindering his pursuit. Sarah directed her attention to the path ahead and to the question that sent a baffling chill down her spine. How did he find her? It was like he was waiting for her at the coffee shop, anticipating her next move. That was ridiculous. She had bought an alias with a fake driver's license, credit chips, the works. The guy she used to work all this magic to keep her obscure, hidden in the shadows, promised he was legit, promised he wouldn't sell her out. She had no reason to doubt him, but she had no reason to trust him either. The truth: Wolf could've used a number of ways to track her to New York.

Another quick look behind her. Wolf bulldozed through the crowd, knocked a woman down with his elbow, her startled scream dying as her head hit the pavement. The brutal act displayed his willingness to do whatever it took to complete his mission and subdue the target.

People scattered like sheep. A woman screamed. A man shouted an angry demand to stop to no avail. Another man cut off Wolf's path. Not a wise decision. Wolf steamrolled through the blockade like a running back through a potential tackler and kept going at full speed.

Sarah pushed her legs harder, willing herself to run faster. Her lead grew to thirty feet—the length of one storefront—a department store showcasing the latest in women's swimwear, nothing but a streak of thin garments hugging the curvy figures of virtual holographic models in Sarah's peripheral vision. As she ran, her scarf unraveled and flew away. Instinctively, she reached for the garment but missed it altogether, her fingertips slicing through the night air. She groaned in frustration; she liked that scarf, seriously.

Back to the question of how he found her. How? Just how did he get a ping on her location? New York had surveillance cameras at every street corner. Maybe Wolf conspired with the NYPD, accessed their feeds, spotted her among the crowd? Followed her here. Filtering through tons of footage could take years, but Wolf had nothing but time on his hands...along with a psychotic obsession with finding her ever since she returned to Earth.

Sarah felt a fire burning like hot coals in her mind. She had been sold out for sure. Then she remembered a day in Central Park, a drone hovering in the sky. It swung in close to her as she jogged early that morning a few weeks ago. Sarah assumed it was someone playing with a toy, getting high resolution pictures of the park, maybe even a pervert checking her out from afar. But now she had her doubts. It must have been Wolf. The guy who sold her the new identity must have been paid off by Wolf or pumped for information, or a more likely scenario, tortured for the intel and then killed.

One thing was certain, she couldn't go back to her apartment. If he found her this close to Times Square, then he likely knew where she lived and followed her here. Who knew how long he'd been in New York and waited to make his move? He could have been spying on her the whole night, waiting in the shadows to pounce while she was lost in a trance, oblivious to his presence.

Sarah sprinted across Amsterdam Avenue.

A pair of screeching headlights blazed toward her. She tried to sidestep the oncoming vehicle, but she couldn't get out of the way. Her hands smacked the hood of a car with an aerodynamic shape, like a jet on wheels. Fortunately, the car came to a halt in front of her. The driver laid on the horn. Sarah tensed up from the jolting stop. Her wide gaze rivaled the man's crazy eyed look. With his widows up, the sealed interior of the vehicle trapped the sound of his ranting voice. Fully soundproof. His lips flapped like an angry mime, his crooked finger jabbing an accusation. Sarah winced, mouthed a pitiful 'sorry' and raced away.

Buildings towered above her. Lights blurred by out of the corner of her eye, but Sarah narrowed her vision, focusing on the path ahead. If she could cover this last stretch of sidewalk, she'd have a chance.

The west entrance of Central Park loomed ahead.

Sarah chose the park for a reason. She had a contingency plan.

Benches and shrubs lined the sidewalk, seeming to channel her down a frozen corridor. A holographic woman appeared, triggered by a sensor in the ground. The well-known TV personality from The Weather Channel, Jade Jackson, issued a freeze warning, telling her to bundle up. "Temperatures are expected to drop below zero overnight," Jackson said as Sarah charged past her.

Sarah continued on, dashing under the park sign. Her right boot skidded on a layer of fresh snow blanketing the bridge. She lost traction for a second, before regaining her footing. She raced by swirls of decorative wrought-iron on both sides, accumulated snow tapering up from the rails. No one would be in the park this late at night in these weather conditions. Advantage Wolf. But that would soon change.

The man's footfalls pounded on the bridge behind her in relentless succession. Ahead, the trees in the park offered the possibility of disappearing into their secluded embrace.

Sarah's boots hit the frozen ground. Crunch, crunch of icy blades of grass.

Her breath fluttered from her lungs, fogging the night air, her heart in rhythm with the thudding of her boots on the hard tundra.

The man grunted behind her.

A moment later, his muscular frame crashed down on top of her, crumbling Sarah beneath the weight of his body, her forearms forced into the ground, her face planting in the snow.

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