Sunday, June 4, 2017

Snippet: "The Art of Dying"

The Art of Dying

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The hallway we were in curved around the oddly shaped building and just like Billy thought, it curved all the way around to the other docent door. I was about to pull the door open when I heard a few more gunshots way too close for comfort.
“I think we’ve got a problem.”
“Open it. That’s the only way we’re going to find out.”
I leaned against the door so it wouldn’t pop open and spill us out. I turned the knob and pulled slowly. I peered through the crack to find two gunmen standing there with their backs to us, tracking something above them.
I looked back at Billy and held up two fingers. He nodded, bracing himself. I counted down with my finger from five, and on zero, I yanked the door open. Billy launched out the door in flying kick. He slammed into the back of the gunman on the right, dropping him to the ground face first slamming, his chin on the floor. The other gunman was completely shocked by the sudden movement, and I took the opportunity. I launched out and crescent kicked the other one from his blind side and slammed him into the ground, hard.
They were both out, and now we had a group staring at us from across the gallery opening. I looked to the right and saw the door into the other gallery. The other exit would be in there, and I ducked in after motioning to Billy what I was doing.
He nodded, and I ran in. I spotted the door; it was locked and alarmed. I stared at it for just a moment and then decided the alarm didn’t matter. I kicked it open and the lights and trigged all the alarms.
The group standing in the gallery started streaming in, panicked. I just held the door open and motioned them out. “Head for Madison.” I directed as they streamed out into the street. “Go, go, run. Head for Madison.”
They were all running as fast as they could and were gone down the street. I ducked behind the wall to the gallery where I had left Billy to find him surrounded by a group of gunmen, all pointing their weapons at him.
The room was loud with the alarms going off and the lights were distracting. I used that—I pulled out a few of the shiruken. I set my feet and then threw them. I managed to get two of them into gun barrels I was staring at, and then two of them ended up in the wrists of the gunmen who were angled away from me.
The rest of the gunmen turned to find me standing there. I crooked my head and smiled. They didn’t see Billy move and toss himself on the ground to sweep their legs out from under them, landing them in a pile. That distracted them again and I ran over and knocked out two more of them, while Billy went back to the two original gunmen and took them down. They had been too stunned to move, and he took them down in a heartbeat.
The Wraith was standing in front of the last group of guests, with the gunmen all moving slowly closer to her. They were very soon going to be too close for her to stop the bullets if they fired. Billy motioned me to the back of the line of gunmen and gave me the signal.
The signal. We had been working on these moves for nearly a month now, and I wanted to be nervous, but we didn’t have time for that. We both stepped forward and tucked into a roll, vaulting up into a handstand. At the same time, we both pushed up into a series of back hand springs that took us right into the gunmen.
I used the momentum to knock myself into two of them and slam them chest first into the floor. I used still more of the momentum to turn a roundhouse at the gunman on my right, shoving him into the one on his right. The gun went off and the first guy I kicked got shot in the knee by the one he had fallen into. I turned back just in time to hear the gun cock in my face. I dropped back into a bridge as the trigger was pulled, and shot my foot up and into the elbow of the guy with the gun. It snapped his arm up and launched the freshly fired gun into the air.
I continued the back-hand walk-over and popped up in front of another gunman who was stunned but bringing his gun up. I cocked my head and shot my fist out. I snapped his head back and his whole body snapped back with it, slamming him onto his back on the ground. I heard the air rush out of his lungs.
I turned around and saw that they were all down. It was just me and Billy and the Wraith standing in the middle of the floor. The cops were standing in the broken doors and even they were shocked at what had just happened.
Not nearly as much as Billy and I were.
The Wraith turned to the cops standing there. “Gentlemen. It’s all yours. I believe the Ninjas sent the other guests to Madison Ave.” She stepped up between us. “We’re done here.”
The Wraith grabbed each of our arms. “Hang on,” she mumbled.
“No, wait!” someone yelled from the door.
But she didn’t. We were up off the floor and up through the broken ceiling window and to the roof next door before we could even see who had yelled for the Wraith to wait. The flight was again disconcerting and it freaked me out to have my feet off the ground. Billy seemed to do better because when she landed, Billy grabbed the briefcase and nodded to her to get us going again. We were up again and over to the rock where she had first found us in the park.
“You’re good?” she asked.
“Wait!” came a yell from the right.
We all turned and saw Cindy running for us.
“She really wants to talk to you.” I looked pointedly at the Wraith.
“Not ready for that,” she said. “She’d be happy with you two.”
I looked at Billy. “Four weeks. Long enough for an interview?”
He nodded. “I think so. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Me neither.” I laughed.
“I’m going to go,” the Wraith said. “Hide the case behind the rock when you’re done changing. I’ll make sure that no one finds it, and that it gets back to your house.” She nodded and was gone up into the sky.
I heard Cindy swear as she ran up to us. “Couldn’t she stay?”
“She’s not ready for that. We shouldn’t have even stayed.”
“What do you need?” Billy asked. “They’re going to be looking for you soon.”
“Who are you?” she asked. “What are your names?”
Billy froze, and I laughed. I knew he hadn’t thought about that. “We’re ninjas. For the sake of simplicity in the tradition, we’re simply the White Ninja and Black Ninja.”
“Do you have real names?”
Billy put his fist on his hip. “Yes, but do you really think we’re sharing?”
“Why do you do this? Dress up in masks and costumes and save people?”
Taking over the narrative, because he knew Cindy might recognize my voice, Billy explained, “We’ve both suffered tragedies in our lives. Since we have the training and wherewithal to do this…”
“We thought we should try to spare others the same tragedies.” I kept my voice rough.
“Do you know who those attackers were in there?” she asked.
I looked at Billy, and he gave me the eyebrow shrug. He didn’t know if we should say anything yet either. Yamato had warned us off them, but now they were trying to attack us and hurt people. “We do know who they are, but we aren’t yet at liberty to say. We don’t want to go against the police or hinder their investigations, so it’s best we don’t say anything.”
“Is there any way to get in contact with you if the city needs saving?”
“Like a Ninja Signal?”

The Art of Dying

Amazon | BN | iBooks | Kobo

No one starts out to be a superhero.
But there's my cousin—mask and costume—and I'm convinced she's certifiably insane.
Beth hit it big in Hollywood and created a baseball team so I could play. She started taking martial art lessons and she decided she was going to start ninja'ing around New York City. And that had nothing to do with us losing our mothers and her brother when we were young
See? Insane. I mean, who the hell wants to be a moving target?
Well, I'm not really one to judge. After all, I took those lessons too. I'm out there with her: hiding in shadows, avenging the less- fortunate, saving the damsels in distress--and bachelors in a bind--getting shot at, threatened with death, chased with swords and tossed into situations we had no business being in. 
Let's just say that we’re in trouble if phone booths ever go out of style.
 We kinda liked it. I guess we're both nuts But no one starts out to be a superhero. No one wants to be the last of a breed of ninjas.
And, no one really wants to learn the art of dying.

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