The youths, six in all, had left the pub pretty much at the same time as Parker and they were beginning to really piss him off. He could hear the scuffle of their footsteps as they followed along behind him. Four of them were on his right, the remaining two on his left, and trying, without a great deal of success, to use the grass verge to walk quietly and disguise their positions. They were like a scavanging wolf pack, only a lot clumsier and without any of the savage nobility of the real thing, and as they skulked in the shadows Parker knew they were biding their time and waiting for the right opportunity to bring him down. He'd sussed the leader early on of course, a tall lad, early twenties, wearing the regulation hoodie, who from the way he held himself looked as though he'd had the benefit of some rudimentary martial arts training. Arrogant little shit probably thought he was the dog's bollocks and Parker figured that if he took him out first, it might make the others back off and he'd be left free to go on his way, which is all he really wanted to do.
"All right then mate," suddenly came the harsh uncultured sneer that Parker had been expecting since he'd heard the quick pad of trainers coming up on his left shoulder. And turning his head he was pleased to see that the voice indeed belonged to the one he'd earlier designated as leader of the pack. "You got any change then? Me and my mates could do wiv some fags and we're a bit short of cash."
"Fuck of sonny," Parker replied, the move so sudden and so fluid that it was little more than a blur as he swivelled on the balls of his feet, then drove his right hand, knuckles extended, hard into the exposed larynx. The blow, although instantly disabling, had been chosen by Parker primarily because it was relatively easy to control the force, and although he was pissed off, he was still hoping to disengage with the minimum of fuss and had no particular wish to cause any permanent damage. And as the lad gave a choking gasp, then collapsed bulging eyed to the ground, Parker gave him a swift kick in the knackers just for good measure, then just stood watching and waiting. Hoping that the rest of the crew of tossers had got the message and would simply fuck off.
Unfortunately, it was immediately clear to Parker that the whole bunch were all so high on the drugs and booze they'd been shoving down their stupid throats, that not even the instant and almost casually efficient way in which he'd despatched their leader had managed to completely quench their thirst for mayhem. And as they squared up, shuffling from foot to foot and glaring across at Parker, he sighed inwardly, knowing he was perfectly capable of turning tail and outrunning the drugged up little bastards, but also knowing that it simply wasn't in him to do such a thing, as sensible as the option clearly was.
"Fucking twat," one of them suddenly snarled, his courage obviously suitably summoned. He was a short, broadshouldered powerhouse, his face a pale mask of twisted venom under the harsh wash of the street lamp, and Parker could see his eyes were ablaze with both a primeval desire to hurt and the effects of the drugs he'd taken. "Here we fucking go," he breathed, and although knowing beyond doubt it was already far to late for words, he nevertheless decided to give it one last shot.
"Don't do it," he grunted, shaking his head in despair at the sheer stupidity as the lad suddenly reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out a wicked looking knife. "Don't fuck with me boy, you don't know me from Adam. Just leave it and go on home while you still can."
"We're going to do more than fuck with you pal," the lad spat, "Who do you think you are, fucking Rambo," completely ignoring Parker's warning as he turned to his mates and hissed, "Come on, let's get him, let's have the bastard." And with that all five surged forward, their faces screwed up into feral masks of hate and fury as they charged across the short distance that separated then from their intended victim.
Instantly, he clicked into auto response mode. It was a state of highly attuned, almost out of body physical and mental awareness that came second nature to him and he acted instinctively and without conscious thought. Dropping low and using a sweep kick to bring down the knife wielding thug who was almost on him, (always the biggest danger first). The lad didn't even have time to scream as his wrist was clamped then snapped like a twig, and a split second later the knife was driving upwards. Into the right armpit and on through until the blood stained tip was sticking a good inch or more out from the top of the shoulder. The scream came then, high pitched and keening, almost inhuman, as showing no mercy he allowed himself the luxury of an extra couple of seconds to twist the blade hard. First left, then right, opening the wound as he'd been taught. Tearing flesh and grating against bone as he destroyed the target, then quickly jerked the knife free and turned it and slammed the end of the haft hard against the lad's right temple; again only disabling rather than killing and the blow bringing instant silence and the merciful release of unconsciousness.
The strike, in addition to being lighting quick, had been brutal, and he could see the knowledge and the fear suddenly blossoming in his remaining attackers eyes as he rose and took a pace forward and he knew he should cry halt. But it was to late to stop now, his programming wouldn't allow it whilst there was still a clearly perceived threat and with fluid motion of water flowing from a tumbled glass he was among them. The expertly wielded knife moving with bewildering speed and accuracy and flashing blood red and ugly in the reflected light from the overhead street lamp as he sliced through flesh and sinew. The cut and thrust of destruction as instant as the though as he worked the patterns that had been instilled in him over countless hours of practise.
It was over in less than sixty seconds, the carnage wrought in such a short time almost unbelievable, and the coppery slickness of blood was everywhere; except on him because he'd been very careful. But as he quickly assessed and calculated the damage, he noted that at least in one respect he'd been a little less than careful and that one of their number had unfortunately copped it. "Shit, I must be out of practise," he murmured, stepping around the spreading pool of blood that was darkening the pavement around his 'unfortunate mistake', then wiping his knife clean on the boy's denim jacket before slipping it into his pocket for later safe disposal. He wasn't particularly worried about being indentified by any of the remaining attackers because it was dark, and in any case he knew from experience they would be far to traumatised to remember much of the night's events. But his prints, albeit supposedly secure, were on record and he'd been taught never to take uneccessary chances, so even the possiblity that a partial print remained on the knife was a risk he wasn't prepared to take.
"Bit of a bugger that," Parker muttered, allowing himself a brief moment of regret for the passing of one so young, but not glancing back and keeping his pace even and unhurried as he walked away, (a running man was always more noticeable). And as he faded quickly into the night, he smiled grimly, remembering as if it were only yesterday what his instructor had told him all those long years ago.
"Never, ever fuck with the unknown," the regiments, in fact, the toughest and nastiest bastard you could ever wish to meet had slurred one night in the Sergeants mess after downing more beer than was good for him. "I hate to admit it, but no matter how good you think you are, there's always going to be someone just that little bit better, so don't ever fucking risk it sonny."
Good advice thought Parker, as he walked steadily on his way, was good advice and should always be heeded and all in all he thought he'd given the best he could. It had just been a pity he'd not been listened to. Then again, he reckoned he'd at least done some good, because it was odds on that the dross he'd just taught a short sharp lesson to would definitely think twice before picking on some innocent, (or maybe not so innocent), stranger in the future.
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