Chapter 14

“Down!” the man shouted, and I dropped to the ground, pushed my face against the macadam, right as the shotgun roared.

My eyes closed, I somehow saw the three figures now out in the alleyway, the one in front being struck down.

The man stepped over me, racked the shotgun, pulled the trigger. The shotgun roared and took the second figure down, then the man did the same thing again — racked the gun, pulled the trigger — and one final BANG! echoed in the alleyway and the third figure lay flat on the ground.

For a moment there was silence.

Then the man growled, “Come on, get up,” and when I didn’t move, when I didn’t even open my eyes, he grabbed the back of my shirt and pulled me to my feet.

“Let’s go!” he shouted, pushing me forward.

My feet moved of their own volition, taking me to the end of the alleyway where they stopped, not sure where to take me next.

The man grabbed my arm, tugged me toward an old red Ford pickup.

“Hurry, get in.”

I said, “But what — ” and glanced back down the alleyway … where the first figure was now sitting up, followed by the second figure, then the third.

“Goddamn it,” the man shouted, slamming the driver’s door shut, starting the engine, “get in the truck now!”

I sprinted to the passenger door, opened it, jumped inside just as the man slammed his foot down on the gas.

The truck jerked forward. It passed the mouth of the alleyway and I glanced over to see the three figures coming toward us and the man said, “Watch your head,” and pushed me down just as the rear windshield shattered and I cried out and he pushed the gas even harder bringing us to the end of the alley and then slammed on the brakes just as he jerked the wheel taking us out onto the main street.

I was hunched in the passenger seat, my eyes closed, my hands on my head. Seconds passed before I realized I was still alive.

“What — what — what was that?”

“Trouble,” the man said, keeping his eyes on the street as he swerved us in and out of traffic.

“But you shot them.”

“That I did.”

“And they — they got back up.”

“You noticed that, did you?”

“And then they … they shot at us?”

“Hey, nothing gets past you.”

At the upcoming intersection the light turned yellow and the man punched the gas, accelerating us through just in time.

I said, “Who are they?”

“You know exactly who they are.”

“I do?”

The man looked at me for the first time.

“But I … I don’t. I have no idea.”

“Let’s just say they’re not from around here.”

“What does that mean?”

“Come on, you can do it. Just say it. It’ll make this whole thing a hell of a lot easier.”

“They were … ” I paused, swallowing. “Aliens?”

“Bingo,” the man said.

I glanced out my window, watched the buildings and cars and people streak past.

“Why were they chasing me?”

“You mean that isn’t obvious by now?”

When I looked back at the man he glanced at the ring on my finger.

“Is it theirs?”

The man laughed. “Kid, nobody owns the ring.”

“Then why were they chasing me?”

“Because that’s what bad guys do.”

The man had begun to slow, probably thinking we were now safe. The traffic light ahead turned red and he stopped and turned slightly in his seat.

“The name’s Cashman,” he said, extending his hand. “Alien bounty hunter extraordinaire. Nice to meet you.”

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