Raven

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CHAPTER 21 – Deadly Weapons

“Watch my back but give me fighting room.”

Only because Matti was scared to death did the absurdity escape her for a little old man like him to say such a thing.

And then he went on with, “You, too; don’t confine yourself where you don’t have room to swing that thing. Keep it moving and be aggressive. Don’t wait until they get close enough to grab at you. If they start to move in, make ’em believe it’s going to hurt.”

A squeaky, “Okay,” and a couple of wide-eyed nods were all she could manage.

She knew what Mickey and his crew were capable of, and she also knew that she and this old man didn’t have a prayer of fighting them off. But she was also determined to go down fighting. She was not going to hang from ceiling hooks while those degenerates peeled her skin off – at least, not while she was alive. She didn’t really care what they did to her body after she was dead. She did regret, though, dragging this old man into it. She had led them right to his house. Now he would die, too – while fighting, if he was lucky. She was sure Mickey wouldn’t hesitate to skin an old, white man as readily as a young, black girl.

“Well, will you get a look at this,” the first of the mob said as he came to a stop a good twenty feet from the cornered pair.

“Hey, a double header!”

“Yeah, but just remember, that bitch don’t mind hurtin’ a guy. She probably broke Mickey’s nose. Not to mention kickin’ his balls real good.”

“Yeah, wasn’t that somethin’? I damned near pissed my pants when she kicked his ass like that – right in the nuts. And after him askin’ her if she wanted to do it. Hell, he even leaned over for her!”

The rest of the horde streamed through the gate to join their cronies in baiting their prey, but they all held their distance.

“Hey, bitch, you wanna come over here and kick my ass? Here, I’ll give you a good shot.” One said as his buddies gave him a good round of ribbing and cheers when he turned around, dropped his pants to his knees and bent over. He was the one that had first grabbed her from behind in the other house; she could still feel the burn of his slap across her face.

“Yeah! Come on over here, and I’ll kick your ass for you.”

“When I get hold of your ass, bitch, I’m gonna do more than kick it.”

“No, stupid, you don’t do that in the ass. She’s got something else for that.” This got another round of bawdy laughter.

Matti held her rake with the head up and teeth pointed forward, standing with her knees flexed, ready to slash out at anyone within range.

Six feet to her left, the little old man held the hoe, but he didn’t look nearly as scared as she felt. Only because he doesn’t know what’s likely to be in store for us.

She looked him over, thinking maybe she should give him a couple of pointers. I doubt if he’s ever fought with a hoe against anything meaner than maybe a gopher. He sorta looks like he’s spent some time in his garden. I guess that’s why he thought of his tools. Defending his garden against gophers is probably the closest he’s ever been to a fight to the death. Boy, is he in for a shock.

The first one to move in was Chris. Along with Angie’s rope that he had wound up with, he carried what looked like a broken off table leg. He dropped the rope to the ground and swung the table leg over his head as he charged the old man.

The old man raised his hoe and met the descending club high over his head, diverting it to the side with what seemed an easy twist. He immediately brought the low end of the hoe, the one without steel, up between Chris’s legs hard enough to lift the younger man up on tiptoes. When he came back down, it was all the way to the ground where he rolled back and forth while clutching his injured pride.

Armed with nothing but a pair of muscular arms and a cocky attitude, the one that had flashed Matti ran at the old man. For his efforts, he received the blunt end of the hoe handle rammed into his solar plexus. He joined Chris rolling on the ground, desperately seeking his breath.

A third one swung a baseball bat with one hand, bringing it around from his side. The old man flipped the weighted end of the hoe around like a majorette’s baton, catching the bat on the upswing as it came around, flicking the bat harmlessly over his head. Then he dropped that same end with its honed steel edges in a slashing swipe across the side of the man’s neck. A brief, crimson geyser spurted out to the side, and the attacker dropped to the ground where he quivered for only a second or so.

The rest of them stopped, but the sudden silence lasted only moments.

“Son-of-a-bitch!”

“I ain’t –”

“Dju see that?”

“I’m not gonna –”

“I never –”

“I’m gonna –”

“Shit!”

Another one that apparently considered himself invincible charged. Matti remembered seeing his face looming over the top of the fence as he reported his findings to the others. He ran at the old man, but he stopped just before he got within what he must have considered to be the range of the hoe. He crouched menacingly as he reached down and picked up the bat. Suddenly, the blunt tip of the hoe handle speared in to the space between his eyebrows with a sharp crunch. He never moved after hitting the ground.

The old man straightened back up from the extended lunge that had increased his reach by a good three feet and reassumed his ready stance.

Matti was as stunned as the men attacking her and her amazing new ally. She had seen moves like those the old man had used, but not often, and always in martial arts competitions or demonstrations. And she was accomplished enough in fencing to know that those moves were not accidental or made up on the spur of the moment. They were fluid and deliberate, skillfully designed and well honed through many hours of practice over, perhaps, many years. They sure as hell weren’t designed to fight gophers. He wasn’t a hulking, giant of a man, but she suddenly felt like Robin Hood fighting the Sheriff of Nottingham’s men with Little John at her side.

“All right!” she yelled. Suddenly the rake in her hands was no longer an awkward tool for smoothing dirt in the garden, but a lethal combination of mace, war-club and halberd. Pumped up, now, with sudden confidence, Matti twirled her weapon a couple of times, caught it in another well-balanced grip, and called out, “Come on over here, big-man-with-the-dirty-ass. I’ll wipe it for you.”

With a red face, the flasher screamed, “You fuckin’ bitch! I’ll pull you apart like a fuckin’ wish-bone!”

He had crawled back to rejoin the others after catching his breath, although he continued to rub his bruised belly. But, at Matti’s words, he seemed to forget his encounter with the old man’s hoe. She had touched a nerve, it seemed.

“Take it easy, Hon,” the old man beside her said in a low voice. “Don’t want to make ’em so crazy they all come charging in at the same time. Might be hard to handle.”

Two did come charging in together.

The old man met the first with a wide swing of his blade that missed Chris’s face by mere inches. It seemed more than enough to convince Chris, who was only barely recovered from the blow to his testicles, to reconsider.

The flasher likewise came to an abrupt halt and ducked just in time to avoid Matti’s dozen, two-inch long steel teeth that whirred through the air above his head. Now hopeful of a future beyond the next few minutes, Matti maintained her balance and quickly brought her weapon back in to a ready, two-handed grip.

Chris apparently allowed his judgment to be influenced by his rage at the old man for smashing his nuts. His error was in resuming his charge at the old man. He caught the follow-up blow from the hoe in the notch of his crossed forearms as he had learned in army boot camp. However, all the training received there didn’t save him from the thrust of six inches of black steel that slid between his ribs, sliced open his heart, and back out again before he could even gasp. His eyes began to glaze even as he fell. The dagger disappeared back into a sheath at the old man’s belt and he again had both hands on the hoe.

Matti met the flasher’s second charge by hopping back, whipping the rake head around and bringing it up beneath the man’s protecting arms. Since, like James, all he wore above his waist was an unbuttoned black vest, there was nothing for the tines to get tangled in before they buried themselves in his belly, ripping open hide, fat, and intestines. His bellow echoed in the confining space of the back yard as he slowly sank to his knees and gaped in awe at the amount of blood and other matter spilling down his front.

“Back off, you idiots!”

The men confronting the old man and Matti turned and looked back as Mickey hobbled into the back yard from the gate. In one hand he held a cloth red with blood over his nose and the lower half of his face. He walked bowlegged and slowly, Matti observed with a satisfied grin.

“Can’t you see you’re all gonna die one by one the way you’re going?” Mickey stopped when he was no closer to Matti and the old man than the back of the mob that confronted them. As he glared at Matti, he said, “I don’t care what you do to him, but I want her.”

“Hey, you can have her.”

“Yeah, go ahead. Take her.”

“Dammit, Mickey, I told you to save some of those bullets.”

“Yeah, Mickey. It’d be a whole lot easier to just sit back and blow ’em away – if we had a gun that worked.”

“Yeah, yeah, okay.” Mickey took a couple of steps to the side where he could better view the entire scene with both sides of the conflict and the space between them. “Now, listen to me. Joey, pick up that bat. Angie and Nick, grab those hoses over there by the fence. Matt, d’ya see that old door back there on the ground by the garage? You and Mike haul it over here. It aughta make a pretty good shield.” He kicked one loop of the rope that Chris had dropped toward Danny.

Matti glanced over at the little old man to see if this organizing of their opponents under Mickey’s command worried him as much as it did her. When she saw the frown on his leather-like face, she felt even worse than before.

She followed his lead in slowly backing up.

“Okay, now, you guys just start moving forward together,” instructed Mickey. “Keep that door up in front of you, stupid. Angie, Nick, split up so one of you is on each end. Be ready to throw those hoses when I tell you. You, too, Danny. And don’t throw that rope in one big knot. Loosen it up so it tangles ’em like a net.”

As Matti paced him step for step, the old man continued to move slowly backwards until the tip of a tree branch brushed the side of his head and face, and he glanced up. The un-climbable fence was just a few feet behind them, and above them was a curtain of over-reaching limbs and branches from the huge tree beyond it. If they pulled back beneath those whip-like branches, their weapons would be all but useless. It was clear he realized his error by the way he spun to confirm the nearness of the fence. He started to take a step forward out from under the branches, but it was too late.

Mickey continued to direct the assault. “Stay close enough to each other so one of you can grab that hoe and rake from the side if they try to jab with ’em, but not too close. That’s it. Circle around on the ends so they got no place to go.”

Matti glanced over at the little old man and was dismayed to see him looking back at her with a look in his eyes that seemed to say, “I’m sorry.”

She looked back at the fierce determination on the faces that closed in on them, and she knew it was about over. “Don’t let ’em take you alive,” she said to him, her voice soft and sorrowful. “They’re animals – worse than animals.”

She vowed to herself that she would not be taken prisoner. She was pretty sure she could make Joey mad enough to kill her with the bat that he now carried in a double-handed grip cocked back over his shoulder. All she had to do was start in on how he also needed ass-wiping. If she made him really, really mad, maybe he’d even kill her with one blow.

Matti’s thoughts flashed back on her situation and how she had wound up here. All because I wanted more food. Why didn’t I just stay put? I still had plenty to last for several days. For me and Satan, both. Oh, Satan, Satan. Why didn’t I stay with you? Why wasn’t I satisfied to just stay there with you, just sit out there by the grave with you and think about better times? Now I’m gonna die.

Under Mickey’s direction, the mob began to move in, closing in on her and the old man to whom she had brought death.

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