I cannot really say that I realized there was a vicious presence at my back. It was just that as I took the night air and strolled along the line of the surf, I suddenly became apprehensive. Those nameless thoughts that sometimes run through the back of your head when you awaken for no apparent reason in the middle of a still, warm summer night, lie there awhile wondering what the hell woke you up, and then hear an unusual sound in the next room...
So, when I heard the first, quick crunch of sand behind me, the adrenalin was already there. I turned quickly, dropping into a crouch. My right foot skidded out behind me as I moved, and I fell to one knee. A blow to the side of my face sent me sprawling to my right. He was upon me then.
Strange as it sounds, we fought for close to five minutes before I realized who he was. We were in the wet sand then, with the surf breaking about us, and he had already broken my nose with a forward smash of his head.
He must have seen his death coming because he howled then, like a dog, right before I pulped his temple. I hit him twice again for good measure, pushed him off and rolled away, the rock slipping from my fingers and splashing beside me.
I lay there for a long while, blinking back at the stars, while the surf washed me and the body of my enemy rocked gently, a few feet away. When I recovered, I searched him, and among other things I found a pistol. It carried a full charge and was in perfect operating condition.
In other words, he'd wanted to kill me with his hands. He had estimated he was able to, and he had preferred risking injury in order to do it that way. He could have nailed me from the shadows, but he had had guts enough to follow the dictates of his hate. For this, I respected him. If it had been the other way around, I would have done it the easy way.
To have it all to do over again annoyed me.