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“Alright, my wonderful assistant, I just need you to make note of the coordinates, please.”
“And make sure they’re filed in a place I’m sure to remember them.”
“Tack ‘em on the fridge?”
“Mmm…No, I kinda ignore those a lot. Tape it to the monitor of my PC in the study?”
“Safe n’ secure, yes we are.”
“Thank you! Ah! Hello again everyone, you’re just in time for tonight’s excursion. And this one looks promising indeed. I’ve briefly looked into the history of this pair. The following vignette should be more of a slower pace. Bit of a breather this week.”
“Oh my god. Thank you, Yuki.”
“No problemo. So everyone, we have a curious young girl who is curious about the various injuries her father has sustained while away. We should drop in as he tries to explain it all away. I call this one:
Don’t Tell the Missus
Richard Hawking’s daughter looked curiously at his arm.
“What is it, Jessie?”
She traced her finger up the thin, pink trail that arced over his forearm. “How did you get this?”
He laughed. “A stupid accident, really. We’d gotten some supplies delivered to us and I had this big knife, about yea long,” he held his hands out a foot apart—
“I’d say it was a bit smaller than that,” his colleague and friend Jim Henley said, smiling as he took a swig of his beer.
He scowled and pushed his palms closer together. “About yea long and, not thinking, cut the box open by pulling the knife toward me, not away. Stupid accident.”
Richard crouched, pistol on the ground between the bandit and himself, ready to make a move the second the other allowed for it. The other man was holding a large knife, so already he was at a disadvantage; the second his attacker moved as much as a millimeter forward, he was going to lunge for it.
Except he got ahead of himself and made the first—albeit very slight—advancement, to which the bandit lunged at him and not the gun. First, that man tried to stab him in the gut; that didn’t work. So he swiped outward; that didn’t work either. Then inward, continuing to press forward, not landing a single mark. A tree from behind caught Richard by surprise and he was unable to drop back further; an outward slice licked across his skin, sending droplets of blood to the ground. The attacker, surprising himself with the success, lost a step and allowed his intended victim to spear him to the ground, losing the knife as he rocketed backward.
His daughter then traced a similar, but more jagged, scar across his cheek. “What about this one?”
“Ah, that…That was just from a climbing accident. I was going up, and this little bit of loose rock came down and POW, right into the side of my face. No biggie.”
The guy behind Richard had his arms tied up and locked into a full-nelson, while his buddy, sweaty and bleeding, looked for something to strike him with. He settled with a jagged rock sticking out of the dirt; his wobbling arms barely held up the damned thing; he lumbered forward, raising his arms, perfectly telegraphing his intended strike.
He planted his feet into the ground and shoved himself backward into Full-Nelson’s chest, sending them both down. The ragged edges of the hefty stone caught and tore the skin from his cheek. The already-bleeding man was on the ground, totally out of it, and bleeding, much, much more after the heel of Richard’s boot was brought across the right eye.
“Aaand what about this one?” Jessie pointed at the one snaking up from his collar bone, up his neck, and around the underside of his ear.
Jim piped up again, “If you hadn’t been keeping score already, it’s already confirmed he’s a klutz.”
“This one,” Richard said, glaring at his friend and rubbing at his neck at the same time, “was from me shooting some pictures from a tree. I was trying to get a good angle, my leg slipped, and I started to fall. Part of the camera strap caught around another branch. On the plus side, I did get turned over right-side-up and landed on my feet before the rest of me hit the ground.”
The rope around his neck was already tight enough to strangle him, there wasn’t any need to snap his neck too. Just leave him be and all would be well by morning. That’s what he would have argued if he were able to freaking speak instead of struggle for breath. The group of masked individuals cheered and chanted; man, he’d really pissed them off.
The hangman, off to the side and unseen by the soon-to-be deceased, raised his hand high. The bulk of the crowd grew silent, while some kept chanting, and others still spat and cursed. The hand went down. The rope was cut. His body fell, his neck tensed up. Pressure and heat built up under his jaw and ear. Right before his neck snapped, a loud CRACK rang out over the forest. Something whizzed overhead and cut the rope just under the branch. Three more deafening clacks rang out and the panicked crowd dispersed in every direction.
Satisfied with the answers she received, his daughter hopped off his lap and headed to the other room with his wife.
“Don’t you say a word,” Richard told his friend.
“I will admit, your stories are becoming a bit more believable.”
“Thank you, I do get some time in to think them up,” he popped the cap from another Corona and started on it.
“So, you really haven’t told her the truth either?” meaning his wife.
“Jesus, no. You think I have a death wish or something?”
“Wait…we don’t get any more?”
“I mean, that was the premise of the excursion. You’d be keen to see what was going on?”
“Yeah! Why wouldn’t I?”
“And that’s exactly why I asked you to save the coordinates. We’ll come back to these two, don’t you worry.”