I close the space between us and wrap the wire around his neck. He grunts and the glass of water drops from his grasp and shatters on the floor. He doesn’t have time for any other reaction. I yank the wire taut against his throat and cut off his air, taking him down to the ground.
My legs band around him, holding him in place like a black widow about to feed. A maneuver I’ve learned thanks to training with Salvatore and perfected on my own. He struggles within my grip, but it’s no use. The metal wire digs into his throat, piercing his skin as he sputters for air. He’d do anything for just one more breath, but I don’t let up. I only draw the wire tighter. It presses tauter into his fat neck and chokes him out.
Skip bucks against my hold. His hands come up to try and pry mine off. I grit my teeth, using my full strength to pull the wire so taut around his neck that his face reddens and his eyes bulge as though about to pop from their sockets.
Another minute or two and he’ll be done for. He’ll slump against the floor and pass out from lack of oxygen. I’ll finish him off.
Skip gives up on prying off my hands. He sweeps his arm desperately across the floor and manages to grab onto a glass shard. He bends his arm backward and slices the jagged piece of glass down my forearm.
It happens so quickly, my natural reaction is to let go. My bleeding arm jerks away, giving up my taut hold on the wire.
We’re in a fight to the death the moment he’s freed. He’s still gasping for air, pushing himself up on his knees, before he rushes at me. I stagger out of his way in a narrow miss.
Skip’s an out of shape man in his early 60s. The most exercise he gets on any given day is the walk from his sofa to the kitchen to make himself a snack.
But he’s still significantly bigger. He’s probably stronger, even in old age.
I go into defensive mode. Ignoring the sting of my arm, I focus on blocking his advances. I stay a step ahead and search for my opening. My heart beats steadily despite the danger I’m in—I can’t panic or lose my cool. Staying calm has always worked in my favor.
Skip throws his fist at me and I dodge it by ducking in anticipation. I kick at his groin and then his shin in a double combo. He crashes to the floor. I move for the wire and trip on the leg he holds out.
Our struggle turns more desperate as we roll over a couple times. My fingers have wrapped around the wire. I just need to trap him again. I need to get the wire back around his neck.
Skip grunts and pants as we wrestle and he uses his doughy size advantage, flipping me over despite my struggles.
“Who the fuck are you?” he puffs out, ripping off my mask. “You trying to rob me?”
I’m pinned down on my stomach with his knee in my back. The worst possible position to be in.
The calm exterior I’ve been putting forth disappears. I’m no longer searching for an opening. I’m thrashing underneath him as panic explodes and memories of my rape begin crashing down on me. It stifles the air in my lungs and makes my heart race.
Get a grip. Get a fucking grip. This isn’t how you die. KEEP. CALM.
But once the panic poisons me, there’s no stopping it. I flail under Skip, desperate to free myself.
He presses my face into the floor and grits out he’s going to kill me. He’ll claim self-defense. He’ll empty a clip of his gun right into me.
“You’re gonna regret the day you fucked with me.” His knee lifts from where it’s digging into my spine and he shoots up to wrench open the drawer of his nightstand table. Presumably to grab the firearm inside.
I’m lifting myself up to stop him when something in my periphery stands out to me. I throw a quick glance at the doorway to his bedroom. Salvatore watches the scene unfold, his own gun drawn.
He squeezes the trigger. The bullet hits Skip as he’s digging in his drawer. He flops down sideways onto his bed and then drops to the floor several feet away.
Salvatore lowers his gun to his side. He peers at me with his expressionless face and swirl of piercing blue and green eyes. I catch my breath and rise to my feet, blood dripping from my arm, and the metal wire loose in my hand.
“So,” he says, “this is what you’ve been doing at night.”
“He’s still alive,”Delphine says, gesturing to the guy twitching on the floor.
Indifferent to the life draining from him, I squeeze the trigger a second time, officially killing Skip, and step toward Delphine.
“What were you doing here, Phi? Why were you fighting him?”
Maybe more livid with her than I’ve ever been. Babysitting Delphine and making sure she keeps her ass safe was the last thing I had in mind for tonight.