Crystal hugged her hoodie closer to her body as the feeling of being followed grew stronger. She was too scared to hazard a glance back, only speeding up her pace and straining her ears for any footsteps. The pounding of paws caused her to turn around, just in time to barely dodge a black dog’s jaws. She locked gazes with the dog and gasped at the sight of its burning red eyes. What kind of dog is this? Crystal took off running as more of the strange dogs started running towards her. Soon, she was being chased by six of them. They were growling and barking behind her, spurring her fear on. Crystal had never been more thankful for their coach’s endurance training. It was the only reason she managed to stay ahead of the pack. Still, she could practically feel their breath on her ankles. Crystal rounded the nearest corner and found herself slipping in a puddle of water. No! She tried to stop herself from falling, her momentum threw her to the ground. Crystal scrambled to her feet, but the pack had quickly surrounded her.
The pack's numbers had doubled, leading her to believe that they’d been herding her into a trap the entire time. One of the dogs leapt out at her and she kicked it in the gut, sending it flying back. Crystal quickly righted herself, her eyes dashing along the crowd of dogs, focusing on attempting to read their bodies for signs that they were going to attack. Suddenly, one of the dogs howled in pain. Crystal froze as another was shot with a small stream of water, howling just like the first and breaking the circle. A water balloon widened the gap as the dogs scrambled to avoid the water. Crystal bolted through the opening, glancing around in search of her savior. The hooded figure was darting around the area, never staying still long enough for the demonic dogs to attack him. He bombarded the pack with water balloons and a water gun. Crystal was shocked that the water was affecting the beasts, though she didn’t let this shock slow her down. She soared past the boy and kept running down the street. A heavy weight slammed into Crystal, knocking her off of her feet and pinning her to the ground. The dog lunged for her neck and she punched it in the throat. The dog was upon her before she could even move, lunging again. It screamed in pain as a large jet of water hit it. Crystal stared, wide-eyed, as the dog seemed to burn in front of her. The boy quickly pulled her to her feet and took off, dragging her along with him through the maze of streets. Crystal didn’t think to question him until they had stopped running, taking a break under the awning of a grocery store. “Wh-What were those things? Those were not normal dogs.”
“They were hellhounds.” Crystal straightened as she recognized the voice of her classmate. Cole pulled his hood down and sighed. “It’s not safe out here. Come with me.” Crystal couldn’t help but stare at the bag full of water balloons hanging from his side. It didn’t occur to Crystal to ask where they were headed until they had already arrived at the large manor. Cole unlocked the door and stepped aside to let Crystal in first. She hesitated slightly, but the chill from her drenched clothes prompted her to seek the heat radiating from the other side of the door. Cole quickly locked the door and stripped his soaked hoodie off. Crystal followed suit and hung hers up on the rack too.
“So, mind telling me what the hell is going on?”
“Sit down.” Crystal bristled at the command, glaring at Cole as she headed to the chair in front of the blazing fireplace. He disappeared down the hall and she could hear soft bustling from the kitchen. Minutes later, he returned with two mugs of hot chocolate. Crystal couldn’t help but smile at the mug as she took a sip.
“I suppose you still want an explanation.”
“Of course I do.”
“Like I told you earlier, the dogs that attacked you were hellhounds. They’re being used to search for someone. I don’t know who they’re looking for, but those hellhounds are responsible for the recent rash of disappearances. Something about each victim draws them in and, when they figure out that they’re not the right person, they kill them.”
“Wouldn’t the police have acted by now if a bunch of dogs were killing people?”
“A hellhound’s bite can kill instantly, as well as burn a body to ashes. No body, no evidence.” Crystal shuddered, remembering how close she’d been to being bitten.
“How do you know all of this?”
“Research. I just don’t have a common thread to tie all of the victims together. Has anything different happened to you recently? Anything that hasn’t happened before?”
“Besides being chased by hellhounds, nothing much. Oh! One of my uncles died a few days ago. I went to his funeral yesterday. Other than that, I can’t think of anything that hasn’t happened to me before.” Cole’s eyes widened at the revelation and he got up from his seat, leaving the room again. This time, Crystal chased after him. They ended up in what appeared to be his study. The desk was covered in files and papers. Cole grabbed one of the files and opened it.
“This isn’t good.”
“What?” Cole ignored her and began to flip through his other files. “Tell me!”
“The hellhounds are looking for a necromancer. Going from what you said and what I’ve gathered about the other victims, there’s nothing about you all that’s similar at face value. Assuming they’ve all had deaths in their families around the time that they were killed, then it stands to reason that the hellhounds are looking for a necromancer.”
“Do you know that for sure?”
“I can find out.” Cole glanced up and sighed. He left the room and returned with a pair of pajamas for Crystal. He tossed them to her and went back to the door. “Change into those. I’ll dry your clothes and hoodie for you.”
“Oh, thank you.” Crystal smiled softly at him and he grunted and shut the door. Crystal switched her clothes and grabbed one of the files after he’d left with her wet clothes. Her mind was buzzing with interest and leftover adrenaline. She wanted to know everything about their current situation, and whether she would even be able to go home safely. One of the papers caught her eye and she realized that it was a plan to get rid of the hellhounds. Is he really going to do this on his own? It’s too dangerous! Cole knocked on the door and Crystal nearly dropped the files in shock. “C-Come in.”
“You okay?” He glanced at the papers in her hands and his expression hardened. “Put those back.” Cole growled, startling Crystal even more.
“So you’re planning on trying to kill the hellhounds on your own? Let me help. It’s too dangerous to do on your own.” The blonde spoke up as Cole began to put the files away. She jumped back when he whirled around on her, eyes ablaze with something she couldn’t quite place.
“Stay out of this! Just get home before dark tomorrow and stay there. Do you understand me?” Crystal nodded, gulping as his eyes bore into her. She’d never realized how intimidating he could be. “Do you?”
“Good.” Cole backed up and sighed. “Your clothes will be ready in thirty minutes. You should probably call your parents or whoever and tell them something about why you’re late.” Crystal swore. I didn’t even think about mom or dad. They're going to be upset, no doubt about that.
“Right. I’ll be in the living room then.” Crystal quickly left the room and grabbed her phone. She paced the room as she waited for her father to pick up.
“Crystal, where are you? Did you get held up at school by your friends or your coach?”
“I got attacked by some stray dogs but a classmate saved me. I’m at his house until my clothes dry.” Crystal settled on a half-truth, hoping her father wouldn’t question it too much.
“What?! Are you okay?”
“Yes daddy. Just a few small cuts. Cole came before I got hurt for real.”
“Thank god. Now what was that about your clothes?”
“They got soaked when I fell in a puddle during the chase. Cole’s drying them now. It’ll take about a half an hour, then I’ll be on my way home.”
“You’re not naked are you? You better watch that boy like a hawk. If he tries anything, do what I taught you to do.”
“I know daddy, but Cole isn’t like that and I’m not naked. He gave me some clothes to put on.”
“I’m waiting on you. If he even so much as harms a hair on your head, I’ll hurt him sweetie. I’ll put him out back with Rufus.” Crystal rolled her eyes.
“Daddy.” She whined and he chuckled.
“Sorry, I’ll put him in the basement with Sean instead.” Now Crystal giggled.
“Okay daddy. I’ll head home as soon as my clothes are dry.”
“Good. If you’re late for dinner, your mother will flip out.”
“I’ll be back in time. Scout’s honor.” Crystal glanced out the window and felt her heart skip a beat as she locked gazes with a hellhound. The pack had surrounded Cole’s house. She watched as one tried to jump over the gate, but bounced off some kind of invisible barrier.
“All right then. See you soon sweetie.”
“Same to you. Bye.” Crystal hung up and closed the curtains, trying to calm back down. How am I going to leave if they’re waiting on me?