TWENTY-SIX: THE STENCH OF BATTLE
THE RAIN, AT FIRST, fell like an angel’s wings brushing softly along my arm, but soon turned into a downpour so thick that the beam of the flashlight was being reflected back into my face. The only blessing I dared to count under such circumstances was the fact that the rain masked the stench of the ogre. It was still there, it just wasn’t as bad.
“Ogre?” Officer King said. “What’s an ogre?”
“Not something we want to be messing with, even in the light of day.”
I looked from the beam of my light to hers and struggled between my desire to see the ogre coming, or my desire not to stand out like a shaft of yellow in a field of black. Which would, of course, lead the ogre right to us. In the end I went with discretion and switched my light off, dropping it into the pocket of my coat. I drew the other Peacemaker.
“Douse the light,” I whispered.
She didn’t argue and we were both swallowed by the darkness.
“Now what?” She whispered.
“We need to be anywhere but here. Ogres have poor eyesight to begin with, as long as we keep quiet, we should be able to slip past it.”
“I can’t see anything,” she said.
“Here,” I said. I holstered one of the pistols then grabbed up a corner of my coat. I held it out to her, inching it closer and closer until my hand came in contact with her. “That’s my coat, take it.”
“Okay, got it.”
“If we move a dozen or so steps to the right and then move forward a ways, we should eventually run into the frame of the house on this lot. It shouldn’t be too hard to find, even if we can’t see it. From there we can regroup, and we’ll be out of the rain”
“Okay,” she said. “Let’s do it.”
We moved together slowly, the sound of the pounding rain masking the noise of our shoes that surely squelched in the mud.
Lightning flashed and in that instant I could see where we were in relation to the house. It was directly ahead. Maybe ten yards. My hope was renewed.
“Almost there,” I said.
Lightning flashed again and that was when I saw it.
It was standing ankle deep in the mud to the left and in front of the house. It was enormous. So big that I could understand why the average fella’s brain might just automatically dismiss it as a figment of their imagination. I mean, it was just too big to believe.
The ogre reminded me a bit of the Incredible Hulk, yet instead of green it was a dull gray and hairless.
It had been facing the house when the lightning had flashed, so it hadn’t seen us at all. Back in the dark we moved forward slowly, making our way carefully toward the shelter of the house.
Another lightning flash, and once again I saw the thing. Officer King had seen it too based on the way her hand suddenly dug into my shoulder.
The ogre had stepped closer to the house, but hadn’t noticed us yet. It had tiny black pig eyes buried under a protruding brow and a pair of yellowed tusks that jutted out from its lower jaw. It wore the furs and skins of dead animals which didn’t actually cover much, like a barbarian berserker from a role playing game.
I bent and whispered into Officer King’s ear. “It hasn’t seen us yet, but it’s only a matter of time. When it does, we scatter. I’ll go directly at it. You head for the car.”
“I’m not running,” she said.
“I don’t expect you to,” I said. “I want you to fetch that shotgun out from under the dash and come back for me.”
“Why don’t you just shoot the thing?” she asked.
“I could do that, sure,” I said. “And I probably will, but that’s just gonna piss the thing off. The shotgun, on the other hand, has a better chance of doing some damage if you shoot it in the right place, like its face.”
Another flash of lightning and the thing was looking right at us.
“Run!” I yelled, pushing her from me. Then I pulled both Peacemakers, thumbing back the hammers as they cleared leather.
Lightning flashed again and the creature was in full sprint, bearing straight for me. Officer King had run to the left, arching around where the ogre had been standing previously.
Myself, I fought every instinct I had and ran toward the beast rather than away.
The next flash of lightning and the ogre was just ten yards away and closing fast. I popped off two quick shots on the fly, one from each gun.
The light fled before I could see if the shots had hit their mark, but I didn’t need to see to know that they had. I always hit what I aim for. That is barring any interference from the blasted sun.
The thing roared. I wasn’t lying when I said that shooting it would only make it angry, but I didn’t really have a choice.
An ogre has thick skin, like armor. Bullets will pierce it, eventually, but the few times I’ve ever come up against one I’ve found that it’s best to just run.
I don’t like to run.
Another flash of light and I was able to throw myself aside the instant before the thing could barrel into me.
I fired off two more shots as I fell, hitting it in the back of one of its knees. By the next flash I could see as it took a header into the mud. That made me smile.
There was another burst of light, but this time it wasn’t the lightning. Officer King had pulled the patrol car around and now had it pointed into the yard, its headlights falling over me and the creature in the mud.
The ogre pulled itself to its feet.
“I kill you,” it said in a voice like thunder. “You die now.”
“You first,” I said, and shot it in the face.
The ogre roared in pain. It was one of the most terrifying sounds I’d ever heard. Then it was on top of me.
The thing hit me like an entire offensive line. I slammed into the ground, my breath pulled from my lungs like a rabbit from a hat. I felt a few ribs break and then I was face down in the mud.
A fist the size of a Buick Roadmaster hammered into my side and more ribs snapped like they were made of glass. I screamed and it pushed my face down into the mud, holding it there as I choked.
The creature toyed with me. Letting go of the back of my head long enough to allow me to catch my breath. Then it was back in the mud.
The third time it let me up for air I laughed when I realized that it had stopped raining.
Then there came the sudden roaring blast of a shotgun and the pressure on the back of my head relented as the ogre dropped heavily into the mud next to me, its head nothing more than a ruined mess.
Officer King stood over me, shotgun in hand and a grim look on her face. She caught me looking at her quizzically.
“Door busters,” she said, gesturing to the shotgun with her head.
“Say no more,” I said. “Help me up. I’m afraid the beast broke a few of my ribs.”
“I’ll call an ambulance,” she said, turning toward the car.
“Don’t bother with all that,” I said. “I’ll heal up in good time. Just help me up.”
It was true; I could already feel the familiar itch that meant my accelerated healing had begun.
Officer King — I suppose I could refer to her now as Diana considering that she probably saved my life.
Diana held out a hand, I took it, and she pulled me to my feet. I groaned and winced as I rose. I may heal fast, but pain is still pain. It hurts.
“Door busters, huh?” I said, wiping mud from, well, everywhere.
Door busters are solid slug rounds used by the military and the police to destroy deadbolts or hinges in doors. The round disperses after obliterating said hinge or deadbolt, reducing the risk of ricochet. And Diana just used one on an ogre's head.
“That was a little bit of genius,” I said.
“Thanks,” she said. “You gonna be okay?”
“Eventually,” I said.
“So that’s an ogre,” she said, looking down at the headless body.
“That’s an ogre,” I said.
She waved her hand under her nose, a disgusted look on her face.
“Yeah,” I said. “Fragrant, ain’t they?”
“They are at that.”
I limped over to the frame house and took a seat on the back concrete steps.
“They’re the cause of the stink, pun intended, behind the skunk ape legend,” I said.
“Yeah, you know,” I said. “Bigfoot. Sasquatch. Some claim that when they’ve seen Bigfoot that the creature was accompanied by an almost unbearable stench. Those folks didn’t see Bigfoot, though. They saw an ogre.”
“So Bigfoot doesn’t exist, then,” she said.
“Oh no, Bigfoot exists. And they smell just fine. They groom themselves quite regularly.”
She looked at me as if trying to decide if I was having fun with her. I wasn’t.
“Why do they stink so much?” She asked.
“Well, that’s up to debate. Scholars who study such things will tell you a bunch of nonsense regarding how an ogre releases the scent to ward off enemies. Frankly I think they just have a serious aversion to bathing. But what do I know.”
I waved my own hand in front of my nose.
“I have to admit though that this thing is a mite ripe,” I said.
Then I noticed the wind. It was still blowing heavily from the west. The ogre carcass lay east of us. I rose, a jolt of paint shooting through my midsection.
Then I heard the roar.
I turned as Diana gasped. There, standing between us and the car, the shapes quite distinct against the backdrop of the headlights, stood not one, but two more ogres.
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