She bolted down the shadowed alley, her short brown hair hitting her cheek as she twisted to look behind her. She was still being followed. The sun was setting in the distance, creating the eerie half-light that now lit the open street ahead of her. She ducked behind a dumpster and peeked out. She spotted two men in suit casually strolling down the alley and grimaced. Hoping for the best, she crouched low and ran, stopping behind a giant van that was parked across the street. Her sneakers splattered in a puddle and she cursed as she felt her socks absorb the moisture.
She’d been out shopping all day, stopping at the local bookstore to admire the display of her new book and to check her mail at the post office. She’d noticed the men in the bookstore, and had hardly given them a second glance. It wasn’t until she noticed the suspicious looking shape tucked into one of their socks did she panic. They’d found her again. This time, she’d missed the warning signs. She’d have to improvise.
Muttering quick prayer to whomever might be listening, she crouched low and began to creep down the street in the opposite direction of the two men. Suddenly, the men crossed the street and studied the row of parked cars. She froze, trying desperately not to breathe too loudly as the larger of the two men spoke.
“We’ve been tracking her for days. Let’s just leave and wait for her to go back to her place, and take her back from there”. His deep voice implied his authority over the his smaller counterpart, but it seemed his partner had an idea as well.
“What if she finds out that we’ve been ordered to watch her? That book of hers—this is serious business she’s gotten herself into. We’ve got to take care of this, and now”. With a furtive glance around him, he reached down to his shoe.
From her vantage point behind the car, she could clearly see what she had feared–a long, narrow wooden object about 8 inches long. It was a wand. He was one of them. There was no time to think. She could tell that this was serious, that she needed to get out of there–and quickly. She began running at a low crouch behind the row of parked cars, and finally reached the bus stop at the end of the block. She grabbed a disgusting old newspaper from underneath the bench and hid her face, glancing every so often from behind the damp pages to check on the men. They were still arguing.
Finally, the bus wheezed to a stop and she jumped on, excusing herself as she pushed past a few people on the way out. She dug in her pockets for change, paid the driver and walked to the back, trying to keep her face turned away from the windows on that side of the street. Finally, she reached the back sat down, sighing. She rubbed her face with her hands and watched the two men as the bus pulled away.
When she arrived home, she immediately grabbed her backpack and duffel bag and began throwing in everything important. Her laptop, notebooks, purse and keys and money went into the backpack, and some clothes and other assorted junk went into the larger duffel. She had done this dozens of times before–there would be new clothes and new copies of her favorite books—only what she truly needed went with her. She frantically dug under her bed until her hand made contact with a wooden box, which she carefully wrapped in a sweater and shoved deep into her backpack.
She had her hand on the doorknob when she noticed the blinking light on her answering machine. She cursed again under her breath and set the bag down. She hit the button and the message played.
“Hi, Em, it’s Jane down in publicity. Listen, the kids are loving your book. We’re looking to perhaps have you go on a short publicity tour. Nothing too fancy–just a couple of stops on some local television stations and then maybe a press conference if sales keep picking up. I’ve got all the information ready to go, so just give me a call when you get this. Thanks a lot!”
That message being played, Emily stopped and considered her options. She could go out and make a run for it, pick up and move and hope to keep a low profile, or she could agree to the publicity tour and buy herself sometime–they wouldn’t dare try and touch her with so many people around. Plus, she might be able to find a friend to stay with in the meantime.
Her decision made, she picked up her bags and glanced back at the comfy apartment. It had been one of her favorites, but it was time to move on. She dug her cell phone out of her back pocket, and dialed.
She took a deep breath and tried to steady her voice.
“Hi, Jane? It’s Emily. I got your message. No, I’d love to.”.
Twenty minutes later Emily was seated in a plush glass and leather office decorated with posters of best-selling novels. Two huge bookcases stood like guards behind a desk, at which sat a tiny woman with a mess of curly blonde hair. Emily was sitting cross-legged in one of the huge leather chairs that sat in front of the desk, toying with a sample action figure she’s found in the lobby.
“Thanks so much for coming in, Em. I really appreciate it.” Jane was a perky twenty something who ……