Brittany brought the phone to her ear again, glancing up at Law as the line began to ring dully. Just as before, it rang for a few moments before the automated voice message played again, stating that the number she'd called was not available. Tears pricking at the corners of her eyes, the black-haired woman ended the call again, stuffing it back in her pocket.
"Still nothing." She sighed, and Law turned away to continue searching.
Brittany had tried Lexi's phone over and over, hoping beyond hope that her friend would pick up. It was worth the shot, even though the rational part of her mind knew it was pretty much futile. Most kidnappers knew enough to take away their victim's phone, unfortunately.
"Anything yet, Bepo" The man called to the bear still leading the way ahead. Pausing in his sniffing, the bear shook his head.
"No, Captain. Nothing so far." With a silent nod in understanding, Law sighed as well. Bepo returned his attention to what was in front of him.
The dark sky, once pitch black at the beginning of their search, was beginning to show signs of a lighter blue, an indication that before too long the sun would be coming up.
They'd been searching all night but still no sign of the kidnapper, Lexi, or the red sedan. Feeling hopeless again, Brittany pulled out her phone, redialing the number she'd just called, pressing it to her ear in desperation. Maybe, just maybe, this time would work…
'Just run.' Lexi thought, her heavy breathing the only thing audible over the quickly growing storm. The rain, a trickle just before, was now quite the drizzle, soaking her to the bone and adding weight to the towels around her legs.
She hadn't checked behind her to see how close Logan might be, nor did she particularly want to, though she hadn't heard his screams of anger in awhile. The forest was thick, barely a path to be found in the dense thicket of trees and bushes. With her calves and arms exposed, the already torn-up skin was scratched and poked by stray branches and rocks.
Ignoring these new injuries as much as possible, she pushed past the burning sensation in her lungs. She'd never been very fast in P.E, nor could she boast about her endurance, and those flaws were beginning to show, a rather painful stitch in her side slowing her down with each labored puff of air.
Finally, after running for what seemed to Lexi like days, she dared a glance back, not seeing or hearing anything behind her in the trees. The rain had been a welcome addition, as much as it sucked, because the sound masked any noise she might have made running through the forest. As far as she knew, Logan had given up chasing her complete, though an inkling of doubt remained. He was crazy, probably crazy enough to keep looking for her even in these weather conditions in the middle of the night.
Her pace slowed, ultimately spent from the pain leeching away at her stamina, as well as the need to run. She placed her back to a wide tree, keeping her grip on the filet knife tight, just in case. With Logan, she didn't want to take any risks.
Sucking in huge breaths, she lowered herself to the ground, giving her aching legs a break. The soles of her feet were numb from the constant pounding against the uneven and hazardous forest floor. Unseen rocks and twigs poked out in the darkness, and occasionally, her ankle would land sideway to the dirt. Thankfully she hadn't suffered a fractured, sprained, or broken ankle yet, but with her running full pelt that could change very quickly.
Suddenly, there was several vibrating buzzes in her back pocket, and her eyes widened. Could it be? She hastily dug out her cell phone, turning on the screen. Yes! She'd reached a point where there was cellphone reception. It was weak, wavering between one and two bars, but it was there, and she smiled widely, hugging the device to her chest. She'd never felt so relieved before.
Then, she noticed that there were 12 missed calls from Brittany…all less than half an hour ago! The newest one was only missed by four minutes. Without reception they wouldn't go through, and so she hadn't felt the phone vibrate indicating she had received one. Chest heaving with emotion, she shielded her screen with one hand, tapping the call back button eagerly.
Giving an anxious glance around the trunk of the tree, she still saw no sign of her pursuer, but she didn't want to chance it. Feeling like her pain wouldn't go away no matter how long she rested, she struggled to her feet once more and started walking forwards.
The phone buzzed only once, the frantic voice of Brittany on the other line. 'Oh my god, Lexi? Is that you!?' The brunette was so relieved to hear her friend's voice, she laughed out loud, on the verge of tears.
"Y-yeah, Brit it's me." She cried, pushing past a large rock set against a tree. Her sobs came out freely now, so happy to not feel so alone. "Shit, you don't know how great it is to hear your voice."
"Are you in danger? Did you escape?"
"I got away. I'm out in the woods somewhere, but he might be following me."
"There's a lot I want you to say and tell me, but right now just shut up and tell us where you are. We're out in the woods too, looking for you right now." Still pushing through the trees, she glanced around, not seeing any significant landmark. There were just more trees.
"I don't know, just in the middle of the trees. I'm going to try to find a landmark or road or something." A particularly sharp bush scraped against her leg, causing her to gasp sharply. "Shit, that hurts."
"Did he do anything to you? Like, you know…" She paused, her meaning nonetheless clear.
"No, he didn't. He just…cut me."
"What do you fucking mean he cut you!?" The sudden anger wasn't all too surprising from Brittany, who was probably partially blaming herself for Lexi's disappearance. "That fucker is dead when I see him! DEAD!" She shouted in the phone, and Lexi had to hold it away from her ear so as not to burst her eardrum.
There was a loud snap somewhere behind her, not caused by Lexi's footfalls, and she spun around, staring in horror into the trees. In the darkness she couldn't see anyone but no movement caught her eye, her eyes flicked around.
"Brit?" She whispered, into the phone. "I think he's nearby." She stood still, trying to listen for any other movement over the sound of the rain.
"Lexi? Talk to me!" Brittany said, but she ended the call, too afraid that her voice would carry enough for Logan to hear it. The sky wasn't as dark as before, which started to make moving through the brush easier. Heart pumping in her chest, she carefully began moving away from where the sound had come.
"Lexi? Lexi!" Brittany shouted into the phone, eyes raking over the screen and seeing the 'Call Ended' message across the top. "Dammit! We have to find her. That bastard is somewhere out here with us." She angrily placed the phone back in her pocket, finding a new sense of purpose to their search.
"Bepo, we know she's out here somewhere." Law said. "I know the rain is making things difficult but I need you to find her scent. It's the only way we'll be able to track her down in these woods."
"Aye, Captain!" The bear lifted his nose higher, as if the extra height would make the difference between smelling nothing and picking up her distinct scent.
Law turned to Brittany. "Call Shachi-ya and Penguin-ya, we are going to reconvene at the road and search from there. Perhaps we can meet her when she hits a road, or see any useful landmarks she might come across."
Nodding at the logic, she pulled the device out once more, following Law back towards the road to meet up with the group.
As luck would have it, Lexi did stumble across a road. The highway, in fact. The edge of the tree line came quickly, and she almost fell when she found herself on even ground again. Glancing behind her, she could still hear the faint popping of someone tromping through the leaves and branches. And then, his voice floated through the forest, hauntingly.
"Leeeexxxxiiiii!" He called in a singsong voice. "Come out, come out, wherever you are! You can't hide forever!"
Her heart dropping at the sickly sweet lilts to his tone, she frantically searched for anywhere to hide. Simply running parallel to the road wouldn't help. He'd instantly see her out in the open where there wasn't any cover. There was more forest across the road. And then, the familiar sign caught her eye.
Rivermouth Cave, 1.5 miles.
It was a green road sign she'd passed so many times before. The same one place she'd found the wandering pirates, almost running them over. That was the landmark she needed.
Booking it across the road, she dashed once more into the thick foliage, her newfound discovery setting a new pace to her steps. The faster she could reach the cave, the sooner she could find her friends.
"Lexi's alive, somewhere in these woods. She called us, and the murderer is chasing her. She doesn't have much time left." Brittany panted, sprinting up to the truck just as Shachi and Penguin emerged from the trees. At her words they perked up, eyes bright.
"Really? Where is she?"
"All she could tell us was somewhere in the woods. There are no markers anywhere, so that could mean just about anything." Law said in frustration. Just then, Brittany's eyes widened and she dug into her pocket furiously, pulling out her phone.
"Lexi?" It seemed the brunette was able to call again. She put the phone on speaker, so they could all hear.
"Rivermouth cave!" She cried, panting hard like she was running. "Rivermouth cave! I'm going there!"
It took several seconds before it finally clicked in the black-haired woman's head. River mouth cave. They'd gone hiking through there before, last summer. The men looked utterly confused, unsure of what the brunette was trying to say, but Brittany understood. She straightened up, a wide smile taking over her face.
"I got it! We're coming to get you!" The line clicked dead, Lexi having hung up, and she ran towards the driver door. "I know where she's going! Come on!"
They all piled in eagerly, finally getting a clue as to where to go.
Lexi was running on her last reserves of strength, her injuries beginning to take their toll on her body. All of her muscles ached. The parts of her legs not protected were torn to shreds, either by Logan's doing or the forest itself. They stung constantly, and she could feel trickles of blood running down her leg. The rain washed it away before it could really stay long though.
No matter how hard she tried fighting her rapidly-approaching exhaustion and inevitable collapse, she could feel herself tiring much too quickly for her liking.
Her half-sprint was reduced to a steady jog. Then, that steady jog to a struggled trot. And now, nothing more than a fast walk. Her breathing came out raggedy and heavy, her lungs fighting to suck in the much-needed oxygen. And even that hurt. Her mouth was dry, her eyes were itchy and probably red. She was running out of steam quick.
Still, she pushed on, knowing that it perhaps meant her life was betting on her getting to that cave. Brittany and the others would be there waiting, and she'd be safe. Law and Shachi and Penguin and maybe even Bepo would protect her, they'd keep her safe, they'd stop Logan and everything would be ok again.
Except it wouldn't. In all the horror of the past 8 hours or so, she'd almost completely forgotten what had happened, who had been taken from her already. She hadn't even had the time to properly grieve, and suddenly she was forced to run for her very life, dodging tree trunks and leaping over boulders.
Eyes burning with unfallen tears, Lexi pushed on at her much slower pace, heart feeling heavier than before.
"I'll find you eventually, Lexi!" Logan called, his voice a little closer than before, sending a shiver down her spine.
The sign had said a mile and a half from the road. Anytime now she'd come across the river running directly in front of the cave, or the dirt path that lead parallel to it. One half of the sky quickly becoming a lighter blue as morning approached, lighting her path a bit more.
There! She spotted a curved dirt path several yards ahead, and she instantly switched directions to the left once she reached it. Recognizing this portion of the path, she knew that the cave was only another ten or so minute walk from where she was. Hope rekindled in her soul, and she tried pushing faster, but her tired limbs wouldn't let her. The dirt path, now reduced to mud in the rain, squelched beneath her tennis shoes. She slid around a little, not quite able to find purchase in the new ground.
"I grow tired of chasing you, Lexi!" Logan's voice called behind her, the distinct crash of a branch distinguishable above the rain. He'd gained ground. "You can't run away from fate!"
"It's here!" Brittany said, pointing to the green road sign pointing towards the beginnings of a dirt path in the trees with the name 'Rivermouth Cave.' "She's going there."
They all scrambled out of the vehicle, grabbing flashlights and their weapons. Bepo clambered out from the back of the truck, sticking his nose into the air, knowing his job was about to come into play. Catching something faint even in the heavier rain, he tilted his head. Law, recognizing that gesture instantly, felt a spark of hope.
"What do you smell?" He questioned, and Bepo sniffed again to be sure he was sure.
"I smell…Lexi, and someone else. She's afraid, but I can't tell the other person. They just smell like blood." He growled, staring off into the trees.
"Follow it as best you can."
She had to have a lot of good karma saved up, because Lexi made it to the cave without Logan catching up to her. He'd called out to her, always sounding closer and closer each time, but she'd spotted the familiar rock formations and found that last bit of strength to sprint towards them.
As it always did when it rained heavily, the mouth of the cave was transformed into a sort of waterfall. An indentation on top of the rocks pooled the water together, and when it overflowed, it would create a curtain of rain over the entrance, meeting up with the river in front of it and flowing downstream.
She plunged through the streams of water, stumbling on the suddenly hard floor of the cave. It was pitch black inside, though that was beneficial to her. She'd be harder to spot from outside, in case Logan wandered by.
Her breath hard and painful, she placed her back to the wall, sliding down to sit on the floor. No longer needing to run, she found herself unable to move another inch. The grip on her knife loosened, her fingers numb and too weak to hold onto it any longer.
Feeling sharp pains from her legs, she looked down at the dripping wet towels still tightly wrapped around her thighs with duct tape. It had held up remarkably well, but now the added weight was putting pressure on the wounds, causing more pain.
Carefully, she unwrapped the duct tape from the towels, now stained red in blotches from her blood seeping through. Gently pulling away the cloths, she looked at the cuts, now plainly visible from the old blood washed off.
Having nothing to be absorbed into, the cuts began to bleed freely again, trickles of the liquid falling to either side of her leg. She took off the other makeshift bandage and gave a relieved gasp. With the pressure no longer there, it was a bit more manageable.
Staring at the wall opposite her, Lexi felt her eyelids droop a little. She'd made it. Now all she had to do was wait.ns 126.96.36.199da2