Clark Logan heard his right cheek go with a soft, wet crack before the pain from the blow caught up with the sound. The blow sent him sprawling. He struck an umbrella stand which clattered to the hardwood floor. Stars from the flashlight beam flashed into his eyes just prior to the punch blinding him. His fedora tumbled from his head and he landed hard.
Before he could so much as twitch, a hard toe dug savagely into his stomach and he tasted bile. He tried to roll with the kick but came up against the wall, smacking the back of his head. Sensing a second kick, he threw himself to the side and heard the hard-soled shoe clack against the wall followed by a frustrated grunt from one of his attackers.
“Finish him!” a voice rasped. “Stop screwing around.”
The reply was a harsh curse and Logan heard heavy feet coming towards him in the dark. It was 2 AM, a moonless night. The lights were out in the room, shades drawn.
Logan flailed about with one hand while digging under his left armpit with the other for his gun. His breath came in a thin wheeze and his broken cheek felt like a mouse had burrowed beneath the skin under his left eye.
The gun was snapped home and his thumb missed the clasp as he pawed at it. His other hand felt the leg of a hall table and he yanked it between himself and his attacker.
The man’s shins made a pleasant sound in Logan’s ears as they collided with the table. The man fell heavily on Logan’s legs, his teeth momentarily pressing into the side of Logan’s right calf. Logan didn’t hesitate. He pistoned his feet at the spot where he thought his attacker’s head lay. The first kick struck air but the second caught a layer of soft, yielding flesh, which gave until his heel hit bone.
He tried to slash upwards with the edge of his heel to open the skin. The shocked “Ah!” he heard with the impact encouraged him.
He kicked again but hit air. The weight was off his legs so he scrambled to his feet. The sound of rustling cloth and creak of leather told him the second man was going for his piece.
Logan jabbed his hand inside his coat, seized the butt of the .38 and yanked for all he was worth. The gun came free. He pointed it where he thought his attackers were and pulled the trigger at the same instant as the other man. Two yellow tongues of flame lanced out, then Logan heard the plaster crack beside him. He heard a loud hiss from in front of him and the sound of someone stumbling. He spread three more shots around the room.
Logan started to run, the window and fire escape his destination, but slipped on his hat and pitched headlong across the threshold leading to the bedroom.
Moving across the dark room to the window on the other side of the Murphy bed Lois had left down, he caught the stale scent of her perfume.
The window was an alternating square of black and dull red from the flashing neon outside.
The noise behind him told Logan the men, or at least one of the men, had recovered and was moving into the room with only the bed between them. It was difficult to hear with the rain rattling against the tin sign.
He fired blindly and dove for the window. There was no return fire as he flew through the air. He thought he’d made it until he cracked his right knee sharply on the sill.
He sprawled out on the fire escape, teeth clamped shut against a bellow of pain. Gun in hand he mostly fell down the iron ladder, which ended eight feet from the ground. The drop was going to play hell with his knee but if he stayed put he was a sitting duck.
Movement from above made the fire escape quiver and spurred Logan into action.