The alleyway had fallen silent, only broken by her frantic attempts to stop shaking. Bewildered, April eyed the darkness, and stared down at the two men who were sprawled and bleeding at her feet. They were so still, and it was too dark to tell if they were even breathing. Numbly, she scooted backwards and swallowed back panic and bile.
What in the hell had just happened? For one agonizing moment, she had felt the bite of blade nicking at her throat, while the two muggers gleefully dragged her to this forlorn alleyway. A click of the safety, and she found herself staring at the business end of a hand gun. Helpless. She had been helpless and more scared than she ever remembered being before this. She had hastily offered her handbag, her watch, even the keys to her car. April remembered the curl of searing realization when one of them leered at her with that smirk. And then her stomach seemed to fall through the earth itself with the hideous knowing of what they were truly taking from her. The bruise ached in sharp remembrance from where one had slugged her in the face. Her shoulders were throbbing from the savage angle that they had been yanked behind her quaking back.
She remembered the shards of awareness as time fragmented.
Time that slurred into nothing left but the knife at her throat.
Gleeful words, spilling like acid against her very soul, as she numbly listened, but never heard that she was going to be raped and left to die in this alleyway.
Groping fingers curled into her flesh, tightened, strangled.
She wept for mercy and received a punch to the jaw for her tears. And when she felt the hands ghosting over her shoulder and traveling downward, she bucked like an animal in a snare to break free. She only made it a few inches before the grip on her throat tightened.
God, don't let it end like this…please…
The prayer was heaved out from her clenched teeth as she was shoved to the bricks. She heard the dull thud of her own heart beat as she let out a long, wailing cry.
"Help! Please, somebody, help me!" Her shriek rose high and unheeded down the alleyway. One of them ground the words back into her throat with a fist splitting her lips against her teeth. Tears trickled, and she swallowed a mouthful of blood.
She heard the cackle behind her, bricks scraping her cheek as a hand clawed away at her shirt and ripped it off her shoulder. She was trembling and sick with terror when she heard one of her attackers whistle low in appreciation. She clamped her eyes and jaw shut. She didn't want the last thing she saw in this side of the sky to be her killers.
And, then, all hell broke loose. The fingers clawing at her shoulder, the body crushing her into the concrete, the sheer weight was suddenly gone. She could feel the brief spasm of fingers against her spine, his nails scratching her skin and then, nothing.
She heard one of them scream, the sound of a body being flung. Cracking her eyes open, she could only stare. A snarl, and a grunt, and a brush of wind. One of her attackers was tossed high, and landed hard down the alleyway, unseen in the dark. She could make nothing out of the man's state, other than he was bleeding and very still.
Rising on quaking elbows, she rolled herself over and flopped forward, limp and gasping. Whimpering, she scooted back the few feet she could crawl, cowering behind the flimsy refuge of the trash can. Peeking out, she could only watch in disbelief as her other attacker was mercilessly pounded into oblivion, by the short, hunched figure that was obscured by the trench coat.
"Ya think it's funny attackin' helpless girls, asshole?" A snarl, the crack of a fist and the man's pleading, rasped, reply.
"Ya like bein' a victim? Ain't so damn fun now, is it?" The figure slammed one more fist into the man's face, and ignored the choking and the fractured nose. April watched as her rescuer rose from his crouch, and spat, "Get your ass outta here,and take your party pal with ya."
The less wounded of the two staggered to his feet, and groped for his pal. Apparently, their retreat was not hasty enough, because the trench coat wearer sent the wounded man on his way with a kick. The one who was still able to walk hauled his friend to his feet, and they limped away like broken legged rats.
The trench coat wearer lowered his hands to his hips, and waited until they had vanished, swallowed back by the shadows, and the filth of the streets.
April heard his sigh, and watched as he slumped. When he heard her small sound of fear, he tilted his head sharply, and finally turned to face her.
She stared up at him.
"Thank you." She breathed out, uncertain if her rescuer was merciful or preparing to slit her throat.
The bewildered question was only answered by his snort, as he tilted the fedora to obscure his feature even more.
"Welcome." He answered, curtly.
She stared hard at the shadows that cloaked his face, but was only able to make out obsidian eyes, and a disturbingly wide mouth full of teeth. Briefly, she saw the light curve over the arc of his cheekbone, and reveal the emerald shade of his skin. Her eyes widened, and she shook her head, hard. Green skin? What the hell. It was Saturday night in New York, after all.
She watched, shocked at the three fingered hand that emerged from the sleeve of the trench coat.
"Do you have some sort of deformity?"
He stiffened at that, and only answered with a dark glare. She swallowed hard, and hastily apologized. "I'm sorry! That was a stupid remark!"
"Yeah. It was." He snarled.
He stooped low to gather the dagger that had been flung away in the fight. Raising it high, he carefully wiped off the dull gleam of blood before he twirled it into an arc of light before tucking it back unseen into the folds of his trench coat.
He tilted his head and peered down at her, apparently troubled by her sprawl over the trash can lid.
"Here." He whispered gruffly, as he held out a hand towards her. Bewildered, she stared at it for a second, before cautiously surrendering her own hand to his grip. Thick fingers engulfed her wrist and she yelped in surprise to find herself almost hauled off her feet. She tottered forward and would have toppled back to the concrete, were it not for his steadying arms. She felt herself carefully set down, and he did not let her go until she was standing.
"Ya hurt?" He asked gruffly, as he stepped away. He stared at her, worriedly, as she shook her head.
""N..No. I'm fine." She whispered, as she shut her eyes and shook herself. Opening them again, she seemed to collect herself a bit as she gave him a trembling smile.
"Are you alright? I mean…"
His smug and mirthless laughter died on his lips, but he didn't answer. His eyes swept over her, taking in the cloud of red hair, with tendrils of little curls spilling out from the ragged bun she had at the top of her head. Little gold hoops that swung from her ears, bright green eyes shining with tears, and lips smeared with the remains of her lipstick. Embarrassed, she cupped the tattered remains of her blouse to her shoulder.
"You saved me."
"Yeah, yeah. You're welcome." He whispered in dismissal, as he tilted the fedora back over his face.
"It ain't safe here. Ya need to get home."
April nodded, numbly, as she hastily stuffed the scattered items of credit card and keys back into her purse. Already, her rescuer was watching her impatiently, but, apparently, he wasn't leaving just yet.
"Are….are you an angel?"
The bitter chuckle emerged from a row of gleaming teeth, as he shook his head. Perversely amused and infinitely sad, he finally answered, "Not even close."
"Then, what are you?"
She heard nothing more than an exhaled breath, the scrape of skin and feet against concrete. The shadows must have moved, melted and merged under the unforgiving halo of the street lamp. Briefly she saw the flare of the trench coat, suddenly flaring out from the abrupt breeze that crawled through the alley way. She stared at his retreating form, and watched as the shadows undulated. It was insane, the angle of the light, the way that his coat flapped open, but dammed if he didn't look like he had wings.
And she shuddered, then slumped as the numbing wash of adrenaline ripples away like a retreating tide, and she shivered at how absolutely alone she felt.
Before this, she didn't believe in angels. And now, she's not so sure.