Liz and Maria and i at the Crashdown near closing time. Some of Kyle’s brutish, thuggish hoodlum friends are sitting quietly in a booth at the far corner of the room but i hardly notice such riff-raff. Liz makes calf eyes at me as she takes a customer’s order and i return the wistful look with one of my own, a look borne of all the sweet, impossible loves that never were and never could have been. Maria sees this and says to Liz, Why dont you two just get a room?
Liz walks to where i am seated and says unnecessarily, It’s an orthodontists’ convention.
Sure it is, i say as Kyle’s friends stir restlessly in the booth where they’re seated but i have no reason to think i should be worried. I guess i dont notice the anxiety in them that has no reason to be there, even among such primitives.
Liz says, RU waiting for Michael and Isabel?
No, no, i say, clearing my throat. I think i’ll have an Alien Blast…
Me too. Oh! I’m sorry, she says, face coloring. I mean…
She looks down to conceal a grin.
I know what you mean, i say. This is…
She strokes my calf with the inside of her foot.
This is the first time you have ever actually flirted with me, Parker, i say.
You like it? She says.
No, i hate it. It offends my priesthood. Of course i like it. I want to be your bf, not your bff. And i’d like my gf to bring me an Alien Blast. Mush!
The intimate little laugh we share then probably provokes the numbnuts over in the corner but i’m so wrapped up in Liz i dont even think about that.
When i’m ready to leave i ask Liz on impulse to take me out the back way. IDK why, just something nagging at me from below my threshold of consciousness. It didnt help but i tried. Part of my mind did anyway. I try to assess my uneasiness as i go thru muggy kitchens and a succession of storeroom that were once cellars.
Outside a bloated vampire moon drains all nocturnal color from the world. Everything seems slate gray and ill defined, all but things in reflections from the streetlights in store and car windows. A faithful helix of aspiring insects seeks the ecstasy of the lights to fulfill some imperative arthropod fate.
The numbnuts that were in the Crashdown are waiting for me on the shady part of the street away from the Crashdown. Two of them step in front of me to block my path. That means the attack, when it comes, will come from behind. I got careless and stupid. This shouldnt have happened. Now i’m fucked. Ich werde gefickt.
How may i help you gentlemen? I say wearily.
Evans, right? One of them says.
Never heard of him, i say. It’s mistaken identity. My name is Rasheed Abdul Hasaan and i’m a member of the Taliban. We terrorists all protect out own so i suggest you get out of my way or my brothers will come for you in the night. They’ll fuck you up real bad…
Stay away from her, the one doing the talking says.
Stay away from who?
Never heard of her.
The punch doesnt come from the back but from the front. Most of these roundhouse redneck right punches are slow but this one has zip to it. If i hadnt seen the punch coming just in time to move my head i would have needed reconstructive surgery and dentistry bad. But i slip the punch so it only grazes me and the boy restraining me from behind gets hit harder than i do and i manage to get free of him.
I’m not a kung fu killer but even if i were i know that when three of them jump you, you are in deep shit no matter who you are. I’ve gotten to my feet and just have started to run when one of them trips me and i fall. That’s when the real beating starts. Rolling around on the pavement it’s hard to remember just who i’m supposed to be. Liz Parker’s guy? Kyle’s mortal enemy? Public enemy number one on Valenti’s list? A suspected alien that can kill with a mere touch and that every federal agent has wet dreams about killing?
The first time they land a solid punch it’s to my stomach. It doesnt take my wind, so i say, My mother hits harder than that. My remark infuriates him and he comes at me with fresh rage, but by having three of them they literally get in each others’ way and i can use that to avoid some of the damage.
Sometimes you just have to take one for the team. And that’s what i’m doing.
After they get bored with me and leave i assess my internal condition and it’s pretty bad, but i can heal my serious injuries because you cant see those. Concussion, fractured skull, internal bleeding. Three broken ribs from being kicked when i was on the ground. Collapsed lung from a piece of broken rib. Ruptured spleen, bruised kidney. But i cant heal the injuries you can see because people would notice and start talking and then here comes another witch hunt. The external injuries will have to heal normally.
But the worst part is being able to protect myself but being forbidden to do so. With a mere touch i couldve sent enough joules thru them to turn their bones to dust, or atoms for that matter. But if Liz Parker’s resurrection caused us trouble, imagine what would happen if we were branded violent aliens who can kill with a mere touch. We’d be kidnapped by the FBI and disappeared into Syria.