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       Lost Girl, p.18

           Chanda Hahn
 
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  She had jogged for two blocks before she caught up to him. She slowed and continued walking, her head still pounding from those visions.

  The images brought pain, fear, grief. She shoved the memories aside. Too painful.

  The boy crossed into the park, and Wendy decided it was best if she circled around and came at him from the other direction. She waited at the crosswalk, and when the light turned green she walked into the road. Still pondering the image, like it or not.

  The boy.

  The name.

  Suddenly, it came to her. She recognized him, but didn’t know from where. She froze in excitement. Right in the middle of the road.

  “TEDDY!” Wendy cried.

  A loud horn blasted to her right, followed by the screech of brakes.

  Wendy raised her arms to protect herself from the imminent impact.

  Something hit her in the waist, and she flew through the air. Crack! Pain knifed her skull as her head connected with the sidewalk.

  Wendy blacked out.

  Chapter Thirty-One

  “Come on, Wendy!” A male voice demanded angrily. “Open your eyes.”

  She tried, but her eyelids weighed too much and her skull throbbed. She was broken. She knew that. There was no use putting her back together. As much as the voice calling to her seemed familiar, she couldn’t find the strength to obey.

  “Darn you! Why do you have to be so stupid? I knew you couldn’t handle yourself alone…useless.”

  The voice wouldn’t stop talking, and she tried to block it out and retreat back into the darkness.

  “I’m warning you. Open your eyes or you’re going to regret it.”

  She didn’t want to. She wanted the pounding in her head to go away. The farther she retreated into the darkness, the less pain she felt. She heard the sound of a click followed by a whoosh as if a minuscule air compressor had turned on.

  No. That sound she recognized. That sound terrified her to her core.

  “Girl. Open those eyes. Now!”

  She felt the cold barrel of the injector and the pain that followed. Her eyes shot open and her back arched as her body was shocked with an intense stimulant. Her whole body seized and immediately began to tingle, head to toe.

  She gritted her teeth as the face came into focus.

  Jax.

  “W-what—” She licked her lips to try and speak again. “What did you give me?”

  “Adrenaline. Although not the normal kind.” Jax still stood over her as she lay in the grass off to the side of the park.

  She tried to sit up, but he pushed her back down onto the grass. “Not yet. You need at least a minute—if we have it. You shouldn’t move after a heavy concussion.” He turned, scanning the area, and Wendy studied Jax’s profile. He was on edge, the muscle ticking in his jaw.

  She was so confused. He had obviously saved her from being hit by the car. But why was he even here? Was he watching her?

  Oh. The notes. They were from him.

  People were beginning to gather around and watch her. Pulling out phones, aiming their cameras toward her.

  “This is not good.” He turned to give everyone his back, pulling up the collar of his jacket. “We have to go now.”

  He slid an arm under Wendy’s legs and another around her shoulders and then she was up in the air, being carried away. Away from the angry driver yelling at her from the car. The mob of people recording them with their phones and snapping pictures.

  With every jarring step, her jaw seemed to rattle loudly in her head. When Jax had walked to the other side of the park, he put her down on a bench.

  “You’ve been following me,” she accused. “What was with the threatening notes?” Wendy hissed under her breath.

  The pain was slowly fading, and her thoughts were starting to make sense. Wendy stood and moved away from him.

  “Right. You don’t owe me any explanation.”

  Nothing. He checked her for other injuries while scanning the crowd.

  “You are so frustrating!” she hissed. “Why are you here?”

  He paused in his work and looked back up at her. He flashed her a smile, showing his even white teeth. “Because Peter sent me to watch over you. You’ve never been alone. Someone’s always been within shouting distance. Even if you couldn’t see us.”

  “Why you? You clearly don’t like me.”

  “No, that’s not true.” He sighed. “I’m not thrilled about my current assignment. I thought maybe if you left and went home, I could too. I need to get home.”

  Wendy snorted. “Believe me, I wish I could. I’d go home in a heartbeat.” She paused and then looked over at him. “I was following a boy, and I think he’s in trouble…”

  Jax looked over his shoulder at her and was about to say something when two large black Hummers pulled up across the street. Doors opened and men dressed in black army gear stepped out. They pointed in her direction.

  A high school cross-country team rounded the corner just then, cutting the men off.

  One of the men knocked a girl over, heading toward them. “Get out of our way! Stupid kids.”

  Jax’s face filled with fear. “Run!”

  Wendy panicked and her legs failed her. An adult with the joggers shouted for them to stick together and run harder. Jax grabbed Wendy’s arm, half-dragging her after him into the throng of joggers. They stayed with them for twenty yards until the trail rounded a copse of trees. Jax ducked into the bushes and she followed. He pulled her down beside him and shushed her.

  She wouldn’t have made a peep. If Jax was afraid, that was good enough for her. The men came down the path and stopped when they got near the trees.

  Please don’t look this way. Keep moving.

  All four men were about the same height, muscular. The way they carried themselves spoke of military training.

  The leader held up his arm, and they slowed, stopping only meters from where Wendy and Jax were hiding. He touched his ear and spoke into a mouthpiece.

  “We’re here. Where did they say the target was?” He paused. “Roger that.”

  After a few quick hand signals, the men continued up the path toward the center of the park. Wendy and Jax stayed put until they could no longer hear or see them.

  Jax looked angry. “We need to get you as far from here as we can. Follow me.”

  “No.”

  “What did you say?” Jax clearly wasn’t used to being disobeyed.

  “I said no. I’m not going with you.” She stood and walked out of the bushes, away from him.

  “Get back here,” Jax hissed and started to break through the bushes to come after her.

  “Stop!” Wendy warned. “Don’t come near me or I’ll scream.”

  He froze mid-bush and studied her, trying to decide if she meant it.

  “There’s a boy here somewhere. I saw the shadows following him. I’ve seen what will happen—here,” Wendy pointed to her head, “if I don’t help.”

  She left him and skirted the perimeter of the park, ducking into a different copse of trees. Then she picked her way along the hidden back trail back toward the middle of the park.

  Something crashed in the foliage in front of her. Bushes rattled and twigs snapped and it was rushing toward her.

  Wendy didn’t have time to hide before she heard angry bells. Tink. She waited in the middle of the clearing. Sure enough, Tink’s blonde ponytailed head appeared, wearing goggles and grumbling. Right on her heels was Peter, and they were carrying the body of the young boy between them.

  The boy she had been looking for. Teddy.

  “Is he hurt?” Wendy ran over to them as Peter and Tink froze and gawked at her.

  Peter adjusted the arm draped across his neck, and Tink started moving again. “Wendy, what are you doing here? It’s not safe.” More crashing noises made him move forward too.

  Tink struggled under the weight of the young boy. “They’re close.” She stared at Wendy. “If you’re here to help, grab a leg. If not
, then get out of the way.”

  Peter’s jaw clenched as he shuffled the weight of the boy he was carrying. His eyes weren’t leaving Wendy’s face. “What happened to you?”

  Her hand immediately went to the large bruise on her head. “I was almost hit by a car.”

  Peter paled, his eyes widening in fear. He almost lost his grip on the boy. His fear turned to anger as his turbulent eyes scoured her for more injuries. “Where’s Jax? He was supposed to be protecting you. I’m going to kill him.”

  “I’m fine,” she snapped. Wendy avoided looking at Peter as she went to help lift the boy. They began carrying him again—not a fast walk, definitely an awkward one. If their eyes met, would he see right through her brave attitude? Recognize her fear?

  She couldn’t let him know how seeing him again almost brought her to tears.

  Peter grunted between clenched teeth. “I’m so sorry, Wendy. I was trying to give you space.” His pace slowed. “But, I didn’t protect you.”

  “Peter, get moving. If you don’t, I swear to heaven I will not be there the next time you pan again,” Tink huffed.

  “Pan?” Wendy looked up at Peter.

  Peter closed his eyes. “Wendy, I will explain things. I just can’t right now.”

  [email protected]*&! The bells rang, covering Tink’s voice, but then the noise abruptly dropped off as a large shadow formed from the ground behind them.

  “Shoot it before it morphs!” Tink yelled.

  Peter raised his light brace and shot a light beam into the shadow. It dissipated but quickly reformed.

  Jax sprinted into the clearing, rushed up behind it, and his brace turned into a light sword. He sliced it through the shadow, splitting it into two. It dimmed but floated along the ground and coalesced again.

  An inky form rose from the shadow and morphed into a bear with unnaturally sharp teeth and claws that dripped black liquid.

  “Watch out for the claws!” Peter yelled. “Don’t let it cut you, or your mind will be poisoned.” The put Teddy down and turned to face the morphling.

  That must be what happened to Ditto. Wendy scrambled away from the bear.

  “What is that thing? What’s going on?” Teddy woke up in a panic and chose that moment to run past the beast. It swung out and sliced the kid across the leg before Jax could stop it.

  Teddy curled up in a ball, crying out in pain as he grabbed his leg, which now oozed black.

  “Don’t worry.” Wendy pulled her jacket off and used it to staunch the blood flow. She tried to keep an eye on the morphling as she tended to the terrified boy. Grabbing him under the arms she pulled him as far as she could away from the beast.

  The fight didn’t seem to be going in the boy’s favor. Peter’s light brace was damaged by a hit from the beast’s paw. He was left dodging the claws while Jax tried to distract it. Peter unhinged his brace and tossed it to Tink. She caught it midair and kneeled down by her pack.

  “This is wrong,” Tink said worriedly. “They never attack during the day because they’re not as strong. Something’s off about this.” She yanked various objects out of her bag, picked up wire cutters, and began to splice wires. Her deft fingers opened up the light brace. Could she repair it?

  The morphling disappeared in a mass of shadows and reappeared behind Wendy. A cold claw latched onto her leg and she cried out as the beast dragged her across the ground, her hands scrambling for purchase.

  She flipped on her back and saw the cavernous hole between the roots of an oak tree. “No!” Wendy cried as the morphling tried to drag her into the depths.

  “Don’t let it get into the hole!” Peter yelled.

  Wendy’s fingers clenched onto the tree root and she locked her arms around it as the morphling shrank in size to slide into the dark retreat. It tried to pull her with it and she screamed.

  Jax attacked it from behind with a blast of light.

  A screech rent the air as the morphling turned on him. Its ginormous paw struck Jax across the arm, ripping through his shirt.

  Peter darted toward his friend but wasn’t fast enough to dodge the beast. A good swipe sent Jax flying across the small clearing into a tree trunk. Wendy heard the thud as his body made contact and fell to the ground. The beast turned on Peter and rushed him.

  “There. Done, and I upped the power level but it may overload instead.” Tink turned and didn’t have anyone to hand the brace to.

  Wendy grabbed it without thinking and tore in Peter’s direction, desperate to get to him before the beast did. She wasn’t going to make it.

  Wendy clamped the brace on her own wrist, flicked it, and dove in front of the morphling.

  But the brace started to malfunction. It beeped and fizzed out, smoke curled out from the side panel.

  “Wendy no!” Tink yelled.

  Wendy ignored Tink, and the broken bracer. She focused on Peter.

  All she had to do was Believe.

  Her hand grew warm, her fingers tingled as a giant ball of blue energy formed in her palm. It hurt, her whole hand was on fire, but she held the ball until she could no longer contain it. And then she released it with a scream of pain.

  The light shot straight into the morphling’s chest. It roared in agony as the light flooded into him. The morphling began to glow, and cracks formed along its body. With another roar, it exploded into a million pieces of black ash that sank to the ground.

  “How the @&% did you do that? You shouldn’t have been able to. Not with a broken brace!”

  Peter slowly got off the ground, shaking his head as if to clear it. He gave Wendy an elated smile. “Who are you really, Wonder Woman?”

  Wendy looked over at Teddy, where he lay on the ground, groaning softly. He was alive, but seemed to be nearly unconscious…again.

  Tink on the other hand, was stiff as a board, a Red Skull’s blade pressed against her throat. Where had he come from?

  Two more soldiers appeared from behind Tink and surrounded them, glowing white knives in their hands.

  “Red Skulls.” Peter stepped in front of Wendy, keeping her safely hidden behind his broad back.

  “Don’t move, or the girl will get a nice crimson necklace.”

  “Let her go,” Peter demanded. “She doesn’t need any more jewelry.”

  “You destroyed the morphling? How did she do that?” a soldier asked.

  The leader tightened his grip on Tink and silenced the gaping soldier with a single glance. “You tried to steal something that doesn’t belong to you,” he said to Peter. He motioned to his soldier who then leaned down to pick up the mostly unconscious boy. “It’s not nice to steal.”

  “I say finders-keepers.” Peter taunted with a smile.

  The Red Skull frowned.

  Tink’s eyes were wide with fear and fury. “Anytime now, Peter.” She said in a singsong, her foot tapping her impatience.

  “I’ve got this under control, Tink.”

  The last Red Skull lunged forward to challenge him.

  Peter moved forward like lightning, their two weapons clashing.

  Peter fought with a short knife, and the Red Skull wielded a much more brutal looking one. Wendy couldn’t believe they were fighting hand to hand. She thought militia used guns, but then it made a strange sort of sense in a crowded city. Guns would draw unnecessary attention. More proof that the Red Skulls were used to staying under the radar.

  Peter ducked as the soldier swung toward his head. He rolled across the ground, easily popped back up, and ran toward a tree. The soldier was right behind him, but Peter didn’t stop. He took three running steps up the tree and then pushed off and flipped, landing behind the Red Skull and conking him on the head with the back of his knife.

  The soldier went down in a heap.

  The Red Skull holding Teddy set him down to challenge Peter. Teddy showed no signs of waking up.

  “You won’t get past me as easy as you did Bakerton,” the Red Skull threatened. He changed his stance—martial arts. How would Peter’s parkour and qui
ck thinking help him now?

  “So if he’s Bakerton, what’s that make you? Pie man? Pumpkin eater?”

  The man smiled, revealing missing teeth. “I’m your worst nightmare.”

  “Yeah, I have nightmares of my teeth falling out too.” Peter said. “Regular flossing and daily brushing will help.”

  Toothless rushed forward.

  Peter shifted his stance, twisting slightly and pulling the punch toward him. He twirled the man’s arms into a painful wrist lock. Then Peter leapt up into the air, wrapped his legs around the soldier’s face, and flung himself backward. His hands grabbed the ground and he smashed his adversary into it with a grunt of pain.

  Only the leader remained. His knife was still pressed to Tink’s throat.

  “You okay, Tink?” Peter called out.

  Tink grinned and, with her free hand, reached down and hit a switch on a black box on her belt. The magnet ripped the knife from the leader’s hand and attached it to Tink’s belt.

  Addled that he’d been disarmed, the Red Skull didn’t see the tiny, powerful fist that connected with his jaw. And a second later, the knife was pointed at his own throat.

  “Yep, I’m great. Now what were you saying about buying me jewelry?” She waved the knife across the man’s throat.

  “Now who’s playing around, Tink?” Peter laughed.

  Tink made a face and pulled another little contraption from a pocket—a portable taser. She touched it to the Red Skull. He jerked and fell to the ground. Tink moved closer and Peter leaned down, bringing his knife to the man’s throat.

  Wendy was so pumped for Tink and Peter that she wanted to cheer.

  Until she felt the cold steel of a gun barrel press to her temple.

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  “Move away from the captain, or the girl is going to get it,” a deep voice warned. Wendy heard the click of the hammer being pulled back as the gun pressed into her temple. “Unless you’ve got some trickery up your sleeve that can stop a bullet.”

  Wendy went absolutely still and looked to Peter for help.

  Tink’s joyous smirk fell from her face as she looked at Wendy. “No, we don’t,” she answered. “But if you pull the trigger on that one, you’d be doing all of us a favor.” Her eyes narrowed.

 
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