Chapter Seventeen – Shovel

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Alice couldn’t get her eyes to focus on her attacker’s face, but whoever it was was tall enough and strong enough that she thought it was unlikely to be a woman. The attacker held the knife out between them, slowly waving it, loose in his grip. He feinted once, twice, going high at Alice’s face, then low toward her stomach again and again. Alice stumbled back at each feint, struggling between staying far enough away to keep from getting a facefull of sharp metal, and simultaneously keeping from falling on her ass into a snowbank where she would be defenseless.
Stip began to clumsily maneuver through the snow toward them while Alice sidestepped another lunge from her attacker. The blade went past her as she pitched herself forward and angled away from the strike. She seized the moment to position herself where, if he tried to swing the knife around, her forearm would connect with the back of her assailant’s elbow and she could grab his wrist with her other arm, barring and maybe breaking his arm at the elbow.
The first part of her plan worked like a charm. After stabbing past her, he tried to swipe sideways and rake the blade across her stomach. Alice was ready for him, and her arm smashed against his. She simultaneously grabbed onto his wrist tightly with her other hand. and wrenched it as hard as she could, leveraging all of her muscle into the arm bar.
Instead of crunching and snapping that signified a broken arm the owner would never be in a position to forget, Alice was shoved backward, barely holding onto his knife hand. Her forearm felt like she had rammed it against a brick wall. He hadn’t even flinched. Now they were close in, grappling, and Alice held onto his arm for her life, struggling to keep the blade from getting any closer to her. She tried to look at his face, but still couldn’t seem to get her eyes to focus. Through the blur, she could see he was definitely a man from his beard, but she couldn’t make out anything else. His breath stank of rotten meat, and she gagged and stumbled backward to get away from him, landing on her back in the snowy street. He came for her, and she used her momentum to keep rolling and get back to her feet.
He kept coming for her, and Alice shifted her direction, stepping forward and to the side again, though not quite fast enough this time. She felt a line of pain across her outer thigh as the knife bit into her skin. She grit her teeth and brought her elbow forward, putting all of her weight behind it, and slamming it into the man’s nose. There was a satisfying crack and his head jerked back. He tried to step backwards to regain his balance, but Alice was already there. She put the foot of her good leg down just behind his foot, and as he tried to step he couldn’t keep his feet underneath him. He fell hard onto the pavement and the knife went skittering off into the darkness.
Alice seized the moment to bring her boot down hard onto her attacker’s face. She ignored the blaze of pain in her thigh as she felt t his head rebounded off the pavement. He didn’t even flinch. He didn’t grunt. He just kept coming. She pulled her leg back for a second kick, but as she brought it down on him, he rolled sideways, grabbing it and yanking Alice off of her feet. She fell down again, and this time there was no rolling back up. She felt the gasping emptiness of having the wind knocked out of her, and felt his hand still wrapped around her ankle.
He wasn’t even fazed by her hitting him. He was too strong, and she was struggling just to breathe. He wasn’t human. Alice felt the panic fill her. She was going to die. One of these things had killed her mother. Another had killed Ed. And now one would kill her too. She couldn’t break its grip. She couldn’t escape. The only thing she could do was keep it from killing anyone else.
“Stip!” she shouted, kicking wildly with her good leg at her attacker’s face as her started to drag her toward him. “Get inside! Get inside now!” One of her kicks connected, and he slowed momentarily. He changed tactics, and Alice felt him take her foot in his hand and begin to twist. The tendons in her ankle started to protest and distend, while she yelled for Stip to run.
Stip appeared suddenly in Alice’s view and brought his snow shovel down on her attacker.. The shovel itself was fiberglass, so it did not pack much of a punch, but it was full of snow, and Stip swung it snow-side down, packing icy snow around the head of the assailant. Alie felt her leg slip free as the vampire turned to deal with Stip and reached up to clear the snow from his eyes.
With the distraction, Alice got to her feet. Her ankle ached, her thigh burned, and she still couldn’t breathe. She scrabbled for the zipper of her coat, struggling to open it as she backed up. Her ribs throbbed as she tugged it open. The assailant had gotten his head free of the snow and was reached out and pulled the shovel from Stip’s hands like plucking the stem off an apple. He flung it into the night. Stip stood there, paralyzed with terror.
Now that she could reach it, her jacket open, Alice pulled out the .45 caliber handgun she had in her shoulder holster and took aim.
The gun roared and the kickback nearly knocked Alice’s breath away again. The impact of the bullet tearing through the vampire’s head lifted him into the air, and his limp body flopped down into the street. Something that wasn’t quite blood burst from the wound, spattering across Stip’s face, as he flinched, closing his eyes and turning away.
The body lay motionless on the ground, silent. The black blood that had burst forth from it moments before began to slowly drip down onto the pavement from Stip’s face as he looked at Alice aghast. “What… what is going on?” he asked.
Alice kept the gun in both hands. She sucked in a deep breath, but didn’t say anything, watching the vampire’s limp form on the ground. It spasmed, and she fired again, this time hitting it in the back. The creature lifted itself slowly onto its hands, and then got its knees underneath it. Alice could see the black blood tracing through the snow back toward it, the hole in the side of its skull knitting together as it pushed itself back to its feet. “We need to get inside,” she said to Stip, trying to keep the fear she felt from creeping into her voice. “Now.”

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