Chapter 1: High Speed
Friday – October 26th
It was eleven-something at night, later than the usual time when Mia stopped at the local mini-mall for her weekly lottery ticket. She was running late, again. It seemed to be the week of irate customers. All week there had been more hostile people than usual, all of which were armed with personal vendettas. She could still hear the slight ringing in her ears from all the yelling and counter bashing that one woman had done in the twenty minutes she had spent insulting Mia. Being accused personally for the reason whatever product malfunctioned wasn't new to Mia, if anything she had come to expect it. It had taken her months of practice, but she had mastered that infuriating face and tone of voice that drove people mad with its general niceness, and if she was brutally honest with herself, imitating a mannequin creeped the hell out of her. At least the customers didn't bring her to tears anymore.
Over an hour late, she was now stuck behind two men that Mia really didn't want to get any closer too. Her section of the neighbourhood was known for its weirdoes, weirdoes that mostly ventured outside late at night. She was nervous and wanted to get home before any of the more daring ones decided to harass her.
Shifting her weight to her other leg, Mia peered around the tall man in front of her, trying to ignore the urge to fiddle with his long black hair that was prettier than her own. The guy in front of the line had both hands shoved into his pocket and a hat pulled low over his face. Not a good sign. Mia really hoped that this wasn't a robbery in the making, but quickly dismissed the idea almost as soon as it popped into her mind. The store was hardly empty and there was only one potential convenience store burglar. She also really doubted the man in front of her would be involved in something like that.
The guy in the front leaned farther against the counter, nervously checking his watch and tapping his fingers against the plastic top. The clerk was obviously exasperated over the customer's indecisiveness, and frankly Mia was getting annoyed too. Why didn't he just chose something and leave. Not everyone had the time of day or paranoid-free mothers!
Sighing, she crossed her arms and began tapping her foot in agitation. The floors were pretty grimy, she thought after looking around the small shop for the hundredth time. Don't they wash floors anymore?
Mia's eyes snapped back over the counter as the voices rose, apparently the clerk had enough. Finally…
But she thought too soon.
Three similarly dressed men walked in. As soon as they cleared the doorway two pulled out a gun each while the third slipped an ugly looking knife from the waist of his jeans. Almost immediately, one waved their gun towards Mia and the other man in front of her. She couldn't see his face, but she could tell he was tense. We're at gunpoint, stupid, who wouldn't be?
"Get on the floor!" The thug waving the gun around didn't look so steady, his hands were shaking, obviously not used to threatening people with firearms.
Not intending on getting shot, Mia backed away slowly and raised her hands, showing that she was harmless. The long haired man didn't move though, his posture definitely agitated and rebellious.
"I said get on the floor!" The thug aimed the gun, the visible trembles betraying his steady voice. He was looking back and forth between the two of them and what was going on at the counter.
Mia couldn't look away, fear twisted in her gut with each passing second that the man didn't move. He was going to get shot, what the hell was he doing?!
Suddenly small explosions rang as a gun was fired. Choked screams came from the counter and Mia's eyes flew to the scene. The clerk was bent over the counter, twitching as spasms racked his body. Blood decorated the wall behind him, and slowly seeped to the floor. The four robbers swore furiously as they grabbed whatever they could and stuffed them into bags, but Mia barely heard them. Bile rose in her throat at the sight and her vision blackened at the edges. Pictures didn't give scenes like this justice and terror pulsed through her. She had to get out.
Completely oblivious to the dark haired man's eyes watching her, Mia began edging towards the entrance, hoping to a god she didn't believe in that she'd somehow make it out of there alive. It was only a few feet, and she had almost made it, but her bag snagged a display and it all came crashing down. Dammit!
"Don't fucking move!" Two guns immediately were pointed at her and the sinister guy with the knife shoved his bag of loot to one of the others before moving towards her.
Why couldn't she have stayed home today? Mia loosened her fingers, having every intention of doing what he said. There wasn't much in her bag anyways: her house keys, wallet containing her licence and maybe twenty dollars, as well as a pack of gum and a small water bottle. Stuff she could easily replace, stuff that wasn't worth having her face rearranged.
The thug pressed closer, the blade just inches from her neck when the pressure from his grip suddenly loosened and he went flying through the air and onto the wall where he fell into a boneless heap.
Confused, but relieved, if only for a second, Mia gasped as the dark haired man growled at the now quite prone thug on the floor. The man stood protectively in front of her, his body curved slightly and his knees bent in anticipation. Mia couldn't imagine why, they never even exchanged words before.
"Fuck!" Their loot forgotten, the three remaining thugs advanced towards Mia and her knight in a black leather jacket just as sirens rang. "Leave them, the cops are comin'!"
"Fuck, are you cracked? Shoot them! They saw what happened!"
"It was an accident, man!"
"Shit, it don't matter," The hooded male aimed straight at the man in front of Mia, "get the chick."
"What about Ben?"
"Hell, what do you think? Grab him and the bags and run!" He mistakenly turned his head to snap at his fellow in crime. Before he could even blink the dark stranger kicked him straight in the gut, knocking him into the thug behind him. Fluidly, he grabbed the other by the arm as he made to shoot the dark blur that had attacked his companions. Frightened, the last remaining thug shot wildly, too freaked to care what he was aiming at.
Mia shrieked as a bullet flew inches from her nose and dived for the exit, rolling on the tile as she landed. A shout was heard from the store followed by a sickening crack, then silence. Gasping for breath, Mia scrambled to her feet. She heard a shout behind her and the trample of feet as police officers stormed into the mall.
But she didn't stop, she had to get away. Away from the guns, from the blood, from the death. She ran for the doors, desperately needing air fresh from the metallic taint of blood. A hand grabbed at her arm and she screamed, terror flooded her mind and replaced the police officer with the knife wielding thug.
Tearing her arm free, an extra boost of adrenaline sent her flying outside only to come crashing down as she tripped over the uneven asphalt of the ground. Clenching her eyes closed in anticipation of the pain that the fall would induce, Mia jolted in surprise when instead a firm grip clamped around her waist to pull her upwards. Her eyes snapped open, ready to fight the thug that had caught up with her. Instead of hooded dark eyes, her own met with the strangely amused green of the stranger.
Setting her onto her feet, the stranger tugged Mia towards street. "Come with me."
She hesitated, suddenly her previous fear seemed irrational. The police would understand, she was just someone in the wrong place in the wrong time. Clutching her purse to her chest, Mia took a step back and looked at towards the door, "but the poli-" Her voice trailed off, the police man that had grabbed her earlier was lying between on the sidewalk, his throat a few feet beside him.
A dark chuckle sounded behind her and she spun around, her eyes widening as she watched the stranger lick the blood from his hand. Her stomach twisted at the sight and wondered if she had not been safer with the thugs. She backed away from the man, maybe if she screamed loud enough the police would hear. Blinking the tears away, Mia spun around intent on running as fast as she could, but before she could take more than a few steps she ran into the stranger's chest.
A sardonic grin on his pale face, he grabbed her around the waist and pointed towards the upper corner of the wall and to a video camera. His voice, low and sultry, caressed her ear and she shivered. "Smile for the camera."
Mia stared into the camera, hoping, praying that there was someone watching what was happening and would come out to save her. But too soon, the stranger was pulling her down the street. Under the pale street light he directed her towards an older model of a car that she couldn't put a name on; she was useless when it came to cars, unlike her brother. Holding the passenger's side door open for her, he almost appeared like a gentleman, if one ignored the way his long, black hair swirled around his face in the cool autumn air, and the rather obvious patches of dried blood on his hands.
She crossed her arms and refused to move. He could kill if he liked, but she would go no further. "What the hell makes you think that I'd go anywhere willingly with you."
He raised an elegant eyebrow, and Mia chastised herself for thinking that anything about this… monster was elegant. "Simple, my dear. It wouldn't take much to gather from the security cameras that you happened to be in the same area as that police officer when he was killed. Not to mention the only one to be seen." His eyes dared her to argue, he wasn't disappointed.
"What the hell are you talking about? I didn't… how can you say? You…" She stuttered, she could feel hysterics coming on. It was too much, too much. "You did it! It saw you, clearly. It had too!"
The stranger smiled, his eyes flashing in amusement, like he was only tolerating her accusations like one would tolerate a puppy begging for table scraps. It was cute, but only for so long. "That is the question, isn't it? Did the camera see me, or did it just see you?"
Mia couldn't answer that. Was it possible that the camera was positioned at an angle that it didn't see the stranger rip out that officer's throat? Her breath caught in her throat. Did they think she murdered him?
The stranger spoke again, this time his voice harder, more commanding. "I won't ask a third time. Get in the car."
She obeyed without protest. Her legs were wobbling from exhaustion, her adrenaline high long gone. The dark stranger slammed the door closed once she was seat-belted in and walked over to the opposite side, not even blinking an eyelash as an ambulance rushed by towards the mini-mall on its way to pick up those injured, or dead.
The stranger slid onto the driver's seat and started the car before driving off away from the scene that would haunt Mia's dreams for weeks. The stranger navigated the streets with efficiency, obviously knowing exactly where he was going and Mia dreaded the destination. Her heart dropped to her ankles every time he stopped at a red light, but that was nothing compared to how her body would tremble whenever a police cruiser rushed by. She didn't do anything, she knew she didn't do anything, but she couldn't say if they knew she didn't do anything. And until she found out, she was stuck here. She couldn't escape. Whoever this man was he was different, certainly not like anyone she had ever met.
Other than the dangerous feel that surrounded the man, there was something old about the way he carried himself. Like he held all the confidence in the world, but at the same time was weary of everything. She shook her head. There was no way she was going to find redeeming qualities over the man who had kidnapped her.
But he saved your life. That little voice in the back of her head pointed out the fact that had been floating around ever since he stopped her from falling.
He also ripped a cop's throat out! She snarled mentally to herself. Saving one life didn't mean he had the right to take another!
Taking deep breaths, Mia willed herself to calm. Slowly the trembles that wracked her body lessened to slight shivers that she could blame on the cool air, and her racing heart slowed down to a less life-threatening pace. Leaning her head against the cool glass of the window, Mia watched as the houses thinned and became sparser before melting into the bay that sat at the head of Lake Superior. A sign that she didn't want to see flew by as the stranger increased the car's speed and they raced out of Thunder Bay, the only home Mia had ever known.
All she knew now was that she had been kidnapped by a man who had ripped out someone's throat with his bare hands after saving her from being killed by some thugs. She was being taken away from home, away from her life, and away from safety.
Her mom was going to have a heart attack.