It’s Been Too Long

So yes, I did notice it has been a while since I posted. Editing on Closer Than Family is proceeding apace. I hope to have it published by summer of next year, but we’ll see about that. I haven’t made much more progress on figuring out what artwork I want, but the editing is starting to get interesting. In the meantime, here’s something hopefully enjoyable.

No, I don’t have any idea when it “fits in” or even if it does. Right now, it’s with my notes for Hellhound.

The dark alley is enshrined as a place of deepest fears, of most deadly risk. All the worst predators seem to lurk there in the collective modern imagination. “I wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley,” we say. But a dark alley was where a lone figure at the eastern edge of Downtown Graycliff was headed—apparently hoping to save time or effort. The woman jogged at a steady pace, turning without hesitation into the shadowy canyon between a warehouse and a multi-story building housing several business and a few apartments. If she thought the dark alley had anything to fear, perhaps she hoped to outrun it.

Near the middle of the alley, a shopping cart loaded down with junk clattered out from behind a dumpster, blocking a clear path and the figure slowed in response to the sudden obstacle. The cart was followed by another figure—a masculine one this time, one who held a shining length of metal in one hand that could only be a knife. “You look lost, beauty,” came a taunting voice.

The woman turned her head and found the way back blocked by two more figures. Her attention returned to the man in front of her. “This is a bad idea,” she said. Her voice was low and cool and level, betraying only confidence. She had no mace or pepper spray. Her jogging outfit was loose, but no tell-tale shape of a concealed weapon deformed it. The man with the knife thought she was full of bravado. He also misinterpreted the words she actually spoke.

“Gonna be the best idea you had all night,” he countered. We’re gonna show you a real good time, right fellas?” His two companions seemed to take that for a cue, and rushed toward the woman.

Their hands never reached her. One elbow smashed into the face of the first, and her other jabbed the other assailant’s stomach. Before the man with the knife could react, she had shoved one of his friends’ faces into the brick wall of the apartment building and turned to plant her foot squarely in the crotch of his other friend.

But he still had the knife and he came at her with a snarl. He might not be able to hold her down and block her mouth all by himself, but he could give her something to remember him by. He had to have a hundred pounds on her. But she was fast, grabbing his knife arm and twisting it around behind his back. What is this bitch, a bodybuilder? She was tiny, little more than five feet tall, and he could have sworn he’d be able to throw her over his shoulder if he wanted. But she was stronger than most men he’d fought.  “Let go of the knife or I’ll start breaking your fingers,” came her voice. Like her first declaration, there was no fear—only confidence.

He opened his hand, and the woman let go of his arm. But he never went into a fight with only one weapon, even one where he had backup. And that was about to save him. He whirled to get a look at the crazy bitch and pulled his second knife from its place at his back…

And was stopped by a sharp pain in his chest. He looked down and saw his own knife in a small, nimble hand, protruding from where he felt his heart was. He coughed, felt blood running down his chin. “…Ow,” was all he could think to say. He looked up and a pair of eyes that were a shade of blue like a fall morning or polished steel met him. He didn’t see any of the things he expected to see from a woman in a dark alley, even one who’d just stabbed someone—fear, sorrow, maybe, the unstable high-energy look of a fight-or-flight reaction. Just cool, clear resolve. He coughed again. The dark alley seemed to be getting darker. “Who…”

She stared him down as his legs failed him and he slipped down the wall, feebly pawing at the knife stuck in his chest. He would have expected “I’m sorry” or “fuck you”, something. Whoever she was, her receding back was the last thing he saw.

Becky jogged out of the alley and once she was in the light again, checked herself for blood spots or bruises. A few spatters on her tank top were the only sign of a scuffle, and those could be played off. She sighed, straightened her clothes and her ponytail and set off to run the rest of the way home. The others needed to know what had happened.

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