I've known the guy for almost four years now and, although silence has never been his strong suit, he *can* be silent when it comes to certain things. But this - this is eerie.
What the hell is he doing? As he takes a single, deliberate step forward, arms slightly spread out to his sides, I hear the sand on the concrete floor crunch under his feet. In the dim light, which trickles through the dirty, broken windows of the old warehouse, his face is an emotionless mask, revealing nothing, except for the coldness in his eyes. I didn't know Sandburg's eyes could look this cold. Frightening.
He takes a second step and the barrel of a 9mm Beretta is pressed more firmly against my temple.
"Stop that!" The voice of the skinny guy holding the gun trembles right along with his hand. No doubt he is scared - and equally no doubt he won't miss my head from this close, trembling or not. The body behind me is enough proof of that. As it is proof of our failure to talk Skinny out of killing.
"Stay put. I'm not joking here."
Sandburg doesn't even hesitate. Another step.
"One more step and I'll kill him!" Skinny's voice sounds almost hysterical now.
Yeah, do that, moron. Give Sandburg the chance to draw his own gun.
"I'll kill him, I tell you, I'll kill him!"
Sandburg stops, silent, motionless, his hard eyes never leaving Skinny's face.
Skinny stinks of fear, like a rat trapped in a corner. Apologies to the rat.
Sandburg snaps his fingers.
An instant shot of adrenaline surges through my veins.
Skinny's eyes dart to Blair's hand, scared confusion on his face. "What are you..."
The hairs on the back of my neck are rising.
"I told you..."
Strength and speed. I'm ready.
He is squeaking - any second now...
Skinny's muscles tense a split second before he jerks the gun at Blair - and I burst into action.
My elbow jerks backwards into his solar plexus, followed by a solid blow of my fist on his chin, knocking him out.
The gun goes off.
Blair drops down.
So does Skinny.
My momentum carries me forward too much. My foot gets caught on Skinny's leg, causing me to fall on my knees, and suddenly Sandburg is all over me, touching, searching, reassuring himself. And very vocal.
"Jim, Jim, Jim! Are you all right? Are you okay? Did he hurt you? Jim, say something, Jim, talk to..."
I turn around and capture his flailing hands, meeting his frightened eyes, and his mouth claps shut in mid-sentence. His eyes soften from scared to - something else. He slowly rests his forehead against mine, eyes closing as he lets out a deep pent-up breath.
With his now free hand he grasps my neck hard, presses me closer. But as he starts to shake his head slowly, the firm grip changes to tiny, awkward caresses.
He doesn't utter another word for a long time, but that's not necessary anyway.
The silence is finally over.
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