According to Wikipedia, Jessie was five inches taller than the average american woman. She’d never put too much stock in that figure. It included grannies with osteoporosis, and 18-year-olds who weren’t quite done growing. Still, she did have at least 3 or 4 inches on most women her age, so she tended to shy away from heels. Suma could have worn stilts if she wanted, and men would still have been able to look down her shirt. But she was a little clumsy on a good day, and a total lightweight when she drank so she avoided high heels in the name of closing time stability. Jessie thanked a merciful creator for these facts as she ran since it kept the women free of the horror movie cliché of wobbling like fawns as they ran for their lives.
Not that it was likely to do much good. A low heel won’t trip you, but it will slow you down and a man who can jump a dozen feet straight up is probably pretty fast out of the blocks. Jessie mostly figured she wouldn’t have to feel stupid while she was feeling terrified. There’s always a silver lining if you keep your standards low enough.
The Enchanted let them run past him without doing anything. He swiveled his head to track them, but he didn’t so much as shift his weight otherwise.
The women cleared the alley, because it really was an alley, and Jessie was going to avoid all such shortcuts in the future, and hit the main street. The light there was much better. First, the bulbs in the streetlights were throwing something out much closer to the center of the visible spectrum. Second, there were more of them. And third, the buildings were far enough apart that moonlight was shining down from above.
Unfortunately, the street was empty. There was another rustle of too loose suit flapping in the wind as the man passed over them yet again. This time Jessie could see the top of his arch. He traced a long, flat trajectory about 12 feet up and landed 25 feet up the street leaning against a street light. How he landed in a casual leaning posture Jessie didn’t know. The spell must have been enhancing his balance.
“He’s following us!” Suma yelled.
Jessie didn’t have anything to say to that fairly obvious statement of fact so she just kept running, dragging the other woman along with her, even though it now carried them toward the Enchanted. With her free hand she fumbled through her purse for the can of knockout spray she kept there.
It was three more blocks to the bus stop, and they ran it. As they did so the Enchanted repeated his performance of leaping in front of them, waiting for them to pass, and then leaping again. It felt stupid to run toward the danger, and Jessie considered turning around, but he could clearly catch them whichever way they ran and at least the bus stop offered some safety. If there had been more time Jessie might have changed her strategy and tried to hide or duck into a building. Unfortunately, the buildings were all closed and the open street offered little in the way of hiding spots. That left the women conducting a very strange “retreat” but, when it came to fleeing for her life Jessie decided to accept an “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” approach.
The only thing that worried her was how much time they had until the bus arrived. If they were too early or too late it was going to be an uncomfortable wait. When they’d left, she’d expected to miss one bus then arrive in time for the next given the ground they had to cover. They’d lost a little time in the alley, but now they were making great time, so hopefully they’d arrive before the first bus. Though it might be ideal to arrive only just before the bus. Jessie didn’t fancy waiting at the stop.
Up ahead, the bus stop came into view. The small glass island looked like safety, and better still, there were several people waiting there. Then, while they still had a block and a half to run, the bus rounded the corner and pulled to a halt at the stop.
“Wait! Hold the bus!” Jessie yelled.
No one seemed to hear her. A thickly bundled gnome of a person was getting on. From this distance, with all their cloths, Jessie couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. She was a little surprised to see someone so apparently elderly out that late at night, but at least the person was slow. The women ran another half block. The Enchanted sprung ahead of them again. Was it glaring at them now, Jessie wondered getting a look at its face as she ran past.
“Hold the bus!” Jessie yelled as loudly as she could while out of breath. Suma joined her shouting something that was mostly incoherent. The old person had made it on, a woman quickly followed her, and the last passenger, a young man started to board.
“Hold the bus!” They were only half a block from the stop. This time their voices carried. The man looked over at them in a slow movement like he was half asleep. Then he started to turn back like maybe he wasn’t all that worried about a couple of women who were going to have to wait another few minutes for the next bus.
Fortunately, the Enchanted chose that moment to leap over their heads. It cleared half the distance to the bus stop in one bound and landed, crouched, in the middle of the street looking forward at where the man stood. He jerked upright. Looked at it. Looked back at Suma and Jessie, then leaned into the bus saying something that didn’t quite reach Jessie while gesturing in their direction. He also stood in the buss’s door so it didn’t pull away and the women had time to run the remaining distance to it and clamber aboard.
The doors closed behind them and Suma stopped, sagged into Jessie, and gasped hard for breath. “Is it out there?”
Jessie looked out the doors behind her. The street where the Enchanted had been standing was empty. She looked around, and the entire street seemed empty. She had no idea where it had gone, but no longer found herself surprised that it could reach one of the dark shadows so quickly.
“Yeah, it’s gone.”
Suma sagged a bit further. “I think I should have kept playing pool with that jerk. Let’s never do this again.