As he bled in the snow, Terence Faulkner considered the circumstances that’d led to his cold front yard. Behind the pounding headache, he wondered if the kids were okay. He also wondered if any robbers were still roaming around his home. Suppose they’d somehow evaded the many shots he’d scattered around the house and got away with his treasures. Either way, after many failed attempts to stand, he knew only a burst of adrenaline would get him up from the ground.

But what had led to his sprawl in the front yard of his own home? Now that was a story worth the envy of any commando officer. It was speckled with shotgun pellets, tumbles down the stairs, and broken glass. Fists, lead, shattered plates, and shouts and breaks featured in the lethal home battle between fighting men.

Terrence had sat down to dinner- Mary’s tasty meatloaf and gravy-soaked potatoes- expecting a lovely family moment. For him, at least, it was a peaceful ambiance covering many hostile intrusions. The neighborhood was on edge following the armed robberies that’d plagued homes in their town. It had hospitalized Marcus Leitner- a neighbor- with gunshots to the leg and shoulder. Knowing injuries, he surmised that Mark would walk again but struggle to throw a ball with his son for the next few years.

The cluelessness of the police had done nothing to calm the tension in their quaint little neighborhood. But, Terrence had since grasped his worries and buried them under the calmness drilled into him by the military. He knew it’d do no good to look like a worried bear in front of his daughters- blissfully unaware so far. So, with half a mind, he smiled and made proper dinner conversation for his family’s sake.

He was glad Mary had tried to make the atmosphere peaceful as always, though he knew the same thoughts racked through her head. In a burst of protective rage, he calmly acknowledged that his family would not suffer these worries for too long. The recent snowdrift, he felt, ought to deter any robber’s will to break in and plunder. Nobody will trudge through the cold sludge with heavy loot, right?

The distinct crack of his front door caving to a battering ram promptly shattered that delusion. Only his soldier’s instinct to fight with guns blazing had him two-timing the steps to his room and locking the door. The same instinct had him thinking at record speeds about the kind of weapons for this showdown. Assault rifles were not an option (he wanted to shoot people, not turn his walls into cheesecake ). He opted for his Glock handgun and one of his prized possessions: a Remington 870 pump-action 12-gauge shotgun and two automatic reloads of steel armor-piercing cartridges on a gun belt. His shoulder could handle the recoil. The fact that it would shred through whatever protection the bastards wore gave him a thrill.

With deadly excitement, he padded down the hallway and went down the stairs in a sweeping motion. A glance filled him with horror.

There were four of them, and while three swept the house- pulling down valuables into duffel bags- one had his wife and daughters in a corner on the floor. The sight enraged him, and he raised the gun and called out his daughters’ favorite phrase from Toy Story’s Woody: Reach for the sky! Most did; they didn’t realize he was in the house. But one thing stopped him from feeling heroic. I’ll

It was the cold smile on the face of the one with a chokehold on the neck of his younger daughter and a gun to her head. These guys were pros and knew the advantage of hostages. But, he wasn’t about to cow into submission, and hoped his youngest- Jane- could give him some leeway. It’s okay, darling! he said.

“Put down the gun.” said the one with a chokehold on his daughter.

Not a chance, whomever the hell you think you are.

Fine! Don’t put down the gun, but don’t blame me for what happens next.

How he planned to break the stalemate became plain when the lights went out, almost like clockwork. Fuck!!! It seems they had a man outside.

Terrence got out of the way. Just in time, as he felt a massive whiff of air go past his ear, the nearest guy came in with a shoulder barge. He sent three quick shots from his handgun after him. A responding grunt was proof that at least one hit the mark. He changed positions as muzzle flashes began to pepper the dark. Get down! He yelled to Mary and the kids as he sent some shots. Creeping along the house walls, he tried maneuvering in a direction that brought him closer to his family.

The sound of the back door opening stopped him in his tracks. It seemed the fifth man had come to join the party. Sprinting to the back, he pumped his shotgun and rounded into the kitchen in time to see the beefy bastard close the door in silhouette. A single blast from his treasured Remington splattered him on the screen door and stopped his advance into the house. Beef never beat steel flying at 500 feet per second.

He advanced through the kitchen, sliding behind the island, hoping someone had seen him run in and followed. Sure enough, the third man to meet a bullet of his walked in and promptly shook hands with lead.

Bruce? Kenny? a gruff voice shouted. “Seen him yet?” it continued. However it was going, Terrence felt relieved that he had managed to daze them enough to put down three. His worries about the remaining two and their actions dispelled that relief. Imma take these three outside, yo! The son of a bitch is bound to show his head for the crop soon enough. The sentence sent a chill down his spine, and only concern for his safety and training clamped down on the whimper that would slip through his lips. He peeled off the floor and crawled out of the kitchen.

He had a feeling that at least one of them had an idea where he was, so it was with great caution that he made his way out. Just in time to see one of them walk down the steps and head toward him. He froze, holding his breath as the man approached the kitchen. His shout of alarm confirmed that he’d found at least one of the bodies, and his following foolish action was to be his last. He rushed down the steps right into the butt of the shotgun. A foot stomp to the head silenced his grunts, and Terrence again changed locations, heading towards the front door to intercept the one taking his family outside.

It was a mistake he was lucky to escape, as a glancing shot from the head honcho whizzed past his ear and disoriented him. He saw the silhouette of the last man standing in front of the large window next to the front door, with a Beretta rifle slung down his arm. He was no Matrix hero, so the only way this fight would end was one of them caving to bullets. So he emptied his handgun in the direction of his assailant, knowing he had abandoned his hostage plans and his family was out of range of flying bullets. He then charged towards the window, hoping the shots had thrown the bastard for a loop. Another mistake, he soon realized, when he ran headfirst into a fist swung with all the robber had. Dazed and stumbling, he stepped back and squared up to his opponent.

The opposite man had quite different ideas, whipping a wicked-looking knife with a half-serrated edge. That was a weapon made to murder, and Terrence didn’t want to be on its wrong side.

Barehanded and unable to get his shotgun lift, he clenched his fists and waited for his opponent to make his move. And he soon did, leading with his knife hand and a huge overcut, to open Terrence up from chest to navel. A simple side step let Terrence dodge the swipe, and he landed a few jabs to the exposed ribs of the robber. In an ideal fight, he’d have had the opportunity to appreciate the sheer size of the guy he was fighting. His opponent was easily 6-foot-5 with a fantastic reach (swipe considered) and ripped, shown by the fact that he barely flinched despite the punches to the ribs. Terrence was no string bean either; at 6’2, he had no size advantage, but his military status let him compensate with martial skill.

He got behind his opponent’s leg and offset his balance. They struggled, and Terrence got in a few jabs and managed to avoid any severe damage from the knife. He did get a cut on the shoulder from it, though, and it had begun to sting. They separated again, and he charged him, sending them both crashing through the glass window behind them into the cold snow outside. As they grappled, he felt the fucker place some deft punches to his kidneys, knocking the air out of his lungs, but he’d lost his knife during the struggle.

Suddenly, Terrence felt a jarring kick turn him around as both men began to find weapons for the advantage. One robber, probably the first one he’d shot, had left the house, and he was going to get in his licks after being on standby for quite a while. Let me take care of this, boss! You go round up the loot.

Kick after kick soon followed as he seemed determined to enjoy the torment he was inflicting. His steel-capped boots had already opened up a gash in Terrence’s side and broken a rib or four, but he determined to beat Terrence to death.

With his vision getting hazy and the searing pain from the battering he was being dealt, it took some time for Terrence to hear the gunshots and a few seconds more to feel his assailant slump unto him. Lifting his head, he could only grunt in surprise at his wife outlined in the window with the head honcho’s Beretta in her grip. How she loaded it and fired up both men could not be his concern; all he cared for was that she and the kids were safe.

As the snow fell and the sirens grew closer, Terrence felt himself drift out of consciousness. But with all the commotion that was sure to follow from the failed robbery, he was grateful for two things. One was that he wouldn’t die; that’d have been a bummer. The second one made him give a painful chuckle: his wife was a badass. He realized she would blow a gasket for his hero tryout, even as she nursed him to health. He passed out as a groan escaped him at the prospect of facing Mary in all her calm fury.

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