It was a good thing that Liza didn’t stop to think about the fact that she was charging a small mob of mentally unstable homeless people. Fortunately, the butterfly knife that she was still holding scared away all but one of Bruce’s attackers. The one, of course, was Scary Witch Hat Guy. This guy was the king of mentally unstable homeless people, with a crown to prove it. Liza’s crazed, wheezy sprint with a folded up knife didn’t faze him. Without missing a beat, he whacked her with a copy of Robinson Crusoe that he was wielding like a tennis racket. He caught her shoulder. Pain shot through her arm but Liza just managed to stay on her feet. She panicked and threw the closed knife at him. Her aim was slightly better than his. The heavy knife caught him just above the right eye, opening up a gash along the brow line. Blood began to dribble into his eye. Terrifyingly enough, he didn’t seem hurt so much as stunned. Liza had a major Oh Shit! moment, but then Scary Witch Hat Guy dropped the book, waved, and walked away.
Rusty shopping carts, cardboard boxes, and tattered backpacks were scattered everywhere. Little piles of junk lay around them. There were even tents made from old blankets draped over bushes. Apparently, she’d found some sort of homeless person mecca. Bruce was surrounded by five or six people. One was Scary Witch Hat Guy from last night. He was yelling hysterically and hitting Bruce with a book. Another guy was kicking him. The others were mostly egging them on, but would throw a fist or a foot of their own once in a while. Bruce was fighting back, but there were too many. Someone nailed him square in the face with a big piece of wood. Liza heard the crunch from where she was parked. Bruce reeled back, staggered sideways, and dropped to his knees. His head bobbed close to the ground.
Liza had no idea what was going on. It didn’t matter. She thought about Bruce watching over her the night she had sat outside drawing, taking care of her when she passed out at school, framing her picture of him and displaying it in his office. An hour ago, she’d been wrapped in his warm arms. His head had been lying on the pillow next to hers, and now it was leaking blood like a fountain. It was as Liza was running toward him that she realized that she had already passed the point where she could just walk away.
They were silent for most of the ride, but not in an awkward way. They listened to the radio and watched the city roll by. At night, you could forget that most of it was a dump. Some of it even looked pretty. Liza drove more slowly than usual. It had been a long day and her right hand was still enveloped in Bruce’s. When she stopped at the corner where she usually dropped off Bruce, he didn’t move. Liza looked around. Was there an axe murderer outside the car that she didn’t see? No, though there was a homeless guy across the street wearing a witch hat. He had wild eyes and was walking toward them slowly. Something about him reminded Liza of a 80s horror movie killer.
“Do you want me to drop you off somewhere else?”
“No.” More motionless silence. He was eyeing the homeless guy too.
“Ok…” Well, now it was awkward. “If you don’t get out soon, I’m going to take you home with me.”