There was a whisper of movement behind Derrick’s right shoulder and the over-sensitive nerves of the hunted caused him to dodge to the side just as a fist flashed past his face.
Having actually hit nothing with all of his might, the man was over balanced, and then he was taken completely by surprise when Derrick grabbed his wrist and jerked him forward. With his next step, Derrick was behind his attacker, and with a vicious twist, bones broke and the man now identified as the newbie, screamed.
The other four, for some unidentifiable reason, closed in for their own attack. Experienced predators would have held off; dangerous prey earned caution, but these men obviously felt safety in numbers. Normally, this might have been true, but the average human prey wasn’t elf trained and hardened by the life of a druid as Derrick defined it. The odds were still in Derrick’s favor.
Of the first two to close, one carried a knife – a small folding toy with no more than a three-inch blade. Their clash was brief and suddenly they were down, one curled up, trying to convince his chest to flex some air into his lungs, the other quite still. The third attacker was right on their heels. His attack held some finesse as he whirled into action, but his exotic spin merely caused him to meet the street from a higher altitude as Derrick caught his jumping spin kick and carried his foot far higher than he ever planned. The fourth man didn’t bother to close the distance; he took careful aim and fired, but Derrick was still in motion.
Though the bullet tore through his thigh, Derrick landed like a cat and like a cat, or perhaps a wolf, he launched himself at his last and deadliest attacker in a long dive. His right hand reached for a throat hold, and even as another round was fired with not enough accuracy, Derrick’s left hand grabbed the wrist, seeking control of the weapon. When they hit the ground, the shooter remained completely still. Derrick retained his grip for a few moments, but as soon as he determined that there was no pulse under his hand, he stood. First thing he did was look around in an effort to see if the wayward bullet had hit anyone, but if it hit anything at all, it was stone.
This was a civilized city, there was an assortment of shops along this street, and many of them were lit up. A dozen people altogether were gathered in front of half of those, but as soon as he looked their direction, they melted away.
He healed his leg and then touched his medallion. “Enders. I’m in front of a place called Lloyd’s Cleaners. I’m afraid I’ve made something of a mess. I don’t know the street.”
“There can’t be too many Lloyd’s Cleaners in this city. I’ll find you. Wait there.”
Derrick waited. He went around to check the others. As he approached the initial attacker, the man cowered away from him. “The police will be here soon.” He waved his hand in front of the man’s face, making no effort to obscure the move necessary to cast his command. “You will tell them the truth.”
The man gulped and nodded.
Derrick paced the center of his battlefield until Enders showed up nearly an hour later. By the time he drove up, another of the men had wakened, but Derrick refused to allow any of them to do more than sit up. When one attempted to stand, Derrick was immediately over him offering to contest the issue. The man thought better of his desire.
When Enders arrived, he didn’t bother to park. He stopped and stood at the open door of his car. He took one look at Derrick and his battlefield, and then reached back in for the radio and called for an ambulance, a wagon, and some backup.
Derrick noticed that he wore a dark blue jacket now, one with a badge on the chest. “I only killed one. I didn’t have much choice.”
Enders glanced down at the bloodstain down the side of Derrick’s leg. “You need to see a doctor? That looks pretty bad.”
Derrick looked down too. “No, I’m fine. I can’t say the same for the others, though I did try not to kill any of them.” He noticed the light colored jacket Enders had lent him; it was now a little worse for the abuse. “I’ll get you a new jacket as soon as I can. Sorry.”
Enders shrugged off the comment. “You’re going to have to press charges.”
“Press charges? What does that mean?”
“He just attacked us,” said one of the men sitting on the street, holding his head. “We was just walking along and he came out of nowhere and attacked us.”
Derrick was about to call out the lie when his first assailant beat him to it. “No he didn’t. He was supposed to be my target. He was gonna be my first. I never got the chance to tag him. I ain’t never seen anyone move as fast as he did. I think he took a bullet though. Greg fired a couple shots at him and I saw blood.”
“Shut the fuck up, Timmy,” said the first speaker. “Quit being a gasbag.”
“Don’t call me that,” said the one labeled Timmy.
“Be quiet, both of you. You’ll both get a chance to speak your peace,” said Enders. He pulled Derrick over to the sidewalk and spoke quietly. “You have to sign a statement telling what happened here, that these guys attacked you, and you have to be willing to go to court and tell a judge as much too. If you don’t, we can’t do anything to them.”
“These are the men who attacked Gage. They needed to be punished.”
“I believe you, but we have no proof, and your word on that just isn’t good enough; you weren’t there either.”
“Doesn’t remember; he doesn’t even remember going to the store. If you don’t do anything, if you walk away here, all we’ll have is their word, and you’ve already heard what that will be. In no time at all, they’ll be innocent people just heading to the pool hall over there when this guy came out of nowhere and…” he nodded toward the people-littered street. “And with a body, you would be on our most wanted list in no time. They could even give descriptions, and I would likely be jobless, if not in jail, for letting you go ‘cause I sure as hell ain’t gonna try to keep you here.”
Derrick looked at Enders hard, and then he growled and paced away. He hated being forced to take an action. Three steps later, he turned. “I should have just killed them all and vanished. Justice served. They would have paid for their crime, and the crime against them could have just gone unsolved. You know I’m right. I know even better that I’m right, and they know they deserve it, if not for the attack against Gage, then against someone else.”
The three men sitting in the street waiting to be arrested and carted off to the hospital, looked at Derrick in horror.
“This is not your mountains,” said Enders.
“No, this is your city, and I hate getting mixed up in it worse every time. You tie your own hands with things like this.” Derrick whirled to face the man with the broken arm. “Tell him what you did three nights ago.”
“Three nights ago?” His voice shook, and even though Derrick stood more than twenty feet away, he cowered away at being singled out. “Three nights ago, Sanders popped this old guy. He wanted to show me how it was done. I never seen a guy drop so fast. He had a hard jaw though. Sanders’ knuckles are still bruised; I seen them this morning.”
Derrick turned back to Enders. “Do you need more proof?”
“Maybe not. I still want you to come down to the station and sign a statement.”
Derrick’s growl was audible. “Fine.”
As they waited for the emergency vehicles to make it through traffic to their location, Derrick paced like a caged lion, stopping occasionally to check on the one man who had yet to wake.
Enders moved his car over to the curb to make room for the vehicles when they came, then he joined Derrick as he bent over the unconscious man.
“Well, how is he?” asked Enders.
“Bad, like Gage was. Maybe not as bad, but bad enough.” He looked up at Enders. “Your call. Do I waste the energy on him and help him, or do we allow him to die or become a zombie, if he’s so lucky. Either way, he will likely be of no value to you and your case. I don’t expect him to be able to remember any better than Gage can, though it’s possible.”
“You’re giving me this choice?”
“I have no sympathy for him, and this is your city.”
“Do what you can for him. I’d rather he not die on my watch.”
“You have too much sympathy for these people,” said Derrick, but he rested a hand on the man’s forehead and whispered his spell.
“What did you just do? You did that to Gage too, didn’t you? And the food? What all can you do?” asked Enders, surprised at the seemingly too simple solution to the problem.
“If you have not put enough of the clues together yourself, I will not enlighten you. The less you know, the better. Suffice it to say, he will recover in a few hours or less, I should think.”