The Punisher’s eyes locked onto Amanda. I pulled out my pistol. “Back off,” I warned.
Without looking at me, he asked, “New bodyguard?”
She stayed silent. In the moments that followed, I couldn’t help but ask myself what I was doing. Fifteen minutes ago I was perfectly fine with letting fate take its course. Now that her imminent death is right in my face, my conscience is apparently having second thoughts. Sometimes I hate having a conscience. When I get done with this situation I may have to squish a cricket.
“I’m not a bodyguard. I’m a private detective. And, unlike someone in the room, I’m actually licensed to carry a firearm.” He was unimpressed with my bravado. Still, my best chance at getting her out of this alive was to get his attention onto me. “So, how does it feel to live your life as a hypocrite?”
That one kind of worked. His face was still stuck on her, but his eyes flicked over to me. I pressed, “That’s right, I’ve heard about you. They say that you go around killing criminals, murderers, but you’re nothing more than a murderer yourself.”
Instead of getting angry, he smirked. He knew what I was trying to do. His eyes going back to Amanda, he growled, “You shouldn’t have tried to take over your father’s business.”
Obviously, there’s a lot more than just a restaurant at stake here, but I didn’t have time to ponder it. The Punisher pulled a sawed off shotgun from a holster on his back. He moved, what seemed to me to be, impossibly quick. Before I knew what had happened, the shotgun went off and I was standing in front of Amanda. Despite the fact that the scene should now be chaotic, I found that both of them were just staring at me in shock.
“What,” I asked as I looked down to take inventory of myself.
The first thing I noticed was that the shotgun had blown off my left arm at the shoulder. My arm was now lying on the floor beside me, with my magic ring still attached to my finger. They now saw what I really looked like. “Dammit,” I muttered. It’s been a while since I’ve had to pick a piece of myself off the ground.
Before the Punisher could recover, I fired two shots from the pistol I still held in my other hand. The bullets hit him center mass and he stumbled to the ground. I knew that someone in his line of work had to be wearing some kind of body armor. That meant I didn’t have long before he was up on his feet again. I picked my arm up off of the floor and used it to push Amanda back towards the kitchen. She hesitantly started moving along side of me as I reattached my left arm. As soon as it popped back into place, I appeared to be a normal human again.
“What the hell are you,” she cried as we burst through the back door into an alleyway.
“Right now I’m the guy saving your life,” I snapped. “But if you’d rather focus on my grotesque appearance, I’ll leave you here for him.”
“No, don’t leave me!”
Without a word, I grabbed her arm and pulled her with me. We were almost to the street when I heard the door slam behind me. I glanced over my shoulder and saw that he was turning to follow us. There was no way we were going to outrun him, so I’d need to do something else. Just as I reached the lip of the alley, I stopped, turned, and fired.
In my old world, I was a decent shot with a gun. Since I came here, I made it a point to practice shooting once a week. I knew that I’d need to do it eventually and, thankfully, it was a long time before I was proven right. Granted, I’m still not as good of a shot as the Punisher is, but all I need to do is be good enough.
And I was.
My shots were meant to do two things. The first was to come close enough to the Punisher’s head that he’d have to duck. They were. The second was to cause a panic in the streets. They did. In and out of the chaos we weaved until I was sure that we had lost our pursuer. “What now,” she asked as I hailed us a cab.
“Now we need to get someplace safe,” I answered as I opened the door for her. “You and me need to have a talk.”