Janet stomped out onto the compound parking lot, almost blinded by rage. The need to feel fresh air on her hot face sent her running through the first door she saw. Janet paced with her head down, so intent on her thoughts that she didn’t sense a presence behind her. A current of electricity suddenly surged through her body, locking all of her muscles. She barely felt the stun gun digging into her back. Strong arms pulled her down to the ground and she looked up into Ethan’s smirking face. Before her mind could fully grasp what was happening, he was reaching for the amulet around her neck.
Unable to use her paralyzed limbs to ward off the attack, Janet activated the amethyst with all of the energy driving her anger and felt it heat up. Ethan grabbed the talisman and immediately released it with a startled cry of pain, involuntarily moving his other hand and freeing her from contact with the stun gun. Janet rolled away from him and scrambled shakily to her feet, as Ethan came charging towards her with the stun gun extended. He reached out and grabbed the back of her shirt to halt her progress. Janet turned and frantically blocked him from using the stun gun a second time. Janet was about to shout for help when Ethan knocked her unconscious with a right hook.
She awoke an indeterminate time later in darkness, curled in the fetal position, crammed into a tight space which prevented her from fully extending her legs. Janet tried to sit up and bumped her head. She lay back down and it slowly dawned on her that she was locked in a trunk. Pounding on the inside of the lid yielded no results. What if Ethan threw me in here and walked away? No one else knows I’m in here. I don’t want to die in a trunk! The trunk began to feel like a coffin. Janet panicked and beat on the lid, screaming until her throat began to ache. She paused and then continued, heedless of the pain, until she was exhausted. The lid suddenly flew open.
“Will you shut the bloody hell up? It’s your fault you’re in here isn’t it? You should have just let me have the talisman.”
“Let me out of this trunk!”
“What for? So the two of us can duke it out? Not bloody likely!”
“But I’m claustrophobic!”
“Sounds like a personal problem to me.”
“C’mon Ethan, I promise not to try to get away.”
“Better yet, why don’t you hand over the talisman so we can part company?”
“You know I can’t do that.”
“Can’t or won’t? You have got to be the most stubborn slag I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet!”
“Aw, stop it prince charming. You’re making me blush. At least let me go pee, unless you want your trunk ruined.”
“Fine, but if you try anything I will break your jaw.”
Ethan hauled her roughly out of the trunk and she saw that they were on the outskirts of town, in a heavily wooded area. He led her off the shoulder of the road down through the trees. They waded through thigh high vegetation. A moment later he stopped, folded his arms across his chest and glared at her expectantly. Janet parked her hand on her hip and motioned for him to turn around.
“Do I look like I was born yesterday? I’m not turning around. Just drop your knickers and do your business.”
Before Janet could reply, the flash of police light bars drew their attention back to the road. Ethan immediately dropped to the ground and pulled her down with him. They lay on their stomachs peering through leaves and stalks, watching a police officer inspecting their vehicle. As soon as the officer’s back was turned Ethan was up on his feet, pulling her along with him.
Janet dug her heels into the ground and resisted, trying to yank her arm free. She opened her mouth to scream and felt the barrel of a pistol digging into her ribs. Janet reluctantly stopped resisting and allowed herself to be pulled along. Her breath was coming in jagged gasps when he finally came to a stop. He bent forward with his hands on his knees, breathing heavily. Janet tried reasoning with him.
“If you let me go now, I’ll forget about you grabbing me. Just walk away. Surely there’s some other way for you to make money.”
“You think this is about dosh? A very powerful man wants me to get that talisman and I mean to do just that.”
“The Doorkeepers will never let you keep it long enough to make that delivery.”
“You let me worry about the bleeding Doorkeepers. Hand over the damn talisman Janet!”
“If you want it, then you’re going to have to take it from me.”
“I tried that already. Why do you care so much about some necklace anyway? Why don’t you just walk away?”
“Andrea needs to use the talisman. You remember her right? The woman who has saved your sorry ass more times than I care to count. You already tried drugging her and doing who knows what while I was knocked out in that condemned house. Why do you keep hurting her? I thought you cared about her.”
“I do care about her. Look, I don’t have a choice in the matter. It’s not something that you could ever understand.”
“I know all about the devil’s mark.”
“Well, then you know that I have to deliver that talisman.”
“I’m not taking it off.”
“Then I guess, you’re coming along for the ride. I’ll just let Charles sort it out when I turn you over to him.”
Ethan pulled out his cell phone and called his master. Judging from the way he winced, Janet guessed that Charles wasn’t happy about his predicament. He listened for a few moments longer and then disconnected the call. They walked until gloom began gathering. Ethan selected a thicket of trees and they hunkered down for the night.
Janet was grateful for his proximity at nightfall when the darkness closed in around them. The loss of visibility seemed to heighten her sensitivity to sound. Every rustling of leaves and scuttling of small creatures in the undergrowth around them sounded loud and vaguely threatening to her. Janet had always been uneasy in the darkness.
It didn’t help that she was sitting next to a man that she hardly knew, who only days before had his very soul wrenched from his body by some hellish entity. Maybe he came back different or maybe his body was actually possessed by some other being. Janet’s curiosity overcame her resentment towards him.
“Ethan, what was it like when the shadow people took your soul?”
“If it’s all the same to you, that is not an experience I care to remember or discuss.”
“I was scared to death when I saw those…those things bent over you…”
“I said I don’t want to talk about it. Now shut up and go to sleep!”
“I’m sorry, did you say go to sleep? You must be out of your mind if you think I could possibly sleep out here. Talk about a sitting duck!”
“There’s nothing out here but a few animals that are more afraid of you than you are of them now shut your yap. I’m trying to get some sleep.”
“What’s that sticking out of the back of your pants? Is that a book? I didn’t figure you for a reader.”
“It’s not any old book. That just happens to be the key to my freedom.”
“That important huh? Well, then it’s a good thing you’ve got it jammed into the back of your pants for safekeeping.”
“If I hadn’t done that, the cops would have it right now. I’m not letting this book out of my sight.”
“Where’d you get it?”
“From the guy in antiquities shop.”
“Dorian? I thought for sure that guy was dead. I’ve never seen flesh spontaneously….what was that?”
“What was what?”
“I heard something moving over there.”
“I didn’t hear anything.”
“Well I did. Ssh listen…there it is again. Something is definitely coming this way.”