Up on the Roof, Out on a Limb
The groomed lawn was a fortuitous cushion for my awkward landing. I hit and quickly rolled myself forward, away from my assailant, then popped up turning back toward the woman. The man was behind her now and both were moving toward me; slowly, but with purpose.
“I told you to stop,” she said.
“If you wanted me to leave you should have just said so. I came here looking for someone who could repair my roof, not for a sock in the jaw.”
The two kept stepping in my direction so I shifted my stance, leaning slightly forward with my weight to the front, holding my left hand forward like a traffic cop signaling for cars to stop. My right tightened by my side. I stared at the man and when they’d closed within my reach, I returned the favor, slashing out with a cross that landed solidly in the crease between the woman’s cheek and nose. I felt cartilage crumple on impact.
Her eyes rolled back and closed, and she collapsed straight down in a heap. Blood was already steaming from her nostrils before she finished falling.
I didn’t relish popping her ugly mug, but there was some satisfaction in the payback and I knew she was of a mind to mix it up, but wasn’t sure about the man who had been a half-step behind her. If he was ready to scrap then I’d just evened the odds; if not, then I’d put myself in a better position to negotiate.
“Why’d you do that?” he asked, stopping cold, eyes wide.
“Payment in kind,” I snapped. “Now, is this Reliable Roof Repair or isn’t it? I’m beginning to think you don’t want my business.”
“Listen mister, I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about, but you can’t coming nosing around here, trespassing, and expect us to roll out the red carpet.”
The tone of his voice changed from surprise to anger and I braced myself for the next sentence, which came in a shoulder-first lunge for my solar plexus. I slipped the brunt of his attack, but he wrapped his left arm around my waist and tried to take me down just the same. He was already off-balance when I clubbed the back of his neck with my clutched hands. I heard him give out an “oomph” and he let go, trying to straighten himself for whatever his next move was, but I drew my knee up sharply into his chin, snapping his head back and causing him to back-pedal in a daze. He managed to stop standing, but his arms hung limp at his sides and I rushed forward to finish the job with all my weight behind an upper-cut that left him on his back.
The $3.99 I paid for that bargain-bin copy of Gymakata had finally paid dividends.
Hustling into the open door I found a light switch and flicked it up. The room was a typical basement with shelves and bins of this and that. I quickly rummaged around for something to tie the pair up. An extension cord did the trick for her and a length of rope for him. Then I went back inside. The shelves and bins were filled with tools and cords and a curious assortment of parts that struck me as familiar. But it was the odd humming noise — a vibration pulsing down through the ceiling — that had my attention. Or, more to the point, was so maddeningly pitched and persistent that I found I couldn’t concentrate.
The longer I stayed below the hum, the more convinced I became that I would lose my marbles. I knew I should go back outside and remove myself from the din, but I needed to know what the source of the torturous noise was.
I stumbled around, banging into the corners of Steelcase shelving and over coils of telephone wire until I found my way to a set of stairs. I followed it up, slumping onto the landing and nearly tumbling back down before I made the turn and up toward a closed door, the noise growing louder with each step. I plunged my hands into my pockets looking for something to stuff into my ears and deaden the sound, pulling out a handkerchief that needed laundering, tearing it into two ragged pieces that I wadded up and jammed into the side of my head. My eyes refused to focus, put I pressed on, reaching for the door knob and grasping it. The throbbing felt like I’d just grabbed a nest of hornets, shooting a sharp pain up to my shoulder. Mustering what will I had left I turned the knob and the door opened. I thrust myself forward and onto the floor beyond, kicking the door closed behind me.
The vibration, while still present, was less intense once I’d made it through. The room was dark, lit only by the few shaded windows I’d not been able to see through from the outside. Slowly my eyes adjusted to the gloom and to the hum, no longer amplified through the floor. When they finally came into focus, I wished they hadn’t.
To be continued…