I knew from experience that, while Halie had no formal martial-arts training, she’d been able to perfect a dangerous number of combat moves in the crucible of John J. Crittenden Elementary School. She called it “Halie-Fu”–it was the 90’s, remember–and luckily for me she used it to defend me almost as often as she used it to subdue me.

The thing that distinguished Halie-Fu from more conventional martial arts was the fact that it used psychological attacks as much as physical ones. Halie could whip up moans and crocodile tears in a heartbeat, for example, that were so convincing that even opponents who had fallen for her tricks before would be fooled. The opponent would let their guard down, and then the physical aspect of Halie-Fu would make itself felt: swift, paralyzing blows to the stomach or legs to bring the offender into the mud, followed by expert pins that left the victim completely at Halie’s mercy.

When she busted out her Halie-Fu that day, it was a textbook example. She pushed Harry away from me; when he pushed back, she pretended to be violently thrown aside and out for the count. when Harry turned his doleful gaze back to me, she pounced. An Olympic-worthy sprint closed the distance; a kick to the back of the knee brought Harry to earth, and a quick flip-pin left him facedown, arm curled painfully behind him as Halie’s knees dug into his back.