The wind was at her back. She was running as quickly as she could, and she could see in her mind’s eye one of those scenes from horror movies where the girl was always running and then she would trip over something and go flying and then the bad man would come and then he would –
But the bad man had already been here. Bob Paris had been here, and she was bleeding and everything was running and she’d gotten into her car and driven but she couldn’t see very well. Her eyes felt like they were bleeding too, but that didn’t make any sense.
Maybe if she knew where she was going, that would help. She’d only been here a few times before, and she certainly hadn’t had to go running in heels from a murderer before.
She felt so stupid, so helpless – if she could get back to her car, then she could drive, but she… that kid had taken her car back for her. So stupid, why… Why had she accepted that flash drive from Lindsay? Lindsay – Lindsay’s car. Maybe she could get to her car, if she still had the keys somewhere in her pocket.
She had to keep running. If she kept running, she could get away from him, could stay away.
In front of her, she noticed tiny little flecks of white, falling in front of her. Her dazed mind wondered if it was some sort of fluff or maybe salt, before the obvious answer hit her – it was snow. It was snowing.
Maybe that could help her, maybe –
But before she could finish the thought, her legs collapsed under her and she felt her head collide with something hard. The last thing she remembered was looking up at the sky and noticing, matter-of-factly, that it had turned pitch black.
When she awoke, she was lying on a bed somewhere – no, not a bed exactly, but maybe a cot. A thin cot in a… she couldn’t figure out the rest.
Had Bob Paris caught up with her at last? Maybe his plan was to do some crazy torture stuff to her, James Bond style.
Annika lifted one arm, expecting to find it strapped down. She almost fell off the cot when she pulled it up without any trouble – and let out an “ah!” of surprised.
Her sound brought, in turn, the sound of footsteps. She sat up, quickly, panting. Not another room, not another… Bob Paris had got her again, that had to be the answer. But how was she going to get out now?
She put one uneasy foot to the floor of… she didn’t know what kind of building she was in, but there was light streaming ahead of her in little lines. She wondered where her shoes were – but maybe it was better to not have to try to run in heels. She’d cut up her feet on the ground, though, that much was sure. It would hurt.
Annika let out a little whimper at that.
She felt so tired, but she had to get up and go, had to get up and run away.
The door burst open, and she toppled back into the cot, letting out a scream.
There was a man standing there in clothes that seemed a few sizes too big for him, topped off with a long, tan jacket. She had never seen him before.
“Who are you?” she asked, looking around for a weapon.
“I found you… in the road…” he explained. His voice had an old slur to it, as if he had a propensity to forget what he was saying mid-sentence.
Annika lifted a hand to where she had been bleeding before, and was surprised to feel something there, something closed up. It felt like stitches.
“You were shot,” the man said simply. “I took the bullet out. You were out like a light, though.”
“Why… why am I not at a hospital?”
The man proceeded to pull up the shade that was covering the window – Annika could now tell that she was in a large van of some sort, but not where it was parked – all she could see was a huge snowbank that blocked any other view.
“As soon as it clears up,” the man promised. “But I’ll have to drop you off and then take off ‘cause I can’t be in a hospital. I got a warrant.”
Annika shuddered, much as she didn’t want to. She wanted to be strong – but underneath any strong person was a little kid pleading to not be hurt; she knew this.
“Please,” she spoke up, “Whatever you want…I don’t know why you’re keeping me here… but if… it’s for… I don’t know. Just please let…”
“I won’t hurt you.” The man’s hand snaked out and took hers; he squeezed it gently. “What’s your name?”
“Annika Johnson,” she offered quietly, closing her eyes. Maybe this wasn’t… something bad, she considered. He didn’t know her name, maybe he hadn’t come from Bob Paris. Then again, Bob Paris didn’t care about their names – he only wanted himself surrounded by beautiful women, beautiful centerpieces at his table. And he was willing to kill them if they didn’t fall in line… that much was entirely clear. Which meant that if this man wasn’t working for Bob, then he might be the only chance she had to get out of this alive. “What’s… what’s yours?” Unless, she told herself, this was some kind of ransom. Maybe she shouldn’t be asking for his name, maybe she shouldn’t be trying to see his face. Yet all she could think about was how her chest ached, how her feet hurt, how she wanted to be curled up somewhere safe. She wondered if she still had the flash drive, if after all that running she had lost it somewhere. Maybe this man had it. It was seeming less and less important as her head filled with drowsiness.
“I’m Caleb,” the man said simply. “There’s a cabin in there… If you’re up to it, we can try and walk inside.”
She tried to raise her head, to ask a hundred more questions, but everything was fuzzy and warm and she was drifting through the clouds all over again.