Los Angeles had an aggravating way of heating up at the end of the year, reaching a peak on Christmas Day, when the temperatures invariably shot up into the nineties. The heat melted the plastic wreaths strung up between palm trees and withered joggers who were out exercising in their shorts. L.A. would never be portrayed as a Hallmark Christmas card, that’s for sure..
But autumn brought chilly desert nights, and on this particular night, Josh was freezing as he walked by the deserted animal compounds on his way to check on Katy and her foal before he left for the night. He hadn’t kept as close an eye on them as he should have the last few days because he had been spending most of his spare time with Noor. He was worried sick over her refusal to eat and intended to move her to the hospital tomorrow if her condition didn’t change. Her weight was getting dangerously low.
He was startled to hear laughter up ahead and hurried his stride. No one had any business being here this late. Another burst of laughter made him break into a run. He was sure the sounds were coming from the zebra compound and he had a queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach that something unpleasant was about to happen.
He saw three teenage boys, all with gang tattoos covering every square inch of exposed skin. One of them, white, about fifteen or sixteen years old, was chasing Katy’s foal towards the far end of the enclosure. The other two boys, Latinos, who were a few years older, were standing outside the fence, baiting Katy while she held them at bay. The sound of her baby’s cry caused her to whirl around and charge after the younger boy who was beating her foal’s hindquarters with a tree branch. Katy, in her concern and fury, lost her footing and stumbled, which the boys found hilariously funny.
A righteous anger rose up in Josh that could find satisfaction in only one direction. He was upon them so fast that the first slimy bastard didn’t even see the fist that exploded in the center of his face. But the second one had plenty of time to slip a knife out of his pocket, eyes gleaming with both fear and excitement as he went into a half crouch and moved back and forth in front of Josh on the balls of his feet. Josh ripped off his jacket and wrapped it around his right forearm, never taking his eyes off the boy, who he could now see was in his late teens or early twenties. The sheer force of his anger couldn’t overcome a knife and he regretted all his failed attempts to get into shape. But the basic Army training that he had embraced so intensely many years ago and thought he’d forgotten, came flooding back into his body and senses. He knew exactly what he had to do.
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