Willow knew Marcy was right, going to the movies had been a very good idea, but she was very stubborn in not admitting that fact. She wasn’t doing her usual hop, skip, and jump down the stairs routine to help disguise the fact that she thought this was a good idea, but she knew she was grinning like someone had just given her a million dollar. No matter what she still claimed it was a bad idea. But—Willow did love the movies.
Willow was still thinking on that when she ran smack into Joey’s back. They were right at the mouth of the one of the hallways of theatres that headed towards the lobby. One look at Joey’s face told Willow that something was wrong, very wrong. “It’s just a gut feeling,” Joey said as an answer to a question that Willow hadn’t vocalized yet.
“I trust your gut feelings.” Willow gave as an answer. She could feel the little click in the back of her brain that meant she was switching into what she only half-jokingly referred to as ‘Agent Mode.’ “Plan and strategy?”
Joey tried to remain casual as he gave his orders. “That group is giving me the willies.” Willow looked just past Joey’s shoulder and saw a group of three men, probably in their late twenties, all wearing black. “We’re going to keep in a group as we walk by them, but attach yourself to Marcy. If anything funky happens, I want you to take Marcy and go. Do not look back, do not stop. We will track you through your charm. Acknowledged?”
“Acknowledged.” Willow casually shifted her position in the group so that she was walking next to Marcy.
Willow had never before hoped that Joey’s gut feeling was wrong. He hadn’t messed up in over a thousand years, but if went ahead and messed up now, Willow would be perfectly okay with that.
Of course they weren’t that lucky. As the Ixi group drew up even with the suspicious men, the men all turned to look at them, spreading out just a little as if they would try to trap the Ixi group..
The tallest of the group spoke, soft enough that no one was likely to overhear, but forcefully enough that showed they meant business. “Ixi Agents. Turn over the User, and no one needs to get hurt.”
Joey’s voice was calm and level when he spoke. He made no indication of who he was talking or even that he was giving orders. He simply said “Now.”
Willow grabbed Marcy roughly by the upper arm and took off. Thankfully, Marcy took the cue easily and set off in a sprint alongside Willow. They burst out of the lobby of the theater and cut across the little courtyard area, and ran straight into the open door of the mall. “Follow my lead.” Willow called, and Marcy did exactly that.
Willow weaved in and out of the most crowded stores in the mall, having special preference for stores with more than one exit. They moved through mall for the better part of half an hour, but the men were never out of their eye sight.
Then something occurred to Willow. Something that Marcy had said while trying to convince them to go to the movies in the first place. These people, the big bad, whoever they were exactly, didn’t know who was who. They were probably smart enough to figure out that when they bolted, one of them was the User, and the other was her protector, but which was which?
And that’s when Willow decided to go for the Hail Mary. Willow grabbed Marcy’s arm again, and dipped into the women’s restroom, which was gracefully empty. They ducked into the handicapped stall at the end of the row. Willow ripped her agent charm up over her head, and shoved it roughly down over Marcy’s neck.
“What are you doing?” Marcy asked in a hurried whisper.
“I’m sorry,” Willow said back as they heard the main door to the bathroom swing open, and only a little while after that, the stall door swung open. A rather large man came forward, grabbed the chain around Marcy’s neck, and threw her back against the tiled wall so hard that she crumbled to the floor.
The last thing that Willow remembered was trying to make sure that Marcy wasn’t bleeding before someone cracked her over the head and she lost consciousness.