“I need to deal more damage.”
“I told you I don’t stock any higher rated armour than that.” He said looking worried.
I had considered how I’d ask him. Should I plead with him? Play for sympathy? I didn’t have much experience in pleading.
Besides, I didn’t think he was the kind of guy who’d fall for something like that. I’d ask him straight up. No messing about. If he said no, then that was fine I’d find another way. He’d appreciate honesty. There were plenty of other routes; I just had to cover my tracks, at school. I could always invest in a phone or tablet. I could set up a bank account if I really needed to.
“Yeah, I know, but you can order it right? I don’t have an account so I can’t get things off the internet. But I can pay you in cash – with an overhead of course. You buying a few extras, It’ll look completely natural on your accounts.”
He just looked at me a while, not answering. Then with an overly theatrical sigh his eyes scanned the shop one last time. I had already checked was empty of other customers.
“Fine kid. What do you need? I’ll sort it for you.”
I handed over my list. He spent at least a minute looking it over before saying anything.
“These won’t give you any stab protection, just against bullets.”
How did that work? What could stop a bullet but not a knife? He noticed my confused, ok sceptical, look.
“Most of these technologies use composite fibres that stiffen under shear stress. When pressure is applied they effectively turn more solid. It allows them to be flexible but when a bullet hits, or any high velocity impact really, the fibres harden pretty much instantaneously.” He paused. Reading my expression? I tried to look like I understood, I kind of did. Maybe. “The fibres push on those they are woven with and basically the whole thing hardens to become a semi-solid shell.”
His hand flicked out a knife, I don’t know where he got it from – somewhere secreted in his jacket, and he deftly flipped it around in his fingers.
“Knives though, they act differently. Being sharp they slip in-between the individual fibres. The act of the knife pushing it gently to the side doesn’t cause it to stiffen and even if it did it wouldn’t provide much resistance. They are too slow. Also, without providing much sheer stress as a blunt impact the fibres are much easier to cut.”
I should have done more research.
“You just need to be careful what you’re using it for; here, this one is probably a better all-rounder.” He showed me the tablet, the first thing I did was check the price. It was actually cheaper, probably a less well-known brand or something.
I asked a few questions and we refined the choice. I was happy to find out that the online store had a size that was much more likely to fit me without any modification. It was still only a vest so I wanted to get a few to fabricate other armour panels from.
Kneepads faced the same scrutiny and, because he was ordering it, I managed to get a really good helmet.
It used nearly all my budget though. Still, protection was better than offence wasn’t it?
Probably not. If I could take down enemies faster I’d be much less likely to get into a situation where my armour would make the difference between winning and losing.
“So, what else will you need?” he asked once we’d ordered .
“A new set of those batons,” I said, they worked well and weren’t that expensive.
“You lost them? Both of them?” he said.
“I lost everything, that’s why I need the new armour,” I said. I guess it wasn’t obvious – I could just want an upgrade because it wasn’t bullet proof.
“Well, sure. Is that it?” He didn’t sound convinced. Quite rightly.
“No, I need something faster – more efficient.”
My eyes scanned the walls. Guns. I didn’t want a gun, they were loud and unpredictable. Too lethal. It was too easy to pull the trigger at a figure in the dark, would I really be able to know if it was someone in a gang or just a kid?
But knives weren’t much better. I hadn’t really come to terms with what had happened. I could manage getting shot, getting cut. I could manage being tied up. Could I manage taking a life, on purpose that is? I wasn’t so sure…
But you certainly had more control, and as a last resort… Was I willing to willingly take a life to continue my own? I don’t think I could answer that until I was in that situation.
Maybe I was lying to myself. I could, I did.
But not carrying a knife would be making a decision. I if I had one I could choose not to use it. If I didn’t, that choice was made here and now.
Jim eyed me scanning the wall.
“I’d like a knife.” I said, keeping my voice as flat as possible. I’d been brainstorming other ideas using the internet at Mz Gregory’s. “And a Taser, pepper spray, anything that I might be able to use that isn’t going to kill anyone.”
“Hey, listen. I’m helping you out here but there aren’t any laws on kids buying body armour and stuff. Knives and Tasers are a different matter altogether…” That was the response I was expecting.
“It’s fine, I’ll get them from somewhere else. I can always just get a kitchen knife…” I left that hanging there. Jim glared at me, knowing that I was pulling his leg.
“Fine! Fine!” he said, throwing his hands in the air. “But I won’t sell you it! You can make a healthy donation to my enterprise. Sometimes I’m careless with my stock and it gets stolen by little brats like you.”
He walked round the counter and put a hand on my shoulder.
“Let’s get you a decent knife, girl.”
* * *
I walked out of the shop with a plain black backpack on my back. It would take a few days for my other stuff to arrive so I’d go collect it later in the week. For now I had my weapons. I decided to carry something around with me, now my face had been seen.
Buckled to my belt was a four inch blade. It was the plainest we could find that Jim insisted was a decent quality. It was sheathed flat against my waist along the belt so with a baggy t-shirt, and every t-shirt was baggy on me, it wouldn’t be seen. I had another, smaller one, strapped to my ankle just in case.
“You can never have enough knives.” Jim had said. “People always try taking them off you.”
I also had two new batons, two different models of Tasers and a handful of pepper sprays in my bag. I wasn’t planning on using those until I had my full kit. They were going out weapons.
As for what my plans were then… I wasn’t sure. They knew my face. I knew the general location of at least one of their buildings, which I hoped was the headquarters. But what could I do with that information?
And then there was Mike. Should I tell Beth about him? How could I without telling her the context. Did she already know?
They knew my face – they could recognise me in the street – but unless they took a photo only a few guys actually could recognise me.
But Mike, Mike knew my name. He knew where I went to school. But he helped me, he let me escape. Why would he do that if he was going to just hand me over later?
There were too many questions and not enough answers. The only way I could answer them was to wait until school and see what Mike was going to do.
As I walked I checked the note I’d scrawled down. I only had to wait until tomorrow before the next martial arts class. It was already beginning to get dark.
I’d learned a lot last time but that was stuff you could pick up in one lesson, little tips and tricks. If I wanted to have a chance against people who fought for a living I’d have to practice a lot…
In the meantime I had to get as much sleep as I could.