Self Defense 101
He leaned against the cool brick building, shaded from the late summer sun by a dirty green awning. He took a long drag from his cigarette as he watched the students shuffle by. They talked excitedly, familiarizing themselves with the bustling city streets that would serve as their campus for the next four years. A college T-shirt, a baseball cap, and boyish good looks allowed him to blend in seamlessly among them: a figure that could disappear without a second thought. He glanced absently at his watch. “Nearly 7:00,” he mused. “Time for the seminar.”
A park bench across the street from a large group of students served as his base of operations. He pulled a rolled up newspaper from his back pocket and unfurled it as he sat down; his eyes faced its pages, but his attention remained elsewhere. The college freshmen were gathered around a police officer dressed in full regalia, a hulk of a man who towered over the expanding crowd. The officer addressed the students as they fidgeted with darting eyes, growing more suspicious and edgy by second:
You’ve made a good decision by coming to this self defense seminar. Especially for students on a city campus, it’s important to be aware of the dangers you face every day.
He smiled at the sound of the officer’s voice: his oblivious benefactor. Each fall, the officer held a crash-course in self defense for the incoming freshmen, and each year, it changed slightly to warn against the most up-to-date dangers that the city had to offer. For students, it provided a feeling of security and heightened awareness; for him, it provided a guidebook to choosing and isolating targets. By knowing what they would look for, he knew what not to do.
Now that you have an idea of what you’re up against, everyone line up behind me and we’ll walk through the simulation.
His favorite. A smile curled the ends of his mouth. The students huddled up and followed the officer’s lead through a veritable campus crime obstacle course while he followed behind silently. Every few feet, one of the officer’s concealed companions would perform some sort of criminal circus act: an attempted purse snatch, a jump from behind a wall, an aggressive verbal confrontation. After the action, the officer would demonstrate how to avoid injury and escape to safety. The girls shrieked with each simulation, then descended into fits of nervous giggles. He savored this part, imagining how different those shrieks would sound when stifled by his hand. Then he noticed her.
She lingered toward the end of the pack, sighing heavily every few moments. Her bright green eyes rolled with each planted attacker, emeralds of indifference. She stared off into space as the officer attempted to impart potentially life saving information to the group; she was infinitely more interested in throwing her honey-colored waves over her shoulder.
The most important part of self defense is mental preparation. Buying yourself time to think can be the difference between life and death.
She looked impatiently at her watch, then ahead toward the officer and her fellow students. She grinned and slowed her steps, allowing them to pull ahead. He froze. Could he be so lucky? Could his field research so easily translate into opportunity? He was the predator; she had fallen away from the herd. It was his duty to show her the error of her ways. She rounded the corner and pulled a set of headphones from her purse, laughing to herself at her rebellion. The officer’s voice still carried through the evening air:
Try to stick with a group if you can. There’s truth to the phrase ‘safety in numbers.’
He began the approach, plotting his course to account for the growing shadows that stretched across the streets. Adrenaline coursed through his veins as his steps quickened. He smirked; though his gait was light and agile, the music blaring through her headphones would have blocked out even the most thunderous of footsteps. He came within 20 feet. 15 feet. 10 feet. His heart raced as he pulled within arm’s reach. He could smell her perfume.
A hand slammed down on his shoulder, jolting him from his hunter’s trance. As he turned to face the threat, the grip tightened, sinking razors into his flesh. He was forced around sharply into a brick wall of a fist. All turned to black.
He awoke with a start and gasped, gagging on a piece of fabric that had been stuffed roughly into his mouth and secured with duct tape. His eyes betrayed him in the unnatural dark, giving him no clue as to his whereabouts. His head ached and his left side burned where he had been dragged through gravel and broken glass. The sounds of the campus were still audible, though faint; he hadn’t been taken far. Any attempts at escape were in vain. He felt the blood blossoming from his wrists as he struggled against his bonds, then slowly trickle down his arms as his movements became more frantic. A cutting laugh pierced the darkness. The last words he heard were a muffled warning from his benefactor wafting in with the other noises of the street outside:
Stay alert, guys. Remember: there are worse things out there than petty criminals.
He might have appreciated the irony of that moment had he not felt the cold metal plunge into the back of his neck.
- Harper Rose Blackwell