Marissa Walkins threw open the door and ran.
Two men with hoods followed close behind, feet stamping on the still wet pavement, breath heaving puffs of white mist into the chilly air. Marissa was barefoot, but it didn’t matter. She would have been cold if the adrenaline pumping through her veins hadn’t elevated her heartbeat to a ridiculous speed. Her lungs felt tight with the cold air and her chest heaved. But Marissa didn’t slow.
She heard a bullet click into the chamber of a gun.
Marissa put on another burst of speed, glancing back over her shoulder to gauge their distance. About ten feet, she guessed. Ten feet before they could grab her, could reach her, could kill her. Marissa’s long, straight black hair flew wildly behind her as she spun her head back around and headed for a narrow alleyway. Her foot slipped on a metal drainage grate and she felt the skin tear. The sting of the open wound as it ground into the pavement only served to heighten her senses. Still, it wasn’t enough.
The alleyway was filthy, covered in garbage and stagnant pools of dirty water. As soon as Marissa rounded the corner, she knew she was done for. It was a dead end. A red brick wall sprayed with graffiti blocked off the only other way out. With no choice, she ran to it as her pursuers blocked off the entrance. Marissa pounded the wall with her fist in a futile act of frustration.
“No,” she muttered. “No. No! NO!”
“Yes,” one of the men said with a smile, sauntering towards her with an evil gleam in his eye.
Marissa pressed her back against the wall. “No,” she repeated weakly.
“Afraid?” the man hissed, the dim light of the alley glinting off of the barrel of his gun.
From somewhere deep within, Marissa drew some strength. Perhaps it was the certainty that she was going to die, the certainty that nothing she said could make her situation any worse, that gave her the courage. Perhaps it was the adrenaline. Perhaps it was blind impulse. Whatever it was that steeled her nerves, Marissa straightened.
“No. I would rather die a hundred deaths than be afraid of a coward like you,” she said with an even voice that surprised even her.
The man moved closer, so that his lips were at her ear as he whispered the last words she would ever hear.