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LESS THAN AN hour later, the church returned to a peaceful sanctuary of the divine. John remained, washing his hands in the bathroom. He barely recognized his own reflection. Two days' stubble darkened his face. Bloodshot eyes and a wrinkled shirt elevated him just above the street urchins who begged outside his office building. He cupped his hands under the tap to fill them with cold water. The chill stung when he splashed his face.

Grabbing a paper towel, he glanced back at the mirror, hoping to see an awakening in his eyes. Instead, a man in a black ski mask loomed in the reflection. John flinched.

He stepped backward and spun around, then stumbled back against the counter.


John returned to the mirror, his stare sharpening, but the man was gone.

"Get a hold of yourself."

Deep breaths through his mouth soon calmed him. John straightened and tucked in his shirt. A moment passed, convincing him that any threat lived in his mind. He spanked his cheeks, gazing about the room in paranoid flinches.

The water timed-off after a few seconds. Quiet. Drip. Drip.

He crept to the bathroom stalls, three of the four with shut doors. No feet underneath as he peeked under the first. He kicked it open, banging the door against the sidewall. The force sent him reeling for balance. John reset, clenching his fits. He sidestepped the open door to the left and squared up on the next closed stall.

This time John led into the kick, snapping open the door and landing in a crouched stance, primed and ready. The automatic toilet flushed.

"Looks like I'll take what's behind door number four."

When he spoke the last word, the lock popped off and the door swung out. John took a hit in the forehead and staggered back toward the wall.

The man wearing a black ski mask spring out. He grabbed John and slammed him against the wall. The tile on the wall cracked. John ducked.

A fist of blurring silver missed his head by an inch. A second punch followed in the abdomen, knocking the wind out from his lungs. He gasped.

The masked man jabbed, and John dodged left. Brass knuckles hit the tile next to his head. Porcelain chips rained down. Another punch and John leaned right. The knuckles hit the wall. More tiles shattered. The assailant's eyes narrowed. Jab.

John shuffled and kneed his attacker's midsection. Pain shot through his kneecap. Shit! He's wearing some sort of protection pad. His strike had little effect other than providing a narrow separation—and a split second. John ripped the hand dryer off the wall and raised it just in time to fend off an onslaught of punches.

Aluminum clanged with each consecutive strike, the dryer crumpling from the punishment of the brass knuckles. John snapped a series of kicks at the knees of his attacker, forcing him to back off. With more room to fight, John took the dryer on the offensive, proactively pumping it at the man. He battled Black's hand back and jabbed the dryer at his nose.

The hand dryer turned on, connect to the wall by a wire.

Blood dripped from the mouth of the mask., but the knuckles flashed their attack. He flipped the hand dryer around and the man's fist struck the inside of the casing.

Sparks flew as the metal knuckles contacted with the electric current. The bathroom lights dimmed, and the masked man jolted from the shock. John grinned.

The attacker ripped off the knuckles and threw them at John. He caught them in the casing and more sparks burst forth. The light strobed, fluorescent bulbs flickering on and off. John pulled the dryer free of the wall and shook out the brass knuckles to the floor.

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