I have fought and killed three people with much regret, but today’s encounter was by far the toughest – I only just survived. Edward was as much an accident as anything else and Cecile was the victim of her own gamble gone wrong. My arsonist, well, it was hard to tell afterwards, picking through the ashes.
But the Big Game Hunter…
As ever, I was out looking for food, minding my own business, when I was rather rudely interrupted – a section of doorframe exploded into splinters, somewhere near my right eye, and showered my dress with cocktail-stick splinters. I had to blink some of it out of my eyelashes, and it took me a moment to understand someone was firing at me.
Bang! Poomf! A hole in the plaster!
With ladylike aplomb I dropped to the ground like a sack of potted meat and began to crawl behind a planter.
Bang! Splat! A ruffle of leaves and an exploding succulent flower, the fleshy orange petals spraying all over me. A divot in the carpet.
‘Blast it!’ Comes a plummy voice.
Out of ammo?
Clunk, dunk! And then running feet, closing quickly.
I barely had time to react. My first impulse was to go for my own gun, but it was tangled up in my dress – hurting under my hip as I was now sprawled on the ground – and then someone dressed as a big game hunter slashed at me with a broadsword. Where did he get that?
Thunk! Rusted blade an inch-and-a-half into the pile and decking – straining to pull free.
He shouts in alarm. So do I – I have accidentally depressed the trigger on the pistol and fired one shot through a fold of my dress and into the floor. I burn my thigh, and I’m spitting out a face full of carpet felt.
One bullet left.
Big Game grunts and hauls on his sword. Pang! Blade free, he chops at my right arm, which gives with a peculiar press and spread of skin. Searing pain. I drop my handful of wood and metal – my smoking gun – still spitting felt.
But Big Game has overbalanced, stumbled into the wall, gouging a two foot strip of plaster. Better the lath than I!
Whirling arms and legs, like a spider, to my feet in a flood of material, I wrenched up the baseball bat, to both hands – pointing at him as if I, too, were wielding a sword – and we slowly circled the gun on the floor.
Now, at least, he had to acknowledge I wasn’t quite the easy mark he was hoping for, although judging by the look of him, I wasn’t his first encounter. Those desert fatigues were decidedly stained. He obviously still fancied his chances – A filly with a broom handle? What? What? Tally ho! – and was clearly blinded by what he thought would be an easy kill – and an easy few dollars.
More fool you, I thought, as the door opened behind him.
The two men that came out of the cabin weren’t particularly ferocious looking. I remember them from the restaurant before my ‘gathering’ – they were bookish types, I had imagined. But now they were straightening horn-rimmed glasses and instantly on their guard, sleeves up. One had a tie jauntily tied around his head.
My sparring partner may have heard their door open, or perhaps he saw a flicker of it in my eyes, but he reacted quickly, swinging wide with the broadsword as he turned, clipping the smaller of the two across the gut. The wounded man cried out.
The other lunged at the big game hunter with what looked like a bayonet attached to a broom handle, and certainly made contact, although I don’t really know the outcome – I was running down the corridor at that point. The revolver remained on the floor – a prize for the victor? There was only one bullet left, anyway – I still have Bat, a letter opener, and a syringe.
It occurs to me, that perhaps some of these ‘random guests’ could be allies worth recruiting, but given the madness I’ve seen – the treachery and unpredictability of them all – they could also be formidable adversaries. No. I have to play it safe, and that was still my intention as I made my way to sickbay to attend to the wound on my arm.