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She was fairly certain the men were drunk and that there were only three of them. What she didn’t know was how big, fast or adept at mayhem they were nor how deep the evil of their intent ran. “Discretion is the better part of valor,” her grandmother’s voice rang through her head.

‘Sorry, Nana,’ she thought, ‘I’d run if I could but these eyes just don’t allow me to be discreet.’

“Hey, Chiquita why don’t you answer us?” the heavily accented one asked. “Aren’t you feeling friendly?”

“Stuck up is what she is. Little girl needs to be taught some manners.”

Their voices were definitely slurred and she could hear shuffling feet on the concrete. That was good, but the fact that they seemed to be circumscribing her indicated that the intent was likely malignant and the circling maneuver could indicate a high degree of malicious cooperation and competence, both of which could be very, very bad. ‘They probably think I’m a drunk teenager or college kid. Maybe I can appeal to their better nature?’ “Please leave me alone. My mom and dad will already be mad that I’m out late.”

“Oh, darling don’t worry about your daddy,” the one she’d already dubbed, ‘Southern Gentleman’ drawled, “we’ll just tell him you were with us.”

“They’ve probably already called the police. They’re very protective of me.”

“The police? Lo aterrador! We’d better leave this one alone.” Gabrielle could feel his warm breath on her neck and imagined his face fat and greasy.

Their easy laughter reaffirmed her decision to fight as she felt that their increased confidence was a sure sign that they underestimated her. What she needed was for each of them to be loud and clumsy so she had a good chance of striking each target firmly and decisively and then running away before they could recover and overwhelm her by sheer numbers.

“No! Leave me alone!” she said, voice rising but not yet out of control. “Leave me alone or I’ll scream!”

“Screw this!” said number three. “Grab her and let’s go!”

‘Well I guess that clears up any question of intent, not that I really had any.’ “No! No! Leave me-” upon saying, “alone” Gabrielle slammed her right knee hard and fast into the groin of the man in front of her and then thrust her foot sideways into the kneecap of the one to her right. ‘Two down, I hope, but one still unaccounted for.’

“Why you tricky piece of shit,” Southern Gentleman screamed, “you really think-”

She did not wait for him to finish his statement. ‘Arrogant asshole. I just needed you to tell me where you were.’ Zeroing in on his voice she did a flying roundhouse that caught him squarely on the jaw. She stumbled, recovered before falling fully and took off running, listening for sounds of pursuit from behind.

At first she thought she was home free but after a few short seconds she was certain that someone was coming after her. ‘Crap! Now what? Pretty sure they’re not going to fall for the whole helpless thing again this time.’