Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Poplar Mountain Part 49 by Dellani Oakes


Worried about the girls, the Henry boys have them come down to share their room, rather than sleeping in their apartment.

A noise woke Will. He sat up in bed. He saw his brother sprawled on the chairs and smiled. He should never have let him stay up, but Luke had insisted he could do his part. Another noise caught his attention, bringing him to full alert. It sounded like the squeak of the front door. It needed oiling, but Patty and Dollie left it so they could tell if anyone tried to sneak in or out during the night. Will knew that door was locked before they went to bed. He'd checked it himself.
He hopped out of bed and woke his brother. A short scramble later, Luke was awake and alert. They didn't hear anything else, but that didn't mean there wasn't someone out there. They had no weapons except the pocket knives both men carried. It was better than nothing, but wouldn't be a match if the intruder carried a gun. Still, that would have to do. Neither of them owned a weapon—not that the women would have allowed guns. They had a city dweller's fear of fire arms.
Leaving the women, they struck out in search of the intruder. They were certain someone had come in and had probably headed to the apartment. They would be disappointed to see that the women weren't there. Some perverse notion had made Will pile pillows under the blankets in their beds. He hoped it would slow down anyone who intended to do them harm.
They drew closer to the apartment and saw flashlight beams playing along the walls and floor. Plastering themselves against a wall, they listened for any sounds that would tell them where the intruder was in the apartment. Someone ran into a piece of furniture and cursed softly. Another voice shushed him. Two men? That was bad news. The brothers had counted on a single intruder.
"They aren't here," one voice said softly.
"Then we look for 'em. They got to be here somewhere."
"Ain't those fellas here?" the first voice said. "What if we run into them?"
"Then I wouldn't want ta be them," the second said.
"Hell, I seen those boys fight. I don't wanna be us right now."
Will smiled, clenching his fist that didn't hold the knife. The other switched the knife to a fighting grip. He wondered if his brother was doing the same. One thing he and Luke had learned living with their father—they could fight like hellcats. Both of them were toughened by their father's beatings. Unless the men who'd broken in had guns, Will and Luke could take them.
They heard movement inside the apartment. The lights moved toward the door. Will and Luke took up positions on either side of the door and waited.
"You head down one side of the hall and I'll head down the other," the second voice said. He sounded a little older than the first man. There was a hard edge to his words like he came from the big city.
"Shouldn't we stick together? What if we run into them Henry boys?"
They heard a soft slapping sound. "Then I'll take 'em out with my Slugger," the older man replied. The slapping sound repeated—very like the noise a hand made against a piece of seasoned hardwood.
Will and Luke waited for the men to come out the door. One emerged, the other lingered a moment. Holding their breath, the brothers waited for the second man to emerge. When he stepped out the door, the Henry brothers made their move. Will dropped to a crouch, lunging against the second man with his shoulder low. The man staggered, trying to catch his balance. He reached for his companion, only to see him fly across the hallway as Luke slammed into him with a flying tackle.
Two bodies tussled on the floor. Will couldn't see which was Luke and which his opponent. He was too concerned with his. He'd discovered that this was the man with the bat. He wasn't overly worried. There had been plenty of times his father had come after him with a chunk of firewood, intent on breaking his bones. Will had survived that, though he had sustained some nasty bruises.
The man with the bat raised it to bring it down on Will's head. Instead of waiting for him to complete the swing, that could have killed him, Will stepped up to meet him, grabbing the other man's arm. He squeezed hard, putting pressure on the ligaments and tendons in the intruder's wrist. With a snarling howl, the bat clattered to the floor. Now that he just had his fists, Will had the advantage. He slashed at the other man's arm and felt his knife connect with flesh. He cut so deeply the blade scraped bone.
His opponent screamed with pain. Rather than attacking Will, he grabbed his arm and ran for the door. Flinging it back, he hurtled down the hill toward the center of campus. Will watched him a moment, then realized that his brother probably needed him.
Luke and the other man were in a skirmish, both trying to get the upper hand. Luke landed a series of jaw shattering punches on the other man, but he was tiring. Will was busy with his own man and didn't have time for his younger brother. The most he could count on was that Will would help him as soon as he'd dispatched his opponent. When he heard the man howl and make a break for it, he tightened his grip on the second man. His hold was slipping. He felt the strength drain from him. He hit the fellow one more time and felt his body slump against the floor.
"Speak to me, Luke," Will said.
"Right here," Luke said to get his brother's attention.
"Lost ya in the dark. Should I go after the other man?" He knelt by Luke, taking his position on the floor.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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