Ms Shan turned and wiped blood from her eye just in time to see the DIY Barn explode into flames. The fighting slowed to a halt for a moment, as the footsoldiers of both sides stopped to watch the flames rise towards the heavens. In the sudden stillness, Ms Shan could hear the approaching sound of sirens. Moments later, small pieces of burning roofing material began gently snowing down on South Hertling.
That should have been victory. That should have been the end of the fight. Barn gone. War over. It seemed obvious to her, but it was Ms Shan's blessing and curse always to be seeing what others could not.
A Barnling – just a retail person, not a silver guard – threw a punch at a distracted Pavilionite. And Belinda -- who had somehow gotten hold of one of Fanaka's superweapons – turned the Barnling into a pink mist with a push of a button. Then the giant lizard punched Bruce, and a silver guard punched Adam in the face and Fiona tried to drown what looked like some sort of war ogre, and before Ms Shan could demand the Barn's surrender the battle was on again.
On the Barn side of Wellington Road, she saw Mr Smith, part hidden behind a bus shelter. He seemed… No, it wasn't how he seemed. It was how he didn't seem. He didn't look defeated. And he should have. He should have looked like his hardware store had been destroyed.
He should have looked god-damned defeated.
Ms Shan had thought that she had used up all her outrage by this point. Finding out that she still had some left angered and infuriated her.
She stuck her broken swagger stick in her belt. On the ground was a souped up chainsaw, still clutched in the hand of Marlon's severed arm. She picked it up, restarted it and ran screaming towards Smith.
Through the red mist that seemed to be obscuring everything around her, she could dimly see that Ali and Wellsey were flanking her. There was some violence, and some blood – she was a little hazy on the details – and then she had fought her way to the curb. Smith saw her, finally. The look of abject terror on his face was a joy to behold as he turned tail and ran.
There was a flurry of movement to her left. A pale grey Barnling with huge black eyes made a lunge at her, but he was torn to pieces by something hairy in a Pavilion shirt and apron.
"Never knew Jane was a werewolf," she heard a voice say.
"Can't say I'm surprised, but."
But Ms Shan had no time to care. She was running after Smith as fast as she could. With unexpected agility, Smith leaped over a wooden barrier next to the DIY Barn carpark. Ms Shan cut it in two without slowing down. Smith ran towards the door of the burning Barn, but another explosion rocked the ground. Probably the Barn's supplies of LPG and lawnmower fuel finally going up.
Two silver guards came running from the burning building, protected from the fierce heat by their uniforms. Stricken as they were, they came running to their manager's protection. Ms Shan paused – just for a second, but it was long enough for Wellsey and Ali to surge forward, barrelling into the guards. Ms Shan turned her attention back towards Smith.
Driven back by the flames, Smith looked around in desperation. The nearest cover was a huge semi truck in the Barn parking lot. He raced towards it. Ms Shan ran faster yet, desperate to cut him off. Her breath was hot in her lunges, her blood was hot in her veins, the chainsaw was hot in her hands. Smith would not get away.
She needn't have worried. Before Smith reached the truck, it sounded its airhorn and pulled away. Had Ms Shan been less furious, she might have wondered where it was going. As it was, all she knew was that it was no longer her problem.
Smith ran towards some construction vehicles. The ones that had been working on the Barn parking lot extensions, the unfair extensions that Council never should have allowed! Ms Shan couldn't even tell what language she was screaming at him as she finally caught up with the horrible little man.
The first slash of her chainsaw was shallow, cutting into his upper arm. Smith screamed, and fell to the ground from the pain. Ms Shan raised the chainsaw over her head, and brought it down in a savage arc. Smith rolled out of the way, and the saw embedded itself in the ground.
Alright, then. Barehanded.
But before she could strangle Smith, the red mist before her was dispersed by fireworks. She staggered and coughed up some bile. She struggled back to her feet and turned to see the traitor. Buck Dusty. Literally the only person she hated enough to distract her from Smith.
"You!" Ms Shan said.
"It's over, ma'am," Dusty said, holstering his six-shooter
"The Barn is over."
"It'll be rebuilt. I'm afeared that the battle is over for your Pavilion."
As if in confirmation of this, a chorus of gunshots rang out in the direction of the road.
"You hit a woman. In the back. You call yourself a cowboy?"
"COWBO, technically. And yeah, I hit you. And I didn't. And I shot Karl and I didn't. And I'm talking to him now and I'm here. I'm going to die today. That's for sure."
Ms Shan sneered. Behind Dusty, Ali and Wellsey were still wrestling the guards. She'd have to take care of Dusty and Smith.
"Want something done right," she grumbled.
The chainsaw was useless. The swagger stick was sharp. As she reached for it, Dusty's hand covered his holster.
"Reckon you're fast enough?"
Ms Shan tensed her arm. "Reckon."
Dusty smirked. "No. I'm gonna die, but I don't reckon it'll be you doin' the killin'."
Ms Shan locked eyes with Dusty. For a long moment nobody moved. His hand was perfectly still over the but of his revolver. She kept her own hand, unmoving, above the handle of the stick.
A tumbleweed rolled between them
Dusty's eyes flickered between Ms Shan's eyes and her hand. Eyes. Hand. No movement was wasted. Everything he had seemed to be focused on those two things.
If only he'd been watching her feet, too. He might have forseen the boot to the groin before it was too late. As he doubled over in pain, Ms Shan smacked, the stick making a sickly cracking noise against his head.
The next moments were a blur – the red mist was returning. Then… then somehow, Buck had managed to draw his gun, and Ms Shan was trying to take it off him, and then there was a crack of pistol shot. For a moment, Ms Shan thought that she'd killed him, but Buck cried out in pain and hopped backwards, clutching his wounded foot.
It was then that Ms Shan noticed that Smith had retrieved the chainsaw, and was in the process of restarting it.
And Buck hopped backwards towards him. Smith really should have been holding the chainsaw more carefully. It was all very poor OH&S practice, Ms Shan noticed.
Ms Shan shielded her face with her hand, and so the wet spray that had once been Buck Dusty didn't get into her eyes. Even over the roar of the chainsaw motor, she could hear Smith's horrified screaming.
When she opened her eyes, Smith was staring at something on the ground. Ms Shan took care not to look down. Smith was covered in blood, head to toe, and no longer seemed to be holding the chainsaw.
He saw Ms Shan coming for him, a moment too late. He tried to run, but she cornered him in between an asphalt spreader and a badly parked van.
In the end, he didn't put up much of a fight.