Twenty-five-year-old Katie Blackwell was getting her ass kicked.

A former US Marine who did a tour in Afghanistan, she wasn’t a stranger to taking a beating from a workout, but this was ridic.

Her trainer, twenty-nine-year-old Carol Newell, was not holding back and Katie was getting the worst beating ever.

And she was loving every minute of it.

Given how hot it was today, Katie had instantly regretted the color choice of the matching two-piece Nike sports bra and yoga shorts she was wearing.


She had worn gray. So stupid.

Katie had been at home when she got the phone call to come over to the dojo for a training session. The last thing she wanted to do was train in this heat, but she didn’t want to miss this opportunity. From what she heard, this dojo didn’t call twice. So, she grabbed the first outfit she had clean and went right over.

At 5’1 and barely 105 pounds with long blonde hair, she was already giving up 8 inches and thirty pounds to Carol, whose legs went on forever in her white Muay Thai shorts that sort of matched the white sports bra she wore.         

Carol’s kicks always found her and when they went to the mat, her legs were like anacondas, always wrapping around her. Katie had lost count of how many times she tapped or submitted in the last five minutes, and there were still five more to go.

They were sweating something fierce, Katie twice as bad, and she was having to concentrate just to keep her mouth piece in.

Truth be told, she wasn’t even sure how she got into this dojo. The place had only been open for a year now and it was already the hardest and most sought after place to get into. Not helping was, the random hours the place ran and who they let in was just as random, though they seemed to prefer former military types, and women, which may have helped with her selection.

Katie ducked under a swing of Carol’s and instead of running passed her like she had been doing, she stayed and found an opening and punched Carol on her left side in the ribs. Carol grunted in surprise and Katie smiled, thinking she was improving.

It was short-lived as Carol hit the back of her right knee, buckling it, and Katie fell just as Carol spun around her, hooking her arm around her neck and fell with her into a guillotine DDT choke. Carol’s impossibly long legs wrapped around Katie’s body, giving her no chance of escape, and she tapped quickly and fast.

Carol let go, brought her legs up underneath Katie and pushed her, launching her several feet away. Katie fell backwards into a tumble and came up on one knee, ready just in case.

Which was a good thing as Carol followed up with a thrust kick, looking to take her head off. Katie fell flat and Carol’s kick soared over where her head had been. Carol’s leg landed awkwardly and Katie leaped to her feet and jumped onto Carol while her back was still to her.

Katie wrapped her arm around Carol’s throat and tried to wrap her legs around Carol’s stomach, but they were both too sweaty and Katie couldn’t lock her legs together and they slid down Carol’s long slender frame. Carol took three steps, then shot forward and flung Katie off her. She went flying over Carol’s back and landed hard on hers, the wind knocked out of her.

Carol stepped back and actually hit her with a freaking leg drop across her chest before sliding her leg down to her throat and pinned her with it. Katie grabbed at Carol’s leg, trying to push it off, but that only left her bare midsection exposed for Carol to drop a hammer fist on. What little breath Katie had sucked in from her fall was gone again. She would have sat up and groaned, but Carol’s leg kept her pinned to the mat.

Carol rested her hand on Katie’s skinny, flat stomach. Everything about the girl was petite. From her boobs to her legs. Her arms were the one exception. They were long and lanky, but she didn’t know how to use them to her advantage. Carol waited as she looked at Katie. When she got no response, she smashed her stomach with another hammer fist.

Katie tried to turn, but Carol kept her leg across her tiny neck. It might as well have weighed 300 hundred pounds. Carol was staying there for as long as she wanted, which Carol didn’t mind doing.

There were probably many people out there who thought Katie was pretty, but Carol wasn’t one of them. She saw her as yet another wannabe fitness model who couldn’t hang in the big leagues. Carol didn’t mind smashing this little Barbie doll.

She enjoyed it.

Carol put her hand back on Katie’s stomach, her fingers covered in Katie’s sweat. Katie realized then she had no chance and really no hope against Carol. She suspected it going into this sparring session, but didn’t think she’d perform this horribly.

Of course, she was still doing better than the old Katie Blackwell. Truth be told, the old her wouldn’t have even been alive by now. Not if she had continued down the path she had been on.

Katie had spent most of her senior year in high school drunk or wasted from partying so hard. Freshman year in college was more of the same.

All she cared about was having a good time.

Growing up, her childhood had been great. But after she got into high school, things changed. Her daddy, who had always worked from home in his office, started traveling for work.

All the time.

Her mom had stepped down from her job and stayed home. Katie wasn’t sure why, she didn’t need a damn babysitter.

The first year had been okay, they’d even gone on several family vacations to different countries, something they’d never done before. But by her Junior year, the house was different. No one was unhappy. Her parents still loved each other. They were just always busy with work.

Her mom took over her daddy’s office. Katie didn’t know when they started working at the same job together and didn’t care. She just wanted it to go back to the way it was when she was little.

She wanted her daddy to be home.

Things came to ahead when she was in a car accident during college. She crashed into a tree driving home from a party one night. Luckily, only the car was injured from her stupidity. She woke up in the ER with both her parents by her bedside. They weren’t mad, just disappointed in her and in themselves for failing her. She had a serious talk with her daddy and by the end, Katie had agreed to drop out of college and join the Marines in exchange for the truth of what her parents really did for work at the end of her first term of service.

She never got a chance to have that talk though, as during her first year with the Marines, her house back home caught fire and her parents were killed in their sleep.

Or so she was told.

They only found one body, a female.

And she had received a weird e-mail the next morning but couldn’t make it out. It looked like a virus. Part of her still believed that it was some kind of cryptic note from her daddy saying he was out there alive and would see her when he could. But as the years have gone by, Katie was believing it less and less.

She kept the email though.

Just in case.

Katie finished her time with the Marines. They had made her into a much better person, but she had never bought into the culture of once a Marine, always a Marine thing.

It just wasn’t for her.

Still, she didn’t regret her time there.

She moved back to the Boston area where she had grown up and moved in with some old friends from college before she had dropped out after the car accident. Her parents had left her a good chunk of money, far more than she ever expected them to have, so she only worked part time here and there at places when she wanted something to do. She spent most of her time now in the gym, working out and staying in shape.

She had a decent size following on social media. Instagram more than anywhere else. She enjoyed sharing workout tips.

Carol sent a third hammer fist smashing down, just past Katie’s bellybutton and to the left of it. That was going to be a bruise for sure, if not all of them. It also hurt the most.

Carol was hitting harder with each one.

Katie tapped when Carol went for a fourth one. Carol did a back somersault off her and stood up. She took out her mouthpiece and helped her up with the other hand.

“Thank you,” Katie said after spitting out her mouthpiece and sucking in air.

Holy crap, her body hurt.

“You have no sense of technique or style. What’s your primary style?”

Katie stared at her.

“For martial arts?” Carol asked.

Her tone was somewhere between robotic and annoyance.

But not too annoyed. Katie could tell that Carol had enjoyed beating her up.


Carol shook her head and grabbed a bottle of Poland Spring water from the cooler and offered one to Katie, which she gladly accepted.

“You can take a bit of a beating, so that’s a positive for you.”

“A bit?” Katie asked, her eyes wide.

“Yes. I eased up on you after the first minute when I saw how out of your league you were.”

“Thanks?” Katie replied.

“Given time, you could get better. I will offer you a spot in our cardio and weight class if you want to come back.”

“Yes,” Katie said instantly. “What about sparring? I really enjoyed this.”

Carol looked at her while she took a sip of water.

“Clearly I eased up too much on you.”

“Can I share something with you?” Katie asked, playing with her bottle.

“No,” Carol replied and walked away to put her water on the ring apron.

Katie followed her anyway.

“I honestly couldn’t tell you were going easy on me. I really thought you were trying to kick my ass.”

“I did kick your ass,” Carol corrected.

“And I’ll have the bruises to prove it,” Katie said, rubbing her stomach. “But that’s why I liked it. You let me have it. All the other places I’ve gone to take one look at me and give me the kiddie menu. I don’t want the kiddie menu. I want this. I want you.”

“Excuse me?” Carol said, glaring.

Katie blushed. “I mean, I want a trainer like you. I want to be like you.”

“No, you don’t,” Carol said and took off her gloves and turned her back to her.

Katie walked around to face her.

“Please. Tonight, I’m going out with friends who think I don’t know they’re trying to set me up with someone. I want to be more than that kind of girl. I need to be more than that kind of girl.”

“No,” Carol said and tried to walk by her.

Katie put her hand on Carol’s shoulder.

She quickly took it off when she saw the look on Carol’s face.

“Please,” she repeated as she stared up into her eyes.

Carol stared back. There was something there. She couldn’t deny that.

“I will call you for your next sparring session,” she said with a sigh.

“Thank you. I’ll be here,” Katie replied, her enthusiasm not wavering.

Carol grunted then added, “If you’re really going out, I’d suggest a shower first.”

Katie looked down at her feet. She was hoping it hadn’t been that noticeable.

“You are welcome to use the showers here if you wish.”

“Really? Thank you so much Carol,” her face beaming.

Carol grunted again and waved her away when she saw Ino walk into the dojo.

Katie stole a glance over her shoulder to see a Japanese woman with really short hair coming toward them. She didn’t want to push her luck by overstaying her welcome and grabbed her duffel bag and hurried to the shower room. She couldn’t believe how great this Saturday had turned out for her. Though her body was going to be thinking differently come tomorrow.

“Well?” Carol asked once Katie left.

“Well, what?”

“You going to tell why I had to do a random training session on the hottest Saturday evening ever?”

“Because Megan told you to,” Ino replied.

Her English was good, but not smooth. She definitely sounded foreign, unlike Kat, who could sound like a Japanese girl with a bad accent or like a small-town American girl, no problem.

Carol rolled her eyes and drank her water.

“So you know nothing about this Katie Blackwell chick? Or what makes her so special enough to get a one on one with me out of the blue? Cause it’s definitely not her skills or looks.”

“I do not.”

Carol sighed and grabbed a towel to wipe the sweat off her. She should have just sent the chick home, then she could be using the showers. Maybe she’d sneak in and use Nick’s. He had the best shower in the entire building.

“Did you have a good workout?”

“Meh. The girl has no focus. She’s just trying to ‘bull in a china’ shop it.”

“I don’t understand.” Ino said, confused.

“Nothing. Why are you here anyway?”

“I want to know your plans.”

“For tonight?”

“That is correct. Are you going to the bikini contest with the other girls?”

“Have I ever given you the impression that I was someone who would go to a bikini contest, Ino?”

“No,” Ino replied, her voice deep on that one.

Carol strained a smile.

“So you have no plans?”


“Would you like to go out with me?”

“Not really,” Carol said and walked over to shut the lights off, but stopped.

Nick was coming in to train with that redhead chick who always had a blackeye. She left the lights on.

Ino stood there, confused.

“What?” Carol asked, seeing her stare at her.

“Perhaps I used wrong expression. Would you like to get a drink with me?”

“Nope,” Carol said, and tossed her empty water bottle into the green recycling bin.

“Are you mad?”


“Are you sad?”


“Then why don’t you-”

“Because I don’t feel like it Ino!” Carol snapped and grabbed her long sweaty blonde hair. It was days like this where she really hated it.

“What I want to do is go home to the house in Maine and get out of this city, but Megan is making me stay in Boston and won’t tell me why.”

“So, you are mad?”

Carol sighed loudly.

“Would telling you what’s going on make you feel better?”

“Sure,” Carol said, giving up.

It wasn’t like Ino to talk this much. She rarely said anything and when she did, it was a one or two word response.

“I will be happy to tell you, over a beer.”

Carol stared at her. What the hell, not like she had anything better to do since she was stuck here.

“Fine,” she said. “But I need to shower first.”

“Okay,” Ino replied and looked over toward the shower room where Katie still was.

“Yeah, that’s not happening,” Carol said, and went for the stairs to the apartments above the dojo.

“Make sure she leaves. Please,” Carol added at the end.

Ino nodded and said, “I wait for you.”

“Uh huh,” Carol mumbled, and went to her apartment.

Something weird was going on and she planned to find out what.

Koori Ino was a woman of few words and emotions. She had earned her nickname ‘Ice’. Years ago, her family was part of a failed coup within their clan that wanted to eliminate the practice of taking in outsiders. Fittingly, it would be the son of the foreign kunoichi who was the one who helped stop the coup. Much blood had been spilled, but by some miracle, the body count had remained low.

Ino had never liked the one known as Silencer, but by the end of the coup, she owed her life and honor to him. It would take another year before she finally ‘thawed’ out to him and another two months before she, like Katherine ‘Kat’ Takayama, pledged her sword to him, and his alias Nick Summers.

The last year and a half had been interesting. She would always prefer her home in Japan, but Ino couldn’t deny the perks she got when spending the summer with Nick and his friends. While Kat liked to let her hair down and party with the girls, Ino preferred to stay busy. She recognized Carol early on as a fellow warrior like herself, and the two of them had sparred many times. She was good enough to watch Ino’s back.

Not that she required anyone’s assistance for tonight’s job. She could have in fact handled this job a half dozen different ways, but Ino was in the mood for some fun tonight.

A luxury she rarely indulged in. But this had been an interesting week.

“What is this place?” Carol asked with a look of disgust on her face as she slammed the door shut.

Ino had insisted that she drive, which annoyed Carol as she didn’t like riding shotgun. At least Ino was a good driver.

They were somewhere outside of Boston on a remote road off the highway, in the parking lot of a tavern-style looking bar. The parking lot was filled with pickup trucks and Harleys.

“Is this a biker bar?” Carol asked after seeing three guys pull in on bikes with woman riding behind them.

“You need to trust. Me. You follow my lead. OK?”

Carol gave her a look but sighed, “Okay”.
She reminded herself that she had nothing else going on tonight.

Once inside, they saw the place was packed full of bikers, truckers, and hunters. It reeked of sweat, B.O., and cheap beer. The music was loud and girls were dancing topless on some tables.

Carol turned to leave, but Ino was somehow already behind her and pushed her over to the bar.

Ino caught the bartender’s attention, who seemed to be the only guy who didn’t have a beard in the place. He reminded Carol of those Chip N Dale dancers Bobbi was always trying to get her to see when they were in Vegas. He was going fast juggling several orders and barely looked at them until he slid four shots over to them.

At that point, it was as if time suddenly slowed for him as he locked eyes with Carol. A smile that rivaled Nick’s flashed across his face as he took the fifty Ino put down. His eyes never leaving Carol as he slid a ten back.

Ino left it for him.

Carol looked away and just like that, time went back to its frantic pace and he was down to the other end of the bar.

“Why did you bring me here?” Carol asked into Ino’s ear.

The music was deafening.

“You drink,” she said and held up her two shots.

Ino downed them faster than Bobbi.

“Holy shit,” Carol said, but it was drowned out.

She did her two shots. The second one caused her to make a face. That was potent, she thought as she blinked away some tears in her eyes. She instantly had a nice, warm feeling in her stomach.

“That just cost fifty bucks,” Carol said.

She rarely went out drinking with Bobbi and Julie for that reason alone. Bobbi always picked up her tab as a condition for Carol saying yes.

“You want another?” Ino asked, moving closer to be heard.

Closer than Carol liked, but it couldn’t be helped with this crowd. She needed to get out of here. People were too close to her space. She was trying hard not to lose her shit.



“I want answers Ino.”

“OK. I get us beers.”

Carol protested, but Ino had already gone back to the bar. What the hell had gotten into her? Carol wondered as she tried not to move from her spot several feet away from the bar. People were walking all around her and if one of these guys so much as brushed his hand across her ass, she would throw done.

Ino returned carrying two beers. She gave one to Carol.

“Drink,” she said.

Carol took a sip and tried not to gag.

“This is horrible.”

“Yes. Follow.”

Carol gritted her teeth. This was becoming more frustrating than going out with Bobbi. Carol followed behind Ino as they did a slow circle around the entire bar, wishing she had stayed home, especially when they got closer to the girls on the tables. They were definitely not wanna be fitness models. Carol had never seen so much jiggle. She focused on the back of Ino’s short black hair and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw her heading for the exit. They made it to the door just as four heavy, over two hundred pound fat guys came in. They were decked out in camo pants and black t-shirts with various bald eagles and American flags on them. They looked like they hadn’t shaved in six months and smelled liked they hadn’t bathed even longer.

Ino bumped into the leader of the pack, spilling her beer on him.

“Damn it! Watch it chink,” he snapped.

Ino smiled like she didn’t understand him and walked out. Carol avoided contact with their leers at her and followed behind Ino.

“What was the point of that?” Carol asked, running down the stairs to catch up to Ino.

“You’ll see,” Ino said, holding up a set of keys.

“Did you just pick his pocket?”


“What the hell for Ino?” Carol asked, exasperated.

Ino walked over to a clearing in the dirt parking lot. She held up five fingers and counted them down into a fist. Once her fist was complete, the door to the bar flung open and the four guys came running out and over to them.

“You bitches have a lot of nerve. Gimmie my damn keys back,” the pack leader said and tried to grab Ino.

She stepped back just as Carol stepped forward.

His stubby finger touched Carol’s chest.  

“Back off asshole.”

“Or what? You going to make me princess?” He asked, jabbing his finger into her chest again.

Carol dropped her beer.

“Why don’t you two get lost before we show you what we do to bitches like you around here,” he said and tried for a third jab to her chest.

Carol grabbed his hand and twisted it behind his back in the blink of an eye before shoving him away with a boot to his fat ass, making him fall instantly.

The guy closest to her on her left came at her and punched her in the face.

Carol’s head whipped to the side and she staggered back a step. She spit a glob of blood to the ground and felt around her mouth with her tongue for any loose teeth.

She found none.

Carol straightened herself upright and snapped her head back to face the guy, who couldn’t hide his shock that she was still standing from his punch.

“My turn,” she said and formed a fist.

A former karate champion before her ‘death’ in Afghanistan, Carol’s punches were the strongest on the team.

She broke the guy’s nose with her right fist, smashing it into a bloody pulp. Her left hook dislocated his jaw, before he fell to the ground out cold.

“What the fuck?” The pack leader screamed.

The other two had pulled out guns from behind their backs, but by the time they could aim, Ino had already disarmed them by sliding between the two. An elbow driven into the man on her right caused him to yelp and she simply grabbed his gun and threw it away, then stepped down on the back of the knee to the guy on her left. It collapsed under his weight. When he turned to aim at her, Ino twisted his wrist until she heard it snap, at which point the gun fell from his grasp. He screamed, and a punch to his gut from Carol hit him so hard he fell to ground and puked.

By the time Carol turned to face the other guy, Ino had already dropped him with a dozen rapid fire kicks to the face and body.

That left the pack leader, who was trying to get back up still and run away. Carol and Ino chased him down, each grabbing him by the back of his t-shirt. They used his momentum in their favor and spun him around, pitching him into a series of motorcycles. He took out three of them as he laid on them in a heap on the ground.

“We go! Now,” Ino said after pitching the pack leader’s keys back toward the entrance.

The two of them ran to Ino’s car and tore out of the parking lot, spitting up dirt and gravel. Carol could hear yelling from the bar just as they sped away to the highway at 90MPH.

“What the hell just happened?” Carol laughed and leaned out the window.

The wind, while hot, was blowing her long blonde hair everywhere. She should just cut her hair short, like Ino’s.

“We’re having fun. Together. Yes?”

Carol looked over at Ino. Was this really all she wanted? Could it be that simple? Was this Megan’s way of forcing her to have some fun?

It was working. Not that she would admit to that, though.

Ino stared ahead as she changed lanes on the highway. She was glad Carol had come with her. It meant she just completed both her mission objectives for the night. She could tell from the look on Carol’s face. She quickly explained to Carol what was going on.

The four men they beat up were members of the BHP, Boston Harbor Patriots, a wanna be militia group, who were nothing more than a group of criminals hiding behind militia label. None of the dozen known members had any military service and more than half had done time in jail. They had several connections to dock workers and had come into possession of a valuable storage container.

A container they had moved to a secure location.

Ino’s job was to find that location. She did that by placing trackers on all the men they fought tonight, plus their truck. The fighting hadn’t been necessary, but she found training only went so far.

Sometimes nothing beat the real thing.

“This is how you have fun?” Carol asked, trying to suppress her smile.

“Yes,” Ino said and smiled at her.

Carol did her best not to cringe at it. Ino never smiled. Now she knew why.

She paused for a moment then said, “I like it.”

Ino slowed her speed as they neared the exit for the highway. No one was following them.

“You hungry?” Ino asked. “Sushi?”

“Burgers,” Carol said.

“Pizza,” they both said and laughed.

Carol let out a breath and rested her head against the door. The night air felt good on her face. She was glad she hadn’t stayed home.



​A Merc Series Short Story

The Merc Series