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The next work week went fast.
I didn’t dare tell Izzie about my recent Huntsman happenings in fear that she might literally explode from sheer excitement. But in times that she found herself occupied, I would slip the ominous card out of my pocket and look it over for any clue as to who the phone number could lead me to. My head buzzed with memories of his flirtatious remarks and how easily they came to him. The calm in his gentle eyes, circled by a mask that I wish I might see past to know who he really is.
I pick up my office phone, my curiosity beckoning for me to call the number to see where it sends me. Perhaps it could be an emergency number, or his private line that he’d given to all of his previous interests.
The thought irritated me enough to hang up the phone and stuff the card back into my jacket and try to continue working. I check my email and adjust my article on Mr. Forrester using the advice given by my editor and send it to print.
The rest of my day was spent searching for information on other SPCTER Agents that the internet linked Huntsman to. People like Linear, gifted with speed, Bastion, with defence and Faroh with possession. Soldiers with unbelievable power. These people, tasked with saving lives, no different from our military, but proclaimed as heroes.
The articles about them popped up by the millions with titles like Agents evacuate trapped inhabitants during building fire, Heroes lock up members of terrorist group, SPCTER agents save thousands from bombing attempt and so on and so forth.
The images of agents on the front page posed in majesty, charging head on with eyes blazing. Each snapshot of battle, looking like a frame cut from a film reel.
After work, I take my train home as always and climb out of the subway entrance onto the damp pavement. The light of the passing cars on the avenue now creating fuzzy circles in the puddles of mid-day rain. I take the street into my neighbourhood, my fatigued heels on the concrete send dull sensations up my spine.
I wind through side streets for a less crowded walk, but as I twist and turn, I notice the presence of a man behind me. As I jolt onto another street, he does as well. This has happened before in very crowed areas when cat-callers won’t take the hint. But being alone at night is different. I know I’ll have to lose him before I head home but I can’t seem to shake him. I weave a bit more, keeping a confident speed so that he is not too close. But as I turn again, I realize the arrival of another man that joins the first. I start to panic and look for a store or restaurant to hide in, but no luck. I glance at the upcoming street sign and realize that I’ve been walking far too deep into side streets and that I’m several blocks away from the avenue. I turn and start heading back toward it, but the streets ahead are far too dark so I decide to keep on until I find something. I call Izzie but there’s no answer. After a few more failed calls, my heart is beating fast enough to hear it in my ears. I glance back again to gauge my distance and feel a sharp sting in my stomach when I count a third man walking now along side the other two. Reading the next street sign, I can tell that I don’t know where I am.
I try to calm myself down as they start to catch up within about 40 feet away. I feel my breath shake as I search my belongings for anything of help. My pepper spray is in my handbag but it wont be much help if there are three of them, but even so, I keep my fingers curled around it just in case. With my other hand I shuffle around until I feel the black card in my coat pocket. Carefully, I dial the number and listen to it ring, whispering a silent prayer in my head.
To my surprise, he answers.
“Well, if it isn’t-” He starts in a goofy voice.
“I need your help, I’m being followed.” I ask, cutting him off, my voice shaking and emotional. “Th-there’s three of them and my friend isn’t picking up her phone and I-I didn’t have anyone else to-“
“Okay, slow down,” He starts again, a stern tone now present in his voice. “You don’t think it’s-“
“I don’t know, I didn’t get a good look.” I answer, trying to contain myself.
“Where are you?” Huntsman replies, his voice suddenly loud in my ear.
“I-I’m downtown, East 6th and Avenue B.” I manage to get out, tears starting to form on my face as I notice my pursuers getting closer.
“Okay Claire, listen to me, keep walking until I get there. Don’t stop, don’t look back. Just keep going.” He says, his voice booming in my ear.
“Don’t hang up.” I ask, my voice now trembling like the rest of me.
“I won’t. I promise.” He answers. “Now keep moving.”
I keep my feet moving like he asks, even though they feel as though they’ve gone numb. I repeat his instructions in my head to keep me going.
don’t look back,
don’t look back,
don’t look back.
I whisper it over and over until my heart stops at the sound of a leaf crunching underfoot. It’s close, less than 10 feet away. My body acts on it’s own and I turn in horror to see the three men right behind me, two of them I recognize as the young men I caught beating the gifted boy, and the other is a fully grown man covered in tattoos with a vile grin on his face.
I back away from them and start running but they catch me and lock their forearms around me. I scream as they shake my bag and phone out of my hand and down onto the street as the three of them drag me into a dark nearby alleyway.
I kick and scream as they slam me down against the ground and one of the younger men gets on top of me. He pins my arms down on the ground as I thrash and scream until my throat goes raw. I try to shake his grip free, and pray that Huntsman will find me in time. Praying he’ll find me and get them off of me. Seconds tick by like decades and minutes like millenniums as hands continually curl over my body.
My worst fears are realized when the young man begins to unzip my coat and a horrid burst of cold hair hurries along my skin. As they pin me down, one curls his hands around my throat and the other young man pulls at my blouse until the buttons pop off and land on the concrete around me. That sound of the bouncing plastic reverberates around in my mind over and over and over as one of them muffle my screams for help with his hand and tears flood my face as I try to prepare myself as best I can for what is about to happen.
That’s when I hear the deafening slam on the pavement.
I open my eyes and set them on Huntsman standing ahead of them farther down the alley, their heads turned. He stands haunched over, breathing through his teeth like a wild beast, the concrete under his feet, decimated. His eyes almost glowing in the darkness, piercing, penetrating through the men ahead of him. He lets out a menacing growl as he instantly tears the young man off of me with one hand and throws him and the eldest back 20 feet with the other hand.
I pull my self up off of my back and crumple on the edge of the alley wall as he throws the eldest against the ground again and slams one of the younger men against the wall, the both of them likely unconscious. The other young man slips past him and tries to dart at me to escape but Huntsman grabs hold of the back of his shirt, whirls him over his head and slams him, face first into the pavement.
Their bodies now lifeless, Huntsman looks to me as I do him. I stare into the glow of his eyes, afraid that they will swallow me up. But as his rage fades, his humanity seems to return.
Tears fall as he drops to his knees next to me. His suit reverts away and he looks over my face for any cuts and scrapes and then desperately tries to close up my blouse, now ripped and absent of it’s buttons. Instead, he zips my coat back up and hides his face in his hands.
But as I try to bring his eyes back up to mine, I realize that one of the men behind him is now on his knees poised to strike with a knife in hand. I scream for him to turn around, but it’s too late.
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