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       Lost Girl, p.19

           Chanda Hahn
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  Wendy’s face paled at Tink’s out of place comment.

  “The boy for the girl.” Peter moved away from the brown-haired boy.

  The Red Skull holding Wendy yanked roughly on the back of her jacket. He pressed a small device to her neck and Wendy felt a pinprick as it drew her blood. The device beeped and the soldier tightened his grip on her.

  He smirked at Peter. “Naw, I think I’ll take this one. You keep the boy.” His voice held more cockiness than before. What had he seen?

  Wendy’s captor yanked her backward.

  “Wha..?” She cried out and her feet tripped over a tree root as the Red Skull pulled her into the bushes. Peter and Tink were arguing. “Let her go, Peter! Help with this kid!”

  A few seconds later, Peter charged through the bushes after her, but the Red Skull shot at him and he dove for cover.

  Now she had her feet under her, but she struggled to keep up as they were running back toward the Hummer. They crossed into the crowded park.

  People screamed when they noticed the gun. Her captor fired at Peter again. Everyone scattered.

  Peter jumped out of the trees and rolled along the ground.

  Wendy fought as the Red Skull dragged her toward a Hummer. She wouldn’t get another opportunity like this where the soldier’s attention was divided.

  She tried to stop abruptly, but received a blow from the handle of the gun. Her cheek stung and she started to fall forward.

  “Get in there!” He yanked open the passenger door and held her at gunpoint. “Move it or I’ll shoot.”

  Wendy stared down the barrel of the gun and into the hate-filled eyes of the Red Skull. “Then shoot.”

  “Not you.” He aimed the gun at a young woman shielding a baby stroller with her body. “Her…or maybe I can take them both out.”

  The young mother screamed in terror and held the stroller tighter. The baby started crying.

  “Stop. Okay. I’ll go.”

  Wendy slid into the front seat and kept her eyes on the gun as the Red Skull kept it trained on the woman in front of the car, until he was in the driver’s seat. He hit the door locks, and Wendy’s hands immediately went to the latch trying to let herself out.

  “Ah ah ah. That won’t work.” Just as the Hummer roared to life, something hit the roof with a loud thump. Peter jumped onto the hood as the Red Skull hit the gas.

  He crashed into the windshield.

  Wendy screamed as Peter almost slid off the car, but his body torqued midair, and he spun around to land across the hood.

  “How did he do that?” the guy growled. He reached for the gun and aimed it at Peter’s face. “Let’s see him dodge this.”

  Wendy grabbed the hand that held the gun and pulled, causing the driver to swerve the Hummer onto the sidewalk.

  Peter slid across the car again but maintained his precarious position by holding onto the driver’s side mirror. The Hummer plowed through a newspaper stand and into a blue garbage can, which went flying into the air.

  The gun fell onto the floor and slid under the driver’s seat.

  “You know it’s not nice to litter.” Peter yelled through the windshield.

  “Why will you not die?” The driver gripped the wheel tighter and veered back onto the road, weaving through traffic.

  But no matter what he did, Peter was able to hold on.

  “Watch out!” Wendy cried as the Hummer swerved straight for a woman on a bike. The Red Skull wasn’t interested in slowing. He sped up.

  Peter looked over his shoulder and read the Red Skull’s intention in his eyes. He smiled at Wendy and began to slide down the front of the Hummer by the grill.

  “Peter, no!” she cried, but he didn’t hear her. The Hummer sped up, and just as it crashed into the bike, Peter wrapped his hands around the woman and held on.

  Wendy watched as the world slowed down. Peter and the woman slid up over the hood of the car. They hit the windshield, causing a spider web of cracks, and then they rolled up and over the Hummer. She heard the thump, thump, thump as their bodies bounced across the roof.

  “NOOOO!” She shrieked and spun to look out the rear window. She didn’t see where they landed. Did they slide off and get hit by another car? Was he dead?

  Wendy felt as if her heart grew three sizes and got lodged in her throat.

  “You killed him. You killed Peter and that woman.” Wendy began slapping and clawing the Red Skull, who swore at her and pushed her back into her seat.

  He backhanded her in the same spot as her swollen bruise, and she saw stars. For a moment, there was only pain. Wendy fell against the door, and the glass felt cool against her cheek. She was slipping into unconsciousness, but she fought it.

  With everything she had left.

  Within minutes they were out of town and heading along a small highway along the river.

  She stared out the side view mirror and saw another Hummer race up behind them. The others had joined them. No escape now.

  But this Hummer didn’t fall into line behind them. It continued its frenzied speed—not even looking like it would slow down. Wendy buckled up.

  “Oh, so you’re resigned for the ride now.”

  The other Hummer rammed them from behind.

  “What the—” The Red Skull almost lost control of the vehicle, but he recovered. He adjusted the rearview mirror, and his face paled. He reached for the radio and held it up to his mouth. “This is Lt. Hastor. Careful with your driving, Stanton.”

  Static was the only thing that greeted him on the other end. His face paled, and sweat trickled across his brow. He gripped the steering wheel as the other Hummer pulled up to the left of them on the two-lane road.

  Hastor recognized the driver. “You little traitor. Wait until the captain hears of this. You’re dead.” He yowled and rammed into the other Hummer.

  Wendy palmed the dashboard and looked over Lt. Hastor to see who he was referring to, but the SUV surged ahead and moved in front of them—barely missing an oncoming car. Hastor had an evil grin on his face as he floored the gas pedal.

  He was trying to ram the other Hummer off of the road. She watched the speedometer—fifty, fifty-five, sixty. They were on a city street.

  “Stupid insubordinate son of a b—”

  The brake lights in front of them lit up. Hastor hit the brakes, but not hard enough. They plowed into the Hummer and the airbag went off.

  Pain wracked her body, and she couldn’t breathe. Air. She needed air. Her door was pulled open and cold air rushed across her body, but she still couldn’t inhale.

  “Hold on, Wendy. I’m coming.”

  She recognized that voice. It was Jax.

  A large army knife appeared in front of her, and Jax sliced into the airbag, deflating it. She gasped as the pressure released her. She turned to look at Jax as she fumbled with her seatbelt. He was covered in blood—a cut along his scalp. The airbag of the other Hummer had scratched and bruised his face.

  The buckle wouldn’t release. Jax moved her hand out of the way and sliced through the belt. He pulled her from the car.

  She tried to glance at Lt. Hastor, but all she could see was blood.

  Jax carried her off to the side of the road. She asked him, “You’re one of them, aren’t you?”

  He carefully brushed her hair out of her eyes and answered her. “No…and yes.” He got up and went to the back of the Hummer and pulled out an emergency kit. Opening it, he grabbed a flashlight and clicked it on.

  He flashed the light in and out of her eyes and checked her response time.

  “The driver.” She swallowed. She was finding it very hard to swallow. “He knows what you did. That you saved me. He said when the others find out…that—”

  “They won’t find out.”

  “He’ll tell them.” She could feel her panic rising.

  “Wendy, he’s dead.”

  She let his words sink in. Death wasn’t something she had wished for Lt. Hastor, but then she remembered Peter and
the woman on the bike. Hastor had turned the gun on an innocent young woman and her baby.

  A slow angry tear slid down her cheek. “Good.”

  Jax nodded. “I’m glad too. Because if the crash hadn’t killed him, I would have had to.” He pulled Hastor’s body from the first vehicle and dragged him over to the rear, leaving him on the ground by the passenger door. His face was stone, his emotions hidden.

  He pulled out a small silver case and clicked it open. Inside were small tubes: clear, green, blue, and one that looked almost gold in color, next to an injector. Wendy couldn’t pull her eyes away from the injector. She knew what it was. She had seen one, heard one long ago. A memory perhaps, but the more she focused on it, the more her head hurt. Instead, she focused on Jax.

  He quickly tended to her wounds.

  “How…how long were you one of them—a Red Skull?”

  Jax began to dab at her face, gently wiping the blood from her cuts. It stung. “For a while.”

  “Does Peter know?”

  He shook his head no. “It’s complicated,” Jax growled. “It’s better if he thinks I’m dead. Wendy, they have someone very important to me, and they’re using them as leverage.”

  “What do you mean?” Wendy reached up and touched the side of her neck.

  “There’s something big going on, and someone has to stop Hook—I’m just now figuring out why you’re a part of it. Why the shadows keep gathering to you. They’re attracted to you, but yet they don’t call the Red Skulls. It’s like they’ve been watching you, Wendy, waiting. But not anymore. Something’s changed now. They’ll come for you.”

  A loud static noise from the Hummer’s CB-radio interrupted him. “Hastor? Do you copy? We’re almost to your location.”

  Jax started to hide the evidence of the bandages. “When they get here, you can’t be anywhere near here.” He looked around. They were out of town, down one of the main roads by the river. There weren’t many safe places other than the woods.

  “Me? What am I supposed to do? We’re miles from the city.”

  “I expect you to run and survive. Head into the woods, backtrack for a few miles, then you should be able to follow the road back to town. Go with Peter. Neverwood is your best chance at being safe. And don’t get caught. If you get caught, that means I murdered a man for nothing.”

  “You’re not coming with me?”

  Jax put a vial in the injector gun and handed it to Wendy. Then he closed up the silver case and put the emergency kit in the back of the Hummer. “Trust me—they won’t hurt me. I’m too important to them. They’ve been pulling my strings for too long though. I have to go back—cut the strings once and for all. And it’s better for all of you if I distract them. If they think the lost boys did this, they will attack and kill every one of you.”

  He walked around to the first vehicle, placed his light brace on the ground, and stomped on it multiple times until the light went out. He got back into the driver’s seat, set the silver case on the seat beside him, and buckled in. He laid his head on the steering wheel to feign unconsciousness.

  In the distance they could hear the sound of a large engine racing in their direction. The other Hummer. Jax pointed to the injector gun in Wendy’s hand.

  “In the neck, pull the trigger once and it will do the trick. But you need to take the gun and run. You can’t stay here.”

  “Neither can you! Please, if they find out what you did, they’ll kill you.”

  Jax shook his head. “It’s time for me to go back. I can do more good by going back with them than staying here.”

  The injector, though smaller than a Ruger pistol, felt unbelievably heavy in her hands. She didn’t think she could do it. “What is it going to do to you?”

  “It’s going to knock me out, but if you don’t get going, they’ll see you. It’s what they use when capturing the boys. It won’t hurt…much.”

  His calm explanations gave her strength.

  “They’ll see the second airbag in the other car, Jax. They’ll know someone was with Hastor when he died. They’re not going to be fooled.”

  Headlights reflected in the rearview mirror, and Jax swallowed nervously. “Knock me out, Wendy. We’re running out of time. You have to run and take the injector gun with you or they’ll suspect.”

  “I can’t do it.” She held the injector up to his neck, but her hands were shaking so hard, she couldn’t steady the gun.

  Jax grabbed the gun, put it up to his own neck. “That kid, Wendy, the one we saved today. I recognize him. He shouldn’t be alive, he shouldn’t be here.” He shook his head. “But then neither should you.” Closing his eyes, he pressed the trigger. The gun jerked. She heard the hiss and watched as his eyes rolled back in his head. His body slid forward. She reached across him for the injector gun but ended up knocking it on the floor.

  The Hummer rolled to a stop nearby.

  She ducked low and scrambled around in the dark until her fingers found the cold metal. It sure wouldn’t hurt to grab the silver case with the other vials as well. She tucked the case under her arm, carefully closed the door without latching it, and ducked as she heard voices approach the rear vehicle. Wendy crawled to the front of the vehicle and kneeled. There was no way she could run for the woods now.

  She heard the far Hummer’s door open and someone yelled out, “Hey, Hastor’s dead.” Footsteps sounded on the pavement, and a few pieces of stray gravel stung her as someone ran up to Jax’s vehicle.

  “It’s Jax!” There was a pause, and she assumed someone was reaching in to check his pulse. “He’s alive!”

  “What’s Jax doing way out here? Is he back from his assignment?” The first voice answered. “Wonder what the captain’s going to say about this.”

  “What do you think happened?”

  “Looks like Hastor rear-ended him.”

  “Questions later. Right now we need to clear the trucks and get rid of evidence. Could be a passerby called the police already. We can’t have them finding anything.”

  Wendy slid the injector gun into her waistband, its metal cold against her back, and stayed hidden. She pressed against the grill of the Hummer in the deepening darkness as the two Red Skulls moved Jax into the third Humvee. They unloaded what looked like weapon cases and medical equipment out of both vehicles before they came back and she heard water.

  That smell! Not water. Gasoline.

  Two pairs of black boots approached. She belly-crawled under the Hummer. No choice.

  She covered her nose with her shirt as the clear liquid pooled off the car and ran underneath, right to where she was hiding. The gas started to soak into her shirt and jeans. They were going to light the cars on fire. No way she’d get out in time.

  Unless she ran right now, out in the open, and headed for the woods. Even though it was getting dark, they’d see her for sure.

  But her only other choice was to stay underneath the gasoline-soaked Hummer and wait to go up in flames. Maybe she’d die instantly when the car exploded. Either way she was toast.

  Oh, why hadn’t she run?

  Wendy crawled out of the pool of gas onto dry cement. She didn’t know what to do but stay down beside the vehicle. The soldiers moved to the back of the second Hummer, and she heard the sound of a match scraping. The hair on the back of her arms stood straight up.

  “Ah, dang! The match went out.”

  “Try another one.”

  Another match lit and immediately went out.

  “Get the other box from the kit. These ones are no good.”

  She was so terrified that she started seeing things in the dark. No, not the dark. A shadow was moving in front of her. Her heart was beating so loudly in her ears she didn’t hear the second match light. The shadow moved lower and lay beside the Hummer with her. It beckoned her to follow it.

  Should she?

  Jax said he thought they were trying to help her. Peter had said something similar once.

  What choice did she have anyway?
  Wendy followed.

  They slowly crept away from beside the Hummer, pausing occasionally as the men came nearby. But the shadow got her safely to the edge of a ditch. Then the shadow gestured oddly—trying to show her something? Oh. A drainage pipe.

  Not giving a care about what could be down there, she slid on her belly down into the ditch and backed into the pipe feet-first, just as the Red Skulls found a dry set of matches. Her eyes locked on the small match in the tips of a soldier’s hands, watched in fascination as it flew in an arc, up, up, then down onto the trail of gas. Hungrily, the flames followed the fuel. Within seconds, fire engulfed the first truck and licked voraciously around the second.

  Everything burned. Even the ground underneath the car, where Wendy had been only moments ago, was ablaze. A floor of fire burned under the vehicle, reaching up and forming walls around the Humvees. The soldiers ran back to their own Hummer and quickly gunned the engine, racing out of sight.

  The rear Hummer exploded, followed by the first. Wendy felt the force of the explosion, the heat drying her eyes. She smelled acrid, burning rubber as parts rained down upon the road and ditch. Tires, doors, metal rebar. Nowhere was safe from the flaming debris.

  Nowhere, except the drainage pipe where she lay shivering, but protected. When she was about to crawl out, she heard police sirens and rescue vehicles arrive.

  Terrified of being caught and questioned by the police, Wendy stayed in her small prison, and tried to fight back the waves of unconsciousness and exhaustion. But then she lost.

  Chapter Thirty-Three

  Peter’s fist connected with the wall with a loud thud. His knuckles hurt, but the pain mirrored the crushing ache in his heart. She was gone.

  Jax had gone after her, and now they were both gone. His tracker in the brace was destroyed, which could only mean one thing. He was dead, since he hadn’t contacted him. And since Jax was the strongest of them, Peter could only assume she was too.

  That, or she’d been taken.

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