Sal didn’t have time to duck. One shot missed, one grazed his temple, and the other burrowed deep into his shoulder. Sal stumbled backward, fists balling in pain. One of these fists was holding a shotgun. It fired at the car, blasting the front tire into ribbons.
Tom moved fast. He tackled Sal while he was off balance, shoving him down into the gravel. Sal swung and connected with Tom’s jaw, then clubbed wildly with the butt of his gun. The first swing missed, but on the way back he caught Tom square in the ribs, knocking the air from his lungs. It was all Tom could do to keep his grip on the grenade.
Rage stripped Sal of fear as he swung his weapon. Tom managed to grab hold of the rifle’s stock, but Sal was bigger, stronger, and would no doubt wrench it free. Tom lifted the grenade and brought it down, swift and heavy, toward Sal’s injured temple. The first blow struck his cheek, tearing open a ragged furrow of skin. The second hit higher, just next to the bullet trail. The strength went out of Sal’s arms. Tom grabbed the shotgun, tossed it to one side. He struck Sal a third time, and now the man crumpled beneath him, blood thickening between the small rocks beneath his skull.
Tom sat, straddling Sal. Breathing stopped making sense, and he spent a long time trying to remember how it was done, how you got a sip of the ocean of air that had never seemed so thick or so crushing. Eventually he became aware that someone was beside him. Two someones, moving to lift him up, their hands in his armpits and clutching at his belt. He was in no shape to resist.
Ellen’s voice, from a thousand miles away. “Tom? Tom, are you okay?”
He was aware that he was nodding. Good. It was good to have a body that could take over when your brain had stopped functioning.
“Talk to me, buddy,” said Remley. He hitched one of Tom’s arms over his shoulder. “Come on. You’re in shock.”
“No,” Tom wheezed. “Just… tired.”
“It’s over,” Ellen said. “Come on. Sit down. It’s over now.”
Tom’s arm moved, putting Remley in a half-hearted headlock. His eyes rolled down to check his watch. Distantly some part of Tom was aware that he was checking the time – 8:32. It was 8:32 when he heard the sirens.
“Oh, shit,” Remley said. “Shit shit motherfuck shit.”
“She called them,” Tom said. Too quiet. He tensed himself to speak up. “She called them.”
“Sit me down,” said Tom. They put him down on the hood of his car. His breath started coming back. His body began to relinquish control back to his brain. “It’s okay. I did this. I had Mrs. Day call the police.”
“Wonderful,” Remley said. “I’m sure they’ll be very understanding of how we got to be the only three left standing.”
Tom realized he was still holding the grenade. The sirens were getting longer. The police would probably frown on small explosives like this. He let it drop from his hand, and the grenade rolled beneath the car.
“Jesus Christ!” said Ellen. She grabbed Tom and tried to pull him away. “Are you fucking suicidal?”
“It’s okay,” he said. “It’s not live. It’s not real.”
“You son of a bitch,” Remley said. “You put a fake grenade in my apocalypse kit? What were you thinking? I could have been killed!”
Remley yelled until Tom couldn’t hear him any more, his voice drowned out by the swell of sirens.