Onus Angelorum

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Not That it Matters - Henry

Cold air from inside the building blew past my face as I entered the gym. Acrid notes of fresh paint and disinfectant mixed with dust from the weak furnace and came to rest in the back of my throat.

Gary was an old client of my father’s legal practice. The fact he owned a business in the town I moved to was a happy coincidence. The gym focused on personal safety, strength training, and recovery. Two of his instructors were prior military. Both lost limbs in the course of their service, but they reshaped their lives. They didn’t show me any pity.

There was a room for massage treatments at the far back of the rectangle studio. It’s strictly legit, no happy endings here. The woman who rented the space will hurt you. I came out on the other side of a session with her feeling lucky to be alive and with far less shoulder pain. I visited her for a tune-up every few months.

I asked my father what Gary did to need his professional services. All he would tell me was that Gary was a good man who could help me in ways he couldn’t. Not that it mattered what my father thought, but he had genuine respect for Gary— something my father didn’t bestow lightly, regardless of a person’s station in life.

Confidence was all I was looking for initially, maybe core balance and some muscle tone. My living would be earned behind a desk, pushing papers and keeping track of other people’s money. I didn’t have any romantic notions of gaining superhuman senses, allowing me to overpower an attacker hell-bent on hurting me. Hopefully, I would at least have a chance to defend myself with Gary’s help.

“This woman who walked you to the door. Do you know her?” Gary asked. There was no discernible focus to his question, and the words circus freak started to roll in my mind again.

“Yeah, I’ve been helping her with her math classes for the past few semesters. Biology major.”

“She is a call girl?” Gary questioned in a low voice.

“Pfft, no. I seriously doubt it. Al’s from Upstate New York, a normal family. No money problems I know of anyway, but she doesn’t seem like the type to gravitate toward that lifestyle even if she did.” I hung my coat on the rack by the entry door.

“Girl would have all the money she could ever want—if she gravitated.” Gary pondered. I could smell his cologned air move beside me as he walked farther into the room. “Keep your shoes on, Master Henry. We will start with a street scenario tonight.”

“Pretty girl, in your opinion?” I wanted to put my suspicions to rest. “I heard a few people react to her tonight. She must have looked nice or stood out in some way.”

“Clean, classically beautiful, light golden skin, but too much makeup for my tastes, and her hair was up. Now, hair down and less crap on her face, yes, a stunning girl. Not frail or thin, but not chubby either. Very balanced, strong American body type. Very nice looking, yes.”

Deep in thought over Gary’s description of Al, a hairy arm wrapped around my neck. The smell was warm, cigar smoke, and cheap cologne. The person was a few inches taller than me and thick around the middle. I struggled against the strong arm and felt a wooden knife extending from the other hand. I assumed I was wrestling with a flabby but strong older man with a lack of boobs pressing on my back and the furry finger hair.

It was a scenario I practiced with Gary many times, but now I was fighting against an unknown man in my street clothes. I grabbed the wrist of the hand with the knife. The man tightened his grip around my neck.

“Is he wearing pads? “I grunted out at the room.

“Could be, could not be. Focus!” Gary clapped his hands together and stomped on the floor.

The man moved backward, pulling me with him. A tingle of fear ran down my spine. I planted my feet, making him work to drag me across the floor. His grip loosened as he struggled to manage my weight. I shoved my elbow under his ribcage and pushed all my weight against the wooden knife. I heard the heavy object hit the mat-covered floor.

“Good now, where is the attacker Henry? Where is his weapon? Where’s your exit?” Gary yelled his questions excitedly.

“Front right,” I panted. “The weapon is on the ground. “I took a deep breath, expecting to be jumped again.

A large hand slid in my pocket and grabbed my wallet. I turned and forced out my palm, connecting with a hard chin and wet fleshy mouth.

There was a click of a handgun below my chest.

I put my hands in the air. “Take it, mother-fucker,” I yelled into the room.

There was breathy panting in my ear, and I felt my wallet fall back into my pocket. “Not bad, kid. You know when to stop.” The man’s voice was new to me.

“With a gun, it’s over,” I explained. “Everything in my wallet is replaceable. There isn’t much on me worth taking besides my cash, but none of it is worth my life.” I repeated most of what Gary drilled into my brain over the last few months.

“I’ve seen what I need to see, name’s Mike. I’ll be happy to start your weapons training.” Mike grabbed my hand and shook it firmly.

“You may not have noticed, Mike, but I can’t see to use a weapon.” Catching my breath, I reconsidered the high-salt lunch I ate.

“Hmm, just ’cause you can’t see a gun doesn’t mean somebody won’t shoot you with one.” Mike chuckled and ripped a piece of Velcro apart near floor-level. “What do you see in your mind’s eye, Henry?”

“Velcro, big thick piece of it. I smell metal, raw, maybe unpainted, and you put your weight on your left side. There’s something wrong with your right leg, a calf or knee injury. You have it wrapped.”

“Hell, you’re right. It’s my knee, and the information was gained from a single sound because you know what Velcro is, and you know what it’s like to live with pain. I can teach you the same with weapons. You’ll know their sound, feel, and smell. Once you know all that, you will easily navigate a world full of guns.”

“Sounds intriguing, Mike. We should start soon.” I turned toward the front of the room. “Shall I change clothes?”

“Yep, yep, let’s work some of the home cooking off your gut tonight. That last woman of yours was trying to feed you to death.” Gary laughed, but he was right. The fat pouch on my gut was big enough to tighten the buttons on my dress shirts. “I don’t think the pretty new one you have can cook.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t have her yet, Gary.”

“Ahh, so you are saying there’s hope for me still. You have her number. Leave it on my desk on your way out tonight, fat boy.” Gary smacked me on the stomach repeatedly. Everyone in earshot enjoyed a good laugh, but he was making a valid point. Move it or lose it.

My sessions always end with weight training and some core balance work. I found the hallway and followed the wall to the small locker room. I could do almost anything I wanted. I just needed to work harder at getting it than the average guy.

Mike’s interesting point and a hands-on approach appealed to me. He didn’t seem to be afraid to work with me because I couldn’t see. I would try to learn all I could from him.

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