Having exited the Stockwell Tube Station to the south of the city core, he had stormed towards his home, feet shuffling one in front of the other, counting his treads like an anger management student counting to ten, yet his seven hundred and sixty-two step jaunt from the subway to his apartment had done very little to cool his demeanor.
He had picked up the bottle of Scotch from a local shop in hopes it would calm his frayed nerves. He deducted the forty-seven steps to get in, line up and purchase it from his primary count.
He would have hit his local pub for some bangers and mash, followed by a cool lager, but tonight, he felt his mood was not befitting company.
He chugged the first glass of the sour amber liquid in one mouthful. It burned going down. He wasn’t worried about getting drunk. His tolerance was deep and his control was stronger.
His apartment was a small five room property which consisted of a kitchen, bathroom, living room, bedroom and office, more than most single residents in London had. His home was modestly decorated with antiques, books and Victorian furniture from the turn of the century, all immaculately cleaned and polished, thanks to a weekly visit by his maid.
He started to relax as the strong high quality booze settled in his veins. The buzz came and went quickly. He had imagined today going differently. He was both surprised at the interest in the eight pages, but moreover, the arrival of Doctors Lattimer and Swift from South America.
Upon meeting them, he felt guilty at having pulled the pages from the auction. He actually liked them. They seemed so genuine and honest, even if constantly at odds with one another. It had been a very long time since he had met two people that amused him as easily as they did.
He ran his hand over the edges of his briefcase which held the pages at the side of his chair.
‘Safe and sound.’
’If Doctor Swift calls…’ he thought, he may even offer her another chance at the pages. ‘Maybe even.’ He sighed.
Doctor Swift was an extremely attractive woman.
That and he was an old man. Whatever interest she would have for him at best would be friendship.
But as he weighed it out, having a friend such as her was well worth it.
And Doctor Lattimer of course, as he seemed to come part and parcel with Doctor Swift.
He did admit to himself, they appeared genuinely shocked at the barbarian’s intervention.
He leaned back in his chair, readying himself for a drink, when a cool draft blew across the back of his neck, his hairs rising, like he left a window open.
Before he could turn to look, he felt a wooden object, flat and solid, barrel into the back of his scalp and lower neck, like a baseball bat going for a homerun, his brain feeling like it was lit on fire, sending Carlos flying from his chair, his half-filled Scotch glass skittering into the hallway of his apartment, and him, face first into his wall. He saw stars for several seconds, but quickly regaining his equilibrium, he turned around.
This was followed by a second blow across his forehead.
They hit so hard, the room seemed to spin around him.
Carlos got up into a crawling position before he heard the first intruder speaking.
“He’s still awake. Tough old bugger.”
Carlos looked up from the floor; his one hand behind his head, holding it like he feared it would fall off and observed two intruders having entered via his patio door.
There were two men, both dressed from head to toe in black matching pants, shirt and leather gloves. Both sported ski masks with only their beady eyes and mouth being exposed. They could be twins as they were of equal size, that being gigantic.
They were six foot tall with heavy triangular upper torsos, short arms which hung off the shoulders, unable to fall straight down due to extreme nature of their wide shoulders and what seemed like tree stumps for legs.
Carlos counted himself lucky his head hadn’t come off.
The first intruder leaned forward, asking directly. “Where are the journal pages old man?!”
Carlos should have known. ‘The thugs from the auction.’
Carlos replied. “I stopped for some fish and chips on the way home. They ran out of paper to put the fries in. Luckily I had the eight pages.” He grinned. “Once I was full, I tossed them in the trash. Just a few blocks back. You can probably still find them, assuming you don’t mind the mushy peas.”
The first intruder kicked Carlos hard across the jaw.
Had his head been a football, Carlos thought, ’Field goal.’
Carlos felt his whole body pivot as he was launched from the floor into the wall of his home for a second time. Books tumbled off shelves and a small glass model ship shattered on his hardwood floor. He held his head and neck with fiery burning shooting through his back and spine. He was in pain, but he had had enough.
Carlos jumped up and catapulted his body forward into the first intruder, sending both him and his attacker over the dining room table, through a clay handcrafted centerpiece and busting two chairs behind it.
The second intruder was dumbfounded, standing at ready. “Wow. A lot of juice for an old guy.”
Shocked or not, the second intruder took action. In seconds, he was around the table, grabbing Carlos from behind and pinning his arms behind his back, leaving Carlos’ chest and stomach exposed.
The first intruder rose, fury in his eyes and cracking the knuckles in his fist. He pulled back and sent a gut wrenching fist into Carlos’ abdomen.
Carlos let out a gasp of air, thinking this is what a building must feel like when hit by a wrecking ball.
For what felt like an eternity, likely no more than ten seconds, the first intruder punched away furiously into Carlos’ chest, switching hands, him feeling like a leather boxing bag for match preparation before the big challenge, until they let him go and he sagged to the floor in a heap, instinctively curling into a fetal position.
The second intruder laughed. “Maybe he is one of those SAS guys. You know the British version of the Navy Seals. They can always take a good beating.”
“Seems that way.” The first intruder leveled another hard punch into Carlos from a standing position. This was followed by a second right swing across Carlos jaw.
Carlos swallowed hard with the impact, nearly choking on his own blood.
The second intruder snapped. “Careful. We need him alive. Father will be pissed if he dies before we found the pages.”
Carlos tried to ignore the pain flooding through his body.
The first intruder bent down and lifted Carlos from the floor with the ease of a ragdoll.
Before Carlos could be asked any more questions, the second intruder pointed to the end of the couch to the sealed briefcase and shouted. “That’s what he stuffed them in at the auction house.” He moved over to it and picked it up. He tore open the flap and declared. “Bingo.”
The second intruder pulled out the plastic case and the eight pages inside. “We got’em.”
The first intruder with a double handed throw tossed Carlos, across the foyer and back first into his apartment front door. It broke from the frame, splitting the door in half and sending him into the hallway with a body crushing slam.
Carlos lay on his side, face bleeding and trying to catch his breath.
The first intruder moved forward to finish what he started, yelling to the second. “You promised. It’s my turn now.”
The second intruder acquiesced. “I did. Kill him and let’s be on our way.”
The first intruder flexed his muscles and started toward Carlos.
Carlos had rolled up and into a seated position in the hall, his chest was heaving deeply at the exertion. His eyes were hazed by blood and he was trying to regain his breath. He knew he was unable to put up much of a defense. His eyes lowered. ‘I guess this is it.’
As the first intruder bent forward, hands in front of him, a big malicious smile on his face to level the killing blow, he found himself shocked to get a front Tae Kwon Do kick, directly under his chin and into his nose, sending him flying back into the apartment.
Carlos heard the crack of foot to face connection and looked up from his position, refocusing his blurry eyes to see Doctor Swift retracting her leg.
He then saw Doctor Lattimer coming in and around her.
“Remind me not to piss you off.” Hayden stated as he stepped into the apartment first. He turned to Carlos. “Top of the morning to you. Hope you don’t mind if we crash your party.”
Danica followed suit with a smile and a wave. “Morning Carlos. Don’t mind us. Appears something ugly followed you home. But I’m sure we can rid you of it.”
Carlos found himself speechless at their unexpected and welcome arrival. He simply nodded his acceptance at their offer as they both entered his flat.
‘Glad I paid my property insurance.’ Carlos thought, as it appeared his apartment was about to become a battle zone.