Tearing around the corner, Beneda comes to a halt and takes in a crazy scene. What to do? Pete down on the ground, a man tying his hands—Cootuh’s man? The thin fellow works quickly, he warns Pete, “I ain’t tryin’ to hurt ‘ya, son.”
A man’s down— at Marquetta’s feet, and she’s standing, grappling with another, this one, with a club.
Taking a calming breath, Beneda carefully aims into the man’s back. Thunk! An instant later, with her arrow protruding from just left of a kidney, he staggers away from Marquetta’s fists, a chance for her friend to reach down and grab up the club he’s let fall.
In one more instant another man steps out from the library. This one, in a library guard’s jacket, holding a staff. Scanning the group before him, he holds a lantern out. Another instant, and Zenobia’s stepped out as well, dressed for bed, hair long down her back, she looks from the arrow Beneda’s pointed at the men, to the men themselves.
What would Asante would do? Beneda remembers his words, ’make them come at us, one at a time.’ Deciding, she shouts at Pete and Marquetta, so they know she’s there, and she steps over to Zenobia. Now there are two of them armed to defend the door and the tied up boy.
Marquetta turns her attention to Beneda for a second, then faces Cootuh, her club held high, and his two goons coming around the corner.
Cootuh! Silently Beneda curses the black turtle.
Putting a hand on Beneda’s shoulder, Zenobia pulls herself up to her full height and speaks out. “Hear me. The authorities have been sent for.” Beneda’s liking the new, stronger Zenobia. “They will be here soon.”
It’s dim but Beneda observes Cootuh’s calculating. In this moonlight his eyes give him away. Steadying her aim on him is easy in the moon’s rays.
That reptilian glance travels to each person before the library. Her hand on the bow knows when he makes his decision. She breathes out again, once he directs the two closest to him. Pointing them to the wounded fighters, he gathers his people around him, stepping back out of range of the staff wielding librarian. Now six wait on each side in the Library’s rear yard.
After a moment, making a mock bow, to the one with the staff, Zenobia, and Beneda with her bow, Cootuh herds his group, backward step by backward step, from the yard and back into the forest that edge into darkness.
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