Episode 38 - Sword to Sword
by Camille LaGuire
Alex stepped out of the alley and made his way along the road. The shadows were long and he stuck to their darkness until he was as far as possible from the alley, then he stepped forward and drew the sword.
It made a sharp metallic ring as he drew it, and Pookiterin turned immediately, his own sword raised and at the ready. It was a wicked-looking thing -- ornate and heavy, and slightly shorter than the sabre Alex carried, but with both a sharp point and an edge. He didn't know where Pookiterin got it.
"Who are you?" called Pookiterin. Alex stepped more fully out into the light. Who was he? Zorro? The Avenger? The Scarlet Pimpernel? Alex had no idea. He had no real identity. Then a line of poetry hit him -- probably Thorny's influence.
"I'm Nobody," he announced and tilted his head. "Who are you? Are you nobody too?"
Pookiterin looked him over, and recognized his own uniform. And then he sneered, and glanced up and down the road as if looking for others, or maybe traffic. Seeing none, he turned his back on Alex and stalked across the road, to the opening in the fence which led down to the river.
"That's no way to treat an armed opponent!" called Alex.
"You're nobody," said Pookiterin, without looking at him. His eyes were studying the shadows where Thorny was lurking. Alex had to distract him before he spotted the professor.
"Well, I did take your uniform," Alex said. Alex circled around as he spoke, hoping to force the colonel to look away from where Thorny was creeping along in the shadows.
"And I've got your sword," he continued, taunting on while Pookiterin said nothing. "Well, the girl actually took it from you, but I've got it now.... And you don't care? Is there something wrong with this sword?"
Pookiterin clearly wasn't into swashbuckling banter, nor did he see Alex as a threat. Maybe Alex was too far away. He circled back into Pookiterin's line of sight, and then lunged at him, picking up speed as he went.
But just then, as Alex thought he was going to have to run the man through to get his attention, Pookiterin saw Thorny.
The colonel lurched forward, his attention like a laser on the old man in the shadows. The moved took Alex by surprise, but he managed a backhand slap at the colonel's rear end.
The man wheeled around, his sword swinging down and around in a move which Alex merely dodged rather than engage.
And it was then that Alex registered that Pookiterin had been running with the sword raised high, like he was going to bring it down on Thorny's head. Not like he was going to capture him or take him hostage.
"You're trying to kill him?" said Alex.
Pookiterin answered with another thrust, this time coming up from below as if to gut Alex. Alex beat the blade aside and then, his blade being low itself, he jabbed at the man's knee.
Pookiterin lept back and parried in one fluid motion that said the man had experience with a sword.
But then he turned and raced again toward Thorny, who ducked behind a rain barrel. Pookiterin's blade chopped into the barrel like an ax, and stuck there just long enough for Thorny to roll away out of reach.
Thorny was unarmed, harmless. And this guy was trying to kill him.
Alex would have run him through, if the man hadn't also thrown himself to the ground, rolling and pulling his sword free in one motion that pulled the empty barrel over and rolled it into Alex.
Alex shoved the barrel back at Pookiterin. The colonel was now cornered in the opening of the alley. Alex called to Thorny.
"Run. Hit the river now!"
Thorny scrambled off.
Pookiterin kicked the barrel back at Alex, and Alex shoved it back again.
"Forget it," said Alex. "I won't let you have him."
"I will kill him," said Pookiterin, his voice suddenly flat and quiet with determination. "I will cut him to ribbons."
"Why?" asked Alex as they continued to shove the barrel back and forth. Pookiterin made it to his feet.
"Others have let my superiors down," said Pookiterin. "But I will not. I will do what no one else can do, and I will be commended for it."
"You're doing this for a gold star?"
"Yes, for a general's star."
And then, suddenly, Pookiterin attacked.
He slashed at Alex's face, and only missed taking out both eyes because he misjudged the length of the shorter, heavier blade.
Alex rocked back and couldn't even get back en garde before Pookiterin leaped up to the top of the barrel and used his momentum to roll himself forward.
As he leaped nimbly to the ground, Alex revised his opinion of the man's competence. He might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer... but he knew how to use the sharpest knife.
And just now, as Alex barely parried a flurry of slashing strokes, he wasn't at all sure if challenging the man to a duel had been such a hot idea.
Stay Tuned for Thirty-Nine: "Rozinshura vs The Plot"
The Case of the Misplaced Hero -- now available as an ebook at major online retailers, including:
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