I didn’t. I couldn’t sleep like this. I still felt awake.
The first snow had begun falling. I could feel it settling in my hair and see it dusting the ground. It wasn’t likely to stay that clean white for long.
I was following a gang member. I’d spotted him walking with more of a purpose than the meandering patrols and decided to see where he would lead me before doing anything.
He met up with three others with the marks over their eyebrow outside a rundown flat. I had no idea what they were doing but they were up to something. Two of them were holding weapons, one a baseball bat the other a stout wooden stick. They were having a discussion, but I was too far away to make out any of their words.
After a few minutes they turned as a group and walked through the door of the flat.
I watched, in two minds what to do. I had no idea what was in there – for all I knew they had a load of friends. It could be a kind of base of operations or something? It would be a valuable target. If I was looking for a valuable target that is.
I made up my mind when I heard the sound of crashing furniture and a woman shriek. Who can turn their back on that? Well, other than most of the world it seemed. But then they weren’t standing here in some shoddy home-made armour with a pair of glorified pipes designed for whacking people.
I think most of the world was far too sensible.
I ran to the door. Before I entered I took a second to unstrap the baton from my left leg and hold it across my forearm like Jim had shown me in the shop. I did a quick check that everything was secure and as quietly as possible stepped in-side.
It was a dim, narrow hallway with a staircase up the left hand side. The interior continued the exterior theme – damp stained walls and peeling paper that may have once been blue. I could hear shouting from upstairs. Seemed the most likely place to find the trouble, whatever it was.
I took my time, trying to be silent. I wanted to do things properly. My biggest advantage had always been surprise. As I approached the second floor landing I began to pick out voices and the situation fell into place.
“…can’t fucking afford that kind of money, not this month.” A woman’s voice. She sounded more angry than scared.
“It doesn’t matter what you can afford, you pay the money every month. You don’t pay and things go bad.” Male, deep, probably one of the thugs.
“I’ve been down two girls and clients just haven’t been coming – I can pay you next month. We just paid rent on the flat there is no money.” The first woman. While she spoke I could hear someone whimpering a little.
“That’s not our problem! That’s your fucking problem.” There was another short high pitched scream.
“Stop that! Let her go, she doesn’t have anything to do with this.” Now the angry tone was starting to transition into fear.
“Why not? Maybe she’d be willing to work more if she knew what you were paying to prevent? Hey, we could always take our payment in other ways.” The male voice shouted something, a name maybe? Another loud crash, it sounded like someone had thrown some more furniture around. Things were getting worse in there, now was the time to make a move. Could I take on four guys?
I was going to find out.
I wasn’t sure what the best way of making an entrance was, I opted for a rush – I hoped I could get a decent hit on a few of them before they worked out what was going on. The door was closed though and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to kick it in – certainly not in one kick.
It would be embarrassing to announce my arrival by failing to get through the door.
Begging the world it wasn’t locked I slowly and carefully started turning the handle. I eased the latch off and push the door open a few a fraction of an inch so it stayed unlatched. I took a step back. I could still hear the argument inside the room – except now the whimpering was sobbing. Still I had to do this carefully, and anyway sobbing was better than silence.
I was just psyching myself up to give the door a good kick and charge right in when it was pulled open. I faced one of the biggest guys I’ve ever seen in my life. He took up the whole doorframe.
Wait, no this was fine – it’s not that different from what I was going to do anyway. I kicked out just as planned; instead of the door I caught the guy right in the stomach. As he brought his head down I followed through with an uppercut with the short end of my baton to his face. He jerked backwards with a spray of blood. More blood than I’d have thought.
I jumped over him into the room trying to keep up the momentum and not give them a second to think. The scene was much as I’d imagined it. An older woman who I assumed was the one speaking was standing on the opposite side of what looked like a living room, it had a few sofas though the table in the corner had been tipped on its side. Three men stood between her and the door I’d entered. Furthest from me one of the men had a much younger girl kneeling at his feet. He held a fistful of her hair.
They were turning, clearly having heard me taking out the guy who’d opened the door. Before they could even register their confusion I swung backhanded with my baton, letting the handle rotate as Jim showed me so the longer end swung out catching the closest guy solidly on the side of the head. With a quiet thud he folded to the ground.
I was making good progress, two down.
The two remaining were starting to react. The talker, who I’d mentally assigned as leader of the group dragged the girl he was holding up and positioned her as a kind of shield in front of him.
I wasn’t too troubled; it was a big inconvenience for him offensively. If I was in his situation, two large guys against one smaller target? I’d rush. Co-ordinating it would be the difficulty. Doing it with a hostage would be challenging .
I concentrated on the one who was taking tentative steps towards me. He swung his baseball bat casually in front of him. If I’m honest, it scared me. I’d never had a squared-off fight like this before, I always had the upper hand of surprise, plus he had a weapon.
He must have seen me glance nervously at the bat, he got up the confidence to jump forwards and throw a swing at me.
I hastily drew up my arm and felt it smack against the steel bar running down my forarm – the impact jarred my arm and it hurt but not in any way to incapacitate me.
Remembering the last fight I’d had I launched into an all-out attack. It seemed like a really good tactic. I swung at him trying to get as many hits as I could. It wasn’t pretty and neither of us was really in control. I didn’t have much of an idea how many of my blows connected but I felt everything he landed on me. Luckily most of it hit my shoulders which my armour dissipated as well as I’d hoped or I caught them on my baton.
Eventually, while he was drawing back to swing in again I managed to bring the hard edge down on his knuckles. He let out a little scream and dropped the bat. I followed through trying to hit his face but he’d lurched towards me and I ended up just whacking him with my forearm instead of the baton.
I felt panic rising as he charged into me and pushed me down, landing hard on top of me. My armour didn’t protect against crushing and he weighed a lot more than me. I punched him in the side of his head with the handle of my baton but he wasn’t letting up crushing my chest. I couldn’t get any leverage with my legs.
I felt his hands grab at my face, he lifted his body off me letting me gasp for air. My relief didn’t last long. With one hand crushing my left arm against the floor I watched him draw back his own arm. I knew exactly what was going to happen.
His fist hit my face. Stars burst in my vision, the back of my head bounced off the floor. I struggled to free one of my arms and bucked myself to try get him off but he brought another punch down and I felt myself go limp as the edges of my vision blackened.