Chapter 37

Things do not slow down when you have a gun pointed at you.

To the contrary, they speed up. When Ira pointed the gun at me, I expected to have time to react. I started to raise my hands, the primitive demonstration of being harmless. My mouth began to open to try to talk my way through this, to tell him I would cooperate and do what he wanted. My heart raced, my breathing stopped, and my eyes could only see the gun, nothing but the opening of that barrel, the giant black hole now facing me.

But I didn't have time for any of that. I didn't have time to ask Ira why. I didn't have time to ask him what had happened to my sister, if she was alive or dead, how Gil had gotten out of the woods that night, if Wayne Steubens was involved or not. I didn't have time to tell Ira that he was right, I should have let it lie, I would let it lie now and we could all go back to our lives.

I had no time to do any of that.

Because Ira was already pulling the trigger.

A year ago I read a book called Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. I don't dare simplify his arguments but part of what he says is that we need to rely on our instincts more-the animal part four brain that will automatically jump out of the way if a truck is bearing down on us. He also notes that we make snap judgments, sometimes seemingly based on little evidence, what we used to call hunches, and that they are often right. Maybe that was at work here. Maybe something in Ira's stance or the way he pulled out the gun or whatever made me realize that there would indeed be no talking to him, that he was going to fire and that I was going to die.

Something made me jump right away.

But the bullet still hit me.

He had aimed for the center of my chest. The bullet hit my side, ripping across my waist like a hot lance. I fell hard on my side and tried to roll behind a tree. Ira fired again. He missed this time. I kept rolling.

My hand found a rock. I didn't really think. I just picked it up and, still rolling, threw it in his direction. It was a pitiful move, born out of desperation, something a child lying on his stomach might try.

The throw had no power behind it. The rock hit him but I don't think it mattered. I realized now that this had been Ira's plan all along. This was why he wanted to see me alone. This was why he had taken me into the woods. He wanted to shoot me.

Ira, that seemingly gentle soul, was a killer.

I looked behind me. He was too close. I flashed to that scene in the original In-Laws movie, a comedy where Alan Arkin is told to avoid bullets by running "serpentine." That wouldn't work here. The man was only six, eight feet away. He had a gun. I was already hit, could feel the blood leaking out of me. I was going to die.

We were stumbling down the hill, me still rolling, Ira trying not to fall, trying to gain enough balance to take another shot. I knew he would. I knew I only had a few seconds.

My only chance was to reverse direction.

I grabbed the ground and made myself break. Ira was caught off balance. He tried to slow. I grabbed a tree with both hands and whipped my legs toward him. It, too, was a pathetic move, I thought, a bad gymnast on a pommel horse. But Ira was just within striking range and just enough off balance. My feet hit against the side of his right ankle. Not all that hard. But hard enough.

Ira let out a shout and tumbled to the ground.

The gun, I thought. Get the gun.

I scrambled toward him. I was bigger. I was younger. I was in much better condition. He was an old man, his brain half-fried. He could fire a gun, sure. There was still power in his arms and his legs. But the years and the drug abuse had slowed the reflexes down.

I climbed on top of him, searching for the gun. It had been in his right hand. I went for that arm. Think arm. Only arm. I grabbed it with both my hands, rolled my body on it, pinned it down and then bent it back.

The hand was empty.

I had been so preoccupied with the right hand that I never saw the left coming. He swung in a long arc. The gun must have dropped when he fell. He had it no-win his left hand, gripping it like a rock. He crashed the butt against my forehead.

It was like a lightning bolt had seared through my skull. I could feel my brain jerk to the right, as though ripped from its moor, and start to rattle. My body convulsed.

I let go of him.

I looked up. He had the gun pointed at me.

"Freeze, police!"

I recognized the voice. It was York.

The air stopped, crackled. I moved my gaze from the gun to Ira's eyes. We were that close, the gun pointed straight at my face. And I saw it. He was going to shoot and kill me. They wouldn't get to him in time. The police were here now. It was over for him. He had to know that. But he was going to shoot me anyway.

"Dad! No!"

It was Lucy. He heard her voice and something in those eyes changed.

"Drop the gun now! Do it! Now!"

York again. My eyes were still locked on Ira's.

Ira kept his eyes on me. "Your sister is dead," he said.

Then he turned the gun away from me, put it in his own mouth and pulled the trigger.