Breathing heavily, I tried to ignore the burning sensation in my throat. My heart was about to pound out of my chest, but I pushed myself to go faster. My legs soared over muddy patches, following the twisting, winding trail. Without having to think, my feet found the best routes on the rocky path, sometimes bending around the rocks, sometimes using them as stepping stones. My legs screamed and my side jarred with pain, but I ran even faster, knowing everything counted on my speed.
Finally, I felt my phone vibrating. Slowing to a walk, I tugged my arm band off and pulled out my phone. Yes! I had beat my three mile record! Continuing to walk, my breathing seemed to echo off the trees. I felt my heart rate slowly fall back to normal as the aching subsided.
Now I could enjoy the view. Surrounding me was nothing but dense evergreen forest, with ferns and bushes filling every crook and cranny not taken up by trees. The myriad of different bird songs harmonized with quaking aspens blowing in the gentle breeze. I closed my eyes for a moment, enjoying the refreshing breeze on my sweaty skin. Nothing could accurately describe the feeling of being surrounded by infinite shades of green.
Several minutes later, I trotted down the last descent and into the open air of the main trail, which was more like a clearing than a forest. Evergreen trees and bushes framed the trail, and looking up I saw ice cream scoops of billowing clouds against the brilliant blue. I smiled and said “Good morning,” to the few other people I passed before leaning forward and marching up the final hill. Before I could reach the top, my right foot slipped on the gravel, sending my knee to the ground and pain shooting up my leg.
Biting my lip angrily, I looked up to see my head poked just above the top of the slope. A ball dropped in my stomach as I saw the end of the trail was swarmed with black cars and about a dozen people eagerly awaiting my arrival. How many other cars were scouting the nearby neighborhood?
Trying not to panic, I lowered myself back behind the hill and quickly ran through my options. If I tried to go back to the neighborhood through that main entrance, even if I tried to hide behind nearby trees, there was near guarantee that I would be heard or spotted. If I kept going on this main trail, it would eventually take me to another road, but I would likely be outrun. But do they know of the other entrances that loop around to here? Most likely not. I have a significant advantage over them: they’re in my territory, and I’ve been exploring every trail around here for years.
Knowing I would likely be spotted as soon as I started running, I bolted back the way I came, using the adrenaline now coursing through me. Sure enough, just a few seconds later, yelling erupted from the trail entrance. From the sound of the heavy footsteps against the gravel, I estimated there were about five men after me. Car engines started in the distance, as they would try to guess my destination. Good luck with that.
I could hear they were still a good distance away, but I didn’t dare slow down. Finally, the entrance to the side trails came into view. I twisted to the right and scrambled up the slope, grateful for the change from crunchy gravel to silent dirt. More yelling followed, but I kept going.
The largest mud patch too big to jump over was coming up fast, but I didn’t have time to carefully step around it. I ran straight through, ignoring the mud that splattered all over my shoes and yoga pants. I silently thanked nature for no rain the past week, as giant puddles would make this a lot harder.
As I dove deeper into the woods, I could tell the men were having a hard time keeping up on this terrain, based on the sounds of stumbling and swearing. They were still too close. I reached the spot where the trail splits in two directions, and took the right path, knowing there were more turn offs ahead. Comfortably out of sight, I suddenly heard their running stop. I stopped too, almost thrown off balance from my instant halt. They were probably listening for my footsteps to know which path to take. I could hear my heart pounding in my throat as I silenced my breathing, straining my ears to listen more intently.
I quietly began to walk forward, determined to keep my lead. The instant I heard running behind me, I broke out into a sprint again. By the sound of it, two or three men were still on the same trail as me.
Up and down the rocky slopes I went, twisting and turning with the narrow trail. Rocks, puddles, and roots were commonplace for my running now, and I had stopped caring about the blackberry branches and ferns that scrapped my ankles long ago. There was the upturned tree with its immensely sized bottom facing the trail. I followed the trail that curled around it, wondering if one of them would try the other trail that peeled off to the side.
Finally I reached the next turn off, turning right again and leaning back as it sloped downhill. My feet slipped on the loose dirt as I fell down to the earth. My backside felt a little bruised, but I didn’t care. I sprang forward, hoping the gap between my pursuers and I wasn’t too small. I felt sharp pains on my ankles as I tore through more branches, but I ignored it. Everything depended on staying ahead.
Skidding to the stop as I reached the creek, I reached up and hoisted myself onto the wide, perfectly safe log. I jogged across it and hopped down on the other side of the creek, daring to crouch down behind a thick tangle of trees and bushes to wait. For inexperienced onlookers, the trail on my side wasn’t obvious.
After about twenty seconds, a man in a black suit and sunglasses burst through the trees, stopping at the edge of the creek. Through the bushes I saw him slowly look around and touch his ear. “I’m at a dead end, she’s not here,” he said. His gruff voice was quiet but distinct over the rushing creek. He turned around and started walking back, leaving me wondering how long it would take him to find his way out.
I didn’t dare twitch for several minutes until I was sure he was gone, then I carefully stood up and followed the trail. I was walking now, but adrenaline kept me alert. When I came to the next fork, I stopped momentarily. If I took the left one, it would take me to the neighborhood next to mine, which means I’d be much more exposed. If I took the one on the right, it would connect to another trail on this side of the creek. More time protected by trees sounded much more appealing.
I felt better when the trail connected to the next one, meaning I was one step closer to home. Home! Do they know where my house is? Would I have to disappear again after years of living in my favorite home? Pushing that thought away, I focused on keeping my eyes and ears open.
About ten minutes passed before I reached the last fork in the trail. I turned left, now stepping very cautiously through the even narrower trail. I avoided snaps of twigs and rustling of bushes as I saw the light grow. Ducking down as the first house came into view, I crept forward until I was right at the edge. I could see the whole cul de sac behind the safety of the last trees, and I sighed in relief. No cars were waiting, no suspicious dog walkers, just a normal neighborhood.
Still nervous, I put one foot on the sidewalk. Nothing happened. My second foot joined the other. Still nothing, yet I knew this wasn’t over. There were probably cars crawling all over the neighborhood, looking for when I decided to show up.
I probably seemed like a drug dealer by the way I was constantly looking behind me as I walked. If I heard a car, even if it wasn’t after me, I jumped behind the nearest house, bush, or anything that could block me from view. It seemed like an eternity before I turned down my street, dreading the scene I would see there. To my surprise, everything was perfectly normal. Almost too normal.
Pushing my door open, the slight creaking seemed to echo off the walls. The moment it closed, three guns pointed straight at me. Another man walked out of my kitchen, no weapon drawn. Very annoyed, I looked only at him.
“You’re a hard woman to find, you know,” he calmly stated, straightening his glasses and strolling around the room.
“I like to keep it that way,” I casually responded, continuing to ignore the guns.
“Selina, or should I say, Catwoman?” Jim Gordon looked back at me, expecting a response. He got none. “Gotham may have forgotten about you years ago, but they will never forget what you’ve taken from them.”
I sighed, holding out my hands in front of me. As I was handcuffed, I gave no answer to the most pressing question on Jim’s mind: “Why did you kill Batman?”