The streets of New York were dim and smoky that evening. The general atmosphere of the city held fog and pollution... known as the waste of Manhattan that flooded the less fortunate parts of the city. There was a breeze, a slight lift in the air that settled comfortably and gave warmth where there seemed to be none. The streets were deserted. Most people who lived on this side of town knew not to leave their homes after dark. The inside lights from complexes were obscured by torn, broken blinds, or by heavy brown curtains that shone red in the drugstore lights. A storm had passed. There was still thunder in the distance and water that glistened like crystals on the black roads and alleys. Unlike the other parts of the city, this one was completely silent. Every once in a while there was the sound of a person yelling, or someone closing their windows as the dew began to settle, those being the only sounds interrupting the night air.

A girl hugged her arms tightly as she made her way through the streets. A long maroon coat, impeccably clean, and barely dragging the ground, enveloped her small frame. Her light blond hair contrasted sharply with her black-gloved hand when she brushed it back from her face. The fancy black boots she wore clicked sharply on the pavement as she made her way to a subway stop that was still blocks away. Her skin was pale, translucent, which made her blue eyes bright, naïve, and beautiful underneath the inconsistent streetlights. She was young, far too young to be by herself in a neighborhood in which she obviously did not belong.

There was disturbance somewhere behind her. She heard loud sirens, growing louder and more desperate by the minute. She paused in her quick pace and glanced behind her, with that usual human curiosity many are gripped by at some point in their lives. It's the same kind that urges everyone in the car to stop and look when there's a car accident. But there was silence now, the sirens were moving away. The girl frowned, shifted her bag to her other shoulder, and continued on her way.

As she passed an alley she heard a soft noise. It sounded like metal against metal. Again, she stopped. She leaned to see better, and two yellow eyes stared back at her. She drew in her breath, carefully, and came closer. The cat (or what she assumed to be a cat) did not move. Its eyes were leveled above hers, far above, and she imagined that it must be perched on a ladder. Until it moved.

A rough arm grabbed her and turned her around sharply. She barely had time to struggle before she felt someone behind her and a knife pressed against her neck. She did not move. She did not breathe. The only sound she made was a soft whimper that quickly died when the grip around her tightened.

A long moment passed that way before she closed her eyes, drew a trembling breath, and tried to speak. "Please..."

"Be silent." The voice was soft, but it was a command. She heard the threat that continued silently after those words. If she made any sound, she was dead.

She was silent. A hand moved to cover her mouth, and it was ice cold. Whoever held her was strong, far stronger than she was...even if she shifted slightly, he was there to hold down any quick movement she would try to make. She heard a steady drip of water as it fell from a nearby ladder. She also heard the sirens coming, and they were getting closer. Voices became tangible, again in the distance, and she wondered why he stood so still and didn't try to get away, but held her tightly against him as the policeman neared the alleyway with flashlights. The edge of the light brushed the circle of darkness in front of them. The knife slid so that it covered the whole front of her throat. If she breathed in too deeply it cut her a bit. It would only take one word from her and they would hear... One more step that the policeman could take, and the flashlight would catch a gleam from the knife. Her mind pleaded silently, begged, screamed...but the flashlight moved away...and she was left in the darkness once again.

The voices moved away.

She felt as though she was there for an eternity...waiting...anticipating when he would decide that it would be best to kill her and leave her there...

He moved. She felt something rough against her hand, and realized that it was his jacket. It was long and black, though she only saw a piece of it, and only for a moment. Then he turned her, almost too quick for her to react. She closed her eyes, an instinct, before she realized that she didn't want to see him. If she saw him, surely he would kill her, she couldn't look at him...

The man did not oppose to this at first. He took her arm, she was facing him, but he turned her so that she was next to him instead, and he began to lead her out of the alley. Voices became prominent again. He moved her slightly closer, and his voice still held that note of command. "Open your eyes, and if you give any indication that something may be wrong, you will condemn more than yourself."

She opened her eyes, and the helpless situation gave a new air of hope when she saw that he was wearing a mask. It was black, and she could not see his eyes. He held her arm tighter and led her out. She went with him, stumbling just slightly, her legs felt a doll's. She watched him as they walked, in a subtle way that would not gain his attention. He was tall, a hood covered his hair, and he moved strangely...with a grace that she would not have ever noticed in anyone else, and was shocked at herself for noticing in a situation like this one.

They did not pass anyone, and she did not try to get away. His hand held hers so tightly... she was sure that her arm would break if she attempted to twist away. They did not walk for long, but she realized with alarm that they were heading away from the area that she knew. Buildings became less inhabited, more run down, and spaced further apart. She began shivering at one point and couldn't stop...the fear was overwhelming. He only glanced down at her and did not speak.

Soon he paused at one of the abandoned buildings and started to lead her inside. For the first time she resisted. She sobbed and pulled, her voice cracking, "No, no!"

She didn't want to go down there. The darkness was never-ending, and she believed that if she went into it she'd never come back out again.

The man was unrelenting. He pulled her until she staggered down the first steps. When she tried to dig her heels into the dirt floor, he picked her up and carried her the rest of the way down. The air smelled rank, and old. It was mildewed, and the rain had flooded the bottom level. He seemed to take no notice as he carried her through, but was entirely unphased. This frightened her more than anything else...and fears began to circulate more than ever in her mind. This man must be a sociopath, those policemen were intent on looking for him...She thought, and in her fear she actually turned her head so it was against his arm. The poor girl could not stop her mind from conjuring up grisly murders and horrible torture he must have inflicted upon his victims. She did not look up until she felt another cold draft; she was terrified of seeing skeletons.

There was only darkness now. A lamp was lit, and they were still moving.

She spoke again; her voice was thick with tears and panic. "Where...where are we going?"

"That is no concern of yours." His voice was not harsh, as she expected, but still quiet. There was an odd note to it that she couldn't quite place. But it made her fear dissipate a bit, despite his answer.

He set her down now, and she was relieved that it was not in water. The air was freezing. The man took off his coat and placed it on her shoulders. She shrank back as he did... but her body, against her will, welcomed the warmth and she did not protest. She told herself that she was too afraid to speak again. She watched the man again; he was slightly in front of her. He wore all black, but in the dim lamplight she saw something odd. It seemed darker in one area...and the area was spreading.

She drew in her breath, her typical reaction with blood, and she heard her voice before she realized she was speaking. "They got you?" It was a childish question, her eyes were wide, and his gaze met hers as he turned...but she still did not see his eyes, it was disconcerting.

He stared at her, as if he was looking right through her. She saw no expression, just the hard, black mask, and she felt terror constricting her stomach again. When he did not answer, she spoke again, her voice no more than a whisper... "Aren't...aren't you going to stop the bleeding?"

The tone in his voice sounded like amusement. "I intend to. Are you offering to do so for me?"

This baffled her. " should take care of it soon..." She had a motive. If he stopped to take care of it, it could buy her time...until she decided what to do. But her concern, however, was genuine. She felt no compassion for this man, but she felt the need to heal wounds or to make sure whoever received them was all right. This was easily seen on her face, she could never hide her emotions.

If she could see his mouth, she was sure that the man must have been smiling, but it was a strange smile, if she was younger than she was. "You wish to make sure that I will not bleed to death? Why?"

"Well...because..." She felt herself shrink and she took a small step away. She might have gotten away with it had her eyes not flitted away, and he took her arm again to prevent her from moving any further. "It is the...humane thing to do."

He laughed. It was not a nice laugh, and it sent chills down her spine. The darkness in his voice frightened her, to the point where her legs were shaking all over again. "I do not believe in humanity."

He was a sociopath. She pulled a bit on her arm, weakly, and with no results. She cried out softly, but said nothing more, and they continued.

It became darker as they went, and the light was dimming. The man did not appear to have any trouble seeing, and the few times he looked back at her, she could see his eyes flash in the darkness. He held steady, even as she was certain he must be in some sort of pain. But he didn't seem to take any sort of notice. He was like an unstoppable monster, she thought, as she trailed behind him as far away as possible, which was not far since he still had her arm. If only they were on the streets...right now she would call out, loudly, for anyone to hear...

Call... A sudden lurch in her gut made her gasp. He paused, and she held her breath, her words soft... "I...I'm only tired." She was lying. She was sure that he knew it...but he said nothing.

As they continued, her other hand slipped inside her coat, to the pocket where her cell phone was. She pressed the button to turn it on. It made a slight sound...the phone was on vibrate. Her hand froze, but the man didn't seem to have heard. She waited a few extra moments before moving to find the buttons. They didn't make any sound as she pressed them...she just hoped that she was pressing the right ones...Then she pressed send.

The monotone beep resounded in the dark cellar. The man spun and grabbed her arm, jerking her close. Within a second the cell phone was in his hand, and in another it was gone. She cried out as he pushed her against the wall. It didn't hurt, but he held her there. She could see his eyes now, reflected in the light. They were red, and bore into her like two pinpoints. She held fast for one more moment, and then began to sob. As her tears flowed freely, she became aware of the man's hand against her neck, and she started to scream...until she realized that he wasn't strangling her. His hand was there, almost to comfort, moving her hair away from where it had caught when he spun her. She opened her eyes and looked up at him, pleadingly. Surely there had to be some compassion in him... "Please...please don't kill me..."

His hand stopped. He looked down at her, but there was remorse in his eyes...for a moment, she knew that she saw it. He answered her quietly, but she nearly fell from relief. "I will not kill you."

Her breath shuddered. "Then let me go. Please..."


He moved back and held his hand out for hers. She looked at him for a moment, but then took it. There was no other option...all she could do was hope that in the end he was truly merciful. He continued to lead her through the darkness, and she began to wonder if it would ever end.

But she was silent this time; her head was bowed so that she watched the ground and her feet as they dragged on the cement floor. She did not see that he kept glancing back at her this time, his eyes mellowed. She felt numb all over, unreachable, and distant from the world.

She saw the stairs ahead of them. At his gesture she walked up first, her hand on the banister, squeaking against the metal as she climbed. Her legs barely obeyed her, and halfway through they finally gave out. He caught her easily, and then helped her up the rest of the way. When they reached the top the first thing she saw was the lights, and she had to look away when they hurt her eyes. They were almost in the city; she heard loud voices of people only blocks away.

He watched her, and was obviously expecting her to run. She didn't move, she felt too shocked to do anything but stare.

He moved back, his hand disappearing from her grip. "Goodbye, Innocent. Find the police to take you home." He disappeared, but she did not watch him leave.

Christine did not move for a long time.