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attracting a shot, the fourth man must be where Mabry could not see him, or he
Mabry. Considering that, he decided the fourth man must be in front of the
house, between the cottonwoods and the trail. From that point he could cover
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the front door, but he must also have seen Dodie's hand when she opened and
closed the door. So he might have guessed that their plan was not working. A
boot scraped. Then Healy called out, "King? Can you come out here a minute?"
"Louder!" King heard Barker's voice. "If you make one try at warning him, I'll
kill her!" "King!" Healy yelled. "Can you come out?" There was a period of
waiting, and Mabry heard a muffled curse. "No use." It was Art Boyle's voice.
"They're wise. That girl's got a rifle." It was time to move. Time to move
now, before they did. They had numbers, so it was up to him to catch them off
stride. There was such a thing as reaction time. That instant of hesitation
between realization and ac- complishment. It was upon this that he must
gamble. There was little cover beh.the trees, and it was cover only from the
front, not from the flanks. Boyle had yelled from in front of the house when
he had seen the rifle in Dodie's hands. Mabry darted out quickly, not quite
past the front of the barn, but enough for Boyle to see him. Boyle saw him and
started to swing the rifle. He was too slow. Mabry's gun was breast-high and
he glanced along the barrel as he fired. There was an instant when time seemed
to stand still. Mabry saw the man's white, strained face. He saw the rifle
swinging, and he stood perfectly still and cold, with no heat in him, and
pointed the gun as he would a finger. The pistol leaped in his hand. The
teamster's rifle was coming up when Mabry's bullet smashed him in the teeth.
His head jerked back as if slammed by a mighty fist, and he fell. Then he
rolled over, clawing toward the fallen gun, but blood gushed from his mouth
and he stiffened out. Mabry flattened himself back against the wall of the
log barn, gun up, ready for a chopping shot. Boyle rolled over, choking on
his own blood, and lay still. From within the barn there was absolute
silence. One gone... three to go. One at the corral's end and at least one in
the barn, probably two. He thought of that and realized his advantage, if such
it could be called. Four people in close quarters, two of them ready to shoot,
but neither of them wanting to kill Janice, neither wanting to kill his
partner. They would have one target, he would have two; they would be
separated and his two friends would undoubtedly be shoved back against the
wall or in a corner. He remembered seeing Dodie's shadow as she moved within
the house. He remembered thinking that the sun was up, shining through the
gray clouds like a poached egg in a pan of gray grease. He remembered hearing
a wind rustle the cottonwood leaves. His gun was up and he was going in. He
was going into two blasting guns, but he had the advantage of being the only
one who knew just when he was going in. He tried to recall the inside of the
barn he had seen but once. He tried to figure just where they would be. One of
them was close against the wall near the opening. That would be Barker. There
had to be one there. It was the logical place, as near the door as possible.
And it was not a narrow door, but half the width of the barn front. When he
went in he could not get a shot at that man. That fellow would be too far
over on his right, unless he managed to swing close enough and fire from
against his body. But if he figured right, the prisoners would be in the
corner behind Barker, and if he shot Barker the bullet might go all the way
through and kill one of them. He would have to take the other man first. He
would have to nail him quick and fast, then drop and fire at Barker. "You
can't make it, King!" Barker shouted suddenly. "We've got you! Come out and
drop your gun or we start killing!" They didn't know where he was, then. Not
from the sound of that order. They didn't know he was so close. Or he did not [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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