I scarcely had a moment to register the murderous figure in the doorway before he was lunging toward me. His heavy frame fell against mine and as we toppled away from the door, I could hear a strained shuffling from the other room.
The suitor’s wild eyes were gaping wide with fury, his face covered in perspiration. His chest heaved and a guttural cry escaped from his lips as we collided.
My breath flew from my lungs as Manuel’s full weight fell on top of me. His own breath hissed in my ear and I caught the glint of his blade as it flashed in the sunlight. Gasping, as I was, for breath, I had no way of knowing if I had already been stabbed. The pain of meeting the floor, coupled with the cracking of my ribs as my breath was forced from my chest, prevented me from knowing, fully, the state of any other injuries.
Instinct forced my hand to reach for the knife. When I grabbed his wrist, it was then that I realized he was trembling more than I was. Though, there was great force behind the strength of his arm, I was surprised to see how weakly he held the knife. So loose was his grip on the metal, that the knife all but fell from his fingers as I seized his wrist.
The frailty in his grip, however, was only momentary. When he realized his error, he seized the knife forcefully and moved to thrust the knife in my direction. His eyes, though mad and wild in their look, did not seem able to focus on me, even as I was only inches from his face.
“Martin!” I could not see Cross, though I knew the strained shuffling from the other room was struggling attempts to come to my aid.
I suddenly felt the weight from my crushed chest lighten. As the suitor was lifted to his feet by Cross, I kept my hand around his wrist until it was wrested from my grip. Gasping and lightheaded from lack of air, I slid backward away from the staggering frame that stood over me. His face still wild and twisted, he seemed to be staring through the rooms, past Cross and myself. Even when I stumbled to my own feet, he didn’t turn his attention to me.
Slowly, between the gasps of his own breath, the suitor began to sway. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest against my cracked ribs, the sound of its beating throbbing in my ears. I exchanged looks with Cross, who was leaning against the wall, poised to move against our intruder even while he could barely hold himself upright.
The sound of the heartbeats in my ears suddenly doubled, the volume of the beats filling the entranceway. It was then that I realized the heartbeats I was hearing were not my own, but the suitor’s. I watched as the murderous suitor gasped at the breath choking in his throat. As his wild eyes focused once more on whatever he was looking at past me, the perspiration poured from his brow. He took two staggered steps forward and fell dead at my feet.