Caught by the dragon mai.., p.2
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       Caught By the Dragon, p.2

           Mac Flynn
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The bus commute took longer than I hoped, so I didn't get to my apartment building until forty-five minutes after the harrowing taxi incident. Night beat me to the stoop of my apartment building, and with it came its friends shadow and darkness. The bus stop was half a block away from where I lived, so I had to walk past rows of apartment buildings to get to mine. An alley separated my building from a neighboring one.

  The streets were deserted as I made my way down the sidewalk. I reached the alley and paused. Had I heard something clattering around in there? I paused and squinted into the darkness. Hulking shadows of trashcans and broken boxes stared back at me. Puddles reflected the darkness that was only broken by a few feeble attempts by the streetlights to illuminate the deep interior.

  Nothing moved. Nothing clattered. I shrugged and kept going to the stoop. My keys rattled in my hand as I drew them from my purse.

  I froze. A rattle had mimicked my own. I half-turned and looked at the mouth of the dark alley. Something flickered in the corner of my sight, but disappeared before I could catch a full, telling glimpse.

  My pulse quickened. I fumbled with my key chain. The damn key wouldn't come out. There! It separated from the others. I shoved it into the lock. A quick turn and I fell inside. I slammed the door behind me. The entrance rattled and the noise echoed through the lonely lobby.

  I grasped my chest and tried to catch my breath. "Easy there, Miriam. It was just your imagination. . ." I whispered to myself.

  Still, I couldn't shake the feeling of being watched. I hurried up the stairs to my private abode.

  My one-bedroom apartment was on the third floor with a lovely view of the fire escape and the neighboring brick building. I tossed my purse onto the small table beside the door and plopped into my favorite-and only-recliner. The sensation of being watched faded within the confines of my locked apartment.

  My aching feet thanked me as I leaned back and closed my eyes. "Now this is the way to live. . ." I murmured. "Just me and my chair."

  I noticed a sweet smell in the apartment which was unusual. None of my incense candles were lit. I tried to rise from my chair, but my arms wouldn't pull me forward.

  The feeling of being watched returned. Movement caught my eye. I glanced at the window to the fire escape. Three figures stood on the other side of the glass. I gasped, but the scream in my throat was stuck.

  One of the figures knelt in front of the window and fidgeted with the bottom sill. The window popped up an inch. The person drew it to the top and slipped inside. The other two followed.

  The overhead light allowed me to see the intruders. Two were burly men in ragged overcoats, pants, and shirts. They were followed by a familiar face. Blake.

  The ragged pair strode over to me. One grabbed my legs and the other pulled a rope from his coat. Together they began to bind my legs.

  I couldn't fight. I couldn't even let out more than a garbled whisper. Blake moved to stand by my head. My terrified eyes looked up into his smiling face.

  He leaned down and studied my face. "What a lucky break your friend introduced me to you today. You're just in time to join a few other girls on an exciting journey."

  One of the burly men snorted. "Yeah. A regular cruise line."

  With all expenses paid," the other one joined in.

  Blake straightened and chuckled. "Come, come, my dear fellows. It's an honor for this young woman to join in this age-old ritual." His eyes flickered back to me and the smile slipped a little. "She may even be good enough to be his consort."

  "She ain't pretty enough," one of his cohorts commented.

  Blake closed his eyes and shook his head. "Beauty isn't everything, my friend, and I think this one might have something special about her. After all-" he leaned down close to me again and reached into his shirt collar. My eyes widened as he pulled away the fake flesh that clung tightly to his brown skin. The nostrils of his nose bulged out like that of a pig, and his teeth were yellow and sharp at the ends like fangs. He was a monster. "-she saw through my disguise."

  I wanted to run. I wanted to push him away. All I could manage was a shudder.

  "Stop fooling around and help us," one of the men insisted.

  Blake tucked the mask back into his collar and grinned. "All right, but don't damage the merchandise."

  "What about knocking her out? She's going to struggle," another pointed out.

  Blake pulled a cloth from his pocket. A stench similar to rotten plants attacked my nostrils. "I'll take care of that now. It'll prove whether she's one of them or not, too."

  He shoved the cloth over my mouth and nose. The horrible smell invaded my senses. My body still wouldn't respond. Its only reaction were tears that pooled in my eyes and slid down my cheeks. My furious thoughts gave way to a loose grasp of consciousness. My head began to spin along with the room.

  In a moment I was knocked clean out.


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