Coming Soon - "Past It"
"Honest, fresh, addictive..."
He was behind him now, following him through the gardens towards the main house.
Six-foot-two if he’s an inch, he’s a big bugger…
Thirty more feet and you’ve got him where you want him.
Bentley’s throat was tight, his fingers biting into his palms as his breath quickened to match his pace.
Slow down, he’ll know he’s being set up.
The guy had to be 14 stone or ‘90 kilos’ as we’re supposed to say now, thanks to the European Union. This was a mistake. Luring a bloke almost thirty years your junior and two stone heavier than you to a secluded location to entice him to batter you senseless.
Do it right, and he’ll be nicely lined up in front of one of the cameras when the punches start flying and you’ll be able to defend yourself long enough to call for help. You’ll have the evidence you need to prove that The Hulk in scrubs is the thug who was responsible for your best friend’s death and you’ll survive with not too many bruises yourself.
Do it wrong, and he’ll knock seven bells out of you, safely hidden from the cameras behind one of the many ornate pillars at Crossley Manor Retirement Residence and you’ll lose your only chance to catch the cowardly tosser.
Bentley was the perfect target. He’d made sure of it - leaning on his metal cane, his gnarled, arthritic hands with just the slightest shake in them as he trundled slowly up the garden path. It started two days ago, The Hulk had started ordering him about and Bentley had told him where to get off. For the last forty-eight hours he’d been picking every scab and pushing every button he could find on the guy, all the time staying in safe areas, always with another staff member in sight or earshot.
But today’s garden party had the staff running around ‘all hands on deck’. Everyone was outside and The Hulk knew it. So when Bentley started tottering towards the house, The Hulk followed him immediately. He was giving the brute the one perfect chance to finally get even for two days of belligerence. Now The Hulk would show Bentley who was boss.
The Hulk scanned his surroundings as he followed Bentley up the stone steps, still twenty feet back from the ‘old man’. The other residents stole nervous glances at The Hulk. After thirty-odd years on the police force, he knew those looks. Avoiding direct eye contact with their aggressor but still monitoring them for any sign it was time to flee or duck. The same way a battered wife looked at her husband when he entered the room, before smiling and telling Bentley everything was fine. But now, like then, a look was never enough to convict the scum.
The air cooled as Bentley navigated the last of the stone steps and entered the hallway of the old manor house. Plush red carpet, fit for the Queen herself, had been flattened by canes and walkers years ago but still gave a regal air to the place, complementing the high ceilings and rich mahogany panelling in the old house.
The British gentry was running out of money, retirement residences and hotels were popping up in their emptying residences, corporations now the ones with the money to restore them and utilize their vast space to full potential.
The Hulk was close now, less than ten feet behind, impatient to teach Bentley his lesson…
One camera was inside the knight’s armour, the size of a golf ball, it fit perfectly in the helmet just above the visor, looking straight through the slit the knight himself would’ve used. The other was tucked up high in the ornate carvings of the enormous grandfather clock in the vestibule.
Bentley crept up the wheelchair ramp to the vestibule. Just a few more feet…
“Oi. Granddad!” The Hulk snapped.
Bentley turned to see a mountain of a man with a weasly grin and one fist jammed threateningly inside the other.
“You owe me an apology,” The Hulk sneered, stepping forward and forcing Bentley to crane his neck up to see the smarmy punk’s face.
If I was thirty years younger, you’d already be flat on your back buggerlugs…
“You owe me a bigger apology,” Bentley replied calmly, despite his pulse thumping a Metallica concert in his head.
“I don’t think so gramps,” The Hulk stepped forward slamming his palm into Bentley’s shoulder and knocking him backwards, forcing him to lean on his cane to stay on his feet.
Bloody hell, he’s strong.
“Apologize. Say you’re sorry,” The Hulk thumped him again, in the centre of his chest this time, knocking the breath out of him as he coughed and spluttered it back into his airways.
Not yet…it’s not enough yet…
“Is anyone there?” Bentley called out weakly.
“No one’s here. You’re mine gramps. Now apologize.”
“No and I’ll have your job for hitting me.”
“Oh, I haven’t started hitting you yet.” The Hulk smiled thinly.
“Well don’t even think about it or I’ll…”
“I’ll get you sacked,” Bentley stepped forward, lifting his head up and getting into The Hulk's face.
Then it happened, before Bentley could react or retreat, the fist pounded through his stomach. Was the hulk faster than light or was a sixty-eight year’s standard reaction time – tortoise?
The ache in his gut was worse than the suffocating feeling in his throat but just barely. No way he could shout for help, his lungs were a vacuum. He forced himself straight again, just in time for the hulk to swing an open hand at his face. The sound of the slap echoed through Bentley’s skull, the biting sting followed a second later.
Should be enough now Bentley…time to fight bac-
But Bentley was flying. A double-handed shove launched him into the suit of armour behind him. The only person more surprised than Bentley, was The Hulk who actually looked concerned, likely that the noise of pensioner hitting 15th century iron would bring staff running, but the full brass band outside were still playing hits from the ’40s, no one would hear anything over Bobby Darin’s ‘Mack the knife’ courtesy of the Kerbury Amateur Brass Society.
As history rained down on him with a terrifying clatter, Bentley ducked and covered, looking up just in time to see the knight’s helmet roll past him, spitting out its 21st-century secret like a macabre eyeball.
The Hulk's face twisted in surprise, then anger, as he realized that he was done for.
“You meddling old git!” he cursed through clenched teeth as he lurched towards Bentley, hauling him up by his shoulders, adorned like a beetle now with medieval armour that slid off as The Hulk lifted him to eye level.
Now it was time to fight back…
Bentley swung his foot up hard between hulk’s legs, the satisfying thud and morphing of Hulk's face into agony confirmed that he’d hit his target.
Didn’t think an old sod like me had any reflexes left, did you?
The Hulk’s legs started to crumple, dragging Bentley back down with him, but he wasn’t going down…
Bentley wrenched his arms out of The Hulk’s meaty hands and twisted his body away, leaving his attacker to fall like a felled tree, hitting the thick carpet hard enough to send shockwaves through the old wooden floor, vibrating the ground under Bentley’s feet and dislodging the cameras’ receiver that he’d wedged behind the pediment of the grandfather clock. As The Hulk lay folded on the ground, his hands nursing his nuts, Bentley bent down to retrieve the receiver, but The Hulk wasn’t done yet…
A hand snapped out and locked onto Bentley’s leg like a terrier on the Sunday roast. His foot started to slide along the carpet as The Hulk drew him in, Bentley grabbed the railing at the top of the ramp, fighting to free himself but he was fast being pulled into the splits, his groin already complaining at the growing distance between his two feet.
His fingers slipped from the rail and he turned to see The Hulk rising from the carpet like a member of the undead.
Now or never Bentley, he’s almost on you…
He gave up the struggle for balance and spun his other foot into The Hulk’s chin. A move that barely made his attacker blink, but laid Bentley out flat on his back. A second kick from his new position lost The Hulk his grip and gave Bentley precious seconds to scramble towards the wall and his salvation…
Thick fingers clamped on Bentley’s shoulder, but it didn’t matter, he was there. Wrenching open the door to the defibrillator cupboard, he waited for the wailing siren that would bring staff scurrying from all corners and end the fight, but nothing. Complete silence.
As The Hulk started to pull him away from the wall, Bentley grabbed the defibrillator itself, pulling it from the cupboard, a piece of paper fluttered to the floor, no time to read it. The Hulk twisted Bentley around and delivered a second torso-folding punch to his ribs. The air was gone again as his stomach lurched halfway up his windpipe.
He couldn’t match The Hulk’s strength or speed.
Stupid plan Bentley, no one to save you now. Just like Morris...
Then the voice of inspiration…
“Make sure the patient is lying flat on the floor.”
The defibrillator was talking him through how to save a life, his own…
With an almighty swing, Bentley straightened himself quickly, bringing the plastic shell of the defibrillator up with him and striking The Hulk hard under the nose with it. The Hulk’s smirk evaporated, his eyes widening with surprise as he teetered back on his heels. The heavy hands slid from Bentley’s arms, almost pulling him down again as they left. It was over! No…The Hulk’s eyes started to refocus.
Move fast Bentley you can’t take another hit.
Jerking the defibrillator up again, he connected with the hulk’s jaw. Eyes re-glazed as The Hulk drifted backwards, crashing onto the carpet again with a hollow thud that echoed through the historic hallways.
“Once patient is comfortably on the floor. Check for a pulse.”
No need. The Hulk definitely had one, even as his eyes rolled like the reels on a fruit machine.
“Place the pads on the patient and wait for instruction.”
To hell with that, where was the camera’s receiver?
There! Nestled under The Hulk’s left armpit, was the small black box that held his evidence. Glancing at his opponent, eyes still vacant, he suppressed the instinct to take the smart option and run like hell.
Come on Bentley, you only need a few seconds…
He leaned over, his fingertips tentatively leading the expedition, as he felt the damp warmth of the hulk’s breath on his neck, a rancid mixture of stale nicotine and coffee.
Receiver in hand, he started to straighten, ready to turn and bolt, but his old adversary resurfaced. A dull, grinding, click in his spine confirmed that his back had locked up again. Not today, not now…
The Hulk grunted, his electric-blue eyes locking onto Bentley’s, rage and recognition slowly returning to them as his gaping mouth first closed, then thinned into determination as he started to sit up.
Move Bentley, now!
But he was frozen, temporarily paralyzed. The effects of decades of years of policing Britain’s streets, subduing drunks, chasing murderers and spending hours hunched over a desk pouring through leads and filling out reports coming back to haunt him at exactly the wrong moment.
The piece of paper from the defibrillator cupboard was barely a foot from his nose.
‘Joel. The battery on the defibrillator alarm needs replacing.’
The Hulk pawed at Bentley’s arm, stubby, hairy fingers travelling towards the receiver but Bentley snatched it away, twisting his own arm behind his crippled back and tucking it into the waistband of his trousers.
If he wants it, he’s going to have to work for it.
Work for it… it would take the ogre five seconds to disable Bentley and find the damn thing.
The Hulk’s fingers clamped around Bentley’s throat, closing it to the width of a drinking straw as he lifted Bentley, forcing him upright. Lightning pain seared through his spine as the hulk wrenched him vertical, muscles twanging and bones clicking as his nerves screamed their agony.
The defibrillator was useless to him now, its case cracked, its guts hanging out in a mass of red, yellow and blue wires, besides Bentley couldn’t swing a feather duster until his bloody back stopped spasming.
“Place the pads on the patient and wait for instruction.” The tinny voice repeated.
Pads. He couldn’t electrocute the brute, not unless The Hulk’s heart was already stopped and the bugger’s was pumping just fine. Bentley could almost see the pulse throbbing in the thick veins coursing up his neck.
“Give it to me…” The Hulk sneered, pulling Bentley closer, a new wave of vile breath washing over him.
“Drop dead,” he replied, his voice distorted to the pitch of a helium-addicted fairy from the involuntarily narrowing of his airways.
“Give it to me now,” The Hulk growled.
The defibrillator crashed to the ground as Bentley fumbled, grappling at The Hulk’s arm but it was steel, and even if he got free, his back wouldn’t support a second fight. He had to hand over the receiver.
Bentley nodded at The Hulk.
“Place the pads on the patient and wait for instruction,” repeated impatiently.
The Hulk dropped him to his feet and nausea rippled down Bentley’s throat at the sudden rush of air and the certain knowledge that he couldn’t win the fight he’d picked with this bloke. He’d lost his chance to get justice for his friend, protect the other residents.