The shove to her back came from nowhere, and Dylan tried but failed to hold her balance. The brick alley wall came up on her fast. Her skull rang with a hollow thunk as her forehead made contact, and she slumped onto the trash strewn ground. On landing, she vaguely caught notice that Holly too had been shoved from behind. She was coming to rest awkwardly beside Dylan, scrambling quickly to maneuver to face the attackers. Holly’s movements were uncharacteristically graceless. Dylan had been used to watching her new companion move through the campus with such a sure foot. This graceless landing disturbed Dylan, but she was not sure why.
Looking up from the ground, Dylan and Holly were faced with the two bandanna clad teens who they had just left behind in the pool hall. They were obviously angered by having lost such a substantial amount of money to the two girls, and were looking to recoup their losses. In the dim alley light, the scar across the cheek of the older boy looked even more intimidating than it did from across the pool table. Dylan felt slightly justified in here unease earlier, when she was going to suggest to Holly that she not fleece this particular pair of boys. But that justification was not timed well, and quickly disappeared as she realized what the boy held in his hand, pointing the barrel end to the girls.
“Give it back! Now!” the teen holding the pistol barked.
“Holly, get up and take care of these two.” Dylan half whispered to her downed colleague.
“I can’t,” came the reply.
“Why the hell not?!” Dylan exclaimed, no longer trying to remain subtle.
“I’m still programmed for mathematics.” Holly revealed.
The last of Dylan’s bravado went out of her body as she realized the graceful and powerful figure she had been accompanying for the last few hours was now as powerful as a slide rule.
“I’m not going to say it again, hand it over. All of it.”
Dylan recognized that, despite the quivering of the hand holding the pistol, the boy was quite serious. She and Holly were about to lose what they had earned, and possibly more if the boys decided that money was not going to settle the bill. A cold chill ran over her shoulder and down her back, as she slowly reached into her skirt pocket.
Just then, the boy in the back let out a whimper and collapsed in a heap. The gun quickly pivoted off of Dylan as the first boy spun around to see what had happened to his back up. Before the turn was complete, his neck snapped backward as his body lifted off of the ground. He moved through the air and flew backward, landing on the other side of Holly with an audible thud, and did not stir.
The haze that was filling Dylan’s vision from her own hard landing, coupled with the bright back lighting of the lamp across the street made it difficult to register who had saved them. And Holly was not going to give Dylan a chance to focus. She was on her feet and, with Dylan’s wrist firmly in her grasp, she was leading the two of them past their erstwhile savior, out of the alley, and into the street. The sparsity of cars at that time of night made it easy to quickly cross the road and head into the tree cover of campus. They were a number of minutes into their escape before it registered with Dylan that their guardian angel had bare feet.