I studied the scene, hands on hips, trying to figure out a solution. The Hobo lay in front of me, the body of his victim a little to one side, and here I stood, staring down at the both of them. I thought about dragging the Hobo out into the open and screaming for help, but he was way too heavy for me. Same with the body. The only real option was to scamper away as quick as my little feet could carry me, go fetch help, and then get back before the Hobo woke up.
So I scampered, splashing and sloshing through the water as I went back the way I’d come. My head hurt from where I’d butted him, and I knew for sure that I’d have a black eye where he grabbed me. But I could deal with those concerns later.
I passed by the skunk once more, and this time it’s outstretched paw seemed strangely encouraging, as if it were waving me onwards. I decided then that once this was over, I’d bury the skunk in my backyard and even give him a little gravestone. My parents would just have to understand.
Rocketing out of the tunnel, back into the culvert, I was hit by a solid sheet of rain. Apparently the weather had taken a drastic turn for the worse in my absence. I patted my head in panic, thinking I’d lost the Snoopy Cap in the fight. It was still there, something that encouraged me at least a little.
As to my poor text books on the other hand, they lay back in the tunnel where I’d dropped them, probably soaked beyond repair. With a brief sniffle at their loss, I pulled my dripping cap tight around my head and carried on, heading for a little service ladder that carried me up to street level.
Climbing it quickly, I found myself right back where I’d started, standing on the rain-strewn street that overlooked the culvert, alone except for the wind and rain. A dilapidated old building stood to one side, probably some kind of warehouse, and a scroungy-looking apartment complex stood on the other. I headed for the apartments.
The main door was cracked open so I sidled in, finding that it led me to some kind of a reception area where you could check in if you were a visitor. Three hallways connected to it, one directly ahead of me and one on each side. I took the one on the left, just looking for some random door to knock on in hopes that its occupant owned a phone.
I was maybe halfway down the hall, when I heard the door I’d entered through slam open, followed by heavy footsteps. I whipped around in horror, looking back down the way I’d come to see the Hobo charging towards me. Apparently I hadn’t done quite as thorough a job as I’d thought. Either that or he was simply unbelievably durable.
So I ran, hurtling down the hall, taking a right, running some more, and throwing myself at the nearest door in hopes that I could barricade myself in the room until help arrived. Naturally, the door was locked and I rebounded off the door and found myself flat on my back.
I got quickly to my feet, winced at the pain, and felt distinctly embarrassed. Then I continued running, not bothering to look behind me. I knew the Hobo would be right there.
A door opened ahead of me and a sleepy-looking, middle aged man peered out, curious what all the hubbub was about. I rammed into him, shoving him back into his room and pulling the door shut behind me. I thanked God it had a deadbolt lock on the other side and slid it shut, leaning against the door and praying. The entire doorframe shook a moment later, but held firm. I was safe.
The stunned man whose home I had so rudely invaded was getting to his feet, eyeing me more with confusion than fear. Fear is the normal response when someone bursts into your house and knocks you to the ground, but when that someone is a small, unarmed girl in a Snoopy Cap, question marks will inevitably abound.
“Who the Hell are you!?” he blurted out, looking me up and down.
“Do you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior?” I asked hurriedly.
The perplexed look on his face grew, but I ignored it and continued.
“Because if you don’t call the police right now this minute, you’re going to need a savior!”
As if to emphasize my statement, the door shook again as the Hobo tried to force his way in. And again, and again, and again, as he threw himself against it with much more effectiveness than I had displayed in my own meager attempt.
“What’s going on?” he asked worriedly, fear finally starting to color his face.
“PHONE!” I shouted somewhat less than coherently, setting off to search the room for one. The apartment consisted of only this one room and a tiny bathroom. There was no phone.
I turned back to the man to finally see him clueing in, fumbling in his pocket and pulling out a cellphone. He held it out to me as if it were a magic talisman to ward off all evil. I snatched it from his hand, jabbing roughly at the buttons nine, one, and one.
The door shook again, and the sound of splintering wood filled the room. Not much longer now. An operator picked up the phone on the other end.
“This is 911, what’s your emergency?”
“Hi, I’m Nil. I’m stuck in some guy’s apartment with a hobo I strangled trying to break the door down. Can you come arrest him? He murdered a guy and left the body in a tunnel thing.”
There was a brief silence on the other end. Happily, it was filled by the sound of a door breaking as the deadbolt ripped out of the surrounding wood.
“Ma’am, this number is reserved for emergency calls only. If you’d like-“
The apartment owner cut her off by grabbing the phone from my hand and screaming into it that someone was breaking the door down. Then he screamed something about a crazy girl but I snatched the phone back before he could finish.
The other door hinge burst off and the Hobo flung what was left aside as he made his way in. He was holding his knife. He’d apparently had the presence of mind to grab it before coming after me.
“Hi, this is Nil again,” I said into the phone, speaking in a calm and measured voice. “As the guy just said, someone is breaking the door down. Actually, his information is now a little out of date. The door has in fact been broken down, and there’s an angry murderer approaching. If it’s not too much trouble, could you send someone to help?”
“Ma’am,” the voice began. I could hear that a note of concern had entered the operator’s voice. Unfortunately I didn’t get to hear what was said after that, since the Hobo charged and I was forced to fling the phone in his face (Try saying that three times fast).
He swatted it out of the air and came at me, hands out and fingers curled, ready to grab my throat. I let out a sound best described as ‘eep’ and dived sideways, rolling as I hit the ground and coming to a stop up against an old roll top desk.
I wriggled under it, worm-like, hoping somehow that he would fail to notice me in my clever hiding spot. The Hobo just roared, reaching down and flipping over the whole desk, leaving me exposed and with nowhere to hide.
I looked up at him as he loomed over me. I waved and gave him my brightest smile.
“You know I’m sure we can still be friends. We don’t have to do the whole fight thing again.”
He growled incoherently and grabbed me, hauling me upwards till we were face to face. Figuring it had worked once already, I head-butted him in the face with all the strength I could muster. Fortunately for me, it was just as he was opening his mouth to utter some unimaginative obscenity at me. My Snoopy Cap prevented the impression of his teeth from forever being imprinted into my head, but it fortunately did not prevent those very same teeth from being knocked loose.
He screamed, dropped me, and reeled backwards. I took the opportunity to scramble to my feet, grab the desk chair and shove it into him, knocking his feet out from under him. Then I turned to run, finding to my surprise that the man whose home I’d invaded was still here, standing his ground. He’d managed to grab a heavy lamp from somewhere, which he promptly brought down on the Hobo’s head, just as the monster started to get to his feet.
The Hobo fell once more, this time with a very final sort of thud. Either unconscious or dead, I couldn’t be sure. I stared in shock for a moment at this unexpected bravery, and then extended my hand in an expectant high-five.
“Sweet!” I shouted cheerfully. “Put her there, fella. Well done!”
He just stared at me for a moment, still holding the lamp. My high-five was still waiting. Then he swung it at me too, hitting me hard in the side of the head. Everything faded into blackness, and I was out before I even hit the floor.