I’ve been thinking…Jackie’s motivations have become murky. I think her arc started out strong, but got weaker as I focused on plot. I’m reading a great bundle of writing advice by the incomparable Chuck Wendig right now, and I know he’d agree. What writing craft books are you reading? Care to share the titles in the comments?
To The Death
Once Jackie was over her initial shock, she heard the noise, too. It sounded like two people too wide for the cramped hallway trying to walk side by side. She swallowed down the fear that rose from her stomach to tighten around her throat. Had the Doe Mothers found her? Or was it Marty’s long hand reaching out to teach her a lesson?
Before she reached the door, it burst open. She ducked from the shards of painted wood that splintered into the room. A scream, and then everything was a blur of blunt force coming at her in swipes and strides.
Jackie dove left and cried out as she landed on her damaged wrist. Someone grabbed her by the back of her shirt, and she twisted and kicked to try and land a blow against her captor. Her foot connected with something soft, and then she fell hard to the floor and scrambled to get away even as it registered there was nowhere to go.
She heard Sharna screaming, and the sound increased her panic. Glass splintered behind her, and she finally got a clear look at her attacker. He was twice her height and size. An unshaven chin held a mouth tight and wet. His left ear was missing. This wasn’t a fight she had a chance of winning. He stood between her and the door hanging off the hinges.
Her mind jumped from option to option. How much pain could she take to get past him to the door? Once she was beyond him, he’d never catch her. What about Sharna? You can’t leave her behind. You’re responsible for her now.
Maybe they could go out the windows together? Maybe she could distract him long enough for Sharna to escape? Maybe he’d chase her and leave Sharna alone? Her face had given away her thoughts. Before she made a decision, the brute decided for her. He grabbed the screaming Mage and wrapped her up in his left arm and leered at Jackie.
So be it. A fight, then.
She bent her knees and ran at him. The only way to win against someone of his size was to get inside his reach. He grabbed for her with his right hand but she dropped to her hip and slid between his legs, hooked his left ankle with her good arm, and yanked as hard as she could. Sharna’s weight threw him off balance, and he stumbled, dropping the Mage.
“Run!” Jackie shouted.
Sharna didn’t hesitate. She skittered toward the door on one knee and foot, trying to get her balance. Jackie didn’t waste another moment to see if she’d keep going, but leaped onto the man’s back and clawed at his eyes.
He yelled and clamped his meaty hand around her damaged wrist. She screamed and kicked and dug her fingers deeper into his face. It came down to who could hold out longer against the pain. No mercy. She was fighting for her life. He wasn’t just doing a job, now. He was pissed, and it would be her death if she let go.
With a roar, he spun and crushed her between his body and the wall. She felt ribs crack at the impact. Her left arm was fire to the shoulder, but she kept it bent around his thick neck and squeezed his right ear in her sweaty fist.
Sharna was standing in the doorway. She wrenched at a piece of the shattered door, and ran hard at them both.
Jackie couldn’t breathe, but her attacker couldn’t see.
Sharna drove the sharp wedge deep into his gut. She stumbled back and fell hard on her ass. The thug roared and fell to hands and knees. He let go of Jackie’s wrist, and she slid off his back. There was a brief moment where no one moved. Everyone was gasping for air. Jackie realized she was whimpering and bit down on her lip to shut herself up.
“You, bitch.” He crawled forward and reached for Sharna’s ankle. She scrambled out of his way, and Jackie slid closer to the door on wobbly knees. He spat blood onto the floor, and both women flinched.
“Can you walk?” Jackie asked.
Sharna nodded and pushed herself upright. They both half-ran, half-fell into the hallway.
(I’ve got a new comparative book review coming soon. Stay tuned!)