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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 200 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

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Link to Part One

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

Comments

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 12, 2020:

Lawrence, Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. I need to get back to your profile and see what I've missed. I love your hubs about the universe. Awesome.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on March 12, 2020:

Chris

I had to read to the end before I couldbreak concentration enough to comment, this was a great story!

Loved the twist at the end.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 27, 2020:

Like I said, Galen is the hero type. When he finally recognized Bethany's issues, his first impulse would have been to somehow save her, not dump her. I could give my opinion about what he SHOULD have done, but Galen isn't me. I might have encouraged her to get counseling. Galen might have tried to counsel her. Lance on the other hand would likely never have noticed her problems. He was too caught up in Lance.

I have a hard time seeing Lance as a victim. He was there by his choice and he pulled out his weapons rather than looking for a peaceful resolution. Galen, on the other hand, left his weapon in the trunk of his car. He was wounded, yet when he got the upper hand, he released his opponent. Something tells me that Lance was so drunk with lust for Bethany, he would have killed Galen if given an uneven chance.

Galen went to the bungalow because he thought Bethany was crying out for help. In reality, she was taking advantage of his good heart. She knew he would come if she acted as if she were in distress.

In the end, Galen could have saved the day by simply being neutral toward Bethany. His outright rejection of her pushed her over the edge. He could have gotten her home and then to a doctor. Who knows, they might have worked things out.

Rodric Anthony from Surprise, Arizona on February 27, 2020:

I was using my phone for my last comment. I am at my computer now. I can really get out what I want to. I m so glad that your characters, the warriors at least, were more complex than you intended them to be. Your muse was encouraging you to make them more than what you intended, and you did! I love the fact that they were complex, or muddled as you referred to them in your comment to Bill. That means there is more to the story.

So often in media, I see, when a character has served his or her purpose to whatever story he or she is mentioned in they cease to exist. Not in your story. Galen has more to tell. Lance has more to tell. They could end up with their own stories! Did Lance meet Bethany on Tinder or something similar? Is he going to date again after dealing with such craziness.

Did Galen seriously not know that Bethany was lacking mentally? Should he have mentioned something so that she could get help? Where Galen and Bethany both a little mentally compromised in order for Galen to rush off to that bongalow? Poor Lance was just a pawn to get Bethany and Galen together again, but Galen retreated causing Bethany to kill herself! Oh my gosh, Bethany!

Will Lance be charged with murder since his weapon was used to kill Bethany? There is so much to do. Have you decided to write a comedy since you wrote a tragedy. I mean, it is sort of a tradition to give the story in three's. I suppose the first one is a comedy. Bethany is insane.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 27, 2020:

Rodric, You are correct. Bethany saw medieval characters. You and I saw two men battleing over a very sick woman. I intended for Galen to be more or less normal, but also heroic. Lance was supposed to be all caught up in himself and the potential for sex. I didn't quite get him right. In the end, nobody really won. That's why I call it a tragedy. Thanks for reading. I always appreciate the depth of your insights.

Rodric Anthony from Surprise, Arizona on February 27, 2020:

Wow! I liked the imagery your words brought to my mind as I read. I did not see medieval warriors, however. I thought the story represent the vanity of a woman who was so caught up in fantasy that she could not see reality. I don't know if that was your purpose, but I found a lesson. Two people, otherwise good people were entangled with a woman with mental issues.

Also, muddled characters make the best ones in my estimation. They are the closest to real people. We are not so sharp ourselves when it comes to many situations.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on February 17, 2020:

A surprising twist at the end. I didn't expect it at all. I thought Bethany will kill one of them. But, she killed herself. A thrilling story till the last moment. Enjoyed it a lot.

manatita44 from london on February 17, 2020:

Can't see my comment. I'll just say that it was an awesome story and I liked it very much. As good as your old style. Superb!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 17, 2020:

Liz, I'm glad the ending was a surprise. I appreciate your kind words.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 17, 2020:

Thank you Nikki. I'm glad you enjoyed the characters. I wrestled with that part in this story. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Liz Westwood from UK on February 17, 2020:

I certainly didn't see the twist at the end coming. You are a very skillful plot writer.

Nikki Khan from London on February 17, 2020:

What Bethany sows, so shall she reaps. I liked the ending scene, Chris. You have managed to characterize each personality in a very dramatic kind.

'An exotic Greek Tragedy', I would call it.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 16, 2020:

Bill, I told you I struggled with this one. I threw out the first draft and started over. I am happy with a lot of the story. But the characters need to be sharpened. If you read the other comments, you know I wanted Lance to be a bad guy out only for pride and sex. Bethany has some emotional issues that went crazy when she read the book. Galen should be strong, level headed guy. So the characters are somewhat muddled. I did enjoy telling the story, and I will continue to work on it. Thank you for the challenge and for your support and encouragement.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 16, 2020:

Thank you, Sean. Your encouragement is a great inspiration.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 16, 2020:

It was worth the wait, Chris, crackling with drama and excitement, topped off with a fight to the finish, a Greek tragedy if ever I read one.

Action scenes like the one at the end are hard to write. You handled it well, buddy!

Thanks for the great response to the challenge.

Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on February 16, 2020:

The tragedy of the human ego! The reason we "sell" happiness just for feeding it! You have mastered this story in a surprising way, my brother! Thank you for this perspective. I will never be tired to say how much I enjoy your writing skills!

I salute you Master of the words!

Sean

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 15, 2020:

Thank you, Linda. I love writing original and unusual material.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 15, 2020:

Marie, you have several very good suggestions. The story could do with a consistent POV. Lance definitely needs an overhaul to be a contrast to Galen. Thank you for feeling free to share these thoughts.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 15, 2020:

This is an unusual and very original story. You have a great imagination, Chris!

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on February 15, 2020:

This sounds like something my brother would have written; he's a macho guy. Both my living brothers are bachelors, by the way.

I didn't feel a smooth transition between parts #1 and #2. The Bowie knife took me by complete surprise (as I had noted in part 1, the progression was too quick for my preference).

I feel there is a lot of potential here, Chris, for a really great romance-action novel. Since you're killing Bethany off at the end, and it's Lance's heart that gets broken, you might try writing the piece from Lance's perspective. Develop his loyalty and feelings. Capitalize on the moment when his heart is broken in the cafe. Bethany's death then becomes a catharsis for Lance's devastated feelings. Lance's character can be developed to show a shallow guy, a kind of showy casanova that takes ladies for granted.

Just a thought. --Blessings!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 15, 2020:

Thank you, Ann

Ann Carr from SW England on February 15, 2020:

Yes, you're right about the sex v food thing! Still a great piece though.

Ann

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 15, 2020:

Ann, nice to see you. The characters in this story were difficult for me to get just right. I still haven't fully succeeded. You are right, Bethany did bring this all down on herself, but I would like the reader to see her as not being totally emotionally well. Just enough so that the book sweeps her away. As for Lance. He needs to be much more interested in sex than he is serving his meal. He needs to be the bad guy, and I did not succeed on that point. Thanks for showing up.

Ann Carr from SW England on February 15, 2020:

Great story, Chris! Unique. Nothing like any of the others. I was gripped and found myself thinking, at the end, that she brought it all on herself so I had no compassion.

Superb response to the challenge and well crafted.

Ann

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 15, 2020:

John, see my comment to MizB regarding your second post here.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 15, 2020:

Ruby, you nailed it. Bethany lived in a fantasy world. I may need to develop that world more so that her motivation to manipulate the two men is stronger. Thanks for reading and for your input.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 15, 2020:

Shauna, Yes, I did take advantage of the freedom Bill gave us here. And I really appreciate that approach by Bill. The goal is to inspire creativity, not hem writers in with meaningless rules. We want to see amazing creativity.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 15, 2020:

MizB, I'll comment you your post and on John's second post. The first draft of this story was really convoluted, but it had more detail regarding the characters. I completely threw out the first draft and started from scratch. In that transition, I failed to keep some of Lance's less than gentlemanly qualities. He needed to be more of a bad guy who was after Bethany for just one thing, and it wasn't her compliments on his cooking. I will make those changes in a rewrite and will use this story elsewhere this summer.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 15, 2020:

John, Thank you. When we are given as much freedom as Bill gives us in these photo challenges, we are able to be far more creative. The photos don't need to dictate every element of the story. In this story, the photos provided the romantic setting in a mountain lodge. At least that is how I interpreted the photos. From that point, I was free to create whatever plot I wanted.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on February 15, 2020:

I too felt sorry for Lance because he had only acted like a gentleman and was simply used by Bethany. Well, both men were used but he was the unsuspecting one and she used him just to make Galen jealous.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 15, 2020:

Wow, what a brilliant ending! Poor Bethany she lived in a fantasy world, then when she realized all was lost, she couldn't live without a warrior. The battle was exciting, it was like a movie. I loved your story Chris. Bravo

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 15, 2020:

Wow, Chris! Bethany is (was) one sick puppy! I almost thought this would end with her awakening from a dream. But the tragic ending was actually her reality.

You did a wonderful job of describing the action between Galen and Lance. My heart was racing as I felt the adrenaline of the fight scene.

You really followed Bill's rules of no rules with this story, Chris. Nice!

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on February 15, 2020:

Chris, that is a great story and one that left me breathless. I stayed PO'd at Bethany and Galen all through the story. Obviously Bethany was crazy, but you redeemed Galen in the end. I did feel kind of sorry for Lance though, although we never knew his real motive.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on February 15, 2020:

Wow, Chris, great job. The fight scene was exceptional and the ending a surprise. I am impressed by where Bill’s photo prompt took you. You never disappoint.