Drifter seeks to protect others and discovers a truth.
|Word Count: 2000
Angela Sievert heard a shouting crowd in the distance as she crossed the small town's supermarket parking lot to her pickup truck. Placing her groceries behind the driver's seat, she did a mental inventory. If she was quick, she could satisfy her curiosity without her perishables going bad.
Cheers and boos led her to the town square, where a crowd of sign waving protesters stood on the county courthouse's front lawn. On the building's top step, a tall, thin, raven haired woman led a chant with a bullhorn. Angela walked into the crowd. A few of the crowd's bouncing signs said, 'More voting locations'. Others announced similar voting problems. Content it was a local problem, Angela threaded her way back toward her groceries.
A scream to her right made Angela's heart skip a beat. A rough looking brute tugged at a female protester's sign. The woman yelled at him while trying to hold on to it. He slapped her hard enough to knock her to the ground. Then he tore the sign in half. A male protester coming to her aid was cold cocked by a second bully he had not seen coming. The first brute meanwhile had grabbed another sign and drawing back his right arm he prepared to slap another woman.
Without thinking, Angela ran toward the brute's back. His up raised right arm extended behind his back. With her left arm, she hooked it into her inner elbow. Pivoting clockwise on her left foot and bending forward, she stomped her right foot into the back of his right knee. He flipped into the air and onto his back and head.
Nearby a protester, dressed as the Statue of Liberty, held her fake torch loosely at her side. Angela snatched the torch and moved to the second attacker. He was busy tearing up another sign. Angela yelled, "Batter up!" As he looked up, she swung her plastic torch like a baseball bat. The bully staggered backwards until he toppled onto the ground. "It's a home run!"
Spotting another thug, Angela pushed through the crowd toward him. Two police officers arrived first and ended his mayhem. Looking around, she didn't see any need for her help. It was time to go before some evil doer sued her.
Back in her pickup, Angela drove toward the parking lot exit. From her left, waving arms caught her attention. Three women ran toward her, threading parked cars and crossing aisles. Angela braked and lowered her window. As they drew close, she recognized one as the bullhorn lady.
Between gasps to catch her breath, bullhorn lady said, "That was amazing."
Angela figured they wanted to recruit her for something. She needed to halt that notion right now. "I'm just traveling through town. Whatever it is, I can't help you."
Getting her wind back, bullhorn lady said, "I want to offer you a job protecting my teenage daughter."
"I'm not looking for a job."
"Maybe not, but I'm looking for help. You know how to defend yourself. My daughter and I are in danger. Those thugs you fought today are not the only ones trying to stop us. Some powerful people are hoping to scare us into silence."
Angela turned her head away. How did she always get involved in these situations?
Bullhorn lady misunderstood Angela's gesture as being open to persuasion. "Look, just listen to my offer. Meet my daughter. Decide then." After Angela remained silent, the lady said, "Can we talk somewhere more comfortable?"
"Sure. I assume you know where the state park campground is?" Angela asked. "My pink RV is on the lakeside. Come anytime."
Angela knew people never accept "no" for an answer. "No" always led to time wasted arguing, on to frustration and finally to anger. If her choices were fight or flight, she chose flight.
Arriving at her campsite, she backed her pickup's ball hitch directly under the RV's hitch with practiced precision. That's what living like a gypsy for nearly two decades will do for you.
She stowed her groceries first. Then she lowered the RV and secured the hitch connection. A lot of experience breaking camp allowed her to pack up with efficient, minimal movements in thirty minutes. Her last task was a quick trip to the campground toilet, and she'd make her get-away.
Returning, she halted and cursed silently. The bullhorn lady was standing in Angela's campsite, looking around for her. Her parked SUV blocked Angela's pickup. An argument appeared unavoidable now. Angela walked up to the bullhorn lady.
Waving her arm toward the pink RV, bullhorn lady said, "You invited me out here. What's going on?"
"I'm leaving," Angela said. "This ain't my fight."
"Maybe so, but after your display of skill today, you are obviously a trained martial artist. I want to hire you to protect my daughter and me."
Angela shook her head.
"Let's just have a conversation, okay? No, pressure. My name is Jackie Sunberg." Turning to her vehicle, Jackie called out, "Sara, join us, please." Turning back to me, she asked, "And you are?"
"Names Angela Sievert."
Jackie walked to the site's picnic table and sat down. "Sara, please sit here." She patted the bench next to her.
"Whatever," Sara said and sat down.
Jackie gazed quietly at Angela. Angela sighed and sat across from them.
"I can't protect you," Angela said. She put up her hand to forestall Jackie's objection. "I could stop those bullies today because I blindsided them. If I can't ambush an assailant, I run away."
Sara made a disgusted sound. "You're a coward."
"Sara!" Jackie said.
"Yes, I'm a coward. Real life is nothing like the movies," Angela said.
"I don't expect you to fight anyone," Jackie said. "Just be vigilant. If trouble starts, call the police."
Angela remained silent.
"Thank you." Turning to Sara, Jackie continued, "This is serious. We are all in genuine danger. Do what Angela tells you."
Sara rolled her eyes. "Whatever."
Angela and Sara sat on the county courthouse retaining wall. Angela scanned the crowd for trouble makers. Jackie introduced a speaker, then handed him the bullhorn. A tomato rocketed between them and splattered on the courthouse doors. Angela stood to get a better vantage point. Several men in the crowd struggled with the thrower.
The speaker began talking. Jackie approached Angela and said, "We're fine." Looking past Angela, Jackie's eyes widened. "Where's Sara?"
Angela spun around. "Would she have run from the attack?"
"More likely, she saw an opportunity to escape us," Jackie said. "You need to find her. Our opposition is ruthless, and she is clueless."
Jackie frowned. "Her boyfriend works at the public library. Start there."
It was a good guess. Sara's boyfriend noticed Angela first striding down the aisle between the bookshelves. Turning slightly, Sara saw her too and made an exasperated noise. "Whatever."
"I'm not going back," Sara said. "You can't make me."
"True," Angela said, "but I can get your boyfriend fired."
Sara's frown deepened. "No, you can't."
"Let's find out," Angela said. She reached out in opposite directions and pulled books onto the floor from both sides of the aisle. Reaching into both gaps simultaneously, Angela swept more books off.
"Stop," the boy yelled. "Sara, what's going on?"
Angela asked, "Should I continue?"
"Kyle, I'll explain later," Sara said. Looking at the pile of books blocking her way, Sara exited around the back end of the shelves.
Walking along a sidewalk back toward the county courthouse, Sara asked, "What's up with you, anyway? Is this how you spend your vacations?"
"No, this is how I live. I take the long way around."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Sara said. "You don't work?"
"Oh, I do," said Angela. "I work remotely. Anywhere there is an Internet connection, I work."
Sara looked skeptical. "Mom said you're a martial artist."
"Can you teach me to do Fung Fu stuff?"
"Sure. First, run away. When you can't, immediately launch a surprise attack. Then run away."
"You're so frustrating," said Sara.
"So are you," said Angela.
"Whatever," said Sara.
They walked in silence for a minute. Sara asked, "Can I go with you when you leave?"
That startled Angela. "What? Why?"
Sara turned a tear-streaked face to her. "No one cares whether I live or die.
My mother only loves her voting rights protest. She hates me."
"You know nothing about a mother's hate," Angela said fiercely. "You spoiled brat. This election is almost over. Cut her some slack, okay?"
Sara stopped walking. "Your mother hated you, too?"
"Did you hear anything I said," asked Angela. "You think you're hated? Has your mother's boyfriend had his way with you? Has your mother told you to let him? Have you ever been beaten for resisting?"
Sara's tears dripped off her chin. "You're making that up."
"I wish," Angela said. "Why do you think I studied martial arts?" Angela walked on. Sara ran to catch up.
After a few minutes, Sara asked, "Did he hurt your mother too?"
Neither spoke. Then Angela replied, "Yes. A lot."
Sara had stopped crying, but her face was still streaked. "Do you think your mother was afraid for you? Afraid, like maybe he'd kill you? So she told you not to resist?"
"That's nuts." Angela pulled a fast food paper napkin from her pocket. "Wipe your face."
Crossing the street to the courthouse lawn, Angela jumped up on a stone bench and motioned for Sara to join her. Angela waved until Jackie saw them from her position on the court-house steps. Jackie gave an exaggerated sigh of relief.
Angela tugged the waistband of her jeans and groaned. Jackie and Sara laughed. Jackie said, "I told you Earl's BBQ had great steaks."
"It'll be dark before I can escort you home. Let's take my truck," Angela said. "Sara, you want to ride in the pickup's back?"
It was a quick trip to Jackie's house. Sara hopped over the tailgate and screamed. A burly man had stepped out of the shadows and grabbed her.
Angela grabbed a metal rod from beside her seat and got out.
"Stop right there!" The thug had an arm around Sara's throat, pinning her back tightly to his chest.
Angela didn't hesitate. She raced from the open truck door and launched into a flying sidekick before the man had even completed his sentence. Her kick landed somewhere on Sara's chest, knocking both her and her attacker off their feet. Angela landed on top of them. A quick flick and her metal baton was full length. She'd break the first target he offered. In this case, it was his elbow.
"I can't breathe," Sara wheezed.
"Sorry about that. I probably broke a rib or two," Angela said. "Jackie, call 911."
It felt good to be on the road again. It felt like freedom. Odd that, since for the first time in decades, she had a destination. No peaceful "taking the long way around" this time. Angela raced down the interstate, her rig rocked by passing semitrailers. "... and miles to go before I sleep."
Her thoughts drifted to Jackie. She had asked Angela to stay, but the election was over. The protests ended. Angela wasn't needed anymore.
She felt bad about cracking Sara's rip. But it couldn't be helped. If she'd allowed the assailant to get set, he'd have had the upper hand. Her immediate, unexpected attack ruined whatever he'd planned.
Someday she'd make it up to Sara. She owed her big time, and it had nothing to do with a rib. Until Sara had said it, it had never occurred to Angela that her mother live in terror of her boyfriend. In her own self-absorbed, adolescent mind, she'd thought her mother wanted him there. She realize now her mother was a prisoner too. She intended her desperate advice to protect Angela, because her mother loved her. Understanding brought forgiveness. It was time to set things right.
Mom, I'm coming home.