Teri shoved Morgan, Aiden, and Max behind the curtains. Backstage, the dust from the collapsed scaffold was still drifting down to the ground. Footsteps echoed through the auditorium. Peeking around the curtain, Teri saw two men in dark suits running up the aisles toward the stage.
As soon as they vaulted up onto the platform, Teri and the others headed for the side staircase in a crouch. They hit the steps and ran right into a third man in a suit. She’d seen him taking orders from Special Agent Taggert. He was FBI. He ripped his gun from his holster and leveled it at them.
His last word sounded thick and low pitched, like he was trying to speak in slow motion. Teri was scared, but her heart wasn’t beating fast. In fact, she could count the seconds between the smaller thump as her heart filled with blood and the larger one as it pumped it through her body.
Time slowed down to a stop, and then began to rewind. The FBI agent spoke in reverse, and then awkwardly stuffed his gun back in his holster. He jogged backwards away from them. Teri’s body had a mind of its own as it retraced her creeping steps back to the darkness of the curtains.
Time burst into regular motion again. The distant sounds of the agents running over the wooden stage jumped out of the murk and into clear focus. Teri reached forward and grabbed Aiden’s shirt, stopping him from moving onto the stairwell.
The four of them leaned into the shadows lining the curtains as they heard steps on the staircase. The third agent raced to join the two at the collapsed scaffold. Teri and the others were lost in the deep shadows. As soon as he passed them, Teri gave Aiden a shove to let him know he could start moving again.
Aiden led the way, moving up the auditorium along the wall. They ducked low and used the seats as cover. The FBI agents were searching the wreckage of the scaffold. They didn’t know what to make of it. Teri caught a few distant wisps of conversation. They didn’t know if it was an accident or caused by someone.
Their confusion gave the four students enough time to slip out the door. Teri had to sprint the last of the way from the seats through the double doors. As she rounded the corner, she risked a peek back. If the agents had seen them, they didn’t make any sign.
“Quick,” Morgan said, turning to Aiden. “We need to get to your car.”
Aiden was leaning against the wall with his eyes closed. When Morgan spoke, he seemed to realize it wasn’t over yet and his eyes snapped open. Teri and Morgan started to run to the door near the student parking lot.
“Slow down.” Max’s whisper was harsh and urgent. “We don’t want to draw attention. They might hear us.”
Teri walked as fast as she could. She was the shortest one of the group. Morgan and Max didn’t have trouble keeping up, and Aiden’s long legs meant he wasn’t even walking that fast. They rounded a couple corners before they heard footsteps in the hall from the direction of the auditorium. The glass doors to the parking lot were dead ahead. It was mostly empty and Teri could see Aiden’s car sitting by itself.
They almost there when Dr. Fiedler rounded a corner with his trademark white lab coat and a clipboard in hand. He was smiling. Even before she’d seen him talking with Special Agent Taggert, Teri knew that her chemistry teacher smiling was not a good thing.