Danger. He could smell it.
Phil Elmore lurched along the suburban sidewalk, past shuttered antique stores and the looming shadow of the Hobby Lobby. It had been a beautiful day, but now the suffocating velvet blackness of evening had descended... and with it the mad denizens of the streets. Phil couldn't see them, but he could feel their sinister presence, hunched in condom-strewn alleyways and squatting cross-legged in their own offal. The whores, the pimps, the panhandlers, the thugs, the hobos, the highwaymen... he knew their sinister hour had arrived.
But Phil was not afraid.
He adjusted his glasses and unbuttoned his long trenchcoat as he slithered past the Home Depot. He placed one leather-gloved hand on his scabbard and the other on his holster.
He was alert. He was ready.
Suddenly, Phil heard echoing footsteps ahead in the dusk. He could see a figure coming toward him, like a spectre in a spider-haunted corridor. As it came closer, he could make out the figure's face and appearance under the streetlights: it was a young brown-skinned boy, perhaps no more than 13, wearing baggy pants and a dirty olive green polo shirt. A long keychain hung from the boy's right pocket. Phil poised himself, quickly realizing that this armed thug was most likely strung out on narcotics and might attempt to rob him at any moment. What other kind of person would be out at this ungodly hour of 6:45 P.M.?
The suspicious-looking boy swiftly approached Phil. "Excuse me sir, can you tell me where the nearest bus stop--"
"Back off," Phil hissed between gritted yellow teeth, hands on his weapons. He narrowed his beady eyes as his pale lips curled into a snarl. This is what he had trained for... he would not give up without a fight!
"Whoa, whoa, mister!" the hooligan sputtered as he took a step forward. I just wanted to know if--"
"I said stay away, creep!" Phil roared, hobbling back on his haunches and brandishing his katana. The sword shimmered and flashed under the imposing Starbucks Coffee sign from across the street. An intense glimmer filled his eyes as he tightened his gloved grip on the sword, the wind rustling the Whataburger wrappers and Hot Pockets crisping sleeves tucked loosely in his dark trenchcoat.
"What the hell, esť?!" Fear and confusion spread across the young ruffian's face.
"This is it!" Phil thought to himself as he raised the glinting weapon above his balding, pock-marked head. "I'll become a hero for this! My wife might even have sex with me again!"
Like a demonic leopard, the young thug leaped to the side as the blade came crashing down, breaking in twain on the concrete sidewalk.
"Ahhh! Help!" the teenager screamed at the top of his lungs. Before Phil could draw his handgun, the young trouble-marker kicked him hard in the shin, then ran like a flash down the street towards the Super Target.
Phil yelped in pain as he collapsed in a blubbery heap on the pavement.
"Bastard! You little bastard!" he yelled as the bandit disappeared into the night, no doubt looking for reinforcements from his street gang.
Phil wept, tears and mucus streaming down his pale round face and seeping into his sparse beard. He removed his thick glasses and gazed upward at the darkened sky. It was time.
"I won't let them get me... not like this, not like this," Phil muttered to himself. His quaking fingers reached inside his back pocket, pulling out a single glass capsule. Phil deftly placed it under his slobbering tongue.
"A worthy end for one such as I," Phil Elmore drawled as his crooked teeth bit down on the bittersweet pill.
"A worthy end... for a Martialist."
Kid Miracleman is the celebrated author of "Longhand Ridgehand" and "Wrestlepunching: The Hidden Kata," both of which are available through Paladin Press. His popular column "Bullets and Bunkai" can be found every month in Black Belt Magazine. He lives in North Texas with his paraplegic brother and martial arts training partner, Reggie.