91. Battle of the Bailey.

I can barely write. In addition to the wounds on my arm and shoulder, I now have two broken fingers, a badly slashed palm, a possible broken nose, a black eye, a cut to the back of my head (crusting into my hair, and is probably deep enough to be more of a concern than it currently is), and I’m guessing that pain when I breathe is a result of at least one broken rib, and a throat that feels like it’s been crushed. And did I mention the powder burn on my thigh?

The battle between myself and Bailey brought us full circle to the Vesuvius Bar. Bailey’s part in my arrest still caught in my craw, but any indignity I felt was soon overwhelmed by simple rage as I approached the place, click-clacking across the floor. I knew it would be that bar, even before the Chief told me.  Where else would it be?

I stalked into the room, scrawny and wounded, and uncaring – the time for subtlety had passed. I’m sure I looked a fright.

But this time, Maud, Charlie Bat is concealed, waiting like the deft little clubber, he is…

Bailey was sitting in a dining room chair, pulled out into the centre of the floor. No weapon that I could see – but I was sure he was aware he was going to need one…

He said, ‘Let’s talk, Lucy. Truce? No funny stuff. See, no weapons?’ Empty palms. He shakes out his cuffs, like all the weariness of the world is on him. Then a bitter, ‘I think I’ve finally found you…’I made a play of thinking about this truce. It wouldn’t have done to have my concession to it come too soon. But I was also thinking, he was trying to repeat a trick – that was the kind of thing that would get his melon ball bashed in, the cheeky little monkey.

The bar had a couple of security cameras – a little reminder of those ‘rules’. But, let’s talk about those pesky rules: rules aren’t worth anything. All it took was a few bucks passed to my old friend, Frank, and I gained a brief reprieve from the swift justice of the Cotopaxi’s finest: ‘Look over here instead,’ I said. ‘Right you are,’ he said. ‘You’ve got 10 minutes,’ he said. ‘That is all I’ll need,’ I said. ‘Thanks, Frank.’

‘Well,’ I said to Bailey. ‘I guess you should say what you want.’

‘Thank you.’ The man smiled a weary smile, bruised knuckles resting on the chair, as he pushed himself to his feet. He clearly had no idea I could kill him where he stood, no questions asked, though I was sure I’d have to get a little closer to be certain – so there was no wandering around with Bat on open display in a security area.

Not this time.

Not until the very last moment, or he’d get suspicious…

‘You were the one with M –‘

As Bailey stepped into range, I cracked him square on the jaw, forcing him to his knees.

Bat was up, ready to smash in his nippy little brainpan. I whipped Bat down, and Bailey fell as much as he feinted right, avoiding the head-cracker, but his left arm wasn’t so fortunate. Pow! My shoulder wound opened (God, again), and in moments my fingertips arced a trail of spattery blood – there was no time to stop now. Grip was getting slippy. Had the bogeyman on the ropes. It was so easy.

We were pushing back towards the tables at the back of the room.

A second blow.  A third.  A fourth.  He was begging and swearing for me to stop, but rage was in control.  Smash! Crack! That one connected with his ribs. Grunted in pain. I’m still on like a juggernaut. Smashing down, two handed. But that extravagant blow missed, and I almost pitched forward onto the floor – Bat hit the deck with an almighty crack, vaguely dampened by the carpet, but my hands and arms felt like they flew apart.

Damaged though he was, Bailey was alert to any last chances. Somehow, he pulled and clawed himself to his feet, and barged his shoulder and neck into my guts. We pushed back, struggling for footing, crashing into tables and chairs, as he slipped and squirmed, and used his good arm to tear Bat from my grasp.  ‘No!’

Then – his head snapped back and smashing in like lump of concrete – his forehead crashed into the bridge of my nose, his damaged hand on me like a broken benediction.

Pain burst through every bone in my face.  My eyes exploded with tears. I think I smeared a handful of blood at him, but still I staggered backwards, entirely blind, and, when the edge of a table top got under my backside, I fell spread-eagled onto it.

Bailey was disorientated, bloodied, and more than broken, but he was still a big man. He swung Bat in his huge fist, ready to pound me like a gorilla, but instead he shattered Bat on the wooden table right by my temple, in a blast of crackling wood. Ears numbed, matchsticks everywhere. Overbalanced, he fell forward, and I had the syringe in my hand, and stabbed and stabbed and stabbed him in the neck and I injected him. And—

Nothing happened!

He grabbed my hand, which was still pressing the syringe in, and broke two fingers – I felt the joints go – and we were caught, hands and arms vibrating, as he tried to force me to drop the syringe and I tried to ram it further into his neck. The syringe glass shattered in my hand, and ground into my palm. His hand clamped then to my neck, the ruins of the syringe still under his fist. I couldn’t breath and I was whacking at his arm, but my flailing was getting weaker. I scratched at his face, scoring flesh.  His fist clamped down harder. His breath huffed in my face, like all the bad meat…

My fingers inched down. He was choking me. My fingers feeling for my knife. Lights and explosions were in my head. I tried to stab him in the gut, but my arm was pinned like a butterfly, and he swung me round by the neck and sent me crashing down onto the next table, my hand flying, the knife spinning away.

And then, his grip shaking – holding, holding, holding –

And then Bailey slid off me.

I couldn’t see, I couldn’t breath, but I was entirely conscious that he was no longer trying to kill me.

There were some odd noises, a crash of tables and chairs, a bang of a door.

I rolled straight off the table and crashed on the ground. My crushed hand was in agony, my neck barely able to support my head. I lay there for a while until the world stopped turning, and the lightbulbs stopped popping in my skull.

Bailey had gone, but judging by the trail of vomit, whatever was in that syringe was substantially more poisonous than the sleeping draft I was expecting. He was badly injured, so I guess whatever it was might finish him off. But either way, I was in no condition to give chase.  My wounds required immediate attention, so I made my way back here to my cabin – forget the treacherous nurse.

Now I’ve fixed up my wounds as best I can, bandages improvised from an old blouse, but weariness has found me. Too much has been happening.  I must pursue Bailey – the longer he has to recuperate, the more dangerous he’ll be – but it won’t be tonight.

I asked Frank.  He said Bailey’s in sickbay.  Can’t get to him there.  There are rules, blah, blah.

Damn.

Charlie Bat has gone. He was a loyal and trustworthy companion, and – above all – blunt.

I’ll miss you, ya ald stick.

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