There was something in my hand, something small and oddly shaped. It was driving me crazy. I lay there on the living room floor, my eyes shut, and played with the object, squeezing it, rolling it between my fingers. When at last I was able to open my eyes, I found I couldn’t see. Blackness everywhere. Was I blind? No. It was night. I was at home. Someone had hit me from behind. Must’ve been Merci. I tried to rise. It was hard work. I managed to kneel. My eyes grew accustomed to the lack of light and I could make out shapes of furniture. But why would Merci hit me? Money? Surely, she didn’t think I had it on me, that I had it lying around the house. I managed to stand. My mind cleared a bit more. I heard noises coming from upstairs. The thudding sound of someone walking across the hardwood floors above me. What would Merci be doing up there? I continued to roll the object between my fingers. Oddest damn thing. I held it close to my eyes, tried to catch it in the dim street light shining through my windows. It looked like a bullet. The .22 I had ejected from Merci’s gun. How many days ago was that? I turned it in my fingers again, squeezed it tight. A muffled scream from upstairs. My God in heaven! I dropped the bullet and reached for my Beretta as it clattered on the floor. Only my gun wasn’t there—Alec never returned it and I forgot to ask.
I stumbled unsteadily up the stairs, making entirely too much noise. Light spilled out from under the door to my guest room—the room that once belonged to my father. I leaned on the door. It flew open. It wasn’t even closed all the way, much less locked. I nearly stumbled to the floor, but regained my balance. Devanter laughed at me. He had been waiting, a knife in his hand. One of my knives from the wooden block in my kitchen. In his other hand was a lit cigarette. He flicked it to the floor. Merci Cole was behind him on the bed. She was nude. Small, round burn marks dotted her flesh. Her hands and feet were bound to the headboard and baseboard with strips of raspberry lace, the rest of her gown was shredded and lying on the floor. She screamed. Panties in her mouth muffled the cry.
Devanter rushed at me. Or rather, he rushed at someone I recognized as me. See, I wasn’t there any longer. Instead I was up high, floating near the ceiling somewhere, looking down. Watching. Watching what this person did, this person who looked like me, who staggered on quaking legs like a drunk about to pass out. He didn’t seem afraid, this person. He just stood there when Devanter rushed at him, the knife held high above his head. And when Devanter tried to strike down at him, this person who looked like me crossed his right forearm over his left forearm and thrust them above his head, meeting the blow straight on, blocking it with the V of his crossed arms, absorbing the shock of the blow with those already impossibly weak legs.
This person who looked like me but who couldn’t possibly be me then grabbed Devanter’s wrist. He grabbed the wrist with both hands like it was a baseball bat. He swung the wrist down in a clockwise motion. Swung it down and then up again even as he stepped in under the arm that was attached to the wrist. He turned his body and pivoted on the balls of his feet—amazing that he could still stand—and kept swinging that arm upward until it reached twelve o’clock and then back down again, winding Devanter’s arm like a corkscrew until Devanter’s body simply had to follow that arm, up and around in a clockwise motion.
Then boom. Just like that, Devanter was on his back on the floor. His wrist broken. He had dropped the knife when the bone cracked. It skittered across the floor and the person who looked like me went to fetch it. “Hurry,” I kept telling him. “Hurry.” But he seemed to take forever to get that knife. While he was getting it, Devanter struggled to his feet. It didn’t bother him a bit that his wrist was broken—he didn’t seem to mind at all. He rushed again at the person who looked like me just as he retrieved the knife and spun to meet the attack, holding the knife low with both hands, the point of the knife tipped upward. Devanter’s momentum carried him forward. The person who looked like me brought the knife up. Devanter tried to parry the knife aside with his hand. But he forgot. His wrist was broken. His hand didn’t respond. He missed the knife.