Short chapter today, for which I apologize. When it is edited together, it will likely be merged with either the previous or next chapters.
Micah did the only thing he could.
He heaved up on the table with all his might, scattering drinks, cards, and chips, as he tipped it all over on his foes.
And then he turned and ran like hell.
He had barely made it into the street before a strong hand fell on his shoulder and squeezed. Micah had no time to react before it swung him around.
The ex-Confederate had barely managed to recognize Captain Burns before the man swung his fist, hard, into Micah’s gut. He folded over in pain around the blow, but on the way down managed to throw a shot at the other’s knee.
And like that, he was tumbling free again. Given how fast the Captain had caught him, Micah doubted he could outrun any of the three, so he rolled to his feet with his fists cocked and ready.
Webb was already closing, his glasses glinting strangely in the night. Micah didn’t hesitate to throw a left cross, then a right hook. Neither blow landed; the other man turned them away easily.
Not undaunted, Micah continued to fire punches off, left and right, but Webb moved impossibly perfectly, as if he knew each of Micah’s attacks before the man made them. Micah tried a kick, but it never connected. How is he doing this? It’s impossible!
Webb’s grin was predatory as he effortlessly deflected Micah’s attacks. “Now, you die,” he hissed. “You have no chance against us. You should have walked away.”
Micah barely managed a thought, How is he talking so easily? between blows. The bespectacled man made no move to counterattack, but his hands and feet were a blur as he kept Micah’s attacks at bay. Why isn’t he pressing me back?
The answer occurred to him the same instant a flash of movement caught his eye. He was far too slow, however, to stop the big man, Mason, from smashing a hammer blow into his chest.
Micah had no time to prepare for the strike, but he doubted preparation would have helped. One moment he was swing punches with every bit of strength he had, the next he was flying through the air. The world spun, and he crashed into the snowing street, the cold biting at his face but doing nothing to extinguish the fire in his chest. Broken ribs? he wondered as he rolled over onto his back.
He blinked the stars out of his eyes, and when he looked up, all three men stood over him. “That was fool of you, boy,” Burns said. “Guess now I’ll have to kill you.”
He hefted a gun, which Micah belatedly realized was his own.
“Die,” the one-eyed man said as he pulled the trigger.
The Colt clicked on an empty cylinder.
“Oh, that’s right,” he said in bemusement. “You emptied this into me after the first bullet didn’t do the trick. That’s okay, I’ve got…”
Burns didn’t get a chance to finish his statement. She materialized in front of him, her whole body a blur of motion.
Micah could only watch in helpless amazement as Rota attacked all three men, armed only with a woodcutter’s ax.
Her first blow struck the Colt precisely, the weapon coming to pieces as it flew through the air. She immediately lashed out with the butt of the ax, catching Mason alongside the jaw with enough force to shatter bone. The big man staggered back, clutching his face. With the blunt end of the weapon she smashed Webb’s temple with killing force, and followed through so the sharp end rested against Burns’s throat.
“Now, now, Rota,” he said calmly. “What are you doing? I came here to recruit you, but I was perfectly willing to let you go. Now that you’ve done this, however, I’m afraid I’m going to have to kill you, too.”
The blue-eyed, blonde beauty shook her head slowly. “You’re not capable of killing me.”
“Not yet,” Burns amended. “I will soon, though. Boys!”
To Micah’s amazement, both Webb and Mason stepped up beside him. Webb worked his jaw around, but it was clearly intact, and Mason…
He should be dead!
A small red marked had appeared where the ax had smashed into his skull, but beyond that there was no sign of what should have been lethal injury.
“Last chance to reconsider,” Burns warned the woman. “After we walk away, the next time we meet I’ll be killing you.”
“There’s nothing to reconsider. I’ve done it once. Never again.” She withdrew the ax from the man’s throat, but held it in a firm two-handed grip, her entire posture unyielding. “Besides, I survived the entire meltdown once. Why do you think I won’t a second time?”
Burns began to laugh, a belly-chuckle that eerily contrasted with the deadly standoff. “You are something else, Rota.”
“Leave,” she said coldly.
“Fine, fine. Just stay out of our way. I also advise you keep your little friend there from trying us a second time – without you, he’d already be dead.” Burns smiled at the fallen Micah. “Take my advice, boy: you already used all the luck you’ll ever have surviving this once. The next time, you’ll die.”
“Go to hell,” Micah managed to wheeze, his chest burning.
Burns ignored him. “Farewell, then, Rota. Three weeks.”
“I know.” She turned her back on all three of them, a deliberate move, and she allowed the ax to fall to her side with a one-handed grip. While all three of the men stared at her back, she knelt down next to Micah. “Are you hurt?”
“Ribs,” he managed. “Might be broken.”
Rota hissed in irritation. “You were too slow. You have no idea what you were hunting, do you?”
“Three ex-Union soldiers,” Micah gasped.
“So no, then.” She sighed and glanced back; all three men were gone. “Come, now. We need to find you a doctor.”