Cade instinctively brought the gun up to fire, but it took him about one second to realize he was a half-second too slow. He got one off; it might have been a hit, but his big brother charged right through it and tackled Cade so hard he though he might pass out. The gun flew off into a bush as Matt landed on top with crushing force.
Cade was a calm, disciplined fighter, and his brother never became anything but a brawler. He wrestled with his brother, intending to subdue him, smack him across the face a few times, and find out what the fuck he was on to make him go crazy like this. He quickly gained the advantage, pinned the good arm, and thought it might be over. But Matt strained with the other arm, the one with the titanium shoulder, and it made a sickening popping/grinding noise as he threw him off like a bull throws its rider when it decides it has had enough. Before Cade knew it, he was flying through the air, shocked at the strength and disregard for pain he had just witnessed. That was impossible. Last I knew he couldn’t even shoot a basketball, let alone throw a 220-pound guy around with one arm. Then he hit the back wall and crumpled to the ground, all thoughts gone.
When they were growing up, they fought sometimes, as brothers, especially two so close in age, like to do. They were always fairly well-matched, and as adults often joked about their unbeaten record against the other. Truth is, they always fought to a draw, because neither one, in his heart, really wanted to win. They were brothers, and that trumped whatever game or girl they felt was worth fighting over at any given time during their fleeting adolescence.
This time, Matt clearly wanted to win. Matt was pounding on his little brother, not caring where the blows landed. He was repeating his mantra of “Whereisshe? Whereisshe?” His voice grew more and more hysterical with each repetition. Cade covered up as best he could, but he was taking a lot of punishment. He heard his wife screaming from the balcony and then run inside. He knew she was heading to him, to help him, to save him. He wanted to scream, “Stay inside!” but he had no breath.
He’s going to kill me, Cade thought. My brother’s going to beat me to death, and then go after Liss, and I’ll never know why. He thought he heard sirens off in the distance, but he couldn’t be sure. He focused on the only thing he could: keeping Matt busy for as long as possible. He took several brutal blows to his face, and he knew it just wouldn’t be long enough.
Then, a shattering of glass, and a terrifying growl. He had forgotten all about Loki, but Loki had forgotten nothing. It had only been about thirty seconds since Matt had first broken the picture window, and Loki had been working his way through it. He launched himself, all sixty pounds of him, at his master’s attacker with a fury Cade always wondered about, but never thought he’d actually see. He tore into whatever he could grab, and Matt moved off Cade.
Good boy, he thought as he fought unconsciousness. That’s my good boy. Liss burst out of the house, carrying the aluminum baseball bat that he stored under the bed for, well, for something like this, he guessed. Matt threw Loki off and moved for her, but the dog was back on him instantly. She swung, catching him square in the chest; he staggered a bit from the blow, a dog was shredding his leg, and still he moved for her.
Stubbornly clinging to life, Cade struggled to his feet. They didn’t abandon me…least I can do...
Liss swung again, but he moved in and punched her in the jaw, driving her backwards. She collapsed, out cold. Matt grabbed the bat, and the look in his eye was both vacant and homicidal at once. Cade could do nothing but stumble to Liss and cover her up with his battered body. He saw that his brother had raised the bat for the killing stroke.
Two shots rang out in quick succession. They weren’t police-issue handguns. He wasn’t positive, but it sounded suspiciously like his neighbor’s rifle, the reports echoing in his head as he slipped into darkness.
To be continued…