It was quiet. Everything was still. I pressed myself against the wall and tried to steady my breathing. The smell of blood was nauseating. I closed my eyes despite the darkness that already filled my vision.
He had broken my chains. I was free.
But I couldn’t move.
The sound of screams and gunshots and a blade crushing against bones still seemed so present that the silence made my ears ring.
I raised a trembling hand and wiped it across my forehead being very careful to keep the shackle on my wrist quiet. My heart couldn’t calm down. How many encounters with death would there be before it finally caught me?
I was desperate to get out, but I couldn’t move yet.
He began to whistle, and beads of sweat formed along my forehead. I could hear him dragging bodies across the floor.
Yes, he was still here, but did he know about me?
I tried to act dead, but I’m pretty sure my heart was pounding out of my chest too loudly for him not to notice.
The whistling grew louder until it sounded like it was coming from right above me. He was standing over me. I knew it. I could actually feel his presence. I pressed myself harder against the rough bricks wishing they could just swallow me inside them. I felt like a cornered mouse with broken legs while the cat contemplated how to end me. I was a hair’s breath away from whimpering, but it wouldn’t have mattered because even I could hear my bones rattling together.
The man seemed to kneel down, then I felt him wrap his arms around my shoulders.
“Leave the blindfold on.” His voice was as calm and composed as it had been just moments before when he had announced to the others that he was there to kill them.
He didn’t struggle to lift me, and he held all of my weight because there was no way my legs could hold me.
He seemed tall. His arms were long. I couldn’t help it when I fell against him with my head against his side, but he put an arm around me and began to walk. My teeth began to chatter, and there was nothing I could do. I let him guide me through the holding expecting to trip over the bodies, but I suppose he had moved them all out of the way.
A strange warmth emitted from him like the heat of a fever could be felt even through his clothes. I didn’t know what it was, but it calmed me.
He stopped. “Let’s take care of these.”
He took my wrists, and I don’t know how he did it. One minute I felt the rusted shackles on me and then they were gone. I didn’t even hear him put them down. The door creaked open, and a cold January air ripped at my clothes. I felt the cold for only a moment before it disappeared.
He began to hum again. I didn’t know where we were going, but I didn’t dare question it. Strength began to return to my veins, but he still kept his arm around me.
He lightly laughed to himself which unsettled me a bit, but he was so quiet and meek sounding.
“You know, I don’t know what I’m going to do with you. First that awful car accident and now this. I suppose I should have both of your legs broken just to keep you out of trouble.”
I was stunned and probably had my mouth hanging open, but the stranger began to hum again.
“Here is fine.” He stopped and put both of his hands on my shoulders. “Lie down.”
“What?” I began to panic, but it was fairly easy for him to lower me to the ground.
“It’s alright. I’ll wait with you.”
It felt like a bunch of little rocks. A cold, gravel road. He seemed to crouch beside of me, or maybe he was kneeling.
“Am I in the middle of a road?”
“Shhhh.” He patted my shoulder a few times then left it resting there.
I laid flat on my back trying to peek beneath my blindfold to see what time of the day it was and possibly a glimpse of the man who had me there.
“Who are you?”
“Be still.” His hand glided over my forehead which made me very tired. I closed my eyes and didn’t feel I had the strength in me to move. My whole body was heavy but especially my eyelids.
He withdrew his hand, and the hibernation feeling went away. I began to panic thinking he was leaving.
“Sir?” I called out. Coldness swept over me, and I felt the wind as it cut through my skin. Killer or not, I didn’t want to be left alone. I tore at the blindfold then glanced around.
An eerie feeling crept up my spine. It was night. There were no stars like a storm loomed overhead perched to attack. I was in the middle of an endless stretch of a straight-lined road with a dense forest on either side. There was nothing in sight. Not even the place I had come from.
I felt like something was going to get me. I kept glancing around like the man was going to come walking out of the woods at any moment. Or something else would.
I began to shake again, so I turned over onto one side and curled up into a protective ball. I squeezed my eyes shut not wanting to see whatever it was that would come and get me. With my ear against the road, I heard something. It was faint but growing louder. I opened my eyes to see a pair of headlights steadily growing closer.
Fear gripped my throat and told me to hide in the forest, but my strength had gone. I sat up and shook from the cold until the light forced my eyes closed.
The lights grew brighter and brighter until the sound of tires against gravel came to a halt. I blinked away the light as two shadows emerged.
“Oh, God! Are you alright?”
The woman put a jacket around me while the man pulled me to my feet.
“What are you doing out here, Miss?”
I opened my eyes and tried to answer, but my throat was too tight and dry. It was an older couple, and I probably looked like a deer in headlights.
“It’s alright now. It’s okay.” That man walked me to the vehicle patting my back comfortingly while the woman was already on the phone with the police.
Detective Mason looked over me quietly.
“I told you that you wouldn’t believe me.”
The entire time of my testimony, he had stared only occasionally nodding. His face was expressionless. However, his assistant didn’t seem to mind displaying the fact that she thought I was crazy. I didn’t understand why. How hard was it to believe that a vigilante came in and rescued me?
“Miss Ashton.” He closed the file and clasped his hands together. “That is an interesting account, but the video proof shows otherwise.”
“Video?” I raised my eyebrows. He opened his laptop and turned it around to face me.
“Yes, your captors had a camera set up probably for the means of… Well, that doesn’t matter. They had some sort of disagreement and began to shoot each other.”
“No, they were shooting at another person.”
Why hadn’t he showed me the video to begin with?
“Some of the stray bullets broke through your chains. You’re very lucky that you were not hit.”
“No…” I wanted to argue, but there was nothing I could say. The video showed them shooting each other while I sat there. I remained still after everyone was dead for a while before finally getting up on my own.
Mason blinked several times. “It’s very common for people to imagine things when they are under much duress.”
I replayed a part and grabbed the sides of the screen. With their dying breath, the men seemed to drag themselves out of the way probably to cover themselves from more bullets. No one else was there.
“I don’t understand.”
Both the detective and his assistant looked at me sympathetically.
“You described walking for a short time? That’s not possible because the Hensons found you twenty miles from the incident… You may have fainted some and not remember. It’s highly likely. You were in near critical condition when we got to you. A pretty bad case of hypothermia, and you were very low on blood. Fainting and hallucinations are very common is those situations.”
I pursed my lips. “Someone was there. I don’t know how, but I do know that I couldn’t have made all of that up.” I looked at him. “The camera just didn’t catch him.”
Mason blinked several times then glanced at his assistant. He reached for his laptop. “Would you like to watch the footage again, Miss Ashton?”
“No.” I was getting angry. I wasn’t crazy. It had happened. Something occurred to me about the vigilante, and Mason must’ve noticed.
“What is it?”
Surely he remembered. I knew he had to. It was a small town, and he was the only detective.
“It’s like that car wreck when the semi pushed me off the bridge. I couldn’t do anything under the water. I told you that someone had opened the door and pulled me out of my car, but you denied that it was any of your men. This was the same guy. He even mentioned it.”
Mason remained expressionless. I knew I looked crazy to him.
“You were the only one to come out of that water. I have around thirty witnesses who can confirm that.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Well how do you explain the Hensons coming to find me? Who told them? What were they doing out there?”
Mason’s face became instantly concerned, and he looked down because he did not have an answer.
“I’m telling you, Detective. This guy is real.”
“No.” He looked at me with narrowed eyes. “There would be no way possible for him to contact them.” His voice grew louder. “Not if what you mentioned is true about him fighting off the five or so others who were armed with automatic rifles. In fact, everything you described to me is humanly impossibly. The only way your story checks out is if your rescuer isn’t human.”
Those words felt like a ton of bricks, and I could feel the blood drain from my face.
“You mean he’s a ghost or something?”
The assistant laughed nervously. “Sounds more to me like a guardian angel.” She didn’t even look up but continued to scribble at over her paperwork. It didn’t even look like she was writing anything.
Mason’s face turned ashen, and I began to shake.
It occurred to me that the song my rescuer had been humming was a hymn.
I laid my head down on the table.
Instead on relieved, I felt terrified. Guardian angels were good but I wasn’t supposed to see my guardian angel… But I never had. I pursed my lips as the shaking grew beyond my control. He had made sure I hadn’t seen him.
“Ashton, do you need to return to the hospital?”
I shook my head and grabbed my arms in attempts to control myself.
“Ashton, if it’s alright with you, we’re going to close this case since there was obviously no one else present. We’re not going to bring it up again, alright?”
I knew he was doing this to keep me from looking crazy. He knew I wasn’t crazy. I just had to help him make everyone believe that. As badly as I didn’t want to, I had to drop this since apparently my rescuer didn’t exist.
The assistant began to rub my head. “Can I get you anything?”
I didn’t answer her. Instead, I was thinking about going home. I lived alone. And he was there watching my every move. I wanted to see him. I wondered if I put myself in danger, if I would be able to see him this time.
I instinctively curled my toes.
No, he would break my legs.
Please don’t break my legs.
I couldn’t say any more about this. Not to anyone. I could end up in an institution, and then I would never get my book done. Maybe that was why he was keeping me alive. I had to finish it. Besides, it was a bit cool to think about. An angel. Not the sweet little girls with dove wings but a large, impressive man who wasn’t afraid to spill blood.
Actually it wasn’t cool. It was terrifying.
I sat up and rubbed my eyes then forced a smile. “I’m fine. I’m ready to go home”
Mason nodded and took out his phone. “Miss Ashton is ready to go home now.”
“Why didn’t you tell her?”
“She didn’t need to know.” I closed my laptop without looking up. The men who had tried to rob Ashton Letner seven months back were found unconscious after only taking a few steps in her house. She had been hiding and figured that they had been so terrified of the police sirens that they had fainted, but the thieves had a different story.
“Cynthia.” I gave the rookie a sharp look. “We discussed this. You knew what you were getting into.” I folded the files under my arm before standing. “The world isn’t ready to know.”
We had done our best to fold up the incident as nothing paranormal, but it was hard to deem three completely healthy young men as schizophrenics. All of them sharing the same illusion. All of them collapsing from sheer terror.
Ashton wasn’t alone. She was one of ten other mysterious cases. Of course, I knew there were many more. Most had never been reported. People knew better than to report stuff like this to the police. Ashton would soon learn.
She glanced over my face then nodded. We stood at the same time. “I didn’t think that was how angels operated.”
“Why do you think it’s only happening to them?”
“I don’t know.” I opened the door for her to walk through. “But I’m going to their church tomorrow to hopefully find some answers.”