The Hangman who had caught Marcus swung the rope end of the noose toward Water. He froze as it touched his neck, the rope tying itself into a second noose. However quickly he thought he could change, Water ended up in human form.
They’d taken us all out.
Well, all of us except me, and I’d decided to pretend otherwise. With any luck I’d get some useful information and maybe get the chance to surprise them.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Vengeance pull himself up off Daniel and turn towards the Hangmen.
“Kids,” he said. “Do you suppose any of their parents know what they’re doing? Anyway, will one of you boys put out the fire? I gotta give this man the test before we get interrupted.”
Behind Vengeance, the fire on the drapes continued to burn. A line of flame ran up the left side of one drape, the smoke rising toward the ceiling.
A fire alarm began to beep.
Vengeance pulled his knife out of its sheath.
I stopped pretending.
Grabbing the rope, I yanked the Hangman toward me, punching him in the face.
It did nothing.
He grabbed my arm and punched me back before I had time to react. It didn’t hurt.
Instead of trying to pull my arm away, I stepped toward him, grabbed his belt with my left hand and as long as he was hanging on to my right hand anyway, pulled him into the air above my head. Then I threw him as hard as I could.
He flew out the entrance to the kitchen into the dining room, and hit the wall, smashing the frame of a picture of a clipper ship, and falling to the floor. The picture fell on top of him, revealing cracks and broken plaster on the wall behind where it had hung.
I would have worried about hurting him more if I hadn’t known that he had been dead long before I met him. Seriously, what more could I do?
Unfortunately, the other two Hangmen decided to take advantage of my distraction. The one who’d used his noose on Marcus and Water dove for my chest while the one who’d had taken Vaughn out ran toward me, hitting me with his shoulder.
Without the suit, I’m sure I would have dislocated something or at the very least ended up on the floor with the two of them on top of me.
With the suit, I stood.
I moved my hand against the belly of one of them and pushed upward and away, launching him across the room. He hit the far wall of the kitchen, landing on the wooden bench built into the wall next to the table.
I threw the other out the entrance, watching him land on the remains of the dining room table and the chandelier.
I turned toward Vengeance to find him watching me. I couldn’t quite read the look on his face, but I might have seen a little fear. Everyone else in the group looked like teenagers, but the style of the Rocket suit hadn’t changed since the 1950’s.
Almost anybody could be inside for all he knew, possibly even someone competent. If that was what he thought, I decided not to disillusion him.
I stepped over Marcus, preparing to blast Vengeance with the sonics if I saw him try to stab the mayor.
The window behind the table spanned half the wall. He turned around, stepped around the table, onto the bench, smashed it with his knife, knocking down a couple of the bigger pieces, and stepped through. I assumed that his camouflage must offer some protection against glass.
I didn’t chase him.
A survey of the room showed I had enough to think about. The fire had spread from one drape to the rest. Worse, one drape had burned through, a piece falling onto the pile of newspapers on the far end of the bench.
One of the Hangmen lay next to the pile.
A part of me wanted to pull him away from the fire. Another part remembered the Double V article. It didn’t matter what I did. The house could burn to ashes — actually, it could probably be thrown into the sun — and the next morning those guys would get up, dust themselves off and start walking home.
Well, maybe not from the sun.
I could only think of that as a good thing though, because looking at the angles of the bodies, I had to have broken their necks.
I turned my head away.
If they had been normal people, I would have killed them. On the other hand, if they were normal people I’d have never thrown them like that.
I stood there doing nothing for a moment, unsure if I should look for a fire extinguisher or just pull everyone out. The mayor had to have an extinguisher somewhere. Hadn’t the city done a major push to get people to buy fire extinguishers and alarms with ten year batteries just a couple years ago?
It would be ironic in the extreme if he didn’t have one.
Noticing Daniel lying on the floor next to the mayor decided me.
I stepped over the mayor, picked up Daniel, stepped onto the bench, and through the window. Jumping out, I landed in the remains of a flowerbed.
Making sure I couldn’t see any glass shards, I put Daniel on the ground and climbed back in to get the others.
As I stepped back onto the bench, I heard Haley’s voice from behind me.
“Ni– I mean, Rocket, you’re going back in there?”
“Everyone else is,” I shouted back. “Everyone else is in here, I mean.”
The mayor lay on the floor. I stepped over him again and did what I should have done earlier. I pulled the noose off Marcus’ head. It resisted at first, but I didn’t stop pulling.
As I got it off, he started and pulled himself back into a fully human form instead of the half-panther shape he’d been stuck in.
“I don’t know where it was,” Marcus said, “but I was somewhere else. All around me, I could feel this strange humming –”
Haley jumped through the window, landed on the table and hopped down on the other side of the mayor. She looked around at the bodies, the Hangmen, and the growing blaze.
“Oh my gosh,” she said, “is that a gas stove?”