A richard l wren mystery.., p.22
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       A Richard L. Wren Mystery-Adventure Sampler, p.22

           Richard Wren
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  Walking up the steps to the sidewalk level, Josh tried to scan both sides of the street in both directions. It was a little after two in the morning and the streets were empty and very dark. He took a moment or two to let his eyes adjust to the darkness and then started walking up the block. His hotel was about ten blocks away, most of it through Chinatown.

  As he rounded the first corner he realized his expectations. Bruce and part of the gang were waiting for him. Not taking his eyes off Bruce, out of the corner of his eyes Josh counted an additional five facing him. Six against one. They quickly formed a loose circle around him. Each held a cue stick. Several were beating the heads of the sticks into their palms in a threatening manner.

  “Hi guys, I kinda expected I’d meet you again tonight. I bet you think you’re going to get your money back?”

  “Hell yes, wise guy. Either you give it to us or we take it. If we take it you’re gonna be hurt. Bad!”

  “So I have a choice?”

  “Yeah, you can hand over our money and live a little longer, or…”

  Calmly, Josh replied, “Given a choice, I think I’ll keep the money.”

  “Okay, you asked for it. Guys, take him!”

  The six of them started tightening the circle about him, holding their cues as clubs, ready to overwhelm him.

  Josh let them come. When they were within about five feet from him he started twirling his cue stick around in circles, holding it by the tip end. Something he would usually do with a staff. They were immediately frozen in place, no way could they approach him with the butt end of the cue stick whizzing past their heads every second or so.

  Once they were frozen in place they were easy to handle. Pulling the stick back to himself, Josh grasped it in the middle and in one continuous motion, using both ends he was able to leap at the nearest two and take them out with cue blows to their heads before they realized what was happening.

  A butt end cue stick blow to the head can kill. He had to be quick, decisive and delicate. All he wanted to do was knock them out. His blows were surgical and successful. With those two out of the fight, Josh shifted to the four others.

  Josh felt the familiar body sensations he expected when in combat or intense competition. His body relaxed, his senses sharpened. Again, everything seemed to almost be happening in slow motion.

  Accustomed to their fear tactics scaring their enemies, they were in no way ready for the sudden onslaught that Josh unleashed on them. The surprise momentarily froze them in place. Taking advantage of their ineptitude, Josh continued his movement. Dodging the two crumpled forms in front of him, Josh threw himself toward the side of the building. In mid-air he twisted his body landing against the building feet first with his knees flexed. His knees absorbed the shock and Josh used his momentum to push off in a different direction. It was a little like doing a double somersault except he did it against the side of a building. Using the building as a springboard he landed on his feet behind the remaining four.

  As they attempted to whirl around and confront him they were in each other’s way. It’s what’s called a closing movement. There was no way they could now counter attack. Then before they could react, using the same lightning fast move used before so effectively, he swept the legs out from under two of them with the cue stick. One of them had the wind knocked out of him with the butt end of Josh’s cue stick, the other started crawling away, one leg bent awkwardly, out of the fight.

  That left Bruce and one more. Josh had deliberately left Bruce to the last. That turned out to be a mistake. Anticipating that the two remaining would come at him with their cue sticks, he was unpleasantly surprised when he heard the unmistakable sound of a gun being cocked.

  “That’s enough you bastard. Now stand up and drop your cue stick. Slowly! And if you think I won’t use the gun, think again. It won’t be the first time.”

  Dropping the cue stick, Josh raised his arms and backed up against the building wall. He wasn’t too worried about handling Bruce, even with a gun. Guns are noisy and he doubted that Bruce would actually use it. But he didn’t want any of the other gang members coming up behind him while he had his arms raised.

  One of the first guys he had dropped had regained his breath and his cue-stick. He started toward Josh and keeping a respectful distance, started poking and hitting at Josh, using the butt end of his cue stick. All the time making sure that he didn’t get between Josh and the gun. Shortly he was joined by a second. They seemed to get particular delight in hitting him in the chest and legs. Josh could take a lot but the butt end of a cue stick is heavy, hard and dangerous. He felt a rib crack and knew he had to do something quickly.

  He started taunting the two. Bruce seemed inclined to let them beat up on him for a while. Maybe he could work that to his advantage, if he could get them to come closer and between him and Bruce, maybe he would have the time he needed.

  He sneered. “You’re real brave now that I’m defenseless and there’s a gun pointed at me, a couple of cowards. You’re so damned tough, come up and hit me with your fists.”

  They continued to slug him with their cues. Josh could feel the strength ebbing out of him. They began raining blows on his head. Josh thought he could use the change to his advantage. Pretending to reel from the blows, he slowly sank to a squatting position, back against the wall and put his arms over his head as if to protect himself from the blows.

  Bruce yelled, “Get the money.”

  The guys closed in as if for the kill and for a moment they were between Josh and the gun. Josh quickly reached behind his neck and palmed a black, star shaped, ninja throwing device. Something most Ninjas would never be without. Something that Josh could kill with if necessary.

  He continued to feign fear and cower, all the time keeping an eye on Bruce. Bruce obviously thought he had the situation well under control. He was relaxed and holding the gun rather casually, barrel pointed toward the ground. Was he careless enough?

  When the two got close, Josh exploded. Leaping up, he drove one of his attackers into the other with his left shoulder so that they both fell over backwards and at the same time drew back his right arm and threw the throwing star at Bruce. Before Bruce could respond the star found its mark, hitting the middle of his forehead, stunning him. He fell to his knees, dropped the gun and sat there, shaking his head, blood dripping down his face. Josh thought he might have a broken nose. Josh scooped up the gun and tucked it into his belt.

  He was hurt. He’d had cracked ribs before and was sure he had another. It hurt but he could stand it. He could even disguise the hurt so that his assailants had no idea. He stood up straight, wiped his forehead with his sleeve and determined there was no blood. Outwardly he showed no signs of having been attacked.

  He stood over the fallen gang members, picked up his cue stick and calmly twirling it in his fingers, said, “You still want my money?”

  All six were done for. Josh walked back around the corner to the pool hall and knocked on the door. Chan himself opened it.

  “Mr. Chan, you better call an ambulance. There are six guys, including Bruce, lying in the street around the corner. A couple of them looked like they’d been in fight and Bruce is bleeding pretty badly. At a glance it looked to me like he probably has a broken nose.”

  He took particular pains not to show his own problems.

  Chan was shocked. He had been prepared to see the gang swagger back in flashing the eight thousand dollars. “How the hell?” he began.

  Josh cut him off. “Some other gang, maybe? I don’t know. They’re just lying there and they need help.” He turned and left.

  The ten-block walk to his hotel was uneventful, if a little painful. On the way he reflected on the day’s happenings. Had he wasted the whole day? All he had for his efforts, was the office address of the Chinese PI, a severely bruised or cracked rib and an expectation of catching Charley Fong at Chan’s place tomorrow afternoon.

  What he needed to find out was the organization behind
the killing of the bears. An organization that was willing to kill a Park Ranger. Maybe Charlie could take him there? It was the only lead he had.

  -end of excerpt-

  An excerpt from

  Published 2014

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