Sunday, January 23, 2011

Puncher - 8

Smith grabbed a couple of shingles, took aim and chucked them at Stahl. He missed, but Stahl looked over, stumbled briefly. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for a runner to catch up. Stahl drove an elbow into the runner’s face. It was enough to slow him down.

Smith figured that Hiller was probably still active, somewhere in the buildings. He was smart and strong, and if Smith could dodge the booby traps, then so could he. The tanker was either dead back at the gate or, much less likely, was still back there waiting. Either way, not something that needed to be considered right now. He jumped to the next roof.

They were within spitting distance of the turnaround. It’d been a hotel, at some point. The keys were in there, somewhere. They wouldn’t be hard to find. Watching people blunder around in the dark didn’t make for an exciting game.

Smith was coming down off the roof when Hiller made it to the turnaround. Smith risked a quick look back and didn’t see any runners close enough to matter. He sprinted for the turnaround.

He was two steps in the door when Stahl hit him in the face with a two by four. He went down on his back, hard. Even with the helmet, he had to shake off the stars. Stahl drove the board down hard, trying to spear Smith in the throat. Smith jerked his head just enough and the board scraped down against the side of his neck. He didn’t have time for it to hurt.

He brought arm up hard, causing the board to slide. Stahl overbalanced and stagger forward, trying to catch his balance. Smith grabbed him by the belt and heaved and Stahl went out the door, sliding forward on his chest. Smith saw runners coming as Stahl pushed himself up. Smith slammed the door shut and jammed the board underneath the remains of the door knob, kicked it until it stuck. He heard Stahl thump into the door outside. The board held. It wouldn’t hold for long.

The inside of the turn around was well lit, for once. Smith took a couple of deep breathes and looked at the floor. True to form, there was an arrow painted on the floor. Smith followed it to a fire door.

The shambler wasn’t much of a surprise. Smith punched it so hard that its head fell off. He could practically hear that at home crowd cheering over that. He wondered how damn old it had to be for that to happen. Smith had one foot on the step when he paused. Something wasn’t right.

There was a place where an ax used to be, a cubby hole in the wall. It was closed, nailed shut, but it had been painted recently. Somebody had fixed it. Spray painted the glass. Smith got a finger hold on the door and popped it open.

Beneath the helmet, Smith smiled. Christmas came early this year.

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