I didn’t meet John at the predetermined time. I had the suspicion that either John had come in while I was talking to Bai and Eliza or had seen them leave. The next time I saw him was in line for lunch. “Hey, John,” I said, holding out my hand for him to shake. Grasped between two fingers was a highly folded piece of paper. “Good luck tonight.”
We shook hands, and the paper was gone. On it, I had written “Someone’s watching me. Avoid yin-yang dragons + scary cockneys.” The reason it was so brief was because I wanted the paper to be as small as possible to avoid people spotting it. I had the sneaking suspicion that Eliza was just better at the spy stuff then I was, because I hadn’t spotted her outside of the dorm before today. Now, I’d only catch glimpses of her. She was almost never looking directly at me, but usually she’d theoretically be able to see me out of the corner of her eye.
That scared me. Anyone here could be watching me. That made me wonder: did Amir and Dick only show up when I noticed them? Or had they also been watching me? Also, did Sergeant Krieger keep an eye on me? Was anyone watching John? My mind was so full of paranoid ramblings that I was having a hard time keeping down lunch’s serving of diarrhea.
I went back to my barracks, trying desperately not to think about who could be watching, home, or the building pressure in my head. As I headed back past a crowd milling around, unsure what to do with the day’s freedom (apparently, the novelty outweighed the fact that rain was falling harder than ever,) I felt the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. I wanted to dismiss it, but the events of today had taught me that paranoia was probably proper.
I turned around. Staring directly at me was Mubashir. I probably shouldn’t have run back to my barracks. My headache and my stomach were feeling worse, and my breathing was increasing in rapidity.
“Hey!” One of the Entertainer’s friends, a taller fellow who seemed like his food intake had been the closest to adequate as a child, had interrupted me from the surprisingly engaging task of hyperventilating in the fetal positon. “You don’ look well,” he said in rapid-fire English.
I looked up at him. I must have looked like a ghost, with my hair and beard messier than usual and my glasses slightly askew. Or like I’d seen one. I carefully considered my response. I finally said, “Some really scary people have taken an interest in me for the wrong reasons. Don’t be surprised if I die.”
For some reason, it felt good to tell him that. I know everyone tells you that helps, but it always surprises you when it actually works. “Can you talk about it?” the other guy asked.
I shook my head. “It’d probably be better if you don’t know about it.” He shrugged, and began sharpening the various shivs he had fashioned using a rock and the knife The Entertainer had taken from Dumbass.
I didn’t speak to anyone else until Fight Night began. We had been herded into the cafeteria to eat dinner. The conversation was louder than usual, so loud that you couldn’t even tell that dozens of languages were being spoken. You could still hear the trucks roll in and the audio get tested, though.
When they finally let us out, John instantly found me. “What the fuck’s going on, Nate?” he asked.
“Fight Night,” I said.
“No, I mean with you,” he said, as the chorus from Kanye West’s POWER began to blare. “I know you think your cover is blown, but why? What happened?”
“I walked in on two girls having a sparring match. One of them had been straight-up stalking me,” I said. Some people were beginning to rap along with Kanye. We still were near the back of the line to get out, so I felt confident about talking. Plus I couldn’t stop. “Well, more like observing me. She knows too much, she’s got some kind of experience in fighting and surveillance, and she’s got at least one friend who’s as scary as she is.”
John’s eyes suddenly went wide. “Is she a tall red-head?” I nodded. “Fuck me,” he said, “that’s why I didn’t make it. I was heading towards the meeting, then she walks out of Barracks 3 and makes eye contact with me.”
“What did you do?” I asked.
“’E makes this completely subtle U-turn back to the canteen,” a familiar voice behind me remarked sarcastically. “’Least this means you aren’t the only one ‘oo’s fieldcraft is complete shite, Nate.”
John and I turned around slowly. There was Eliza with that calculating look on her face. Her eyes were smiling. “Please don’t do that again,” I said. “That was scarier than anything Sergeant Krieger could do.”
“Speaking of the good Sergeant,” Eliza said, “’e’s another person ‘oo’s been paying attention to you.”
When we finally got outside, POWER had ended and Pompeii was starting to play. By this time the crowd was dozens deep and the only way I could tell what was going on was by looking over everyone’s head to the TVs. They were showing Professor Blunt in his camo baseball cap, NIU T-shirt and fatigue pants. His slightly chubby baby face was a remarkable contrast to the rest of his powerful body and contemptuous glare. I could also see that he was in the center of the parade grounds, surrounded by Campus Security in riot gear. They seemed to be holding a square in the ground and a pathway back to the five barracks.
“Listen up, you newborn pansy-ass sacks of fresh shit!” Professor Blunt yelled. “We’re here this night to have you undergo your first real step to becoming a freshman at NIU!” He turned around to look at us. “You see, you crying infants entering the ACMSA and Shadowhaven are soft. Maybe you’re a little harder than the fucking Leadershit and Business majors, but not much!”
A few people booed at this point. “Oh,” Professor Blunt asked, “Do the sweet, pwecious liddle babies think I’m being unfair? WELL, HERE’S YOUR FUCKING CHANCE TO PROVE ME WRONG!” The crowd roared. Judging by the reaction, I was starting to see why Campus Security was here in such force. They were deliberately provoking riot conditions, and they knew it.
“Also,” he said much more quietly, though the microphone still carried his voice, “if any of you want to get off this island or out this program, there are two ways. You either finish our basic training or you escape.” He then switched back to yelling, “Either way, the only for you to leave this crappy excuse for an island is to become one of the most BADASS, SCARIEST, MOTHERFUCKERS ON THE PLANET!”
The crowd roared. “US ARMY RANGERS’LL SHIT THEIR PANTS WHEN THEY SEE YOU!” The crowd roared again. I thought I could hear something along the lines of Maalintii Rangers, which I knew from reading Black Hawk Down. Apparently, we had a few Somalians here today.
“THE SAS MAY DARE, BUT THEY DAMN WELL WON’T WIN AGAINST YOU!” Again, the crowd roared. I looked to see where Eliza was, but she’d disappeared, probably to appear when it would most likely scare me to death.
“AND THE SPETSNATZ WILL FEAR YOU MORE THAN A HUNDRED SIMO HAYHAS!” Again, everyone roared. I had no idea if people were roaring in approval, disbelief, anger, or simply because everyone else was screaming and yelling at the top of their lungs. On the screens, I could see people pushing against campus security to get in.
Professor Blunt waited for the noise to calm down a bit. “Now, before we begin tonight’s event, we should review the rules. First off, all rules about hurting another slice of cannon fodder are suspended while you’re fighting. You hit someone and they die, they die. Unless you got the first kill, then you get ice cream!”
In response, someone yelled out, “Can we get chocolate?” Professor Blunt yelled back, laughing somewhat, “You can get any flavor you want, you sick fuck!” People laughed.
“The second rule,” he said, “is that fights start when I say they start and stop when I say they stop. Not before, not after. If you don’t listen, I tase your ass, you understand? Also, we reserve the right to take away anything you bring with you into the ring.” Someone in the crowd yelled out, “Let’s get this started!” Other people yelled out other encouragements to get a move-on in every language known to man.
“So, those are the rules!” Professor Blunt said. “Now, you pathetic piles of pansies are probably patiently waiting for the first contestants! Well, Sergeant Krieger has a request!” My heart fell. This couldn’t be good.
“Can’t say this first fight will be any good,” Professor Blunt said. Right on cue, two pictures came up on the screen by the feed. They were student IDs of two people. One was of Richard Forrest Taylor the Third, sneering into the camera. The other was of me, with my hair messier than usual and looking extremely jet-lagged.
“I mean, look at these assholes,” Professor Blunt proclaimed. “They look like they’d collapse IF YOU TAPPED THEM ON THE FUCKING SHOULDER!” The crowd gave a mean chuckle. John gave me a sympathetic look. Before he could wish me luck, Professor Blunt added an afterthought, “Do me a favor, maggots, and bring them to the ring, ok?”
Instantly, the guy who I believed to be Somalian turned and spotted me. He yelled something that might have been English, but was so broken I couldn’t tell. He then grabbed me and started to push me to the center. He bumped against someone, who began to yell at us in what I think was Italian. Then he saw me.
Instantly, people began grabbing me and pushing and pulling towards the ring. That would have been bad enough, but they were also yelling at me. None of it was encouragement.
“Yankee! You die!”
“Last long enough for me to grind you into paste, yeah?”
“You die like dog! You die like dog!”
I decided that the best thing I could do at the moment was tune it all out. The first time I had ever been performing in front of a large group of people (and that’s what this, really, a performance,) I had been a little nervous before hand. So, for the hour before I went on the “stage” (it had been a repurposed college classroom, and I had been doing a stand-up in front of my computer camp, but anyway…) I spent the time telling my jokes to a brick wall. No script, no observers, just me and some cinderblocks. During that time, I pretended the bricks were the audience. When I actually got there, I pretended the audience was the brick wall. Which was hard, because my audience actually liked my performance and was very easy to interact with.
Anyway, the point was to tune out the audience. Take deep breaths, find something in your mind’s eye to replace reality with something less scary. For instance, I decided to pretend the crowd wasn’t there, and it was completely empty like it was when I normally came back.
When Campus Security finally let me in, I was actually the calmest I’d been all day. I was still pissing myself in terror, but that was better than ruminating myself into an ulcer.
“Well, you finally made it!” Professor Blunt yelled. He strode over to me, microphone in hand. “Well, you may be a little lazy lollygagger, but at least you aren’t late! Since you’re here so early, do you have any words for you opponent?”
He tilted the microphone towards me. I scanned the crowd, then said, “You’re late.” It was all I could think of. I must have sounded more confident than I felt because the crowd ooohed like some 80’s action hero had dropped a clever one-liner.
Then, on the opposite side of the ring, Richard broke through campus security. “You think you’re hot stuff?” he yelled. “I’ve had enough of your uppitiness!”
I went into a fighting stance instantly. It’s the most common one in Tae Kwon-do. Your feet form a sort of L-shape, and your body is angled so that only one shoulder faces your opponent. You keep your hands up, the far one to cover your chest, the front one to protect your head. The nice thing about this stance, as well as covering all points, is that you can do any move in Tae Kwon-do. In the classes I took, we used it so much that I guess it became reflex.
Richard, for his part, was more aggressive. He didn’t even wait for Professor Blunt to yell “Fight!” before he ran back to me. I just waited. When he was in range, I did a stepping-behind sidekick, the blade of my foot hitting him in the stomach. I stumbled back into the ring of Campus Security and students, only to be pushed forwards. I barely maintained my balance.
Richard, on the other hand, fell face first into the mud. It took me a bit to realize that I was standing on the back of his head. I backed off quickly, allowing him to pull his face out with a disgusting squelch.
“Are you ok?” I asked as he struggled to his feet.
His response, after looking staring at me in shock for a few seconds, was to make an inhuman sound that was like a mix between a scream and a growl. I backpedaled quickly as he began swinging wildly. Finally, one hit me on the side of my head, knocking off my glasses.
A switch in my head finally flipped on. I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t scared. It was something just as basic, though. You see, most people have this particular switch switched to the setting that says “you shouldn’t hurt people.” That’s a good thing. That’s why society functions. Now mine was switched to the “hurt anyone who fucks with you” setting. At some point, I would realize that the entire point of this exercise was to do that. At an even later point I would realize that that made me kind of a shitty human being.
In the moment, however, I wasn’t thinking about philosophy. I simply returned the favor, hitting him as hard as I could in the nose. His head snapped back, and I used the opportunity to punch him in the throat, then again in the stomach. He fell on his back and moaned.
I used this opportunity to search for my glasses. It was very hard because without them I can barely see. It must have taken a good five minutes to find them and wipe them off on my shirt. After that, I turned back to where Richard was struggling to get up.
“Are you done?” I asked as he was using his elbows to prop himself up.
“Fuck you!” he spat out, his voice raspy and oddly slurred. He was now covered entirely in mud except for some red leaking out of his mouth and nose.
I stomped on his face. It fell back into the mud with an awful, yet satisfying, spluch sound. “Let me give you a slight hint,” I said, feeling really tired of the whole stupid exercise, “The correct answer is either ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”
I sighed, and brought my foot down on his ribs. There was a crack, and I felt his bones break a bit. Richard screamed. “Wrong answer,” I said, slightly annoyed. I began walking around him. I was surprised at how annoyed I was by all this. Here I was, giving him every opportunity to give up, but he just wasn’t taking them. Judging by the fact that he was still lying in the mud, bleeding and disoriented, and I was standing, he was clearly outmatched. My next stomp was on his hand. He howled.
“Oh come on,” I said, “I didn’t even break anything that time.”
I waited for a few seconds to see if he’d come to his senses. The crowd didn’t like that, so I stomped his hip. “Next one is going to be to your balls,” I said. The crowd roared in approval at that.
“You wouldn’t…” Richard slurred/rasped. The crowd nearby ooohed like he had just handed out some sick burn. I proved him wrong. He made a squeaking sound and curled forwards.
“Give up or I do it again,” I growled. He stared at me defiantly. I rolled my eyes and raised my boot again. “Wait, wait, wait,” he called out, “I give, ok! You win!”
“And Nathan Jacobs wins!” Professor Blunt called out. Two people came running into the ring from the direction of the barracks, dressed in white fatigues marked with the Red Cross. Their faces were obscured by white surgical masks, but they looked like upperclassmen. One opened up a stretcher, and the other began checking Richard. “Huh,” Richard’s attendant said to me, “you went easy on him, didn’t you?” Richard and I stared at him in shock.
“But I broke his rib,” I said, speaking slowly for emphasis.
The medic shrugged. “Probably only cracked,” he said. “Anyway, add in the concussion, bloody nose, stomped balls,” he grabbed the hand I had stomped on and squeezed it, eliciting a scream, “and broken hand, this guy seems kind of lucky.”
“Huh,” the other medic said, then said something to the first medic in some Eastern European-sounding language (I hesitate to say Russian because I don’t know what Russian sounds like, apart from TV shows.) The first medic replied back in the same language, then turned to Richard. “Alright, looks like you’re walking.”
I watched, somewhat stunned, as they dragged Richard to his feet and began carrying him back to the barracks. Were they trying to have fatalities?
I was distracted as an unfamiliar song with a thumping bass line came on. Richard had barely been dragged out of the arena when Professor Blunt called out, “And next up, we have Amir Al-Answari! Can our boy Nate start a streak, or will our first winner of the night end up our first death of the night?”
Ok, that was bad. That was very bad. Either it would be the Amir I knew and he’d probably be a lot less stupid than Richard, or it would be a different Amir who had no interest in converting me to some cause. At least it would take some time for him to get here.
As soon as finished thinking this thought, Amir called out to me, “So it seems I am your next opponent.” I turned around. Amir had just walked through the cordon of campus security. He must have been only one or two people deep.
As he walked out into the courtyard, I noticed two things about him. First was that his body language seemed somewhat contrite. Second was that, while he normally talked with both of his hands as well as his mouth, one hand was out of sight and his body was angled to facilitate that.
“The crowd seems to want blood,” Amir commented. I couldn’t confirm that because so few people seemed to be speaking English (and even if they were, the number of voices and volume would make it easy to drown out any meaning,) but the intent was clear.
“Are you planning on giving it to them?” I asked. Amir began walking away from the guards. Apparently, he didn’t trust the crowd to start beating him up if I pushed him out of the ring, or maybe I was just projecting my fears onto him.
“It depends,” Amir said. “If you convert to Islam and pledge to my cause, I will do my best not to kill you.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, realizing that I was probably signing my death warrant, “but my position is still the same.”
“You would really die for this filth?” Amir asked sadly, obviously talking about the music. “Surely there are better things to die for.”
“Not this,” I said, “though it is kind of gAUGH!” I didn’t get to finish because Amir had chucked the rock in his pocket at my head. It hit me between the eyes with enough force for me to stumble backwards and my vision to go black for a second.
That second was all it took for Amir to close the distance between us. My eyes opened just as his hands closed around my neck. I fell back, Amir on top of me. My first instinct was to flail wildly at Amir’s face. I hit his face several times. He didn’t flinch. In fact, he had the same disappointed look on his face, and had kept it up throughout. It was actually kind of creepy. The pressure he was exerting on my throat should have come with some kind of effort or anger on his part, not… annoyance.
“I am sorry to do this to you,” Amir said sadly. While he was talking I began looking for something to turn the tide. I did not want to die here, drowning in mud. Meanwhile Amir continued talking, “You are not a bad person, at least by your own standards. Also, you have some intelligence. It is a shame that that will be the first to go.”
That was when I saw it out of the corner of my eye. Maybe it was the rock Amir had thrown, maybe it was a different one. Either way, I knew what to do with it.
“Amir…” I choked out has my hand wrapped around it. He looked at me strangely, like he hadn’t heard me, so I tried saying his name again.
He leaned in closer. “What is it?” he asked.
“…not… over…” I managed to choke out. Amir smiled sadly and shook his head. He opened his mouth, but I never heard what he was going to say. My blow connected with a sickening thwack! Amir’s grip loosened and he collapsed sideways as I screamed out in pain. Something sticky splashed into my eyes, blinding me, and my blow had seemed hard enough to break my hand.
I struggled to my feet, gasping for air. At some point, the rock had fallen from my hand because I couldn’t hold on to it. Blinking rapidly to clear my eyes, I turned to look at Amir.
I immediately turned away. Amir’s eyes were open, but they were glassy. There was a hole leaking blood on the side of his face from where I had hit him. The liquid that had blinded me temporarily must have been his blood.
“And we have a winner!” Professor Blunt called out. “You maggots are going to have to step it up! This kid claims to have never been in a fight in his life, and look what he’s done!” It seemed Professor Blunt was warming up to me now that it seemed like I might live. Medics came in. I noticed they weren’t running. I also notice that they were different from the previous two. I was too busy trying to breathe to care.
“So, doc,” Professor Blunt asked after a bit, “Do we have our first kill of the evening?” One of the medics laughed. “Ja,” he said, “Mr. Jacobs gave our friend quite the love tap with that rock, eh?”
My stomach turned over. I didn’t mean to kill Amir. I didn’t really like him, but he wasn’t really the worst person in the camp. Not exactly the best person either, but I don’t think I should have killed him. I forced myself to watch as the two medics stuffed Amir into a body bag and loaded him onto a stretcher. The crowd, however, didn’t go silent. Instead they continued to roar and push against the ring of Campus Security.
Professor Blunt strode over to me. “So, Jacobs!” he said, still being really loud, “What is your secret? How did you manage to beat the odds and win twice in a row?”
I took a breath and tried to clear my mind. All I could come up with was “I… I killed him. I killed him, didn’t I?”
Professor Blunt looked me over, then said, at a more reasonable volume, “Yeah. What about it?”
“It… isn’t it wrong? Killing people?”
“I was actually hoping you’d ask that,” Professor Blunt asked. The crowd, while still deafening, was calming down. They seemed to be interested. “You see,” Professor Blunt said, somehow addressing both me and everyone in the audience, “morality isn’t exactly the most objective thing in the world. Ask yourself this, Jacobs: If you hadn’t hit the late Amir Al-Answari’s head with a rock, would you be alive for people to judge?”
“Wouldn’t you have stopped him?” I asked.
Professor Blunt just laughed. “Come on, greenie,” he said, “ask me a real question! Maybe ask if you needed to swing as hard as you did, or if you could have tried to blind him.
“These dumbass superheroes,” he continued, his voice dripping with contempt, “in these baby books with pictures, always talk about how ‘there’s always another way. We don’t have to kill people.’” His voice raised to a yell so loud, it caused feedback. “VIOLENCE IS A TOOL!” He then dropped back to his normal shoutiness. “Yes, it can cause problems. Yes, it can be used immorally, whatever that means to you. But there are some people who just don’t listen. Some people can’t be reasoned with, they can’t be bargained with, and actively seek to hurt you or things you care about. The only way to deal with these people is with force.
“The thing about using force, however, is you need to accept the reality that some sons of bitches need to die! Anyone who believes otherwise should consider leaving BECAUSE THIS IS NOT THE PROGRAM FOR YOU!”
The thing about the speech, which still sticks with me, is that it’s right. At least, in principle. There are some people who will refuse to listen. Amir, for instance, decided that killing me would be the best option, for whatever reason. Hitting him with the rock was the best option for that situation.
But the situation wasn’t a naturally occurring one. In fact, it was engineered so that someone would die. That was wrong.
I only had a little time to consider this before Professor Blunt spoke up again. “Now that that’s out of the way,” he said, “let’s talk about what’s next!”
That couldn’t be good. My breathing and vision were returning to normal, but my hand was still hurting. The best-case scenario was that I got some pushover. The scary thing, though, was that I couldn’t even begin to guess at the worst-case.
“You see,” Professor Blunt said, “We understand that you little shits lose focus easily. Instead of curing you of this incredible failing before Fight Night, we like to try and keep you entertained. To do that, we try to pair you up with people that you know!”
I think I might have said the “oh crap” out loud as well as thinking it. First off, I should have picked up on this. Secondly, this was worst-case. If they knew, they could make John and me fight to the death, then suborn whichever of us was still standing.
“Don’t worry,” Professor Blunt said, “we’ll try to avoid making you fight your friends. We at NIU think friendship is an important part of life, and we don’t want to break any.”
I wasn’t relieved. “…Who,” I asked cautiously, “am I going to be fighting?”
“Now that,” the Professor said, “is something I’m pretty fucking excited about!”
Oh fuck me, I thought. I had an idea of where this was going.
“Of the two thousand people who come to this program every year,” the Professor said, “only a few are bad ass enough to be guaranteed to survive. This is one of them.”
“This girl is only eighteen, and yet we’ve been able to confirm she’s killed five people with her bare hands! She’s proficient with her fists, pistols, and knives!” A picture of a red-haired girl with a calculating look in her green eyes and a cold smirk on her face appeared on the screen.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm hand to Eliza Henderson!” In retrospect, I should have expected this. It was almost like a videogame. First, you have the weak enemy. Then comes in the miniboss. Then the true boss fight.
I spent the next few minutes trying to calm down. I also decided to stand in the center to get a better view of what was going on. I was waiting long enough for me to start to gain cool, then begin to lose it again. While I waited, I noticed that my hand wasn’t feeling any better. I wasn’t sure whether to hope for it to be broken or Lady Macbeth Syndrome.
When Eliza finally got there, I was developing the paranoid belief that she was deliberately taking her time to psych me out. I actually saw her walk through the guard line just as “Rumor Has It” by Adele began playing. That helped. On the other hand, the fact that she had that grin on her face really didn’t.
“And… FIGHT!” Professor Blunt called out. I got in a fighting stance, waiting for her to charge.
Instead, she walked over to me, like she had just been called over by an old friend. “’Allo, mate,” she said cheerily.
“Hi…” I said, extremely freaked.
Eliza picked up on it. “Why’re you so tense?” she asked. “You’ve been doin’ quite the job so far.”
“Does… does this mean you’re not going to hurt me too bad?” I asked.
Eliza shook her head. “Come on, Nate,” she said, “we both know that the only way you’re getting outta here is on a stretcher.”
That wasn’t reassuring. “So why aren’t you attacking me?” I asked.
“I must confess,” Eliza said, still seeming very friendly, “I’ve noticed something about you. You never make the first move.” She waited a minute, then, when I didn’t respond, she said, “So I’m interested in what happens when you’re forced to go first.”
“So you’re toying with me,” I said.
“You could say that,” she said, nodding a bit.
Something was off here. She just saw me kill someone, but she didn’t seem worried. That seemed… bad. I really didn’t want to bank on her underestimating me. So I decided could distract her.
“Don’t you think you’re underestimating me?” I asked. She laughed. I used that opportunity to hook my forward leg around one of hers and throw a jab.
Her response was two-fold. Instead of countering or avoiding my leg sweep, she stepped back, forcing me into a painful split. Simultaneously, she grabbed my hand doing the jab in an iron grip. She took my follow-up punch on the chin, but that was with the hand I had hurt. I grunted with pain. She barely flinched.
“Little tip, Nate,” she said as she put her forward foot on my ribcage, “if you’re going to get your opponent monologuing, wait until they start.” She pulled. There was shluck sound as my arm was pulled out of its socket and my world went white with pain.
When my vision cleared, I was on my side in a fetal position. Two people, one man, one woman, were looking at me. The man seemed to be very exicted. I tried to get up with my right arm. Pain from my hand shot through me, which was saying something seeing how it was too hard to think. The woman, her face framed by red hair, said something. The man began yelling even louder.
I tried moving my left arm. Nothing except more pain. The woman said something again. I tried focusing on what she was saying. “…do it, Nate…”
Ok, so apparently standing was good. Or was it? Standing seemed good, regardless of whether or not the red-headed woman approved or not. With that in mind, I got to my feet, using my right hand as little as possible. The shouty man was shouting harder, and the woman was shaking her head.
“You unbelievable fucking wanker,” she said, somewhat in awe. I stared at her uncomprehendingly for a few moments. Then I blacked out.