Rani's feet pounded the pavement as she ran through the streets of Garblen Doch with Toma on her shoulders. She heard the increasing din of the angry mob of citizens behind her, all of them calling for her brother's immediate death.
Toma whimpered into her ear, "Please put me down, Rani. Leave me or they'll punish you too. Please don't sacrifice for me."
She wanted to tell him that she would do anything for those she loved, and that no sacrifice was too great for him, but her lack of breath made her head throb with each heave of her lungs and made her throat completely inoperative. Rani was not athletic, and carrying an eleven year-old boy, frail as he was, was taxing beyond her endurance.
She ducked down an alley and tried the back door to the town's only pizza place, a crappy little dump called Enrico's. The door was locked.
"Come on," she pulled Toma deeper into the alley, to another door. It too was locked.
The angry tumult of the approaching mob made her ears tremble. She wasted no time in looking to the alley's opening; she knew they were there. Tears coursed freely down her cheeks now, and a desperate mantra frantically repeated itself inside her head: Please, please, please ,please!
The next place was the back of a hardware store, complete with loading dock. "Up here," Rani told Toma as she slid him under the hand rail. She grabbed the cold metal bar and hoisted herself over it, but her muscles twitched belligerently from their misuse and she plopped unceremoniously on her ass with enough force to snap her teeth painfully shut. She ignored the pain and rolled to her feet, took the remaining couple of steps to the bay door and prayed someone had forgotten to lock it the night before.
But of course it was locked.
She tried to control her frustration, but failed. With clenched teeth and flowing tears, she shouted up at the heavens, "Just one lousy piece of luck! Please!"
She rattled the door, but it would not give. She whirled to see what appeared to be the entire population of the town careening around the corner at the end of the alley. Desperation took control and Rani's head spun around in search of an escape route.
Naturally there was none. Whose stupid idea was it to escape into an alleyway?
Fine. That's how it was going to be, apparently. She and her brother would make their last stand there on the dock as the clouds rushed past the mid-morning sun. Rani leaned Toma against the door, then turned to face the mob. She was so scared that her head swam and her knees wobbled, but her face was resolute and her fists were defiant at her sides. She would take as many of them with her before they could get to Toma.
Adrian was at the front of the pack as it came to a stop at the bottom of the steps. He looked up at Rani, and suddenly Rani's panicked eyes saw the townsfolk as wolves surrounding their pitiful prey before they lunged in for the kill.
"Rani, please stop running. You're trapped," Adrian said, "give us the boy."
"'The boy' has a name," she spat, "he is Toma! And he is my brother!"
"He's a Vamp, Rani. We have proof."
"He is an innocent eleven year-old boy, and if you touch him I'll kill you."
"See if I don't!"
Adrian stood tall in his cream colored linen suit and wiped one hand through his luxurious hair, "Jesus, could this day get any more frustrating?"
And then, to those standing beside him, "Go get them. Get them both and bring 'em back to the town common before the flames die down, would you?"
It was as if the mayor's son had yelled "CHARGE!" New energy breathed venom into their cries as the mob reignited and charged up the steps. Rani knew she didn't stand a chance against the onrushing tide of murderers, so she retreated until she backed her hip against the dock door with a THUD. The handle dug into her and she cried out and whirled upon the door with all the anger any fifteen year-old had any right to possess. She slammed her palm against the metal with a resounding SLAP and tried the handle again.
Her teeth gritted tightly behind her lips, she leaned into the door and focused her attention on the key hole just beneath the handle in her grasp. She quietly swore at it and suddenly it disintegrated, and she and Toma tumbled inside. Rani closed the door and knocked the drop bar into place with her elbow, just as the crowd slammed into the other side of the door. She screamed as the door creaked with strain, but both the door and the drop bar were made of heavy gauge steel, and it held.
At least temporarily.
But for how long?
Rani knelt down and brushed her fingertips through Toma's wild mane of dirty hair, "Are you all right?"
He nodded but mumbled, "Gonna be sick."
"I'm sorry, Buddy."
He threw up, paused a moment, and then tried to raise himself to his hands and knees. Rani helped him to his feet and asked, "How do you feel?"
His eyes were too somber. They carried with them the incredible weight of acceptance when he responded, "Won't be long now, Sis."
"God damn it, don't talk like that. Let me think of something."
Toma remained quiet, but though his body was failing him his mind was as sharp as ever. The real question here was: RANI, HOW IN THE HELL DID YOU JUST BREAK THROUGH A LOCKED STEEL DOOR WITH NO TOOLS OR EQUIPMENT?
Which was interesting because that was exactly the question on Rani's mind.