I should not be doing this.

Of course, that didn't really matter at the moment. Whether she should be doing it or not, Allison was most indefinitely walking down a deserted street in Brooklyn a few minutes before nine o'clock at night. Wrapping her sweatshirt tighter around her, she tried not to think of the fact that this is how tons of slasher movies start out.

A particularly strong gust of wind blew, ripping through her thin sweatshirt and causing her to gasp as she hunched over to protect herself from the cold. She hadn't thought that it was this freezing outside, and even if she had, she certainly wouldn't have thought that her car would have broken down right in the middle of her trip back home. If only I hadn't been such a schmuck and insisted that I see Rob tonight.

Robert, her best friend and co-worker, was seven years older than her and had an eight-month-old daughter. His girlfriend had passed away during childbirth, and so Allison gladly offered to help raise the girl. Robert usually refused, but there were certain things he believed that only a woman with maternal instincts could really take care of, such as a 101-degree fever. At Robert's frantic phone call, Allison jumped into her car and sped over, rather than do the sensible thing and tell him to take her to the emergency room. Thankfully, by the time she got there, the fever had subsided somewhat and turned into a cold. Robert insisted he could handle it and thanked her, and so Allison returned home after fussing over the baby for an hour and a half. Unfortunately, she had forgotten that the fan belt on her car tended to loosen at high speeds, leaving her stranded on Flatbush Avenue. Having left her cell phone at home and deciding that she would rather sprint the rest of the eleven blocks home rather than be a sitting duck for the rapists, muggers, and murderers she would otherwise encounter, she had zipped up her sweatshirt and prayed that her car would still be there in the morning.

Holy mother of God, she thought as she braced herself against another onslaught of wind and glanced up at a street sign. Palmetto Avenue. Had she taken a wrong turn? What a time to get lost. Looking down a residential street, Allison thought she might have seen the bustling cars and bright lights of Myrtle Avenue. If she turned that way and got onto Myrtle, she would be able to easily find her way back. Of course, there were four long, dark blocks that needed to be ventured if she took that route, but another gust of wind made up her mind for her.

Reaching into the pocket of her jeans, she felt to make sure her switchblade was there and took it out. Releasing the blade, she carefully clenched the knife and snuck her hand up her sleeve, so her weapon wasn't visible. Having grown up in East New York, Allison knew that a girl walking the streets at night usually attracted the wrong kind of attention, and she made sure that she would always be prepared to deal with this attention. Putting her hood on and hoping the wind wouldn't blow it off yet again, she quickened her pace as she made her way towards the dark, foreboding buildings that stood in between her and civilization. And a possible bus. No way am I gonna walk home from Myrtle Avenue in this weather.

There were times when she thought she heard footsteps, but remembered that the apartment buildings on this side of town were built close together, making her own footfalls echo into the chilly night. They also provided a multitude of inky shadows. Allison didn't know whether to be terrified or relieved. She should be terrified at the thought that someone could easily be hiding in those shadows, but she felt mildly relieved at the thought of being able to hide herself in the shadows, and thus keep out of sight from anyone who might incite her to use her knife.

She stopped suddenly. She could have sworn that she heard a grating sound, such as metal scraping across metal. Don't stop. Don't give away you know anything. That will only make them hostile. When dealing with bad guys, always play dumb. Making it seem like she had only been stretching her back, Allison kept going. She felt tense, but was determined not to hurry her footsteps. Keeping it steady will give a perpetrator confidence enough to screw up. Ah, the benefits of watching a lot of stalker movies.

What was that?

Tilting her head but not changing her pace, Allison listened intently. Laughter. Men's laughter. The wind carried it from somewhere up ahead of her. And there was another sound beneath it. A soft, mewling sound, almost drowned out by the intonations of sarcasm and cruelty. Someone was in trouble. And as though her course was frozen by the cold, Allison found herself walking right into it.

Gripping her knife so tightly that all feeling in her hand disappeared, Allison's eyes drifted over to her right, to the opposite side of the street. There was a narrow alleyway between two rundown buildings; a streetlight some yards away barely touching the outskirts of it. Inside, a shadow shifted and others descended upon the smaller form, like vultures upon a carcass. Allison hadn't realized that she had stopped directly parallel to the alley's entrance, her human curiosity getting the better of her terror. Yes, it seemed a woman was being attacked by a group of men. The number was indeterminable, but the vast bulk of each man was not. Their hushed voices and unsuppressed snickers rang in Allison's ears, and she tried to will herself to some sort of action. Dammit, if only I had my cell phone. I could call the cops. But they haven't seen me. I could run for it, then call for the police from a payphone on Myrtle. But if I run, I might attract their attention….

The lengthy deliberation proved to be to her disadvantage. She was apparently spotted, for a tall, slender figure stepped away from the mass of shadows and stood in the center of the alleyway, looking out towards her side of the street. In a more audible voice than the whispers and tauntings, the figure stated, "Well, well. Looks like we got ourselves an audience."

The acknowledgement broke Allison's paralysis. She stepped backwards hurriedly, allowing the shadows on her end of the street to swallow her as the figure and one of his larger comrades emerged from their niche. Hoping they couldn't see her now and be able to tell what direction she went, Allison ran as soundlessly as she could towards Myrtle Avenue, pushing her knife hand out of her sleeve to allow for an easier access. She heard a clamor of footsteps behind her, and wondered frantically how many of them were there, and whether or not she was going to be just another article in the morning paper.

Then she heard it again. The sound of metal scraping against something. It came from somewhere below her, but she couldn't tell from where and didn't stop to find out. That is, until she heard the whoosh! as a heavy object cut through the air and a thick whump clang! Confused as to what sort of weapons would make that kind of sound, Allison peered behind her shoulder… and stopped dead in her tracks.

Another clang pierced the air as the heavy object dropped from its acquired target—that being one of her pursuers—and landed on the ground with a circling motion. As her would-be assailant hit the ground, Allison saw that the ammunition had been… a manhole cover. She looked along the street that stood between herself and the alleyway and saw an open sewer hole gaping out of the ground like an unforgiving eye. Someone hurled a manhole cover at him! But who? There was no one else on the street!

The other thugs lurched out of the alley, peering to see what had befallen their friend. Allison watched as unseen hands grabbed one of them from the shadows, and he was pulled into darkness with a guttural, "What th-?" An abrupt grunt came from the mouth that was now invisible to Allison and she flinched, taking a step backwards. As this silenced punk flew out of the darkness and landed across the street a few yards in front of her, Allison shuddered and wondered what she had gotten herself into. Sounds of surprise and confusion came from the remaining criminals as more of them—some from one side, some from the other, and others from behind—were captured by the unseen forces that seemed to stem from the shadows themselves.

Suddenly, from out of the throng ran a thin young girl. She was in her underwear, her clothes gathered hurriedly to her chest. She had a gag of sorts over her mouth and removed this gag in wide-eyed panic as she flew from the chaotic scene, past Allison. One of her assailants, a broad-shouldered, blue-haired twenty-something, sprinted after her, though he could just as very well have been running away from the fiasco. However, whoever organized this haphazard rescue party didn't want to take any chances. Allison let out a short, alarmed cry as another manhole cover seemed to fly out of nowhere and connect directly with the back of the young hooligan's head. She raised a hand to cover her mouth as she saw the spray of blood that left the man's mouth as he slumped over, either lifeless or soon-to-be.

As before, the macabre scene held Allison firmly in place. Bodies flew and shouts were silenced… and blood spilled. The lone streetlight caught the glint of weapons so massive that Allison's switchblade looked like nothing more than a plastic knife. Swords? Are those… but that over there? That doesn't look like a sword. What was she seeing? Shadowy apparitions were incapacitating at least a dozen very dangerous-looking rapists who appeared to be armed with everything from chains to guns, and all she could do was stand there in shock with a trembling hand over her mouth. Surely, this is the way the heroine always gets killed in the movies, so why didn't she move?

Her eyes were so focused on the brawl in front of her that she failed to acknowledge her peripheral vision. A flash of red appeared out of the corner of her eye and she turned swiftly, her knife hand extended towards the dark figure. As she turned, she noted his short, stocky build, but didn't get a chance to register what he looked like before he leapt back into the shadows. "Careful with the butter knife, kid," said a low, gruff voice. "Ya might hurt someone."

Absolutely terrified, Allison began to take panicked steps backwards, and only went faster when she saw that the figure was approaching her, what looked like a gloved hand extended towards her. He seemed to be about to give some sort of cautionary warning, but his reluctance to step closer caused Allison to back herself right into the arms of the tremendously large thug that had initially been chasing after her. One massive arm encircled her torso, pinning her arms to her side, as she realized that he must have stayed hidden in the shadows until he saw a chance to come out. The heavy contact brought a wave of vomit to her.

"Now, you twerps are gonna drop the crazy knives," her captor's voice boomed out. Allison's eyes widened when she felt the cold metal that could only be that of the barrel of a gun suddenly press against her temple. "Or the nosey bitch is going haunt you bastards' nightmares for the rest of your lives. Allison trembled. My life depends on shadows. Holy Christ. I was better off on Palmetto Avenue.

"What makes you say that?" Allison's eyes returned to the hidden figure that she had backed away from. He had gotten a little closer to them, making his bulky form visible. His arms were crossed over his chest, and Allison could make out something strange about the way he was dressed, but didn't bother dwelling on it for too long. "I've never seen the kid before today; you really think you can blow her brains out and we'll all be too shocked to move?"

"Watch your mouth, asshole," the captor growled next to Allison's ear. From her right, the shadowy figure's companions seemed to be drawing close together. She was jerked towards them, as though seeing her full-on in a helpless position would stop them in their tracks. It worked. Unfortunately, there was a loudmouth amongst them who wasn't about to let up.

"Once she's gone, I'll just get a clear shot of your heart anyway. Or your gut. Yeah, that's more painful. And you'll live through most of it, too."

"I swear to God, you little freak-"

"Raph, cut it out." The voice came from among the group of silhouettes in front of Allison. However, this "Raph" didn't seem to be one to follow reason. "Or," he continued, "if I wanted to be really evil, I could go for the balls. That'd be even more satisfying."

"Goddamn you!" The thug's voice was loud with either anger or fear, and it reverberated off the walls, hurting Allison's ears. Suddenly, she felt the pressure of the gun move away from her temple, and she quickly saw this as her chance.

Remembering the knife that was gripped in her fist, Allison jerked her hand backwards, towards the assailant's leg. Her cold hand was greeted by a hot flow of blood as a booming scream filled the night, accentuated by a very loud bang! Her veins pounding with a rush of adrenaline, Allison took the chance that the slacked grip about her offered and freed her left arm, sharply elbowing her captor in the ribs hard enough to practically dislocate her own shoulder. He completely backed away from her and she ripped the knife out of his leg and made a sharp turn, stabbing him again in his arm, where she knew the brachial artery was. Bleed, bastard.

However, even injured as he now was, he still stood over a foot taller than her and had at least a 150-pound weight advantage on her. His gun hand rose and fell soundly across her face, knocking her to the ground. She heard hurried footsteps approaching her and thought she saw someone running towards her, a large stick of sorts in his hand. The feet disappeared, and it seemed that they connected with the thug, for she heard the sound of something very heavy falling to the ground.

Her face stung, both with pain and the cold, and for a moment she could do nothing more than lie on the cracked pavement. She had landed on her shoulder, and knew it was bruised. Trying to flex her hand proved that her palm had been badly scraped upon contact with the ground. But she was alive. And so was that girl, wherever she had run off to.

A light touch fell on her side. "Are you all right?" The voice was kind, but seemed preoccupied. She parted her lips, but realized that her bottom lip was split down the middle, making even that small movement excruciatingly painful. Upon hearing no response, the voice became even more urgent, and the shifting shadows proved that he had moved closer. "Hey, lady, are you okay?" Two fingers moved to her neck, feeling for a pulse. No, she realized sorely. Those aren't two fingers. That's one. One very large finger. Deciding that she must be delusional, Allison somehow forced herself to nod.

At the movement, the finger moved away from her neck, and a hand fell soothingly on her head, brushing her long thick hair away from her face. "Your pulse is steadier than I had thought. You must be a tough one." A moment of silence passed, and Allison began flexing her hand, biting back the stinging pain. She was dazed and sore, but in no way vitally injured. After this realization, she was about to break the silence, when the voice at her side asked, "How is he?"

Confused, Allison was about to ask to whom he was referring when a worried voice answered him. "Dunno, dude. The blood's black. Is that a bad thing?" A small, concerned sound came out of the person who still had his oddly-shaped hand on Allison's head. "Yeah. It's very bad."

"Bullshit," said the same gruff voice that had taunted the assailant enough to allow for Allison's escape. "I'm fine. Never better." The hand on Allison's head disappeared, and she felt that the being had moved away from her, towards where the voices were. "This is no joke, Raphael. That's way too close to your heart for my comfort."

"Idiot. My heart's down here, not up here."

A fourth voice came in. "Have we got anything back at the lair that can take care of this?" The person who had been at Allison's side responded, "No, I don't think so. I mean, we might, but none of it is sterile enough for me to want to use on a wound like that." Haughtily, the sarcastic voice broke in, "Who needs sterile? I'll just carve the bullet out with this."

"Raphael, put that sai down or I'm knocking you unconscious with my hilt!"

"Sure Leo, I'm sure that will solve everything."

Bullet? It was then that Allison remembered. As she got the creep in the leg, he managed to squeeze off a shot. The gun hadn't been aimed at her, and the wise guy was really getting under the attacker's skin. So, it was safe to assume…. My God, someone just got shot because of me.

Slowly, Allison managed to pull her head up and turned to look towards the voices. They were still in the shadows, and it amazed her that they could see in that darkness. One of them—"Raphael"—was sitting sprawled on the ground, and the rest seemed to be crouched besides him. There was something peculiar about their stature, but Allison blamed it on the fact that her senses had just been knocked out of her.

"Surgical supplies."

Shadowed faces turned to look at her. "What?" Slowly propping herself up on her elbows, Allison shook her head firmly, as though trying to regain her wits. Spitting out a wad of blood from her lips, she explained, "There's a surgical supplies store on Myrtle Avenue, about four blocks away. You could get… whatever you need." Fighting off another wave of nausea as the situation overwhelmed her for another second, she forced herself up onto her knees, wavering a bit and holding her arms out for balance. The four figures seemed to be consulting each other with glances at one another. Gingerly placing a hand on her cheek to be sure it wasn't swollen, she added, "I could get them for you. You know, if you wanted to stay here with him before an ambulance gets here. As a way to… to thank you."

There seemed to be another moment of silent consultation before one of them stood up and faced her. His voice was kind and confident, and she managed to recognize it as the one that had been called "Leo." "If you could do that, we would be highly grateful… if you're well enough, that is." As though to prove her point, Allison pushed herself onto her feet, staggering for a moment before catching herself, and then almost falling backward over the legs of the unconscious thug. The voice of the injured individual commented, "And my life depends on that?"

"Hey dude, chill out. It's not her fault you got shot." The one called Leo agreed. "Michelangelo's right." Turning his attention back to Allison, he told her, "If you're willing and able, then, go and pick up the stuff and head to the corner of St. Nicholas and Greene. Mike will meet you there." This "Mike" nodded in agreement. "For sure. I'll even keep an eye on you part of the way to make sure you don't tumble down and like, break your crown or something. 'Cause that wouldn't be cool."

The other uninjured one stood and gently helped "Raph" to his feet and began telling Allison what she needed to pick up. "And remember, don't tell anyone what really happened. This mess is sure to be found out about before long, anyway. We'd rather not be part of the picture, and that includes doctors. So calling for an ambulance is out of the question. If anyone asks why you look banged up, say you missed a step while getting off a bus."

Putting a hand to her temple as Leo helped the as-yet-unnamed person to walk their wounded comrade away, Allison nodded, still not sure how all of this happened. Beginning to step away, she wondered if she would be able to just make her way back home and forget about the entire mess. She knew she couldn't, though. For one, this Mike would be left on the corner on one of the coldest days of the season, which would be cruel. Also, he had said he'd watch her part of the way; who's to say he wouldn't follow her home and inquire as to why she backed away from a promise? For all she knew, he might grow hostile. The corner of St. Nicholas and Greene was only a block away from Myrtle Avenue, meaning it was relatively well-lit and leagues safer than their current location was. Yeah, she thought groggily as she walked off, beginning to wonder why Mike didn't just come to the store with her. Just buy the wise ass his meds and give 'em to his friend, then I can go home and consume an entire bottle of aspirin.

These thoughts running through her aching head, Allison continued towards Myrtle Avenue.