Chapter 21b




It turned into a running battle among the sarcens.  Ivan seized men and threw them at other men.  Tracy delivered whirling kicks at faces and chests.  Jon gave it as good as he got.  Hapgood stayed in the car at first.


"HELP!" screamed Tracy.  They piled over a fallen stone and were hemmed in again. 


The bobby in charge of security ran up, helmet neatly on his head.  He sent a message over his radio and then got his truncheon into action and started jabbing men into submission, but the numbers were too great. 


The crowd that had nearly been mashed like so many bugs had fled to the parking lot, and some were managing to pull their cars onto the road and get away.  The hippies had not reacted. 


The bobby ran to the hippies and said, “Terribly sorry, but we seem to be having a bit of a punch up over here.  Please come over and help me keep the peace.”


The hippies got up and joined the fray. 


Hapgood pulled himself through the window and looked around.  The car blocking them behind was a Jaguar.  “We do seem to make the most expensive enemies,” he thought.  The engine of the Jag was running, so he pulled it away.  Then he climbed back into the rental car and backed it out.  The tire protested as it rubbed the bent fender.  Hap got out to take a look at it.  The fender had buckled with a projecting crease.  A good mechanic with a hammer could strike that crease and the fender would be three quarters to being right in a single blow.  But there was no time for repairs now.


Hap went back to the Jaguar.  He got in.  Seconds later he was rolling over the ruined fence.


The fight was close.  The intrepid bobby had been pinioned by three men and his truncheon taken away.  Jon had been seized by two others and was wrestling with them.  Tracy still delivered the same kicks, but their effect was lessening.  Ivan was working a half a dozen of them as if they were in a washing machine.  The hippies had drawn off a large number, but the hippies had their hands full.


Hapgood approached the nearest black cloak and with the front bumper hit the man just hard enough to lay him across the hood.  Then he was roaring out across Salisbury Plain with his unwilling passenger clinging to the car. 


The man rolled over spread eagled on the hood, trying to hold on with both hands and both feet.  His face looked into Hapgood’s face inches away through the windshield.  Hapgood found he was looking into a dark face that might be Near Eastern in descent.  But where he expected to see a mask of hate and fear he saw concern, certainly, but beneath it was a kind of serenity.  It was a man doing a difficult job he had not asked for, but it was a job that had to be done.  The man was sure he was doing what was right.  “He looks like such a decent sort of person,” thought Hapgood.


The other man had gone through the same set of observations and was just thinking, “And he looks like such a nice person,” when Hapgood decided they had traveled a good enough distance.  He applied the brakes and sent the man tumbling across the grass.  Then Hapgood went back for more.


He managed to dump two more out on the plain, which was not a serious reduction in their total numbers, but he had got their attention.  Now when the low Jaguar approached, they kept an eye on it and cleared away.  Hapgood decided to see what he could do for the bobby.  He slipped up to the men holding the peace officer and managed to hook a knee with the front bumper.  Then he was backing out as fast as the tires would take him.  It took a couple sharp turns before he cleared the man off and went back.


Things had deteriorated.  Three men had grabbed Tracy and were dragging her to a car.  The bobby was up, but his helmet was gone and his punches no longer were winning the respect they had.  Ivan was still grappling but it was not clear who was getting the worst of it. 


The hippies broke free of the corner they had held and rallied to the Jaguar.  Hapgood leaned out the window and shouted, “They left their keys in the cars.”  Soon a dozen more cars were roaring into life.  The tide of battle reversed as they swung among the stones chasing the black cloaks.


But Tracy was being crammed into a car.  Ivan was down, and they were starting to tie him up.  Jon had his back against a stone and was keeping two men at bay with well intended jabs, but he could not contribute to the rest of the fight.


Hapgood shouted out the window, “Try to get the girl out.”  Some of the hippies broke away and drove over to surround the abduction car.  Jon finished with his two and started blind siding others. 


The hippies grabbed a man and locked him in the trunk of a car.  Hapgood started to dissect the crowd that was working Ivan over.  Some broke away, bone tired with the fight.  Hapgood chased them with the Jaguar until they collapsed.  He got a couple hippies to help and they locked two in the smallish trunk of the Jag.


Ivan was back up fighting again.  Jon had got his second wind and was pummeling three, who seemed to have had enough of it.  Tracy was free.


At that point Jon stopped.  He heard something.  High over the plains was the sound of a police horn, high, then low, then high again.  Soon police cars were pulling onto the field.  The black cloaks that could still run fled.


Police with guns piled out, and the battle was over.  The bobby said, “Frightfully sorry for the trouble.  I hope this has not spoiled your vacation.”


“Are we free to go?” asked Jon.


“Certainly, of course.  But I should like you to drop by the police station at your earliest chance and explain this to us.  It’s most irregular.”


“You got it,” said Jon.


Ivan inspected the tire.  The wear of the mertal had been on the tread so the sidewall was still intact.  He delivered a mighty kick to the fender, and it straightened out to a satisfactory degree.  They piled in.


Moments later the car was back on the highway rocketing east toward Salisbury and the line. 


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