I stepped forward so his knife dug into my gut. The pain was stunning. High and white as skin broke and flesh tore. Then dark and howling red as the blade lodged inside me, ripping a pathway through my organs.
Confusion replaced cockiness on his face. I was the victim. He was the thief. Victims weren't meant to impale themselves on the threat knife. Not meant to grab their assailant and lock them together.
'I needed this,' I said, close as a kiss. Hugging him, I knotted my fingers behind his back, sealing the stab between us. His aftershave stung my nose as I felt my stubble scratch his skin.
I tilted my head back and called out loud enough for anyone to hear. It was a noise, not a word, but it broadcast fear and distress on the quiet city side street that no one could ignore.
The distress was real. My head lightened as I held him close. He swore and staggered and tried to untangle himself but we were slickly knotted. There must be so much blood. My instinct was to put my hand to it but I couldn't let him go.
Bile rose. I leaned my head forward onto the shoulder of this man who had selected me from the flock of commuters headed home. Once separated from the safety of the group he had strode past me, then turned, blocking my path, pointing a weapon. For what? Money, my wedding ring, credit cards, phone, my ready meals for one?
I never found out.
Whatever he had planned, this is what he had.
I had a flutter of panic that I could die. I clung tighter as I heard shouts on the street. My call had been heard. Footsteps, running. Voices. Some hesitant, others forceful, all closing, rising. Someone on the phone to the police. I could hear but not see. Under the streetlight my bloodied dance partner filled my vision. His squirming told me they were close. My fingers tightened behind his back as my legs weakened.
'Thank you,' I said, as we were untangled. He had taken control from me. It had been the only thing holding me together. I stole it back from the tip of his blade.
On the cold ground I looked down to see that my hand had finally found the blood. It pooled and sucked around the knife but all I could see, as my eyes closed, was my wedding ring.
If I woke my guilt might be bearable. She had been taken, not me. I would not ask why anymore. On a quiet street on an ordinary night, a stranger with a short steel knife had shown me there was no why.
Andreszj, if that was his name, leaned closer to me. So close that I could smell his breath, his aftershave, his sweat. “You know what fear tastes like?” he hissed in an accent I couldn’t place.
This was no rhetorical question. The ferocity of his glare when I didn’t answer made that clear. It mattered to him that I was scared. My blood drummed in my temples at the tempo of death metal, making it hard to think, but some part of me told me this was important.
In this straight-to-download movie world I had stumbled into, information was a weapon. What information I could gauge. What I gave away. My answer mattered.
“Chicken?” I ventured. This, as it turned out, was not helpful. I had not chosen well. But the answer to that question always seems to be chicken. Snake, human flesh, feathered birds; apparently they all taste like chicken.
And in my defence, I wasn’t trying to be helpful.
Boris, if that was his name, was trying to hurt me and that didn’t seem like something I should be trying to assist. That would be a little needy, if we’re honest.
To take the honesty a bit further, Laszlo, if that was his name, didn’t seem to need much help. He was doing a bang up job of banging me up against every wall, doorframe and pillar in the place.
That’s not to say he was winning. Oh no. I was fighting back, hard. I knew there was a limit to how much he could withstand of my barrage of brutal whimpers, stabbing cries of pain and ferocious bleeding. Dmitri, if that was his name, would be hard pressed to hold out for long against such an onslaught.
I was right. He surrendered just as I was on the verge of cracking my rib hard against his fist. I had him exactly where he was. A vicious sob to the solar plexus, a right moan to the jaw, a stinging gasp to his kneecap and the fight was as good as over.
Igor, if that was his name, stood panting in humiliated triumph over me. My victory was complete. For every deep breath he was forced to draw, I lay barely breathing. As I towered underneath him I pressed my advantage home. With a voice leant menace by a possible broken rib I demanded to know; “Who are you?”
“My name is Dave”, he said, in what I finally recognised as a Welsh accent.
I should have known. If the answer isn’t chicken, it’s likely to be Dave.