FORTY-FOUR: ANGER IS A GIFT
NO ONE MOVED. NO one, that is, except Cleon.
Maggie’s punch had nearly knocked the High Priest off of his feet. His head flew back, he rocked on his heels, and the light from the skull tattoos flickered and died. Before he could recover, however, she was on him like a wild animal, her fist flying.
Maggie screamed in rage. Cleon screamed in pain. Mike shook his head in confusion. The monks were frozen with shock. I laughed harder than I’ve laughed in a good long time.
One of the monks from the ritual came out of his shock and pulled a knife with a wickedly curved blade and made for Maggie. Her back was to him as she wailed on Cleon.
“Maggie!” I shouted as the monk approached. But she couldn’t hear me.
I began to throw myself back and forth in the chair, causing it to rock, my original plan of smashing the chair apart on the stands below still in play.
The monk was now right behind Maggie. He held the blade high. But as he was about to bring it down and pierce young Maggie between the shoulder blades, Mike seized the monk’s arm in a massive hand, and twisted.
The monk’s arm snapped like a toothpick and the man’s scream echoed out across the silent stands.
That’s what did it.
The entire place exploded into chaos as a thousand or so bald spectators ran for their lives.
Mike still held the screaming monk by his broken arm. The great bull bellowed a war cry as he twisted the monk’s head from his body like taking the cap from off a tube of toothpaste.
He tossed the lifeless monk aside, bellowed once again, and then waded into the sea of shaved heads.
Some of the monks, bless their hearts, attempted to fight back, turning to Mike with knives in hands.
Using horns and fists, Mike worked his way through them like a thresher through wheat. It got real bloody real fast and I soon lost Maggie in the mass exodus.
I went back to trying to topple the chair, with me in it, from the emperor’s private box when Maggie was suddenly there beside me, a wild look in her eyes, and a smile on her face.
“We meet again, at last,” she said in a deep, low voice. “The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.” Then she laughed.
“Cute,” I said. “Can you get me out of this chair now? My knife should be in one of the coat pockets.”
“I’m just saying,” she said as she searched my pockets. “It’s kinda funny, right?”
“What’s that?” I said.
“Well, you came here to rescue me.” She found my switchblade and popped it open. “And yet here I am, rescuing you.”
“And I appreciate it, believe me,” I said as she sawed away at the leather bands.
So far, the monks were avoiding us, preferring instead to flee before the terror of an angry minotaur. But eventually some were gonna to realize that Mike couldn’t be everywhere at once and then come after us. Most especially Maggie as she’s the one who took down their High Priest
The thought made me smile and I giggled.
“What’s so funny?” She asked as the band on my right arm broke free.
“I was just thinking about what you did,” I said. “I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting you to clobber Cleon like that. Obviously the idea hadn’t entered his mind either, otherwise he would have tied your hands behind your back.”
“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” she said as she went to work on my left wrist. “I mean, I was just so angry.”
“It was brilliant,” I said. “You’re quite the scrapper.”
“I had some help.” She reached into her jeans pocket and held up the brass knuckles. “I picked it up after you dropped them. Figured it might come in handy.”
“Well that explains it then,” I said.
She gave me a questioning look.
“Those aren’t normal brass knuckles,” I said. “That’s a mighty powerful magical item you hold in your hand.”
“Magic?” She said, looking at the brass knuckles in distrust.
“It’s a spell breaker,” I said. “You touch someone with it who’s working some magic, you break the spell.” Then I laughed. “But really, you only need to touch them, not beat them like an egg.”
“I touched him,” she said, and laughed along with me.
“Brilliant,” I said, shaking my head. “Anyway, when you hit Cleon, it broke the control spell he’d put over Mike.”
“Why do you call him Mike?” She asked, getting back to work on my bonds.
“I can’t pronounce his real name. Mik-el-oto-something-or-other. It’s Greek,” I said. “Not sure what that whole ‘Asterion’ nonsense was, though.”
“Asterion was the Minotaur at the center of the Labyrinth,” she said cutting through my final bond.
“Greek mythology,” she said. “The Labyrinth was built by Daedelus for King Minos to hold the Minotaur, Asterion.”
“Well, I ain’t up to date on my Greek mythology,” I said. “So they think that Mike is this Asterion?”
“I suppose so,” she said. “But even if the story was true, and after today I’m thinking it might be, it’s not really possible that Mike is really Asterion.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because the Minotaur from the Labyrinth was killed by Theseus.”
“You know an awful lot about this stuff.”
“My minor is Greek mythology,” she said.
“That sounds useful,” I said.
By the time she got me free, we were alone in the arena. I found the quiet unsettling.
I could still hear Mike roaring and men screaming somewhere beyond the stands, but for now Maggie and I were alone with the bodies.
“Can we get out of here now?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “I think we should.”
My gun belt was on the floor next to the chair. I strapped it on, checked both pistols, and found them fully loaded.
I held one of the Colts out to Maggie.
“You ever fire a gun, Maggie?”
“No,” she said. “And I would prefer not to start.”
“Fair enough,” I said as I holstered the gun.
We made our way down to the arena floor. I wanted to check on Cleon. I wanted to have a long talk with the man. But once down on the floor, we found that he was gone.
“One of his people must have carried him off,” I said. “Was he still breathing when you stopped wailing on him?”
“Yes,” she said, a bit of red creeping up in her face. “I was furious at what he’d done to me, but I don’t want to kill anyone.”
“Okay, well,” I said. “He’s obviously not here. I say we beat feet and put this place as far behind us as we can.”
“Right behind you.”
I decided to leave the way I’d come so that I could pick up Trinity along the way. The exit, however, was still barred by the gate. I gave it a push and it didn’t budge.
I gave it a kick.
“You can—” Maggie began.
I gave it another kick.
“Well,” Maggie said.
I kicked it again. Then again. Then once more. Then again for good measure.
“How about—” Maggie said.
I kicked at the gate over and over until my only other choice was to back away, bent over, hands on my knees as I tried to catch my breath.
“Did you try the handle?” Maggie said.
I looked up.
She gave the handle a turn and the gate swung inward.
“Ah, well,” I said. “Of course.”
She tried to hide her smile.
“Sorry,” I said.
The path back through the maze proved to be uneventful. Except for the fact that Trinity was no longer where I’d left her. Chained to the wall as she had been, I figured she wouldn’t wander off, but when I examined the chains, I found them cut.
But I couldn’t worry about that. I had to get Maggie home safe.
We reached the wall of obscurity in no time flat. Maggie gave it an uneasy look.
“What’s that?” She said.
“It’s the way out,” I said.
She didn’t move.
“It’s harmless,” I said. “Trust me.”
She gave me another look of unease, but stepped on through. I was close behind.
I came out of the obscurity and into the white corridor to find it empty.
“Maggie?” I called out.
I heard a slight thud in the office beyond and rushed in with both pistols drawn.
Standing over by the desk was Maggie. Cleon was behind her.
He had a knife to her throat.
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