I thought: Snake.
I bent at the knees. I twisted to my right, bringing my left hand down to intercept his. My palm came down on his wrist, altering the course of the knife from my belly to the ground. As his arm went down, so did the rest of him. His head dropped a full ten inches. I saw the O of shock morph into a tight-lipped grimace of pain and uncertainty.
My right hand had dropped to my side. Now I brought it up, quick and hard, and the taut stretch of flesh between my thumb and forefinger ripped into his neck. It struck the frail protrusion of his Adam’s apple, fracturing it. There a fast, high cry, like a cat when you step on its tail. I pulled my right hand away from his throat and brought the side of my left hand down on the back of his head where the spine meets brain. He offered an oafish grunt and then went down, face-first onto the curb between the sidewalk and the street.
I drew back and thought: Horse. I wheeled to my right where the first of the men was rolled into a tight ball on the sidewalk, his arms drawn in against his midsection, the lower part of his face a smear of dark blood.
I spun to my left where the second of them lay on his back unconscious, the center of his face a clot of blood as thick as stew. The bandana had fallen off his head and was stretched across the pavement like a slug that was trying to crawl away.
I spun back toward Squash-Nose, who was down with his arms spread out at his sides as if in surrender. His bandana had stayed put. Good for him.
The spell broke. My legs straightened and I stood, limbs buzzing with adrenaline. Insanely, I found that I was humming softly, down deep in my throat. Sympathy for the Devil, I believe it was. The part where Mick Jagger really gets grooving and bragging about how he’d laid traps for troubadours who get killed before they reach Bombay.
I shook my head, literally trying to shake the music out of my brain. I turned toward the street where Julie was cowering, backing away with her hands over her mouth. Her hair was wet with the rain that had started to fall. Her eyes were wide and thin streams of eyeliner were rolling down her cheeks like Alice Cooper tears.
I went to her, getting an arm around her waist and walking her down the street, toward the parking garage. She was stiff under my arm, moaning softly as we moved as quickly as we could.
When we reached the cave-like entrance to the garage, she softened. Her body seemed to go limp and she fell into me, reaching out blindly for balance. I caught her in both arms and helped her stand again.
“Oh, my God!” she said. “Oh. My. God.”
And that was all for the time.
We hurried through the garage and climbed to the second level. I held her with one arm, needing the other to operate the key so I could let her into the Ranger. When she was in, I closed the door and ran around the other side to climb in behind the wheel.
Julie was staring out the window into the dark and gloomy lot. The other cars and trucks parked there somehow looked depressed, like animals left out in the cold.
I started the car and fiddled with the heater levers.
“What just happened?” Julie said, still staring out into the gloom. “What the hell just happened back there?”
I didn’t know how to answer that, so I said: “We’re okay. I’m going to drive us back to Myrtle, all right?”
She grunted something and leaned back against the seat. I backed out of the space and drove through the cavernous lot until I was at ground level. I wished I could think of something reassuring to say to her. Something more helpful. It was going to be a long ride home, full of awkwardness and clumsy attempts to explain by yours truly.
But I was wrong about that. When I got to the exit, it was jammed with cop cars. There were three of them that I could see and more were on the way.
Julie and I weren’t going anywhere.
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Genre – YA / Thriller
Rating – PG
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