Had my pistol been at something other than low guard, I might have shot the poor animal. I came through the door in a crouch, looked right, and then turned left. I got an amazing view of horse nostrils, and nearly squealed.
Large animals aren’t normally found in bar kitchens, no matter how spacious… Then again, in the decline of civilization, some bets might be off.
“Uh, hello Mr. Horse?” I said, standing up slowly.
The tawny head turned, so he could give me a look. I looked back, and found myself impressed by his elegance—sturdy, but graceful. Somebody loved this horse, a whole lot.
He didn’t look impressed with me, but moved with the sort of speed only animals and zombies can muster. I found myself face to pink nose with the horse, looking up at the white line that flowed up his head and into his mane.
The lovely animal backed off, and put his face back in the five-gallon stew pot full of water on the floor in front of his legs. I wiped horse wetness off my face with my shirt.
That’s how she got the drop on me: I wasn’t paying attention.
I felt the steel against my neck and forced myself to stay loose. You don’t survive any kind of fight by getting tense and locked up.
“Drop the gun and put your hands on top of your head. Now. Please.” She said, standing behind me.
I put the safety on, and squatted to put the weapon down. It was my only .45 and I didn’t want to damage it by accident. The blade never left the side of my neck. Either the blade was sword-length, or she squatted with me. I decided it was a long sword, because I didn’t hear fabric or feet move.
My hands clasped on the crown of my head, and I debated what I’d say in this situation. I couldn’t draw my katana without telegraphing the motion, and I could end up a Frank-kabob if she had any sort of skill.
“You’re Frank, right?” I heard her ask, relieving me of the obligation to speak first.
“Yes. We haven’t been properly introduced, or so it seems.” I tried to sound upbeat. “I would like to know where my landlords are, before we continue with the pleasantries.”
“Uncle Marvin and Aunt Shirley heard about a swap meet, and left about an hour ago to check it out.”
Uncle? Aunt? WTF?
“Okay. I appreciate that information. Would you take that sword away from my jugular, now that we’ve established that I’m me, and you’re their relative?”
“I don’t know, Frank. It looks pretty good where it is. I think it goes nicely with the hair.” I could hear a smirk in her voice, and it was very, very reminiscent of Shirley’s tone when she laid out the sarcasm.
“Shirley’s your Aunt?” I asked.
“Yes. Did she mention me to you?”
“No. They never said anything about their relatives. You sound like Shirley, so I took a guess.”
To my surprise, the blade came away from my skin. I wasn’t about to turn around or move my hands until invited to do so. She might be Shirley’s niece, but that didn’t guarantee sanity, civil behavior, or the potential for non-violent interactions.
“You can turn around now,” she said, “and put your hands down.”
Since I was invited, I turned around and dropped my hands to my sides. I took in the following data points: solid shoulders, brown hair, curly, brown eyes, smirk, sho karasu maru-style katana (that’s a rarity!), work shirt, and jeans. It didn’t look like she was going to kill me, so I relaxed a little more.
“My name is Tracy.” She said, extending her hand to me. “Nice to meet you.”
I shook her hand. Solid grip. Right on.