8FOLD/ACRA: Jolt City # 1, The Paradise Snake!

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Sun Aug 13 22:35:30 PDT 2006

             THE PARADISE SNAKE!

   The Green Knight lies on a rooftop, his body
splayed out in a silent and unanswered plea for mercy.
 Standing above him, arms akimbo and barrel-chested in
the dusk, is a diminutive masked figure clad in black
and red.
   "Stand up!" he chastises the fallen hero.  "Stand
up and you shall die with honour at the hands of the
Paradise Snake!"

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  # 1  AUGUST 2006  // BY TOM RUSSELL

   Martin sits at the back of the church until the
service is over.  He's still not comfortable here. 
Sometimes, especially when he is alone with the
stained glass and his echoing footsteps, he feels
pleasantly overwhelmed by grace and glory.  Other
times, the glass neither moves him or frightens him:
he is merely apathetic, and that troubles him most of
all.  Is he dead inside, dead to grace?
   Nonsense, says Roy.  But Roy's a man of the church,
Roy Riddle has never felt insecure about his standing
with God.  Roy Riddle's never had blood on his hands.
   "Why do you always sit at the back?" says Riddle
once they are alone.  "You know all the action's
   "Trying to keep a low profile," says Martin.
   "Sitting at the back, all alone?  I think that
attracts more attention."
   "Yeah, well..."
   "You've got to mingle a bit, you know?  You're not
an island, Martin."  Riddle walks with him down the
aisle, past the pulpit, towards Martin's sub-basement
hideout.  "Besides, I thought you wanted to make the
Green Knight count for something in the community. 
Shouldn't it follow, then, that you should be a part
of it?"
   "The Green Knight, maybe," says Martin.  "But not
   "You're the same person," says Riddle pointedly.
   Martin sighs.  He certainly hadn't forgotten that,
and he doesn't think of himself as being two different
people, two different identities.  But at the same
time, he is aware of the way he compartmentalizes his
two lives.
   Martin removes the cactus trapdoor with practiced
effort.  Before he goes down, Riddle asks him how
things are going with the drugs.
   "Terrible," says Martin.  "It seems like for every
dealer I put away, or every junkie that gets placed in
rehab, there's always more to take their place.  And
for every shipment, too.  It's a real Pyrrhic thing,
you know?"
   "I think you mean Sisyphean," says Riddle. 
"Sisyphus was condemned to roll a rock up a mountain,
only to have it roll back down again.  And so he'd
roll it back up, forever and ever, without end,
without respite, without satisfaction."
   "That's it exactly," says Martin.  "I just want to
roll that rock right over Samson Snapp."

   Danielle Handler, forty, an ever-shifting
swiftly-tilting mass of scraggly hair, perennially
brushed from a soft face: a loose curl always dangling
defiantly down to her broken nose.  Brown eyes, coffee
skin, still pretty, even with a broken nose.  Girl
cop.  (Girl detective.)  The Green Knight's partner in
this Sisyphean war against drugs.
   She says hello before Martin thought he was
visible; he smiles under his mask and strides, green
and lithe, into the room.
   "That customer you caught yesterday, thirteen years
   Martin nods; Ray got him into the habit of eliding
the unnecessary human interaction of 'uh-huh',
'hmm-mm', and 'yes'.
   Danielle says it like a punchline: "He was a
   Jesus.  Always another one.
   "If we're going to make any headway at all," says
Danielle, "we have to get Snapp."
   "I can do that," says Martin.
   "And make it stick?"
   "Sure, take all the fun out of it."

   Snapp's untouchable.  Even if Martin can bend the
law, even if the Green Knight can go places and act in
ways that Danielle can't, it doesn't matter if they
can't make it stick.
   And what if they get Snapp anyway?  He might be the
big fish among Jolt City's druglords, but he's really
just a small link in a chain.  What is he going to do,
go to Columbia and shut it all down?
   "Take care of your own," he tells himself as he
leaps deftly, rooftop to rooftop.  "Just take care of
Jolt City.  Your city.  Your people.  Just take care
of Samson Snapp."
   And what if he does?  Won't there be another to
take his place?  Won't there always be junkies, and
punks looking to make a quick buck?  Where does it all
   Why even bother?

   Snapp nearly chokes on his own cheap cigar when
Martin opens the door and walks into his bathroom. 
The druglord quickly tries to pull up his ankled
pants, indignant behind huge red glasses.  "What the
hell do you think you're doing here, in my house?"
   "Two things.  First, I wanted to extend an
invitation.  Fourth and Reckinger."
   Snapp sneers.  "What, you think seeing a bunch of
junkies is going to make a difference?"  He puckers
his lips in contempt.  "What people do is their own
business."  He's not a stupid man: he hasn't implied
that it's his business as well.
   "Second," says Martin, leaning close to the
toileted druglord, "I wanted you to know that I could
get past your men.  That I could get right next to
you."  He exhales through his mask, and is close
enough that Snapp can feel the pressure on his skin. 
"That I could touch you."
   "I know you, hero," says Snapp, elongating the two
final syllables so that it became a pejorative.  "You
ain't gonna do shit.  Ain't gonna kill me, ain't gonna
touch me."
   Martin makes his exit.  Snapp calls back after him,
sweat rolling down his fat cheeks:
   "I ain't scared of you, hero!"

   Once he's cleared the premises, Martin camouflages
himself in the dark green brush on the hill
overlooking stately Snapp manor.  He watches with
interest as Snapp's men run about the grounds with
rifles, trying to find him.
   Martin feels good about himself, and he needed
that: he needed some petty satisfaction, even if he
really didn't accomplish anything.  But, he muses,
he's got Snapp good and scared.  Scared enough,
perhaps, to make a mistake?

   Snapp's father had told him to always have a tiny
office.  The smaller it is, the easier it is to make
it dark and foreboding.  The more intimate it is, the
better the chance that the guy sitting across from you
isn't going to get out alive.  That's the secret, his
father had said.  The secret to fear and power.
   His father was an idiot, who was stabbed by one of
his lieutenants in his tiny, windowless snuff-box of
an office.  Samson Snapp opts instead to make his
office a long and well-lit hall, and it is this
corridor that six of his men enter.
   They slowly walk the length of the hall, from the
door to Snapp and his desk, clean and ornate like a
throne.  And as they walk, Snapp sees the foreboding
in their eyes.  With each step, they remember how they
failed him three nights ago, how the Green Knight came
into his house and violated his throne.  With each
step, they wonder if they're going to leave this room.
 (Snapp hopes his father is watching in heaven.)
   When they're about half-way across the room, the
door behind them swings open.  They whirl around, guns
at the ready.  A short man in a black costume propels
himself into the room, head-first, fingers tense,
easily covering the twenty-feet between the door and
the men in a single bound.
   In fact, he has yet to touch the ground: now his
hands are out, he's got two men by their shirts, and
he's doing a somersault in mid-air, twirling the men
like batons and letting them go.  As his feet finally
touch the ground, the two men fly into two other men,
all of them scattering like pins; the two remainders
rush towards their attacker.  His hands fly out again,
squeezing their throats.
   Their guns clatter to the ground and their eyes go
blank.  Flesh and blood bodies become slinking,
sagging rags.  He lets them drop, stepping over their
unconscious bodies slowly, deliberately.
   "Is this why you have summoned the unmatched
prowess of the Paradise Snake?" he says in resplendent
bombast.  "To revenge yourself against common thugs?"
   "No.  That was just a test."
   Paradise Snake is not amused.  "A test?  Because
you have sent for me, you surely know that I glide
through the air as deftly and far as my serpentine
namesake!  And you ask me to waste such talents on
these fools, as if I am some wet and shriveled fawn
still finding its legs!"
   "I had to be sure," says Snapp.  "Ten hundred
thousand dollars is a lot of money to pay upfront. 
Especially since it's nonrefundable."
   "I am a man of honour," Paradise Snake snorts
imperiously.  "And as such I am sworn to complete my
   "Good to hear it," says Snapp.  "Your target is the
Green Knight."

   Joey Jericho, sixteen and insolent, a thin-framed
bug-eyed whiteboy in hilfiger playing at being a man,
a gangsta, a dealer.  Joey's not his real name, and
neither is Jericho.
   Martin descends (a green knife cutting through
summer-hot buttered air) and pushes him up against the
walls of the alley, calling him Simon.  He calls him
Simon and asks if he knows how to sing.
   Simon-called-Jericho spits in his face, in his
mask: a dapple of it lands on the exposed bridge of
his nose.  Martin does not wipe it away.  Neither does
he flare up in anger: he simply tightens his grip on
the knotted mass of the tee shirt, he subtly increases
the pressure pushing Joey against the spoilt brick.
   "I ain't gonna talk," he snarls, parroting his
master Samson Snapp: "What's the worse you can do? 
Rough me up a little?  I've been roughed up before."
   Martin feels a sudden shocking pain in his back,
his limbs splay outwards and he loses his grip on
Joey's shirt.  Joey skedaddles and Martin's face
collides with the wall.
   Martin affords himself a short and shallow breath
before he pushes against the wall, getting back on his
feet and whirling around to face his new attacker.  To
his surprise, his opponent stands about fifteen feet
away from him, perfectly still, relaxed and opulent.
   "I am the Paradise Snake," he says.  "And I am here
to kill you."
   "I gathered as much," says Martin.  "Care to tell
me why?"
   "You Americans," says Paradise Snake with a
strangely good-natured and indulgent contempt. 
"Always needing a reason, an explanation, a rationale.
 So very scientific.  You've closed yourself to
wonder.  To glory.  To honourable combat between
equals."  He assumes a battle posture, hunched forward
and hands ready.
   Martin has no idea who this is, how he fights, or
if he has any powers: he needs to get him talking, he
needs to buy himself some time.  "Yeah.  Kicking a guy
in the back.  Very honourable."
   Paradise Snake grimaces and relaxes his stance,
standing straight up.  "A point well taken.  Very
well.  I'll give you the next strike."
   Great idea, Martin!  You're no closer now than you
were before.  Still no idea how the guy fights, and
now it's up to you to attack!
   And the way he's standing there, just waiting for
him with lazy confidence...!
   Martin hears a mew behind him and says a prayer to
Saint Gertrude.  He grabs the cat and with a
slightly-snarky "sorry, kitty" tosses the stone-gray
feline towards Paradise Snake.  Hopefully, Martin
thinks, his sense of honour will prevent him from
harming the cat.
   Paradise Snake slaps the cat away with his arm in a
moment of controlled savagery.  The cat hits the
ground and sulks away.
   (Well.  That answers that question.)
   "You call that an honourable attack?" snarls
Paradise Snake.  "What kind of man does he send me
   "So you are being paid," says Martin.  "Nothing
more than a cheap assassin."
   "I assure you," says his opponent, "I do not come
   He pushes off the ground, hurtling towards Martin
with incredible speed.  Martin, for his part,
side-steps by way of back-flips, covering about twenty
feet in the space of two seconds.  To his surprise,
Paradise Snake twists his body in the air, diving into
   The two of them crash into a dumpster, and Martin
kicks his legs about wildly, trying to push his
opponent back far enough so he can have the time to
get on his feet.  One of the kicks connect with his
stomach, and Paradise Snake sails backwards through
the air.
   Just as he is about to come sailing back down, his
body twists again and, with a boomerang's trajectory,
he picks up speed as he zeroes in on Martin.
   Martin, now on his feet, leaps straight up into the
air, grabbing the ledge of the dumpster behind him to
pull himself up and over.
   Paradise Snake does not crash into the dumpster,
but rather twist his body again, like a leaf caught in
a sudden gust of wind.  He kicks off the edge of the
dumpster so powerfully that it shakes, knocking Martin
onto his ass; Paradise Snake is going head-first
towards the farther of the two buildings when he
executes another uncanny mid-air twist, moving his
body a hundred eighty degrees.
   He kicks again, propelling himself upwards; he
reaches his apex just as he is above and near the
dumpster and Martin.  Paradise Snake puts all his
weight forwards, his fingers like teeth, and descends
upon Martin.  The sheer force of his descent puts a
hole through the dumpster's plastic lid, and the two
combatants find themselves ensconced in the refuse.
   He can't glide and float and twist around in these
closed and messy quarters: Martin sees an advantage
and wastes no time pressing it.  Though is opponent is
still agile, the majority of Martin's blows connect in
the rancid dark.  Suddenly, a hand around his throat.
   "This is not an appropriate place for honourable
combat," says Paradise Snake.
   "Why?  Because you're losing?" Martin chokes out.
   Paradise Snake tosses him casually onto the bags of
garbage with one hand, and props open the lid with the
   "I will be watching you," says his opponent. 
"Choose the location of our next battle carefully."
   He kicks his feet, tearing a bag as he does so, and
propels himself out of the dumpster.

   "The Green Knight heads uptown, bewildered, to the
strange and glittering land of privilege."  He'd
rather be down in the valley, in his Jolt City, where
the library is just a slightly larger crumbling ugly
brownstone amid slightly smaller ones.  The uptown
Jolt City library is a pretty new whore, artificial
and white and gaudy.  Martin wouldn't be caught dead
in this Jolt City, in this library, if it wasn't for
the fact that his library has no computers.
   A google search for paradise snake doesn't turn up
anything about his opponent, but rather points to the
reptile: the Paradise Tree Snake, also known as the
Paradise Flying or Gliding Snake.  The smallest of the
flying snakes, it is also the most maneuverable. 
Martin muses that his foe could give the namesake a
few lessons.
   When Martin entered the library, he filtered out
the stares and whispers: he came here to do research,
not to be the focus of some hubbub.
   It surprises him, then, when he hears Paradise
Snake bellowing behind him.  "Green Knight!  Stand and
let us resume our conflict!"
   Martin spins around and to his feet.  Paradise
Snake is standing near the entrance, a good thirty
feet away.  Martin knows Paradise Snake can clear it
in a single leap.
   "We can't fight here," says Martin.  "There are
people here, you maniac!"
   "That's your fault," says Paradise Snake.  "I told
you to choose our next battle carefully."  He kicks
off the ground, rocketing towards Martin.
   The patrons scream and run, some ducking behind
copy machines, the doors to study carrels flying open.
   Martin tenses up; Paradise Snake is coming right at
him.  Martin's fingers fly out, grabbing hold.  He
lets his weight ease back; a back-roll and a good kick
should deflect the attack.  As they roll, however,
Paradise Snake grabs Martin and pushes his own weight
forward into a second roll.
   He throws Martin past the internet bay and into a
tall metal bookshelf.  Martin takes the corner on his
back.  He falls to the ground.
   Paradise Snake is already in the air and closing
fast.  Martin procures his grapple gun from his belt
and fires, hooking it into the ceiling.  A quick tug
reels it in, pulling Martin upwards.
   Paradise Snake kicks off the wall, bounding atop
the shelving unit.  Another leap: like a fish he
snatches the writhing hero from the reeling line,
bearing him down into the bibliographic abyss.
   Paradise Snake makes a sharp left turn, pushing his
weight downwards to speed their descent.  It then
occurs to Martin that he might use his own weight to
steer; as they near an open carrel, Martin throws his
weight to the right with all he's got.
   The two of them spiral sideways and down.  Paradise
Snake quickly regains control, steering them cleanly
if reluctantly into the cramped carrel.
   Martin leans back on the small desk and kicks his
feet, pushing Paradise Snake into the corner of the
carrel and keeping him there for a precious few
moments.  With his right arm, he sluggardly tries to
fend off the blows of his would-be assassin (most of
them connect); with his left, he procures three gas
capsules from his belt.
   He holds his breath and tosses the capsules into
his opponent's face.  Gas explodes and the shape
beneath the cloud stops struggling.
   The gas clears.  Paradise Snake smiles before he
punches Martin in the face.  Martin flies out of the
carrel and rolls onto the floor.
   "As you can see, I'm immune to most gases," he says
as he steps over Martin.  He leans down, smiling in
Martin's face like a grotesque paramedic.  "I hope you
will not sully our next encounter," he warns.  "Choose
carefully."  He leaps away.
   Martin reaches into his belt for his grapple when
he realizes it's still lodged in the ceiling.  He
rolls onto his stomach and, despite the protests of
his back, he tries to push himself off the ground.
   His query has already fled out the front door.
   "Here.  Let me help you."  A library employee grabs
ahold of Martin's armpit and pulls him up.
   "Thanks.  Is there a back way out?"
   The employee shows Martin the emergency exit. 
Martin steps outside and checks for any sign of
Paradise Snake: all clear.  He must be waiting for
Martin to come out the front, watching.  Or...
   He spots a dealer across the street.  Martin dashes
down the perpendicular block and, after a quick jog,
spots another.
   ...or he has someone doing his tracking for him.

   "Snapp?  This is Jack Smarty."
   Snapp gestures for Paradise Snake to approach the
desk.  He switches to speaker phone.  "Go ahead,
   "Green Knight's on the roof of the Hoffman.  He's
been there for ten minutes."
   "What's he doing?"
   "Just standing there."
   "Just standing?"
   "Yeah, just standing."
   Snapp hangs up the phone (no thank-yous, no
good-byes, no take-it-easys).  He looks up at Paradise
Snake.  "I don't understand why you don't just finish
him off."
   "This is how you truly kill a man, body and soul."
   "I'll settle for the body," says Snapp.
   Paradise Snake grunts a response before making his
exit.  Snapp throws his hands up in the air with a
sigh.  "Next time, no costumes."

   Paradise Snake arrives at the roof of the Hoffman
Hotel.  He nods at Martin.
   "How can a man of honour work for someone like
Snapp?" Martin asks.
   If he is impressed or perturbed by Martin's
deduction, he does not let on.  "I am not a samurai,
and neither is Snapp my master.  My only concern is
your death."
   "And the money?" says Martin.  He presses on: "It's
blood money, Snake.  The blood of children.  You can't
possibly condone that."
   "People are responsible for their own choices,"
says Paradise Snake.  "No one forced them to flood
their minds and arms with poisons."
   "But it's an available choice, and an easy one. 
Especially when you don't have much to live for."
   "Others don't make that choice," says Paradise
   "They're made of stronger stuff," says Martin with
a shrug.  "No reason to abandon the weak."
   "Are you a man?" challenges Paradise Snake.  "Or a
prattling woman?  Fight!"
   He leaps towards him; Martin leaps forward, fists
ready.  His opponent twists, throwing his feet into
Martin's breadbasket, kicking off his stomach like a
wall, propelling himself ever upwards even as Martin
falls on his back.  Martin clutches his stomach and
breathes shallowly.
   Paradise Snake plummets straight down, aiming his
feet like daggers for Martin's body.  If Martin moves
now, he knows that his opponent can easily adapt.  His
only chance is to wait until the last possible moment
before he moves, not giving his adversary the
opportunity to glide through the air.  But if he makes
a mistake-- if his timing's off--
   He turns over onto his side split-seconds before
Paradise Snake was about to make contact; Martin's arm
shoots out behind him, grabbing ahold of an ankle.
   With an effort that painfully wrenches his arm from
its socket, he throws Paradise Snake across the
rooftop.  For once, it is his opponent who lands on
his back.  Martin gets up and rushes towards him.
   Powerful legs kick out and wrap around Martin's
waist, holding him in a scissor-lock.  He rolls on his
back, somersaulting with his captive until Martin
lands on his back again: pain atop of pain.
   Paradise Snake straddles Martin like a lover,
punching him brutally in the face.  Martin is
powerless to stop the sledgehammer fists.
   "Only a dog attacks a man when he is down!" snarls
Paradise Snake.
   "That's funny," says Martin between wheezing
breaths and the hard thwacks of the blows to his face.
 "It seems to me that you were trying to do the same
thing not more than a minute ago.  Seems to me that
you're doing the same thing now.  You've got a pretty
selective sense of honour, shorty."
   Paradise Snake stops punching Martin and stands up.
 "Choose our next battle carefully," he says as he
walks away from Martin's battered body.  "I'll be
   "Will you?" says Martin.  "Or will you let Snapp do
your watching for you?"
   "I will be watching!" says Paradise Snake darkly.

   Martin stares through the window in Danielle's
office, spotting Paradise Snake on the roof across the
street.  Martin waves, cheekily.  Then he turns back
to Danielle.
   She can't take her eyes off the dark stain of blood
soaking through Martin's mask.  "You should have
someone look at you," she says.
   "He's on me like a hawk," says Martin.  "I can't go
home and change to my secret identity, because he
would follow me home."
   "Can't you shake him?"
   "I've tried.  Believe me, I've tried."
   "You could change in here," says Danielle.  "Well,
not here.  But in the station, somewhere."
   "He would know," says Martin, delicately touching
the bruises on his eye.  "A shiner like this?  He
would know.  Look, I've got to keep moving.  If I stay
in any one place too long, he'll attack."
   "He's running you ragged," she says.  "Then you'll
be too tired to fight."
   "I can beat him," says Martin.  "I know I can,
given the chance.  But that's just it.  Whenever I
seem to get the upper hand, he finds some way to
escape and it starts all over again.  It's so damn
   "I wish you'd let me help you.  A couple snipers
could pick him off, easy."
   "But he's going to kill you..."
   "No," says Martin, flatly.  "You want to help, then
concentrate on what matters.  Get Samson Snapp.  Keep
fighting.  That's the real battle."
   There's a knock at her door two seconds before it
swings open.  Young cop: new, fresh, crew cut.  "Me
and Stone just brought in Joey Jericho.  He ain't
talking, but just thought you should know."  He stops
and looks at the Green Knight.  "Man, you look like
   "Thanks," says Martin.  He turns to Danielle.  "Can
I borrow Jericho for awhile?"
   "I'm choosing my next battle," says Martin with
another glance out the window.  "Carefully."

   Fourth and Reckinger.  The Pan Rehab Center.  "You
can't make me go in there," says Jericho.  "I know my
   "Shut up," says Martin.
   "Yeah, that's one of 'em.  You're wasting your
time, you know that?  I don't give a shit about no
   "You should," says Martin.  He turns away from
Jericho for a moment, locking eyes with his pursuer. 
He gives a little nod before turning back to Jericho,
grabbing his wrist, and pulling him inside.

   Jericho is, in general, apathetic.  When Martin
asks him to look at Sheila, Jericho shrugs and says,
yeah, I see her.
   "Look at her eyes," Martin implores.  "She doesn't
even know that you're there.  Her brain's gone."
   "Not my problem," says Jericho.
   Martin shows him another and another.  One sad,
redundant horror story after another.
   Betty's a prostitute whose pimp got her hooked. 
When she tried to leave, she went into withdrawal,
found her way here.
   Poor kids with dreams, rich kids with no need for
them.  Jericho responds that they made their choice,
and those like Betty?  Tough break.
   "But not my problem," he says, again and again.
   Martin shows him a kid Jericho knows, an old school
chum degraded into a customer.  Jericho brushes him
off, a thing of brick forever resilient to the
piddling assaults of flies.  "Cry me a river," he
   Martin grabs him and pulls him close.  "Listen to
me!" he says.  "If it wasn't for you selling the
stuff, they wouldn't buy it in the first place! 
You're the one making it available!  You, and Samson
   "You want to blame someone?" says Jericho.  "Blame
these pathetic junkies.  Can't handle their highs,
can't handle their lives.  People are responsible for
their own actions."
   "Then you should take responsibility for yours!"
   Jericho makes tiny, dismissive circles with his
   One of the volunteers approaches the Green Knight
cautiously.  "Could you take him away now?  He's
disturbing the inpatients."
   "Yeah," says Jericho.  "And I'm what you'd call an
impatient.  Now take me out of here, or I'll sue your
green ass."
   Martin sees something in the hallway: a shadow
moving.  "One more stop," he says, "then we'll go."

   "An empty bed," says Jericho.  "Whoopee-doo."
   "There used to be a girl in this bed," says Martin.
 "She was thirteen years old.  No one knew her name."
   "My heart bleeds," sneers the dealer.  "Now take me
out of here."
   Footsteps.  Martin turns before Jericho does. 
Paradise Snake steps out of the shadows, approaching
the bed.
   Martin does not move from the side of the bed.  He
keeps his stance casual, unworried.  It's a gamble: if
Paradise Snake attacks, Martin won't be prepared for
it, not physically.  But it's a chance he has to take.
 He keeps his hands folded over his groin, his body
   "Alright," says Jericho.  "You're gonna get your
ass kicked again."
   Paradise Snake glares at Jericho, and the dealer
reels as if punched, his body spasming slightly as he
steps back.
   The assassin kneels before the empty bed and makes
the sign of the cross before lowering his head.  His
lips are moving quickly, a inaudible whisper.  It
doesn't matter.  Martin knows the words.
   Part of him says, stand still, don't move, keep
your guard up.  That's the same part of him that used
to dress up like the night and wage a war on drugs and
crime, that's the part of him that used to be a
soldier.  Now he's something more, something slightly
more ineffectual but infinitely more durable: a
   He sinks to his knees, bows his head, and prays
along with his enemy.  Jericho laughs in disbelief:
Martin doesn't flinch.  Let him laugh.  Someone like
Joey Jericho can never understand.  And that was never
the point of this anyway.
   Martin finishes his prayer and opens his eyes. 
Paradise Snake is still bowed, but no longer praying:
his eyes are open.  He was waiting for Martin.
   Does this mean their combat will resume?  Martin
tries to ask the question with his eyes.  Paradise
Snake gives no answer.
   Martin starts to rise up, and his opponent does the
same.  The latter reaches out his hand.  Martin does
hesitate: better to trust and be betrayed than to
doubt and be denied.  They shake hands.
   "Green Knight, you have bested me with honour," he
says.  "Savor your victory: it shall not come so
easily should our paths cross again."
   Paradise Snake smiles and makes his exit.
   "What," says Jericho, "you're just letting him get
away?  You're a coward, man."
   Martin grabs him by the shoulder.  "There are some
things you will never understand.  And that's why
you'll never be anything but a spoiled rich white

   "Snapp's unhappy," announces Danielle.  "Word on
the street is, Snake kept the money."
   "He's got a screwy sense of honour," says Martin.
   "Still, you beat him," says Danielle.  "That must
give you some satisfaction.  And it's a victory
against Snapp."
   Martin touches his gloved fingers to his bruised
eye and bloodied mask.  "Another victory like this
will just about do me in."



Tom Russell
autographed dvds available for $10 US

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