We entered the kitchen cautiously but found it quiet and empty. Three well-oiled money counters sat empty upon the cheap table. The counters and sink were covered in dishes. The cabinets were all closed, some missing handles. I didn’t care for the smell. From the back room I heard a round of laughter from the three guys echoed by tinny laughter from the studio audience on SNL.
“She must have gone upstairs,” the Pixie whispered, “unless she’s back there with them. What do you think?”
I shrugged, surprised at being consulted.
“I’ll go in full force and take down whoever gets up the fastest. You cover the rest.” She could hardly disagree with that plan. I crouched and edged along the wall toward the back room, the Pixie nearly crawling behind me.
I passed the empty staircase, and then I could see them between the bars of the wooden banister. Three guys, all from the market square shooting. The baby-faced scarecrow and the rugged runty bruiser who’d been at the bridge and a third guy who looked a little more clean cut and better fed and all around more dangerous. I held three fingers behind my back to let the Pixie know it was just the three of them. And then I waited.
The sketch on-screen progressed to a punch line and the studio audience exploded, surround speakers flooding the room with sound. The guys on the couch guffawed heartily, leaning forward with their eyes glued to the widescreen.
I stepped out of my crocs and stalked silently over the shag carpet barefoot, moving swiftly to beat the ebb of laughter. I reached the back of the plush leather couch and grabbed baby-face by his long hair and runty by the collar of his army-surplus jacket and smashed their head together three times as hard as I could, like a mad ape opening coconuts. They fell in a heap in front of the couch with a leathery whisper.
The blond guy with the crew cut leaped up and away from me, fumbling in his long khakis pants. He was swearing and shouting but I didn’t make out many of the words. I was too busy getting the baby-faced guy’s hair out from under my fingernails. I moved around the couch as the tough guy drew a balisong blade and flicked it open with practiced ease.
“You think that’s the good idea?” I asked as I stepped within striking distance. The guy was about my size but more muscular and looked like he knew how to handle himself, but I had the Pixie at my back.
His gaze wavered over my shoulder and then he attacked with a long low lunge meant to slice out my innards.
I pivoted off his center line and elbowed him in the face at the same time as my left hand grabbed his right wrist. My right hand joined it and I shouldered him back to the wall and aimed the lethal blade at his thigh with my two-on one hand control. It was the same movement I’d used with the shotgun. Self defense boils down to some pretty basic concepts; don’t get shot, don’t get stabbed, are among them.
The muscle guy tried to beat me one-armed for a moment while trying to backhand me in the face but gave up and tried to switch the knife to his other hand.
I swatted the balisong at its midpoint and it skittered away across the floor. I brought the same hand back and elbowed the guy in the solar plexus. He doubled over and I caught his neck in a crushing guillotine and pressed him against the wall leaving no escape. I watched his hands fumble for his pockets. They went limp before they got there. I held the choke a few extra seconds and then dropped the unconscious man on the floor and turned to see what the Pixie had been up to.
She twirled the butterfly knife thoughtfully as she stepped daintily around the couch and kicked the stirring runty guy at the base of the skull. He must have had a harder head than baby-face, but he went to sleep swiftly enough.
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