Wearing the Inside Out
I was face to face again with a man that kidnapped me, beat me, drugged me, killed many others, maimed and sickened my father as a kid, let loose a plague on the high school, performed hideous experimentation on children and held the life of my would-be boyfriend in his twisted hands. And that's just the crap I knew about. Who knows what atrocities he was involved in as a member of the Third Reich.
The fear and anger rose in me, and I rose as well. Time seemed to slow for me. I watched as the old man's face shifted from surprise to rage as he closed his knobby hand around the haft of the hammer. I stood quickly and somehow my hands acted, spreading and lifting the heavy lab table as I stood.
The next heartbeat had me bringing the table over forward and shoving it as hard as I could, right at Stamos' head. All around me, glass shattered and fell as I swung the table at that evil man. In my vision, I saw Jack deftly skip back out of the way to the shelter of the doorway. I heard the table slam into something meaty and crunchy at the same time.
The echo of the table slam seemed to dissipate into the room, leaving only the slight sounds of the air conditioner and the hum from the bank of computer servers. Some sort of powdered reagent had been disturbed by my attack, and given the amount of energy and movement I'd put into that heavy lab table, it shouldn't have been a surprise that the powder hovered in the air, clouding things.
"Carver!" Jack called out.
"I'm okay," I replied, looking around for Stamos. "You okay?"
"I'm fine. I don't see Father."
"Me neither," I said under my breath. "We need to get out of here."
"I can't. The transmitter is still active."
"You," came a deep, guttural voice from the end of the lab near the garage access. Stamos stood there, clutching that damned wooden chair like it were a two handed baseball bat. "You are proving to be a very difficult failed experiment to expunge, boy!"
"So are you," I said, feeling my fingertips tingle. The adrenaline was not only kicking in, but it felt freaking fantastic.
"Oh rest assured, I am, heheh, I am no longer feeling, heh, generous enough to give you a clean, painless ending."
"I really am getting tired of you talking so much," I replied, not sure where that came from. "I am a fighter, like my father before me."
"So be it," the old man shouted and he charged, throwing the chair at me from about 20 feet away. I raised my hands quickly, crossing my wrists over my face to block the chair. It hit me real, real, real hard, but shattered against my forearms. It stung like mad, but I didn't feel any bones break. In fact, I felt the various parts of the chair breaking not only apart from each other, but splintering into wooden fragments.
"Paul, look out!" Jack shouted, his voice pitched high and loud. No sooner had the fragments of the chair rained down around me than the old man body tackled me. The impact started to knock me over, but before the slam could knock me too far, Stamos swung the hammer, catching me with the heavy end sideways, right in the bread basket.
Air left me with a painful whoosh! I collapsed on the ground, partly leaning on one of the lab table's thick, wooden legs. My body, which had been cheering just moments ago, was aching in ways I hadn't felt since trying to climb on that bridge railing with my rollerblades.
"A fighter, eh?" Stamos said, stalking towards me slowly, kicking chair fragments out of his way and toeing broken glassware to the side. "You are still a pathetic, pampered waste of good genetics. You have no idea of what you may be capable of. No matter. I don't need your brain to be able to learn your body's secrets. My only question, like your Bugs Bunny would say, is, heh heh, one lump or two."
He strode towards me, tapping the heavy end of the hammer into his empty, twisted hand. The grin on his face seemed to grow even more sinister as he moved in, the thick glasses of his spectacles flashing. I tried to get up, but my ribs ached, and I had a hard time drawing breath. I didn't feel like anything was broken, but it was like everything was in shock, not cooperating.
And man did my head feel like it was spinning. Only then did I realize that I'd dinged my dome on the other leg of the lab table, above the one I was uncomfortably reclining on. I managed to get one hand on the upper leg and tried to pull myself upright.
But Stamos grabbed the head of the hammer in his left hand, the handle poking out of his fist. He quickly lashed out with the handle, first smacking my hand on the upper leg of the lab table, and then against my right shoulder, grazing it. Pain exploded in my shoulder and my knuckles went numb.
"Hahahaa! Two lumps!" he cried in sadistic glee. "Unartful, brute force. Tsk-tsk-tsk. You Americans; always too ready to end things with a single blow, never taking the time to prepare for such a bold move. Always seeking the easy path."
"If I wanted the easy path," I said, hoping to get him talking and buy time for feeling to return to my fingers, "then why'd I come back?"
"You do not impress me, boy!" he shouted, getting flustered. You could see his eyes getting wild from that simple taunt. Guess he was starting to lose it. "While your escape was unforeseen, your motives here are your weakness. You think Jack wants to be with you. You think he is your friend."
"I know he's my friend."
"You know nothing! You see the proof before your eyes and you still deny…"
"I am his friend," Jack interrupted. "And more. Father," he added, almost mockingly.
The doc took a long, sideways glare at Jack, a look of pure consternation building on his face, when I made my move. I sprang forward and grabbed the rubber grip on the end of the hammer and squeezed hard. Like I was hanging off the end of a building on rope, I gripped so hard. Grip secured, I hauled back as hard as I could. He focused back on me and pulled back, trying to maintain his control of the tool turned weapon.
Neither of us was about to let go. I felt my fingernails dig into the tough rubber handle as I clenched in. He started trying to twist the hammer out of my hand, using his standing position to his advantage while I was going into tug-of-war mode, using my weight and strength, dropping as low as possible. We both grit our teeth and struggled.
I began to feel a shifting of weight along the handle and thought to myself Yes, he's weakening! But the reality of it was that the rubber grip broke away from the shaft of the hammer's handle. Both of us fell away in different directions, each still clutching our respective parts of the hammer. Unfortunately, all I had was the slip on rubber handle grip. He still had the metal part.
That's when the first little boom rocked the house. We felt it in the basement, so whatever exploded at ground level must have made a hell of a mess. We later learned that it was a bottle of propane from a gas grill. Makes a hell of a mess. How Kenny and Robby made it blow up like that I don't know, but it made one hell of a distraction.
Tossing the rubber hammer handle aside, I surged forwards and grabbed at Stamos' wrists. He returned his attention to me and tried to turn us, pressing me towards the bank of computer cabinets. He tried to groin me with his knee, but I stepped back quickly. Had to lose my grip on his wrists, and in backing up I slammed shoulder first into one of the cabinets, knocking the door off. I spun and grabbed the door and turned completely around with it, barely intercepting the heavy end of the hammer. It dented the heavy armored door about three inches deep!
Three more heavy blows fell on the door before it was ripped out of my hands by a sideways smash of the hammer. Stamos looked wild and crazed as the door crashed down the hallway towards the garage access. He lifted the hammer high overhead, teeth, yellow and crooked, gnashed in anger, to smash my face in. So I stepped forward and punched as hard as I could right on his nose, straight in.
He stumbled back, shaking his head after my punch. His nose started dripping blood almost immediately, but his rage was only enhanced. He snarled and came at me again, ready to slam the hammer into my head. He moved so, so fast; much faster than a man his age should have been able to. And he was still amazingly strong. I reached up in desperation and grabbed his forearms as he brought the hammer down towards my head. My footing was bad, my arms out of position to block, and I knew this time he might land that brain-smashing blow.
That's when Jack rammed into me, tackling me aside with his back and shoulder. He must have launched himself up as well because he impacted me and knocked me out of the way, like a cue ball lining up a bank shot. He also had both hands extended up, grasping his father's forearms, dragging them and the hammer out of line with my wonky cranium.
Right on target, into the exposed computer components in the cabinet.
Lightning split the room into areas of flashing light and dark. Sparks flew as I hit the ground, curling away from the splashing of light and smoking bits of plastic, metal and silicon. The sound of buzzing filled the air, along with two screams of pain and agony. One guttural and deep, the other higher pitched. Shadows and dancing electricity outlined father and son as they writhed together. It seemed to go on forever.
And just as suddenly, it ended.
Lights in the underground flickered and went out as the electricity blasting out of the shattered computer hardware ceased. All was silent. I heard a distant click and then the lights snapped back on, although much dimmer. I gathered myself to stand and looked over to where Jack and Stamos lay. The hammer was still stuck in the destroyed component, apparently fused in place. I small bit of the motherboard glowed, popped and ejected itself from the console as I watched, taking in the scene.
Jack and his father lay on the ground, separated by about six feet, both unconscious. Stamos' hair was smoking slightly, standing out at even weirder angles than before and he had a drool puddle from his open mouth, but he was still breathing. The old man was certainly a tough bastard. And Jack…
My Jack was curled on the ground, twitching slightly. I couldn't even speak his name as I ran to his side. His head was arched back despite the rest of him being nearly fetal. Blood dripped from his nose and ears. His hands were cocked back like he was locked in some kind of painful muscle cramps, those slender fingers clutched into tight fists.
I cradled his head, crying like a five year old. His breathing was shallow and pained. I don't know how long I sat there, holding him, calling his name and bawling my eyes out. It couldn't have been very long. He was completely unresponsive to my voice or my hands stroking his brown hair, his chin and cheeks. I didn't know what to do, and to be honest, I was so overcome I didn't hear any of the noises upstairs.
I also didn't hear Stamos shuffle to his feet, wheezing.
"You shall die now," Stamos said. I looked up, shocked to see him still able to stand. "You've ruined him! Ruined everything! I will kill you with my bare hands, boy!" His movements were pained, spastic. I think he was still having issues with all the electricity he absorbed. But his hatred was plain on his face.
He lurched towards me and I rolled over Jack's body to protect him. Somehow I got partly to my feet just as he landed on me. Stamos grabbed me by the throat and shoulder, and I managed to get the hand off my shoulder with a simple dip. His grip on my throat was another matter, though. Both of my hands wrapped around his wrist trying to get that powerful grasp off of my neck. He forced me onto my back with just his body weight and leverage.
I tried to get a foot up to kick him away from me, but his flailing arm wrapped up my leg, giving him a better grasp on my throat. His eyes were wild, the lids peeled back. Somewhere in all the fighting, his thick glasses had been dislodged and the pale yellowy tint to his eyeballs was madly shot through with red blood vessels. His breath was coming in heavy gasp, punctuated with bits of spittle while he put all his effort into choking the life from me.
I began to panic, struggling with the crazy old man. While on my back, clutching at his strangling hand, I had no strength to shove him off. I couldn't twist much, his weight pinning my shoulders while he had my one leg wrapped up. I twisted my hands in opposite directions on his wrist, trying to give him an Indian burn. But the murderous intensity in his eyes matched his rage, and he wasn't going to just let go until I was dead.
So I hauled off and kicked him with the other foot, rolling as far back as I could to plant my sneaker on his hip and shoving with everything I had. He seemed to get upset at this, so I kicked again. And again. I kept slamming into that hip with my foot, each time jarring his whole frame.
I shifted slightly under him and aimed that foot more to his middle and kicked hard. By this time, my vision started going dim. He'd been squeezing my throat so hard that I was barely breathing. My foot connected with his body and this time I took my hands off his grasping claw of a hand. As my foot returned from kicking his center, I slammed both my hands on either side of his head, aiming to squash his wild eyes as if they were hard boiled eggs.
And then I kicked one last time, not even sure if my aim was still good. I felt his hand lift off my neck and I sucked in air, my body going flat. I shook my head quickly, trying to clear my vision again. I saw Stamos climbing back to his feet, about eight feet away. He looked clearly shaken, with white dusty stuff powdering his clothing and face. I didn't realize it, but I'd kicked him up to the ceiling, where he'd made a three foot hole before falling back down and landing on a rack of chemicals and tubes.
He charged at me, screaming something in German. Just then, three Canterbury city policemen burst in and drew guns on Stamos. I was so lost to my worry over Jack that I don't remember what they said to him. Apparently he didn't care as he came back at me. I rolled backwards and got my feet again just as he got to me. His hand shot back to my throat, but I sidestepped and lifted my knee into his stomach.
He doubled over but surged upwards, clubbing me with his arm. I heard the cops scream "don't move!" He reached down for my throat again and one of the cops fired, striking Stamos in the shoulder and dropping him to the ground. I don't know if that knocked him out, or what. I do know that one held a gun to the back of his head while the other two cuffed him up. Four more officers came down the stairs in a bit and called for paramedics. I sort of saw that happen, but my attention was elsewhere.
The paramedics came in through the slanted back door to the cellar. It took one of the cops actually pulling me away from Jack's side as the medics went to work on him. A lot of jargon went on back and forth as they checked him out and got him ready for transport. They got Jack up and out, but he remained unconscious. He seemed so small lying on that ambulance bed thing. I kept my hand on his as we got to the ambulance.
When I came out of the house, still trying to stay within touch range of Jack, Mom and Aunty rushed to my side. Stamos was still sitting in the back of a nearby police car, glaring. I had blood on my hands, face and shirt, and someone had tossed a blanket over me. A pair of paramedics looked me over, checking my bruises. But it was all a blur to me. I was more worried about Jack.
There were flashes as we came around the side of the house, and they didn't stop until we packed up to go to the hospital. Media types who had been watching the house since I'd been reported missing were swarming behind the police cordon. At least two TV cameras were there, and a lot of people from the neighborhood. The questions lobbed as us were hurried and loud, but I tuned them out. Aunty went into full on protective mode while Mom sat with me.
"I wont ask for details," Mom said, holding my hand while the med tech was cleaning a small wound on my head with something that made my skin sting. "All I want to know is if you're okay."
I nodded and leaned forward, resting my head on her shoulder. Aunty came around behind Mom and hugged us both together. I know they were both crying. I was too. But it was good crying. Something bad had happened yet my family was still together, still healthy, still good. The only thing I was missing just then was Jack.
Looking about in the crowd, I saw Kenny and Robby, with Kenny's dad standing behind them. I knew that the others were there as well, someplace. Kenny gave me a thumbs up which I mimicked back, although not grinning anywhere as broadly as he was.
At my Mom's insistence, we went to the hospital. I got x-rayed, prodded some more, had an ice pack applied to my fingers and shoulder, spoke my report to the doctor and a police officer. Through it all, I kept worrying more about Jack than any of my injuries. In fact, the bruising was so slight, even the places where that chair had broken over my forearms and where the hammer did manage glancing blows, that the nurses thought I was making up how I got hurt.
At some point, they let me go see Jack. He'd been in surgery. His body looked relaxed, despite the bandages on his neck. Mom stood behind me as we walked into his recovery room. I felt my tears starting again and her hand on my shoulder. I found a chair and moved beside Jack's bed, listening to his soft breathing, that gentle beep of the heart monitor. I didn't want to leave.
The next day, the police came back to verify my statement, show me pictures to identify. I did as was asked, but could not be budged. Jack had taken all that voltage for me, defending me, saving me. I was damned well going to be there when he woke up.
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