Yarrolam launched himself at the two men holding Cherron, slamming sideways into the man with gun. Both Cherron and the man who held her fell backwards under the impact. Turning slightly, he slashed down with his thick claws across the first man’s wrist, severing the hand holding the pistol. Before the second man could worm his way free from underneath Cherron, Yarrolam twisted his body and brought his Ruinos hand down on the guy’s Adam’s apple. The man released his grip on her and clasped his neck in a vain attempt to staunch the flow of blood.

            All of this happened within a span of less than three seconds. The man by the car stood there in surprised shock. By the time he realized what was happening, Yarrolam had managed to bring his feet underneath him. With a single lunge, he closed the nearly twelve foot gap between himself and the guy, ramming him against the car. The impact knocked the man out, and he slipped to the ground like a sack of soft putty.

            Yarrolam turned to Cherron. “Come on! Get in!”

            She took one look at the two men lying bleeding by her heels, and hurried over to jump into the car. Yarrolam found the man’s gun and dropped it into his pants pocket before sliding under the wheel.

            They sped out of the parking lot. He took the interstate and headed north. Neither of them spoke as Yarrolam kept to the speed limit. Eventually, they reached the outskirts of the city. By that time, he allowed himself to relax. As far as he could tell, no one was following them, but that didn’t mean they were out of danger. If anything, the worst was just beginning.

            “Who were those men?”

            He glanced over at where she rubbing her arms with her hands. The red marks on her wrists would soon turn a bruised blue.

            “Are you cold?”

            “No. I’m terrified. Who were those men? Why did they…” Her voice broke but she didn’t cry. She was fighting back fear with anger. Trying to find reason and sanity after what she’d witnessed.

            “I don’t know, Cherron. I have no idea what the hell is going on, but we’re going to find out. I promise.”

            Once they reached Mississippi, Yarrolam pulled off the highway and into the first small town. Finding an ATM machine, he withdrew the maximum amount allowed. Getting back inside the car, he held out a hand.

            “Give me your phone.”

            “Why?” she asked, but dug inside her purse and relinquished it to him. She watched in disbelief as he left the vehicle and walked over to the small trash receptacle next to the bank machine. He deftly broke the cell phone into pieces with his bare hands, dumping the remains, then returned to the car.

            “Was that really necessary?”

            “I don’t know, but would you want to take that chance?”

            Their next stop was at a local Gas-N-Go where he filled up the car, bought a disposable phone, and withdrew more money from the store’s ATM machine. He also got a few snacks and some bottles of water. Getting back under the wheel, he handed the bag of items to Cherron. Once he pulled the car up to the side of the store, he took the cell from the bag, activated it, and placed a call.

            “Aaron? It’s Liam. Call me at this number.”

            Hanging up, he dialed a second number.

            “Aaron? It’s Liam. Call me at this number,” he repeated and hung up again.

            She gave him a questioning look.

            “I called his personal cell and the office,” Yarrolam answered. “You probably noticed he didn’t answer either one.”

            She gave a loud sigh. “What do we do now?”

            “Well, we can’t go back to Aaron’s place. Or mine. They’re probably under surveillance.”

            “Who’s watching it?” Cherron drew a hand through her hair. “This is unreal. Thirty-five thousand. That man said Aaron owed him thirty-five thousand dollars.”

            “His first payment,” Yarrolam reminded her. He looked at his hand resting on the steering wheel, the other holding the disposable phone in his lap. In the semi-darkness, they were human hands again. Although he couldn’t see any blood on them, he could smell it. The human-like skin was covering the worst of it.



            “Let’s find someplace to spend the night. Hopefully we’ll be able to think more clearly come morning.”

            He nodded. She was right. They could keep running, but it wouldn’t solve their problem.

            “Liam, we need to tell the police what happened.”

            “That…may be a problem.”

            “Why? How?”

            “I attacked those men. For that alone, they could arrest me.”

            “They attacked us first!” she countered.

            “The police may not see it that way. Cherron, if they arrest me, that would leave you vulnerable for more of those men to come after you. Plus, we have no idea what kind of trouble Aaron is into.”

            “Are you telling me you don’t want to tell the police what happened because of what they might do to you? What an asshole!” She made no attempt to hide her disdain.

            Yarrolam gripped the phone so tightly, he almost crumpled it. Looking her full in the face, he dropped his voice. “You have to trust me when I tell you, going to the police isn’t going to help Aaron.”

            “Oh, and you think just the two of us are going to be able to do what the cops can’t? What do you suggest we do, then? Keep running?”

            Rubbing a hand over his face, he glanced out the front windshield. “For now, let’s go with your idea. Let’s get a room somewhere and let clearer heads prevail in the morning.”

            “I’d rather go to the police station now,” she insisted. “Aaron could be dead in the morning!”

            “I don’t think so. Cherron, the more I think on it, the more I believe he deliberately sent me to pick you up at the airport to keep us out of harm’s way.”

            She scowled at him. “Are you saying he knew those men were after him?” She reached for the door handle to exit the car. He reached out and grabbed her by the upper arm. Not hard, but enough to detain her momentarily.


            “We have to help him! We have to tell the police!”

            “Tell them what?” Yarrolam almost yelled. “That three men accosted us in a restaurant parking lot with a cryptic message?”

            “They were going to kidnap me!”

            “Yes, and I crippled one of them and nearly killed the other one! Who do you think the police are going to make their number one person of interest when they can’t find Aaron? Say Aaron’s already dead. No, no, listen to me! Hear me out. What if Aaron’s already dead? I was the last person to see him alive. You don’t think they won’t hold me for questioning? Those men who came after us, someone sent them. Someone who is out thirty-five grand, and then some. If I’m held for questioning, that will leave you wide open to another attack. And if those people get their hands on you again…” His throat suddenly closed up, and he felt his heart shrivel at the thought. “Cherron, it’s been a long, terrifying day for both of us. Let’s get a room, talk it out, and make a decision tomorrow morning. Please.”

            Several long seconds passed as she studied his face. “Okay,” she finally relented. “Okay. You risked your life to save me. The least I can do is allow you the benefit of a doubt.”

            Relief washed through him. “Thank you,” he whispered, and started the engine.