“Sure there is, Boyd,” Ruger said. “There’s always somewhere.”


“What are you, a freaking tour guide? Do you know where we’re gonna go? There ain’t nothing around here, man!”


“Hey, shit for brains…you think this corn planted itself? If there’s corn, there’s a farmhouse. Farmers own cars, even in East Bumfuck. Maybe if we ask real nice they’ll let us borrow one.” He grinned.


“Your mouth is bleeding.”


Ruger licked his teeth. “I know,” he said softly, smiling.


Boyd opened his mouth to speak and then snapped it shut again. He turned, bent, and peered into the car to look at Tony.


“Is he dead?” he asked.


“Ought to be, the stupid fuck.”


“Then why’d you let him drive?”


Ruger shrugged. “He got behind the wheel.”


“Yeah, but you said he was fine to drive.”


Ruger shrugged again.


“Maybe we should see if he’s, you know, still alive.” Boyd leaned farther into Karl’s side of the car. He reached out and nudged Tony’s sleeve. “Yo! Tony! You in there, man?”


No response.


“Let it go,” Ruger suggested.


Boyd tried again, shaking Tony by the sleeve. Nothing. He tried one last time, and this time Tony lifted his head and shook it slowly, trying to clear his eyes and his muzzy brain. The lower half of his face was smeared with blood and snot, and his nose was disgustingly askew.


“Yo, Tony! We thought we lost you, man?”


“B…Boyd?”


“Yeah, man.”


“Boyd?” Tony barely had a voice left, his words croaking out in a whisper not half as loud as Ruger’s slithery rasp, and lacking any trace of vitality. A voice muffled and warped by sinuses flooded with blood. “You gotta help me, man. I’m all fucked up.”


“Well, yeah, you got shot and then you wrecked the car. You ought to be fucked up,” Boyd said, and then his face softened. “Can you walk?”


“I don’t…know. I can’t feel my legs, man.”


Boyd looked over his shoulder at Ruger, who was lighting a Pall Mall. Thunder rumbled overhead, deep and sullen, and in the distance lightning flashed continuously.


“We might have to carry him, man,” Boyd said.


Ruger took a long drag on his cigarette and looked thoughtfully at Boyd, his cold eyes narrowed. “Tell me, Boyd,” he asked mildly, “do you really see either one of us carrying his sorry ass anywhere?”


“Huh?”


“What I said. Can you see us hauling his sorry ass out of that car and carrying it anywhere? Is that how you see things? ’Cause I sure as hell don’t. I see us taking the money and the coke and making ourselves scarce as shit, is what I see. I see us having enough troubles getting ourselves to some place safe without having to cart around a man that’s mostly dead anyway.”


Boyd straightened and faced Ruger, half smiling. “You’re out of your fucking mind, Karl. We can’t just leave him here!”


“Why not?”


“It ain’t right, man.”


Ruger took another long and thoughtful drag on his cigarette. Blue smoke leaked from his mouth and nostrils as he said, “‘Ain’t right’? Is that what you said, Boyd? It ‘ain’t right’? That’s precious, man. Now, why don’t you tell me what ‘right’ has to do with anything?”


“Hey, we’re a team, Ruger. We set this up together and we pulled it off together and we gotta stick together no matter what happens.”


“Is that right? Then I suppose we should have stayed behind to fetch Nicky and Lester just so we could give them a decent Christian burial. Wouldn’t that have been the ‘right’ thing to do?”


“Boyd…?” Tony asked weakly, but when Boyd looked inside the car, Tony’s eyes had drifted shut again. Boyd straightened and looked hard at Ruger.


“Tony’s still alive.”


“Not much, he ain’t.”


“He ain’t dead yet, Ruger, and we just can’t leave him.”


“What do you want to do? Wait here until he kicks? You know as well as I do he ain’t going to make it. He’s gut shot and busted up. It’s not like we can take him to a hospital or anything. There ain’t a hospital from here to Harrisburg that won’t be on the alert for us. Not that anybody’d keep shut about treating a gunshot wound anyway. So what do you suggest we do? Do you know how to treat a bullet wound? Since when are you Marcus-​fucking-​Welby?”


“We have to do something!”


“We have to save our own asses, Boyd, that’s all we have to do. Tony knew the risks, and if he hadn’t had his head stuck up his own ass he wouldn’t have taken one in the belly. But that’s too damned bad. I for one am not going to stand around here just to keep him comfortable till he dies. This is capital crime, my man, not male bonding, and Tony sure as hell ain’t family to either one of us.”


Boyd shook his head stubbornly. “We’ll find a doctor somewhere, force him to fix Tony. Or bribe him. Hell, we got enough dough.”


“If you think I’m going to waste any of my money on a dead man, then you are actually dumber than you look. I’m getting my money and my share of the coke and I’m getting the hell out of Dodge right now.”


Ruger began to turn away but stopped as Boyd opened his coat, revealing the mother-​of-​pearl grip of his old Colt Commander. Ruger looked at the gun for just a moment, then slowly raised his eyes to meet Boyd’s. There was no trace of fear in Ruger’s eyes. His flat reptilian stare burned into Boyd’s, and Ruger’s smile slowly blossomed.


“We have to do something about Tony,” Boyd said in a voice that betrayed far more emotion than he wanted.


Ruger nodded slowly. “Uh-​huh. Okay, Boyd, we’ll play it that way.” He took a last slow drag on his cigarette and flicked the butt into the corn, then brushed past Boyd and bent down into the open passenger side of the car.


“Yo…Tony?” he asked.


Tony’s eyelids fluttered for a moment and then opened.


“Ruger? You gotta help me, Ruger. I’m hurt bad. You gotta help me.”


“Sure, Tony. Boyd and me, we’ll take good care of you.” Ruger drew his .32 snub-​nose and buried the barrel against Tony’s blood-​soaked gut, right next to the bullet wound. “Nice knowing you, Tony, but you’re a lousy fucking driver.” He fired a single shot.


The blast folded Tony in half. He caved over and crunched his face once more smashing against the steering wheel.


“Jesus!” Boyd howled and grabbed Ruger’s shoulder with his good arm and wrenched him back and spun him, then released his jacket and raised a balled fist; but Ruger went with the turn and stepped into Boyd, jamming the barrel of his gun hard under Boyd’s chin.


“Throw the punch or put it away,” Ruger said with his wicked grin.


Boyd froze.


“If you’re feeling froggy, then jump. Otherwise put that fist away. I’m not in the mood for this shit, Boyd, and we do not have all fucking night.” His voice didn’t rise above a slithery whisper.


Slowly, gingerly, Boyd lowered his fist, letting it drop limply at his side.


“Good. Now step off.”


Boyd moved back a few paces, and then turned and walked ten feet away. He stood facing the swaying corn, chest heaving, fighting for control. Into the waving rows of stalks he yelled, “Fuck!” at the top of his voice.


“See how considerate I am? Now we don’t have to carry his sorry ass anywhere,” Ruger said. “Well, now the split is two ways. Not five, not four, not three. Just the two of us. That’s half a mil each, Boyd, and enough dope to pretty much double that. That’ll buy a lot of sympathy cards for Tony’s wife and kids. It’ll sure as hell take the sting out of feeling like you’re feeling now. So, let’s just drop this Mother Teresa bullshit and get a move on.”


Boyd turned slowly to face Ruger. Boyd’s face was washed clean of any emotion, though something moved behind his eyes.


“You’re a total piece of shit, Ruger.”


Ruger shrugged. “And that’s a news flash to whom?”


Boyd spat on the ground between them and walked heavily to the car.


It took them five minutes to split the bundles of bloodstained money and the plastic bags of half-​cut cocaine into two oversized backpacks. It was a very tight fit. Boyd tried to wipe away the blood that soaked the tightly wrapped bundles of used bills, but Ruger told him not to bother. “We don’t have time. It’s all stained. We’ll find a washing machine somewhere. I hear cold water’ll take the stains out.”


Boyd looked at him in amazement. Karl’s voice was so calm, so offhand that it chilled him.


Ruger winked. “Let’s do it.”


Ruger helped Boyd strap on one pack, buckling it carefully around the limp and useless arm; then he shrugged himself into his own pack and adjusted the straps. Without a single backward glance at the car or Tony’s slumped form, Ruger set off into the cornfield. Boyd tarried a moment longer, staring at the silent shape huddled over the steering wheel.


“Sorry, man,” he said softly, and then turned to follow Ruger.


The tall stalks of corn closed around them.


4


Long minutes passed with no sound except the dry rustle of the corn. Then softly, faintly, “Boyd…help me…”


Then silence.


Chapter 5


1


After Terry left, Crow stood looking at the closed door for several long minutes, processing everything that had just happened. In the space of a few minutes he’d been faced with the outrageous idea of armed gunmen in Pine Deep, been reinstated as a cop—although a very temporary one—and been assigned the job of closing down the hayride.


None of this exactly fit the way he’d planned to spend the rest of the evening. It was seven-​thirty and he’d intended to close at eight, catch the AA meeting at the Methodist church—tonight was a fifth-​step night—and then drive out to Val’s, sample her cooking—hoping that it wasn’t as bad as Mark and Henry predicted—and then at the earliest possible convenience bundle Val off to bed. Then he was going to spring the idea of a weekend at a New Hope bed-​and-​breakfast on her, which would in turn lead up to his master plan of finally proposing. He’d been working out the details of this plan for about five years and so far it involved a ring, dinner, and a hotel stay. He was hoping for some last-​minute inspiration to make the event really memorable. It didn’t help any that everyone in town already assumed they would get married, so the proposal wouldn’t be much of a surprise. More than once, when he’d stopped by to take Val out to dinner somewhere particularly nice her father and brother had grinned and winked at him, assuming that he was going to propose. Even Mark’s wife, Connie, who was as dim as Coop, knew that Crow was going to ask her, which meant Val definitely knew.

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