The dark, skinny something was a crowbar. I raised my left arm, stopping it from caving in my face, but causing it to break my forearm instead. I screamed in pain.
Paget raised it, brought it down again. I twisted, took the blow on my shoulder. My shoulder flared hot, then went numb. My left side now completely useless, I backed up. Paget followed, holding the crowbar like a baseball bat.
My butt hit the Grand Am’s trunk. Paget swung again. I managed to dart sideways, and the crowbar whammed against the trunk’s lid and popped it open.
My busted arm was healing. I could feel the fractures closing, tickling like ants running under the surface of my skin.
I was left-handed, which meant that pulling my weapon and shooting Paget in the face was, for the moment, beyond me. But I could still whack him with the extendable baton on my right hip, and my hand went for it just as I heard thumping footsteps behind me. There was a blur of movement on my right, and then something cold and hard slammed against my throat. I gagged, grabbed for what turned out to be another damn crowbar. I smelled Bobby Leger. Beer on his breath as he told Paget to hit me.
I struggled. Leger cursed and pulled back on the crowbar, lifting me off my feet and cutting off my air. Black spots bloomed in the corners of my eyes.
Paget swung his crowbar sidearm and crashed it into my stomach. The black spots exploded. The world tipped sideways. I became aware that my feet were touching terra firma again. I planted them and then shoved backward, catching Leger off-guard. We went down, Leger whoofing as I landed on top of him. The crowbar left my throat. I sucked in air, wheezed it out, sucked in more. I rolled off Leger in time to miss Paget’s clumsy downward swing. Leger squealed as the tool thumped against him.
I made it to my hands and knees, too lightheaded to stand, much less mount a defense. Paget brought the crowbar down on my back. I suddenly wished I had worn my vest that morning. It would have taken away some of the impact.
Leger kicked me in the stomach, flipping me on my side. Then they teamed up, Leger kicking me and Paget beating me while I curled into a ball and covered my head, dimly grateful that I was laying on top of my gun so that at least I would be spared the indignity of dying by my own sidearm.
“Fucking. Red head. Bitch,” Leger spat, each word punctuated by kicks to my thighs and arms.
Paget just grunted with every swing to my shoulder and back.
Eventually, they stopped. I stayed curled up, wondering if they had stopped because I was finally dead. The fact that my body was one big mass of agony didn’t tell me that I was still alive; I just figured that you carried pain into the afterlife. Seemed about right.
“I forgot,” Leger panted, “that she likes being hit. Get her up.”
Paget whined something nonsensical about meeting a school bus.
“Fuck, Lee, shut up about that fuckin’ bus and do what I said already!”
My head still covered, I heard the crowbar thump to the ground. Then Paget’s hands were on me, on my shoulders, pawing and tugging, and I was too beat and battered to resist. I let him pull me up into a sitting position, my hands dropping from my head.
Leger punched me in the mouth, rocking my head to the right, nearly knocking me over. With the second punch, I did fall, my shoulder hitting the dirt.
My right shoulder, I realized. Which meant my gun was–
Leger tugged at it, trying to pull it from the holster. I snarled and pushed myself up, grabbing his shirt to keep from falling back. He jerked away, but I kept my grip, even managed to stand up when he did.
Then I let go of his shirt and seized his head.
Twist. Crack. Done.
I watched his body crumple to the ground. Then I looked up, saw Paget scamper past the Grand Am, into the woods. Rustle of underbrush, snap of a branch, and he was gone, swallowed by the thicket.
I took a step forward, intending to follow him, and then my knees buckled and kissed the dirt. The impact sent a burst of pain through my ribs. I tasted blood in the back of my throat.
“Okay,” I croaked. “Okay, fine.”
I kept watch on the woods while I slid out my gun. I raised it, just to see how that might work for me if Paget came back. My hand shook. Adding my right hand somehow made it worse.
“Shit,” I breathed, lowering the gun. Maybe he wouldn’t come back. Maybe watching his cousin’s head get twisted around like the cap on a bottle of Coke had scared him away for good. Maybe.
And maybe soon it would stop feeling like my chest was filled with razor blades every time I drew a breath. Maybe soon my broken ribs would mend, along with whatever those assholes had busted inside me: my spleen or kidneys, whatever, something was a hot, heavy, pulsing lump of pain in my abdomen.
I should call for an ambulance, I thought.
Yes. Good idea, Elizabeth. Classic. By the time it shows up, you’ll be healed, more or less, and there’s that corpse over there, the one who looks like he died trying to look at his own ass, and I really need to stop referring to myself in the second person.
I closed my eyes. I was healing. I was getting better. I could feel it. I just had to be patient.
In the meantime, I could work out what to do with Bobby Leger’s body.