They climbed with a lot of effort to the rocky top of a small, steep hill.
A female figure stood next to the other, both panting uncontrollably. From beneath them, they heard a mixture of men shouting, stones falling, and swearing.
“There,” one of the women pointed out the direction with her finger, “there’s a house in the meadow!”
The other looked at their pursuers, watching anxiously as the five figures in leather jackets crawled up behind them.
“Let’s not waste time!” She tugged on the other woman’s hand and they began to descend the secluded wall at a dangerous speed. Their feet slid on the uneven terrain, they cut their hands on the protruding rocks, but the sight of their own blood pushed them forward. The gang of bikers who had stopped down the road from their broken car had turned out to be drunken lunatics. They had thrown the two women around, twisted their arms, pulled on their hair and clothes, even taken their car keys and had tried to intimidate them into going with them to an unknown place. When they refused, the chase for their lives began, a situation they saw no way to get out of.
Driven by fear, adrenaline, and sinister notions of what their pursuers would do to them if they failed to escape their reaching black talons, they slid down the slope on the dry leaves, with smears of dust on their sweaty cheeks and foreheads, digging deep into the earth with their fingers. Their frowning faces showed the intense concentration in the shadow of the haunting seriousness that could not be dispersed even by the hot August afternoon sun dancing in their hair. A couple times, they fell on their butts, but each time they jumped to their feet and moved on with determination.
The mixture of stomping, breathing and voices echoed everywhere like a landslide. Their nerves felt like they were about to snap. They were catching up!
The tree canopy closed over their heads as they ran into the forest. Their hearts pounded in their throats as the branches behind their backs began to crack and the dried leaves rustled under the running heavy motorcycle boots.
One of the women began to fall behind, so the other grabbed her hand and dragged her along determinedly. “Love! Get up! You have to run! Now is not the time to give up!”
They were stopped by high walls.
“Shit!” Love groaned, “this way!” They ran left along the wall which seemed to belong to the big house in the meadow.
Love stopped sharply. “Here’s the gate!” She scrambled on top of it and shouted at the other girl, “Yorana, climb faster!”
Just as Yorana jumped to the ground, some hands grabbed at them from behind the gate. The terror filled them again. They did not wait and began to run across the meadow. The metallic sound of the gate sighing under the weight of a heavy male body put them in a daze. Then they heard wild screams.
Love fell behind. She didn’t dare to look back, because she was afraid it would slow her down for a moment, and that could be fatal. Her whole body burned and her vision was foggy. She focused on Yorana’s back, trying to ignore the weakness that began to envelop her with its thin limbs.
And then she fell.
Her loud desperate scream made Yorana look around. Enormous eyes, wide with fear, met another in a silent scream across the green clearing.
“No!” Love cried out when she saw Yorana run to her, “go for help!”
Yorana darted over to her and lifted her off the ground. “They’re not running after us! They’re standing there by the gate!“
Love straightened and stared at the five figures as they pushed and argued with each other. Thank God!
“Why did they stop?” Yorana wondered. They hurried to the magnificent two-story antique house.
“I heard one of them scream ‘that’s Shazzar’s territory!’” Love looked at her seriously.
“What does that mean? Who on earth could Shazzar be?”
“Oh no,” Love sobbed, “they’re behind us! Come on, run!”
They held hands and ran as fast as they could to the open windows on the ground floor. Yorana’s voice cracked as she ran next to Love. “Let’s climb … inside.”
Yorana stopped in front of the faded wall to lean her hands on the outside sill, while Love leapt and flew headlong through the window like a stone. She used her elbows to protect her head from hitting the hard floor. She shrieked in pain, and watched from the corner of her eye as Yorana gracefully swung her leg across the windowsill and jumped safely into the darkness of the room. She looked down at her in surprise:
“Are you OK?”
“What’s the fastest way to get inside?” With a grimace on her face, Love sat up and shrugged her shoulders.
“Throwing yourself through the window like a log?” she answered her question with a question. She peeped outside to see what was going on. They had about half a minute to hide or call for help. “Don’t just sit here like you’re at the movies!” she urged her, “they’re not going to bring you popcorn. We have to find someone!”
They ran through the house, Yorana first, Love behind her, when Yorana suddenly stopped and Love collided with her. They both fell to the ground with a startled scream on their lips, the room filled with their painful sighs. As Love lifted her head from the thick carpet, two pairs of black polished men’s shoes appeared in front of her nose. She looked up, where she was met with the blue-gray watery look of an old gray-haired gentleman, affectionately stretching out his hands to her.
“Mr. Shazzar?” She heard Yorana say near her. She turned her attention to her and forgot to close her mouth in surprise. A young man with raven hair, which he had smartly combed back into a smooth coiffure, lifted Yorana gently onto her feet. He was dressed in a black suit without a tie and jacket, and a few of the top buttons on his white shirt were unbuttoned. He looked very elegant and sophisticated, not at all menacing and scary.
Looking at the slender man, somewhere in his thirties, with a look of sincere concern represented by a deep wrinkle between his eyebrows, she was overwhelmed by a sense of foreboding. This can’t be the Mr. Shazzar that caused the bikers to give up their pursuit!
“Do we know each other?” He replied.
Why is Yorana staring at him so strangely? Does she suspect something?
The sudden noise coming from the inside of the house woke them with the power of an imaginary slap. Love’s chest froze from the new uneasiness; she resolutely gave the old man her hand and let him help her up. When the old man stood up, he seemed only a foot smaller than his companion. Despite the fact that most of his scalp was smooth as a stone, he combed his few gray hairs in exactly the same style. His black suit had both a jacket and a tie.
Yorana burst out nervously, “We need help!”
Mr. Shazzar put his index finger on his lips, closed his eyes slightly, and took a deep breath. “Shh …”
But it didn’t stop Yorana. “They are five! We need to call help! There are too many of them!“ She grabbed his sleeve to demonstrate the urgency of the situation.
But Mr. Shazzar broke away from her with a single fluid motion and spoke in a decisive, quiet voice:
“I saw you and I saw them. You made so much noise that it also alerted this old gentleman, who, by the way, no longer has the best hearing! Step back and do not, for any reason whatsoever, interfere in what is about to happen.” He opened his eyes as the five bulky figures stormed into the room and tactically created a semi-circle in front of them. A white smile lit up his face as he spoke:
“I don’t remember a visitor ever coming in through the window. Mr. Kim,” he said, turning to the old man, “do our guests have troubles finding our door?”
“No, Mr. Shazzar,” the old man replied obediently, “our doors are in the right place, with the right size, and cannot be overlooked.”
At the sound of his name, the guys looked uncertain for a moment. They exchanged meaningful looks. Eventually the leader stepped forward from the middle, inspecting the landlord.
“We’ll use your door when we leave, Mr. Shazzar,” he said, playing with the name on his tongue for a moment, “all seven of us.” He stretched out his hand to Love and beckoned to her to come closer. His long, rust-coloured beard shook as he tried to hide his sinister grin.
Love’s knees would have almost given out under her, if not for the comforting hand of the old man, which suddenly appeared on her right shoulder.
“Come,” said young Shazzar, fearlessly walking over to him, “the door is here …” he said, smiling cordially.
The leader was at a complete loss and stood still, letting his hand drop to his side. His pack watched him warily.
“We are taking…the women.” They stood face to face, close enough to feel each other’s warm breath.
“It doesn’t matter to me, but only under the condition that they want to.“ He slowly turned his head to Love with a blank expression, “I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.”
“Slavena …” Love replied quietly. The light blue in Shazzar’s eyes took her breath away. She returned the sharp edges of the precious blue diamond in his eyes with a distrusting look. She was terrified.
“This gentleman has requested you to follow him… do you want to leave?” His face remained expressionless.
“I don’t give a damn about the demands of strangers,” she said, “especially crooks and idiots who feel the need to demonstrate their strength to the weak and who get off on causing fear.
Yorana, standing pale as a sheet, just shook her head quietly as he looked at her for an answer.
“I hate men who beat women…” he remarked to no one in particular. “My mother always taught me that women, children and the weak need to be protected. This way!” He reached for the exit. His clenched jaw made it clear that he was losing patience.
“Get them!” The leader shouted and tossed the young man aside. His body flipped over in the air and as soon as his hands reached the ground, he was already on his feet with his hand aiming for his opponent’s jaw. It happened so quickly that Yorana and Love were certain that Shazzar had knocked out the monstrous man before he even knew what was happening. The impact of his fist hit the man with the silver skull on his chest so hard that he must have been unconscious before he hit the ground. Then Shazzar jumped up again and kicked the closest man in the chest. He flew aside and the others finally came to their senses. A mismatched fight began, during which Yorana and Love didn’t dare to breathe. They quickly realized that young Shazzar was no easy meat. The man was agile and fast, sharp, slippery, swift, uncompromising in fights and coldly focused. Despite the fact that the bikers outnumbered him, two minutes later it was clear who was in control of the situation. As the last of the five staggered toward him with a determined, wild, murderous expression on his face, he received a blow that spun him a hundred and eighty degrees. The old gentleman, without blinking or moving significantly, simply adjusted his fist to hit his nose. Something cracked, there was a high howl, a thud, and a whine. In just a short time the group of thugs was lying on the ground, defeated and humiliated. Shazzar stood triumphantly over their bodies, breathing calmly like a young cheetah basking in the rays of genuine admiration from the girls. He mockingly raised one corner of his lips, when he registered how the old man raised his eyebrows with feigned anxiety.
“Mr. Kim, were you worried about me?”
“No, Mr. Shazzar, I was worried about them,” he replied honestly. “Fortunately, you were merciful.”
“The big one has our car keys in his pocket!” Yorana remembered. She showed Shazzar where to look.
“Mr. Kim,” he said, handing the keys to Yorana, “take the girls to the patio. There is a pleasant shade, where the iced tea tastes lovely. Today, I will take out the trash.”