4.5 Who?

by Matt P.

Twenty minutes later there were multiple police cars parked at the edge of the woods, and a corresponding number of police officers going through the area with flashlights—but spirits were not high among the searchers.

“We’re probably going to have to come back in the morning, boss,” Ryan said after another half hour of searching. “Shaw just told me they have it and they’ll keep looking for a while longer, but if they are out here they could be just about anywhere.” Ryan considered the woods around them with a look of old memory, and shook his head. “The woods in and around Border have lots of little nooks and crannies that you can get lost in. Ann and I used to leave parties to go explore, and we always found people smoking.” He paused for a moment, and then shrugged. “Or boning.”

Walter sighed as he followed Ryan’s gaze, and nodded at the wisdom of it. The woods loomed out around them like some strange world that had plowed right in to the real world and rested, waiting. Of course, given that had almost happened last year, Walter thought it might not be wise to tempt fate with his metaphors.

Walter nodded after a moment, and rolled his shoulder around from where he had been hit. “Alright, well. If you want to help, meet us here at 8 and we can keep looking. Maybe the scream came from inside one of your fabled sex nooks, and you can lead us there,” Walter shrugged—he neither looked nor felt particularly hopeful at the thought of finding the screamer. At least alive.

Ryan gave his shoulder rolling a curious look. “You looked like you got hit pretty hard, man. Are you alright? I can drive you to the ER if you need it checked out.” Walter rolled the shoulder around a couple more times experimentally, and then shook his head with a little bit of a shrug.

“Apparently not, I must have rolled with it better than I thought,” he responded in a surprised tone. It ached, but it didn’t feel as bad as he expected from falling on it so hard. “Lucky me. Come on, why don’t we head back—we can take the long way this time, and not scare the shit out of local homeowners.”

They grabbed Leah and Andre, and began to head away. “Do you think we’ll find whoever it was?” Andre asked as they began the circuitous path back toward the house. Walter cast a glance back over his shoulder, and didn’t answer.

**** ****

“That sounds…horrible,” Lacey said breathlessly when they finished the story of the hospital. Siobhan had uncharacteristically wrapped her arms around her body during the telling of it, mirroring her sister’s more characteristic pose. “How…I mean how did it know to imitate your mom?”

Antigone shrugged at that, reaching out and taking her sister’s hand. “We don’t know. Creepy demonic nonsense is our best bet. I mean…if there is an actual demon running around, why the hell not?” It took her a moment to realize exactly what she’d said, at the same time everyone else did. They all simultaneously exploded into giggles, falling back on to their chairs and enjoying the change in tone for a long moment.

“And you fought it and didn’t die,” Lacey continued, staring at Siobhan intently after the laughter passed. “And you fought men with guns, and Faeries with swords, and assholes at school. And you do it so…bravely,” Lacey finished with a little bit of a blush. Monica put a hand on her shoulder.

“Don’t say too much more, or it’ll go to her head,” she offered with a little grin. “And I might get jealous.” The two women shared a smiling look, and Lacey’s blush didn’t go away. Antigone and Siobhan too shared a look, smiling at the other two and how they acted when their guards were let down. It was in this atmosphere of generally smiling that Siobhan was completely unprepared for Lacey’s next question.

“Can you teach me how to throw a punch?” The blond asked it so earnestly that any instinct of Siobhan’s to try to joke or pass it off fled instantly. “You’ve taken a lot of Martial Arts, right?” At Siobhan’s nod, she continued. “Which ones?”

Siobhan reached back to scratch the back of her head, flushing slightly herself as she tried to think of a way to not sound like she was bragging. “Primarily karate and aikido, but I’ve also been trying to teach myself a Filipino martial art called arnis, or eskrima. There’s a school for it in town—I think one of our myriad cousins runs it—but I haven’t gone yet.”

Lacey nodded wisely. “Yeah, those are just words to me, except I’ve heard of the first one. So very, very seriously, can you teach me to throw a punch?” Siobhan looked around the room for a moment and then nodded.

Under her direction they moved some of the furniture out of the way, and a few minutes later they were standing in the ring of couches stretching. “The basics of throwing a punch start in your hips,” Siobhan explained, as she rolled her shoulders. “Someone who doesn’t know how to throw a punch throws it with the arms or the shoulder.” At this she demonstrated two punches, one purely from arm movement and one moving from the shoulder. “They look like we think a boxer punches, right? Not that they do, because a boxer knows how to clean your clock unless they suck, but its what we think of for a jab. But a real punch comes from the hips, and the arm is just kind of there to guide that force.” Now she demonstrated a proper punch, her hips rotating and her arm lashing out in a powerful snap—her arm stopping in the air as she exhaled in a short burst.

“Wow, OK,” Lacey agreed. She stepped out next to Siobhan, and tried to mimic how she was standing. “So I don’t need like…a stance or something?” She asked, as she started to roll her hips in imitation of Siobhan’s.

“Bruce Lee basically said that when you’re attacked, your response isn’t a particular stance or paragraph. The ultimate goal of learning to fight is to be like water. ‘When one has reached maturity in the art, one will have a formless form. It is like ice dissolving in water. When one has no form, one can be all forms; when one has no style, he can fit in with any style,’ is one of his,” Siobhan quoted. She reached out and put her hands on Lacey’s hips. “The goal is small, but fast; and when you punch you’re not aiming for the target but two or three inches behind it, so you’re delivering your whole force to it.”

Monica, watching from the side, smirked. “Small but fast might end up being your new nickname.” The drawled comment drew a glare from Siobhan, who shook her head and looked back to Lacey. She continued to work with her in the body mechanics of throwing a punch for several minutes, until she was doing a decent enough job of it.

“Can you teach me to block a punch, too?” Lacey asked, a little bit of sweat on her brow and a little bit of a smile on her face—but one with concern around the edges. Siobhan nodded at that, and ran a hand back through her hair.

“Sure, but you have to tell me who is punching you.”