Everything was wrong—everything. The timeline was screwed to a standstill. Was it backwards, sideways, or a flash-forward? I couldn’t figure it—there was no way to determine locale or chronological details.
My emotions were fully engaged, juiced up on super-charged adrenaline. The urgency was so great and the events were happening so fast that as I raced past onlookers their faces blurred and distorted. My heart was a jackrabbit against my ribcage. I was running hard along a street crowded with pedestrians and traffic, all seemingly going in the opposite direction of me. Everyone that is, except Beka Steele and her captors. They were far ahead of me.
Beka was in a world of trouble. Two plug-uglies had lured her into a trap, and now she was their prisoner. Unless she broke free or was rescued, she had a rendezvous with a bullet awaiting her. My last glimpse of her was a mere moment ago, but it seemed so much longer. The thugs had dragged her down an alley several blocks away.
I moved with a reckless determination. I zigzagged and dodged past people, but couldn’t avoid bumping some and slugging into others in my unabated tenacity. In the background a whistle was blowing, followed by emphatic yells that floated away into the ether.
There was enormous noise and confusion in all the jostling—shouts of complaint accompanied almost every move I made. The boisterous protests rising along the human obstacle course couldn’t deter me.
I was high-stepping it and making good progress, but then zigged when I should’ve zagged, which caused me to slam smack-dab into an elderly, blue-haired lady. I struck her at full speed, hitting her with the savage ferocity of a linebacker. I scudded to a stop.
Screams sliced into me as the action suddenly flickered into a crazy frame by frame slow-motion. The old woman’s mouth wrenched open, revealing broken teeth stained a most remarkable shade of yellow. Her eyes skewered me as a burst of hideous laughter screeched from her lungs, echoing along the avenue.
I reached out to prevent the inevitable, my hands clawing helplessly at the air. Our eyes connected for one ghastly, frozen, conscience-shattering moment—her look condemned me to the deepest nether regions of punishment, where the sulfur and brimstone flames of hell burn hottest.
I kept clutching to grab her, but it was hopeless; I came away with armfuls of nothingness. Her cane went flying in one direction, her bag of groceries scattered in the opposite as she soared through the air arms and legs akimbo. She crashed in a heap—her head bounced horribly off the asphalt before coming to rest at a grotesque angle.
Gasps of outrage and astonishment bristled.
“What kind of fraking motard are you?” an angry voice bellowed from behind me. I was stuck in my tracks. My throat tightened and clogged up as I attempted to say something.
A hand clamped down on a shoulder and spun me around. I found myself eyeball to eyeball with an extremely red-faced policeman. He was huffing and puffing, with spittle dotting his chin—apparently he had been the yelling whistle-blower pursuing me.
The cop definitely had humanoid bloodlines, but he was a product of cross-breeding with some sub-species. Handsome would never be used to describe him. He resembled a droopy-eyed, broad-cheeked hound-dog.
“What kind of fraking motard are you?” he repeated gruffly.
“How the frak am I supposed to answer that?” I snapped, glowering. A current of tension crackled between us. His right arm twitched, and for a brief instant it seemed that he was going to unleash a punch, but then he took a small step backwards.
“You got a name, mister?”
“Jodat. Jedediah Jodat.”
“Where’s the fire, Jodat?” he asked, narrowing his eyes.
“A woman is about to be killed,” I replied, consciously adjusting my breathing pattern. “I’m attempting to prevent that murder, Officer.”
“Sergeant,” he said, tapping the stripes high up on his left arm. The situation was surreal; here was an elderly woman lying in the street likely badly injured while in some murky place a young woman was being threatened and held captive by a pair of criminals, and this cop was most concerned with his rank.
“Fine, Sergeant,” I said, delivering his title with a healthy amount of mocking disdain
The policeman straightened stiffly. His teeth clenched into a grimace as his hand moved to unsnap the holster-cover for the gun on his hip, but then two words stopped him cold.
“She’s dead,” a woman said, her tone fragile and eerie. The flatfoot and I turned at the same time. A cluster of onlookers encircled the crumpled old lady. A shaggy brunette was kneeling beside her. “She’s dead. You killed her.”
My stomach knotted. It had finally happened—my worst nightmare was now reality. To my knowledge, in all my travels and interventions no innocent bystander had ever been harmed.
Being a risk-taker comes with a bill of lading; one never knows at what juncture payment will be due. There had been numerous occasions when I’d gambled and taken desperate chances, but luck, destiny, or fortune had always been kind—until this tragedy. Now an old woman who’d simply been on a shopping excursion was dead because of the way I am.
A silent, guttural roar scorched my vocal cords. My body sagged.
The dog-faced cop sidled over behind me and was preparing to put me into handcuffs. There was no will of resistance in me, but then somewhere faraway I heard Beka Steele shriek. The terror of it raised my hackles and spooked me out of surrender.
I shed regret and remorse, whirled and landed a roundhouse right on the police officer’s chin. The shock of it sent him pin-wheeling backwards, and I took off running faster than ever. There was a flurry of movement as people scattered and scrambled to get out of the way. I heard the uproar and hoopla behind me, and the command to stop or be shot, but ignored it and pressed on harder and harder. I was chasing and being chased—a slightly skewed sensation.
I careened around a corner, ricocheted off a brick wall, and scrambled down the narrow corridor the hoodlums had taken Beka. I furiously catapulted forward; before I knew it I crashed through a sheet of plywood and shoulder-rolled into the middle of the jackpot.
Beka Steele was tied down on a wooden chair. Her eyes were gaping circles pleading with me—our gaze dovetailed. All the moisture dried up in my mouth as weakness ripped into me. Both goons had their pistols leveled at the back of her head. I rushed at them flailing wildly, but then blackness grabbed me by the throat and jerked me away.
The boom of the double gunshot was deafening. I lurched awake lathered in sweat. The blood in my veins was churning. I sucked in gulps of air, and blinked incessantly. Beka Steele had gotten inside my head; or was it my heart that she’d ensnared?
With tremendous effort, I forced myself to lie perfectly still. One slow, intentional breath, followed by another and another. It took deliberate action and purposeful recalibrating for me to gradually reconnect with my surroundings.
It was past midnight. I was on a remote hillside. My campfire had smoldered down to coals. There was a chilly coolness in the damp air. I snuggled down into my bedroll, feeling lonesome and forsaken.
Off in the distance sheep were bleating. In that direction, there was a shimmering brightness that spread funny shades of colors across the star-speckled sky. I watched the celestial display and pondered the dream’s meaning for a long while.