Stevie was not feeling well. He had been out on the streets for over a month now, the last few weeks being particularly rough. His poor attempt at stitching himself up after being stabbed had resulted in a heavy wad of scar tissue developing around his collar bone, and the string of cold nights in alleyways and under bridges had left his lungs slightly flooded. He was in desperate need of a stay in hospital. And more importantly he was hungry.
But Stevie had more pressing matters at hand. He drew the rim of his hat down as the man passed behind his seat. On the counter in front of him he had an empty seven ounce glass, his keys and the barman’s old bar rag. He began slowly wrapping the towel around his right hand with the patience of a boxer. The man spoke to the other patron at the bar.
“Well look who we have here” he said with a sinister tone of victory, “Phil! It’s been a long time.”
Phil looked up with a fearful expression. The Citadel agent took a step towards him. Stevie placed his glass in his bandaged hand and silently turned on his stool.
“C’mon Phil, don’t act like you don’t remember me.”
Phil stood up and held his empty beer bottle by the neck like the handle of a knife. He smashed it on the counter and waved it at the agent threateningly. Stevie used the distraction to get closer to the agent who was still unaware of his presence.
Phil swung his weapon through the air as the agent dodged and pushed him off balance. Phil stumbled backwards and the agent laughed. Phil regained himself and swung again clumsily. The agent stepped sideways and ducked teasingly. He shuffled backwards toward Stevie as he played with his prey. Phil lunged forward in a jab but the agent took his wrist and the bottle fell to the floor, shattering. The agent pulled him close to his face and spoke with a fierce sense of hatred:
“I bet you thought I was dead.”
“I bet you thought the same about me.” Stevie growled and swung his right hand in a looping hook. The agent, in his surprise, turned his head around, unable to protect himself as his hands were still around Phil. The two motions synchronised and the glass shattered and splintered on the agent’s face. He stumbled to the side, releasing Phil as he struggled to stay upright. Stevie stepped forward and threw all his weight into it as he punched down onto the agent’s exposed kidney. The agent dropped to his knees, still facing away from Stevie. Stevie loosened the bar rag and removed a shard of glass from his thumb. Blood leaked out, in a soft stream to his elbow. He hooked the rag around the agent’s neck and laid his knee into his back, aiming for the spine.
“Go.” He ordered and tilted his head towards his keys at the counter.
The agent clawed at his faced. Stevie pulled with all his strength which was quickly draining. The agent managed to slip one foot onto the floor, his other leg still kneeling. He could feel his grip getting weaker, his weeks of malnutrition and exile taking their toll.
“Let him go!” the barman shouted, his single barrel shotgun pressed against Stevie’s temple, “I ain’t afraid to-”
The agent launched himself off his planted foot and a deafening explosion rang out in front of Stevie’s eyes as the gun fired its round. “Shit!” the barman popped the weapon open and took a round from his pocket.
Stevie had been slammed backwards into the base of the counter. He struggled to lift himself to a seating position. The agent stood with menacing patience. He took the blood soaked rag from his throat and inhaled with difficulty. The barman raised his weapon but the agent was too quick. He grabbed the barrel and redirected the shot at Stevie, chunks of wood flying out of the barstool next to him. The agent jabbed the butt of the gun into the barman’s face causing him to release his grip. He then delivered a heavier blow dropping the man to the floor in a heap.
Stevie had managed to take a knee, using the barstool as support. He dragged it in front of himself just in time to deflect the baseball bat swing of the shotgun. He kicked the agent’s knee, almost dislocating it and sent another kick to his jaw. Adrenaline surged as he stood to his feet and threw the remains of the barstool. It splintered over the agent’s back but he still didn’t fall.
Stevie was gasping for air, hunched slightly and staring at his adversary. The agent stared back at him through his bloodied and possibly blinded eye. He stood tall and appeared to regain his strength by the second. Flight flashed through Stevie’s conscious and he glanced to the door of the bar remembering Phil in the car. The agent caught his surrender and smiled. He threw the shotgun to the side and stepped aggressively forward. Stevie postured up and swung a tired right. The agent blocked it and hit him with a damaging strike to the face. Stevie fell to the floor and received a heavy boot to his gut.
“Arrgh!” he cried and curled up in pain. He felt the bile in his stomach rising through his throat. He swallowed it back down and tried to stand. Another blow, this time not as hard. The agent was taking his time.
“So Whisky didn’t kill you?” he said, “I wonder why.” He paced towards the far end of the bar, towards the entrance and took a clear spirit from the wall. He drank a short swig and then poured the remains over his face. He groaned in restrained agony and threw the bottle against the wall. He looked back at Stevie, the damage to his face revealed for a brief moment before the blood began to leak out.
Stevie could barely breathe through the pain. He felt a few ribs digging into his lung. The scar tissue below his collar bone had reopened. He thought about death. Did he regret it?
“I guess after I kill you and after I kill that punk kid, I’ll have to go have a word with my old partner too. Find out the history between-”
It all happened in slow motion. A distant revving sound suddenly grew thunderous in Stevie’s distorted hearing. The door, its framing and the immediate wall surrounding the frame was smashed open as Taylor’s car came bursting into the bar. The agent was hurled forward like a rag doll by the force. The car came to stop, the right headlight of the car less than a metre from Stevie’s face. He was blinded and barely recognised Phil as he helped to his feet.