Riley quickly propelled herself through the aisle. Unfortunately, she realized it was not toward the front door. She glanced over her shoulder, expecting to see Suzy following, but didn’t see her or the old man.
Crap. She was running toward the back of the store.
Riley couldn’t believe the old man had gotten Suzy. She was the faster of the two of them, so she had to have gotten away. Maybe she went another direction. Since she didn’t see the old man chasing her. That begged the question of whether he was hurrying up the other aisle to cut off Riley.
At the next break in the shelves…thankfully, this one only had a break to her left, so she didn’t have to worry about the old man coming at her from the right…she dashed into another aisle.
Empty. It was quickly becoming obvious that no one ever frequented this bookstore. Which was good. Riley was trying to avoid people and get out of there.
She turned to go toward the front door. Since she figured she was now an aisle or so away from the old man, she slowed her pace and listened more. Riley heard the bell on the front door, which she hoped meant Suzy made her escape. Otherwise, the place was eerily quiet. It was like the library in the dead of night. No one around, except the mouse working her way to escape.
Moving quietly wasn’t easy. Each clank of her crutches made moving in stealth impossible. She tried to not put as much weight in her movements, but there was still the thud each time she put them down on the floor, the popping sound that came when she shifted her weight to take the next step.
Who was she kidding? There was no way he wouldn’t hear her. If he wasn’t chasing her, he was moving around to trap her, listening to her progress. There was no way for her to win. She could only hope Suzy had escaped.
Riley stopped and listened. She thought she heard breathing in the next aisle, which reminded her of the dragon in the dreamscape. That had to be her imagination as there was no way dragons could be there. Maybe it was just because she knew she was being “hunted”.
“Your friend got away and left you behind,” the old man called out near the front door. Riley heard a click, knowing he had probably locked it, blocking her escape. “You can’t get out this way. I’ve already called the police. Give up so we can wait for them.”
Riley didn’t like the sound of that. First, did the guy really have time to call anyone? It had only been a minute since she had gotten away. Riley’s dad had called the police once, and it had taken nearly ten minutes to get through to a person. Second, why had he called the police? Why was he even chasing her? She hadn’t done anything wrong. Sure, they had almost gone into a room they weren’t supposed to, but they hadn’t stolen anything. Heck, they hadn’t done anything more than just open the door.
It was Riley’s move. The old man still waited by the door. She hadn’t heard him move and couldn’t imagine him stalking her. What would be the point? The only way out was through that door. He could wait there until the police came. Riley had to find another way out. There had to be an emergency exit or back door or something.
Riley hadn’t seen the back of the store yet. They had to have cashiers somewhere as people occasionally did come in to buy books, or so Riley would assume.
Well, she didn’t have all day to think about this. When she moved, she would have to do it quickly and confidently. Any hesitation and the man would catch her. Once she committed, it was full speed ahead.
Riley took off, moving faster than she ever thought she could on crutches. It was simple, as long as you didn’t obsess over how easy it would be to fall and hurt yourself. She thrust the crutches out ahead of her, then pushed with her good leg and vaulted ahead. Her good leg would come down onto the tile floor, then she would quickly stretch out the crutches again to repeat the motion.
She moved quickly enough that she felt the air blowing through her hair. Riley tried to convince herself she was doing a good enough job to avoid the old man, but she could hear him chasing her. It sounded like he was in the same aisle, running behind her, but Riley didn’t dare look back.
“Hey, kid. Stop!” the man called. “This is pointless.”
Riley didn’t slow down. She emerged from the end of the aisle near the cashier counter, surprising the girl standing there. Riley made her way around the counter, moving with some trepidation, and into the back area.
There wasn’t a door to block access, just a curtain to keep prying eyes away. Unfortunately, that dang curtain kept her from seeing where she was going as she burst through and tripped over a heavy box. Her crutches went out from under her, and she found herself falling into a pile of boxes.
“Well, that was fun to watch,” came a voice she vaguely recognized. It was a girl’s voice. One she had heard, yet not heard at the same time. It was a voice she had only heard in a dream.
“Who is…this girl? What’s she…doing here?” the old man said between gasps.
Riley ached, but was unable to turn herself to face them. She must have gotten lucky because her leg didn’t hurt nearly as badly as she would have expected, but it twinged with pain when she tried to twist from her spot in the pile.
Finally able to look over her shoulder, she saw someone she recognized. Riley hadn’t paid attention to the cashier as she had run by, but now that she could see her, she realized she knew her.
“I don’t know,” Saber said as she uncrossed her arms and wiped the smirk from her face.
“We don’t have time for this right now. Get her out of here. I’m closing the store,” the old man growled.
“What’s wrong?” Riley asked, noticing that they seemed on edge.
“It’s Bruce. He fell back into a dream and is stuck there. He hasn’t woken up yet, and we can’t get to him.”