Beth went completely limp, her short hair sweeping across her forehead. Emery screamed and flung herself at the officers. Fingernails, elbows, teeth -- she fought like a madman. But then two strong hands grasped her shoulders and held her at arms' length. She looked up into the angry face of Thompson.
"Don't care who you are, but if you assault an officer that is cause for punishment." He cocked his head at her. "Spend a night in my jail and you'll never try a stunt like this again."
"Let her go." Emery lowered her eyebrows, putting all the authority possible into her gaze as she met the officer's eyes.
He stared into Emery's face until Emery could feel her ears turning red. Then he grinned. "No."
Emery flung herself backward and lifted both feet, thrusting them against Thompson's stomach with all her might. Some sound between a grunt and a gasp erupted from his mouth, and his grip loosened just enough for Emery to wrench free.
Off-balance, Emery toppled to the ground. Instantly, she rolled to the side and scrambled to her feet. She heard the officers behind her and felt an furious hand brush her leg and miss its grasp. Emery's scream echoed through the air; and she tumbled, half-running and half-falling, toward the cool metal gate.
"What's going on out here?" a gardner's voice demanded, as the gate latched swung loose under Emery's hand and she dove into the Carlyle gardens.
"Catch her! Catch her! Stop her!" Thompson's voice shouted.
The officers poured through the gate behind her, and the gardner joined the officer's pursuit. Emery screamed again, running with all her might. Her lungs burned. Branches reached out and smacked her face, clawing down her arms as she tore through the shrubbery.
The mansion loomed ahead of her, glowing white in the moonlight. Emery pounded across the manicured lawn, with the sound of men's boots right behind her. Up the white-stone walk, onto the porch. She stumbled on the steps and almost fell.
"Gotcha!" a voice said, in her ear. Rough hands grabbed her, shoving her into the steps. Pain shot through her body and Emery felt all the air smacked out of her lungs.
Air rushed in again and Emery screamed, rolling to the side and trying to escape. Her hands hit the railing of the porch, and she wrapped her fingers around the slats as an officer tried to drag her away.
She screamed again and the officer swore. Light suddenly flooded the porch as the front door was opened. "What on earth?" A woman's voice. Cultured. Swimming with shock and disbelief.
"Not to worry, ma'am. Escaped criminal. You're quite safe. Please accept our apologies for disturbing you." Thompson's voice was barely recognizable through his winded wheezing.
Another hand touched Emery's shoulder, rolling her body to face up. It was the gardner. A wrinkled, sun-tanned face that looked vaguely familiar. His eyebrows puckered incredulously. "Clayton? Are you the Clayton girl?"
Blackness circled Emery's vision and suddenly all the voices sounded far away.