Chapter 2: Escape
I sat on the curb of Bennett High School enjoying the late afternoon breeze that rustled my hair into a mess. Leaves applauded the whistling wind as it whisked through them in the nearby trees. Hopefully, Dad would arrive soon to take me to get my car.
The distant, ominous clouds and strong gusts spoke of a storm blowing in from the west. Its warm breeze wrapped around me, giving me goosebumps as I breathed in the moist air and relaxed. There was nothing quite like the smell of an approaching Colorado thunderstorm.
Dad was running late, which was pretty typical. If he didn’t hurry, I’d miss my date with Mandy. My car picked the worst days to break down.
The latch on the flagpole rope clanged against the metal mast, its flag waving goodbye to the last few students heading home. I looked at the clock on my phone and my foot began tapping rapidly against the asphalt. A grasshopper sprang onto my pants and stared me down as if to say, “This is my leg now, buddy!” I brushed him to the pavement then called Dad.
After several rings, his voicemail picked up. He’d forgotten me again.
Time for plan B. I called Sam.
“Hey, Ian. What’s up?” Sam sounded animated, as always.
“I need a favor.”
“You’re still sitting at the school, aren’t you?” In the background, Sam’s sister, Mary, complained about being late.
“Give me a few minutes. I’m about to drop Mary off at dance class.”
“No problem. I’ll put the hammer down, buddy.”
An engine roared through the phone and Mary screamed, “What are you doing?”
Just before the call ended, Sam said, “Weren’t you just complaining about being late?” He always liked an excuse to drive fast.
Hopefully, he wouldn’t take too long. I’d spent more time than I’d expected helping Mrs. Daniels pack away things after last period.
The janitor’s truck rumbled to life across the parking lot and he backed out, revealing a navy blue unmarked police car that’d been parked on his other side. Two dark-haired men sat inside, one reading a paper, the other drinking coffee. They reminded me of the FBI agents on TV, but they were probably just detectives from Denver.
One took a sip of his coffee and surveyed the area. His gaze passed right over me as if I weren’t even there. Despite his expressionless face, a nasty scar crossing his eye from forehead to chin nearly made me shiver.
My father’s warnings came to mind about people coming for me if they discovered I had powers, and an uneasy feeling settled in my gut. Even though the detectives were most likely at the school investigating the recent bomb threat, I didn’t want to hang around and become their next suspect. Sam would call me when he got there if I went inside the school to wait for him.
I was about to call Mandy when I realized I’d gotten distracted and forgot my yearbook in my locker earlier. Glancing to my right, I saw the guy with the scar again. Yep, still gave me the creeps. I stood and headed for the school.
I was several paces inside the empty hallway when the latch of the door closed behind me with a metallic thwack! A light squeak chirped from my rubber soles with each step, echoing through the linoleum-tiled halls. Before long, I reached my locker.
I slipped my yearbook out and closed the locker for the last time, leaving a few loose papers inside. If I never used another locker again, it’d be too soon.
Footsteps echoed from the hall nearby as I turned to the page with Mandy’s note and read it again. Then I flipped to the page with her number and a grin crossed my lips.
Distracted, I barely noticed the footsteps come to a stop right behind me, with the sound of a backpack hitting the ground.
I started to turn around, but the person slammed me against the lockers, my yearbook pinned awkwardly between them and my chest.
Fear twisted my stomach. Not fear for myself…fear of what could happen if I lost control. I’d only seen it happen a few times when I was alone, and it wasn’t pretty.
My cheek was plastered against the metal vents, but I caught a glimpse of my attacker. James Cooper—Mandy’s steroid-enhanced ex-boyfriend.
My jaws clenched, face smoldering.
James spun me around and yanked the yearbook from my grip. He was probably my height—about six foot—but with a slightly heavier build. Everyone knew his father owned the mixed martial arts gym in town. James was used to smashing faces at the gym and on the football field.
My phone vibrated in my pocket, but I was in no position to answer it.
“Well, what do we have here?” James held me against the locker with one hand and opened the yearbook with the other.
I gave him a flat stare. “None of your business.”
When James saw Mandy’s note, his eyes flared. “You’re gonna call my girl?”
Slowly, the root-like sensation crept from my bones. “Last I checked, she wasn’t your girl anymore.”
James snapped the yearbook closed and flung it away. “She’ll always be my girl.”
My gut churned and writhed. This thing inside of me screamed to be let out, like a lion seeking its prey. I could only bottle up so much anger before…
“You don’t know what you’re doing,” I said through gritted teeth. My heart subtly increased its pace, the darkness rising within.
With my shirt in his fists, he pulled me right up to his face. “Stay away from her you worthless piece of crap.”
A wicked voice in my head told me he’d never leave me or Mandy alone unless I dealt with this right now. Maybe the voice was right. This needed to end now.
My hands curled into fists. “Or you’ll do what?”
James’ brow furrowed. He reared back, about to punch me.
And that’s when I snapped.
I moved just in time to dodge the punch.
James’ fist mangled the locker and he let out a frustrated shout. “You little—”
I locked onto the hand holding me and twisted it backward. James let go of my shirt and fell to one knee. Where had I learned to do that?
Energy surged through my limbs. I dropped his hand and hooked his backpack with my foot. Tossing it in the air, I caught one of its straps in my hand and smashed it into James’ shoulder. The backpack dropped to the floor.
He blocked my right punch toward his jaw and threw a right cross to my ribs. I didn’t budge an inch.
James rose off his knee and kicked at my stomach.
I caught his foot and twisted it, sending him sprawling to the floor. I’d never fought in my life, but my movements seemed like second-nature. What the hell was going on?
James was on his feet again in record time. He came at me with a flurry of punches. I blocked each one with ease, then launched an onslaught of my own. Each punch hit a specific spot bringing painful groans. This all seemed so familiar.
Then it hit me. The old kung fu movie Sam and I had watched the night before—my body was mimicking the moves. How was that even possible?
Whatever had snapped inside of me before turned to full-on radioactive meltdown. My hand came at James’ throat with incredible speed and slammed him to the ground. I hurled my fist toward his head but redirected it at the last second.
As my knuckles struck the ground, fault lines spread, ripping tiles. A shockwave lashed out, cratering the lockers on both sides. Electricity popped as it trailed through the lockers, burning their orange paint. The foundation of the building groaned and rumbled with an aftershock. Segments of ceiling tiles dropped to the floor, clattering.
If I hadn’t redirected that punch, it would’ve crushed James’ head.
I stumbled backward then scuttled away like a terrified crab. My escape ended abruptly when I slammed into someone, nearly knocking him to the floor.
“Whoa!” said a familiar voice.
I looked back, afraid of what I might see in his eyes. His face was saturated with disbelief. Would he tell someone what I’d done?
My hands trembled. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”
“Didn’t mean to what? What the hell just happened?” His wide eyes begged for answers.
“I—” My breath was heavy. “I don’t know what happened.”
“Come on.” Sam was frantic but controlled somehow. “Let’s get out of here.” James’ body lay still on the floor.
“We can’t just leave him here.”
“He’s breathing.” Sam yanked me off the ground by my arm, dragging me away. “Let’s go.” He must not have seen what I’d done. If he had, he would’ve been afraid of me.
I jerked my arm free and glanced back one last time, then we sprinted off around the corner.
Sam stopped abruptly, throwing his hand out across my chest.
Hurried footsteps approached.
We slipped through the front door of the main office and squatted down. The footsteps raced past. We popped our heads up just in time to see Scarface and his partner stop and scan the area. Beneath their suit jackets were the unmistakable bulges of pistols strapped at their sides.
Scarface turned our direction. I ducked, dragging Sam with me, hoping they hadn’t seen us.
The footsteps started up again, fading down a nearby hall.
We crept back outside of the office. The footsteps suddenly fell silent. We stopped cold in our tracks.
The footsteps sounded off again. They were getting louder.
Sam’s eyes gaped at me. “Run.”
Our shoes squealed as we shot off around the corner. We reached the end of the hall and smashed into the doors, flinging them open. Freedom lay ahead in the form of Sam’s silver Chevy Silverado.
He spotted the unmarked car beside his truck as we rushed toward it. “Is that their car?”
Sam pulled out his pocket knife, slid around the side of his truck, then jabbed the knife into the car’s tire. “Awesome.” A second later, he was yanking open his door to climb in the truck.
I jumped into the passenger side and chanced a glance back.
The agents burst through the doors of the school.
“Go, go, go!” I slammed the pickup door.
“Hey! Careful with my baby.”
Sam’s glare said he was actually serious.
The engine roared to life. Sam slammed the truck into reverse and punched it, causing me to nearly eat the dash.
He dropped first gear and hit the gas. “Hold on to your butt.” Tires screamed, white smoke clouded, and the truck barreled right for the agents.
My eyes went wide. “What are you doing?”
Just before the agents ran in front of the truck, they stopped. One of them slapped the bed as we flew by, rocking it unusually hard.
Sam yelled out his window, “That better not leave a dent.”
We turned out of the parking lot, the bed of the truck flinging out to the side. When the tires got traction, we shot forward. The truck bucked awkwardly, the bed kicking to the side as if something was jerking on it.
“What the—” Sam wrestled with the steering wheel.
I looked back out the window. We were far from the suits now, but Scarface had his arms stretched out toward us like he was holding on to something invisible. He scowled and let go. Immediately, the backend of the truck stopped jerking and Sam was able to regain control.
My jaw dropped. Since I was five, I’d assumed I was the only person with powers. Apparently, I was wrong.
“What’d they just do to my truck?”
The other man pulled a gun with a silencer and took aim.
“Duck,” I yelled.
Just as our heads found cover, Sam’s back windshield chirped with the ping of shattering glass.
“Aw, hell no. You did not just shoot my truck.” Sam let out a frustrated growl. “I got half a mind to turn around and go run ’em over.”
I pointed left. “Just turn already!”
Sam dropped a gear, yanked at the wheel, and slid through the next turn.
We both flinched as another bullet shattered Sam’s side mirror.