Chap. Summary: It was raining. Again.
Notes: I was gonna post this later. Keep the suspense going, and all that sort of thing we writers do. :-) But then I figured... you've all been such great readers. So patient with me and my slowpoke beta, so patient with all the ups and downs of my posting schedule. So I thought I'd reward you. :D
THE BROKEN CIRCLE
It was raining. Again. Or maybe it was still raining.
It was the kind of rain that fell everywhere, got into everything, without mercy. Spattering, pervasive, and downright miserable. Knowing my luck, it was probably the same rainstorm that had been going when I'd first arrived at the hospital. It was that kind of weather.
All it really did for me was remind me exactly how much I was missing the tropical showers I'd left behind. And my apartment, now collecting dust. Not to mention that sweet motorcycle, never to be ridden again. At least not by me.
Ah, better times...
I sighed and turned up the collar on my jacket in what I already knew would be a futile hope of keeping the water out – mainly because I could already feel it trickling down my back. Shrugging mentally, I trudged – okay, limped – towards where Selina had left that old beat-up rental car of mine. I knew where it was because I'd seen the car a number of times, through various windows of the hospital.
It wasn't far. Only half a block and around a corner – but it was a long half block. By the time I'd trudged it, lugging the bag and my own body through the rain, I was thinking only of the shelter the car represented. The thought of finally being dry – and away from everyone – was pure bliss.
Well, I was thinking of that, and the pain. The pain was never far away. It was the one constant these days. But I knew enough now to take comfort in that. These days, the sound of the cane rhythmically hitting the pavement was my only reliable companion.
Then I turned the corner.
I had just enough time to catch a glimpse of my car – waiting for me under a streetlight – when I caught movement in my peripheral vision. From both sides.
I didn't react.
Not outwardly, anyway. If there was one thing that came from having grown up in a city, it was that being in the dark was its own kind of evil, and reacting to a perceived threat before it actually happened could be just as dangerous as openly walking inside a dark alley. That wasn't, of course, to say that I couldn't prepare.
Besides, all I had to do was make it to my car. And, whoever it was might not be headed for me. It could've just been my imagination, from being cooped up inside that hospital for so long. A snarky inner voice snickered about my chances of that being true, with my luck, let alone making it to safety intact. I rolled mental eyes and ignored it. So not helping, Grayson.
It was the distinctive flick-click of a switchblade being opened about two yards behind me that made my decision for me. To hell with playing cool and nonchalant; I'd better start preparing for war. I cut my gaze around behind my sunglasses, just to confirm my expectations, and see exactly how badly I was outnumbered.
Yep. Overwhelming odds, surrounded on all sides... Except for dead ahead, where I had a clear line towards my car.
Option A was too obvious – the car was under a streetlight.
Option B meant they were herding me towards my car, because they'd booby-trapped it.
Option C meant that they were herding me because it was one less angle they would have to attack me from.
Needless to say, I didn't like any option.
So. What to do about it?
Obvious solution: head towards the car. Two out of three were fairly good odds in this kind of situation. At least with the car at my back, option C would hold, and I hopefully wouldn't have to worry about being attacked from that quarter. And I could deal with option B later – if I was still alive to worry about it.
For what it was worth, I made it to the car.
Of course, that was when they attacked. En-masse. Obviously, this was going to be one giant free-for-all, with me at the center.
I dropped the duffel and semi-kicked it under the car. Another thing to worry about later. With about forty people converging on my position – most of them with weapons – I really couldn't afford distractions. I placed my back against the door, braced my feet, and held my cane at the ready. I couldn't help but smile a little, as I felt the adrenaline begin to flow.
It didn't take long.
I had the first three down on the ground – and the switchblade in my possession – in fairly short order. Just because I couldn't do the 'Rooftop Express' thing anymore didn't mean I'd lost all ability to defend myself. I grinned to myself. Lesson one: never underestimate someone with a cane.
There was one advantage of having the car at my back. It was an extra brace point for me to lean on when I kicked out. And each time a kick connected, I knew someone was going down. Lesson two: always wear steel-capped boots if you want to kick someone. That was one lesson that two more people had just learned the hard way.
It was at this point that I lost my sunglasses. Some lucky jerk got a shot in past my defenses, hit my cheekbone, broke the sunglasses, and sent them flying away from my face. I never saw where they landed, because I was more concerned about hitting him back for the shiner I was sure to have in the morning. If I was going to make it to the morning. At the moment, I didn't really like my odds.
Six down, only about thirty-four to go.
Then, the worst thing possible happened. Only thing was, I'd known it was coming. It was why I'd been so quick taking people down. It came about so simply, too. I just put my good leg down wrong and landed badly, maybe hit a puddle or something. All I really knew was that I slipped and lost my footing on that leg, and there was no way I had the strength in my other leg to support myself. I hadn't had that kind of strength in years.
I was going down, and it was no one's fault but my own. This was why I no longer fought. Lesson three: the cane is there for a reason.
Once I was on the ground with my legs twisted underneath me, it didn't take long for everyone to pile on. Actually, it was a bit like being the person on the bottom in that old Twister game. Except that there was no colored mat, no timer, and this definitely wasn't a game.
In lieu of a deliberate plan, I just lashed out. Everything was fair game. Sometimes, sheer violence could be more effective than planning ahead.
It worked. For a while. Arm-holds and leg-holds relaxed, which made it even easier to punch, kick, squirm, and twist. I was not going to make it easy for them. Even sleeves and pants got torn – it was pretty easy once I found the seams. Especially when they made the mistake of wearing tee-shirts instead of jackets.
I think I was on my tenth sleeve when I saw something that just made everything sputter to a stop.
That tat. I know that tat...
That was when everything crystallized.
This was no ordinary mugging. That 'tat' belonged to the League of Assassins.
More to the point, I knew how they'd found me. It was the culmination of an unaware moment, an unsecure cellphone, a price on my head, and a past that had finally caught up with me.
Not that I had much time to dwell on it. In fact, it seemed like I'd barely had time for the recognition to sink into my brain before I also realized the cost of distractions. This was one prize fight I could not hope to walk away from unscathed. In fact, I barely had time to see that tat, and realize its implications, before something came rushing towards my head. My last coherent thought was to wonder if this was what Bruce had seen too, when he'd been 'mugged'.
Then, there was only pain, and darkness . . .
That . . .
All . . .
Came . . .
To . . .
A . . .
This time, it really is the end of Circle I: The Broken Circle. After 40,000 plus words of pure story, what a journey it's been! But this (hopefully) is not the end of Dick's story.
TBC in Circle II: Between The Cracks.
Showing soon on computer screens near you... :-) I hope.
PS: I have this entire story in PDF book format. If you want it, just email or PM me. (I am looking for a cover/coverpic to go with it, though...) :-)