As they walked, the door of another restaurant burst open and three city types, smartly dressed and in their mid to late-twenties tumbled out. Clearly the worse for alcohol, they were shouting and laughing incoherently, casually insensitive to other pedestrians. One of the men barged into Charlotte, almost knocking her off her feet, causing her to let out a short, sharp, surprised shriek.
‘Hello darlin’,’ the man said, grabbing her round the waist as he spoke.
‘Hey…’ Conrad protested.
The other two men had somehow contrived to stagger between Conrad and Charlotte. One of them turned to face him, swaying slightly on his feet and, placing his hand over Conrad’s face, pushed hard.
‘Fuck off, old man.’
Conrad lost his balance and fell awkwardly to the ground. A couple of passers-by studiously ignored him as he scrabbled around to pick himself up.
Conrad’s soul burned at the intended insult. He felt a surge of adrenaline course through his body and a ringing in his head as he felt the familiar burn of his temper consume him.
The three men were focused on Charlotte, their apparent leader still grasping her and trying to kiss her as she struggled to escape his clutches, leaning back as far as she could to avoid the man’s leering mouth. The other two, their backs to Conrad, laughingly goaded their companion.
Conrad stood and, without hesitation, rushed headlong at the men, grabbing the nearest by the collar. In one movement, and with unnatural strength brought on by the adrenaline, hurled him into the road. Taken off balance the man fell backwards, his head making a discernible thud as it struck the tarmac. Immediately, Conrad charged the next closest man, the one who had pushed him to the ground. Completely taken by surprise, the man was turning slowly, a comically drunken look of surprise registering on his face. Before he could turn completely, Conrad kicked the back of his right knee. The man lost his balance and fell heavily to the ground on both knees. Carefully watching the third man who was still holding Charlotte, Conrad stood on the back of the fallen man’s right knee, putting his entire weight on it. The man yelled in a mixture of pain and protest as Conrad moved on. The man rolled over grabbing his damaged leg to his chest. His injured friend in the road had staggered to his feet and was now lurching away, holding the back of his head, narrowly avoiding being run over by a passing taxi. Clearly deciding discretion was the better part of valour, he left the scene completely ignoring his two fellow revellers.
The third man by now had released his grip on Charlotte and turned to face Conrad.
‘Come on mate, just a bit of harmless fun…’
Conrad wasn’t listening. He grabbed the man by the neck and thrust him up against the wall of the adjacent building. He pushed upwards until the man’s feet were only making the slightest contact with the ground through his stretching toes. The man began choking, his arms flailing wildly, but ineffectively, at Conrad.
‘Get the fuck out of here,’ Conrad hissed between clenched teeth, staring into the man’s eyes for a moment before the mists fogging his mind cleared. Exhaling audibly, he released the man who leant forward clutching his throat. Conrad moved to Charlotte as the man looked for a moment as though he would launch a reprisal attack on Conrad, before deciding against it and staggering off down the street in the opposite direction, his remaining companion limping along behind.
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