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A Knight in Shining Armor and a Wounded Heart: Short Tragedy, Part Two: A response to Bill Holland’s Photo Challenge #2

Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

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A Knight in Shining Armor and a Wounded Heart

“That sounded like a gunshot,” said Lance. “It’s probably nothing, but I’d like you to go up to the bedroom and lock the door while I check it out.”

After Bethany was safely locked away in the bedroom, Lance made his way back downstairs through the thick darkness. The opposite wall from the fireplace was lined with floor to ceiling windows. He crossed the room, entered the kitchen, and opened the case that held his knives. Lance had a serious love for knives and not just the kitchen variety. He was an expert knife thrower and fighter. The Bowie knife was his favorite weapon.

Lance slipped back into the main room. He had a leather sheath strapped to his upper leg that held half a dozen weighted throwing knives. The eighteen inch Bowie knife with a twelve inch blade was in its sheath on his belt. Movement on the patio outside the wall of windows caught his attention. Someone was out there.

He climbed the stairs again so he could talk to Bethany in the bedroom. What he really wanted was for her to see him with his knives.

She nearly screamed when he entered the room. “You look like a warrior.”

“I know how to use them, Bethany.” He closed the door and locked it. “Did you tell anyone we were coming here this weekend?”

“Well, I didn’t actually tell him.”

“You didn’t actually tell who?”

“When Galen and I met for coffee last week, I got up to go to the ladies room. The brochure you gave me of this bungalow fell out. I think he found it. He knows where we are. It must be him, Lance. He’s come to take me back.”

“Over my dead body he will take you back.”

This was music to Bethany’s ears.

#

After Galen shot the transformer and killed power to the bungalow, he put the AR15 rifle into the trunk of the car. He began to circle the building looking for a way inside. Of course, all the doors and windows were locked. He skirted the patio keeping an eye on the wall of glass that looked out from the main room of the house like the multifaceted eyes of an insect. He saw movement. It had to be Lance. Galen hit the ground and crawled until the windows were behind him.

At the back of the house, he found a square cap covering something on the side of the house. It was held in place by hook-and-eye connectors at each corner. When he removed it, he was looking down a six foot tunnel made of a wide piece of PVC pipe. This was how the owners of the house got firewood inside. Galen climbed into the tube and slid into the pitch black basement of the house.

The flashlight app on his phone got him across the room to a stairway that led up to a door. He climbed the steps slowly. Any sound could alert Lance to his presence. This was Galen’s chance for a sneak attack. His mind went back to what he understood to be Bethany’s plea for help when they were texting.

He thought of the rifle in the trunk of his car. He didn’t need it. He had a lethal weapon with him called Silat. Most martial arts focus on physical health and inner peace and harmony. Silat has one purpose, to do physical harm to an enemy. Galen was a Silat Master.

At the top of the stairs, he gripped the doorknob and turned it.

Bethany had chosen her warriors well.

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#

Lance stepped out of the bedroom and waited until Bethany had locked the door. He moved to the top of the stairway. He could see the entire downstairs. Of course, anyone downstairs could also see him. It was time for a showdown. He descended the stairway quickly and was about to cross the room when the form of a man appeared in the kitchen doorway.

“Galen.”.

“Where is Bethany?”

“She is safe. That is all you need to know.” Lance held the Bowie knife in a forward grip to give him more reach. He could switch to a reverse grip in an instant for more power.

The warriors circled and sometimes moved forward. Galen was standing against a wall with a mirror and photographs hanging that told some of the history of the place. Something slammed into that wall, shattering the mirror and knocking picture frames to the floor. Galen glanced to his right. The handle of a knife stuck out of the wall. He needed to get in close where those throwing knives would be useless. But then he would face the Bowie. Galen was in his element.

Lance was in no hurry to get into close combat. He felt certain that one of his throwing knives would hit the mark. He could see that Galen was an experienced fighter. The man relentlessly tightened the circle. Ten feet separated them. Then eight. Then six. Lance lunged, leading with the outstretched Bowie. Galen blocked, grabbed and pulled Lance past him, pushing him toward one of the overstuffed chairs. Galen recovered and spun just in time to put the knife between him and Galen. The pace slowed. Each sought an opening.

Galen went in, dropped low and tied up both of Lance’s legs. The knife fighter fell backwards, hit the ground, rolled, and came back up. But Galen was there, in his face, fists working. The heel of his right hand hit Lance square in the nose. The crackling of cartilage was audible. Lance retreated, pulled a throwing knife from its sheath and let it fly before Galen could react. The blade flew true into the fighter’s shoulder. He cried out in pain and dropped to his knees. Lance came in for the kill.

#

Bethany stood close to the door so she could hear the battle. She wanted to know what was happening. Who was winning? Did she care? Her heart raced. Her mind recreated the events downstairs into a medieval scene where two men fought with swords. They leaped from stairway to bannister, swung across the room on red velvet curtains until one made a minor error that gave the other an advantage. She heard the silence downstairs mimic the scene in her head.

#

Galen was on his hands and knees looking up at Lance just a few feet away. The knife protruded from his shoulder. Lance rushed in. Galen waited. He had one chance. If he failed, he would die with the Bowie slicing across his throat. He waited. At the last second, he pulled the knife from his shoulder, launched himself forward low and with all the strength his legs could provide. He hit Lance at shin level and the man went heels over head. It was Galen’s turn to attack and he wasted no time. Lance was dazed for an instant. Galen grabbed Lance’s throat and squeezed. His hands were strong. His foot came down on Lance’s wrist. He mashed it against the hardwood floor. Bones separated and Lance released his grip on the Bowie.

“I am going to let you up. When I do, you walk out the door without looking back. Get in your vehicle and drive. Don’t think about sneaking back here. Next time, I will kill you.

The man did as he was told. Galen had gotten the better of him even when injured. Lance knew when to hold his cards and when to fold them.

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Galen walked to the stairway. Bethany was looking down. She had seen most of the fight.

“Galen, my love.”

“No, don’t call me that, Bethany.” Blood flowed from the wound in his shoulder and soaked his shirt. He slowly ascended the stairs.

“But you love me. You fought for me. You told him you would kill him if he came back.”

If I killed him, it would be in self defense and to defend you. It would not be a statement of my love for you.”

Bethany fell to her knees.

“I am not your knight in shining armor.”

“But I am a wounded heart.”

Bethany rose to her feet and moved toward the banister. Her left hand had been concealed behind her back. She brought one of Lance’s knives around.

Galen tried to block her thrust.

She drove the blade just beneath the rib cage and upward—into her own heart. She collapsed over the railing and fell to the hardwood floor below.

Galen looked down at the woman he had once loved, and she looked up at him through lifeless eyes.

#

Galen went outside and waited for the police and the air ambulance. He had lost a lot of blood and needed immediate attention. In his mind he tried several times to turn this whole nightmare into something like the tale of Romeo and Juliet. But every time he came up against one distinct difference.

He had refused to swallow the poison.

© 2020 Chris Mills

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