Vampire Games (Chapter Forty-two)

But he wasn't fast enough.

I tilted my head to the right just as his punch whooshed past my ear. His hand snapped back immediately and he looked at me comically, blinking rapidly. He hadn't expected to miss. He had expected, no doubt, to knock me out cold.

A woman. Nice guy.

He stepped back, cracked his neck a little and did a little dance to loosen up his limbs. His little pecker poked out again, curious.

I didn't move. I didn't answer. I didn't get into a fighter's stance. I said, "During an exhibition fight two weeks before Caesar Marquez's death in the ring, you delivered what many thought was a cheap shot."

Andre said nothing. With his aura crackling a neon green, he lashed out again. This time I didn't bother moving my head; instead, I brushed off the punch with a swipe of my hand. My counter-block had been fast. Supernaturally fast, and it sent Andre's forward momentum off to the side, where he stumbled a little, but quickly regained his balance.

"It was supposed to be an exhibition," I said, watching him. "I called the event organizers. No live punches. Just light stuff. Easy-to-block stuff. Entertain the crowd. Great photo ops. Three rounds of laughter and fun and good times."

Andre was bouncing on his feet now, bouncing and kind of circling me, too. There was no confusion on his face. Just grim determination. I had seen the same look in many of his YouTube videos. He was treating me like an opponent. I felt honored.

"But in the last twenty seconds of the third round, you punched Caesar Marquez. Hard. For no apparent reason, and against protocol. Some called it a cheap shot. I call it something else."

Andre Fine turned into a cornered wild cat, unleashing a ferocious onslaught of kicks and punches and spinning jumps, lashing out with elbows and knees and fists and feet. It was a pretty display. I had seen him unleash similar onslaughts against his opponents during his many filmed matches. During those matches, one or more of the punches or kicks would land home, sending his opponent to the mat, and making a winner out of Andre Fine. A five-time champion, in fact.

But here in the spacious area between the foot of his bed and his adjoining bathroom, the area where his big dresser had sat but was now conveniently moved across the room, I blocked punch after punch, kick after kick. Sometimes, I didn't block, but simply moved my head a fraction of an inch. At one point he tried a helluva fancy kick, jack-knifing his body splendidly, swinging his foot around so fast that, had I been mortal, I was certain my jaw would have been broken. I wasn't mortal though, so I saw the kick coming a mile away. Instead, I caught his ankle and spun him around like a ballerina.

We did this dance a few more minutes until I finally found the opening I was looking for, and delivered a straight punch. Nothing fancy. Just a straight shot delivered from shoulder height, and hard enough to send him stumbling backwards where he collided into his footboard, which he held onto briefly, before sinking down to the floor.

I walked over to him, knelt down, lifted his chin with my finger and said, "Now, we're going to talk."