Episode 40 - The Skin of His Teeth
by Camille LaGuire
Frankly, Alex would be perfectly happy to run away right now. Pookiterin was clearly the more deadly fencer.
But he couldn't run until Thorny was safe, and it seemed that Alex was just good enough to keep Pookiterin occupied, mainly thanks to Aunt Flavia teaching him to break rules. It also helped that the colonel wasn't used to the weight and shape of his sword. He kept misjudging his reach and swinging too hard.
But, man, those hard swings were enough to take a limb off, if any were to connect.
Alex jumped back and stumbled over the lid of the barrel, which was lying in the street. He went down on one knee and saw that the lid had a handle. He grabbed it with his left hand as Pookiterin swung once more. He smashed the lid up into the swing like a buckler, deflecting the blade to his left, and laying the colonel open to a thrust of his own.
He snagged his shirt, but he didn't think he landed more than a graze. Pookiterin swung away... and then dashed off.
He was after Thorny again. He ran for that opening in the wall that led down to the river. Thorny wasn't in sight. He'd had plenty of time to make it to the river. If he was gone, this was Alex's cue to run himself.
Alex raced to the wall and looked down.
Thorny was right there by the river, standing on a little floating dock or raft. He stood there, anxious, but he didn't jump in.
"Thorny, JUMP! NOW!" called Alex.
Thorny gestured for him to come. He was waiting for Alex. Crap!
Pookiterin had made it to the opening in the wall and hurled himself around the corner to run down the steps. The hillside was steep, and the steps zig-zagged down.
Alex hurled the barrel top at Pookiterin's head to slow him down, and them jumped the railing to drop to the bottom of the stairs before the colonel could get there.
He landed hard on the edge of a step and he felt his left ankle go out, just as Pookiterin lunged at him. Alex gripped the rail with his left hand and parried just in time to save his head, but the colonel had momentum, and he forced Alex's blade aside in a sliding disengage that cut down into Alex's thigh.
Alex let out a yell, and swiped his sword back at Pookiterin's head. The colonel fell back and took up the barrel top, and blocked the cut, then smashed wooden lid back at Alex, who fell back on his bad ankle.
Then the colonel drew back and then jumped the railing himself, down to the beach and rickety boardwalk that led out to the little floating dock.
With one twisted ankle and a pierced thigh, there was no way Alex would catch up with him. He screamed for Thorny to jump, again, and then pulled himself up and dropped over the railing too.
He fell with a thud and lost his sword and almost his consciousness as he hit. The sprained ankle was much worse than the cut.
Pookiterin had taken the time to run around a jagged bunch of rocks which broke up the beach, and separated them from Thorny. Alex was now actually closer to Thorny, but with no hope of reaching him across those rocks.
Thorny gestured for Alex to come. He was at least at the very edge, but he didn't jump in. Pookiterin was already charging up the dock. Alex picked up the barrel top and hurled it, frisbee-style, at the old man.
It hit Thorny right in the mid-section and down he went. Pookiterin was right there, and his sword sang past the old man's head.
Alex honestly wasn't sure if if the sword might have cut him as he went down, might even have killed him. But he didn't think so, and as Thorny hit the water, there was no spash. The ring's magic must have done its work.
Pookitern nearly fell in after, but he caught himself. He looked at the water, this way and that, waiting for Thorny to come up.
Alex's right leg burned with that cut, and didn't want to work right. The sprain in the other leg hurt like hell. He couldn't run. His sword had fallen among the jagged rocks, though, not far. If he couldn't escape, at least he could fight.
Pookiterin continued to pace and squint at the water, as though expecting Thorny to appear from under the dock at any moment.
Alex reached for his sword, and then...
A bullet struck the rock near his hand.
It came from the top of the stairs. Alex flinched back and rolled into the lee of the steps. Another bullet struck the gravel near his feet and a third bit into the steps themselves.
Alex was, by now, out of the sight of the person at the the top of the stairs and he scrambled and rolled along the shelter of the step-wall, until he came to an area where small boats had been drawn up on the beach, mostly hull side up, as if for repair.
Alex dropped between them and risked a look back at the top fo the steps.
There was another security officer up there, looking out at Pookiterin.
"Have you done it?" he called.
"I have killed him!" called Pookiterin, and he brandished the sword, which you could see had blood on it when the light glinted off it. Alex hoped it was his blood and not Thorny's. "I have killed him as you asked!"
If Pookiterin was hoping for a gold star, it didn't look like he was going to get one. The other officer raised his gun and pointed at Pookiterin.
But then the raspy horn of a car sounded, and the officer quick turned around, and put the gun away.
Alex took advantage of the moment to roll under a boat which was upturned on some logs on the beach. There, he very nearly passed out, and hoped that he hadn't left too obvious a blood trail.
Stay Tuned for Forty-One: "Is It Murder?"
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