Winter hummed to himself as he tightened his grip on one of his knives.
Four-four time fit his mood.
The largest man he’d just insulted was warming up a haymaker from his right shoulder.
Winter felt good.
He stepped into the wild right and caught it on his forearm. He slid his leg forward and barred his opponent’s knee. His knife hand whipped around and the blade bit the man’s back with a dull thud.
Winter stood motionless for a moment; a thin, intense snake. He smiled without showing his teeth. His eyes focused on his next dance partners.
Winter kicked the larger man’s leg out from under him, twisted the handle of the knife and let go. The thug hit the floor with a grunt.
Winter knew that getting stuck in the back took a minute to sink in so he kicked the larger man in the chin for good measure as he whirled towards his next victim and drew his favorite knife.
Three minutes ago Winter walked into the Watering Hole Tavern with a mission. Gabriel had said to him:
“The Savonarolas are making noise. Go piss them off.”
This was work Winter enjoyed.
Winter knew the three Savonarola thugs at the bar. They were large goons but Mel was the largest. Frank carried a gun but was squeamish. Brad was the worst of the lot. Winter bought a pint of beer, took a sip, pitched it at Frank and asked Mel if he bit the pillow when Brad put the spurs to him.
Now Mel was on the floor short a few teeth with a cheap lock back knife buried in his shoulder. Winter hoped he’d gouged his shoulder blade well enough. It would ache for years. Frank was up and twitching. Brad was hanging back. No one else in the bar was interested in joining the tango.
Winter’s favorite knife is a fourteen inch kabar. He likes it because it slows fights down. Winter finds that people give him more room to work when he has it in hand. Mel started to look too scared though. Winter figured he would go for his gun.
Mel proved too nervous for his own good. He snagged the front sight on his pocket and fumbled off-balance against the bar. Winter took advantage of the opening, slid next to him and cut a gash across his forearm. This time Winter got a scream for his efforts.
Brad moved in and whipped a barstool at Winter’s knees. Winter leapt and landed next to Brad. He slashed left and right. Brad had fallen back two beats faster than Winter expected.
Brad whipped out a baton. Winter rolled and caught the blow on his shoulder. Winter bit his lip. He tasted blood and his head roared. Brad danced back out of line panting. Winter growled.
Moans and gasps sounded behind the combatants as they circled. Smoke hung heavy in the bar. Someone coughed. Brad decided to offer an opinion:
They pounced for each other simultaneously. Brad flung the baton at Winter’s face and grabbed for his wrist. Winter whipped his head left, dropped the big kabar and grabbed Brad by the hair.
Winter flowed around the stockier man and punched him twice in the kidneys. Brad gasped and dropped to his knees.
The blood beat in Winter’s ears dulled down and he could hear the bar noise, the music and the gasps of Mel and Frank. He knew he’d done his job. But Winter never knows when to stop.
“Tell Jack to step back. Tell Joy his aftershave stinks. Tell Lucinda I’ve booked our honeymoon. And stay out of my streets.”
Winter’s eyes glittered. He popped a switchblade and slit brad’s throat. Blood stench filled the air. Winter held him up by his hair until he went limp. Winter spat on the corpse and looked around. He stared down every patron as he picked up his kabar and walked out.
Winter walked alone in the cool rain. He stayed back from the street and looked around at the lights and the buildings. Traffic rolled along the pavement with a reassuring rumble. Busses roared by as he walked. He thought he could hear the people mover at one point.
Winter reached his apartment and walked up. He washed blood from under his fingernails and stared into the mirror. His grin was still in place.
The phone rang. Ash was on the other end:
“Winter, get down to Grand Circus. Gabriel has something big brewing and it has a short fuse.”
Ash hung up before Winter could respond. Winter got the distinct impression that he made Ash nervous. That added a quarter inch to Winter’s grin. Ash might be some big shot in a suit but he wouldn’t dare step into the streets against Winter. Winter knew he owned the streets. Sure, Gabriel owns Winter, but that’s just the way it works.
Winter dialed Berlin.
Winter and Berlin had been friends since childhood. Berlin got picked on a lot back then. For some reason the other kids always thought that since he was big and slow he was good natured. Well he had been. It didn’t last. Things always seemed to escalate around Winter and Berlin got caught up in it. But he played along willingly. Kid sets little Berlin’s shoe on fire at the playground. Little Winter kicks him into the dirt. Another kid holds little Winter down and cracks his nose. Little Berlin hits that kid with a brick. Pretty soon you hit a rhythm and leave school behind for house breaking, mugging and general mayhem. Happy memories walked with Winter to the refrigerator for a root beer as the cordless rang in his ear.
“B, it’s W. Ash just sent out the call. You ready to roll?”
“Sure. Any idea what we’re gonna do?”
“’Kay. See you at the station.”
Winter dropped the phone back on its cradle. He finished his root beer and changed into jeans with fewer bloodstains. He strapped his knives on and stretched his shoulders. He lit up a joint and blew smoke rings at the bare light bulb in the hall. It was shaping up to be a good day.
Twenty Three (sorry about the hiatus)
7 years ago