The two men who jump Hartwin after he lifted cans of tomato soup and a Coke from the Dunes grocery store have laughs that don’t sound human. They appear noisy from the thin veil of humidity and dusk near the high stained beams of the monorail tracks and look like Ray’s type: shaved heads and smudged faces. Their laughs are like high pitched frequency bouncing and splitting through the cords of his limbs and circling inside of his grinding teeth.
One of them takes Hartwin’s pack and dumps the contents into the road, shouting words like threaten and Ray, while the other makes a show of pushing him into the trunk of a linden tree and throwing him into the dead grass. Hartwin catches himself on his hands and one knee, pushing to run when he feels his foot caught. He falls, making no sound, twisting just as the man strikes him in the jaw. Everything spins fast and something flips on or off. Hartwin struggles as the man tries to work his way on top of Hartwin’s chest with an arm raised high for another arching blow. He feels something heavy and leaded crack against his right shin, splattering a bleeding bruise. The frequency reaches a roaring pitch that wraps the pain and steals it away.
He kicks with his good leg and manages to swing the weight of the man on his chest into the ground. Hartwin doesn’t run. Instead he throws his own weight and locks his knees tight around the man’s ribcage, his S&W spilling from the waist of his jeans and into the dying weeds. He hits hard and doesn’t feel the man’s claws digging into his shoulder, trying to push him off as he paints Hartwin’s skin bruised yellows. The man’s mouth shapes into clenched shock and braced pain as Hartwin keeps swinging his hits until the man’s nose gushes blood that smears and spatters into his fist and across his arm. The man might be crying. He might be begging. But Hartwin doesn’t hear anything but whining sharp feedback and screaming angled pitch.
The claws of the other man dig into his arms and pull him until he struggles out of the man’s surprise when he scoops the forgotten S&W revolver from the ground. Hartwin reels backwards into the street with his arm straight, shaking aim that moves back and forth, searching. The frequency starts to wane, and the men look between themselves with wide gulping eyes that say hey man, put down the gun, it’s cool and all that other shit Hartwin doesn’t care about.
He keeps the aim bouncing from one to the other and he thinks he makes a noise like a great wolf that causes them to turn and run away towards the station. He watches their backs and their long shadows drawing down the road before he pulls the trigger with a blink like he heard the boom. He cocks the barrel and pulls it again and again. The revolver clicks and clicks blank nothings one after the other. He doesn’t know how long he stands in the street clicking the gun and listening to the clapping noise, but the moon is loud and clear in the sky by the time he drops his arm, gathers the contents of his pack, and limps home.
They stole his AKG headphones, his cans of tomato soup, and smashed his Arc.
Later when he drinks the frothy and warm Coke, it hurts to swallow.