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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Utrinque Paratus.

Nick and Jack had seen the unkempt, hunched tramp pushing the rusty shopping trolley, full of what they assumed was rubbish, on the common yesterday. Now he was walking down the deserted alley which connects the lower and quiet end of the town's high street to the common, passing through their gang's patch within the council owned housing estate. It was their allotted task today to monitor anyone using the gang's alley.

“Hey Jack, let's have some fun with the dirty old man. Let's see what he's got in his trolley.”

“Yeah, a good idea Nick, I'm getting bored doing nothing. He might have something in there that we want.”

They slouched towards their prey; their hoodies covering most of their faces, their hands in the pockets.

“Hey you where do you think you're going?” asked Jack.

“What you got in your trolley then old man?” added Nick.

The vagrant bent forward over his trolley, as if to shield its contents, ignored the questions and continued on his way, unfortunately towards the hoodies. As he got closer to them he moved to the left of the wide path to bypass them. Jack moved to his right, stood in-front of the trolley, grabbed hold of it, at the same time putting his foot on the bottom bar of the frame, and stopped the man and trolley in their tracks.

“We asked you some questions you old git. Are you deaf or what?” said Jack menacingly.

“What you doing coming down our lane old man? Show us what you've got in there.” said Nick as he put his hand forward with the intention of reaching into the trolley.

The man laid over his worldly possessions to protect them. At the same time he pushed Nick's arm away with his own. He tried to move the trolley forward away from the two trouble makers. They both moved threateningly closer to the drifter.

“Hey watch it old man, let us see what you've got in there.” said Nick.

“If you know what's good for you you'll show us. You might have something we want” Jack said as he tried to reach into the trolley.

“Leave me alone!”

“What did you say?” said Jack.

“Leave me alone please,” the wanderer repeated: “I haven't done you any harm.”

“Oh yes you have. You've come down our path without our say-so and you just hit my mate.”

“I didn't. I just pushed his arm away from my things.”

“You hit me,” said Nick, “so I'll have what I want out of your trolley as payback. Get out of my way.”

“No! They're my things and you're not having any of them. Leave me alone,” said the vagabond as he moved the trolley further away from the youths positioning himself between them and his possessions. “You don't touch another man's kit.”

“You think so old man,” said Nick. He put his right hand into his jacket pocket, pulled out a knife and pointed the blade at the vagrant. “Now clear off unless you want some of this. Your trolley is ours now.”

“You're not having my kit. Go away and leave me alone – if you know what's good for you.”

“Stick him Nick, the dirty old git deserves it. We'll show him he can't mess with us. Go on stick him.”

Nick suddenly leapt towards the vagrant and at the same time thrust his hand holding the knife forward to stab the old man.

But he wasn't a slow old man any-more. With lightening reaction the traveller moved sidewards. He grabbed hold of Nick's knife wielding hand with his right hand. At the same time his left hand grabbed hold of Nick's elbow and pulled it sharply to the left making the arm fold back on its self. The sharp, deadly blade was now pointed towards Nick. With the momentum of his body travelling towards the tramp; who at the same time forced the knife-holding-hand back towards its owner. Nick's knife was plunged deep into his own abdomen. After forcing the weapon upwards; the man released his grip of the knife hand and took a step back. Nick bent his head looking with amazement at the knife protruding from his stomach. At the same moment the drifter landed an upper-cut karate kick to Nick's jaw. The accurately placed, forceful blow sending Nick's dying body hurtling backwards to the ground.

Instead of stopping for a moment to think, and then run away, which would have saved his life: Jack launched his own attack on the wanderer. He pulled the large Bowie knife from its cover in his trousers' hip pocket with his right hand and made a sweeping thrust towards his mate's attacker. The drifter took half a step back. The blade passed in front of him almost close enough to shave off his beard. With no contact, the momentum of Jack's sweeping arm and the lack of grip of his shoes on the gravel path spun him off balance. His back was now towards the tramp. He was now the victim. He felt an arm wrap around his upper chest from the left and grab hold of his right shoulder blade. Another hand from the right grabbed hold of his jaw and violently twisted his head to the right. The last sound Jack heard was a thunderous 'crack'. His limp body was dropped to the ground.

The drifter returned to his shopping trolley and rummaged amongst his worldly possessions for the maroon beret he'd earned and loved so much. As he put it on, cap badge over his left eye, cloth smoothed tightly to his head, he quietly said: “Utrinque Paratus”. He stood up straight and started to push the trolley to continue his journey. He calmly looked down at the two corpses saying: “What a waste. I thought my killing days were over. Why couldn't you have left me alone?”

© Elliot Sampford 2013

I have published another short story on this theme entitled 'Debriefing'

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