He killed the first person he saw.
I found the strange sailor in the middle of Main Street, a long knife in one hand and a woman’s head in the other. I don’t know who she was, only that she had come into town on the mid-morning train from Boston and chose to get off so she might see the town a bit before continuing her journey.
It was an unfortunate decision on her part.
The man called out in Russian, and he threw the head at me. It rolled forward, struck my boot, and came to an awkward stop.
“Have you a knife?” he asked. “Or only those guns on your hips?”
“I’ve a knife,” I answered in Russian.
He smiled. “And you speak a Godly tongue. She did not bow to me.”
“And that’s why you killed her?”
He shook his head. “I would have killed her either way. Perhaps quicker if she had been polite.” He glanced at the corpse a short distance away. “No, no, that’s a lie. I still would have sawed her head off.”
“Where’s the rest of the crew?” I inquired.
“Looking for friends,” the man answered. “Where is your knife?”
I drew my Bowie knife out of its sheath, and he nodded with approval.
I kicked the severed head aside as he advanced toward me, playfully tossing his knife from one hand to the other. He carried himself with poise, moving with an undeniable grace. He was a predator, and I was his prey.
Or so he assumed.
“You should protect yourself,” he offered, smiling, knife flickering as it caught the sun’s light.
He shrugged, then dashed the last few feet, his blade a blur.
But I’ve been fighting an awfully long time, and the first of those fights were with knife and ax.
I didn’t try to block the blow. Instead, I threw my left hand up and let the blade punch through my hand.
His mouth widened into a sneer until I closed my fist around his and pulled him close.
The man’s sternum broke as I drove the Bowie knife up to its hilt into his chest. He coughed blood onto me, sagged, and sank to the road. I knelt with him and twisted the blade as we went. Had he air enough to scream, he would have.
“I could have killed you quick,” I whispered in his ear. “But you didn’t deserve it. Neither will your shipmates.”